9/18 to 9/20 Series Preview: Minnesota Twins

Buxton. (Tom Szczerbowski/Getty)
Buxton. (Tom Szczerbowski/Getty)

The Last Time They Met

The Yankees visited Minnesota for a three-game series in mid-July, and dropped two of three. That was the last of the interminably lengthy stretch of series losses, thankfully, and the Yankees have gone 34-22 since. Some series notes:

  • The trade for David Robertson, Tommy Kahnle, and Todd Frazier was made in the midst of this series, and the latter two made their Yankees debuts in the third game. Kahnle threw a scoreless eighth inning, notching two strikeouts, and Frazier went 0-for-1 with a strikeout as a pinch hitter.
  • Caleb Smith made his big league debut in the first game, relieving Bryan Mitchell in the 6th. He took the loss after allowing two runs in the bottom of the 8th.
  • This was the first series that the Yankees lost in Target Field … it was their 8th season visiting the stadium.

Check out Katie’s Yankeemetrics post for more information.

Injury Report

Miguel Sano’s injured left leg has been one of the biggest storylines in Minnesota this summer, as the slugger has been sidelined since August 19. He was hitting .267/.356/.514 (126 wRC+) with 28 home runs when he went down with a stress reaction in his shin, and he was the foundation of the team’s lineup. As of this writing, his return is still up in the air.

Joining Sano on the DL are pitchers Phil Hughes (possibly done for the season), Hector Santiago (probably done for the season), and Trevor May (definitely out for the season).

Their Story So Far

The Twins are 78-71 with a +9 run differential on the season, and they currently control the second Wild Card spot. They’re four games behind the Yankees for home field advantage in that game, so that adds an interesting layer of intrigue to this series. A white-hot August propelled the Twins into the race, as they went 20-10; six of those wins did come against the tanking White Sox, though.

Byron Buxton has been the poster boy for the team’s turnaround, as the former number one prospect has begun to make good on his promise. He has a .323/.365/.622 slash line (145 wRC+), to go along with 11 HR and 10 SB (0 CS) since the All-Star break. And, despite all of the hand-wringing about his struggles prior to this stretch, he’s still three months shy of his 24th birthday.

The Lineup We Might See

Manager Paul Molitor has a fairly steady hand with his lineup, though he does juggle the order a bit to get the platoon advantage. With LHP taking the mound for the Yankees today and tomorrow, we’ll probably see something like this:

  1. Brian Dozier, 2B – .260/.346/.480, 31 HR, 15 SB
  2. Joe Mauer, 1B/DH – .306/.385/.424, 7 HR, 2 SB
  3. Jorge Polanco, SS – .251/.307/.403, 11 HR, 10 SB
  4. Eduardo Escobar, 3B – .254/.312/.448, 19 HR, 5 SB
  5. Byron Buxton, CF – .258/.320/.430, 16 HR, 26 SB
  6. Eddie Rosario, RF – .295/.333/.521, 26 HR, 9 SB
  7. Kennys Vargas, DH/1B – .251/.311/.453, 11 HR, 0 SB
  8. Jason Castro, C – .234/.327/.380, 9 HR, 0 SB
  9. Ehire Adrianza, LF – .270/.335/.383, 2 HR, 8 SB

And Tanaka will probably face something like this on Wednesday:

  1. Dozier, 2B
  2. Mauer, 1B
  3. Polanco, SS
  4. Rosario, LF
  5. Buxton, CF
  6. Max Kepler, RF – .243/.314/.420, 17 HR, 6 SB
  7. Escobar, 3B
  8. Castro, C
  9. Robbie Grossman, DH – .249/.369/.393, 9 HR, 2 SB

The Starting Pitchers We Will See

Monday (7:05 PM EST): LHP Jaime Garcia vs. RHP Ervin Santana

This is the 13th season of what has been a fairly productive career for Santana, who is still just 34-years-old. His 133 ERA+ is the best mark of his career, as are his five complete games and three shutouts. There are signs that this is more than a bit fluky – notably his 4.53 FIP and .241 BABIP – but he has been good more often than not for quite some time now, and this is his second big year in a row.

Santana’s mid-90s four-seamer and mid-80s slider account for nearly 80% of his offerings, so it would be fair to label him as a (mostly) two-pitch guy. He’ll mix in a low-90s sinker and a mid-80s change-up, but usually no more than a handful of each per game.

Last Outing (vs. SDP on 9/13) – 6.0 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 7 K

Tuesday (7:05 PM EST): LHP CC Sabathia vs. RHP Jose Berrios

The Yankees matched-up against Berrios on July 19, and the 23-year-old more than held his own, pitching to the following line: 6.2 IP, 6 H, 1 R, 2 BB, 5 K. It’s worth noting that that was in Minnesota, though, and that he has massive home/road splits. To wit, he has a 2.45 ERA (2.78 FIP) at Target Field, and a 5.14 ERA (5.00 FIP) everywhere else.

Last Outing (vs. TOR on 9/14) – 5.2 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 4 BB, 5 K

Wednesday (1:05 PM EST): RHP Masahiro Tanaka vs. RHP Bartolo Colon

Father Time has seemingly caught up with Colon, whose 6.39 ERA ranks 124th among 126 pitches with 100-plus IP. The Yankees tuned him up pretty well in July, scoring 4 runs in 4 innings, en route to a 6-3 victory.

Last Outing (vs. TOR on 9/15) – 6.0 IP, 5 H, 4 R, 2 BB, 1 K

The Bullpen

The Twins traded All-Star closer Brandon Kintzler at the trade deadline, in the midst of their soft-sell (which also included Garcia being sent to the Yankees). It was a group that ranked among the worst in baseball at that time, and it seemed destined for failure following the Kintzler deal. Instead, it has been rock-solid for the last six or seven weeks.

Matt Belisle (2.01 second-half ERA) has taken over as the closer, and rookie Trevor Hildenberger (3.11 ERA on the season) has taken over as the set-up man. Most of the pieces are the same as the last time these teams met – those pieces have just been better.

Who (Or What) To Watch

Buxton has done his best Mike Trout impression for two-plus months now, and he is one of the most fun players to watch right now. He’s a brilliant defender in center, a fearless and efficient base-runner, and far more powerful than his frame portends. The longer this goes on, the more folk buy-in – and that’s not too shocking, given his pedigree and prospect history.

9/8 to 9/10 Series Preview: Texas Rangers

Gallo. (Ron Jenkins/Getty Images)
Gallo. (Ron Jenkins/Getty Images)

The Last Time They Met

The Yankees played host to the Rangers from June 23 through June 25, and dropped two of three. That series was in the midst of the Yankees roughest stretch of the season, when they went 7-18 in their last 25 games of the first half. Some notes:

  • The first game was incredibly tense, with the teams trading zeroes for the first 8 innings. Elvis Andrus scored on a passed ball to give the Rangers a 1-0 lead in the top of the ninth, but Brett Gardner tied it up with a home run in the bottom of the frame. Ronald Torreyes was the next hero up, with a walk-off, two-out single in the bottom of the 10th.
  • Masahiro Tanaka‘s start in that game shouldn’t be understated, though – he went 8 scoreless, allowing just 3 runs and 2 walks, while striking out 9.
  • Texas won the second game 8-1, and the Yankees offense was shut down by Austin Bibens-Dirkx for 7 innings. That was also Tyler Clippard‘s third straight abomination of an appearance, in which he allowed 3 hits, 4 runs, and 2 walks in a single inning. Moving on…
  • Michael Pineda had an awful start in game three, allowing 7 runs in 4 innings. Two start later he would leave the game early, only to be diagnosed with a torn UCL shortly thereafter. The Yankees lost that game 7-6.

Check out Katie’s Yankeemetrics post for more fun facts.

Injury Report

Adrian Beltre, the latest entrant to the 3,000 hit club, was placed on the 10-day DL on September 3 with a hamstring strain, so he won’t be available for this series; there are some rumblings that he may be done for the season. Relievers Matt Bush and Keone Kela are on the disabled list, as well, and neither is expected to be back for this series.

Nomar Mazara left the team’s last game with quadriceps tightness. No announcement has been made, regarding a stint on the DL, but he’s questionable for tonight’s game.

Their Story So Far

The Rangers are currently 70-69, and within a couple of games of the second Wild Card spot. Their +42 run differential is good for 10th in the majors, which is something of a testament to how unlucky they’ve been this season. That run differential leads to a Pythagorean record of 73-66, which would have them in the driver’s seat right now. Of course, that ignores several mitigating factors – but they have been a bit snake-bitten this season.

Despite floating around .500 throughout the season and remaining within striking distance of the playoffs, the Rangers elected to sell at the trade deadline. They sent Yu Darvish to the Dodgers and Jonathan Lucroy to the Rockies, and caught a bit of flack for the returns. Darvish yielded Willie Calhoun (a top-75ish prospect with a big bat and no position) and not much else, and Lucroy was essentially given away for a player to be named later.

The Lineup We Might See

The Rangers lineup has been in a state of flux for much of the season, due to both injuries and poor performance. They also utilize a couple of platoons. With a couple of righties starting today and tomorrow, though, this is what we’ll probably see:

  1. Delino DeShields, LF – .280/.357/.382, 4 HR, 28 SB
  2. Shin-Soo Choo, DH – .263/.365/.415, 18 HR, 12 SB
  3. Elvis Andrus, SS – .304/.345/.494, 20 HR, 24 SB
  4. Nomar Mazara, RF – .259/.334/.439, 18 HR, 2 SB
  5. Carlos Gomez, CF – .251/.339/.462, 17 HR, 13 SB
  6. Joey Gallo, 3B – .211/.336/.561, 37 HR, 7 SB
  7. Mike Napoli, 1B – .196/.290/.437, 29 HR, 1 SB
  8. Rougned Odor, 2B – .213/.255/.410, 28 HR, 14 SB
  9. Robinson Chirinos, C – .259/.367/.536, 16 HR, 1 SB

With CC Sabathia taking the mound on Sunday, Choo will likely be on the bench, with Napoli shifting to DH and Will Middlebrooks (.429/.429/1.000 in 7 PA) taking over at first.

The Starting Pitchers We Will See

Friday (8:05 PM EST): RHP Masahiro Tanaka vs. LHP Martin Perez

We are only seven years removed from Martin Perez being one of the most highly-touted pitching prospects in the game, when he peaked as Baseball America’s 17th overall prospect. He was only 19 then, and he was an ace in the making. He’s still only 26, but he has yet to look the part, posting a 4.43 ERA (99 ERA+) in parts of six seasons. Perez has made 27 starts of 4.87 ERA (96 ERA+) ball this year, with a well below-average 14.2% strikeout rate. And, as young as he is, it’s difficult to look at his lack of progress and expect much more going forward.

Perez is a four-pitch guy, featuring a low-to-mid 90s four-seamer, a low-to-mid 90s sinker, a low-80s slider, and a mid-80s change-up. He’ll sprinkle in a curveball every now and again, but he’s largely shelved it over the last few months.

Last Outing (vs. LAA on 9/3) – 6.0 IP, 9 H, 3 R, 2 BB, 4 K

Saturday (1:05 PM EST): RHP Luis Severino vs. RHP Andrew Cashner

The Rangers signed Cashner to a 1-year, $10 MM deal fairly early in the off-season, which was viewed as a head-scratching move by some. It was a low-risk deal, to be sure, but he was a pitcher with a scary injury history coming off of a bad season, and the Rangers were looking to compete. That deal looks fantastic in hindsight, as Cashner is currently 5th in the AL with a 142 ERA+, and 6th with 4.4 bWAR. He missed a few starts with injuries, as per usual, but he has been quite good when he steps on the mound – and he now seems like a lock for a qualifying offer.

Cashner is a five-pitch guy, though he varies his arsenal from outing-to-outing. He throws a mid-90s four-seamer, a low-90s cutter, a high-80s cutter, a mid-80s change-up, and a low-80s curve.

Last Outing (vs. ATL on 9/4) – 6.0 IP, 6 H, 2 R, 2 BB, 5 K

Sunday (3:05 PM EST): LHP CC Sabathia vs. RHP A.J. Griffin

Reviewing Griffin’s stat line is a fine reminder of just how elevated offensive levels are this season. His 5.09 ERA is good for a 92 ERA+, whereas last year’s 5.07 ERA translated into an 89 ERA+; and he pitched for the Rangers in both seasons. Griffin is a flyball pitcher (just 27.5% grounders this year) with below-average strikeout numbers in a hitter’s park. That’s not a great recipe for success.

Griffin is a three-ish pitch junkballer. He mostly throws a high-80s four-seamer, a low-80s change-up, and a high-60s curveball. He’ll also flash a mid-80s cutter, but that’s more of a show-me pitch than anything else.

Last Outing (vs. LAA on 9/2) – 5.2 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 2 BB, 6 K

The Bullpen

Closer Matt Bush and set-up man Keone Kela are both on the DL as of this morning, so the bullpen isn’t in great shape right now. And the bullpen wasn’t particularly strong to begin with, checking-in within the bottom third of the majors in ERA, FIP, K%, BB%, bWAR, fWAR, and WPA.

Tony Barnette has served as the closer since those two went down, and he’s 2-for-2 in save opportunities. He has a 4.91 ERA (95 ERA+) in 51.1 IP. Jason Grilli (6.46 ERA in 39.0 IP) is the set-up man for the time being, with Jose Leclerc (4.32 ERA in 41.2 IP) and Alex Claudio (2.33 ERA in 69.2 IP) also chipping in in the late innings. Tyson Ross was moved to the bullpen at the end of August, as well – he allowed 3 hits and 2 runs in 0.2 IP in his first relief appearance.

Who (Or What) To Watch

The Rangers currently have two hitters with 25-plus home runs and a negative fWAR, in Mike Napoli and Rougned Odor. That’s not necessarily something to watch, but it’s endlessly fascinating to me. They’ve combined to hit .205/.270/.422 in 1050 PA thus far.

I compared Joey Gallo and Aaron Judge last time around, and they’ve trended in opposite directions since then. Gallo is batting .236/.402/.649 (168 wRC+) with 18 HR since they last met; Judge, on the other hand, is at .209/.380/.412 (112 wRC+) and 12 HR. Perhaps Judge can take this opportunity to get his mojo back…

9/4 to 9/6 Series Preview: Baltimore Orioles

Schoop and Machado. (Greg Fiume/Getty Images)
Schoop and Machado. (Greg Fiume/Getty Images)

The Last Time They Met

The Yankees swept the Orioles in Yankee Stadium way back in June, outscoring them by 30 runs over three games. By the time that series was over the Yankees were 37-23, and were in the running for the best team in baseball. Some notes from the series:

  • The Yankees hit twelve home runs in the series as a whole – Aaron Judge and Starlin Castro hit three apiece, Aaron Hicks and Gary Sanchez had two each, and Didi Gregorius and Matt Holliday both chipped in one.
  • Judge was leading the league in the Triple Crown categories at the end of the series, batting .344 with 21 home runs and 47 RBI. He also hit this home run, which is still the longest of 2017.
  • While the offense was the story of the weekend, the contributions of the Yankees young starting pitchers shouldn’t be overlooked. Jordan Montgomery (7.0 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 1 BB, 8 K) and Luis Severino (7.0 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 2 BB, 8 K) appreciated all of the run support, but they pitched more than well-enough to win on most nights.

Check out Katie’s Yankeemetrics post for more fun statistics from the series.

Injury Report

The Orioles are relatively healthy right now. Craig Gentry just hit the disabled list with a fractured right finger, but the team is expected to otherwise be at full-strength for this series. J.J. Hardy has been on the DL since mid-June, for what it’s worth, but he’s expected to return today or tomorrow.

Their Story So Far

Baltimore is 70-67 and just 1.5 games out of the Wild Card game, despite a -23 run differential. They’ve won 8 of their last 10, a stretch that includes back-to-back sweeps of the Mariners and Red Sox, and they look far smarter for buying at the deadline than they did at the time.

Tim Beckham, of all people, was their big trade deadline acquisition. He’s batting .364/.385/.587 in 32 games with the Orioles, and he has slotted into the top of their lineup with gusto. Beckham is best known for being something of a bust with the Rays, posting a 97 wRC+ in his first three seasons in the majors, and never putting up the sort of jaw-dropping numbers in the minors that one would expect from a player of his stock. He’s still only 27, though, and he has a 115 wRC+ in 493 PA this year.

The Lineup We Might See

Buck Showalter has had a fairly steady hand with his lineup on a day-to-day basis, with the first six or seven spots in the lineup being incredibly consistent. He has utilized some platoons, but he seems to prefer to have defined roles for his hitters. Based on that:

  1. Tim Beckham, SS – .291/.335/.463, 18 HR, 6 SB
  2. Manny Machado, 3B – .271/.324/.497, 30 HR, 9 SB
  3. Jonathan Schoop, 2B – .309/.354/.543, 30 HR, 1 SB
  4. Adam Jones, CF – .281/.318/.475, 26 HR, 1 SB
  5. Trey Mancini, LF – .291/.338/.507, 23 HR, 1 SB
  6. Chris Davis, 1B – .224/.319/.437, 22 HR, 0 SB
  7. Mark Trumbo, DH – .246/.301/.415, 21 HR, 1 SB
  8. Welington Castillo, C – .300/.339/.512, 18 HR, 0 SB
  9. Seth Smith, RF – .269/.353/.459, 13 HR, 2 SB

The Starting Pitchers We Will See

Monday (2:05 PM EST): LHP Jordan Montgomery vs. RHP Dylan Bundy

Bundy’s season is something of a small miracle. The 24-year-old did not pitch in 2013, and threw a combined 63.1 IP between 2014 and 2015. He was mostly healthy last year, throwing 109.2 IP between the rotation and the bullpen, but he clearly tired down the stretch. And yet heading into today’s start he has 155.1 IP of 3.94 ERA (109 ERA+) ball, his velocity has remained steady, and he has been markedly better in the second half (4.33 ERA/7.0 K/9 before the break, 3.04 ERA/10.1 K/9 since). One can’t help but worry that he’ll wear down, but it’s a great story nonetheless.

Last Outing (vs. SEA on 8/29) – 9.0 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 12 K

Tuesday (7:05 PM EST): LHP CC Sabathia vs. RHP Ubaldo Jimenez

To Jimenez’s credit, he has stayed healthy throughout his career, and has been (as far as we know) gracious in accepting whatever role changes the Orioles throw his way. That’s about all the positivity one can muster on his accord, though, as he has a 6.11 ERA (70 ERA+) since the beginning of last year, and he has transitioned from flame-thrower to someone with average velocity over the last four seasons.

Last Outing (vs. SEA on 8/30) – 2.2 IP, 6 H, 6 R, 1 BB, 3 K

Wednesday (7:05 PM EST): Sonny Gray vs. RHP Jeremy Hellickson

The Orioles were mocked a bit for buying at the deadline, given that they were 50-54 at the time. They sport a 20-13 record since then, however, and have eked back into the playoff race. Hellickson, their “major” acquisition, has not contributed all that much to that success, pitching to a 6.55 ERA (66 ERA+) in 6 starts with his new team. He has been serviceable for the majority of his career, pitching to a 98 ERA in parts of eight seasons, but that’s a far cry from the expectations on a consensus top-ten prospect.

Hellickson is a true five-pitch pitcher. He throws a low-90s four-seamer, a low-90s sinker, an upper-80s cutter, a low-80s change-up, and a mid-70s curveball. His change-up is generally his best pitch but, by FanGraphs’ reckoning, it has been his worst this year (and one of the worst in the game, at that).

Last Outing (vs. TOR on 8/31) – 4.2 IP, 7 H, 7 R, 4 BB, 2 K

The Bullpen

The Orioles have exceeded both expectations and Pythagoras over the last several years, and the bullpen has played a tremendous part in that. This year, however, the group has been largely mediocre, with several of their core relievers regressing heavily. That was to be expected, given that Zach Britton had a 0.54 ERA in 67.0 IP last year – but that made the team’s margin for error that much slimmer this year. It is worth noting that the bullpen has gradually rounded into form, pitching to a 3.09 ERA in the second-half, with most pitchers clustering within that range.

Britton is still the closer, and Mychal Givens and Brad Brach handle the set-up duties. Darren O’Day and Richard Bleier are both specialists, but Showalter will use both against most anyone. They also have Miguel Castro is a dedicated long-relief role, but Showalter has used him to get some big outs.

Who (Or What) To Watch

I enjoy every pitch that I get to see from Bundy, so he will have free reign of this section whenever he pitches against the Yankees. It amazes me that he came back from so many injuries and so much organizational turmoil to be a solid starter at the highest level.

Beyond that, this is yet another important series for the Yankees. They’re 3.5 games ahead of the Orioles in the standings, but we’ve seen how quickly things can shift – and these two teams will meet again next weekend.

8/31 to 9/3 Series Preview: Boston Red Sox

(Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)
(Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)

The Yankees opened this week a mere 2.5 games back of the Red Sox; with a bit of luck, they could have entered these next four days with a chance to regain control of the AL East. They dropped all three games to the Indians instead, while the Red Sox swept the Blue Jays. So it goes.

The Last Time They Met

Boston took two of three from the Yankees two weekends ago, opening up a five-game lead in the process. Some notes:

  • This was the series that led to Aroldis Chapman losing the closer’s role, as he allowed the Red Sox to add a couple of insurance runs in the bottom of the eighth inning of first game. It was his fourth-straight appearance in which he allowed at least one earned run.
  • The Yankees bullpen had an awful series on the whole, allowing 10 runs (all earned) in 9 IP. Tommy Kahnle was the worst offender, pitching to the following line – 0.2 IP, 5 H, 4 ER, 2 BB, 0 K.
  • Chris Sale was utterly mortal in the Yankees lone win of the series, allowing 7 hits and 4 runs in 7 IP. Tyler Austin and Todd Frazier both took him deep as the Yankees won 4-3.
  • CC Sabathia came out ahead of Sale that night, allowing 2 runs and just 5 base-runners in 6 IP in his first start back from the disabled list.

Check out Katie’s Yankeemetrics post for more fun facts.

Injury Report

The Red Sox are still banged-up, with Jackie Bradley Jr., Dustin Pedroia, David Price, and Carson Smith on the disabled list with a vague “September” return date, and Josh Rutledge, Tyler Thornburg, and Steven Wright done for the season. Both Bradley and Pedroia are hoping to return for this series, but neither Price nor Smith is expected back in time.

Their Story So Far

Boston is in first in the AL East at 76-57, and their +93 run differential places them seventh in all of baseball. They’ve won three in a row, and have an 18-8 record in the month of August. They’re within striking distance of the best record in the American League, with just 3.5 games separating them from the semi-struggling Astros.

Given that these teams have met multiple times within the last four weeks, it doesn’t seem like much else needs to be said.

The Lineup We Might See

The injury status of Bradley and Pedroia throws a wrench into the Red Sox lineup machinations. That being said, they have been trotting out this lineup with those two on the mend:

  1. Eduardo Nunez, 2B (.312/.341/.460)
  2. Andrew Benintendi, CF (.275/.354/.436)
  3. Mookie Betts, RF (.263/.341/.437)
  4. Mitch Moreland, 1B/DH (.257/.341/.452)
  5. Xander Bogaerts, SS (.273/.335/.405)
  6. Rafael Devers, 3B (.294/.354/.546)
  7. Hanley Ramirez, DH/1B (.249/.335/.443)
  8. Chris Young, LF (.236/.324/.396)
  9. Christian Vazquez, C /or/ Sandy Leon, C (.294/.335/.413 and .235/.299/.367)

When healthy, Pedroia generally bats and plays second; Bradley is the center-fielder, and bats fifth.

The Starting Pitchers We Will See

Thursday (7:05 PM EST): LHP CC Sabathia vs. LHP Eduardo Rodriguez

Rodriguez started against the Yankees on August 11, and had his best start of the season; he went 6 shutout innings, and allowed just 2 hits and 2 walks, while striking out 7. He has been underwhelming in his three starts since then, and largely average on the season (108 ERA+ in 105.1 IP), but he’s still just 24-years-old. Rodriguez did spend about a month and a half on the disabled list, but he’s been healthy since the All-Star break.

Last Outing (vs. BAL on 8/26) – 6.2 IP, 7 H, 5 R, 1 BB, 7 K

Friday (7:05 PM EST): RHP Sonny Gray vs. RHP Doug Fister

It has been a strange season for Fister, who didn’t even sign with an MLB team until May 20 … when he signed with the Angels. The Angels waived him about a month later, and he latched on with the Red Sox shortly thereafter. The 33-year-old journeyman has a 4.53 ERA (100 ERA+) in twelve games (nine starts) with the Sox, and has been more than competent in helping patch-up their rotation.

Fister has always been something of a junkballer, and not much has changed. He throws four different fastballs (four-seamer, two-seamer, cutter, sinker) in the upper-80s, and a curveball in the low-70s. He’ll mix in a slider and a change-up, as well, but those are few and far between.

Last Outing (vs. BAL on 8/27) – 7.0 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 2 BB, 7 K

Saturday (1:05 PM EST): RHP Masahiro Tanaka vs. LHP Drew Pomeranz

This will be the Yankees fifth time seeing Pomeranz this year, who has mostly kept them at bay. He has thrown 21.0 IP in those four starts, allowing 23 hits, 8 earned runs (3.43 ERA), and 7 walks, while striking out 23. That isn’t all that far off from his season totals on the whole, as he has a 3.23 ERA (139 ERA+) in 142 IP.

Last Outing (vs. TOR on 8/28) – 6.0 IP, 7 H, 3 R, 5 BB, 4 K

Sunday (7:35 PM EST): RHP Luis Severino vs. LHP Chris Sale

As was the case with Pomeranz, Sale will be making his fifth start of the season against the Yankees this weekend. On the off-chance that you’ve forgotten, Sale has dominated the Yankees on the whole, tossing 29.2 IP of 2.12 ERA ball, and allowing just 27 base-runners while striking out 44 batters. They did score four runs the last time they met, though, which, if we’re optimistic, could bode well for this match-up.

Last Outing (vs. TOR on 8/29) – 7.0 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 11 K

The Bullpen

Craig Kimbrel – he of the 1.58 ERA (290 ERA+) and 16.6 K/9 – showed signs of mortality this week, laboring through an inning against the Blue Jays. He walked two and allowed a home run before slamming the door, and he looked just as shaky as that line suggests. He redeemed himself the next night, though, and is still the best reliever in the American League.

The rest of the bullpen has been up and down this month. They have a 107 ERA+ in August, as compared to a 128 ERA+ on the season, and they’ve been prone to the longball. Joe Kelly has been the worst offender, pitching to a 6.75 ERA this month, and newcomer Addison Reed (4.38 ERA/107 ERA+) has been a bit of a disappointment. It’s still a solid group, but it seems as though its tenure as best bullpen in the game has ended.

Who (Or What) To Watch

Severino versus Sale has the potential to be must-see TV; I’ve jinxed the Yankees before by praising a pitching match-up, though, so perhaps this should be disregarded.

This series as a whole feels incredibly important – and not just for the obvious reasons. In a broader sense, the Yankees need to show that they can beat good teams again. With the exception of the Mariners, who they’ve taken two series from in the second-half, they have not taken a series from a playoff-caliber team since sweeping the Orioles from June 9 through June 11. They did split a couple of series with the Red Sox and the Indians, so maybe I’m being a ‘glass half empty’ type here – but a strong showing to open up September would set a completely different tone.

8/28 to 8/30 Series Preview: Cleveland Indians

(Jason Miller/Getty Images)
(Jason Miller/Getty Images)

A debt of gratitude is owed to the Orioles and Indians, who combined to win 5 of 7 against the Red Sox last week. As a result of this (and taking two of three from both the Tigers and the Mariners), the Yankees are now within 2.5 games of first place, with four games against the Sox this coming weekend. That doesn’t mean that the Yankees should be looking beyond this series, though, as the Indians are arguably among the five best teams in baseball.

The Last Time They Met

The Yankees and Indians split a four-game series in Cleveland earlier this month. You may remember this as the series in which Joe Girardi called out Gary Sanchez for his defensive effort, and benched him for a game. That seems so long ago, doesn’t it? Some other notes from the series:

  • Sonny Gray made his Yankees debut in the first game, and was treated to some horrendous defense. He pitched to the following line: 6.0 IP, 4 H, 4 R (2 ER), 3 BB, 6 K.
  • Jaime Garcia made his debut the next day, and also dealt with some lackluster defense in the form of a Sanchez passed ball. Unlike Gray, though, he was kind of bad, going 4.2 IP and allowing 5 hits, 6 runs, and 4 walks, while striking out 4.
  • Game three was much more fun for Yankees fans, as Jordan Montgomery had a great start (5.0 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 0 BB, 7 K), and Headley hit a clutch go-ahead home run in the bottom of the 8th, as the good guys won 2-1.
  • And, to make this a pitcher-friendly section, Luis Severino was dominant (if inefficient) in the last game. He went 6.2 IP and allowed just 2 hits, 1 run, and 1 walk, while striking out 9. It took him 107 pitches to do so, as his control was a bit off. His stuff was so good that it didn’t matter.

Check out Katie’s Yankeemetrics post for more in-depth information.

Injury Report

Cleveland is pretty banged-up right now, with a slew of talent on the disabled list. Michael Brantley, Lonnie Chisenhall, Jason Kipnis, former Yankee Boone Logan, former Yankee Andrew Miller, and Danny Salazar are all out with injuries, and their returns are up in the air. There’s an outside chance that Brantley and Chisenhall could be back for this series, but no announcement has been made as of this morning. The rest will not be back until September (aside from Logan, who’s likely done for the year).

Their Story So Far

The Indians are currently 73-56, with a 6.5 game lead in the AL Central and a +145 run differential (good for third in the majors). They’ve won four in a row, even as they deal with the aforementioned injuries, and rank among the most formidable teams in the game. They’re second in the majors in runs allowed and eighth in runs scored, and they stand to get better in the coming weeks.

Post-non-waiver deadline acquisition Jay Bruce has been incredible for the Indians, batting .311/.391/.590 (159 wRC+) with 4 HR and 13 RBI in 17 games. His presence has allowed the team to replace Brantley without missing a beat, even improving the heart of their order along the way.

The Lineup We Might See

Despite his willingness to buck common practice with his bullpen, manager Terry Francona has had a mostly steady hand with the lineup. The only reason for whatever shake-ups have occurred are rooted in injuries – and that works just fine for them. Here’s the group that we’ll probably see in Yankee Stadium this week:

  1. Francisco Lindor, SS
  2. Austin Jackson, LF
  3. Jose Ramirez, 2B
  4. Edwin Encarnacion, 1B
  5. Jay Bruce, RF
  6. Carlos Santana, 1B
  7. Yandy Diaz, 3B
  8. Bradley Zimmer, CF
  9. Yan Gomes, C

The Starting Pitchers We Will See

Monday (7:05 PM EST): RHP Luis Severino vs. RHP Corey Kluber

If you prefer traditional statistics, Kluber may well be the best pitcher in the American League. He leads the Junior Circuit in ERA, WHIP, and H/9; and, if you want to go by a bit more advanced measures, he also leads in ERA+ and bWAR. Kluber is averaging 12.3 K/9 and 1.9 BB/9, as well, both of which are second to Chris Sale. In short, he’s an ace – and the Yankees saw that first-hand on August 3 (9 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 BB, 11 K).

Last Outing (vs. BOS on 8/23) – 7.2 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 1 BB, 12 K

Tuesday (7:05 PM EST): LHP Jaime Garcia vs. RHP Trevor Bauer

Bauer has had a middling 2017, which is par the course for his career. His 4.59 ERA is good for a 101 ERA+, and his 3.88 FIP is just about league-average. He’s a perfectly fine back-end starter, whose high-level stuff and draft pedigree (he went 3rd overall in a loaded 2011 draft class) make fans desperate for more.

Last Outing (vs. BOS on 8/24) – 5.1 IP, 7 H, 4 R, 3 BB, 8 K

Wednesday (1:05 PM EST): LHP CC Sabathia vs. RHP Josh Tomlin

I have long referred to Tomlin as a crafty lefty that just so happens to throw with his right hand, and I will stick to that for as long as he’s in the majors. That’s just the sort of pitcher that he is, and I am constantly baffled when I see him pitch. He has been on the disabled list since the end of July, so Wednesday will be his first appearance in just over four weeks.

Tomlin is a four-pitch guy, with a couple of fastballs in the upper-80s (four-seamer and cutter), a low-80s change-up, and a mid-70s curveball.

Last Outing (vs. CHW on 7/30) – 4.0 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 5 K

The Bullpen

Injuries to key relievers has not slowed down this group, as the Indians bullpen sports a 2.99 ERA in 390.2 IP, along with 2.93 BB/9 and 10.1 K/9. It’s a strong bullpen from top to bottom, and, amazingly, that’s true with Andrew Miller and his 1.65 ERA, 13.0 K/9, and 2.8 BB/9 on the disabled list.

Cody Allen handles the closer role, and he’s sitting on a 2.94 ERA and 12.1 K/9. Former Yankees Nick Goody (2.98 ERA and 12.5 K/9) and Zach McAllister (2.52 ERA and 9.6 K/9) join Bryan Shaw (3.25 ERA) in the middle innings, and deadline pick-up Joe Smith (3.25 ERA and 12.2 K/9) has slid into a set-up role.

Who (Or What) To Watch

I’m ridiculously excited to see Luis Severino versus Corey Kluber tonight, even though I fear what Kluber can do to this (or any) lineup on a given night. These are two of the best pitchers in baseball right now (top-four in the majors by fWAR, top-four in the AL by bWAR), so you couldn’t ask for much more.

And, as always, Francisco Lindor is a joy to watch.

Game 128: Welcome Back, Mr. Bird

(Fred Adams/Times Leaders)
Bird is back. (Fred Adams/Times Leaders)

Despite all of the hand-wringing over suspensions, injuries, losses, and poor performances, there is a strong sense of optimism for the Yankees this afternoon. The team is eking closer and closer to full health, as Starlin Castro returned to the lineup last night, and Greg Bird will make his first appearances in pinstripes in nearly four months. Matt Holliday is still out, but this afternoon’s lineup is the closest to full strength that we have seen in quite some time:

  1. Brett Gardner, LF
  2. Aaron Judge, RF
  3. Gary Sanchez, DH
  4. Didi Gregorius, SS
  5. Starlin Castro, 2B
  6. Greg Bird, 1B
  7. Chase Headley, 3B
  8. Jacoby Ellsbury, CF
  9. Austin Romine, C

Sonny Gray will get the start, and here’s the Mariners lineup that he’ll face.

For those of you who haven’t been following, Bird lit-up Triple-A in his eight-game rehab stint following ankle surgery, batting .375/.448/.833 with 2 2B and 3 HR in 29 PA. The reports surrounding his swing, running, and general conditioning have been glowing (at least as much as his gait can be praised), and it isn’t difficult to envision him solidifying the middle of the Yankees lineup all but immediately. It’s been a long road back for Bird, and I’ll be happy to see him this afternoon.

Today’s first pitch is scheduled for 1:05 PM, and the game will be broadcaste on the YES Network.

8/25 to 8/27 Series Preview: Seattle Mariners

Cruz and Seager. (Brian Blanco/Getty Images)
Cruz and Seager. (Brian Blanco/Getty Images)

The Last Time They Met

The Yankees visited the Mariners for a four-game set just last month, taking three of four. In doing so they won their first series in over a month, snapping a six week stretch of bad baseball and reminding us just how fun this team could be. Some notes:

  • David Robertson made his Yankees re-debut in the second game of the series, pitching a scoreless seventh inning. He struck out the side on just 13 pitches, with all three strikeouts ending on whiffs. Seeing Robertson back in pinstripes is one of my personal high points of the season.
  • You might remember that second game a bit better as “that time that Aaron Judge broke Statcast.”
  • Didi Gregorius had a heck of a series, going 8-for-15 with a double, two home runs, and two walks. And those two walks represent just under 12% of his total on the season.
  • Brett Gardner hit his 17th home run in the final game of the series, tying his career-high … in his 92nd game of the season. He has added three more since.

Check out Katie’s Yankeemetrics post for more interesting information.

Injury Report

When these teams last met, the Mariners were getting healthy for the first time this year. A month later, and they’re back to being banged-up, with Jarrod Dyson, Felix Hernandez, Hisashi Iwakuma, James Paxton, Evan Scribner, Drew Smyly, Ryan Weber, and Tony Zych all on the disabled list; none are likely to be back for this series, and Smyly is done for the season, thanks to Tommy John surgery.

It’s also possible that Robinson Cano may not be available this weekend. He left Wednesday’s game after hitting a double (and passing Babe Ruth on the all-time list) with hamstring tightness, and underwent an MRI on Thursday. The Mariners have yet to make any announcement regarding his health or availability as of this writing.

Their Story So Far

The Mariners are currently 65-63, which is good enough to leave them just a game back of the second Wild Card spot. Their -12 run differential suggests that they’ve overachieved a bit, but it’s nevertheless indicative that they’re basically a .500 team. They’ve won six of their last eight, however, and own a 16-12 record since dropping the series to the Yankees.

This is a fairly mediocre team across the board, checking in at 9th in the majors in defensive efficiency, 14th in runs scored, and 18th in runs allowed, and a top-heavy roster. Nelson Cruz is raking as usual (147 wRC+) and James Paxton was in the midst of a breakout season before getting hurt (153 ERA+), but the rest of the team has been largely disappointing. That isn’t to say that solid performers like Jean Segura, Mitch Haniger, Robinson Cano, and others have been bad – but injuries and under-performance tell a more accurate story of the majority of the team.

If you’re interested in reading more about the Mariners, check out Lookout Landing.

The Lineup We Might See

The recent acquisition of Yonder Alonso has led to the Mariners shaking up the lineup quite a bit over the last two weeks, as have injuries and returns from injuries. Manager Scott Servais seems content to roll with something like this, though (assuming that Cano is available):

  1. Jean Segura, SS
  2. Yonder Alonso, 1B
  3. Robinson Cano, 2B
  4. Nelson Cruz, DH
  5. Kyle Seager, 3B
  6. Mitch Haniger, RF
  7. Ben Gamel, LF
  8. Guillermo Heredia, CF
  9. Mike Zunino, C

Guillermo Heredia is banged-up, as well. If he ends up sitting, we’ll see Haniger or Gamel move to center, and Danny Valencia man a corner OF spot.

The Starting Pitchers We Will See

Friday (7:05 PM EST): LHP CC Sabathia vs. LHP Ariel Miranda

Miranda started for the Mariners in their lone victory against the Yankees last month, pitching to the following line: 5.1 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 1 BB, 4 K. He has been hard in each of his five subsequent starts, allowing 9 home runs and a 6.84 ERA in 26.1 IP. He has a 4.78 ERA (89 ERA+) on the season, and is tied for the major league lead in home runs allowed, with 31.

Last Outing (vs. TBR on 8/19) – 5.0 IP, 5 H, 3 R, 1 BB, 5 K

Saturday (1:05 PM EST): RHP Sonny Gray vs. RHP Yovani Gallardo

It may seem impossible, but Gallardo is only 31-years-old. He made his big league debut as a 21-year-old back in 2007, and this is already his ninth season with 20-plus games started. He hasn’t been effective in a couple of years, though, pitching to a 5.58 ERA (76 ER+) since the beginning of last year, and he no longer strikes batters out (6.6 K/9 this year).

Gallardo is a five-pitch pitcher, featuring a low-90s four-seamer, a low-90s sinker, an upper-80s slider, a mid-80s change-up, and a low-80s curveball. There was a time when his slider was a devastating pitch, but he’s hittable across the board these days.

Last Outing (vs. TBR on 8/20) – 6.1 IP, 5 H, 3 R, 3 BB, 6 K

Sunday (1:05 PM EST): RHP Masahiro Tanaka vs. LHP Andrew Albers

The Mariners swung a deal for Albers two weeks ago, acquiring him from the Braves for cash considerations. He’s a couple of months older than Gallardo, but he’s only thrown 89.2 IP at the highest level. He was drafted in 2008, but spent 2010 in the independent Canadian-American Association, 2014 in the Korean Baseball Organization, and parts of other seasons out of baseball altogether. It’s an interesting story that reminds of how difficult it is to make it to the show.

Albers is a prototypical crafty lefty, working with a fastball in the upper-80s, a sinker in the mid-to-upper 80s, an upper-70s change-up, an upper-70s slider, and a low-70s curve.

Last Outing (vs. ATL on 8/21) – 5.0 IP, 6 H, 4 R, 1 BB, 3 K

The Bullpen

Closer Edwin Diaz has had a disappointing season, with his walk, strikeout, home run, and groundball rates trending heavily in the wrong direction from his dynamite rookie season. He currently has a 3.58 ERA (120 ERA+) in 55.1 IP, and 29 saves in 33 opportunities. Diaz hasn’t been bad by any stretch, but he’s been a serious disappointment.

Nick Vincent and new acquisition (and former Yankee) David Phelps handle the set-up duties, and both have been excellent this season. LOOGY Marc Rzepczynski has been solid in his limited role, too, as has yet another former Yankee, James Pazos. It’s a solid-average bullpen as a whole.

Who (Or What) To Watch

Starlin Castro and Greg Bird hit back-to-back home runs for Scranton/Wilkes-Barre last night, and that should be a harbinger of things to come for the Yankees. Starlin Castro is expected to be activated for tonight’s game and, with the strong likelihood of a Gary Sanchez suspension looming, their presence will be much appreciated.