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.

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.

8/22 to 8/24 Series Preview: Detroit Tigers

(Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)
(Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)

With so much discussion revolving around the Yankees failure to claw their way back into the race for the AL East, it seems as though their increasingly tenuous grasp on the Wild Card has been ignored. There are four teams within three games of those spots, and the Yankees will face one of them (the Mariners) this coming weekend. In order to stay in control of their own destiny, they must continue to beat-up on the subpar teams that they meet down the stretch; enter the Tigers.

The Last Time They Met

The Yankees hosted the Tigers from July 31 through August 2, dropping two of three. It was a frustrating series that included their 20th one-run loss of the season, and a shutout loss in a game started by one of the worst pitchers in the game. Some notes:

  • The Yankees went 3-for-3 with RISP in the first game, plating five runs in those at-bats. 7 of their 10 total base-runners scored in the game as a whole.
  • The newly acquired David Robertson finished the second game, and reminded us all of his Houdini act. He allowed three hits in a scoreless ninth inning, and was saved by Brett Gardner throwing out a runner at home.
  • Jordan Zimmermann — the aforementioned awful starter — shut the Yankees out for 7 innings in the final game of the series. The last time he tossed a scoreless outing was on April 20, 2016; he had a 5.81 ERA (5.20 FIP) in 198.1 IP in the interim.

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

Injury Report

Daniel Norris has been out since July 5, and just made his first rehab start last week. He could be back soon, but not in time for this series. And Anibal Sanchez just hit the DL on Friday, so he won’t be back, either. The Tigers are healthy otherwise.

Their Story So Far

The Tigers are in fourth place in the AL Central with a 54-69 record. Their -53 run differential is 21st in baseball, and they’re trending downwards. To wit, they lost six in a row before beating the Dodgers (!) on Sunday, and have been outscored by 25 runs this month.

Not much has changed since these teams last faced, in terms of the root cause of their struggles. They simply have too many players performing poorly, and they don’t have the depth to make up for the struggles of foundation pieces like Miguel Cabrera (100 wRC+ this year, 79 in August) and Ian Kinsler (95 wRC+). Justin Verlander has shown signs of life, though, pitching to a 2.48 ERA in eight second-half starts. Luckily, the Yankees won’t have to face a resurgent Verlander this week.

The Lineup We Might See

The Tigers lineup has been among the most consistently deployed in baseball this year, with the only real shake-ups coming from trades and injuries. As a result, it’s fairly likely that we’ll see something along these lines:

  1. Ian Kinsler, 2B
  2. Mikie Mahtook, CF
  3. Justin Upton, OF
  4. Miguel Cabrera, 1B
  5. Nick Castellanos, 3B
  6. Victor Martinez, DH
  7. James McCann, C
  8. Andrew Romine, RF
  9. Jose Iglesias, SS

The Starting Pitchers We Will See

Tuesday (7:10 PM EST): RHP Masahiro Tanaka vs. LHP Matt Boyd

Given the way the last series against the Tigers went, Boyd would be my pick to annoy the heck out of Yankees fans this week. The 26-year-old southpaw sports a 5.70 ERA (77 ERA+) in 90.0 IP, and has allowed at least 3 earned runs in 13 straight starts. He was said to be heading to the bullpen, but the injury to Anibal Sanchez kept his place in the rotation safe for the time being.

Boyd is a four-pitch guy, utilizing a low-90s fastball, a mid-80s slider, a low-80s change-up, and a mid-70s curveball. He also throws a variation of a sinker, but it doesn’t really sink, as evidenced by his 39.0% groundball rate.

Last Outing (vs. LAD on 8/18) – 1.1 IP, 1 H, 1 R, 2 BB, 2 K

Wednesday (7:10 PM EST): RHP Luis Severino vs. RHP Jordan Zimmermann

Zimmermann had his best start in a season and a half the last time this teams met (7.0 IP, 6 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 6 K), and promptly turned back into a pumpkin (15.2 IP, 23 H, 17 R, 6 BB, 8 K in three starts since). He currently has career-worsts in K/BB, GB%, ERA, FIP, xFIP, and a slew of other metrics, even as his velocity has rebounded from last season. I’d say that he’s toast, but he certainly didn’t look that way three weeks ago.

Last Outing (vs. LAD on 8/18) – 5.1 IP, 10 H, 7 R, 2 BB, 5 K

Thursday (1:10 PM EST): LHP Jaime Garcia vs. RHP Michael Fulmer

The Yankees beat up on Fulmer last time around, plating 7 runs in 6 innings and earning some small measure of vengeance for last year’s Rookie of the Year award. Though his overall numbers are solid, it is worth noting that Fulmer is once again struggling in the warmer weather. He has a 4.38 ERA since June 1, and a 4.91 ERA since the All-Star Game. It’s a small sample size, of course, but that’s part of the reason why many were concerned that last year’s success was a bit of an illusion.

Last Outing (vs. LAD on 8/19) – 7.0 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 2 BB, 6 K

The Bullpen

Former Yankee Shane Greene inherited the closer role when the Tigers dealt former Yankee Justin Wilson to the Cubs, and he has performed adequately thus far, closing out all three save opportunities. He has a 2.87 ERA in 53.1 IP on the season.

Alex Wilson (3.99 ERA in 49.2 IP) is the set-up man, and Daniel Stumpf (2.52 ERA in 25.0 IP) serves as the LOOGY, while the rest of the bullpen is kind of a mish-mash of roles. Warwick Saupold (3.47 ERA in 49.1 IP) is primarily a mop-up/long reliever, while Drew VerHagen (6.14 ERA in 7.1 IP), Bruce Rondon (10.91 ERA in 15.2 IP), Joe Jimenez (11.70 ERA in 10.0 IP), and Chad Bell (5.59 ERA in 38.2 IP) handle the middle innings.

As you can probably imagine from looking at this group, the Tigers have the worst bullpen in the majors (at least by WAR and ERA).

Who (Or What) To Watch

There is a chance that Greg Bird and/or Starlin Castro could be back for this series. Nothing concrete has been said about their return dates as of this writing, but both are rehabbing at Triple-A. The Yankees lineup will look a great deal better once they’re back – so the sooner the better.

In terms of this specific match-up, Justin Upton bears watching. He is back to raking this year (.282/.366/.546, 26 HR, 10 SB, 140 wRC+), and could opt-out of his contract and hit free agency as a 30-year-old. I highly doubt that he’d be on the Yankees radar if that happened, but they’ve been interested in him before.

8/18 to 8/20 Series Preview: Boston Red Sox

(Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

The Last Time They Met

The Bombers squandered an opportunity to inch closer to Boston in the division last weekend, losing two of three after a disastrous outing from Luis Severino and Rafael Devers spoiling Aroldis Chapman‘s attempt to close out Sunday’s humbling defeat. Here’s the game-by-game of the series.

  • Yankees went silent for seven innings vs. Eduardo Rodriguez, then erupted for five runs in the eighth. Aaron Hicks saved the day with a two-run shot off Addison Reed and a key outfield assist to help hold off the Red Sox in the ninth to take the opener.
  • Things looked good after a two-run shot by Gary Sanchez in the first, but Severino turned in his worst start since last season, giving up 10 runs (eight earned) including a pair of home runs to Andrew Benintendi, prompting this gleeful picture of Mookie Betts by our Sung Min Kim.
  • On Sunday Night Baseball, Chris Sale and Jordan Montgomery went toe-to-toe, each allowing a run. The Yankees got to Matt Barnes for a run in the 8th. However, Aroldis Chapman squandered the one-run lead by allowing a homer by Devers before giving up a run in the 10th in a 3-2 loss.

For more information, check out Katie’s Yankeemetrics post.

Injury Report

Last weekend, Dustin Pedroia (knee) went back on the DL and the team is going to have him be more conservative in his return timeline this go-around. David Price (elbow) has thrown off flat ground but has yet to throw off a mound and we don’t know when he will. He won’t be starting this series. Meanwhile, RHP Blaine Boyer (neck strain) joined Carson Smith, Ben Taylor, Tyler Thornburg and Robbie Ross among a strong middle relief corps all on the shelf.

Since We Last Met

Since you surely know about the Red Sox, let’s go into their games since last weekend instead of a recap of their season.

  • Doug Fister gave up five runs, including a go-ahead two run homer to Edwin Encarnacion, and failed to make it out of the fifth inning in a 7-3 loss to the Indians, a make-up game of a rainout from two weeks ago. Devers hit two solo shots in the defeat.
  • An eight-run fifth inning buoyed the Sox to a blowout win over the Cardinals on Tuesday as Rick Porcello improved to 7-14 on the year. The highlight of the game: Devers starting a 5-4-3 triple play. Is there anything he can’t do?
  • The Red Sox grabbed a win from the jaws of defeat, storming back from a two-run ninth inning deficit against a trio of pitchers. It was capped off by Betts’ two-run double, the celebration of which you can see at the top of this post.

Lineup We Might See

John Farrell adjusts his lineup based on handedness. Therefore, with two lefties set to take the hill for the Yankees this weekend, the lineup below is the one he’s been going with against LHPs. That means a fair amount of Chris Young and maybe a day off for the 20-year-old wunderkind Devers.

1. 2B/3B Eduardo Nunez
2. RF Mookie Betts
3. LF Andrew Benintendi
4. 1B Hanley Ramirez
5. DH Chris Young
6. SS Xander Bogaerts
7. 2B Brock Holt/3B Rafael Devers
8. C Sandy Leon/Christian Vazquez
9. CF Jackie Bradley Jr.

The Starting Pitchers We Will See

Friday (7:10 PM EST): LHP Jordan Montgomery vs. LHP Drew Pomeranz

With Porcello’s struggles and Price’s elbow, Pomeranz has probably been Boston’s second-best starter this season. He’s 2-0 against the Yankees after getting 10 runs of support on Saturday, though he’s allowed nine runs in 17 2/3 innings, striking out 19 while allowing three homers.

Last Outing (at NYY on Aug. 12) – 6.2 IP, 7 H, 3 R, 2 BB, 5 K

Saturday (7:10 PM EST): LHP CC Sabathia vs. LHP Chris Sale

What is there to say about Chris Sale that hasn’t already been said about Pedro Martinez? The guy is a beast. After Sunday night’s performance, here’s his line vs. the Yankees in 2017: 3 GS, 22.2 IP, 15 H, 4 R, 3 ER, 0 HR, 4 BB, 1 HBP, 35 K. Good news? He has no wins and the Sox are just 1-2 in those games.

Last Outing (at NYY on Aug. 13) – 7 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 2 BB, 12 K

Sunday (1:30 PM EST): RHP Sonny Gray vs. TBD

The Red Sox haven’t announced a starter for Sunday, but this writer expects them to skip Fister and start Porcello, who’d be on normal rest. He was solid his last time out and his K-BB% has improved in the second half. However, he’s allowed 2.06 HR per nine since the break. For what it’s worth, he’s 0-3 with a 3.79 ERA against the Yankees this year, allowing four homers in 19 innings.

Last Outing (Porcello vs. STL on Aug. 15) – 7 IP, 8 H, 3 R, 2 BB, 6 K

The Bullpen

Kimbrel dominated the Yankees for four outs on Sunday and is still striking out more than 50 percent of the batters he faces. He has a 46 K-BB%. That’s … absurd. The less you see of him, the better.

The Yankees did get to his two setup men last weekend, first Reed and then Barnes. Barnes, however, is much better at home (1.47 ERA at Fenway vs. 5.20 on the road). Joe Kelly and his hard but flat fastball sit in wait in middle relief. Beyond him Robbie Scott and Fernando Abad handle lefties while Heath Hembree, Brandon Workman and potentially Fister sit in middle/long relief.

Who (Or What) to Watch?

Obviously, these games have tremendous division implications. The Yankees sit four games back of Boston. After this weekend, they have just a four-game set at Yankee Stadium in two weeks left with their rivals, so the chance to make up ground head-to-head is scarce.

The thing I’ve been waiting to see since July 31? Sonny Gray vs. the Red Sox, which we get to see Sunday (which isn’t Sunday Night Baseball!). This is part of why they brought Gray in: to win big games, particularly in division. Sonny days are ahead.

8/14 to 8/17 Series Preview: New York Mets

Conforto. (Hunter Martin/Getty Images)
Conforto. (Hunter Martin/Getty Images)

This may technically be two separate series, as it is a home-and-home affair. The Yankees will host the Mets tonight and tomorrow, and then travel to Queens on Wednesday and Thursday. I want to say something about facing a reeling/selling team like the Mets being just what the Yankees need – but the Mets have actually been slightly better this month, with one more win (5-7 to 4-8) and eleven more runs scored. Ugh.

The Last Time They Met

The Subway Series was a similar arrangement last year, as the Yankees visited Citi Field on August 1 and August 2, then played host to the Mets on August 3 and 4. They split each two-game set, and the series as a whole. Some notes:

  • This was the Yankees first series after last year’s trade deadline, with the first game occurring hours after they dealt Carlos Beltran and Ivan Nova to complete the sell-off. They dealt Andrew Miller the day before, and Aroldis Chapman a week prior.
  • The Yankees starters were hit hard in all four games, surrendering 22 runs (21 ER), 38 base-runners, and 7 homers  in 22.2 IP. The bullpen, however, was quite good, holding the Mets to just 2 runs (1 ER) in 13.1 IP.
  • Jacoby Ellsbury, Starlin Castro, and Didi Gregorius all reached base safely in all four games.

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

Injury Report

I wanted to put a snarky joke here about everyone being hurt, but that’s too easy (and hits too close to home, to boot).

Jeurys Familia, Matt Harvey, T.J. Rivera, Noah Syndergaard, Zack Wheeler, and David Wright are all on the disabled list, with no return date as of yet. I wouldn’t be shocked if all six were shut down at some point, given that the Mets are basically just playing out the string at this point. Robert Gsellman is close to returning, having made four rehab starts already, but he won’t be back this series. And Jacob deGrom left his last start early with a triceps bruise after getting hit by a line drive, but he’s slated to start tomorrow.

Their Story So Far

The Mets are 53-62 with a -54 run differential, and they have been selling off assets since late July. Lucas Duda and Addison Reed were sent packing just before the deadline, and Jay Bruce and Neil Walker were dealt over the last week. Of course, Yankees fans are well-aware of these moves, as the Mets seemingly refused to deal with the Yankees, even if it meant a much better return.

As has been the case for what seems like forever, the Mets hopes have been torpedoed by injuries this year. Yoenis Cespedes missed more than 40 games, Syndergaard hasn’t pitched since April, Familia hasn’t pitched since May, and three other starting pitchers have spent at least a month on the disabled list. And that ignores the nagging injuries that have kept several other players out for a few weeks at a time.

The Lineup We Might See

Manager Terry Collins has a reputation for being stubbornly adherent to old school lineup configurations and overly loyal to veterans, but he has been flexible with his lineup construction for the majority of the season. One could argue that his hand has been forced by injuries and non-performance, but Mets fans are pleased to see Michael Conforto hitting at or near the top of the order, and top prospects Amed Rosario and Dominic Smith getting playing time. Here’s the lineup that we’ll probably see in the Bronx:

  1. Curtis Granderson, RF/DH
  2. Asdrubal Cabrera, 2B
  3. Yoenis Cespedes, DH/LF
  4. Michael Conforto, CF
  5. Wilmer Flores, 3B
  6. Dominic Smith, 1B
  7. Travis d’Arnaud, C
  8. Brandon Nimmo, LF/RF
  9. Amed Rosario, SS

And here’s what we should see in Queens:

  1. Curtis Granderson, RF
  2. Asdrubal Cabrera, 2B
  3. Yoenis Cespedes, LF
  4. Michael Conforto, CF
  5. Wilmer Flores, 3B
  6. Dominic Smith, 1B
  7. Travis d’Arnaud, C
  8. Amed Rosario, SS
  9. [pitcher]

The Starting Pitchers We Will See

Monday (7:05 PM EST): RHP Luis Cessa vs. RHP Rafael Montero

Four years ago, Montero was a consensus top-100 prospect as a 23-year-old on the verge of reaching the majors. And four days ago, when asked about Montero’s future in the rotation, Collins said “We don’t have a lot of options right now. And if we can’t come up with an option, he’s going to go back out.” Such is life when you’re sitting on a career 5.58 ERA (71 ERA+) and 12.3 BB%.

Montero throws four pitches – a mid-90s four-seamer, a low-80s sinker, an upper-80s change-up, and a mid-80s slider. His stuff is quite good when taken at face value, but he struggles to locate his offerings, and is often hit hard when he nibbles with his fastball.

Last Outing (vs. TEX on 8/9) – 3.0 IP, 5 H, 4 R, 3 BB, 5 K

Tuesday (7:05 PM EST): RHP Sonny Gray vs. RHP Jacob deGrom

The 29-year-old deGrom came out of nowhere to win Rookie of the Year in 2014, when he pitched to the following line – 140.1 IP, 117 H, 43 BB, 144 K, 2.69 ERA (128 ERA+), 2.67 FIP. Many expected him to drop-off the following season, due to his lack of prospect hype and suddenly and almost inexplicably improved stuff, but he has gotten even better since then. deGrom is currently fourth in the NL in IP, fifth in bWAR, and 10th in ERA+. At this point, the argument isn’t about regression; it’s whether or not he’s an ace.

deGrom is a true five-pitch pitcher. He throws a mid-90s four-seamer, a mid-80s sinker, an upper-80s slider, an upper-80s change-up, and a low-80s curve, and he can throw all five for strikes.

Last Outing (vs. PHI on 8/10) – 6.2 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 9 K

Wednesday (7:10 PM EST): LHP Jaime Garcia vs. RHP Seth Lugo

There is a good chance that you know of Seth Lugo solely because of Statcast’s infatuation with his curveball. For those of you who aren’t aware, Lugo’s curveball has the highest spin rate in the game, and it is a heck of a pitch to see live. It would be a more impressive feat if he was better, though; Lugo currently has a 4.85 ERA (88 ERA+), and his 17.4 K% is well below the league-average of 21.6%. Having a scale-breaking pitch is cool, but it hasn’t led to success just yet.

In addition to that big-breaking mid-70s curveball, Lugo also throws a low-90s fastball, a mid-80s change-up, and a mid-80s slider.

Last Outing (vs. PHI on 8/11) – 5.1 IP, 8 H, 5 R, 4 BB, 8 K

Thursday (7:10 PM EST): RHP Luis Severino vs. LHP Steven Matz

Matz has had an arduous journey since being drafted, to say the least. He was drafted in 2009, but did not make his professional debut until 2012 due to Tommy John surgery and several complications therefrom. He was relatively healthy for the next four years, but he missed time with shoulder soreness last year, and needed surgery to remove bone spurs from that same elbow in the off-season. Matz has missed ten starts this season due to elbow and shoulder soreness, and has not looked good (5.54 ERA, 4.91 FIP) when healthy.

Matz is basically a three-pitch pitcher, utilizing a low-to-mid 90s sinker, a low-to-mid 80s change-up, and an upper-70s curve. He’ll also throw a mid-80s slider, but he has shelved that of late (perhaps due to the injuries).

Last Outing (vs. PHI on 8/12) – 5.2 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 2 BB, 1 K

The Bullpen

The Mets have one of the worst bullpens in baseball by some measures, including park-adjusted ERA (28th in the majors), WPA (26th), and walk rate (28th). And those numbers include Reed, who was the team’s best reliever by a significant margin, and now pitches for the Red Sox.

A.J. Ramos (recently acquired from the Marlins) is the team’s closer for the time being, and he has a track record of success in that role. Jerry Blevins is a quality LOOGY (lefties are batting .181/.230/.191 against him this year), but he’s extremely limited against righties. Paul Sewald, a 27-year-old rookie, handles the set-up duties (3.99 ERA, 3.20 FIP, 28.0 K%, 7.3 BB%), and he has been decent in that role. Erik Goeddel and Josh Smoker handle the middle innings.

Blevins, Sewald, and Ramos all tossed an inning apiece last night, so their availability tonight may be questionable.

Yankees Connection

Granderson played for the Yankees from 2010 through 2013, batting .245/.335/.495 (122 wRC+) with 115 HR and 55 SB in 512 games (2148 PA). The Yankees essentially let him walk in favor of Jacoby Ellsbury in the 2013-14 off-season, and that hasn’t worked out too well.

Who (Or What) To Watch

I’m most excited for the Gray vs. deGrom match-up on Tuesday, as I’m a sucker for a pitchers’ duel. Of course, I’d rather not see deGrom shut the Yankees offense down – but this has the makings of a terrific match-up.

Shortstop Amed Rosario and first baseman Dominic Smith bear watching, as well. Both have been top-100 prospects for three years running (with Rosario cracking the top-10 this year), and both are getting an opportunity to secure a starting gig at the highest level. And, even with the injury to Gleyber Torres, “Rosario or Torres” will likely be a New York baseball fan debate for the next half-decade or so.

8/11 to 8/13 Series Preview: Boston Red Sox

Hanley Ramirez & Rafael Devers. (Charles Krupa/AP)
Hanley Ramirez and Rafael Devers. (Charles Krupa/AP)

The Last Time They Met

The Yankees opened their second-half by splitting a four-game series in Boston. All four games were decided by three runs or less, including a walk-off walk in game one, and a sixteen-inning affair in game two. And, as per usual, only one game checked-in at under three hours – and that game went two hours and fifty-nine minutes. Some notes:

  • Poor defense and erratic pitching from Aroldis Chapman cost the Yankees game one. Mookie Betts singled, Dustin Pedroia singled, Xander Bogaerts reached on an error (scoring Betts), Hanley Ramirez was intentionally walked to load the bases, and Andrew Benintendi walked on five pitches to score Pedroia. And I distinctly remember being more angry at the IBB than anything else.
  • The bullpen (Tyler Clippard, Dellin Betances, Chasen Shreve, Adam Warren, Jonathan Holder, Chapman, Ben Heller) combined for a complete game shutout in game two, pitching to the following line – 9 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 6 K. The Yankees won 4-1 in 16 innings.
  • By winning the third game, the Yankees won back-to-back games for the first time in over a month. That wasn’t a fun stretch.
  • In the final game of the series, Aaron Judge was robbed of a home run by Jackie Bradley Jr. I would have been impressed if I wasn’t so annoyed.

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

Injury Report

As has been the case throughout the season, the Red Sox simply aren’t all that healthy. David Price is back on the DL with left elbow inflammation, Carson Smith is still recovering from last year’s Tommy John Surgery, and Tyler Thornburg and Steven Wright are both done for the season. The offense is relatively healthy, though, with only bench players Marco Hernandez and Josh Rutledge currently sidelined with injuries. Though, it is worth noting that Dustin Pedroia is day-to-day with a tweaked knee, just a couple of days after returning from the DL.

Their Story So Far

Boston is currently in first place in the AL East, sitting at 65-49 with a +85 run differential. They’ve won 8 in a row by a combined score of 50 to 25, so it wouldn’t be a stretch to say that they’re playing their best baseball right now – which just so happens to coincide with the call-up of top prospect Rafael Devers. The basic sports narrative will credit Devers with the turnaround, which is a bit unfair – but the 20-year-old is hitting .319/.396/.553 (150 wRC+) with 3 HR in 12 games, and has been a key component of a resurgent offense.

And offense has been the problem for the Red Sox this season, even with all of the injuries to their pitching staff. Their 93 wRC+ places them 20th in all of baseball, with Betts, Bogaerts, Bradley, and Benintendi disappointing for the majority of the year. There is a great deal of talent here, of course, and that’s why they’re back in first place. Ugh.

The Lineup We Might See

Manager John Farrell has been tinkering with the lineup quite a bit of late, due mostly to the call-up of Devers and the acquisition of former Yankee Eduardo Nunez. The recent return Dustin Pedroia has led to some flip-flopping, as well. Nevertheless, I expect that we’ll see something like this:

  1. Mookie Betts, RF
  2. Eduardo Nunez, 2B
  3. Andrew Benintendi, LF
  4. Hanley Ramirez, DH
  5. Rafael Devers, 3B
  6. Xander Bogaerts, SS
  7. Mitch Moreland, 1B
  8. Sandy Leon, C / Christian Vazquez, C
  9. Jackie Bradley Jr., CF

Pedroia is the wild card in this situation. If he plays, he’ll bat near the top of the order, pushing everyone down. He might also DH, which would push Moreland to the bench and Ramirez to first.

The Starting Pitchers We Will See

Friday (7:05 PM EST): LHP Jaime Garcia vs. LHP Eduardo Rodriguez

Rodriguez was on the disabled list the last time these teams met, with a right knee injury sidelining him from June 2 to July 17. He has been solid when healthy, though, pitching to a 4.08 ERA (112 ERA+) in 81.2 IP, with a well above-average 25.8% strikeout rate. He’s a bit walk (3.5 BB/9) and home run (1.3 HR/9) prone, and he’s one of the more severe flyball pitches in the league, with just 34.2% of batted balls being on the ground.

The 24-year-old southpaw throws five pitches, but the vast majority of those are his four-seam fastball, which sits right around 93 MPH. His primary off-speed pitch is a solid mid-80s change-up, and he’ll mix in a low-90s sinker, a mid-80s cutter, and a low-80s slider.

Last Outing (vs. CHW on 8/4) – 6.0 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 2 BB, 5 K

Saturday (4:05 PM EST): RHP Luis Severino vs. LHP Drew Pomeranz

Pomeranz had a rocky first couple of months, but he has been quite good since the calendar flipped to June, pitching to a 2.71 ERA over 69.2 IP in his last 12 starts. He has a 3.36 ERA (136 ERA+) on the season, and he’s currently 10th in the American League in fWAR. The Yankees handed him his worst start in about two months the last time they faced, scoring four runs in 6 innings on July 14.

Last Outing (vs. CHW on 8/5) – 6.1 IP, 7 H, 1 R, 1 BB, 8 K

Sunday (8:05 PM EST): LHP Jordan Montgomery vs. LHP Chris Sale

Sale is currently leading the majors – hitters and pitchers, alike – in FanGraphs’ version of WAR. Baseball-Reference paints a much more modest portrait, ranking him third among all pitchers; either way, he has an argument for being the best pitcher in baseball right now. The 28-year-old also leads the majors in IP, K%, K-BB%, and FIP (by nearly half a run), as well as fourth in BB%. He dominated the Yankees the last time they squared-off, going 7.2 scoreless innings, allowing 3 hits and 2 walks, while striking out 13.

Last Outing (vs. TBR on 8/8) – 8.0 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 13 K

The Bullpen

Boston’s bullpen has been a strength for the entirety of the season, and they managed to improve it at the deadline by adding Addison Reed. The group leads the majors in park-adjusted ERA and RA9-WAR, and ranks second (behind the Yankees) in fWAR.

The absurdly good Craig Kimbrel is the team’s closer, and he’s striking out 50% of the batters he faces, while walking just 4.4%. He’s tied (with teammate and set-up man Joe Kelly) for third among MLB relievers in park-adjusted ERA, as well. Kelly and the newly acquired Reed handle the set-up duties, and Matt Barnes, Heath Hembree, and Blaine Boyer take the higher-leverage middle inning duties.

Who (Or What) To Watch

Rafael Devers was a consensus top-20 prospect heading into the season, and he has shown why by tearing through Double-A and Triple-A this year, and reaching the majors a few months shy of his 21st birthday. He’s worth watching purely in an “I want to see what this guy’s all about” way, while also recognizing that he’s going to be a big part of the Yankees/Red Sox rivalry for years to come.

8/8 to 8/10 Series Preview: Toronto Blue Jays

Osuna and Martin. (David Maxwell/Getty Images)
Osuna and Martin. (David Maxwell/Getty Images)

The Yankees have won back-to-back games after a frustratingly impotent four-game skid, and have shown intermittent signs of becoming a dominant all-around team again after their July lull. They’ll test their mettle against the Blue Jays in Toronto for the next three days, before returning to the Bronx.

The Last Time They Met

Toronto took two of three from the Yankees in New York last month, tying the season series up at five wins apiece. This will be their fourth meeting of 2017, with two more series to go. Some notes from last time around:

  • Masahiro Tanaka had a great start in the first game, going 7 innings and allowing five hits, one run, and one walk, while striking out 8. It was his fifth best start of the year by Game Score.
  • The offense was all but completely shut down in the second game, a 4-1 loss, save for a home run by Aaron Judge. The Blue Jays pitchers combined to allow just 4 hits and 3 walks, racking up 11 strikeouts in the process (including 3 apiece for Judge and Didi Gregorius).
  • Dellin Betances had one of the worst (or at least most frustrating) appearances of his career, pitching to the following line: 0.1 IP, 1 R, 4 BB, 1 K. He walked three straight to load the bases, struck out Jose Bautista, and then walked in the game-winning (or losing, as it were) run.

Check out Katie’s Yankeemetrics post for more details on the series.

Injury Report

Aaron Sanchez is back on the disabled list with blister issues, which have limited him to just eight starts this season. His return is up in the air, and it would not be shocking if the Blue Jays ended up shutting him down sooner rather than later. He’s joined by Chris Coghlan, Miguel Montero, Devon Travis, and Troy Tulowitzki, none of whom are expected to return for this series.

Their Story So Far

The Blue Jays have been plagued by injuries throughout the season, and they’ve been unable to gain any traction as a result. They’re currently 52-59 with a -87 run differential, which ranks 14th in the American League, and 25th in the majors. And, aside from injuries, there really isn’t one aspect of the team to lay the blame on, as their offense, pitching, and defense have all been subpar, as they’re in the bottom-third of the majors in runs scored, runs allowed, and defensive efficiency.

As a result of this, the Blue Jays were sellers at the deadline, sending Joe Smith and Francisco Liriano to contenders on July 31. Neither trade moved the needle all that much, but it did indicate that they had no misconceptions about their ability to climb back into the race.

The Lineup We Might See

As a result of all of the injuries and poor performance, the Blue Jays have been incredibly flexible with their lineups. The only player that is locked into one particular slot is Jose Bautista, who has been batting leading since late-June. Every other spot in the lineup resembles a revolving door, many of which may well be drawn out of a hat. Nevertheless, I expect that they’ll trot out something like this:

  1. Jose Bautista, RF
  2. Russell Martin, C
  3. Josh Donaldson, 3B
  4. Justin Smoak, 1B
  5. Kendrys Morales, DH
  6. Steve Pearce, LF
  7. Ryan Goins, SS
  8. Kevin Pillar, CF
  9. Darwin Barney, 2B

The Starting Pitchers We Will See

Tuesday (7:07 PM EST): LHP CC Sabathia vs. LHP J.A. Happ

The Yankees faced Happ on the Fourth of July, and it didn’t work out too well. He went 6 innings, allowing 4 hits, 1 run, and 2 walks, while striking out 6. They did work the count well, causing him to throw 115 pitches in those 6 innings, but they simply couldn’t square him up. Happ has a 3.92 ERA (116 ERA+) in 15 starts (85.0 IP) on the season.

Last Outing (vs. CHW on 8/2) – 7.0 IP, 6 H, 1 R, 1 BB, 10 K

Wednesday (7:07 PM EST): RHP Masahiro Tanaka vs. RHP Cesar Valdez

Valdez is, as far as I can tell, a 32-year-old rookie. I say “as far as I can tell” because he did amass 20 IP with the Diamondbacks way back in 2010, and there is some conflicting information out there regarding his service time. Regardless, he spent four years in the Mexican League after bouncing around a few organizations, before latching on the the Astros organization last year. He went to the A’s this past off-season, and was placed on waivers in May, after posting a 9.64 ERA in four big league appearances. The Blue Jays scooped him up, and he’s been an up-and-down swingman ever since.

Valdez is a junkballer, throwing a mid-to-upper 80s four-seamer, a mid-to-upper 80s sinker, a low-80s slider, and a low-80s change-up. His change-up is regarded as a solid offering, and is far and away his best pitch – but nothing else approaches average.

Last Outing (vs. HOU on 8/4) – 3.1 IP, 6 H, 6 R, 2 BB, 1 K

Thursday (7:07 PM EST): RHP Sonny Gray vs. RHP Marco Estrada

This is the fourth time that the Yankees will have to deal with Estrada’s soft-tossing ways, but they might be excited about that nowadays. They knocked Estrada around last time, plating 6 runs and putting 9 runners on base in 4.2 innings, and that’s kind of been the norm for him since the calendar flipped to June. Estrada has a 5.12 ERA (89 ERA+) on the season, including a 7.39 ERA since June 1.

Last Outing (vs. HOU on 8/5) – 7.0 IP, 5 H, 3 R, 2 BB, 7 K

The Bullpen

There was a time when the Blue Jays bullpen was a bright spot for the team, but that is no longer the case. They have 62 meltdowns on the season (5th worst in baseball), and they’re bottom-ten in park-adjusted ERA. Trading Joe Smith was a blow to the bullpen, as well.

Closer Roberto Osuna has struggled since these teams last met, pitching to a 7.11 ERA in 13 appearances, and blowing four saves. That includes a blown save in his last outing – a 0.2 IP effort against the Astros, in which he allowed 5 hits and 4 runs, striking out 1. Ryan Tepera, Danny Barnes, and Dominic Leone serve as a rotating cast of late inning arms, and they’ve been solid in that role. Beyond those relievers, however, it’s been shaky at best.

Who (Or What) To Watch

I always dread when the Yankees face a pitcher like Valdez, as they almost always seem to struggle against rookies and unknowns. I know that that isn’t backed-up by statistics – but I also know that I’m not alone in that respect. Racking up runs against Happ and Estrada while being shut down by Valdez feels like a very Yankees thing to do, doesn’t it?

We will also get to see old friend Rob Refsnyder, who has appeared in five games for the Blue Jays so far. He has started three games at second base, pinch hit in one game, and pinch ran in another; he also scored the game-winning run the other night with a nifty slide.