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.

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.