Remember when the Yankees weren’t good for, like, a year? That was fun. Now here we are, a month into the season, and Brox Bombers are hitting the shit out of the ball, and sit in a tie for first in the AL East with the goddamn Trash Birds. Ugh, 2017. Uggghhh.
Monday at 7:05
Despite entering the season with a lack of certainty around him, the Yankees gave Luis Severino a spot in the team’s starting rotation, and he’s rewarded them. Through four starts (27 innings pitched), the 23-year-old lefty has only allowed nine runs on 17 hits and four walks while striking out 33. That’s very good! Severino had a rough season last year after what appeared to be a breakout showing in 2015. But this year, he seems to be coming into his own, evolving into the ace that Yankee people have been yammering on about for years.
Severino’s dominance comes through his slider. When he does get hit, it’s his fastball, but his slider has been virtually untouchable so far this season. He’s thrown a slider 136 times this season, only five times has it ended up being a hit, and only once was it for extra bases. As we know, the Jays aren’t really the best at dealing with breaking pitches, so this could be a difficult matchup for them if Severino’s slider is working.
Marco Estrada allowed seven runs over 11 innings of work in his first two starts. Since then? He’s allowed only two runs over 19 innings. In other words, Marco has been very ACEstrada since his sorta shaky start to the season. He’s going to need to be good, because this Yankees lineup is straight mashing. Estrada has typically had success against the Yankees throughout his career, but like I said, this lineup — which features a slightly-used-but-still-good Matt Holliday, a rookie in Aaron Judge who’s hitting everything out of the park, and a randomly resurrected Starlin Castro who’s finally hitting on his potential — is much, much improved from ones we’ve seen the past couple years. But still, the Red Sox and Orioles both have strong lineups, and Estrada made them look foolish.
Tuesday at 7:05
Mat Latos has been as good as anybody could’ve asked for in J.A. Happ/Aaron Sanchez’s absence. The former All-Star, who was inked to a minor league deal right before spring training, has made two starts for the Blue Jays, allowing just four runs over 11 innings. He was decent against the Angels, but completely dominated the Cardinals, holding St. Louis to just three hits over six innings of work. We’re obviously walking a tightrope with Latos, as his stuff simply isn’t as good as it used to be, but so long as his pitch count stays down, he can be very effective. And that’s all you can really expect from your sixth starter.
Going for New York will be Masahiro Tanaka, who has been much better than his earned run average suggests. In his first start of the season, Tanaka was drilled for seven earned runs in just two-and-two thirds innings by the Rays. Since then, he appears to have settled in. In his last start, Tanaka tossed a complete game, three-hit shutout against the Red Sox, and before that, he held the White Sox to one run over seven innings. One thing that’s noticeable about Tanaka this year, though, is his decline in strikeouts, as his 6.6 Ks per nine innings so far in 2017 is well below his previous career average. His slider has traditionally been his strikeout pitch, but this season he’s using it less. This could be due to worry about his long-term arm health, or it could just be a sample size thing. But regardless, Tanaka seems to be turning into more of a pitch-to-contact pitcher this season.
Wednesday at 7:05
Marcus Stroman may have had his best start of the season last weekend, but thanks to some shaky relief, he has nothing to show for it. Well, if you value pitcher wins he has nothing to show for it. Stroman rolled the Rays lineup, holding them to two runs over seven-and-one-third innings of work while collecting 10 strikeouts, which is a season high. Outside of his rough start against Boston, Stroman has been daaaaaaaaaaaaamn good this year. The 2017 season hasn’t been many positive things, but one feature has been the Marcus Stroman Breakout Tour. If you take away the Red Sox start, Stroman hasn’t allowed more than two runs in a game yet. He’s mixed pitches well, pounded the bottom of the zone, and while the strikeout totals aren’t necessarily where you’d like from a front-of-the-line-starter, he’s compensated for it by allowing a lot of soft, ground ball contact. Like Estrada, Stroman has typically been great against the Yankees, though I will say again, those starts didn’t come against this revamped Yankees lineup, so we’ll take a wait-and-see approach this week.
CC Sabathia, who is essentially what would happen if Stroman was cloned and one of them ate the other, will start for New York. Earlier I mentioned how Tanaka had improved over his five starts, Sabathia has been the opposite. The former Cy Young winner who bounced back nicely in 2016 after looking like he was completely washed up has gotten drilled in his last two starts, allowing 11 runs on 18 hits in 10 2/3 innings of work. The issue for Sabathia appears to be his sinker, which became an effective replacement for his four-seam fastball last season. Apparently it isn’t sinking as much as it did last year, which generally isn’t good for, ya know, a sinker.
The Yankees are rolling into this series after kicking the living shit out of the Orioles over the weekend. On Friday, the O’s held a 9-1 lead, but the Bombers stormed back and won 14-11 in extra innings. Then, on Saturday, they drilled Ubaldo Jimenez and the O’s bullpen in a 12-4 win. The team has had an excellent season so far, posting a 15-9 record through the first month of the season. The key for them has been the long ball so far, as the Yankees rank third in homers in the majors with 37. As we know, the Jays aren’t scoring runs at all, so its going to be on the pitchers to slow down this Yankee lineup.