Series Preview: Colorado Rockies vs. New York Yankees (6/21-6/22)

After taking three out of four from the lowly Twins in Minnesota, the Yankees return home as they welcome the Rockies for a quick two game series in the Bronx. The Yankees hope to redeem themselves against the Rockies following their two defeats in Colorado last week. The series victory against the Twins was a step in the right direction, however the Yankees are in the midst of a soft spot in their schedule. The Twins come to New York next for three games before the first place Texas Rangers make their way to town. Of these next five games, the Yankees should win at least four. That starts with taking care of business against the Rockies on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Players to watch:

1. Brian McCann: McCann has found himself in a slump for the majority of the season. His inability, or reluctance, to avoid pulling the ball has led to a disturbing dip in his batting average. This trend, of course, is nothing new, as it has been the case for most of his time in pinstripes. McCann may have been one of the few bright spots featured in Sunday's 7-4 loss to the Twins. He hit two towering home runs to right field. Although both hits are consistent with his pull happy approach, it was nice to see him possibly breaking out of his prolonged slump. Hopefully, McCann is ready to heat up and help carry this inconsistent Yankees offense.

2. Brett Gardner: Similar to McCann, Gardner is currently in the midst of a slump. Brett Gardner is by far the streakiest player I've ever seen in a Yankee uniform. He can go from zero to a hundred real quick! On Sunday, Gardner had his first multi-hit game in about a week so hopefully he's beginning to turn a corner, albeit it may only be for a short period of time. Nonetheless, the Yankees need all the offensive help they can get these days. If Gardner can start heating up, and become a catalyst at the top of the lineup, the Yankees offense may become slightly more dynamic.

3. Ivan Nova: Last week in Colorado, Nova was pummeled. In five innings of work, he gave up five runs and ten hits. Nova has been pretty consistent for the most part this year so it's imperative that he regain his footing on Tuesday. To avoid any redundancies, I'll provide an in depth discussion of Nova in the individual game previews located further down on the page.

Keys to victory:

1. Hit with RISP: As self-explanatory as it may sound, the Yankees are still horrific at hitting with runners in scoring position. Hopefully, they can build upon what we saw in Minnesota, in this regard. During the three wins, and even in the loss, the Yankees were able to put together a few rallies. Granted, they were playing the Twins, however they have to start somewhere.

2. Solid middle relief pitching: One of the Yankees' glaring weaknesses that nobody seems to discuss is the middle relief corp. Yes, we all know that Betances, Miller, and Chapman, are great, however given the fact that our starters fail to go more than five innings on a consistent basis, those tasked with getting the ball to "no run DMC" are of the utmost importance. Out of Kirby Yates, Nick Goody, Anthony Swarzak, Richard Bleier, and whoever else enters the revolving door of a bullpen, somebody has to step up. Thus far, the Yankees haven't been able to patch anything together, and that weakness has shown this season.

3. Avoid giving up the big inning: Yankees starters have been plagued by the big inning all season. We saw this on Sunday with Nathan Eovaldi. After cruising through five innings, the wheels fell off in the sixth and Eovaldi couldn't mitigate his damages. This has been the case for Nova as well. Both Nova and Sabathia must find ways to limit their damage. Sabathia has been tremendous in this regard thus far, but Nova has much room for improvement.

Game 1 (6/21): Chad Bettis (5-5, 5.63 ERA) vs. Ivan Nova (5-4, 4.77 ERA) When these two faced each other last Wednesday in Colorado, Bettis emerged as the victor. He gave up only three runs in six innings of work, propelling the Rockies to a 6-3 victory. Nova, on the other hand, was not very good, giving up five runs in five innings. Nova will look to redeem himself this time around. Hopefully, the Yankees offense is on board as well. I can see this game going either way, however I'll go out on a whim and say the additions of Carlos Beltran and Alex Rodriguez, neither of whom played in Colorado, should help the Yankees emerge on top.

Game 2 (6/22): Jon Gray (4-3, 4.55 ERA) vs. CC Sabathia (5-4, 2.20 ERA) Gray has pitched fairly well as of late, however the Yankees should be able to get something going against him, in an ideal world of course. Sabathia will hope to continue making a surprise All-Star bid with another stellar performance. Sabathia and Masahiro Tanaka are the only two Yankees starters I have confidence in. That being said, this game should be a victory for the Yankees. I'm predicting we'll see another 2009 performance on Sabathia's part.

Whenever the Yankees finally get themselves to .500, they can seem to fall apart. This has happened numerous times this season. They enter this series at 34-35. The Rockies, on the other hand, are 32-36. By the time this series reaches a conclusion, the Yankees should be a game over .500. With the Twins up next on the schedule, they may be able to build a decent cushion before the Rangers come to town. Unfortunately, the 2016 Yankees are unpredictable so this likely won't come to fruition. I'm saying the Yankees split the series, but hopefully they prove me wrong and win both games.

Article by Steven Eareckson

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