Series Preview: New York Yankees at Chicago White Sox (7/4 - 7/6)

After salvaging the last game of their three game series with San Diego, the Yankees now travel to Chicago where they’ll kick off a three game set with the White Sox on Monday. The Yankees are in the midst of a 10 game road trip heading into the All-Star Break, with each series against a tougher opponent than the last. Characteristic of their inconsistent performance all season, the Yankees dropped two of three on the easiest leg of the trip, but don’t be surprised if they have a strong week ahead. After opening the season as one of baseball’s early surprises at 23-10, the White Sox have come back to earth and are now where many thought they would be to start the season. In mid-May, the Yankees took two of three from Chicago at Yankee Stadium.
Game 1 (Monday, July 4 at 2:10 ET) C.C. Sabathia (5-5, 3.17 ERA) vs. James Shields (3-9, 5.85 ERA)
C.C. Sabathia has been the best pitcher in the Yankees rotation, aside from Masahiro Tanaka (and that is probably debatable). His 3.17 ERA leads all Yankee starters. He is nowhere near the power pitcher he once was, striking out just 61 in 76.2 innings pitched this season. But, he is finally displaying the same effectiveness he was in his prime. Sabathia will be looking to get back on track after a few unusual subpar outings against the Rockies and the Texas Rangers in his last two starts. Sabathia gave up 11 earned runs in 11.1 innings in those starts, after giving up just four earned runs in the seven starts prior (44 IP).  The stats would lead you to believe this Sabathia should return to form. In his career against the White Sox, Sabathia is 19-5, including 10-1 in 17 starts at U.S. Cellular Field.  On the road this season, Sabathia has pitched to a 4-2 record, with a 2.14 ERA.
The White Sox counter with James Shields, who has really struggled this season. The White Sox acquired Shields from the San Diego Padres for cash on June 4th. Shields is coming off his best start since the trade on Wednesday, where he gave up one run and eight hits over 6.2 innings albeit vs. the last place Twins. In his first four starts with the team, Shields gave up 24 ER over 13.2 innings. Shields has struggled mightily vs. the Yankees, going 10-16 against them in his career. That being said, Shields should come in with some confidence against some of the big bats in the lineup. In particular, Mark Teixeira is 6-51, with 18 strikeouts against Shields and Carlos Beltran is just 1-12 against the right-hander.
Game 2 (Tuesday, July 5 at 8:10 ET) Masahiro Tanaka (5-2, 3.35 ERA) vs. Carlos Rodon (2-6, 4.24 ERA)
Masahiro Tanaka had an uncharacteristic month of June. While the Yankees went 4-2 in his starts, Tanaka struggled, giving up 18 runs in 39.1 innings, which equates to just a 4.12 ERA. Tanaka gave up six runs in six innings in his last start on Wednesday vs. the Texas Rangers. Much has been made about the Tanaka’s splits for two stats in particular, both of which work in his favor for this start against the White Sox. First, on the road, Tanaka his 3-1 with a 1.32 ERA over seven starts (vs. 2-1, with a 5.05 ERA at Yankee Stadium). Second, with Chad Green making a spot start on Sunday, Tanaka will be getting a fifth day of rest between starts – he has pitched significantly better in those situations vs. the regular four days. Tanaka labored through five innings earlier this season in 7-5 Yankees win vs. the White Sox.
Photo Credit: Bill Kostroun | AP
Carlos Rodon has been consistently average this season. His ERA-splits in April, May, and June have been 4.33, 4.14 and 4.25 respectively – which is as low a variance as you’ll see. His stats are better than his 2-6 record would indicate, particularly of late. Over his last eight starts, Rodon has given up three runs or less in six of them, but has just a 1-2 record to show for it. Rodon has really struggled with runners in scoring position this season, with opposing hitters hitting .321 off him. He has also been prone to the home run – giving up 13 so far this season. Rodon’s lefty/righty splits are also quite dramatic – lefties hit just .208 against him, while righties hit .304. Look for the Yankees to load the lineup with right handers and give either Ellsbury or Gardner the night off.
Game 3 (Wednesday, July 6 at 8:10 ET) Michael Pineda (3-7, 5.24 ERA) vs. Miguel Gonzalez (1-4, 4.88 ERA)
Michael Pineda will look to carry his June resurgence into July. In the month of June, Pineda gave up just 11 earned runs in 36 innings, which equates to a 2.75 ERA and struck out 49 over that span. After beating up on some of the bottom-feeders in the AL earlier in the month, Pineda made a statement in his last start vs. Texas at Yankee Stadium, where he struck out 12 in six innings while giving up just one run. The biggest problem Pineda has had this season is consistent command, particularly of his slider, both between starts and often within them. Pineda often combines high strike out totals with some of the longest home runs you’ll ever see hit in thesame inning. In June, Pineda became much better at stopping the bleeding and limiting the damage or one or two runs at most.

Miguel Gonzalez is coming off his longest, and likely best start of the year against Houston on Friday. Though saddled with the loss, Gonzalez pitched seven innings, and gave up just two runs on three hits. Gonzalez has struggled with consistency of late, alternating good and bad starts over the past month. In the three good outings, Gonzalez gave up just four runs in 19.2 innings. In the other two outings, however, Gonzalez struggled, giving up 15 runs in just 8.2 innings. If you follow that pattern, the Yankees should score some runs on Wednesday. Gonzalez has also struggled with control on and off this season, walking four or more hitters in three of his starts, including five in a no decision against the Yankees on May 15th. Several Yankees have good numbers off Gonzalez. In particular, Carlos Beltran is 5-9 in his career against the right-hander with three doubles and one home run.

Players to Watch on Yankees:
1.      Carlos Beltran – No question Carlos Beltran has been the Yankees best hitter in 2016. This season he leads the team with .299 average, 19 home runs and 53 RBIs. Beltran has not started the last 5 games with a hamstring strain, and his absence has certainly been felt in the lineup, particularly in this last series vs. San Diego. Yes, the Yankees did score 6 runs on Friday and Sunday, but many of them off of poor Padres relief pitching. Beltran is close to returning, and with the DH an available option once again for Girardi, look for Beltran to potentially DH Monday before returning to the field later in the series.
Photo via Sporting News
2.      Mark Teixeira – It’s July 4th, and Mark Teixeira just got his 17th RBI of the season. No, that’s not a typo. Despite that, Teixeira showed signs of life on Sunday, hitting his 400th and 401st home runs of his career. Yankee fans continue to hope this will finally jump-start his 2016 campaign. That being said, Teixeira has really struggled against two of the three scheduled White Sox starting pitchers (6-51 against James Shields and 1-16 lifetime vs. Miguel Gonzalez).

3.      Didi Gregorius – Didi has probably been the best two-way player the Yankees have had all season, particularly over the last month. Gregorius made several stellar plays in the field in San Diego. At the plate, he’s also been their most consistent hitter. In his last 30 games, Didi is hitting .333, with five home runs and 20 RBIs. In a year where several Yankees have really struggled at the plate, Gregorius is on track for his best year ever in almost every offensive category including runs, hits, total bases, doubles, home runs and RBIs.
Photo Credit: Tony Gutierrez | AP
Players to Watch on White Sox
1.   Tim Anderson: On June 11th, the White Sox designated Jimmy Rollins for assignment and promoted shortstop prospect Tim Anderson. Before coming to the majors, Anderson was hitting .304 with four home runs and 20 RBIs in 55 games at Triple A Charlotte. He’s done well in the big-leagues. So far in 22 games, Anderson is hitting .300, with eight doubles and 11 multi-hit games. Anderson has been prone to strike out, and has done so 33 times in 100 plate appearances this season. Anderson’s settled in nicely to the lead off position and the Yankees will want to keep him off base in the series.

2.   Jose Abreu: The young slugger is the #3 hitter in the White Sox order, and always one to keep an eye on. His 2016 numbers are a bit below his career numbers, but his bat has been heating up each month over the course of the season. In June, Abreu hit .306 with five home runs, 21 RBIs and .885 OPS. Abreu does not have much of a history against the Yankee starters – he is 0 -3 against each scheduled starter in the series.

3.   Todd Frazier: After five seasons with the Cincinnati Reds, Todd Frazier is in his first campaign with the White Sox. Though he is hitting a career low .204 this season, Yankee pitching will have to be careful as he ranks second in the AL with 23 home runs. It has been all or nothing for the White Sox clean-up hitter this season. He has struck out 82 times in 299 at bats this season, and is on pace for a career worst 12 doubles. Frazier had a good series vs. the Yankees in May, going 3-10 with four walks.

Given the pitching matchups, the Yankees should be able to win all three games in this series, but likely will take two out of three. For the first time in a while, the Yankees will not get the opposing team’s best or even second best pitcher, as they will not face Chris Sale or Jose Quintana. Combine that with the fact that Yankees have Tanaka, Sabathia and the resurgent Michael Pineda on the mound should mean they have a good chance to win each game of the series. Though the White Sox have struggled mightily since their 23-10 start, they have won four series in a row against some pretty good teams, including the Blue  Jays, Red Sox and most recently, the Astros. Because they are playing some good ball of late, and are at home, don’t be surprised if they take 1 game in this series.

Article by: Omar Qureishi
Follow me on twitter @OQureishi

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