Series Preview: New York Yankees vs. Toronto Blue Jays (7/6-7/8)
After taking two out of three from the Atlanta Braves earlier this week, the Yankees now head north of the border for a three-game weekend series against the Blue Jays in Toronto. This is the Yanks third, and final, trip to the Rogers Centre this season, where they are 4-2 so far. Entering play Friday, the Yankees are 56-28 and one game behind the Red Sox in the AL East. Meanwhile, Toronto, sitting at 40-46 and 18 games back of Boston, is likely to be a seller at the trade deadline later this month. This series starts a stretch of 43 out of 51 games against teams below .500 for the Yankees.
|Photo Credit: Frank Franklin II/AP Photo|
Game One: Friday, July 6th at 7:07pm on YES
Sonny Gray (5-6, 5.44 ERA) vs. Sam Gaviglio (2-2, 3.97 ERA)
Last time out, Sonny Gray produced his worst start as a Yankee. In 2.1 innings against Boston last Saturday, Gray allowed six runs on seven hits. After that miserable effort, the 28-year-old righty now owns an 8.25 ERA, 2.00 WHIP and eight home runs allowed in eight Yankee Stadium starts. However, there is some good news. For starters, Gray has been much better on the road with a 3.28 ERA, 1.14 WHIP and only two home runs allowed in eight starts away from the Bronx. Additionally, Sonny put together his best start as a Yankee last month in Toronto when he fired eight shutout innings. The Yankees need Gray to start pitching like the three starter they traded for last July, and now is a perfect time to start.
Blue Jays vs. Gray:
Teoscar Hernandez: 2-8, 2 HR, 3 RBI
Opposing Gray will be 28-year-old right-hander Sam Gaviglio. Gaviglio has been a pleasant surprise since being recalled from triple-A Buffalo on May 11th. In eight starts, Gaviglio has posted a respectable 3.97 ERA and .238 batting average against. Gaviglio took on Gray last month and pitched a gem of his own, tossing seven shutout innings in a no-decision. Things haven’t gone as smoothly since then, as he has a 6.16 ERA in his last four outings. However, in his last start, he was solid in allowing three runs over seven innings against Detroit, so Toronto will be hoping for more of the same.
Yankees vs. Gaviglio:
Brett Gardner: 1-3 (Only Yankee with a hit against Gaviglio)
Game Two: Saturday, July 7th at 4:07pm on YES
Luis Severino (13-2, 1.98 ERA) vs. J.A. Happ (10-4, 4.03 ERA)
If you tune in for one game this weekend, it should be this one. In game two of the series, the Bombers send out staff ace, and possibly American League ace, Luis Severino. Severino is coming off a dominant two-start week against the Phillies and Red Sox that saw him throw 13.2 shutout innings and pick up two more wins. Severino’s 1.98 ERA leads the American League, and his 0.95 WHIP ranks fourth. A few more overpowering starts to close out the first-half could put Severino in position to start the All-Star Game in two weeks. But for now, the team is more concerned with him helping them improve their 16-2 record when he takes the ball.
Blue Jays vs. Severino:
Justin Smoak: 6-16, 2 HR, 5 RBI, 2B
Kevin Pillar: 4-14, HR, RBI
In case you need another reason to watch this game, the Blue Jays will be countering Severino with potential Yankees trade target J.A. Happ. Earlier this week, Jon Heyman reported that New York is considered one of the “main players” for Happ’s services. With that being said, this is the perfect opportunity for the Yankees to scout the 35-year-old lefty firsthand. Happ, who will be a free agent at year’s end, is enjoying one of the best seasons of his career. His WHIP, K/9 and BB/9 are all in the top four of any season in his 12-year career. Additionally, his 4.03 ERA is a bit misleading considering he owns a FIP of 3.64. If the Yankees can get him for the right price, Happ could be a great piece to shore up their inconsistent rotation.
Yankees vs. Happ:
Giancarlo Stanton: 3-11, 2 HR, 4 RBI, 2B
Game Three: Sunday, July 8th at 1:07pm on YES
Domingo German (2-4, 5.37 ERA) vs. Ryan Borucki (0-1, 2.77 ERA)
Domingo German is on the mound in the series finale after a Jekyll and Hyde start against Atlanta earlier this week. After cruising through the first four innings, everything fell apart in the fifth. German allowed back-to-back home runs and then back-to-back two-strike singles before departing and putting an already tired bullpen in a tough spot. The talent is evident for German, but the results have not been. With Tanaka likely to return next week, and the Yankees rumored to be searching for starters on the trade market, Domingo is running out of time to prove that he belongs to stay in the rotation. Sunday may be his last chance.
Blue Jays vs. German:
Lourdes Gurriel: 1-1, RBI
24-year-old lefty Ryan Borucki is slated to pitch for the Blue Jays in what will be the third start of his young career. Borucki has posted quality starts against both Houston (six innings, two runs) and Detroit (seven innings, two runs) to begin his Big League career, but the Yankees will be a tall task for the rookie. The Bombers 21-6 record against left-handed starting pitchers is the best in Major League Baseball, with red-hot Giancarlo Stanton hitting .345 with 10 home runs in 87 at-bats against Southpaws.
Yankees have never faced Gorucki
Position Players to Watch:
As was previously mentioned, Giancarlo Stanton mashes left-handed pitching. His 1.163 OPS against lefties is fourth in MLB amongst players with at least 75-at bats against Southpaws. With two left-handers scheduled to take the mound in this series, one of whom Stanton has hit two home runs off of, this could be another big series for the Yankees’ hulking slugger. Moreover, Stanton is hitting .333 with five home runs and 12 RBI in his last 15 games. He has made Yankees fans all but forget about his rough start to the season.
Could this be the last chance for Neil Walker? With Gleyber Torres (hip) likely out through the All-Star break, Walker is going to get a bunch of opportunities over the next two weeks to show that he belongs. His .188 batting average is a far cry from his career average of .270 and his OPS of .527 is downright putrid. With so many capable, young infielders in the Yankees organization, the team should not continue to wait for him to come around if things don’t change in the final 11 games before the break.
|Photo Credit: Jim McIsaac/Getty Images|
25-year-old Teoscar Hernandez was acquired from the Astros for Francisco Liriano at last year’s trade deadline. It appears that Toronto netted an everyday corner outfielder with plus power in that swap. Hernandez is second on the team with 13 home runs and leads the club with an OPS of .827. With respect to this series, he has hit three of those home runs against the Yankees, with one coming against each of Sonny Gray and Luis Severino. If the Yankees try to be careful with anyone in this lineup, it should be Hernandez.
|Photo Credit: Jim McIsaac/Getty Images|
The Yankees now enter the part of their schedule where they need to stay sharp despite playing lower-level competition. If the Bombers are going to dethrone the Boston Red Sox in the AL East, they need to beat the teams they are supposed to, and that starts this weekend. Anything less than a series win will be a huge disappointment and a sweep is very much within reach. Outside of wins and losses, the most important part of this series is trying to get Sonny Gray’s confidence back after a wretched start last Saturday.
Preview by: Jake GrazianoFollow@JakeGraziano Follow@BronxBomberBall