Series Preview: Kansas City Royals at New York Yankees (4/18-4/21)

The New York Yankees and the Kansas City Royals will be meeting for the first time this season for a weekend four-game set in the Bronx.  The Yankees have dominated the Royals in recent memory with a 19-8 record against the AL Central foe over the last four seasons, via baseball-reference.  Both teams come into this series with below .500 records as the Yanks sit at 8-9 and the Royals at 6-12.


Photo Credit: Elsa/Getty Images

New York has opened up the season with a relatively light schedule, but with double-digit numbers on the injured-list, many of their lineups have looked similar to 2018 Scranton/Wilkes-Barre teams.  After starting the season 6-9 and dropping series’ to the Orioles, Tigers, and White Sox, the Bombers had a huge two-game sweep over the Boston Red Sox.  Coming into this series with some confidence, the Yankees will look to build on their momentum as they eagerly anticipate the return of guys like Gary Sanchez, Aaron Hicks, and Giancarlo Stanton.


Game One, Thursday, April 18, 6:35 EST
Homer Bailey (1-1, 5.29 ERA) vs Domingo German (3-0, 1.38 ERA)

Homer Bailey entered 2019’s Spring Training on a club other than the Cincinnati Reds for the first time in his thirteen-year career.  The righty has not had an ERA under five since the 2014 season, and out of the gate this year Bailey continues to look shaky.  Bailey started the season with back-to-back five inning outings, giving up three and seven runs respectively. However, during his April 13th start against the Indians, he went 7.0 IP, giving up zero runs and just two hits.  Bailey has made just two career starts against the Yankees, and for that reason only three players on the current roster have ever faced him.  The big question here is if the vet will throw like his first two outings, or his most recent gem against Cleveland.

After starting 14 games in 2018, Domingo German earned a spot in the Opening Day starting rotation largely due to the absences of CC Sabathia and Luis Severino.  With Severino set to be out at least another month, German has the opportunity to continue to pitch well and vault himself into the core of this pitching staff.  German has appeared in three games this season, starting two of them.  He has given up just three hits and two runs (1.38 ERA) over 13 innings pitched.  Phenomenal.  His WHIP this season is sitting at 0.769 while averaging 9.7 K/9.  Being so new to the majors, German has never faced Kansas City before.  This is typically where he excels, and I expect another six-inning outing of minimal damage.


Game Two, Friday, April 19, 7:05 EST
Jakob Junis (1-1, 6.14 ERA) vs CC Sabathia (0-0, 0.00 ERA)

Jakob Junis will be making his fifth start in his second full big-league season this Friday.  He has made three career starts against the Yankees, winning one of them.  He has a 6.32 ERA in those three starts.  This season, Junis has been consistently below average in all four outings.  All of his starts have gone at least four innings, but no more than 6.1.  He has given up at least six hits, yet no more than eight.  Finally, Junis has given up at least three runs in every outing this season, but no more than five.  Six Yankees have faced Junis before and they are a combined 8-for-26 (.308) with one HR and three RBI.  The Yankees should be able to get after the young righty early and often.

Photo Credit: Al Bello/Getty Images

After missing the first five games of the season due to a suspension given at the end of last season, CC Sabathia made his first start of the season Saturday, April 13th in a win against the White Sox.  Sabathia threw 62 pitches over five nearly perfect innings.  He gave up just one baserunner, a bloop-single to center in the third.  Sabathia looked healthy and challenged the White Sox lineup.  This Royals lineup is familiar with Sabathia as they have a combined 80 plate appearances against him.  Veteran Alex Gordon accounts for nearly half of those plate appearances but has struggled mightily against CC with a career .171 average against him.  Aaron Boone will once again have a close eye on the pitch count of the lefty, but another solid five innings is something I think is reasonable to expect.


Game Three, Saturday, April 20, 1:05 EST
Heath Fillmyer (0-0, 9.00 ERA) vs Masahiro Tanaka (1-1, 3.22 ERA)

The beginning of Heath Fillmyer’s second major league season has not gone according to plan.  In two starts, Fillmyer has combined to go eight innings, giving up eight runs and 11 hits.  He has just four strikeouts.  Fillmyer was a fifth-round pick in 2014 and quickly progressed through the minor league ranks.  He combines a low-to-mid 90’s fastball with an effective curve and deceptive changeup.  Fillmyer has made one start in his career against the Bombers which came on July 28th of 2018.  He went five innings, giving up five hits and three runs.  Only one projected starter for the Yanks on Saturday faced Fillmyer last season (Gardner), so he may be able to surprise some guys.  However, this is a game the Yankees must win against a young, struggling pitcher.

Masahiro Tanaka was the Opening Day starter for the Pinstripes and has not looked back since.  In four starts this season Tanaka is 1-1 with a 3.22 ERA, 1.299 WHIP, and 8.5 K/9.  Tanaka had a terrific first three starts, going an average of six innings pitched with an ERA just above two.  His last start, however, was not pretty.  Last Sunday Tanaka went just four innings, giving up seven hits and five runs against the White Sox.  He will look to get back on track against a Royals squad that lacks pop in their lineup.  Tanaka has faced current players for Kansas City 27 times.  They are hitting .231 off of him with two home runs, both coming from Lucas Duda.  I think this matinee game against a weaker lineup sets up a perfect scenario for Tanaka to get back on track.


Game Four, Sunday, April 21, 1:05 EST
Jorge Lopez (0-2, 4.30 ERA) vs James Paxton (2-2, 3.91 ERA)

The 26-year old righty has bounced around organizations as well between the minors and majors.  Jorge Lopez has made 13 career major league starts and has a current record of 3-8 with a 4.87 ERA.  He has not faced anyone on the Yankee roster.  Lopez uses his hard sinker effectively and pairs it with a low-80s curve.  His four-seam fastball sits in the mid-90s, topping at 97 MPH.  He has been relatively average this season (4.30 ERA, 1.304 WHIP), but has given the Royals decent length, going at least five innings in all four of his starts.  Similar to the rest of Kansas City’s staff, Lopez is inexperienced, but that also means he could excel through the first couple of times through the order.

Photo Credit: Alex Trautwig/MLB Photos

James Paxton was acquired via trade in the offseason and was expected to be a dominant lefty-starter for the Pinstripes.  His first three starts were not what Yankee fans signed up for as Paxton’s ERA sat at 6.00.  His start against the Red Sox on Tuesday night put any doubt in Paxton aside as he absolutely dominated.  The Canadian went eight innings, giving up just two hits and no runs with 12 K’s.  That was hopefully the start that propels Paxton’s season.  Seven Royals have faced Paxton in their careers and have a combined batting average of .171 (7-for-41) with no home runs.  He has dominated this lineup and dominated in his previous start.  There is no reason to believe Paxton will struggle this Sunday.


The Yankees will look to close out this homestand strong before they head West for a nine-game road trip in which they will face the Angels, Giants and Diamondbacks.  Coming off the mini sweep of Boston, a strong showing against the lowly Royals would be the perfect building block to get this team back on track.

Article by: Shane Black

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