Series Preview: New York Yankees at San Francisco Giants (4/26 – 4/28)

The Yankees are on to the next leg of their first bleary-eyed (at least for those of us on the East Coast), Pacific road trip: a three-game series against the San Francisco Giants.  And in spite of the fact that the Bombers have nearly a full squad worth of offensive players on the Injured List (with Clint Frazier being the most recent unfortunate addition), and even with disappointing outings from Chad Green that resulted in him being sent back down to AAA, they should -- against all odds -- be entering the series with some degree of confidence.  While the bullpen couldn't hold it together on Thursday night to stop the Los Angeles Angels from scoring 11 unanswered runs, the Yankees' offense did not quit and tried to rally all the way into the 9th inning.  Not to mention: they collectively stole five bases in one game. 

Luke Voit is currently proving that he’s not a fluke.  Gary Sanchez has finally returned to the lineup.  Mike Ford, while it's too soon to tell, could be the breakout star of the 2019 season, and an unexpected one at that.  DJ LeMahieu is the player the Yankees have been waiting for, as he’s been an excellent situational hitter and doesn’t always hit for power -- but gets the job done with RISP. Gleyber Torres continues to exceed the Front Office’s high expectations that were touted prior to the 2018 season.  Gio Urshela has collected his first home run in Pinstripes.  And there’s been way more Gardy Parties than really anyone would have expected.  This tough bunch, becoming known across Yankees Twitter as “The Replacements,” are proving to be a force, at least from the offensive side of things.

Photo Credit: Newsday/Jim McIsaac

But, as many baseball philosophers often state, efficient and powerful pitching beats even situational hitting in most scenarios.  Here’s what the matchups look like against the Giants: 

Game One, Friday, April 26, 10:15PM EST
James Paxton (2-2, 3.10 ERA) vs. Madison Bumgarner (1-3, 3.66 ERA)
Big Maple, finally, is on a roll.  He's claimed victory in his two previous starts against the Royals and the Red Sox, striking out 12 against Boston over eight innings and working seven innings when facing Kansas City.  He then became the second Yankee with 12 strikeouts in two consecutive starts, second only to the great David Cone, who accomplished the feat in 1998.  While no performance is for certain, a continued streak is definitely possible, especially against the 11-14 Giants.  

Bumgarner, however, is not on a roll to start out the 2019 season.  His 1-3 start is not a sharp contrast to his 6-7 season in 2018, as well as his 4-9 season in 2017; however, all of those numbers are much different from 16-11 in 2012, 13-9 in 2013 and 18-10 in 2014.  Bumgarner, a four-time All-Star, can only tout a 3.66 ERA in his 11th MLB season.  And what’s more, the members of the 2019 Yankees who have faced Bumgarner have hit .279 against him.  To be fair, that statistic is not the most accurate, seeing as four of the players on this list are currently injured.  However, LeMahieu is 11-for-44 against Bumgarner and newcomer Cameron Maybin is 5-for-28, which is not great, but at least he has experience with a Bumgarner at-bat.

Game Two, Saturday, April 27, 4:05PM EST
JA Happ (0-2, 5.96 ERA) vs. Derek Holland (1-3, 4.33 ERA)
After putting aside $34 million until 2020 to pay his salary, most Yankees fans have wanted to see more out of JA Happ so far this season.  On one hand, it’s still early; however, virtually every outing has been nothing short of a disaster -- and that was not at all what we expected.  Over five appearances, Happ is 0-2 (yes, not one win) with an abysmal 5.96 ERA.  He’s walked eight, and allowed 28 hits, seven home runs and 17 earned runs.  In 2018 (for at least his appearances in Pinstripes), Happ was the picture of consistency to the point that he was viewed as a potential AL Wild Card Game starter. 2019 Happ is due for a comeback, but it’s difficult to trust him right now. Not to mention, the 2019 Giants hold a collective .300 batting average versus Happ. While the Giants haven’t been great so far this year, they clearly can hit Happ, and if they have been able to hit him in the past, they can certainly hit him when he’s weak.  Basically… the bullpen (even without one Dellin Betances) has to be ready to step in on Saturday, and not repeat Thursday night's performance.

Derek Holland, however, is not off to any better of a start than Bumgarner is.  He is 1-3 so far on the season with a 4.33 ERA.  And he’s another pitcher that LeMahieu, having played in Colorado for seven seasons and therefore facing West Coast teams on a more frequent basis than home-grown Yankees have, has faced before.  LeMahieu is 3-for-6 with a home run against Holland, Austin Romine is 3-for-6, Brett Gardner is 1-for-6 and Urshela, while only 0-for-2, has at least faced Holland before (and isn’t injured like almost everyone else who has faced Holland previously).
Game Three, Sunday, April 28, 4:05PM EST
Domingo German (4-1, 1.75 ERA) vs. Dereck Rodriguez (3-2, 3.54 ERA)
Domingo German has continued his stellar start to the 2019 season.  Facing added pressure to make up for the hole in the rotation left by one Luis Severino, German has stepped up his game to a 4-1 record so far this season over just five appearances and 25.2 IP.  This early momentum for German is especially exciting, considering he was 2-6 in MLB appearances in 2018, finishing the season with a 5.57 ERA.  In his last appearance against the Angels, German went 6.2 IP with five Ks.  If we are going with the philosophy that quality pitching defeats sluggers, the Yanks really have their best shot at victory with German on the hill.

Photo Credit: New York Post/Bill Kostroun

Dereck Rodriguez, comparatively speaking, is still a newcomer.  However, he’s already recorded 22 Ks over five starts and 28.0 IP.  So, again comparatively speaking, he’s off to a better start than his teammates in Bumgarner and Holland, who are far more experienced.  However, he’s not off to a better start than German is.  As far as Yankee success versus Rodriguez, the only one who has faced him previously is -- you guessed it -- LeMahieu.  The point here is not the fact that LeMahieu is 0-for-5 against Rodriguez; it is further evidence that LeMahieu is crucial to the Yankees winning this series thanks to his experience against the Giants’ pitching staff (coupled with his recent excellence in the realm of situational hitting).  All in all, even a reduced, “replacement” Yankees lineup can feel confident against an inexperienced pitcher like Rodriguez.

If the Yankees can keep up their winning record this weekend (as we fans continue to fight to stay awake for games), they will continue to prove that their talent exceeds the big names who are on the Injured List.  Of course, with the help of German and Paxton, pitching could well be a deciding factor in this upcoming series.

Article by: Mary Grace Donaldson


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