Series Preview: NYY @ OAK 8/26-8/29
The Yankees are heading to the west coast, and they head off on this seven-game west coast swing as the hottest team in baseball. They are the owners of an 11-game winning streak and have won their last 10 consecutive series. It has been a remarkable turnaround for a team that looked like it was asleep for the first half of this season, but there is still work to be done. The Yankees current 11 game winning streak is their longest since 1985 and it has seen them go from trailing both the Red Sox and the Oakland A’s in the Wild Card standings, to leading both by four and five games respectively in the loss column. The Yankees flipped a switch in mid-July and now have ridden an impressive white hot winning streak into the driver’s seat for a playoff stretch as we head to the stretch run of the regular season. The first series up in this all-important stretch run, is the aforementioned Oakland A’s. The A’s are a talented team that had an impressive 13 game winning streak of their own earlier this season. While the Yankees have given themselves some room to breath in the Wild Card race, this four-game set against the A’s is incredibly important. It is a chance to measure themselves against a potential Wild Card game opponent and it is also a chance to bury that opponent in the standings and give themselves more breathing room. Let’s break it down.
Thursday 8/26: Jameson Taillon vs James Kaprielian
After an expectedly slow start following two full years lost due to injury, Taillon has really found his footing during the second half of this season and is becoming a valuable member of the rotation. He is pitching deeper into games and has had some good outings against some of the best teams in the American League. For his last seven starts, he owns a 1.99 ERA and while he was a little shaky in his last two starts, now is the perfect time for Taillon to continue his second half resurgence and get the Yankees off on the right foot in this series.
Taillon will face off against former Yankee draft pick, James Kaprielian. It has taken him a long while, but Kaprielian has finally made it to the majors and is showing he can be a quality pitcher at this level. He doesn’t always pitch deep into games, and he can sometimes get bitten by the longball, but Kaprielian has quality stuff that can produce swings and misses and that can play against this Yankee lineup.
Friday 8/27: Gerrit Cole vs Sean Manaea
Gerrit Cole is the unquestioned ace of the Yankees pitching staff and whenever he goes out there, we expect a dominant performance. He has looked solid since his return from the Covid IL after a decent length layoff and now would be the perfect time for a truly dominant performance where he pitches deep into the game. There isn’t much to say about the man, he’s usually going to give you a great chance to win, and hopefully he does here against a quality opponent.
Cole will face off against Sean Manaea. He is having a very solid season, with a 3.77 ERA and 151 strikeouts in 138.1 IP. He owns a career 3.60 ERA against the Yankees and will offer a different look as he doesn’t throw that hard but if a lefty and will offer some tricky off-speed and breaking pitches.
Saturday 8/28: Nestor Cortes Jr vs Frankie Montas
Signed as a non-roster invitee to spring training this offseason, Nestor Cortes has become an unlikely hero in the Yankees rotation. In his previous stint and the beginning of this one, he was a bullpen arm and a swingman, capable of throwing multiple innings in relief. Injuries and Covid have repeatedly ravaged this Yankees’ rotation and forced Nestor into a starters role and he has been a revelation. On the season he has a 2.56 ERA and in he has a 2.70 ERA in seven starts this season. He may be facing a hard-luck demotion to the bullpen soon, but this weekend he draws a key start against a playoff contender.
Opposing him will be Frankie Montas. Montas is another in a rotation filled with “solid” starters. He has a splitter that can produce swings and misses and otherwise will live by trying to induce soft contact. Montas was on his way to a very good season in 2019, before drawing an 80-game suspension for a banned substance. He was not good in the shortened 2020 season but he has bounced back and produced a 3.84 ERA and 161 strikeouts in 143 innings this season.
Sunday 8/29: Jordan Montgomery vs Paul Blackburn
Jordan Montgomery will close out what is hopefully a series win for the Yankees. He has matured before our eyes this season, all while getting little to no run support most times out. He has produced a solid 3.69 ERA on the season, and that number is 3.16 for his last 15 starts. His most recent outing against a hot braves team was encouraging for a different reason, as he did not have his best stuff, and he bent but did not break. Gumby has become a real contributor in this Yankee rotation this season and has shown that he may be trusted to take the ball in key playoff situations. He will face a playoff caliber opponent this weekend.
In what is possibly the most favorable matchup for the Yankees this weekend, Paul Blackburn will close out this series for the A’s. While the A’s are surely missing Chris Bassitt (who we hope is ok), Blackburn is not a bad pitcher by any means. He mostly throws a sinker and a cutter and he will look to keep the Yankees off balance and making soft contact. While he may have been solid since being pressed into emergency service, the Yankees should have the advantage in this game.
What to watch for:
This week, the Yankees got back Clay Holmes from the Covid IL and activated Gio Urshela from the IL before tonight's game. More help could be on the way, as Aaron Boone announced that Corey Kluber will be activated to pitch in Monday's game against the Angels. Boone also announced that Luis Severino has been cleared to resume his throwing program after another injury scare last week. Couple that with Gleyber Torres beginning a rehab assignment within the next few days, and the Yankees could have some fresh bodies coming in to aide their stretch run very soon.
Keep it rolling
The Yankees are obviously riding a great hot streak right now, but that hot streak has been helped along by a different contributor every night. The big guns of Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton, have been aided by new faces like Rougned Odor and Andrew Velazquez. Aaron Boone has seemed to find a good rhythm in finding playing time for everyone in order to keep the momentum and the great positive energy around the team going. With more players coming back soon, it will be very interesting to see how Boone keeps it going and keeps all mouths fed.
July 30th, the day that Giancarlo Stanton first played the outfield this season and since that day he has been on a tear. Since that date, he is slashing .313/.421/.600. He has taken well to rotating into the outfield and Boone has done well in getting him into the lineup regularly and relieving him with a defensive replacement late in games. For all the injuries and returning players from Covid and everything else, getting Stanton on track for the stretch run would be a massive boost for an offense that has seen different sources of offense every night. Stanton carried the offense through the Atlanta series, we've seen what he can do when he gets hot earlier this season. Hopefully we get to see more of it this weekend.
Article by Matt GrazianoFollow @mattgraz930