This week's schedule and probable starters:
5/8/14 - Off
5/1/14 - at Milwaukee Breweres - David Phelps vs. Matt Garza
The opponents: Los Angeles Angels and Milwaukee Brewers
The Yankees just played the Angels in the Bronx a little over a week ago, taking two of three from Los Angeles in what was a pretty tight series (other than the 13-1 blowout of New York in the opener). Since then, the Angels have won five of six, sweeping the Cleveland Indians and taking two of three from the Texas Rangers to push their record to an even 15-15. The Angels' offense still hasn't slowed down, as Albert Pujols is hitting .287/.353/.598 with 10 home runs so far this season and Mike Trout is just being Mike Trout. If their pitching ever comes around, this could be a dangerous team.
After a visit to Los Angeles, the Yankees will travel to Milwaukee to take on the team with the best record in baseball. At 21-11, the Brewers have a five and a half game lead in the NL Central and have been one of the bigger surprises of the season so far. While they stumbled a bit against the Cincinnati Reds last week (the Reds took three of four from the Brewers) and their already pedestrian offense will have to overcome the absence of Ryan Braun (put on the 15-day DL with an oblique strain), their pitching staff has been one of the best in the majors. Yovani Gallardo is 2-1 with a 2.47 ERA (although his 4.05 xFIP suggests that he's been a bit lucky so far this year) and Kyle Lohse has been dominant so far (3.40 xFIP, 9.00 K/9). While the Brewers may be cooling off after a hot start, the Yankees will have their hands full with the Milwaukee rotation.
Hiroki Kuroda vs. C.J. Wilson
Kuroda has not been quite as effective in the early going of 2014 as he was at the beginning of 2013. While his record is just 2-3 and his ERA is an unsightly 5.14, his xFIP of 3.83 and an opposing BAPIP of .322 shows that Kuroda's been a bit unlucky so far this season. Still, he's been struggling recently, as the Yankees have lost the last three games Kuroda has started (including the 13-1 rout at the hands of the Angels last week). The Yankees desperately need Kuroda to turn it around, as Michael Pineda will be out for the next month and CC Sabathia continues to struggle.
Opposing Kuroda will be C.J. Wilson, who has been the best pitcher on the Angels staff this year. Wilson is 4-2 in his six starts, posting an ERA of 3.18, an xFIP of 3.25, and a K/9 of 9.30. He gave up just one run in six innings the last time he faced Kuroda and New York, and his last start was an eight inning, two hit gem against the Cleveland Indians. Other than his first start of the season (Wilson gave up six runs over 5.2 innings against Seattle on April 1st), Wilson hasn't really had a bad game, and the Yankees will be hard pressed to get to him.
Who's hot and who's not:
Mark Teixeira: Yes, Teixeira appeared in the "Not" part of this section last week, and then he proceeded to destroy opposing pitchers en route to hitting .333 with three home runs and five RBI against Seattle and Tampa Bay. Tex has been absolutely on fire over the past six games, a good sign for the Yankees and for Teixeira's surgically repaired wrist. It's also a good sign coming into this series with the Angels, as Jered Weaver and C.J. Wilson have both had quite a bit of success against Teixeira (in 32 at-bats against Weaver, Tex has hit .188/.257/.469, and against Wilson, just .111/.304/.278 in 18 at-bats). Still, Teixeira is really locked in right now, and hopefully he will continue his hot hitting as the Yankees head west.
Derek Jeter: Derek Jeter has had a rough week, highlighted by his 0-7 showing in the Yankees extra-inning loss to the Rays on May 2nd. Over the last seven days, he's batting just .100 and hasn't scored a run or knocked one in. While he got off to a good start this season (hitting safely in eight of his first ten games), the last couple series have seen Jeter struggle mightily at the plate. He's only posted a 64 wRC+ so far this season, and if the Yankees are really going to contend, they'll need a bigger contribution from the Captain.
Final notes and prediction: 3-3 (1-2 against the Angels, 2-1 against the Brewers)
The Yankees will be looking to bounce back after a disappointing week that saw them drop three of five games, but unfortunately, their mediocre pitching will have a hard time quieting the bats of the Angels. While Nuno should be able to out-pitch Hector Santiago (0-5, 4.95 xFIP), Kuroda unfortunately has to contend with Wilson. While Phelps vs. Weaver is a bit of a tossup, I'll give the edge to the home team.
In Milwaukee, look for Tanaka to continue dominating as he has all season before things get a bit more ugly for the Yankees. Lohse has been terrific this year and finds himself up against a shaky Sabathia, so look for the series to come down to the final matchup of Phelps and Garza. Garza has struggled somewhat at the beginning of the season, and, without Ryan Braun, the Brewers will be limited offensively. Look for the Yankees to sneak out a high-scoring final game of the series before returning to New York.