Yankees Weekly Preview: Searching for momentum as the first half wraps up

Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports

After an up and down week, the Yankees look to keep pace in the division as they take on the Cleveland Indians and the Baltimore Orioles this week in the final games before the All Star break.

After an ugly sweep in the Bronx at the hands of the cellar-dwelling Tampa Bay Rays, the Yankees bounced back in Minnesota, taking three of four from the Twins to stay just three games back in the AL East.  This week, the Yankees will take on the Cleveland Indians in Cleveland before closing out the first half with a three game series against the new division leaders, the Baltimore Orioles.

The Indians and the Orioles:


Indians: 3rd in AL Central (43-44), 8th in runs scored, 10th in OPS (.716), 7th in wRC+ (104), 24th in ERA (4.05), 13th in FIP (3.77), 10th in xFIP (3.64)

Orioles: 1st in AL East (48-40), 10th in runs scored, 5th in OPS (.743), 8th in wRC+ (103), 18th in ERA (3.89), 29th in FIP (4.31), 27th in xFIP (4.20)

Quick hits:

Chisenhall finally living up to hype: Both the Indians and Orioles have some more obscure names making major impacts this season.  In Cleveland, Lonnie Chisenhall has become an offensive force in 2014.  Once a highly touted prospect, Chisenhall struggled upon reaching the majors, posting anemic offensive numbers in limited action over the past three seasons.  This year, though, Chisenhall has finally become the type of hitter the Indians expected him to be.  As we approach the halfway point, Chisenhall is hitting .338/.395/.544 for a 166 wRC+ in 2014.  Along with Michael Brantley (155 wRC+ this season), Chisenhall has made the Indians offense one of the best in the American League.

Pearce surprising everyone with his pop: The Orioles have their own surprise contributor in journeyman Steve Pearce, who has finally found a home in the heart of Baltimore's lineup.  Once a promising prospect in the Pittsburgh Pirates' system, Pearce bounced around a lot in his career, even signing with the Yankees on two separate occasions.  While he had a decent end to 2013 (162 wRC+ in the second half), no one could've expected it to carry over to 2014.  Well, it has - this season, Pearce, over the course of 189 plate appearances so far, has hit .326/.381/.581 for a 165 wRC+.  In almost half as many games as most of Baltimore's regulars, Pearce is second on the team in fWAR with 2.4, and while no one should expect him to sustain this, continued production even close to this level will go a long way towards keeping Baltimore in the hunt.

Yankees notes for the week:

Roberts swinging a hot bat of late: Brian Roberts has been the target of many Yankee fans' ire this season, and with good reason, but recently, he's finally found some success at the plate.  Over the past 30 days, Roberts is hitting .274/.337/.452 with a 118 wRC+ (perhaps Rob Refsynder's hot hitting in Triple A got someone's attention).  While it'd be great if Refsynder could get a shot in the majors, it's at least good to see Roberts isn't completely incapable of playing good baseball anymore (especially since he'll probably stick around, with all of the veteran presents he possesses).

Greene joining rotation: Shane Greene will be called up on Monday to make his first big league start against Justin Masterson and the Cleveland Indians.  Greene has been just okay for Scranton/Wilkes-Barre this year, posting a 3.39 FIP in 66.1 innings pitched.  While his ERA is an ugly 4.61, he has been better over his past two starts, which saw him pitch a combined 13 scoreless innings.  With Brandon McCarthy also joining the pitching staff this week, it should be an exciting stretch to see if these two can help the Yankees find the rotational stability they've been lacking all year.

Prediction: 3-4 (2-2 against the Indians, 1-2 against the Orioles)

The Yankees will have two tough tests this week as they face off against two of the better offensive teams in the league.  While their pitching has (hopefully?) improved with the additions of McCarthy, and, to a lesser extent Greene, they probably won't be able to hit enough to win both of these series.  Still, the Yankees offense showed some signs of life in Minnesota, and if they can get a good start out of one of their newcomers, they should be able to earn at least a split in Cleveland, and perhaps even three out of four with a little luck.  Baltimore will prove to be a tougher nut to crack, though, and their offense is good enough to get to both Masahiro Tanaka and Hiroki Kuroda.  Look for three close games, but don't be surprised if the Yankees fall to the Orioles to close the first half.

How do you think the Yankees will fare this week?  Vote in the poll and sound off in the comments below!

Pitching matchups:

Monday, July 7: Shane Greene (0-0) vs. Justin Masterson (4-5, 5.16 ERA, 3.98 FIP)

Tuesday, July 8: Masahiro Tanaka (12-3, 2.27 ERA, 2.88 FIP) vs. Trevor Bauer (2-4, 4.42 ERA, 4.43 FIP)

Wednesday, July 9: Brandon McCarthy (3-10, 5.01 ERA, 3.79 FIP) vs. Josh Tomlin (5-6, 4.11 ERA, 3.71 FIP)

Thursday, July 10: David Phelps (3-4, 4.01 ERA, 4.38 FIP) vs. T.J. House (1-2, 4.24 ERA, 4.62 FIP)

Friday, July 11: Hiroki Kuroda (5-6, 4.08 ERA, 3.85 FIP) vs. Ubaldo Jimenez (3-8, 4.52 ERA, 4.68 FIP)

Saturday, July 12: Undecided vs. Chris Tillman (7-4, 4.21 ERA, 4.60 FIP)

Sunday, July 13: Tanaka vs. Wei-Yin Chen (8-3, 4.12 ERA, 4.43 FIP)

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