After sweeping the series against the Rays, the Yankees continue their homestand this weekend with their first taste of interleague play this season. The last place Cardinals (which is just fun to say) come into town having struggled out of the gate. Luckily, it’s the good kind of interleague play, played in an AL stadium with a DH instead of a pitcher batting.
The Yankees open this series still without Gary Sanchez, who they discovered on Monday will miss approximately four weeks with a grade 1 biceps strain. So Austin Romine and Kyle Higashioka will continue to share the catching duties, with the latter likely to catch on days where he and the pitcher have familiarity from time in the minors, such as Jordan Montgomery and possibly Luis Severino.
The Yankees didn’t come out of the Rays series completely unscathed, though. After a nasty collision with Rickie Weeks at first base, Brett Gardner suffered a bruised jaw and strained neck. Gardner missed the series finale with the Rays and it is still up in the air whether he’ll return during the Cardinals series at all. It seems like the injury wasn’t as bad as originally thought, as he was available in yesterday’s game. Aaron Hicks stole the show yesterday, driving in all three Yankee runs, so Girardi might play it safe with Gardner.
Greg Bird was finally back in the lineup on Thursday, after missing time with an ankle issue and illness. He struck out three times, which obviously isn’t good, but did have a well hit ball that just happened to find Peter Bourjos’ glove in the sixth. In Bird’s and Sanchez’s absence though, Aaron Judge has taken the reins of the team’s offense and shown off that highly-touted raw power.
Aaron Judge to Monument Park for a two-run homer. The scary thing? I don't think he got all of it.— Bryan Hoch (@BryanHoch) April 12, 2017
Judge is putting it all together in the early-goings of the season and hopefully he can keep it going. Though he’s shown no reason for us or the Yankees to think otherwise. Perhaps the mentoring of Matt Holliday has helped him put it together.
Speaking of Holliday, after an eight-year stint with the Cardinals, Holliday is set to face his former team for the first time. I’m sure it will be weird for Holliday facing his old team, but luckily so far he hasn’t really showed that he’s missing them. He leads the Yankee regulars with a .462 OBP, thanks in-part to his ten walks which also lead the team. Though he’s showing quite a bit of patience, Holliday is also hitting the ball quite well and hopefully he can continue that against his former team.
On the other side of the ball, the Yankees “top” three pitchers will get the call this time around, as Masahiro Tanaka takes the ball first tonight. Tanaka was originally scheduled to pitch the series finale against the Rays, but the Yankees wanted to give him and Sabathia an extra day of rest, so they called up Jordan Montgomery, who won the fifth starter job, on Wednesday and pushed everyone back a day.
Tanaka last pitched on Saturday against the Orioles, and though he did have a much better outing than the season opener, he still hadn’t quite shown the command that he typically does. Hopefully he can get even further back on track tonight and pitch to his capability. Tanaka will face Michael Wacha, who is coming off a strong start against the Reds in which he tossed six innings of one-run ball. If Tanaka can get on track and Wacha repeats his performance, this game has the makings of a solid pitcher’s duel.
On Saturday afternoon the new and improved CC Sabathia will take on Carlos Martinez. The season is obviously still young, but Sabathia has given hope that his resurgence last year was not a fluke, having only allowed two runs in 11 innings. Sabathia has said he wants to keep pitching past this season, and if he continues pitching like his re-invented self, there’s no reason he can’t.
His opponent, Carlos Martinez took the ball on Opening Day for the Cardinals and pitched 7.1 innings of shutout ball to the Cubs, but then was subsequently smacked around by the Reds for six runs (five earned) in just five innings. So he’s looking to get himself back on track.
In the series finale, Michael Pineda will face Adam Wainwright. Pineda, fresh off his perfect game bid, will look to build on that last start and show some consistency. He doesn’t have to be that dominant, but if he continues to work on the little things he can start to live up to his potential. Based on past experience, it’s difficult to expect anything other than Pineda getting clobbered after being so good. It’s what Pineda is at this point. So while a good outing here still wouldn’t give anybody 100% confidence in him putting it together, it would be a baby step in that direction.