The Yankees host the Royals in a four-game series starting tonight, hoping a return to the Bronx will help them get back on track after dropping a weekend series in Tampa Bay. The offense is still not much of a concern, but Jordan Montgomery was hit fairly hard in his start as rumblings of Chad Green taking his rotation spot began to surface.
The main concern is Masahiro Tanaka, who was lit up once again, and cannot seem to recapture his success that made him unhittable in spring training. Both Montgomery and Tanaka will take the mound against the Royals, whom the Yankees took two out of three games against last week in Kansas City.
The Royals had to do a little rotation shuffling after a rainout on Saturday forced a doubleheader in Minnesota on Tuesday. They arrive in New York in the middle of a 10 game road trip.
Game 1: Michael Pineda vs Jason Vargas
Pineda, the unexpected anchor of the pitching staff, takes the mound to open the series tonight. Pineda holds a 3.42 ERA and a fantastic strikeout/walk ratio. He will have to figure out a way around Royals third baseman Mike Moustakas, who is 6-12 with two home runs against Pineda for his career.
Pineda made a couple mistakes in his start in Kansas City last week, resulting in home runs by Salvador Perez and Whit Merrifield. Pineda left the game in the seventh having surrendered four earned runs but rode a wave of run support in an 11-7 win.
The Yankees tagged Vargas for six runs in four innings in last week’s series, in what has been the only blemish of his solid season. He has a 2.03 ERA with 43 strikeouts against 10 walks. Not many Bombers have extended experience against the southpaw, although Aaron Hicks is .364 with a homer in 11 at-bats off Vargas.
Game 2: Jordan Montgomery vs Danny Duffy
Montgomery is another pitcher looking to get back on track. The lefty surrendered five runs on four hits and three walks in a 5-1 loss in last week’s series finale against the Royals.
Control has been an issue for the youngster, but we have seen struggling starters find their way against a weaker offense like the Royals.
Control was no issue for Duffy in his start against the Bombers on Thursday night. The lefty threw seven shutout innings with 10 strikeouts to help the Royals avoid a sweep. We’ll have to see if a second go at Duffy in a week’s time will help the Yanks this time around.
Game 3: Luis Severino vs Jason Hammel
Severino has been up and down during his last few starts, and while his last start in Tampa Bay wasn’t terrible as he surrendered just a first inning run through five innings, he had to grind for every single out. Most Royals have never seen Severino before, so it will be interesting to see how he fares against a new opponent.
Hammel has been mostly down this season, and the Yanks knocked him around for five runs in six innings in his last start. Hammel currently has a a bloated ERA of 6.20. Historically, a lot of Yankees have had a hard time with Hammel. The highest batting average with at least 10 at-bats is Chris Carter, who is batting just .235 against the righty.
Game 4: Masahiro Tanaka vs TBD
Okay, let’s try this again. I should just copy and paste my preview from last week when talking about Tanaka. He is once again coming off a horrible start where balls were flying over the fence like it was a batting practice session.
Tanaka’s recent struggles are a major concern. He’s not just turning in poor performances, but getting absolutely lit up. We saw a struggling pitcher like CC Sabathia use an inferior offense like the Royals to get back in the win column, so we’ll have to see if Tanaka can capitalize on the same situation.
A starter has yet to be announced by the Royals, but it could be righty Nate Karns, who is 2-2 with a 4.17 ERA in eight starts this season.
Can Tanaka and Montgomery turn it around? How many bases will Joe Girardi cover with dirt? Let us know in the comments.