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Yankees vs. Cubs: Bring on the champs & welcome back, Gary

The Yankees take their red-hot offense to Wrigley for a meeting with the World Series champions.

MLB: Philadelphia Phillies at Chicago Cubs Matt Marton-USA TODAY Sports

The Yankees are presently half a game up in the AL East with the best run differential in the American League. Their offense has been pretty much firing on all cylinders, and that is without Gary Sanchez. It has been an incredible thing to watch.

New York heads to Chicago for a three-game weekend set against the reigning World Series champion Cubs, and they get their catcher back in the process. Sanchez will rejoin the team today for the afternoon game at Wrigley.

The Cubs also currently sit in first place in their division, leading the Brewers by 1.5 games. The North Siders come in on a three-game winning streak with an offense that has scored nearly as many runs as the Yankees’.

Game 1: Michael Pineda vs Kyle Hendricks

Pineda has been a bit of a surprise so far in 2017, pitching to an ERA just above 2.00 in his last four starts. He started the Yankees’ dismantling of the Orioles his last time out, enjoying a fair bit of run support in his 5.1-inning outing.

Opposite Pineda on the mound will be Hendricks, who earned himself a no decision in his last start against the Red Sox. He allowed just three hits over six innings in the game, but the Cubs lost the game and the series against Boston.

Game 2: Jordan Montgomery vs Brett Anderson

Montgomery got no decision in his previous start, a five-inning, three-run start against the Orioles. The Yankees dropped that game to Baltimore. Before that, the Yankees’ rookie got a tough-luck loss after pitching six innings of two-run ball in Pittsburgh in which the Yankees could only muster one run.

Anderson enters the game against the Yankees with an incredibly ugly 6.23 ERA. He lasted just 1.1 innings against the Phillies in his last start, giving up seven runs in the process. That will make most numbers look ugly so early in the year, but he also had a 3.2 inning start against the Brewers in which he allowed six earned runs. He won that game, which is a testament to how dangerous the Cubs’ offense can be.

Game 3: Luis Severino vs Jon Lester

It has been a bit of a mixed bag for Severino to this point in the season. He pitched an absolute gem against the Red Sox at Fenway on April 26th, going seven innings without allowing a run. In his most recent outing against the stumbling Blue Jays, he was able to last just 5.2 innings and allowed five earned runs. He has alternated wins and losses in his last four starts, so hopefully that trend continues with a win on Sunday.

On the other side, Lester has not made it through six innings in his last three starts. He was just good enough to win his last time out, giving up three runs over five innings to the Phillies. He was helped by his offense hanging eight runs on Philadelphia. Lester’s 3.67 ERA is definitely a bit inflated from what you might expect, and running into the Yankees’ offense could make matters worse.

Here’s hoping the Cubs have to keep the W flag tucked away until Monday at the earliest.