The National League Central division is weird. Back in May, I wrote the series preview when the Yankees were going to face the then-first place Reds, but it was only early May then. Now, the division that the Cardinals, Pirates, and reigning World Series champion Cubs call home has a new leader.
In their final series before the All-Star break, the Yankees are set to face the division leaders of the NL Central, the Milwaukee Brewers. Sure. The Brewers come into town having swept the Orioles in Milwaukee before playing in Wrigley yesterday to make up a rain out from earlier in the year.
The Yankees? Well, things aren’t as fun as they were in April and May. June came with a vengeance from whatever baseball gods the Yankees angered and saw an almost remarkable skid from the Bombers. The play in July hasn’t been all that much better. The team is still scoring runs, but it’s the pitching that’s finally caught up to the Yankees.
Though Masahiro Tanaka has seemingly turned a corner on his season, Michael Pineda has remembered that he is Michael Pineda and is Michael Pinedaing everywhere. The team’s late-inning, 1-2 punch of Dellin Betances and Aroldis Chapman have sadly become MVP candidates for opposing teams.
Things aren’t all that great in the Bronx right now. Hopefully a much-needed All-Star break can clear their heads and the Yankees can begin the second half on a stronger note. Until then, there’s one more series to be played. Here are the matchups:
Game One: Jordan Montgomery (6-4, 3.62) vs. Junior Guerra (1-3, 4.93)
If there was a level above MLB, Aaron Judge would be promoted to that level and Jordan Montgomery would be the Yankees’ most impressive rookie. After the most unlikely of spring training battle victories gave “Gumby” a spot in the rotation, he’s done nothing but shown he deserves to stay.
Montgomery’s biggest strength is that he has always kept the Yankees in games. In his 15 starts this season, Montgomery has only allowed four runs or more three times, and only one of those three was “more.” He’s coming off a 5.1 inning, three-run outing against the Astros in which he received no decision. It wasn’t a “quality start” but was good enough for a rookie facing the mighty Astros’ offense.
On the other side of the ball, Junior Guerra’s numbers are a bit inflated after allowing 12 runs total in his last two innings. He was having a solid season but an eight-run clunker against the Reds has him in a funk. Hopefully the Yankees can get to him early and keep him in his rut for at least one more game.
Game Two: Luis Severino (5-4, 3.52) vs. Brent Suter (1-1, 3.00)
Luis Severino is in a bit of a rough patch of his own. While Tanaka was struggling early in the season, Severino had emerged as a potential ace of the rotation, dominating opposing lineups and racking up strikeouts. He has since allowed four runs or more in three of his last four starts. He’s going to have to try and replicate his seven-inning, 12 strikeout, gem against the White Sox from June 27th against Brent Suter.
Suter has been nothing short of terrific for the Brewers. Though he’s bounced around between the rotation and the bullpen, Suter has only allowed nine runs (seven earned) on the year. In his last outing, Suter struck out eight Orioles and only allowed one unearned run in six innings. The Yankees will have to battle hard to get to Suter.
Game Three: Masahiro Tanaka (7-7, 5.25) vs. Jimmy Nelson (7-4, 3.20)
Masahiro Tanaka will try and make it four consecutive good outings in a row on Sunday. If he can turn in another good start, he’ll feel very good about himself going into the All-Star break and that’d be a much needed boost to the Yankees’ pitching woes. As Jake Devin pointed out, his four-seam fastball might be the key to his recent success. Hopefully, Tanaka can keep it going and show that he’s really turned it around.
Tanaka will have a formidable opponent in Jimmy Nelson on Sunday. Nelson has reached double-digit strikeouts in four of his starts this year and will be looking to go after the Yankees’ large adult son to make sure he doesn’t do any damage. Luckily Chris Carter is no longer here, or Nelson’s job would’ve been that much easier.
The Brewers will be an interesting matchup for the Yankees who are skidding heading into the break. I don’t think anyone expected the Brewers to be this good, but it sure would be a feel-good series for the Yankees if they were able to take at least two of three here and end the first half on a positive note.
*Season statistics provided courtesy of Baseball Reference.