The Yankees head to Cleveland looking to enter the All-Star break on a high note. They’re certainly not leaving Baltimore enthused, and would like to make up some ground in the AL East before enjoying a week of rest. They will have to do so against one of the better rotations in baseball. If they can make Cleveland’s starters work and get to their shaky (massive understatement) bullpen, they’ll have a chance to pull off another sweep, like they did back in early May.
Here are your pitching matchups for the four-game set:
Game one: Luis Severino vs. Corey Kluber
We are gifted with a doozy right off the bat in this series, as two of the best starters in baseball go toe-to-toe in game one. Severino enters the start with a 2.12 ERA and a WHIP under one. He wasn’t his sharpest in his last start against the Blue Jays, but he managed to grind through and earn his 14th win on the season. He has good numbers against Cleveland overall — they slug just .403 against him — but if he wants to earn win number 15 on Thursday, he should be careful with Jose Ramirez, who is 3-for-10 with a pair of homers off Severino.
Severino will have to be at his best, considering the Yankees have just a .500 team OPS against Kluber. The reigning Cy Young Award winner carries a 2.49 ERA and a remarkable 0.88 WHIP into this start, and not many Yankees have had particularly good history against the righty. The Yankee with arguably the best regular season numbers against Kluber is...
* adjusts glasses, squints, adjusts glasses again *
Jacoby Ellsbury and his .668 OPS? Well, unless CC Sabathia has an extra magic knee brace that can also be fashioned into a back and hip and neck brace, we won’t be seeing Ellsbury on Thursday, so hopefully Didi Gregorius can just do this again:
Game two: Domingo German vs. Shane Bieber
German has been mentioned in possible trade packages for Yankee-killer Manny Machado, so who knows, this could be one of the last starts that German makes in a Yankee uniform. For now, we’ll save the trade deadline madness for another day. German is coming off a fine outing in Toronto this past Sunday, where he tossed six innings of one-run ball, striking out five. His ERA still sits north of five, but you may recall German’s first career start back in early May, when he shut down Cleveland through six no-hit innings and struck out nine en route to a thrilling Yankees’ win.
Cleveland will counter with a youngster of its own, as 23-year-old Shane Bieber gets the start in game two. Bieber has thrown two-straight six inning, four-run outings, and holds a respectable 3.47 ERA through six starts this season. Beiber relies heavily on his fastball-slider combo and will be facing the Bombers for the first time in his young career. Still, all it takes is “One Time” for this Yankee lineup to pounce on an inexperienced “Baby” like Bieber and throw a bucket of “Cold Water” on the youngster’s solid start to his season. Okay, I’m done. “Sorry” for all the Justin Bieber references.
Game three: CC Sabathia vs. Mike Clevinger
Sabathia has continued to be a reliable arm for the Yankees as he nears 38 years old, and although he stumbled against the O’s in his last start, he holds a 3.34 ERA for the season. Arguably his best start of the year came against Cleveland, when he threw six shutout innings, while striking out seven and issuing no free passes. He will have to be at his best again, especially against Ramirez and Francisco Lindor, who are a combined 11-for-22 with two homers (both from Ramirez) in their careers against Sabathia.
Clevinger’s only start against the Yankees came on the same day that German was doing his thing. The only thing that kept German from his first career win that day was Clevinger, who matched German pitch-for-pitch through seven scoreless innings. He ran out of gas in the eighth and wound up with two earned runs on his stat line, but also struck out 10 batters in the process. He punched out 11 in his last start against the Reds, but surrendered five earned runs over six innings. He holds a 3.34 ERA (identical to Sabathia) on the season.
Game four: Masahiro Tanaka vs. Trevor Bauer
In his first start back from the DL, Tanaka logged 4.1 innings and allowed three earned runs in a start where he was probably left in too long. Tanaka certainly wasn’t his sharpest self, but some rust should be expected in his first outing in over a month. He will have to be fully free from rust against Cleveland, who has enjoyed enormous success as a team against him. Edwin Encarnacion has a 1.182 OPS in 22 at-bats, Lindor is 4-for-9, Ramirez is 5-for-8, and the team holds a .906 OPS against Tanaka. That could spell trouble.
Bauer’s career against the Yankees looks much better, as the Bombers hold a team OPS of .588 against him. Gregorius has enjoyed the most success against the righty, going 5-for-16 with a home run. Bauer went six innings in his only start against the Yankees this season, allowing two earned runs and striking out eight. He holds a 2.30 ERA on the year, but the Yankees have tagged Bauer in the not-so-distant past.