After going 9-0 in games following a Yankees loss in 2017, CC Sabathia became the team’s unofficial “stopper” — a role he cemented with a 5-2 record in such games last year. In his season debut this past Saturday, which came on the heels of an increasingly common Yankees defeat, the 38-year-old lefty delivered a vintage gem, allowing just one baserunner in five innings. Sabathia did only throw 62 pitches in his return from offseason heart surgery and did not earn the win. But there was no lack of heart whatsoever in a performance that he hopes to build upon tonight against the Royals, after yet another loss.
Opposite Sabathia will be Jakob Junis, whose 6.14 ERA should be just what the doctor ordered for a Bronx Bombers offense that managed zero extra-base hits yesterday. Junis has provided good length thus far and has a solid 4-to-1 strikeout/walk ratio, but hitters have batted .304 against him in the early going, albeit aided by a .385 BABIP. Of course, Yankees fans will most remember him as the pitcher who plunked Aaron Judge last July, breaking his wrist. And while the classy Judge predictably downplayed their history as merely “part of the game,” don’t be surprised when he takes Junis deep. You heard it here first.
One major key to the game could be the Royals’ baserunning, something rarely said during this era of home runs and strikeouts. Third-string Yankees catcher Kyle Higashioka has a well below average arm, CC Sabathia has below average velocity, and the Royals boast MLB’s fastest team by far. Indeed, the Royals’ decision to bat human lightning bolt Billy Hamilton — who had the third worst OPS in all of baseball in 2018 and who has been even worse at the plate in 2019 — in the second spot of the order signals their intent to play aggressive, old school baseball this evening. It’s at the very least a debatable move, as the analytics say to hit your best hitter in the two-hole (e.g., Aaron Judge).
Here are the lineups:
First pitch is scheduled for 7:05 PM EDT. You can watch on WPIX, stream on FuboTV or mlb.tv, and listen along with WFAN or WADO.