After sweeping the Tampa Bay Rays and taking three out of four from the Houston Astros, the Yankees have successfully battled through one of their biggest tests of the season thus far. They will now welcome the Toronto Blue Jays into the Bronx for a three-game set. The Jays just finished a successful series against the Red Sox, helping the Yankees open some ground in the division race, but now they will face off head-to-head.
Here’s what you need to know ahead of the series:
Game one: CC Sabathia vs. Aaron Sanchez
Sabathia had been struggling—allowing three or more earned runs in four consecutive starts—before putting it back together versus the Rays. There he finished the series sweep and collected his 250th career win. Another positive note about Sabathia’s last start? He didn’t allow a home run, marking the first time he was able to accomplish that in exactly two months. His ability to avoid hard contact has dropped vastly as he is currently pitching to a 43.9 hard-hit percentage compared to last seasons 28.5.
Sanchez will start the series for Toronto, coming off two bad starts against the Astros and Angels. He wasn’t able to reach four innings of work in either of these starts, and the Yankees are looking to extend that trend for him. His curveball is currently producing the best numbers against opposing hitters, with a .154 expected batting average and .210 expected slugging. While his two primary pitches being a fourseam fastball and sinking fastball, the Bombers can do some damage. Both pitches are yielding an expected slugging over .500.
Game Two: TBD vs. Clayton Richard
I’ll go ahead and assume Chad Green will be the opener for this one, as his three previous outings have now all been as the starter. Green has not pitched out of the bullpen since June 6, which is also the last time he allowed an earned run. His early season struggles look like they might finally be behind him; he pitched two innings in each of his last three starts, striking out a total of 12 hitters in the process.
Last week the Yankees sent down Nestor Cortes Jr. in favor of David Hale and Luis Cessa. The left-hander still has options, so he proved the roster casualty. After the injury to Cameron Maybin, though, Cortes Jr. has been called back up. He will most likely enter the game behind Green.
Richard has just six starts to the season, with his last three outings being the worst. Currently pitching to a 7.46 ERA, his walk rate is higher than his strikeout rate. That won’t help much. His arsenal consists of a sinking fastball, slider, and fourseam fastball, none of which produce inspiring numbers. The slider generates a 30.4 whiff percentage, but it comes with the risk of a .706 slugging percentage against.
Game Three: James Paxton vs. Trent Thornton
Paxton is fresh off his two best starts since returning from the injured list, pitching a total of 11 innings with three earned runs and 14 strikeouts. The Blue Jays will be a welcome sight for Paxton, as he threw a no-hitter against them just last season. Because of the knee injury, I do find myself watching carefully as Paxton pitches, but I’m encouraged by his recent outings.
The rookie Thornton will face the Yankees for the second time in his career after squaring off against them on June 5. He lasted five innings, allowing four earned runs with four strikeouts. His two previous starts have been impressive against the Astros and Red Sox, totaling 13 innings, two runs, 14 strikeouts, and four walks. Thornton’s arsenal consist mainly of his fourseam fastball, slider, cut fastball.
His slider, which he throws about 30 percent of the time, is surely the pitch to keep an eye on. It has a .201 expected batting average and .320 expected slugging. His 3098 spin-rate slider was glaring at first glance, so I had to check where he compares to the rest of the league. He’s first overall, leading his teammate and trade candidate Marcus Stroman.