Pour one out for the Yankees beating up on the Orioles, as they played their last game against Baltimore on Thursday. Now, the level of competition goes up quite a bit.
The Yankees come into this game as one of the hotter teams in baseball, having won 14 of their last 16 games. One of the other teams in contention for that honor just so happens to be their next opponent: the Cleveland Indians.
At the start of July, Cleveland trailed the Twins by seven games in the AL Central. Thanks to an 18-6 record in July and a good start to August, they’ve cut that to half a game. They even briefly had the lead thanks to in part to taking three of four games of a series in Minnesota.
The teams have some history against each other in recent years and now meet again in a big series. As we get ready for the four-game set, let’s look ahead to the pitching matchups.
Thursday: TBD vs. Adam Plutko
Though it hasn’t been announced who will get the role, the Yankees will use an opener for Thursday’s game. Considering that he’s done many of them, it seems likely that Chad Green would get the nod. Prior to Saturday, the Yankees had been undefeated this season when using an opener, but that streak came to an end when they lost to the Blue Jays. That loss, however, was more on the offense for only mustering four runs and the usually good back of the bullpen for surrendering a lead.
When these teams met in Cleveland in June, Plutko was pretty good, holding the Yankees to two runs in six innings. Since then, he’s been most unremarkable. There are some good starts in there, but also some very bad ones. The Tigers rank dead last in the AL in home runs, yet Plutko has given up five to them in two games. If Detroit can do that, you would think the Yankees are capable of doing the same.
Friday: Masahiro Tanaka vs. Aaron Civale
From the begging of July to his first start of August, Tanaka struggled, causing his ERA to climb by more than an entire run. Dating back to the begging of June, it’s up a run and a half. The good news is Tanaka was excellent last time out. He threw eight shutout innings, allowing just three hits, one of which could have been called an error. Cleveland is obviously a bit of a better than Toronto, but they’re also the team against whom Tanaka produced arguably his career highlight: seven scoreless innings in Game Three of the 2017 ALDS.
This will be just the fourth career major-league start for Civale in what has been an impressive run so far. The rookie has given up just two runs and seven hits in 18 innings across his three previous starts. While two of the teams he faced are meh to bad, the most recent was against the Twins. For all of the power Minnesota has, he kept them in park as he gave up just one run.
Saturday: James Paxton vs. Zach Plesac
While his run of scoreless first innings ended at one, Paxton showed more signs of improvement in his last start. Since his disastrous outing in Boston, Paxton has allowed six runs in 18.2 innings, striking out 20.
Plesac is another rookie having a pretty good start to his career. He held the Yankees in check back in May and comes into this game with a 3.27 ERA and a 1.195 WHIP. However, 10 of his 14 starts have come against teams under .500. Plesac has been decent against teams with a winning record, but there is a noticeable different in stats when the level of competition goes up.
Sunday: CC Sabathia vs. Mike Clevinger
It goes without saying that Sabathia has struggled in his most recent starts. Before going on the IL, he allowed five runs in 4.1 innings as part of the hell series in Fenway. If there’s any bright spot, it’s that he’s generally been decent after 10 or more days of rest. He’s had three such starts this season, and has allowed six runs in 18 innings in them. Maybe he can channel that in his final regular season (maybe final ever) start against the team with whom he made his name.
Clevinger has been quite good since getting the call up back in 2016, and things have been no different this year. However, he is coming off allowing 11 hits to the Red Sox. His career numbers against the Yankees are a bit weird. He’s held them to a .680 OPS in his three starts against them, which seems good. On the other hand, he’s given up 10 runs (nine earned), which is good for an ERA over five. His problem in those game seems to be home runs. Of the 10 hits he allowed across those games, three have been homers.