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Yankees vs. Dodgers: Series Preview

The journey out west continues with a marquee matchup.

MLB: New York Yankees at Oakland Athletics Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

The Yankees’ west coast trip continues this weekend with another tough opponent in the Dodgers, who have been battling the Yankees for much of the season for the best record in the majors. The Dodgers will send two of their best starters to the mound this weekend, so the Yankee bats will have to come alive if they’re to take what should be an intense three-game set.

Here are the pitching matchups for the weekend, with the Yanks looking to solidify their bid for home field advantage throughout the postseason:

Game One: James Paxton vs. Hyun-Jin Ryu

Paxton has been better for the Yanks since upping his curveball usage, but after three straight quality starts, the lefty was touched up for four runs over five innings against Cleveland in his last outing. Paxton enters Friday’s series opener with a 4.53 ERA and actually has a decent body of work against the Dodgers roster in his career, allowing just 13 hits in 57 at-bats. However, that doesn’t include the likes of Cody Bellinger or Max Muncy. David Freese has tagged Paxton for four extra-base hits in 20 at-bats and a 1.159 OPS, but luckily for Paxton, Freese is on the IL with a hamstring injury and hasn’t played since late July.

The Yanks are dealt a tough test right away, taking on one of the best pitchers in baseball this season. Ryu had one of his worst starts of the year in his last outing against the Braves, allowing four runs over 5.2 innings, and if that doesn’t sound terrible, it’s because it’s not. Ryu has just been that good, holding a 1.64 ERA while issuing just 18 walks over 148.1 innings. Prior to that last outing, Ryu hadn’t allowed more than one earned run in his last six outings. Only two Yankees have had more than just a cup of coffee against Ryu, and neither were very promising. Cameron Maybin is 0-for-10, and DJ LeMahieu is just 2-for-16.

Game Two: CC Sabathia vs. Tony Gonsolin

Sabathia didn’t fare well in his first start back from the IL, giving up four runs in three innings to Cleveland, raising his season ERA to 5.01. We’ll see if another start will help the big lefty settle back into the rotation, but the Dodgers offense will likely offer Sabathia little wiggle room in shaking off any lingering rust. The current Dodgers roster has managed 20 hits in 82 at-bats against Sabathia, but the majority of those belong to Russell Martin, who has had most of his playing time replaced by Will Smith.

The Dodgers counter the Yankees’ veteran with a rookie in Gonsolin, a righty who has logged just 18 innings so far this season. After a rough first start in 2019, Gonsolin has been solid for LA, allowing just two runs in his last 14 innings. He throws his fastball nearly 50 percent of the time, averaging 94.1 percent on that heater. He also throws a split finger and a slider, generating the most soft contact on his split finger.

Game Three: Domingo German vs. Clayton Kershaw

German will be looking for a bounceback start in the series finale, after getting roughed up in his last outing in Oakland. German has been the Yankees’ most reliable starter this season, but he’s struggled on the road to the tune of a 5.82 ERA. German has never faced the Dodgers, but he will have to be very careful with sluggers like Cody Bellinger and Max Muncy. The pair have combined for over 70 home runs this season, which doesn’t bode well for German’s 2.0 home runs surrendered per nine innings.

The Yanks are catching Kershaw at a time where he is performing like vintage Kershaw, allowing just 10 earned runs over his last 51 innings, recording 65 strikeouts in that span. Kershaw enters this start with a 2.71 ERA and only has extensive experience against two Yankees hitters, Maybin and LeMahieu. Maybin has just five hits in 34 at-bats (a .433 OPS), but LeMahieu has fared better, posting 17 hits in 61 at-bats.

An earlier version of this story misidentify Tony Gonsolin.