To put it mildly, the 2020 MLB season has been an exercise in adaptability. Coronavirus outbreaks in the Marlins and Cardinals’ clubhouses have resulted in schedule revisions, general confusion and the publication of previews for series that never happened.
Now, though, after a lengthy will-they-or-won’t-they play period of uncertainty, the Yankees and Phillies will play a four-game, home-and-home series. The Bombers have had a strong start to the 2020 campaign, going 7-1 over their first eight games, while the Phillies have managed to only play one series, going 1-2 against the Marlins.
Here’s what you can expect for the pitching matchups:
Monday: Gerrit Cole vs. Jake Arrieta
Thanks to the scheduling mayhem, the Yankees get to start Cole three times in their first nine games. In his last start, the right-hander allowed three runs against the Orioles, but that doesn’t do his outing justice. Cole again didn’t have his best stuff and struggled with location early on, but after allowing a run in the first inning, he retired 15 in a row. Cole owns a 3.09 ERA (4.27 FIP) on the season, and that’s him in grind-mode.
Arrieta, meanwhile, has yet to make his season debut. Last season, he pitched to a 4.64 ERA (4.89 FIP) across 135.2 innings. The right-hander has struggled with the long ball over the last three seasons or so, but he had serious trouble keeping the ball in the park in 2019. At 34-years-old, and with diminished stuff, Arrieta’s no longer an ace-caliber pitcher. He won’t make it easy for the Bombers, but the Yankees have a chance to square him up.
Tuesday: J.A. Happ vs. TBD
Happ, 37, picked up where he left off in 2019, giving up a ton of hard contact against the Orioles. The southpaw allowed four runs in four innings of work, serving up two homers along the way. Happ got burned by the home-run ball last year, and his first showing of 2020 didn’t inspire much confidence. He has a tougher test ahead of him, as the Phillies’ lineup features Bryce Harper, Rhys Hoskins, Andrew McCutchen, and Didi Gegorius, to name a few. If the Orioles gave him fits, I’m afraid of what a more capable team can do.
Wednesday: Jordan Montgomery vs. TBD
Montgomery looked sharp in his first outing of the season, holding a solid Red Sox lineup to one run across 5.2 innings, striking out four. His jump in velocity was as advertised, as the left-hander touched 95 with his two-seam fastball and averaged 93 mph, about a tick and a half up from his previous standards, per Baseball Savant. I wrote before the season that if Montgomery can start pushing his fastball to the mid-90s, all sorts of outcomes become possible fore him. We saw that upside in his first start, and he could keep us excited with a strong followup against Philly.
Thursday: Masahiro Tanaka vs. TBD
Like Montgomery, Tanaka also had us excited by the prospect of elevated velocity in his first start. Tanaka looked like a new pitcher against Boston, pounding the zone with a 93 mph four-seamer that he used more than half the time. That approach presented a stark contrast to Tanaka’s typical strategy from recent years, which included a reliance on his splitter and slider to keep hitters from honing in on his mediocre fastball.
The Red Sox got to Tanaka a bit his second trip through the order, and we’ll see this week if he’ll be a bit more stretched out and ready to go deeper into the game. On the other side, the Phillies have yet to announce who they’ll counter with in the final three games of the series. You can likely count on seeing staff ace Aaron Nola, who struggled in his first game of the year, allowing four runs to the Marlins in 5.1 innings. Zack Wheeler also sees likely to start. Wheeler, the Phillies’ prized offseason signing, fared better against Miami, limiting the Marlins to one run in seven innings.