The struggling Yankees will turn to veteran Masahiro Tanaka on Sunday afternoon as they look to salvage a split of their four-game set against the Orioles after dropping the previous two in Baltimore.
Tanaka has had good results this season; in six starts totaling 26.2 innings, the righty has pitched to a 3.38 ERA (3.86 FIP) with 24 strikeouts against just four walks. The advanced metrics paint a slightly different picture of how he’s performed, however. His barrel percentage (10.4%) and hard-hit rate (41.6%) are up from the previous years and would represent career worsts over a full season. His expected slugging percentage against is a concerning .508 after posting marks of .441 and .414 the last two seasons. The underlying numbers point to a much more pedestrian expected ERA of 4.54.
Outside of a rough outing against Tampa Bay on August 18, Tanaka largely hasn’t been hurt by the hard contact and the Yankees will hope to avoid a market correction Sunday.
The Orioles will counter with righty Dean Kremer, who will be making his major league debut. The 24-year-old, a 14th round pick by the Dodgers in 2016, was the top pitching prospect returned in the Manny Machado trade in 2018. He had taken a big step forward in the Dodgers system leading up to the trade, racking up 114 strikeouts in 79 innings for Los Angeles’ High-A affiliate in the California League. He spent most of 2019 in Double-A Bowie for the Orioles, where he pitched to a 3.08 ERA and 1.23 WHIP in 84.2 innings, with 87 strikeouts and 29 walks. He reached Triple-A Norfolk by season’s end, but struggled in his limited exposure to that level.
He’s currently ranked as the 10th best prospect in the Orioles system by MLB.com. Here’s a little of their scouting report:
Kremer’s best pitch is his curveball, which he throws comfortably both in and outside the strike zone and in any count. It especially gets swings-and-misses when paired with his two-seam fastball, which sits 92-94 but can sniff 95-96 mph. The late, arm-side run Kremer gets with that pitch makes it particularly effective against left-handed hitters, against whom he also mixes in a fringy but improving changeup. He rounds out his arsenal with a slider that could become an average pitch with better command.
The Yankees need to right the ship soon. They’re 5-5 over their last 10 games and are currently tied with the Toronto Blue Jays for second in the AL East (5.5 games behind the Tampa Bay Rays). Along with the Jays and the Houston Astros, the Yanks are tied for the sixth best record in the American League and rank eighth in run differential.
And to add a layer of urgency, the Yankees will be taking on the retooled Blue Jays in a three-game series starting Monday.
Here’s the lineup Aaron Boone will roll out:
Of note, Gleyber Torres is getting a planned day off after returning to the lineup Saturday following a hamstring injury. Erik Kratz gets the nod behind the plate as Gary Sánchez’s offensive struggles, which include strikeouts in seven straight plate appearances, continue. And prior to the game, the Yankees called up outfielder Estevan Florial from the alternate site in Scranton.
And here’s the Baltimore lineup Tanaka will do battle against:
#Orioles lineup: Alberto-4, Stewart-9, Severino-DH, Mountcastle-7, Ruiz-5, Valaika-3, Williams-8, Holaday-2, Velazquez-6, Kremer-1— Rich DubroffMLB (@RichDubroffMLB) September 6, 2020
How to Watch
Game time: 1:05 p.m. ET
Location: Camden Yards, Baltimore, MD
TV broadcast: YES
Radio broadcast: WFAN 660/101.9 FM
Online Stream: MLB.tv