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New York Yankees vs. Tampa Bay Rays: Jordan Montgomery vs. Shane Baz

The Yankees look to nail down a Wild Card spot once again this afternoon in the Bronx.

Baltimore Orioles v New York Yankees Photo by Dustin Satloff/Getty Images

For those of you who may be too young to remember (or too old to have that good of a memory) the 1996 Yankees had a motto coined by second baseman Mariano Duncan: “We play today, we win today – dassitt.” Heck, it was so popular they made t-shirts and drinkware with the saying on it.

I’m claiming the copyright for the motto of the 2021 Yankees: “Under no circumstances will we ever make anything easy, and regardless of the outcome of today’s game, you’re going to suffer emotionally.” That’s going to make a great T-shirt.

Losing a game by one run to the best team in the American League is never anything to be ashamed of, but yet the Yankees missed another opportunity to put the nail in the respective coffins of the Blue Jays and Mariners last night. The bad news is that they’re running out of chances to do so — the good news is they have another chance this afternoon, as they look for a win against the Rays that would clinch a Wild Card spot. With some help from the Nationals later this afternoon against the Red Sox, the Yankees could end Saturday knowing they’ll be in the Bronx on Tuesday night with Gerrit Cole on the mound.

Fortunately for the Yankees, they’ll have a very good pitcher on the mound today in Jordan Montgomery. The lefty doesn’t have numbers that jump off the page to impress traditionalists, and he doesn’t impress the analytical crowd with velocity or spin rates (20th percentile in fastball velocity, 21st percentile in curve spin rate to be exact). What he does do however, is consistently get batters to leave the zone, and consistently generate weak contact. That type of pitcher needs some help from both his fielders and hitters, and Monty hasn’t received too much this season from either, but make no mistake — his performance in 2021 is one of the reasons the Yankees are in a position to clinch a Wild Card spot today.

Unfortunately for the Yankees, they’ll be facing a very good pitcher themselves today in rookie phenom Shane Baz. The rookie was the player to be named later that Tampa Bay received in the already comically lopsided trade that sent Chris Archer to Pittsburgh. After toying with minor league hitters this season (113 strikeouts and 13 walks over 78.2 combined innings in Double-A and Triple-A), Baz made his first MLB start against Toronto on September 20th. Facing one of MLB’s scariest lineups, Baz got the win in a five-K, no-walk performance. He followed that with another win against the Marlins on the 26th, this time striking out nine and walking only one in 5.2 innings.

As noted by Michael Ajeto of Baseball Prospectus earlier this week, Baz has incredible ride on his fastball (third-lowest vertical drop in MLB behind Jacob deGrom and Freddy Peralta) which make his fastballs up in the zone very difficult to hit. Yet that type of fastball is also susceptible to the long ball if it’s down in the zone, and Baz has shown a tendency to give up the long ball, surrendering 6 in 46 Triple-A innings and a pair in his start against Toronto. Given that the Yankees have a few very large humans who’ve shown a proclivity for hitting pitches down in the zone very far, the Baz-Yankees matchup today should be an interesting one.

In addition to the big bats, the Yankees will have the recently returned Andrew Velazquez in the lineup today at shortstop (Velazquez is a Bronx native if you hadn’t heard). Gary Sánchez is back in at catcher with Kyle Higashioka on the bench, and DJ LeMahieu remains out with what has now been diagnosed as a sports hernia.

Here’s hoping we get a win today so that we can all relax tomorrow (along with Gerrit Cole) while watching the regular-season finale and getting ready for playoff baseball on Tuesday night.

How to watch

Location: Yankee Stadium – Bronx, NY.

First pitch: 1:05 pm ET

TV broadcast: YES, Bally Sports Sun, MLBN (out-of-market only)

Radio broadcast: WFAN 660/101.9 FM, WADO 1280

Online stream:

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