The 2021 Yankees are officially off to their worst start since 1997, a season that followed the team’s triumphant 1996 World Series victory. Of course, that 1996 team topped the Atlanta Braves to capture that ring, and at this point, a series victory for the 2021 Yankees over the Braves might as well feel like a championship in its own right.
In a scheduling rarity, this is the first time the Yankees will see the Braves in consecutive years since 2001. The teams split four games last year, with each club winning both its home games. The Braves are starting to recover from their own poor start, currently sitting at 7-9 and coming off a dominant victory over the Chicago Cubs on Sunday. However, they may be without their best player, Ronald Acuña Jr., who left Sunday’s game with a lower abdominal injury. It would certainly be a bit of a bummer if the Yankees didn’t get to see him this time — even if it would help out the pitchers.
Tuesday: Jameson Taillon vs. Charlie Morton
Jameson Taillon will go for the Yankees in the series opener, looking to rebound after his start last Tuesday went poorly against the Blue Jays. Taillon struggled with his command in that start after looking sharp in his season debut. However, he has notched 10 strikeouts in his first 8.1 innings, providing hope that he’ll only get stronger the deeper he gets into his comeback season. Taillon came up in the National League but only faced the Braves once in his career, though for what it’s worth, he acquitted himself nicely: seven innings of two-run ball with seven K’s on August 31, 2018 against the eventual NL East winners:
Taillon will be opposed by Yankees nemesis Charlie Morton, a pitcher who the team surprisingly squared up a bit last season. However, he’ll always be remembered for his dominance in the 2017 playoffs while with the Houston Astros. The 37-year-old has gone six innings in each of his last two starts against the Phillies and Marlins while pitching to a 4.76 ERA this season. He’s struck out 21 batters in 17 frames, and his curveball never fails to befuddle even the best hitters.
Wednesday: Corey Kluber vs. Ian Anderson
Kluber will make his fourth start of the season for the Yankees on Wednesday, and it could be a measuring-stick outing. The Yankees need to know what they have in Kluber — a former ace who can serve as a No. 2 starter, or the pitcher who has struggled with command, durability, and the long ball this season. He has yet to complete five innings in a start, and his 2.23 WHIP is even more unsightly than his 6.10 ERA. Maybe he’s not a Cy Young Award-type arm anymore, but he should be able to provide more for the Yankees than what he has so far.
The former third overall pick, Ian Anderson will take the bump for Atlanta on Wednesday. He was very impressive down the stretch for the Braves as a rookie last year, pitching to a 1.95 ERA in six regular season starts and only allowing two earned runs in four postseason starts (a 0.96 ERA). This year, Anderson has walked a few too many hitters and allowed three home runs in three starts, but is still getting plenty of strikeouts. His changeup and curveball are both plus put-away pitches, which the Yankees got a taste of in his MLB debut last year, when he allowed just one hit (a Luke Voit home run) over six innings.