The Yankees are flying high after taking two out of three from the Rays, their first series win at The Trop in two years. The Bombers are 11-4 over their last 15 games, and own a .682 winning percentage in the games since starting the season 5-10. The pitching has performed beyond anyone’s expectations while the offense has occasionally shown signs of heating up during this stretch of winning four-straight series.
Now they head to Baltimore, where they last split a four-game series at the end of April. Given the divergent expectations and aspirations of the respective teams this season, the pressure is on the visitors to come away with at least a series win. Let’s take a look at the probable starting pitching matchups for this divisional showdown:
Friday: Corey Kluber vs. Dean Kremer
Kluber turned his season around starting with his previous outing against the Orioles. In his last three games — including that 6.2 inning start on April 27th — Kluber owns a 1.33 ERA, 2.06 FIP, and 21 strikeouts against only three runs and six walks across 20.1 innings. Incorporating the changeup as a strikeout pitch as well as largely abandoning the four-seamer for a sinker/cutter combo have been integral in Kluber’s rediscovered effectiveness, in addition to just better command overall. On the season, he is 2-2 across seven starts with a 3.06 ERA, 3.92 FIP, and 35 strikeouts in 35.1 innings.
His opponent will be Dean Kremer, which I’m sure will cause Yankees hitters’ eyes to light up. He has allowed nine runs in two games against the Bombers, including six runs in 4.1 innings in the previous series. In six starts this year, he is 0-3 with a 6.23 ERA, 5.21 FIP, and 25 strikeouts in 26 innings.
Saturday: Domingo Germán vs. Jorge López
Germán’s best start of the year came against the Orioles the last time they matched up. He went seven shutout frames, giving up only three hits and one walk while striking out six. He remains the enigma of the starting rotation. On one hand, Germán’s performances are perfectly serviceable for a fifth starter — he hasn’t surrendered more than four runs in a game, and he’s also gone at least five innings in each of his last four starts. On the other hand, Germán is giving up more than two home runs per nine and has suspect command with the fastball. Across his six starts, he is 2-2 with a 4.02 ERA, 4.60 FIP, and 31 strikeouts in 31.1. innings.
Jorge López has had one decent outing (four innings, two earned runs) and one rough outing (4.2 innings, four earned runs) against the Yankees this year. He started the last game between the two clubs, an embarrassing 4-3 loss in extra innings. Overall, López is 1-3 in seven starts with a 5.63 ERA, 5.38 FIP, and 30 strikeouts in 32 innings.
Sunday: Jordan Montgomery vs. John Means
It’s a battle of the southpaws in the series finale. Montgomery gets his eighth start of the year, and is coming off one of his best outings. He held the Rays to one run across six innings while striking out nine. In particular, he found success with the changeup and curveball, both registering whiff rates over 50 percent. All told, he is 2-1 with a 3.96 ERA, 4.05 FIP, and 37 strikeouts in 38.2 innings.
Montgomery will face a stern test, as the Orioles’ ace John Means looks to defend home turf. He has established himself as one of the early contenders for the AL Cy Young Award, and has been the third-most valuable pitcher in MLB with 1.8 fWAR (yes, you read that right) after Gerrit Cole and Jacob deGrom. He threw a no-hitter against the Mariners on May 5th, and has not allowed a run in his last fifteen innings of work. Means is 4-0 in eight games, owning a 1.21 ERA, 2.88 FIP, and 53 strikeouts in 52 innings.