The Yankees look to keep their momentum going tonight in the Bronx when they take on the Minnesota Twins. The Yankees, winners of seven in a row and 29 of their last 40 overall, are looking to both extend their lead in the Wild Card race and to cut into Tampa Bay’s five-game lead in the AL East.
Before we get to your need to know, I hope you like trivia because I have a question for you: There are four pitchers in the AL with more than 1.0 WAR, better than a 150 ERA+, a sub 2.80 ERA, with a FIP lower than 3.30, and a K%-BB% of more than 19 percent. Lance Lynn, Carlos Rodon, and Shohei Ohtani are three of them – who is the fourth?
The answer is not Charlie Barnes, who’ll be taking the mound tonight for the Twins. The 25-year-old left-hander will be making his fourth career start tonight and has had mixed results thus far in the small sample size. He pitched pretty well in his first career start against Detroit on July 17th, had a not-so-good start versus Cincinnati on August 4th, then rebounded with another good one against Tampa Bay this past Sunday. Barnes has thrown a sinker almost half the time with a changeup and a slider making up the bulk of his remaining pitches. Since he’s thrown his sinker so frequently, I thought you might like to see a heat map of his sinker’s location.
I’ve been accused of being officious before, but I’m not going to be so officious as to tell Major League players what to do when they’re in the batters’ box. That said, I think ignoring other pitches and waiting for that sinker might be a good strategy.
When the Twins are at the plate, you need to disregard their 54-68 record and their fourth-place standing in the AL Central. Their offense has not been the reason they’ve underachieved this season, as they rank in the top six in the AL in runs per game, OBP, SLG, and OPS+. If you dig a little deeper, they may be better than those numbers suggest as they’re in the top three across MLB in barrel %, average exit velocity, hard hit %, xSLG, and xwOBA. Of course, no longer having Nelson Cruz takes a little of the shine off those numbers but make no mistake - the Twins hit the ball hard - and as we saw last night, they aren’t inclined to throw in the towel if they get behind early on the scoreboard.
Facing the Twins for the Yankees tonight will be the answer to the trivia question above, Nestor Cortes Jr.! Of course there is some serious cherry picking in that question, but make no mistake: Cortes is more than the fun mustachioed guy with the colorful cleats who’s inspired silly tee shirts – he’s been phenomenal for the Yankees on the mound. Tonight’s matchup is going to be a good one against the hard-hitting Twins as Cortes ranks above the 90th percentile in MLB in barrel %, xSLG, and xwOBA.
On August 12th, I wrote about how awful the Yankees’ bats have been this season – since then they’ve averaged 5.13 runs per game over their last eight. (You’re welcome for that, Yankee fans!) They’ll look to keep the run scoring machine rolling tonight with DJ LeMahieu and Gary Sánchez back in the starting lineup.
How to watch
Location: Yankee Stadium — Bronx, NY
First pitch: 7:05 pm ET
TV broadcast: YES, BSNO
Radio broadcast: WFAN 660/101.9 FM, WADO 1280
Online stream: MLB.tv