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New York Yankees vs. Cleveland: Series Preview

The Bombers kick off a six-game home stand with a matchup against Cleveland.

Toronto Blue Jays v New York Yankees Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images

The last month has been a rollercoaster for the Yankees and their fans. They looked invincible during their 13-game winning streak, and like the most stagnant team in baseball during the ensuing 3-12 stretch. After that dismal run of games, things started to look up again — that is, until they lost a pitiful contest to the Orioles to put them on the outside looking in vis-à-vis the AL Wild Card race. They will look to turn the page on that embarrassment with a strong showing against Cleveland.

Friday: Corey Kluber vs. Zach Plesac, 7:05 PM ET

Corey Kluber is set to make his fourth start since returning from the shoulder injury that landed him on the 60-day IL. He has looked rusty in his first three starts back, topping out at four innings while allowing eleven runs in 11.2 frames. The 30.4 percent strikeout rate over that span is encouraging, but the 12.5 percent walk rate is concerning. In 13 total starts this season, the veteran righty is 4-3 with a 4.02 ERA, 4.12 FIP, and 72 strikeouts in 65 innings.

He will face Cleveland righty Zach Plesac. If his name sounds familiar, it’s because he has found himself in the news for three stories unrelated to him actually pitching. He was sent home alongside Mike Cleavinger after breaking COVID-19 protocols last season. He suffered a freak thumb accident this year after aggressively tearing off his shirt. And most bizarrely, he was the losing pitcher in all three of the no-hitters thrown against Cleveland this year. As for Plesac the pitcher, he won’t walk you and won’t strike you out, so expect a good deal of balls in play. As he makes his 23rd start, Plesac is 10-5 with a 4.45 ERA, 4.67 FIP, and 88 strikeouts in 125.1 innings.

Saturday: Luis Gil vs. Aaron Civale, 1:05 PM ET

Luis Gil gets another shot to prove his place in the Yankees rotation. The exciting young righty burst onto the scene, setting a Yankee record with 18 scoreless innings to start his major league career. His last two outings haven’t gone as smoothly — he allowed seven walks in 3.1 innings two starts ago and and five runs on three home runs through the fist three innings of his last outing against Minnesota. That said, he showed admirable poise and determination to make it through six without allowing a further run beyond the third inning. He’ll make his sixth start Saturday, entering at 1-0 with a 2.88 ERA, 3.97 FIP, and 32 strikeouts in 25 innings.

Aaron Civale is set to make his 18th start of the year. Much like Plesac, he’s not really the type to miss bats and instead thrives on inducing harmless contact. He has a true five-pitch mix — four-seamer, cutter, curveball, changeup, and slider — each of which he throws at least 12 percent of the time. Sounds like a pretty miserable matchup for opposing hitters if you ask me. On the season, Civale is 10-4 with a 3.76 ERA, 4.48 FIP, and 85 strikeouts in 105.1 innings.

Sunday: Gerrit Cole vs. Eli Morgan, 1:05 PM ET

It’s a welcome sight to see Gerrit Cole right back in the swing of things atop the rotation. Some wondered how he would bounce back from his previous start after the hamstring strain that prematurely ended his September 7th start, so it’s a relief to see him starting on normal rest. Even though it felt like a grind for him to make it through five innings last time out against the Orioles, one run in five innings is a good foundation to build upon for the final weeks of the season. In 27 starts, the Yankees’ ace is 15-7 with a 2.75 ERA, 2.63 FIP, and 224 strikeouts in 163.2 innings.

Cole will face off against Cleveland rookie Eli Morgan. The 25-year-old righty was drafted out of Gonzaga by Cleveland in the eighth round of the 2017 MLB Draft. He throws a fastball around 90-91 mph about half the time, augmented by a slider and changeup. He is probably the Yankees’ best chance to score big in this series, as he gives up over two home runs per nine and a lot of hard contact in general. Morgan has made 15 starts on the year, going 2-7 with a 6.03 ERA, 5.34 FIP, and 70 strikeouts in 71.2 innings.