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New York Yankees vs. Texas Rangers: Néstor Cortes Jr. vs. A.J. Alexy

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Nasty Néstor kicks off a three-game set against the Rangers

Toronto Blue Jays v New York Yankees Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

After losing two of three to Cleveland over the weekend, the Yankees currently find themselves 1.5 games out of the second Wild Card spot. With only 12 games left, one gets the feeling that they will have to win out to guarantee themselves a spot in the postseason, and that begins with a strong showing in the series-opener against the Rangers tonight.

Néstor Cortes Jr. has been one of the lone bright sparks of the Yankees’ season. He incredibly owns the lowest ERA of any Yankee starter with at least 60 innings pitched. His pitching style has been a breath of fresh air — the way he changes timing and arm angle evokes memories of Luis Tiant and David Cone. He is coming off the best start of his career — 6.1 innings of one-run, 11 strikeout ball against the Orioles — and will look to parlay the success of that game into a strong outing against Texas. In 19 games (11 starts), Cortes is 2-2 with a 2.70 ERA, 3.71 FIP, and 87 strikeouts in 79.2 innings.

Rangers rookie A.J. Alexy takes the mound for his third MLB start. The Dodgers drafted the righty hurler out of Twin Valley High School in Pennsylvania in the 11th round of the 2016 MLB Draft, and was traded to Texas in 2017 as part of the Yu Darvish swap. He is currently ranked 22nd in the Rangers system by MLB Pipeline and 19th by FanGraphs, and features a four-seamer in the mid-nineties, supplemented by a slider, changeup, and curveball. In three total appearances, Alexy is 2-0 with a 3.68 ERA, 5.07 FIP, and 14 strikeouts in 14.2 innings.

It is a relief to see Joey Gallo return to the Yankees lineup after he left Saturday’s contest with neck tightness. Brett Gardner plays the outfield giving Giancarlo Stanton a day at DH. Otherwise, this is the closest we’ve gotten to the full Death Star lineup, with Luke Voit the only missing piece.

The Rangers send out a mostly-unchanged lineup (minus Gallo of course) to the side the Yankees faced last time the two teams met. Presumptive AL Rookie of the Year Adolis García looks like one of the next exciting late-bloomers in the league. He spent the beginning of his career in Cuba and Japan before signing with the Cardinals in early 2017. He is hitting .244/.290/.467 with 30 home runs and 82 RBIs — good for a 105 wRC+ and 2.9 fWAR — and is one of the best defensive centerfielders in the league, his seven Outs Above Average placing him tied for seventh among qualified center fielders according to Statcast.

How to watch

Location: Yankee Stadium — Bronx, New York

First pitch: 7:05 p.m. ET

TV broadcast: YES, Bally Sports Southwest, MLB Network (out-of-market only)

Radio broadcast: WFAN 660/101.9 FM, WADO 1280

Online stream: MLB.tv

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