At this point, May 19th feels like it was a long time ago. It was the zenith of the Yankees’ first half, as due in part to Corey Kluber’s resurgence, they had rebounded from a miserable 6-11 start to go 18-8 since then, and on that night, Kluber’s hot streak rolled on with the first no-hitter by a Yankees pitcher since David Cone in 1999.
The veteran right-hander thoroughly dominated a Rangers ballclub that included future teammate Joey Gallo, allowing just one baserunner on a walk en route to the no-no. The good vibes lingered for the rest of the week, as the Yankees swept both the Rangers and White Sox to jump to 28-19, a mere half-game back in the AL East. Alas, this streaky club hit another of its ruts immediately afterward, as Kluber left his next start with a three-month injury while the Yankees went 18-24 to end the first half in yet another rut.
The Yankees’ rollercoaster ride has continued in the second half. At this point, fans can only cross their fingers and hope that after watching them drop seven in a row in early September to turn the Wild Card into a race again that the Bombers are finally on an upswing once more. Even with an awful series against Cleveland last weekend, they’ve won six of their last nine games. If they triumph tonight, then that’s a good-looking 7-3 in the last 10, plus a sweep over a team that really should be swept.
So Kluber will take the mound against the Rangers for the first time since his no-hitter; five of the nine players who started that game for Texas are back in the mix tonight. The setting has changed and the innings feel more meaningful than ever, especially since all nine of the Yankees’ remaining games after tonight are against fearsome AL East opponents (six on the road against Boston and Toronto before hosting Tampa Bay for a season-ending set at home). It’s sometimes greedy to hope for a sweep, but the Yankees need to nab every single win that they can get.
They’ve done their job the last two nights; keep it going in the finale and keep the pressure on the Red Sox and Blue Jays. With some help from the Rays (check) and — dare we dream — the Mets, a Yankees win could turn the Wild Card race into even more of a mess heading into the weekend.
In the Yankees’ lineup tonight, Luke Voit makes an unfortunately rare start, albeit at the expense of Anthony Rizzo. Aaron Judge gets a half-day off, as he DH’s with Giancarlo Stanton in right field. Brett Gardner’s still in there at center, and Kyle Higashioka steps in behind the plate for Gary Sánchez because Kluber likes throwing to Higgy. It’s not the “Goal Line Package” lineup, but it’s definitely a group talented enough to take down Rangers southpaw Taylor Hearn, who enters play with a 4.52 ERA and 4.94 FIP in 93.2 innings of work.
Let’s go Yankees.
How to watch
Location: Yankee Stadium — Bronx, New York
First pitch: 7:05 p.m. ET
TV broadcast: YES, Bally Sports Southwest
Radio broadcast: WFAN 660/101.9 FM, WADO 1280
Online stream: MLB.tv