Six months of effort is about to come to a conclusion this week, with the Yankees’ regular season down to just one final series against the Texas Rangers. This year opened up with a blazing hot start that had them projected to reach a win total unseen since the 1998 team. Although they fell off of that pace over the summer, they could still reach 100 wins with a successful trip to the Lone Star state.
Their win total is about the only thing up for grabs here, as the Yankees clinched the AL East and the second seed in the American League half of the playoffs already. There are some results they want to see from their players while they wait out these four games, namely what their bullpen is going to look like with so much of it in flux lately. A solid and healthy run through the rotation would also be ideal, and this is the last audition for a couple of pitchers to earn the fourth starter role in the ALDS.
Finally, it would be sacrosanct not to mention the elephant in the room: Aaron Judge is sitting on 61 homers with four games to break Roger Maris’ franchise and AL record. Will he launch one out of Globe Life Field? Here’s the pitching matchups he’ll be facing as he chases that elusive spot in history:
Monday: Luis Severino vs. Martín Pérez (7:05 PM ET)
Severino has made two starts since returning from the IL, tossing nine innings and allowing three runs against the Pirates and Blue Jays. He’s still looking to build up his pitch count before the postseason starts, so a deep outing with around 85 pitches would be ideal to set Severino up for a starting role. It’s all the more important that they have Severino ready to roll with Frankie Montas’ Yankee career being fairly ineffective so far and currently sidelined with injury — once again they’re counting on Severino ramping up in September to be a factor, but this time it looks like he could deliver.
Pérez is completing his first season back in Texas since 2018, but he’s undergone a major transformation as a pitcher this time around. He added a cutter in Minnesota and Boston in previous years, and he’s brought back a slider for show this year after dropping it since leaving the Rangers previously. The results have been great for him, as he’s thrown to a 2.93 ERA with 167 strikeouts in 190.1 innings, leading to some surprise that the Rangers didn’t flip him at the deadline. Instead, he’s around to close out the year here, and he’ll be the toughest pitcher the Yankees face in this series.
Tuesday (1): Jameson Taillon vs. TBD (2:05 PM ET)
A healthier year and better command two years removed from Tommy John has led to a much better season for Taillon. He went through a lull much like the rest of the roster in July, but before that he was nearly at an All-Star level of performance. His overall numbers are still very solid, with a 3.83 ERA and 146 strikeouts in 171.1 innings, and he’s gotten strong outings in three of his last four starts. If he’s on form Taillon should be the final postseason starter, so this will be his tune-up to get him ready.
The Rangers don’t have a listed starter for the first game of the doubleheader on Tuesday, but there are few options they could roll with. Tyson Miller made a spot start for them yesterday, so they can’t use him again so soon. They could opt for a bullpen game, and they have a few choices for the opener if they do, but no-one that could roll four four-plus innings.
Tuesday (2): Gerrit Cole vs. Jon Gray (8:05 PM ET)
Cole is in a very weird place entering his last start of the regular season. His numbers aren’t bad — he’s literally a strikeout away from owning the franchise single-season record — but it’s the way that his starts have gone that is concerning. Cole is dominant for a majority of his outings, but has a tendency to have one or two truly bad innings. They’re almost always due to giving up the long ball, which he’s done a career-high 32 times this year, and often they are mistake pitches that he throws almost out of frustration, like in his start against Boston when he didn’t get a call and proceeded to groove one down the middle before arguing with the umpire. He’s more than likely the Game 1 starter just by precedent, but there’s an argument to be made that he could use a strong outing to launch into October.
Gray’s first year out of Colorado has been a decent success, pitching to a 3.93 ERA in 121.1 innings with 131 strikeouts. Injuries cost him a portion of the season, but he’s arguably returned to his 2019 form after a pair of down years. Gray’s still giving up a fair amount of homers away from Coors Field, so perhaps Judge will have his best shot at getting his 62nd homer (if he doesn’t already get it) in this game.
Wednesday: Domingo Germán vs. Glenn Otto (4:05 PM ET)
Germán opened his season poorly against the Astros, but since then he honestly has not had a single bad start. From a consistency standpoint there’s an argument to be made that Germán could start in the postseason, but the bigger body of work from Taillon probably wins out. That means this should be a final stretch run for Germán before shifting over to a fireman role in the bullpen. Germán’s season line entering the final game of the year is a 3.31 ERA with 52 strikeouts in 68 innings.
The Yankees get another look at one of their former prospects for the season finale with Otto getting the ball. Otto’s pitched to a 4.72 ERA with 102 strikeouts in 129.2 innings, getting his first real taste of the big leagues after a cup of coffee last year. The Yankees saw him all the way back in May, when he tossed five innings of two-run ball with his lone mistake being a home run to Giancarlo Stanton.