Let’s just forget last night happened, shall we? This Yankees offense is going to have its off-nights, sure, but it’s also going to mash, and that’s what I’m choosing to believe will happen tonight in game two of the four-game home set against the Blue Jays. After all, it can’t get much worse than a four-hit shutout, right?
Nestor Cortes makes his first start of the new campaign, looking to build off his best season in the bigs in 2021. I’m not sure many of us saw Cortes making the giant leap in effectiveness from fringe major league depth arm to legitimate rotation member, but that’s exactly what he did, going 2-3 in 22 outings (14 starts) with a 2.90 ERA, 3.78 FIP, 103 strikeouts, and 1.7 fWAR in 93 innings. Sure, he’ll throw wacky arm angles at you and alter his timing, but let’s not forget that he gets elite movement on his fastball, commands five pitches to all four quadrants of the zone, and worked tirelessly to improve his physical fitness. The next step for the 27-year-old lefty is to work up to a full starter’s load of innings, and tonight is the first step in accomplishing that.
Yusei Kikuchi takes the mound for the visitors in his first start since signing a three-year, $36 million deal after the lockout. He spent his first three seasons in Seattle before he and the Mariners declined their respective options. He averages the highest fastball velocity (95.3 mph) of any lefty starter with at least 150 IP in 2021, but also sat in the bottom decile of the league in average exit velocity, hard hit rate, and barrel rate. It’s because of this that he produced middling results on the whole, going 7-9 in 29 starts with a 4.41 ERA, 4.61 FIP, 163 strikeouts, and 1.1 fWAR in 157 innings.
The Yankees return a mostly unchanged lineup to the squad that seemed overmatched against Blue Jays pitching last night. Joey Gallo finally appeared to be getting his timing down at the plate, accounting for half the Bombers hits, but he gets rested tonight. Look, we know the Yankees are going to rotate players regularly, especially in April, but one can’t help but feel frustrated that the rest schedule isn’t more flexible to accommodate players hitting their groove. Giancarlo Stanton moves to right field, while Aaron Judge and Aaron Hicks slide over to center and left respectively. Isiah Kiner-Falefa replaces Marwin González at shortstop.
The Blue Jays on the other hand roll out all their hot bats for another crack. Last night was a perfect example of how potent their lineup is top to bottom. Yankees pitchers managed to silence Vladimir Guerrero Gr. and Bo Bichette, so others stepped up. George Springer, Teoscar Hernández, and Santiago Espinal all had three-hit nights in game one, accounting for 90 percent of Toronto’s offensive output. The lone change to the batting order sees Tyler Heineman spell Zack Collins at catcher.
How to watch:
Location: Yankee Stadium — Bronx, NY
First pitch: 7:05 p.m. EST
TV broadcast: YES Network, SNET
Radio broadcast: WFAN 660/101.9 FM, WADO 1280, SN590
Online stream: MLB.tv