Playoff contenders beat the teams they’re supposed to beat, and that’s the opposite of what the Yankees just did against the Orioles. The same offensive woes that plagued New York in too many games last season cropped up in Baltimore — outside of a four-run fifth inning on Saturday, the Bombers bats managed only two runs across the other 28 innings of the series. Not great!
It doesn’t get much easier, as the Yankees are set to face a Detroit pitching staff with MLB’s eighth-best FIP (3.42) in the early going. Let’s take a look at the projected starting pitching matchups.
Tuesday: Gerrit Cole vs. Tyler Alexander, 6:40 PM EDT
Gerrit Cole gets the ball for his third start of the year and will look to improve upon the subpar results of his first two outings. He looked rusty on Opening Day against the Red Sox and got bullied by Vladimir Guerrero Jr. in his following start. The strikeout tallies are way down and he has struggled to get whiffs on his four-seamer, though this could be down to an apparent philosophical shift in the way he is deploying the pitch. In 9.2 innings, Cole has given up six runs on eight hits (three home runs) and two walks with only nine strikeouts.
Cole will face lefty Tyler Alexander, who is making his second start of 2022. He gave up three runs on five hits with four strikeouts in his 5.1-inning season debut against the Red Sox. If his name sounds familiar, you may recall that he tied the AL record with nine consecutive strikeouts during his August 2, 2020 relief appearance against the Reds. He throws a sinker at 89-90, a low-80s changeup, and a mid-80s cutter, and is one of the better pitchers in baseball at limiting walks.
Wednesday: Luis Severino vs. Eduardo Rodriguez, 6:40 PM EDT
I’m most looking forward to the middle game of this series, as we get another chance to see Luis Severino on the mound. He showed promising signs in his first start of the season before downright dominating the Blue Jays batters, allowing only two hits and two walks against six strikeouts in five innings. As David Cone mentioned on the YES broadcast of his first start, Severino’s newfound confidence to throw the changeup in any count to both lefties and righties gives him yet another dimension to intimidate opposing lineups.
Sevy faces a familiar face as longtime Red Sox starter Eduardo Rodriguez makes his first start against the Yankees with the Old English D across his chest. His Tigers career has not quite gotten off the ground, as he has given up ten runs (five earned) on nine hits and five walks in 7.2 innings across his first two starts. He will lean on his extensive experience against the Yankees — he owns a 3.72 ERA with a 111:47 strikeout to walk ratio in 23 starts against New York — when he takes the mound Wednesday evening.
Thursday: Jordan Montgomery vs. TBD, 1:10 PM EDT
Jordan Montgomery gets the series finale and will look to build upon what’s been an encouraging start to his season. He had a scary moment in his first start, when he was hit in the back of the knee by a 103-mph Xander Bogaerts comebacker in the first inning, but managed to remain in the game and pitched in his following start with no lingering aftereffects. Esteban wrote a fascinating piece about the mechanical tweaks Montgomery has made; I highly suggest giving it a read if you haven’t already. I know I’ll be looking out for his hand positioning at peak leg lift and the alignment of shoulders at release — and will be checking the radar gun to see if they lead to an uptick in velocity.
The Tigers have not named a starter for Thursday’s contest, but signs are pointing toward old friend Michael Pineda making his Detroit debut (in his third start against the Yankees since leaving in free agency after 2017 Tommy John surgery). Pineda’s spring training was delayed, so he started the season at Triple-A to build up toward a starter’s workload. He was recently added to the MLB roster when Casey Mize hit the 10-day IL, though it is likely that he will be on a pitch limit after making just two ramp-up starts. The 33-year-old righty’s 2021 season with the Twins was marred by injury, but he was still effective when he made it on the field, going 9-8 in 21 starts with a 3.62 ERA, 4.21 FIP, and 88 strikeouts in 109.1 innings.