If you’ve paid attention to this Yankees season, you’ve probably altered your expectations a bit. No longer do the Yankees seem like the club that’ll build you up to let you down; instead, they have the vibe of a team that finds ways to win, and surprises you in all kinds of pleasant ways rather than frustrating ones.
This week, they travel to face the White Sox. Chicago has thus far taken up the mantle of the 2020 and 2021 Yankees teams, a club with high expectations, topline talent, and not enough wins. The White Sox have been hit by injuries, with Lance Lynn, and Eloy Jiménez on the shelf. They’ve also seen shaky starts from some of their veteran stalwarts, like Jose Abreu (103 wRC+), and Yasmani Grandal (64).
If there’s ever a time to face a potentially scary team like Chicago, it’s now. Let’s take a look at the matchups for this four-game set.
DraftKings series odds: Yankees win (+170); White Sox win (+240); Tie (+150)
Thursday: Luis Gil vs. Dylan Cease (8:10pm Eastern)
Last week’s rainouts put the Yankee rotation a little off-sync, necessitating a spot start from Gil. The 23-year-old right-hander showed well in his 2021 major league cameo, posting a 143 ERA+ in six starts and 29.1 innings.
Gil got off to a brutal start in Triple-A this year, though, including a seven-run, 1.2-inning debacle in his second appearance. He’s stabilized a bit since then, turning in his best start last week, striking out nine with no walks across five two-run innings. Perhaps the Yankees saw enough positive in that outing to feel Gil puts them in position to win, or, perhaps Gil is getting the nod just because Clarke Schmidt was optioned to the minors too recently to be recalled.
Dylan Cease will go opposite Gil. The 26-year-old righty is looking more and more like Chicago’s ace, running a 153 ERA+ to go along with 47 strikeouts in 34 innings. Cease gets excellent velocity and ride on his four-seamer, which he pairs with a couple of crushing breaking balls. His Statcast profile in the small 2022 sample is nearly a work of art:
The Yankees will likely have to be at their best if they want to take game one of this series.
Friday: Gerrit Cole vs. Dallas Keuchel (8:10 pm Eastern)
If Thursday’s matchup favors the White Sox, well, things will swing back in New York’s favor by Friday.
Cole has righted his ship after an uneven beginning to his 2022 campaign, and should be expected shove pretty much every time out. His ERA+ is up to 136 on the year, and since his 1.2-inning disaster in Detroit a few weeks ago, Cole has allowed one run in 19 innings with a .508 OPS against. For some more reading on Cole, check out Mason’s dive back in on the spin rate conversation from yesterday.
Keuchel, once a thorn in the Yankees’ side, is a detriment to his own team more than anything else at this point. The 34-year-old vet has surrendered an even 21 runs in 21 innings in 2022, coming off a 2021 season in which he managed just an 82 ERA+ and 95 strikeouts in 162 innings.
Saturday: Jordan Montgomery vs. Michael Kopech (7:10pm Eastern)
The first weekend matchup brings us a nice clash of styles: Montgomery, the dependable lefty turning over lineups with deception and command versus the fire-balling righty Kopech, still looking to truly make good on his potential.
Kopech’s reputation as one of the game’s hardest throwers does belie things a bit, however. His velo has fallen off this year, down to 95.2 mph on average, two full ticks below his 2021 figure. He’s still had success with the heater, thanks in large part to the tremendous life he imparts on the pitch:
Overall, 2022 could be shaping up to be the best season of Kopech’s young career, as he’s allowed just three earned runs across 29 innings. He can still struggle with control, having given away 13 free passes this year, which should represent a way for the once-patient Yankee lineup to attack him.
Sunday: Nestor Cortes vs. Lucas Giolito (2:10pm Eastern)
Now, for the real premier matchup of this series: Giolito, Chicago’s workhorse, up against
the best pitcher in baseball Nestor Cortes.
At this point, Cortes needs no introduction. He’s pitched like one of the best in the game for months now, and he just took a no-hitter into the eighth inning. No, he probably can’t keep this up forever, but it’s become appointment viewing to see how long Cortes can keep the magic going.
On the other side, Giolito is as solid as they come. His ERA+ figures with Chicago since 2019: 134, 128, 123, and 135. He’s run a K/9 rate between 10.1 and 12.5 every year during that span, and a BB/9 rate between 2.6 and 3.5 each year. While his stuff is more good than great at this point, Giolito has no real weaknesses.
Going through the matchups for this series really does drive home why many feared the White Sox entering this year. Even without Lynn, the Cease/Giolito/Kopech triumvirate gives Chicago a chance to win any series. With their roster healthy, the White Sox would clearly be a tough out at any point in the playoffs.
But they’re not at full strength right now, and while their pitching is still formidable, featuring three good starters and a Liam Hendriks/Kendall Graveman combo in the bullpen, the Yankees should be favored in this series. Let’s hope the Bombers can keep the good times rolling and win more than they lose out in the Windy City.