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New York Yankees vs. Tampa Bay Rays: Nestor Cortes vs. Shane McClanahan

It’s a blockbuster battle of the lefties in the Bronx tonight.

MLB: Los Angeles Angels at New York Yankees-Game 1 Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

The Yankees got just the bounce-back outing they were hoping for out of Gerrit Cole, taking the first game of the series against the Rays, 2-0. The win sets the tone for the tough slate of games facing the team, with series against the Rays, Blue Jays, and Astros as part of a larger stretch of 20 games in 20 days acting as a mid-season litmus test. Tonight, we get to see two of the best starting pitchers in baseball duke it out.

Nestor Cortes gets the ball for his 12th start of the year. He may be coming off his worst start of the year — four runs in 4.1 innings against the Twins — but I have no doubt that he can turn it around tonight. He need look no further than his last outing against the Rays — one run on four hits in eight innings. His fastball-cutter combo has become one of the most effective pitch pairings in baseball, and I look for him to pound the zone gloveside-up against an aggressive Rays lineup. On the year, Cortes is 5-2 with a 1.96 ERA (195 ERA+), 2.84 FIP, and 71 strikeouts in 64.1 innings pitched.

By some metrics, Shane McClanahan has been the best starting pitcher in MLB. His 35.5-percent strikeout rate and 2.01 xFIP lead all qualified starters, and he’s the only non-reliever with a K-BB% north of 30 percent. He throws the hardest fastball (97.3 mph) of any lefty starter, owns the fifth-lowest ERA (1.87) of any starter, and has accrued the seventh-most fWAR (2.0). He also dominated the Yankees last time he faced them, allowing one run on seven hits against seven strikeouts in six innings. New York will have to draw off their past success against him — eight runs in three games across 12.1 innings last season — if they want a more favorable outcome tonight. As he makes his 13th start, McClanahan sits at 7-2 with a 1.87 ERA (190 ERA+), 2.45 FIP, and 98 strikeouts in 72.1 innings pitched.

The Yankees make three changes to the lineup that managed to squeak two runs across against the Rays last night. Josh Donaldson returns from his one-game suspension to play third, moving DJ LeMahieu to second, Gleyber Torres to DH, and Matt Carpenter to the bench. Aaron Hicks replaces Joey Gallo in left field while Kyle Higashioka comes in for Jose Trevino at catcher.

The Rays make a couple tweaks to the starting nine that got shutout last night, going with a right-handed-heavy lineup against the southpaw Cortes tonight. Isaac Paredes slides from second to first, pushing lefty Ji-Man Choi to the bench. This allows the righty Vidal Bruján to take over at second, while righty René Pinto replaces switch-hitting Francisco Mejía at catcher.

How to watch

Location: Yankee Stadium — Bronx, NY

First pitch: 7:05 pm ET

TV broadcast: YES, Bally Sports Sun

Radio broadcast: WFAN 660/101.9, WADO 1380

Online stream: MLB.tv

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