The Yankees are on fire, having laid waste to the rest of the league for two months straight. If it weren’t for the red-hot Bombers, however, their rivals to the north, the Blue Jays, would probably be getting more shine. Toronto has quietly lived up to expectations, running a lineup as fearsome as expected, to go along with a couple of excellent starting pitchers at the front of the rotation.
Of course, the Blue Jays’ quality play, which is equivalent to a 95-win pace, puts them ten games back of first in the AL East. The Yankees could nearly put the division out of reach with a big showing here to close the month of June. Let’s take a look at the upcoming matchups.
DraftKings series odds: Yankees win (-105); Blue Jays win (-120)
Friday: Jordan Montgomery vs. Ross Stripling (7:07 PM ET)
After a couple of years in the wilderness, the right-handed Stripling seems to have found his footing again. He’d managed an 87 ERA+ between 2020 and 2021, and looked slated for mop-up duty as a member of Toronto’s bullpen this year.
But the 32-year-old has excelled while flitting between a multi-inning relief role and a rotation spot. Injuries necessitated Stripling make his first start on April 15, and since then, he’s made 13 appearances (seven of them starts) with a 2.85 ERA and .572 OPS allowed. His last two outings in particular have been sharp, with Stripling having tossed 11 shutout innings with just two hits allowed in that span.
All that said, Stripling is far from an overpowering presence on the mound. He sports a 92 mph, low-spin heater, to go along with a slider and a change that had gotten hit around the last two seasons. He does not generate many whiffs, relying more on control and contact management to get by. The Yankees may do well to hunt Stripling’s weak fastball early in counts, rather than sit back and let him try dance through the lineup on the edges of the zone.
Saturday: Jameson Taillon vs. Alek Manoah (3:07 PM ET)
Most nights, the Yankees can claim the starting pitching advantage. Saturday looks to be the rare day where their opponent will turn the tables. As strong a season as Taillon has had, few starters in the AL have stood up to what Manoah’s accomplished thus far.
Manoah’s 1.67 ERA is good for a 237 ERA+, the best figure in baseball. He’s struck out 68 against just 14 walks in 75 innings. He features good rather than great stuff; his four-seamer sits at 94 mph with solid life, his slider is a softer one at 81 mph, and he keeps a fine changeup in his back pocket, using it about 10 percent of the time. But Manoah makes the most of his arsenal, attacking the zone and putting hitters in tough situations.
Taillon has also been a bit shakier of late, turning in a clunker in Minnesota and then wading through five innings of three-run ball against Chicago. None of Taillon’s physical indicators, such as velo or spin rate, were appreciably off in those starts, so it’s probably fine to write off his relative ineffectiveness to the variances that emerge during a long season. Even good pitchers like Taillon will turn in middling starts sometimes, and hopefully, he can turn things around facing one of the best young hurlers in the game.
Sunday: Luis Severino vs. Yusei Kikuchi (1:37 PM ET)
It’s mid-June, and this will somehow be Kikuchi’s fourth start against the Yankees this year. The Yankees have won twice against Kikuchi, though the left-hander has pitched fairly well against them, to the tune of five earned runs and 16 strikeouts across 14.2 innings
That said, however, Kikuchi has struggled in 2022. Despite retaining every bit of the 2.5 mph increase in velocity he flashed last year, Kikuchi has not been able to find results, posting a 4.80 ERA and 5.19 FIP in 50.2 innings. His last couple efforts have been especially unimpressive; facing off with two of the AL’s lowliest lineups, Kansas City and Baltimore, Kikuchi managed a combined 4.2 innings and seven runs allowed. Things are not going great when you’re allowing a 1.300 OPS to the league’s dregs.
Severino was recently announced as the likely starter for Sunday after missing his Thursday start with COVID-like symptoms. Gerrit Cole had been slated for Sunday, but he’ll pitch Monday in Tampa Bay instead. Assuming that Severino is back to full health, the Yankees have to feel pretty confident in him, as while he’s been strong on the season, he’s been especially good in the past month with a 1.67 ERA and .522 OPS against. Despite eight strikeouts, Toronto did get to him for three runs on five hits and two walks in 4.2 innings last time out on May 10th though, so Sevy will have to tread carefully.