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New York Yankees @ Cleveland Guardians: Gerrit Cole vs. Kirk McCarty

The Bombers open a three-game set in Cleveland with their ace on the mound.

New York Yankees v Cleveland Indians Photo by: 2021 George Kubas/Diamond Images via Getty Images

What better way to welcome the start of July than with some Yankees baseball? After a rainout last night, the Bombers will look to shake off the malaise of a lethargic offensive performance in Houston. The 2-1 loss on Thursday was one of the lone blemishes on an otherwise stellar month that saw New York go 22-6 and set the MLB record for most home runs in June with 58.

The Guardians meanwhile welcome the Yankees to town having just completed a rollercoaster 11-game stretch. Sandwiched around a three-game home sweep at the hands of the Red Sox, Cleveland took five of eight from the Twins to cut their deficit in the AL Central to just a game (albeit with six fewer games played than their division rivals).

They feasted off the Minnesota bullpen, scoring five come-from-behind victories in the eighth inning or later in a 10-day period, including back-to-back walk-offs Wednesday and Thursday. And by Twins bullpen, I really just mean Emilio Pagán, who single-handedly blew four of those leads, allowing 10 runs in 2.1 innings to raise his season ERA from 2.45 to 5.26. And we thought the pre-Tommy John surgery Chad Green was bad!

Gerrit Cole gets the ball after previously facing Cleveland on April 24th — a 10-2 Yankees victory in which Cole tossed 6.2 scoreless innings with nine strikeouts. Beside the seven-run shocker last September when he was possibly pitching on an injured hamstring, Cole seems to really enjoy pitching against the Guardians as a Yankee. The 13-strikeout blitzkrieg in Game 1 of the 2020 AL Wild Card series stands out as does the seven inning, one-run, eleven-strikeout gem in April last season.

Cole has looked dominant since the home run barrage he suffered in Minnesota, giving up just two runs across his last three starts against 27 strikeouts in 20.1 innings, and he will look to carry that momentum into tonight sitting at 6-2 with a 2.99 ERA (126 ERA+), 3.20 FIP, and 111 strikeouts in 87.1 innings pitched.

Cleveland was originally going to start Aaron Civale against Cole on Friday, but with the rainout, the former has been pushed to the nightcap. Instead, 26-year-old southpaw Kirk McCarty will get the nod. Here’s Andrew with a little more on him from the revised series preview:

He made his MLB debut against the Yankees on April 24th and allowed four runs on four hits and two walks in three innings of relief during a blowout loss. He returned for the second game of a doubleheader against Texas on June 7th and didn’t fare much better. McCarty does have a 3.77 ERA in 43 innings at Triple-A this year, but he has a lot to prove at the MLB level.

With Miguel Andújar up from Triple-A Scranton as the 27th man for the doubleheader, the Yankees have made some changes to their lineup that couldn’t get much going in Houston on Thursday. Marwin Gonzalez covers for Isiah Kiner-Falefa at shortstop (which should happen more often), and DJ LeMahieu handles third-base duties over Josh Donaldson. Although Anthony Rizzo did homer the other day, Matt Carpenter is giving his fellow veteran the afternoon off at first base. Expect to see Rizz in the nightcap, of course.

Elsewhere, Aaron Judge will DH as Aaron Hicks heads to center with Miggy in left, allowing Giancarlo Stanton to slide over to right while Joey Gallo heads to the bench. Gallo is in the midst of one of the worst slumps imaginable, going hitless in his last 10 games — 0-for-26 to be exact — as part of a larger 3-for-43 stretch that has seen him strikeout over 40 percent of the time. At this point, even Hicks — himself mired in a 2-for-24 slide — is the more logical option to start in the outfield, though the pair’s struggles give the Yankees something to consider with the trade deadline just about a month away and guys like Ian Happ, Andrew Benintendi, and Ramón Laureano likely on the trading block.

The Guardians roll out a high-contact lineup (lowest whiff rate in MLB at 20.8 percent) headlined by a megastar in the midst of yet another MVP-adjacent campaign. I’m talking of course about José Ramírez, currently tied with Aaron Judge and Mike Trout for fourth-highest fWAR (3.9) in baseball. Ramírez is batting .296/.381/.596 with 16 home runs, 63 RBI, and a 173 wRC+, all while walking more than he strikes out.

At the top of the lineup sits rookie outfielder Steven Kwan, who put the league on notice with a 177 wRC+ in April and didn’t swing and miss on any of the first 116 pitches he saw to start the season — the longest such whiff-less streak to start a campaign since 2000. He cooled off considerably in May (56 wRC+) but has since rebounded in June (134 wRC+). His presence in the lineup alongside other above-average contributors Josh Naylor (125 wRC+) and Andrés Giménez (145 wRC+) ensures that the Yankees pitchers will need to maintain their performance levels this series.

How to watch

Location: Progressive Field — Cleveland, OH

First pitch: 12:10 pm ET

TV broadcast: Amazon Prime Video, Bally Sports Great Lakes

Radio broadcast: WFAN 660/101.9, WADO 1380

Online stream:

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