It’s amazing how a few wins on the trot can change the outlook of a team and its fanbase. After sleepwalking through weeks of bad play, the Yankees finally began to turn their second half around with a win over the Blue Jays followed by a sweep of the Subway Series at Yankee Stadium. With the momentum of these three games and the extra rest of an offday, the Bombers hit the road a rejuvenated bunch, ready to take on Oakland for four games at the Coliseum.
Thursday: Jameson Taillon vs. James Kaprielian, 9:40 P.M. EDT
The Yankees have technically yet to announce any of the starters for this series owing to the offday, so we’re going to operate under the assumption that the rotation order remains unchanged. That leaves Jameson Taillon slated for the series opener hoping to recover some of the consistency that made him one of the best starters through the first two months of the season. He’s given up at least three runs in each of his last four starts, allowing six home runs during that stretch. And while he has avoided issuing a walk in his last two appearances, he walked 12 in the preceding 20.1 innings to bump him from the lowest walk rate among qualified pitchers to the sixth-lowest walk rate. In 24 starts, Taillon is 11-4 with a 4.00 ERA (96 ERA+), 4.01 FIP, and 113 strikeouts in 132.2 innings.
Taillon will face former Yankees draft pick James Kaprielian, a noted member of the 2017 Sonny Gray trade. Kaprielian was on his way toward a breakout campaign last year with a 3.00 ERA through his first eight starts. Then came the sticky stuff crackdown on June 21st. The A’s righty lost roughly 300 RPMs off the fastball and curveball, and pitched to a 4.46 ERA the rest of the way out. He faced the Yankees twice last year and got touched up for nine runs in 10.2 innings, including a six-run drubbing last time they met. In 20 starts this year, Kaprielian is 3-7 with a 4.29 ERA (87 ERA+), 5.14 FIP, and 71 strikeouts in 100.2 innings.
Friday: Gerrit Cole vs. JP Sears, 9:40 P.M. EDT
Gerrit Cole’s struggles with the big inning continued last time out against the Blue Jays. He was cruising through four scoreless frames before a four-run fifth doomed the Yankees to defeat. This will be his first time facing Oakland since last season, when he went six scoreless with nine strikeouts, so perhaps this is just the matchup he needs to get back in the driver’s seat. In 25 starts, Cole is 9-6 with a 3.41 ERA (113 ERA+), 3.20 FIP, and 189 strikeouts in 150.1 innings — both AL-leading marks.
It must be reunion week, because the Yankees face another old friend on Friday. This time, it’s JP Sears, sent to Oakland in the deadline trade that brought Frankie Montas and Lou Trivino to the Bronx. Sears was one of the big surprises for the Yankees, debuting this year while the Yankees struggled with injuries in the rotation and bullpen. He was nails for New York, going scoreless in his first four big league outings including a pair of spot starts that exceeded five innings apiece. Overall, he allowed five runs in 22 innings (2.05 ERA), and has pitched even better since moving to Oakland — three runs in three starts, totaling 15.1 innings. In 10 appearances (five starts) between New York and Oakland, Sears is 5-0 with a 1.93 ERA (141 ERA+), 3.39 FIP, and 23 strikeouts in 37.1 innings.
Nestor Cortes Domingo Germán vs. Adam Oller, 9:07 P.M. EDT
Nestor Cortes was originally on track to start on Saturday, but his groin injury takes him out of the equation. Since the Yankees had the Wednesday offday, Domingo Germán will be available on full rest for Saturday. He’s coming off another strong start, this time in a win against the Mets. After giving up five runs in three innings during his season debut against the Astros, Germán has kept it to three or fewer runs in each of the six subsequent starts. The strikeouts are still lagging behind his career rate but he’s doing a much better job keeping the ball in the ballpark so far. In seven starts, Germán in 2-2 with a 3.89 ERA (100 ERA+), 4.53 FIP, and 26 strikeouts in 34.2 innings.
Adam Oller was selected by the Pirates in the 20th round of the 2016 MLB Draft and arrived in Oakland in the preseason trade that sent Chris Bassitt to the Mets. The Oakland rookie sits in the 10th percentile or worse in walk rate, strikeout rate, barrel rate, and xwOBA, and his only effectiveness comes from a six-pitch mix — four-seamer, cutter, changeup, sinker, slider, and curveball — that prevents hitters from guessing. In 16 appearances (11 starts), Oller is 2-6 with a 6.41 ERA (58 ERA+), 6.43 FIP, and 37 strikeouts in 60.1 innings.
Sunday: Clarke Schmidt vs. Zach Logue, 4:07 P.M. EDT
The original version of this post had Germán starting Sunday, but with him moving up to Saturday to take Cortes’ slot, the Yankees will likely turn to either Frankie Montas or Clarke Schmidt, who relieved him for 60 pitches on Tuesday. Montas seems to be the most likely option since he will be rested and as a former Athletic, is well-accustomed to pitching in the Coliseum with great success. Schmidt will insert himself in the rotation for Cortes at some point, but probably not here. (Update: Just kidding. They’ll give Montas an extra day and give Schmidt a soft landing spot for his return to the rotation.)
The Athletics will pitch a rookie in back-to-back starts to finish this series, with Zach Logue getting the final game. The lefty was selected by the Blue Jays in the ninth round of the 2017 MLB Draft and was included in the March trade that netted Toronto Matt Chapman. Like fellow rookie Oller, Logue finds himself in the bottom quartile of almost every Statcast pitching metric. He throws a four-seamer that barely cracks 90, a cutter in the mid-80s, a curveball in the high-70s, and a changeup in the low-80s. In 11 appearances (ten starts), Logue is 3-8 with a 6.04 ERA (62 ERA+), 5.57 FIP, and 38 strikeouts in 50.2 innings.