It’s been a good week for the Yankees so far, as they swept the Red Sox in two games at Fenway to bump their winning streak up to four, and with the Blue Jays taking three of five from the Rays, their magic number has fallen to 13. After the offday, they head to the Midwest for an interleague series with the Milwaukee Brewers, struggling to keep their playoff hopes alive. The Brew Crew enter play eight games back of the Cardinals in the NL Central, although they’re only 1.5 games back of a Wild Card berth.
Friday: Frankie Montas vs. Adrian Houser (8:10pm Eastern)
What is there to say about Montas at this point? The Yankees’ biggest trade deadline acquisition has been something of a dud in his first seven starts with the club, sporting a 5.94 ERA and 4.52 FIP. If there’s a silver lining, it’s that he’s almost exactly alternated good and bad starts, with his last being a 5.2 inning, four-run affair against the Rays where he struck out the same number of batters, four, as he walked. However, his preceding start saw him go five innings, with no earned runs, against those same Rays. I guess all you can ask is the trend continues.
Houser, 29, is going through his own struggles, with a 4.61 ERA and just a 16.2 percent strikeout rate. He’s a groundball-heavy pitcher who still walks a tenth of all batters faced. Yankee hitters should be able to find their way on base, whether Houser has a strong outing or not depends on what happens after that.
Saturday: Jameson Taillon vs. Brandon Woodruff (7:10pm Eastern)
Probably the most evenly-matched pitching showdown, at least on paper, comes Saturday. Taillon has allowed nine home runs since the All-Star break, fourth-most in the AL, and his performance largely comes down to his ability to keep the ball in the park. He pounds the zone aggressively, contributing to his low walk rate, but so many strikes means he’s going to leave one or two over the zone every appearance.
Woodruff is, plainly, a stud, with a 3.39 ERA and 3.23 FIP, although he’s a slot below how well he pitched last year. A few more walks and a couple more home runs have made him just a bit more vulnerable than he was in 2021, though he remains a tough assignment for any MLB hitter.
Sunday: Gerrit Cole vs. Jason Alexander (2:10pm Eastern)
What do we expect from Gerrit Cole this time around? Despite allowing just four hits, he gave up three homers against the Red Sox, in a game the Yankees won in spite of him, and he’s basically been Taillon turned up to 10 this year: If you take him deep, you stand a good chance of winning, but at all other times, he’s dynamite. A 3.30 ERA, FIP of the same, and 3.3 fWAR on the season aren’t anything to sneer at, but for the nominal ace of the rotation, I think we’d all like to see a little more.
Alexander has struggled in his first taste of MLB action, allowing a 5.29 ERA and 9 bombs allowed in his 68 innings pitched. The Yankees should be able to touch Alexander (not to be confused with George Costanza’s actor), which perhaps makes Cole’s start even more important — if he can keep the ball in the yard, Alexander likely won’t.