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New York Yankees vs. Pittsburgh Pirates: Series Preview

The Pirates are in town for a quick two-game set starting tonight.

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Cincinnati Reds v New York Yankees Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

Thanks to an incredible Aaron Judge performance and some good hitting in general, the Yankees avoided a sweep with a 12-4 win over the Brewers on Sunday. Now after a day off, they’ll be back in action tonight against another NL Central opponent, as the Pirates come to town for two games.

Back in July, these two teams split a pair of games in Pittsburgh, though the Yankees’ win was a complete 16-0 beatdown. While the Yankees’ struggles in July and August have been well-noted, the Pirates have been even worse since the teams last met, as they’ve gone 22-44 to sink past the Reds to the NL Central cellar.

Although we’ve all certainly said this and been wrong at points during the Yankees’ second half: these are a pair of winnable games. They also could be historic ones, as Judge will enter play tonight two home runs behind Roger Maris for the Yankees/American League single season record. It has the potential to be a memorable series. Before the action gets going tonight, let’s check in on the pitching matchups.

Tuesday: Nestor Cortes vs. TBD (7:05 PM ET)

Cortes was excellent last time out against the Red Sox, allowing one run on three hits and two walks, striking out seven. He only went 5innings and 65 pitches in that start likely due to his ongoing comeback from a groin injury, as it was his second start after an IL stint. One would suspect that the reigns would be loosened in this game, but the Yankees will also likely be keeping tabs on his innings, considering that is now clearly the most he’s ever thrown in a season.

At time of writing, the Pirates don’t seem to have formally confirmed their Tuesday starter, but it seems likely that they’re going with Luis Ortiz. If that is what Pittsburgh does, it will be the 23-year-old right-hander’s second-ever MLB appearance (and start). His debut came last Tuesday against the Reds, where he threw 5.1 scoreless innings, allowing one hit and three walks with five strikeouts. Ortiz’s minor league numbers this season aren’t anything to write home about, though.

Wednesday: Luis Severino vs. Roansy Contreras (7:05 PM ET)

This game is set to be the return of Severino, who hasn’t pitched since July 13th after suffering a lat strain. The Yankees have been careful with him, even moving him to the 60-day IL, which ruled him out until September, despite Severino himself thinking he could’ve come back earlier than that. In his final rehab start, he went 4.1 innings, so he’ll probably be allowed to go at least that long (depending on pitch count) in this one. However, it’s unlikely that Severino will be pitching into the seventh inning or anything.

This will be the Yankees’ first start against Contreras, who was part of the package that New York used to acquire Jameson Taillon in the January 2021 trade. Although the Baby Bomber alum made his debut last year, Contreras truly broke into the majors this year and has been a fixture in the Pirates’ rotation since late May, with the exception of the month and change he spent in the minors in July and August. (The Pirates have claimed that the minor league stint was to help give him some recovery as he continues to try and recover from an injury he suffered last season.) Contreras has been fairly impressive with a 3.24 ERA and 4.22 FIP, leading some to question the Taillon deal. Since the 22-year-old’s return to the majors on August 17th, he has a 2.43 ERA, and a 3.23 FIP in 33.1 innings across six starts. Either way, expect there to be some narrative that comes out of his outing.