Keep on truckin’!
That’s the early theme for the Yankees as they’ve methodically won each of their first three series against the Giants, Phillies and Orioles, two games to one. Next, they head to Cleveland, where they face a Guardians squad that was one out away from being swept at home by the Mariners, but a Will Brennan two-run double tied the contest and sparked a rally that culminated in a 12th-inning walk-off. Both teams’ aces will take the mound in this three-game tilt, so let’s look into the series’ probable starting pitching matchups.
Monday: Domingo Germán vs. Shane Bieber (6:10 pm ET)
Domingo Germán faces a stern test in the series opener as he takes on the Guardians’ ace. His first start against the Phillies was a mixed bag. On one end he surrendered four runs in 4.2 innings including a pair of home runs. On the other, he struck out 8 of the 18 batters he faced, didn’t walk anyone, and both his curveball and changeup look sharp with each inducing whiff rates in excess of 40 percent. Both home runs came against the four-seamer so he’ll have to be sharper with its location.
Shane Bieber started the 2023 season right where 2022 left off, pitching six scoreless on Opening Day against the Mariners. He was a bit shakier in the following outing, allowing three runs to the A’s over six. The strikeouts are a tad slow out of the gate as the slider and curveball aren’t quite getting the whiffs he’s accustomed to while the fastball is sitting barely above 90. He made 31 starts last season totaling 200 innings, finishing fourth among qualified AL starters in fWAR (4.9) and seventh in ERA (2.88).
Tuesday: Gerrit Cole vs. Hunter Gaddis (6:10 pm ET)
Gerrit Cole has been simply dominant across his first two starts of the new season, torching the Giants for 11 strikeouts in 6 scoreless, following it up with 6.1 innings of one-run ball against the Phillies. He’s been attacking batters with the four-seamer, its 61.6 percent usage rate almost 12 points higher than his career average. What’s really caught the eye is the improvement with the changeup. The pitch is exhibiting almost three inches more horizontal movement than last year and has collected whiffs at a 63.6 percent clip.
Cole will face Guardians rookie Hunter Gaddis making the fifth start of his career. His first two this season could not have been more different — he served up four runs in 3.2 innings to the Mariners before shutting down the A’s for six scoreless innings that yielded Oakland just one hit. Cleveland selected him in the fifth round of the 2019 MLB Draft and called him up for a two-start cup of coffee in 2022. Suffice to say he struggled in those two outings, surrendering 15 runs in 7.1 innings that included seven home runs. The 6-foot-6 righty leans on a fastball at 94 and a cutter at 86 and will mix in a changeup usually against lefties.
Wednesday: Clarke Schmidt vs. Aaron Civale (1:10 pm ET)
Clarke Schmidt starts the series finale looking to bounce back from a rough first two outings. He’s lasted only 3.1 in each start, with the long ball plaguing him against the Giants while he couldn’t stay off the barrel against the Orioles. He needs to limit hard contact if he’s going to have any success — among all starters he’s given up the second-highest average exit velocity (97.4 mph) behind only Johnny Cueto and the third-highest hard-hit rate (73.9 percent) behind Nick Pivetta and Sean Manaea. This comes down to command in the strike zone, a sentiment manager Aaron Boone echoed in his postgame comments:
“That’s where he’s gotta get to be the next level... Really focus on location, not always just chasing the best shape or the nastiest pitch, but the best location.”
Opposite Schmidt is Aaron Civale making his third start of the year. He was sparkling in his season debut — seven scoreless against the Mariner yielding just two hits and a walk — and decidedly less so in the encore — four runs on nine hits in 5.2 innings. The Yankees had a field day against him last season, tagging him for ten runs on 12 hits across two outings totaling nine innings, before torching him in Game 5 of the ALDS. He gave up three runs in the first, ultimately getting pulled having recorded just one out.