Round 1 of the much-ballyhooed Aaron Judge vs. Shohei Ohtani matchup yesterday went in the two-way star’s favor, as the Angels downed the Yankees 5-2 behind Ohtani’s early homer. Perhaps unsurprisingly, neither starting pitcher made it out of the fourth inning, but José Suarez’s ability to pitch around six walks, coupled with Clarke Schmidt’s continued struggles, still left the Yankees in a 4-2 hole. The Bombers’ bullpen couldn’t make up for it despite allowing just one unearned run across 5.1 innings; that loss falls on the offense. The ‘pen could use a break today though, and their hopes for a rest hinge on the rookie Jhony Brito.
After tossing 5.1 perfect innings in his final spring training tuneup, Brito broke camp with the Yankees and allowed just one run over his first 10 innings across a pair of regular season starts. Yet, that was all erased when he failed to get out of the first inning his last time out, yielding seven earned runs to the Twins in the process. The lack of depth in Brito’s arsenal really showed in that appearance, as he didn’t have a secondary pitch that he could rely on without his changeup working. Everyone has bad days though, and even in that outing, his change still flashed its potential. Here’s to hoping the pitch makes good on that promise tonight.
Brito will be going toe-to-toe with Griffin Canning. Canning, a 26-year-old former second-round pick, made his first appearance since July 2021 last week after sitting out all of last season with a back injury. He looked sharp, going five innings and averaging 93.9 mph on his heater, just as he did in his debut 2019 season. He also generated swinging strikes on 21.4 percent of his pitches and got hitters to chase on 46.3 percent of his offerings outside the zone, both excellent marks. At the same time, he was facing the lowly Nationals, so tonight will be a major test.
Brito will also be battling a very top-heavy Angels lineup. Their one-through-five is a formidable combination of Taylor Ward, Ohtani, Mike Trout, Anthony Rendon, and Hunter Renfroe, but after old friend Gio Urshela in the six spot, their seven-through-nine hitters all have an OPS under .600. I’d be surprised if the Yankees let Brito face the top of the lineup three times unless he’s dealing; he just might be lifted after mowing down those bottom three hitters a second time.
The Yankees’ similarly-potent lineup core will back Brito. Their two-through-five hitters in Judge, Anthony Rizzo, Gleyber Torres, and DJ LeMahieu have all been off to the races to get the season started. The Bombers are mixing things up a little bit by continuing to have Anthony Volpe lead off despite his slow start and Franchy Cordero round things out in the nine-hole despite his renewed penchant for homers. Yet, Cordero is also just 1-for-12 with a single, no walks and five K’s over his last four games while Volpe is 3-for-12 with a homer, five walks, and just three K’s over that same time frame. If Cordero bounces back and Volpe stays hot, it’s possible Canning won’t even make it through the lineup twice. In other words, it could be another battle of the bullpens today.
How to watch:
Location: Yankee Stadium — Bronx, NY
First pitch: 7:05 pm EDT
TV broadcast: Amazon Prime Video, MLB Network (subject to local blackout)
Radio broadcast: WFAN 660/101.9 FM, WADO 1280
Online Stream: MLB.tv