There’s no doubting that the Yankees offense is in a collective funk. Several players are slogging through concurrent slumps while Giancarlo Stanton’s injury robs the lineup of a massive presence — all of which has combined to limit the team to three or fewer runs in eight of their last ten games. However, we’re not here to talk about hitting. We’re hours away from first pitch of a three-game set at the Twins, so let’s break down the starting pitching matchups on tap.
Monday: Jhony Brito vs. Sonny Gray (7:40 pm ET)
It might very well turn out that a humbling in his third big league start might be just the thing that Jhony Brito needed in his young career. He dazzled in his first two appearances, allowing a run across ten innings, but was given his first rude welcome to the bigs by the Twins, to the tune of seven runs while getting just two outs. That’s what made his most recent start — a sole run in 4.1 innings against the Angels — all the more impressive. He showed the ability to turn the page on a poor performance and focus on the task at hand, something he will need to do again as he goes for revenge against Minnesota.
Old friend Sonny Gray is off to a sensational start, having given up just two runs across his first four starts. The strikeouts are back to 2019-21 levels and he has yet to allow a home run. This is the second time the Yankees will face their former employee since they traded him to the Reds following the 2018 season. The first encounter was last season, when he held them to two runs (one earned) on six hits with seven strikeouts in six innings. On the season, Gray is 2-0 with a 0.82 ERA (525 ERA+), 2.22 FIP, and 26 strikeouts in 22 innings.
Tuesday: Nestor Cortes vs. Joe Ryan (7:40 pm ET)
It’s been business as usual for Nestor Cortes through the first four starts of the season. He’s given up three or fewer runs in each and pitched into the seventh inning in both of the last two (including seven strong against Minnesota back on April 14th). The four-seamer has its typical late ride and impeccable command while the cutter has been a soft contact machine. The strikeouts may be lagging a touch behind but he’s walking fewer batters and doing an even better job at keeping the ball in the ballpark. So far, Cortes is 3-0 with a 3.09 ERA (141 ERA+), 3.46 FIP, and 22 strikeouts in 23.1 innings.
Cortes will face Joe Ryan, who frustratingly stymied the Yankees Thursday before last. He held them to a run on three hits, punching out ten batters in seven innings as his team dominated the Bombers, 11-2. Seven of the ten K’s came in or around the strike zone with a four-seamer that hovered in the low-90s, as it was apparent the Yankees hitters were looking offspeed all day. I expect a shift in the offense’s plan on Tuesday. In four starts, Ryan is 4-0 with a 3.24 ERA (132 ERA+), 3.72 FIP, and 29 strikeouts in 25 innings.
Wednesday: Domingo Germán vs. Kenta Maeda (1:10 pm ET)
The last week has illustrated one of the central frustrations with Domingo Germán as a starting pitcher: inconsistency. He teased with a 11-strikeout gem that saw him allow only one run in six innings before reminding us of the other side of his game with a clunker against the Blue Jays. Luckily for him, the 11-strikeout game was also against the Twins, so he’ll have a good roadmap for how to repeat his performance, all starting with establishing a presence in the zone with his fastball to set up the curve. In four starts, Germán is 1-2 with a 4.50 ERA (97 ERA+), 4.51 FIP, and 25 strikeouts in 20 innings.
Kenta Maeda is the tentative Twins starter for the series finale, but had to exit his last start after being hit in the shin by a comebacker, a scenario which his manager described as “lucky to avoid a major injury.” Maeda missed all of last year after undergoing Tommy John surgery and has looked a bit rusty in his return. His velocity is down a good two mph — right around 90 mph with the fastball — and he’s giving up a ton of hard contact after thriving as one of the soft-contact merchants in the league during his prime with the Dodgers. He’s been handed the loss in all three of his starts, pitching to a 4.15 ERA (105 ERA+), 4.74 FIP, and 12 strikeouts in 13 innings.