One series down, one series win in the books. Opening Day weekend was about as picture-perfect a start to the 2023 season as the Yankees could’ve asked for. Anthony Volpe debuted on Opening Day and stole a base in all three games. Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton already have a pair of home runs each. Jhony Brito was lights out in his MLB debut to win the rubber match and take the series.
Hopefully they can continue to build momentum with the Phillies coming to town next. It’s not the most ferocious iteration of the Phillies with Bryce Harper and Rhys Hoskins out with injury, but there’s still plenty of players in the lineup and rotation who can change games. Let’s take a look at the latter group as we preview the starting pitching matchups.
Monday: Nestor Cortes vs. Taijuan Walker (7:05 pm ET)
Nestor Cortes makes his first start of the season coming off a pair of solid final spring starts in which he allowed a run in eight innings with seven strikeouts. The 2022 All-Star led the Yankees’ rotation with a 2.44 ERA, and seems to get better with each successive season in pinstripes. There seems to be a renewed focus on the cutter in the Yankees pitching room so I’m excited to see the shape of those thrown by Nasty Nestor. In 28 starts last year, Cortes went 12-4 with a 2.44 ERA (159 ERA+), 3.12 FIP, and 163 strikeouts in 158.1 innings.
Taijuan Walker makes his Phillies debut after signing a four-year, $72 million contract during the offseason. He made two starts against the Yankees while pitching for the Mets last season, allowing three runs in six innings in the first and two runs in five innings in the second. Opposing pitchers appear to be attacking righty Yankees hitters with a heavy dose of offspeed pitches down and in, so expect a steady diet of splitters from Walker. In 29 starts, Walker was 12-5 with a 3.49 ERA (111 ERA+), 3.56 FIP, and 132 strikeouts in 157.1 innings.
Tuesday: Domingo Germán vs. Matt Strahm (7:05 pm ET)
Domingo Germán rounds out the first turn through the Yankees rotation. He looked strong across his first three spring outings before getting clobbered for seven runs on nine hits including four home runs in just 2.2 innings against the Tigers. He’ll be facing a much sterner test against this Phillies lineup, so he would do well to keep the ball in the park. In 14 starts last season, Germán went 2-5 with a 3.61 ERA (108 ERA+), 4.44 FIP, and 58 strikeouts in 72.1 innings.
Matt Strahm also makes his Phillies debut after signing a two-year, $15 million deal that many owners worried would balloon the market for veteran back-of-the-rotation arms. The 31-year-old southpaw bedeviled Yankees hitters coming out of the Red Sox bullpen in 2022, holding them to just one run on three hits across six outings totaling 5.2 innings. He’s already made one relief appearance this year, pitching a scoreless eighth inning against the Rangers on Opening Day. In 50 relief appearances in 2022, Strahm had a 3.83 ERA (110 ERA+), 3.72 FIP, and 52 strikeouts in 44.2 innings.
Wednesday: Gerrit Cole vs. Aaron Nola (1:05 pm ET)
Wednesday sees a battle of the aces as Gerrit Cole looks to build off his 11-strikeout scoreless gem on Opening Day. He threw a heavy dose of four-seamers relative to his career norms and the slider seemed to benefit with a 100 percent whiff rate. The changeup is also exhibiting significantly more horizontal break than in previous years and could be a weapon against the lefty-heavy Phillies batting order. In 33 starts last year, Cole went 13-8 with a 3.50 ERA (111 ERA+), and 3.47 FIP while breaking Ron Guidry’s franchise record by tallying 257 strikeouts in 200.2 innings.
Aaron Nola may still be one of the most underrated starting pitchers in baseball despite leading the league with 6.3 fWAR in 2022. He’s owned the Yankees in two of his last three starts against them, giving up a run on three hits with 12 strikeouts in 2020 before going 7.2 scoreless allowing three hits against nine strikeouts the following season. Both he and Jacob deGrom were uncharacteristically shaky in their ace versus ace matchup on Opening Day, with Nola giving up five runs in just 3.2 innings. In 32 starts last season, Nola was 11-13 with a 3.25 ERA (125 ERA+), 2.58 FIP, and 235 strikeouts in 205 innings.