After dropping the rubber match of a tough series against the Rays in St. Petersburg this weekend, the Yankees returned home to face the lowly A’s in need of a reset before taking on their divisional rivals again later this week. Game one against the AL West cellar-dwellers last night certainly served that purpose, with the Yanks coming out on top in a 7-2 statement victory. Now, with the opportunity to take the series, the Yankees will welcome Aaron Judge back into the fold, activating him from the IL in preparation for the resumption of their rivalry with the Rays.
Obviously, tonight isn’t just about Judge; there’s still a game to win. And the Yankees, in last place themselves, need every victory they can get. Yet in Clarke Schmidt's starts, the W’s have been hard to come by; New York has won just two of the right-hander’s seven starts.
To be fair, there were a lot of positives in his most recent outing. He notched swinging strikes on 13.9 percent of his pitches, a solidly above-average mark for a starter and his best since his first outing of the season. Not to mention, this latest number came against the Guardians, who rank 23rd in the league in swinging-strike rate this year.
In terms of surface-level results, Schmidt allowed just two unearned runs across 4.1 innings against Cleveland, and he didn’t yield a homer for just the second time this year, but this is less impressive since the Guardians rank last in the league in the catch-all offensive statistic wRC+. So while it’s hard to say what that one start means for Schmidt’s long-term outlook, there are signs that he’ll succeed again tonight. The A’s are tied for the fifth-highest swinging-strike rate and are also in the bottom half when it comes to wRC+ — it’s another opportunity for Schmidt to continue building his confidence in the hopes of improving his staying potential in the rotation.
As for the Yankees’ bats, they’ll be up against Drew Rucinski. Early in his career, the 34-year-old right-hander had some uninspiring cameos as a reliever in the majors before trying his luck in the KBO for four years as a starter. There, he was one of the best, pitching to a 3.06 ERA in 732.2 innings, and the A’s gambled on that line translating back to the majors. But like many of their gambles as of late, this one hasn’t paid off. With just two starts on his ledger following a hamstring injury in spring training, the veteran has allowed 10 runs (eight earned) in 9.1 innings, with more walks (six) than strikeouts (four).
Judge, who says he’s fully healed and anxious to return, will look to tee off on Rucinski from the two-hole. He’ll man right field on defense. He’ll also be sandwiched in the lineup by a pair of Anthonys—Volpe and Rizzo—taking their respective leadoff and three-hole spots as well as their typical defensive assignments at short and first. With a night off for DJ LeMahieu, Gleyber Torres will slide into the cleanup spot and man the keystone. Elsewhere, the surging Harrison Bader gets the nod in center field over Judge, and he’ll bat fifth, while Jake Bauers will bat sixth and get the start at DH with a right-hander on the mound. Oswaldo Cabrera, Jose Trevino, and Aaron Hicks will round things out in that order.
Schmidt will stare down an A’s lineup that, while low on star power, has some interesting names. First and foremost, Brent Rooker and his league-leading 206 wRC+ will hit third and DH. The journeyman has reveled in receiving consistent playing time for the first time in his career. Ryan Noda, a Rule-5 pick from the Dodgers with an excellent 149 wRC+ of his own (higher than any Yankee besides small-sample Bader thus far), will hit second and man first base. Esteury Ruiz — the A’s prize from the Sean Murphy trade this offseason — and his 17 stolen bases will set the table for those sluggers, leading off and playing center field. Murphy’s replacement, young backstop Shea Langeliers, will hit fifth and call the pitches for Rucinski.
How to watch:
Location: Yankee Stadium — Bronx, NY
First pitch: 7:05 pm EDT
TV broadcast: YES
Radio broadcast: WFAN 660/101.9 FM, WADO 1280
Online Stream: MLB.tv