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New York Yankees vs. Seattle Mariners: Gerrit Cole vs. George Kirby

Two of the AL’s best teams from 2022 look to get their teams back on track.

MLB: Boston Red Sox at New York Yankees John Jones-USA TODAY Sports

If Gerrit Cole doesn’t meet the definition of a “stopper,” then it’s hard to say that any pitcher in baseball does. If you’re riding a losing streak and need a pitcher to snap you out of it, you probably wouldn’t name four or five starters before getting to Cole. All starts count equally in the record book, but in practice, some of them count more equally than others, as George Orwell might put it had he covered baseball. This is one of those starts.

On the heels of four straight losses and 9 in 12 games, and with a rotation that’s essentially down to four starters — three of whom have made it through six innings a combined one time in the last two-and-a-half weeks — the Yankees need Gerrit Cole to be an ace tonight. If he loses, that doesn’t mean he still isn’t one of the best pitchers in the game. But games like this one are what you pay nine figures to one pitcher for. With a few exceptions, Cole has typically been nails under the bright lights. Tonight would be a great time to continue that trend.

No matter how he does, the Yankees’ already-struggling offense probably won’t have it much easier against George Kirby (3.23 ERA in 80.2 IP), whose 2.1 fWAR is tied for eighth in the game this year, seven spots ahead of Cole. Fortunately (or perhaps unfortunately), the Yankees are already familiar with Kirby, having allowed him to throw eight shutout innings on just three hits all of 21 days ago. Kirby, whose 1.9-percent walk rate would be tied for the third-lowest in the Live Ball Era if the season ended today, primarily shut the Yankees down on that day with a high-90s fastball/sinker combination, but we’ll see if he’ll decide to dip more into his secondary stuff now that he’s seeing these hitters for the second time in a relatively short span.

Of the Seattle hitters who have seen Cole with any regularity, only Eugenio Suárez and J.P. Crawford have had anything resembling success against him.

Seattle’s offensive numbers against Cole.

On a more optimistic note, perhaps the currently moribund Yankees lineup will get a jolt from the return of Harrison Bader, who’s in the lineup for the first time since May 29. Bader, who was playing at a 4-5 WAR pace before his latest IL stint, has a higher OPS+ (119) than any of today’s starters with more plate appearances than Billy McKinney (123). His return feels almost guaranteed to bring some kind of boost just by virtue of pushing McKinney back to the corner outfield and ensure that Isiah Kiner-Falefa’s ability to play a passable center field isn’t enough to earn him a spot in the lineup with any regularity.

How to watch

Location: Yankee Stadium — Bronx, NY

First pitch: 7:05 pm ET

TV broadcast: YES, ROOTNW

Radio broadcast: WFAN 660/101.9, WADO 1280

Online stream:

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