Third time’s the charm? The Braves have outscored the Yankees, 16-3, over the first two games of the series, and frankly, this one doesn’t look a lot more promising. Randy Vásquez has acquitted himself well over three spot starts and one bulk appearance with the big club this year, allowing just four runs in 19 innings, but goodness knows he’s never seen a lineup like Atlanta’s before. Meanwhile, Charlie Morton hasn’t been at his best lately, but with his veteran smarts, he might not need his best stuff to work through a Yankees lineup that still can’t seem to find any kind of consistency.
Vásquez is being given his fourth turn out of the rotation after he threw 3.2 innings of relief against Miami five days ago, coming on as the bulk pitcher after Ian Hamilton served as an opener. His 1.89 ERA in the big leagues comes despite a 4.76 mark at Triple-A Scranton this year. He allowed just two hits over 5.2 innings against a hapless White Sox lineup in June, and followed it up a month later with five more scoreless frames against a much better Orioles offense. Vásquez throws six pitches between 9 and 26 percent of the time, so if his fastball velocity is on the low end of his typical 93-97 mph band, he’ll need to rely on that bag of tricks to work through his biggest challenge yet.
On the other side of things is Charlie Morton, who’s still speeding along at age 39 and year 16 in the big leagues. He looked as good as ever for most of the year, working to a 3.20 ERA through his first 18 starts, but something seems to have unraveled as of late. His already-spotty control has completely left him over his last five starts, in which he’s recorded an un ugly 22-to-21 walk-to-strikeout ratio in 24.2 innings. His ERA during that span? 5.82. Morton hasn’t been terribly homer-prone, but he has allowed 25 hits in that span, so those walks aren’t a product of uncontrollable nastiness. His curveball is as good as ever, but his fastball velocity continues to trend ever-so-slightly downward, and the Yankees best bet tonight is probably to work Morton’s control issues into fastball counts and pounce on the four-seamer (.403 expected wOBA against this year) when they get the chance.
Whatever happens, Aaron Boone is shaking up the lineup that’s going to face Morton tonight, giving Aaron Judge just his second start — and first since April 25 — in the three spot to give an extra at-bat at the top of the lineup to DJ LeMahieu, who’s quietly engineered an eight-game hit streak since the start of the month (and registered the only knock yesterday). Billy McKinney comes off the bench to take Jake Bauers’ spot while Giancarlo Stanton mans right field. Atlanta counters with what amounts to their B+ lineup without Ozzie Albies in tow, giving Sean Murphy another day off in favor of Travis d’Arnaud, but otherwise, it’s identical to what the Yankees saw last night. Will the Nicky Lopez reign of terror continue? Only time will tell!
How to watch
Location: Truist Park — Atlanta, GA
First pitch: 7:20 pm ET
TV broadcast: Amazon Prime Video (NYY), Bally Sports South, MLBN (out-of-market only)
Radio broadcast: WFAN 660/101.9 FM, WADO 1280 / 680/93.7 FM The Fan, Le Mejor 1600/1460/1130 AM
Online stream: MLB.tv