Featured Photo Credit: The Associated Press
It’s a short series coming up in the Bronx as the Yankees and Nationals will attempt to play each other at Yankee Stadium (remember the last time these two tried to play?). The Yankees enter the weekend trying to fend off the Red Sox, while Washington looks to take control of the NL East. Here’s a six-inning preview for this short, two-game set:
1st inning – Yankees trying to find success vs. Washington – Since 2009 when the Yankees and Nationals first started playing each other, the New Yorkers have only been able to win a series once in four tries against the Nation’s Capital. This was a three-game sweep back in 2012. New York is 2-3 at Yankee Stadium vs. Washington.
2nd inning – Return of the Murph – What better way for a lefty power hitter to get back in the groove than to hit in the lefty-friendly Yankee Stadium? Well, New York pitching will have to deal with it this week when Daniel Murphy returns after being activated from the 10-day disabled list this afternoon. Combine this with Harper, and Yankee pitching will have their hands full trying to protect their short porch.
3rd inning – Opportunities abundant for Gray, Sabathia – With Masahiro Tanaka on the 10-day DL (and possibly out longer), it is put up or shut up time for Sonny Gray and CC Sabathia against a very good lineup from the Nationals. Both are coming off solid starts with Sabathia throwing two-run, three-hit ball in seven innings in Toronto and Sonny Gray tossed eight innings of shutout baseball, but did not get a decision in New York’s 13-inning win. Both pitchers will have a chance to climb into the No. 2 role and prove they are worthy of that spot until Masa returns.
4th inning – Bullpen… back to normal? – After what was undoubtedly a shaky start, the Yankees bullpen, led by the resurgences of Dellin Betances (*gasp*) and David Robertson, seems like it is back to the vaunted staff that it was supposed to be in April. Currently sitting sixth in ERA, second in batting average against and first in strikeouts, the goal of five innings and handing it off to the bullpen might seem sufficient once again.
5th inning – Offense’s time to wake up – Valid excuses can be given for the Yanks’ lack of run support this weekend: they did face very good Met (starting) pitching. But this week is a prime time for the Pinstripes to wake up the bats. They avoid Scherzer and are still awaiting their Wednesday opposition on the mound (Tanner Roark is slated for Tuesday), only to take on the lowly Tampa Bay Rays for four in the Bronx. With Seattle and Boston on the horizon, this would be an opportune time to steal some wins against the American League’s best.
6th inning – Seeking RISPect – Punny headline aside, the Yankees have to improve in this department. While Aaron Judge is a respectable .271 with runners in scoring position, the rest of the Yankees’ power alley must do better, including Gary Sanchez (.236), Giancarlo Stanton (.207), Didi Gregorious (.196) and Greg Bird (.083).
Extra Innings – Two strikes and you’re out? – The Yankees are known for their resiliency on offense, but this is in big picture situations. When they are down to their final strike in an at-bat, the Yankees struggle mightily compared to one and no strike counts. In two-strike counts, their highest average is in a 2-2 situation, where they’re hitting .194. On 0-1 counts and counts with at least one ball, the lowest average for Yankee hitters is during 1-1 situations (.339). During three of these situations (2-0, 3-0, 3-1), New York is hitting over .400 as a team. Just some food for thought as you watch Roark and whatever Nationals pitcher throws on Wednesday deal to the home team.
Follow me on Twitter @lilboon for my analysis throughout the season and check back here for more recaps and previews throughout the summer.