SB Nation Blog
The Opponent in one sentence
The Yankees are generally thought to be the best team in the American League and are in the conversation with the Dodgers for the best team in baseball, and they have a mission for a championship in 2020.
Up. Presumably their trend is going to be up pretty much this entire season, because their roster is just that talented. They were forced to sit out for a couple of days this past wee as they had been scheduled to play the Phillies, but they came back with two against the Orioles and won them both, including a late-game victory on Thursday thanks to a three-run homer from Aaron Judge in the ninth.
7/31: Ryan Weber vs. Jordan Montgomery, 7:05 PM ET (MLB Network)
If you’re looking for the best representation for just how bad this Red Sox rotation looks to start the season, look no further than Ryan Weber being the undisputed number three starter. To be fair to the righty, there is a way for him to be successful. He does not have big-time stuff, but there’s a fair amount of movement on his pitches and if he can command the edges of the zone he can get through a serviceable five or six innings. He’s particularly effective if he’s getting all of the borderline calls on the corners. If that sounds like an underwhelming review, well, it is. The more likely scenario is that Weber makes some mistakes with his mid-80s fastball and gets hit hard. We saw that against Baltimore in his first start of the year where he allowed six runs in just 3 2⁄3 innings. Now he has to face one of the best lineups in the sport. Should be fun!
A few years ago Montgomery looked like the next solid mid-rotation starter to thrive in the Yankees rotation for a decade, putting together an impressive rookie campaign in 2017. That year, he pitched to a 3.88 ERA over 29 starts with peripherals that suggested the performance was mostly real. He pitched similarly for six starts in 2018 before going down with injury and needing Tommy John. After some setbacks, the southpaw barley pitched at all in 2019 and was supposed to use this as a season in which he can prove he still has a future in this league. Friday night will be his first start of 2020, so it’s hard to know exactly what to expect, though he did look pretty good in camp. This data is relatively dated at this point, but in the past Montgomery has shown a wide repertoire with a low-90s sinker, a curveball (his best pitch), a changeup, a four-seamer and a slider.
8/1: Zack Godley vs. Masahiro Tanaka, 7:07 PM ET (FOX)
The Red Sox are desperate for someone to step up and grab hold of one of these back-of-the-rotation spots as the season goes on, and they got their first sign of life later in the game in Monday’s series-opener against the Mets. It was assumed going into that game that Godley would follow Josh Osich as the bulk arm after an opener, but instead he didn’t come in until the fifth. The Red Sox would regret that, as Godley was fantastic in his outing, tossing four scoreless innings with seven strikeouts and no walks. Of note was that the righty totally ditched his sinker for this outing, going almost totally curveball/cutter through those four frames. That’s the big thing to watch for in this start.
Tanaka was at the center of a scary moment at Yankees camp earlier this month when he took a line drive off the head from Giancarlo Stanton. Fortunately, things didn’t turn out to be too serious. The righty did start the season on the injured list, though, so this will be his first start of 2020. The Red Sox obviously have a ton of experience with Tanaka at this point since he has been a fixture in this Yankees rotation since 2014. We’ve seen all ends of the spectrum, too. Last season, Tanaka was very inconsistent, finishing the year with a 4.45 ERA (which was league-average in 2019’s run environment) with his strikeout rate falling way off compared to the previous two seasons. He had some trouble getting the grip he wanted on his splitter last season, and if that pitch isn’t working he is much easier to hit. Look for the effectiveness of that pitch in this outing. Beyond the splitter, Tanaka also throws a slider and a low-90s fastball.
8/2: TBD vs. James Paxton 7:08 PM ET (ESPN)
The Red Sox are still waiting to figure out their plan on Sunday night. Matt Hall got the start at this spot in the rotation the first time through, but he didn’t exactly inspire a ton of confidence. Ideally, the Red Sox would be able to find a righty for this one, though there’s not a great option there either. I would probably like to see Heath Hembree serve as an opener, but then after that I’m not sure. My guess is that Chris Mazza will be the bulk guy in this one if he’s not needed earlier in the series, but that’s not based on any inside information.
This will be the only starter the Red Sox see this weekend who has already made a start this season, and it just so happens to be the man who took the mound for New York’s only loss so far. Paxton pitched the second game of the year for the Yankees against the Nationals but only recorded three outs. He did pitch in the second inning, but didn’t record an out. In all he allowed three runs on five hits, a walk and a strikeout. There were real reasons for concern here as well, as his fastball velocity was down sitting at 92 mph compared to his normal 95. The Red Sox should be able to get to the former Mariners ace if he’s still not able to get that velocity up. Along with the heat, Paxton features a cutter and a curveball.
Notable Position Players
Aaron Judge remains one of the better players in baseball and the best player on this Yankees team, and he reminded us of his power with the game-winning homer in Thursday’s game against the Orioles. He’ll strike out a lot, but whenever he doesn’t strike out the result is usually scary.
Giancarlo Stanton is healthy again for the Yankees and is reminding everyone of what he does. That is: Destroy baseballs. Even if they don’t leave the yard (he does have a couple of homers) they are hit very, very hard.
Gleyber Torres is the challenger to Judge as the best player on the Yankees moving forward as a solid middle infielder who can hit for big-time power.
Gary Sánchez is having a terrible start to his season, still looking for his first hit of the year and striking out in two-thirds of his plate appearances.
DJ LeMahieu is one of those players who really annoys you when you’re on the other side because he hits everything, and often finds a way to turn that contact into hits.
Aaron Hicks was one of the benefactors of the late start as he was supposed to miss the first half of the year after undergoing Tommy John surgery. He’s celebrated with some power, walks and strikeouts early on.
Luke Voit looked like a potential fluke after his big first out-of-nowhere impression with the Yankees, but he’s done nothing but hit in the time since. Unfortunately, it’s time to accept he’s just a really good hitter.
Gio Urshela was one of many 2019 breakouts for the Yankees, and he’s looking to go the route of Voit and prove it was no fluke.
Brett Gardner is in a platoon this year but should play most of the weekend. Like Sánchez, he’s looking for his first hit of 2020.
Zack Britton is not the same guy he was in his prime back in Baltimore, but he’s serving as the Yankees closer for now and is still very, very difficult to get up in the air. The best strategy is probably just to force him to throw strikes.
Tommy Kahnle is just one a brutal threesome of set up righties in this bullpen. He hasn’t been totally consistent year-to-year, but he’s as good as anyone in this unit when he’s on.
Adam Ottavino, like Britton, has some big-time control issues, but if he is hitting the zone he and his slider are near-impossible to hit.
Chad Green doesn’t get the respect he should among these other relievers, but his ability to control the zone is probably the best in this unit. He does have a tendency to give up some hard contact from time to time, though.
Luis Severino was supposed to form a great one-two punch with Gerrit Cole (who the Red Sox fortunately miss this weekend), but he was forced to undergo Tommy John surgery back in March and will miss this whole season.
Aroldis Chapman tested positive for COVID in camp. He seems to be recovering well, but his timeline to return is still unclear.
Luis Cessa is also working his way back from COVID, though he seems further along than Chapman.
There is a little bit of weather in the area for this weekend with thunderstorms in the forecast on both Friday and Sunday. For Friday, it may cause a delay to start the game if anything, but the game should get in. Sunday is less clear, but right now we can be cautiously optimistic.