I wrote somewhat conservatively last week about the West Coast swing the New York Yankees faced despite facing two struggling teams. The week really could not have gone better (other than the Chad Green meltdown that cost the one loss). They went 7-1 for the week and kept pace with the still-winning Bay Rays. The Yankees end their trip with two games against the highly competitive Diamondbacks and then fly home for a weekend set against the Twins. Let's take a look at the week ahead.
Tonight, the Yankees face Zack Greinke and counter with CC Sabathia. The Diamondbacks are 16-13 and battling the Dodgers for the NL West division. And they have a good team, which is surprising considering who departed this season, namely Paul Goldschmidt. To this point, that deal is looking just fine as his replacement at first base, Christian Walker, leads Diamondback position players in WAR and is having a terrific season.
He is not alone. Many of the offensive players on the team are batting well as the team is currently ranked first in slugging percentage in the NL and fifth in OPS. The only batting weaknesses they have are at short, second and behind the plate. Heck, even Zack Greinke has an OPS of 1.731 with two homers.
Greinke is homer-prone, but has won four of his five decisions and has looked particularly good lately. The second starter (tomorrow) is a 30-year-old journeyman getting his first shot in the big leagues: Merrill Kelly. Kelly should be an easier task than Greinke, but the Yankees should be very familiar with Greinke as an organization.
The Diamondbacks' bullpen is deep and talented. After some injury-plagued seasons, Greg Holland is back to being dominant as the closer. Archie Bradley, Yoshihisa Hirano and Andrew Chafin have all been effective. The one caveat with this bullpen is allowing free passes as all of their top relievers are averaging four walks per nine or more. But then again, the same can be said of the Yankees' bullpen.
Neither Gio Urshela nor DJ LeMahieu are in the lineup tonight, which is not good news and are huge losses in this hodgepodge lineup. If the Yankees are to win tonight, Sabathia and the bullpen will need to be sharp and hope the Yankees can scratch out a few runs. At least Sabathia knows what a bat looks like.
Tomorrow, it will be Masahiro Tanaka and the aforementioned Kelly, which seems a wash to me. Tanaka, in my humble opinion, is always a fifty-fifty proposition whenever he takes the mound.
After an off day on Thursday, the Yankees will face the Twins at home. The Twins at Yankee Stadium have always been a welcome sight. But they are a good team this year. They are in first place in the AL Central with a sparkling 17-9 record. Led by new manager, Rocco Baldelli, the Twins are no longer the fusty, old-fashioned team we are used to. Joe Mauer is gone.
The Twins' offense has been effective. Heck, Eddie Rosario has eleven homers already and Byron Buxton has twelve doubles! They are first in the AL in OPS. The Twins' bullpen might be one of their biggest strengths and they are getting surprisingly good starting pitching considering its rotation makeup.
I am expecting a split in Arizona and a 2-1 edge over the Twins. That Twins series could go the other way, however and in a heartbeat.
With two more injuries, this time to Urshela and LeMahieu, how much more can this Yankee lineup be stretched? Success this week will totally depend on how well they pitch. If they do not pitch well, the week could be a long, long one.
One of the great Yankees sites closed its doors this week as River Avenue Blues called it quits after twelve years. I have been blogging for a long, long, long time and I know how hard it is to keep the drive going. But these guys set the standard for all things Yankees and they were a must read. I remember when working for "It's About The Money Stupid," a favorite saying among the writers when a good idea was written about, only to have it beaten into print by RAB, was, "We've been Axisa-ed again!" Good luck to all their writers and a hearty thank you for their work over the years. One of the best things you could say about them was that they were never jerks or arrogant on Twitter despite being the leaders of the pack. Well done, folks
Chad Green had a terrific first outing for the Triple-A team as he struck out five in two innings without allowing a run. Let's see if he can repeat that a few times because the Yankees really need him.