The New York Yankees enter the second week in May and continue to hang on despite their incredible string of injuries. The two-game sweep by Arizona last week was unfortunate but taking two of three from a much-improved Minnesota Twins helped ease the pain a little bit. This could be an important week as the Yankees face two unexpectedly good teams in the Mariners and Bay Rays.
As expected, the Red Sox are starting to right their ship and are only a game under .500. They just lost David Price with elbow problems, but are in good shape otherwise. Also as expected, the Rays are not running away with the AL East as the opening weeks of the season seemed to portend. I did not believe it then and I do not believe it now. Still, they are a smart team and will pose problems for the Yankees this coming weekend, especially at their stink-house, Tropicana Field. More on that later.
First, the Yankees must deal with the Seattle Mariners who come to Yankee Stadium for a four-game set. The Mariners started on fire and were the big story (along with the Rays) in the AL at the start of the season. But they have lost nine of the team's last twelve games and the Astros have regained their expected spot at the top of the AL West. Frankly, the Mariners are a team with a ton of holes.
First off, the Mariners' current rotation consists of Felix Hernandez who, at this stage of his career, sort of resembles Pedro Martinez in his Mets days. There has been a lot of gas leaked out of his arm over the long haul and his reputation will get him a while, but he's no longer a great pitcher. The rest of the rotation consists of Mike Leake, Marco Gonzalez (who will come back to earth), Yusei Kikuchi and Eric Swanson. Despite Gonzalez's early success, Kikuchi and Swanson might be their best two. The Yankees will face the entire rotation except for Swanson.
The Mariners lead the American League in homers. Who saw that coming? But along with those homers comes many, many strikeouts as they lead the AL in that category too. This drags their OPS down to third in the AL and falling. However, Edwin Encarnacion always gives the Yankees fits and they have a DH named, Daniel Vogelbach, who is killing the ball and does not strike out a lot. Mitch Haniger is probably the team's best all-around player.
The Yankees will start CC Sabathia tonight which means two starting pitchers with 951 combined MLB starts, but their better days behind them. Which one can spin the most magic tonight? Masahiro Tanaka--always a 50-50 proposition--will be battling with Marco Estrada tomorrow. The Yankees have not announced a starter for Wednesday, but it could be Jonathan Loaisiga taking what was James Paxton's spot. JA Happ will face Kikuchi on Thursday.
Clint Frazier is back and in the lineup for the Yankees tonight and will play right field. That should help. The Yankees have wisely listened to me (heh) and are DHing Miguel Andujar and starting Gio Urshela at third. Nice. The lineup looks more potent than it has in more than a week now but Luke Voit has been slumping the last couple of games.
It would be nice if the Yankees could win three of four of these games and they are certainly capable of that. The Mariners' bullpen and the Yankees' bullpen have both been an adventure and it might come down to which team's pen performs better. The minimum is that the Yankees have to at least split this series.
After Thursday's game, the Yankees will fly down to that house of horrors in St. Petersburg to play the Tampa Bay Rays. The Rays' offense is just middle of the road and the Yankees will catch them with Joey Wendle and Austin Meadows on the DL. Meadows has been a nice break out star and losing him hurts the Rays. Brandon Lowe and Tommy Pham are their two best remaining offensive players.
It will be a tough three game series for the Yankees offensively. They will miss Charlie Morton who gives them fits, but they will probably see Blake Snell at the end of the weekend (though he has struggled a bit lately) and definitely will see this year's wunderkind, Taylor Glasnow. Glasnow has been amazing thus far. I mean, super amazing.
There is a possibility of Aaron Hicks being ready for the weekend series, but frankly, the Yankees should wait until after the Tampa series. Why have Hicks running around on that green concrete as his first taste back?
My gut feelings is that facing Snell and Glasnow and thinking about the Yankees at that horror field and their lack of success there, the Yankees will be fortunate to win one of the three games. That is why winning three against the Mariners is important. This is certainly a week where the Yankees need to hold their own because, on review, it could be a long, long week for Yankee fans.