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Yankees Series Preview: It begins

The two best teams in the AL East have their first meeting late in 2022.

MLB: New York Yankees at Tampa Bay Rays Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The Tampa Bay Rays completed a mini two game sweep against the Miami Marlins before they host the New York Yankees for a four game matchup amongst the top two teams in the American League East. It is the first head to head matchup between teams this season.

The Yankees hold a 4.5 game lead on the Rays, 7.5 games ahead of the Toronto Blue Jays, 10.5 games ahead of the Boston Red Sox, and 13.5 games ahead of the Baltimore Orioles.


Thursday 6:40 PM: Nestor Cortes vs Ryan Yarbrough
Friday 7:10 PM: Jameson Taillon vs Jeffrey Springs
Saturday 4:10 PM: Gerrit Cole vs Corey Kluber
Sunday 1:40 PM: Luis Severino vs Shane McClanahan

Nestor Cortes has been one of the best pitchers in 2022. He has a 1.80 ERA/2.58 FIP/2.77 xFIP, with a strikeout rate that has surged to 32.4% while his walk rate has remained low at 6.4%. Cortes doesn’t blow you away with the stuff that you would expect from a pitcher that has been this dominant. He works off a 90.5 mph four-seam fastball and 85.9 mph cutter. He throws a 76.6 mph slider that hasn’t gotten results and is by far his most hittable pitch. He will occasionally throw a 82.5 mph changeup but is thrown less than 5% of the time.

Jameson Taillon has rebounded to his pre-TJS numbers. He’s put up a 2.95 ERA/3.23 FIP/3.69 xFIP that are in line with his 2018 season numbers. The way he’s gotten there is a little different. He’s never posted more than average strikeout numbers but this year it’s down to 19.1%. The biggest gain has been from the near nonexistent 2.8% walk rate. Taillon throws a 94.0 mph four-seam fastball, 85.9 mph slider, 80.9 mph curveball, and 90.0 mph cutter. All four pitches are capable of getting swings and misses.

Gerrit Cole has been his usual self with a 3.31 ERA/2.98 FIP/2.75 xFIP. His strikeout rate has fallen below 30% for the first time since 2017, but it’s only dropped to 29.4%. He limits walks with a 5.7% walk rate. Cole brings a 97.6 mph four-seam fastball as his primary pitch throwing it 50% of the time. His go to secondary pitch is a 87.9 mph slider and is his best swing and miss pitch. He will add a 91.9 mph cutter, 82.7 mph curveball, and 89.5 mph changeup.

Luis Severino has returned for his first full season after undergoing Tommy John surgery. He’s put up a 3.02 ERA/3.69 FIP/3.65 xFIP. He’s not quite up to his 2017-18 numbers, but it’s been a fantastic start to the season. His strikeout rate is down to 24.4% but he’s only walked 6.3% of batters. Before surgery he posted strikeout rates in the 30% range, so he’s not quite in his best form. Severino thows a 96.3 mph four-seam fastball roughly half the time as his primary pitch. His go to seconary pitch is a 89.3 mph changeup. His best swing and miss pitch is a 84.9 mph slider.

MLB: New York Yankees at Chicago White Sox
Nestor Cortes
Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports

The demise of the Yankees offense was greatly exaggerated.

Last year the Yankees offense was not as great as expected. It was a middle of the pack. This year they are up to .241/.321/.414 and putting up a 117 wRC+. Their average isn’t great but they lead the league in homeruns.

Aaron Judge’s bet on himself has gotten off to a strong start. He’s hitting .313/.383/.688 and putting up a 209 wRC+ and hit 17 homers. Josh Donadlson (130 wRC+) and Anthony Rizzo (145 wRC+) have been big offseason pickups.

DJ LeMahieu (112 wRC+) has rebounded from a rough 2021. Gleyber Torres (113 wRC+) has started to perform at the plate despite the lack of on base skills. Really only Joey Gallo (86 wRC+) and Aaron Hicks (83 wRC+) have struggled.

Timing is everything.

After avoiding injuries for the first six weeks of the season the Yankees have been hit hard over the last week.

Giancarlo Stanton was placed on the Injured List yesterday and has been one of the hottest hitters in the game, near or at the top of the leaderboard in both hard-hit rate and barrel rate this season. Pitchers Aroldis Chapman, Chad Green, and Jonathan Loasiga are all missing from the bullpen for the series.

While it’s surprising the Rays have not met up with the Yankees more than a quarter into the season, their first four of 19 meetings comes at an opportunistic time with several names on the injured list.