Looking Ahead to the Yankees' First Week Back

The last time I wrote a weekly forecast for the Yankees, maybe a month or so ago, the feel was optimistic. They had a week full of unspectacular pitchers to look forward to, and they took advantage of each one of them. This next week will be a bit different. On tap the Yankees will face Seattle then Baltimore, before heading to Minnesota - all while clinging to a 3.5-game lead on the Tampa Bay Rays and a 4-game difference over the Baltimore Orioles. They'll all be coming out with guns blazing, showcasing their best pitching talent.

Friday, July 17th vs Seattle - Masahiro Tanaka (5-3, 3.63 ERA) vs Mike Montgomery (4-3, 2.29 ERA)

Montgomery has been solid since the Yankees last saw him make his Major League debut June 2nd. A 2.62 K:BB ratio is nothing to shake fist at, and his HR/FB rate (5.4%) is encouraging - especially as he enters Yankee Stadium. Limited walks combined with a low tendency to allow home runs makes this a difficult matchup for the Yankees on paper, especially since they've hit lefties worse this season (.242 BA vs. .259). For Tanaka, this is a prime chance to build some momentum. He was solid his last time out in a win against the A's on the 9th, and he'll look to string together three straight starts with three or fewer runs allowed, after allowing 11 over two straight to end June.

Saturday, July 18th vs Seattle - Michael Pineda (9-5) vs Hisashi Iwakuma (1-1, 5.22 ERA)

Ah, always nice to have Michael Pineda throw against the Mariners. He might even get to face Jesus Montero, who the Yankees traded for him! That would be fun. If I had to guess, I'd say Montero homers to right off of him.

Don't let the numbers fool you, Iwakuma can throw. He had a few brutal outings before going on the DL in April,and struggled in his return on July 6th. He then went out and impressed against the Angels, throwing eight scoreless innings with 6 K's, and just three hits allowed. The crafty 35 year-old was very dependable last year and should give the Yankees trouble.

Sunday, July 19th vs Seattle - C.C. Sabathia (4-8, 5.47 ERA) vs Felix Hernandez (11-5, 2.84 ERA)

I will say this - it would not surprise me to see C.C. have a decent outing against the Mariners' offense, who don't scare many pitchers. That said, the Yankees used up their get-to-king-felix-for-a-million-runs card already so I think we can safely say King Felix will be King Felix.

Tuesday, July 21st vs Baltimore - Nate Eovaldi (9-2, 4.50 ERA) vs Wei-Yin Chen (4-5, 2.78 ERA)

Eovaldi is a different guy at Yankee Stadium, with a .273 BAA and 3.72 ERA in 8 home starts. He'll need to be on, as runs should be at a premium in this game. Chen's 3.60 K:BB is nice, and he's gone at least seven innings in four of his last five starts (went eight three times). He will hang around and is another guy who limits walks, with just a 5.7% rate. That's big against the Yankees, who eat pitchers alive by taking lots of pitches outside the zone. and working counts.

Wednesday, July 22nd vs Baltimore - Ivan Nova (1-3, 3.42 ERA) vs Kevin Gausman (1-1, 5.00 ERA)

Nova's 4.60 FIP certainly shows that his ERA is due to regress a bit, and his last two outings have trended in that direction as well, as his ERA has gone from 1.50, to 2.65, to 3.42. That said, Nova did induce 14 ground balls last time out, which is a season-high. As a ground-ball pitcher, that's great to see - especially when your home ballpark is dangerous to pitch in.

Don't look at Gausman's ERA whatsoever - just don't do it. He's pitched out of the pen a bunch this season, and also spent time in AAA. That means his mileage is low (27.0 IP). He had been pretty sturdy at the Major League level in 2015, bringing his ERA all the way down to 3.09 after a couple nice starts against Toronto and Texas. Then, he blew up against the best team in baseball, the Twins! Well, they're not the best team they're just maybe the most fun team. Anyway, Gausman is a guy who's just three years out of LSU and was quite good for the O's last year. He started 20 games with a .685 OPS against him. The bottom line is, though, that this is the most winnable of the six games for the Yankees. And, it should be the one that's the most up-for-grabs, given Nova's trend.

Thursday, July 23rd vs Baltimore - Masahiro Tanaka (5-3, 3.63 ERA) vs Ubaldo Jimenez (7-4, 2.81 ERA)

Jimenez has probably been Baltimore's second-best starter, as the 31 year-old has only allowed more than 3 ER twice this season. Last time he faced the Yankees back on June 12th, the Orioles won 11-3, but Jimenez lasted just 5 innings, giving up three runs and six hits. And then there's this - he's allowed one run and 17 hits over his last 20 innings (spanning three starts). He's on a roll.

The Yankees would love a second-straight AL East series win. Baltimore is seen by many as the one team that could really be playing a lot better, and the last thing New York wants to do is let them even closer to the front of the race.

As you can see, these pitching matchups are no joke. Gausman is the worst of the bunch, and even he is a guy who I feel fairly confident will give the Orioles a quality start. Pitching will need to be on point in this series, as it's doubtful the offense will post big numbers. Get ready for what could be a tumultuous week.