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Game #2 Preview

Yankees (1-0) vs Blue Jays (0-1)

New York Yankees v Toronto Blue Jays Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images

Welcome to the second game of the season, where we quickly move on from the debacle that was the first game, and set our sights on securing an early season win.

Today’s game starts at 7:07 pm ET.

Blue Jays’ Starter

Aaron Sanchez gets the start today, looking to put the memory of a blister-filled 2017 behind him as soon as possible. You all know the story, so for the sake of sanity, I’m not going to rehash it here.

Sanchez had a good spring, throwing 17.2 innings while striking out 16 and only walking 2. If he can bring even some semblance of above average strikeout rate coupled with low walks, we’ll be in for a good season. His ERA crown winning 2016 season saw him strike out batters at 20.4% rate while only walking 8% of hitters. This year’s spring numbers are encouraging that he’s heading back in that direction, while still keeping the ball on the ground a lot with his sinking fastball.

Yankees’ Starter

Perhaps nobody else was as hurt by the home run revolution as Masahiro Tanaka. Tanaka put up the best strikeout rate of his career while keeping his walks at a near elite level. Yet the pitcher who put up a 3.12 ERA/3.53 FIP in his first 3 seasons with the Yankees completely disappeared as Tanaka allowed 35 home runs in 30 starts, leading to a 4.74 ERA/4.34 FIP. Other aspects of Tanaka’s pitching - such as his velocity and swinging strike rate - were the best of his career.

So coming into 2018, Yankee fans are hoping that Tanaka’s home run blip is over. If it is, he’s back to a very solid no.2 starter behind Luis Severino. If he’s as homer prone as last year, the Yankees will probably be a little more eager to make a move at the deadline. Considering the baseball climate we’re in, I would expect that he will still allow a lot of home runs, just probably not at the 21.2% HR/FB rate he was last year. As such, he’ll likely pull in a sub-4.00 ERA and be a solid pitcher for the Yankees all season - so long as his UCL continues to hold up.

Blue Jays’ Lineup

The big story coming out of yesterday was that Josh Donaldson could not throw a baseball. Nationwide chants of “Fire Gibby” have already started in earnest for letting such a player take the field. So, I’m hoping to see him at DH today (because I highly doubt they’ll just bench him - or DL him - to let him get over his “dead shoulder”).

So for today’s predicted lineup, I’m going with this based on yesterday’s decision, plus moving Donaldson to DH.

Devon Travis, 2B (career 112 wRC+ vs righties, 112 last 3 years, 71 last year)

Josh Donaldson, DH (134, 151, 144)

Justin Smoak, 1B (105, 113, 124)

Curtis Granderson, LF (128, 130, 114)

Russell Martin, C (103, 104, 110)

Randal Grichuk, RF (110, 111, 101)

Yangervis Solarte, 3B (111, 115, 108)

Kevin Pillar, CF (78, 80, 64)

Aledmys Diaz, SS (120, 120, 82)

Yankees’ Lineup

They scored 6 runs yesterday, pretty much on the strength of Giancarlo Stanton. Today, even though the Jays are going with a righty, the only change I can really foresee is maybe some shuffling of 5-8.

Brett Gardner, LF (108 career wRC+ against righties, 112 last 3 years, 124 last year)

Aaron Judge, DH (167, 167, 179)

Giancarlo Stanton, RF (137, 132, 144)

Gary Sanchez, C (146, 146, 130)

Didi Gregorius, SS (101, 101, 120)

Neil Walker, 2B (121, 117, 127)

Aaron Hicks, CF (80, 94, 119)

Brandon Drury, 3B (94, 94, 95)

Tyler Wade, 1B (29, 29, 29)

This is a much more balanced lineup against righties, as every hitter 1-7 had at least a 119 wRC+ vs righties last year. If Sanchez can keep the ball on the ground today while limiting the free passes, he has a chance. But man I’m already getting tired of this Yankee lineup.

Things to Watch For

As we saw yesterday, the Yankees bullpen (save for a Pillar home run off Betances) was pretty dominant, striking out 5 of the 11 batters they faced to end the game. They will continue to be a thorn in the side of every team they face this year.

Giancarlo Stanton destroyed the Blue Jays yesterday, but look out for Aaron Judge today, as he destroys righties with a lot more authority than Stanton does (which is still a lot). Navigating through that part of the order will once again, and for the next 5+ years, be a huge challenge.

Yesterday’s Heroes

Even though we thought Giancarlo Stanton was a monster yesterday, Matt Davidson of the White Sox went 3-4 with 3 home runs and a walk, powering the White Sox to a 14-7 win over the Royals.

By WPA, the hero yesterday was Denard Span of the Rays. He came up in the bottom of the 8th inning last night with his Rays down 4-2, looking at a bases loaded 2-out situation. He promptly cleared the bases with a triple, putting the Rays on top of the Red Sox (for good). That triple off Carson Smith was worth 0.638 WPA.

Yesterday’s starting pitching star was Dylan Bundy of the Baltimore Orioles, who threw 7 shutout innings, striking out 7 and walking 1, as the Orioles held off the Twins 3-2. Jake Odorizzi on the Twins had 6 shutout innings of his own, so the Baltimore fans in attendance were treated to a nice pitcher’s duel.

Milestone Watch

Yangervis Solarte didn’t make it into yesterday’s game, so he’s still sitting on 499 hits and 99 doubles.

Aaron Sanchez is making his 50 career start today, something that many people didn’t think he would ever do as recently as 2 years ago.

Find the Link

Find the Link between the Yankees starting pitcher and the Rays current Manager.