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Game #5 Preview: Kikuchi vs Cortes

Blue Jays (3-1) vs Yankees (2-2)

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

The Blue Jays continue their four game series against the Yankees at Yankee Stadium this evening, with game two set to be played today. The game is scheduled for the regular 7:05 ET start.

Blue Jays’ Starter

Free agent signing Yusei Kikuchi will make his Blue Jays’ debut, probably doing so with the least favourable matchup for him with a roster full of right handed batters for him to face. Throughout his career, Kikuchi has had quite dramatic platoon splits, with lefties hitting to a .279 wOBA over 344 PA, while righties have a .359 wOBA over 1237 PA. For context, a .279 wOBA is what Billy McKinney put up last year, while a .359 wOBA is what Salvador Perez put up last year.

Kikuchi is coming off his best overall season, but still didn’t achieve the results his Mariners were hoping for when they originally signed him out of Japan. In 157 innings over 29 starts, he went 7-9 with a 4.41 ERA and a fairly similar 4.61 FIP. If that’s the floor the Jays are working with, that’s a pretty great place to start to for a 5th starter. Unfortunately he had also been a fair bit worse the previous two seasons, and he’s pitching like he was in his rookie campaign (5.46 ERA, 5.71 FIP), his time in the rotation will be limited.

Yankees’ Starter

2021 breakout pitcher Nestor Cortes will make his season debut for the Yankees, looking to replicate his 2021 season as opposed to the three prior years that saw him accumulate negative WAR for three different teams. But in 2021 he finally put together a strong season over 93 innings. He went 2-3 with a 2.90 ERA, although that significantly outshone his 3.78 FIP. He struck out nearly 10 batters per 9 innings, while walking just 2.42 per 9 and allowing home runs at about a league average rate.

Cortes will be the first left handed starter the Jays will face this year. He will undoubtedly do whatever he can to throw off the Jays’ batters timing, as that is something he has tinkered with in the past. So if annoying pitcher deliveries make the game hard to watch for you, I would advise maybe waiting a few innings before tuning in to this game.

Blue Jays’ Lineup

Expect to see a full contingent of right handed batters, although that was always seemingly going to happen. Cavan Biggio is the only lefty who might play after not starting last night, but there is no way to justify Espinal being on the bench today.

With Danny Jansen heading to the IL yesterday, the Jays called up switch hitting catcher Tyler Heineman to take his roster spot. It will most likely be Heineman to be behind the plate today, with Alejandro Kirk getting the start at DH, but Kirk will need to pick up some of the starts behind the plate with Jansen down, so maybe catching Kikuchi is the way to go.

Yankees’ Lineup

This will be the first time they’re facing a lefty starter as well, but that doesn’t seem to make it likely that they’ll do anything different. Perhaps they’ll give Joey Gallo a day off.

Yesterday’s lineup was missing their two new additions to the left side of the infield in Josh Donaldson and Isiah Kiner-Falefa. It appeared to be just a regular day of rest for both, although I didn’t think Kiner-Falefa was a player that needed much for load management. Regardless, it would appear that both are healthy and will be back in the lineup tonight.

Yesterday’s Heroes

Maikel Franco went 4-5 with a home run and a double, driving in 5 runs to pick up the Monster Bat award. His output helped his Nationals beat the defending World Series Champion Braves in Atlanta by a score of 11-2.

Willie Calhoun hit a pinch 2-out game tying home run in the bottom of the 9th to preserve the Rangers’ Home Opener, and giving Calhoun the WPA King Trophy. Calhoun’s .489 WPA wasn’t enough though, as the Rockies scored 2 in top of the 10th and walked away with a 6-4 victory.

Alek Manoah’s outstanding outing against the Yankees last night nets him the Pitcher of the Day award. He threw 6 shutout innings, allowing just 1 hit with 4 walks and 7 strikeouts, while also managing to not hit a batter. The Blue Jays rode his powerful arm to the 3-0 win.

Find the Link

Find the link between Nestor Cortes and the Blue Jays’ save streak record holder.

Stats retrieved from Fangraphs and Baseball Savant