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Game #31 Preview: Kikuchi vs Severino

Blue Jays (17-13) vs Yankees (20-8)

MLB: MAY 08 Blue Jays at Guardians Photo by Frank Jansky/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

After a rough week of baseball, the Blue Jays finally got an off day yesterday, and will now open up a short two game series in New York taking on the Yankees. The first pitch tonight is at 7:05 ET.

Blue Jays’ Starter

Yusei Kikuchi will look to improve on his up and down season, making his sixth start. So far this year, Kikuchi is 1-1 with a 4.35 ERA over 20.2 innings. He has struggled mightily at times with issuing walks, including 5 in 3.2 innings against the Astros. Among the 133 pitchers with at least 20 innings in the Majors this year, Kikuchi has the 4th highest walk rate at 6.10 per 9 innings.

Of course, it hasn’t all been bad for Kikuchi. His last start, against these very same Yankees last Wednesday, was a really good one. He went 6 innings, allowing 1 run on 3 hits and just a single walk, and he also struck out a season high 7. For a pitcher constantly making adjustments, it was great to see him find success, so hopefully he is able to bring that success forward.

Yankees’ Starter

Getting the ball for the Yankees will be Luis Severino, and despite missing most of the last few seasons, he has really picked it up pretty well this year. Through his first 5 starts and 24 innings, he is 2-0 with a 3.75 ERA, as well as a very similar 3.79 FIP. He has just 23 strikeouts, much lower than the approximately 10.5 per 9 inning rate he had when he was at the top of his game. But he’s still doing well enough limiting walks (7) and home runs (3). He’s also doing a great job managing hard contact, coming in in 90th percentile ranking of average exit velocity (the higher the percentile ranking there the better).

This will be Severino’s second start against the Jays this season, and his first one was his best overall. He went 5 innings in that one, throwing 83 pitches as he ramped up his workload. He didn’t allow a run while allowing a pair of hits and a pair of walks, striking out 6.

Blue Jays’ Lineup

They’ve certainly been struggling recently, and all season, but they’re also almost back to full strength now that Teoscar is back in the fold. There’s too much talent here to see them continue to struggle as much as they have, including an MLB worst .187 average with runners in scoring position (league average is .233 overall, .243 with RISP).

I’m guessing Alejandro Kirk catches both today and tomorrow thanks to the off days sandwiching this series. That means that Zack Collins probably gets a run at DH, and hopefully he can get his bat going. He has just 1 hit in his last 22 PA, although that one was at least a pretty big 2-run double. While he has cooled back down considerably since his hot streak a couple weeks ago, he’s also the kind of hitter that can hopefully take advantage of the pathetic dimensions of Yankee Stadium.

Yankees’ Lineup

The Yankees remarkably still have near-perfect health from their brittle position players, helping them sustain their hot stretch, although the bats had a pretty quiet weekend against the Rangers. Including their 2-1 loss against Kikuchi and the Jays last week, they’ve now gone 4 games in a row where they have scored either 1 or 2 runs.

Kyle Higashioka is likely the one catching today, as he seems to have shifted to be just the weak side of a platoon at this point. Neither Higashioka (25 wRC+) nor Jose Trevino (34 wRC+) are hitting at all.

Joey Gallo has started to turn his season around, but is still hitting just .183/.284/.324 (87 wRC+) with just 3 home runs on the season. But he is certainly heating up, getting at least 1 hit in 8 of his last 11 starts. After his 4-33 start, he has a 142 wRC+ since April 21.

Yesterday’s Heroes

Josh Naylor had a game to remember yesterday. He went 3-5 with a pair of home runs, a double and a walk. He drove in 8 runs, all in the 8th inning or later. That obviously gets him the Monster Bat award, but focusing on the fact that he got 8 RBI in the 8th inning or later, that probably means he contributed a lot of WPA as well and got himself the WPA King trophy. His 8th inning double moved the marker just .025, as it made it a 5-2 game. But his 2-out 9th inning grand slam that tied it up at 8 was worth .371 WPA. And then his 11th inning 3-run home run was worth another .598 WPA, running his daily total WPA to .981. Thanks to Naylor, the Guardians completed their comeback win, beating the White Sox 12-9.

Kyle Hendricks came 1 out short of throwing a shutout, pitching 8.2 innings of 3 hit ball, walking one and striking out 7. His lone walk came in the 9th inning, and with 116 pitches already thrown, his night was over. But it was still a great outing, good enough to earn him the Pitcher of the Day award, and also the win as his Cubs beat the Padres 6-0.

Find the Link

Find the link between Joey Gallo and Mike Pagliarulo.

Stats retrieved from Fangraphs and Baseball Savant