NYY vs. TOR: Our lucky charm vs. Kikuchi

I’ve been to Toronto, but I’ve never been to The Rogers Centre (it was SkyDome when I was in the city) so if you’ve been there, perhaps you can help me out: I know that there is a hotel, restaurants, and shops on the grounds – is there any place that Yankees fans can buy brooms? (He typed, with a smirk…)

With a 9-1 beat down of the blue birds’ bullpen last night, the Yankees extended their win streak to 11 and their AL East lead to 3.5 games. They’ve also set themselves up for a three-game sweep of likely their biggest competition for the AL East crown, or at the very least Wild Card positioning.

The Yankees used the same formula they’ve been using through most of 2022 last night: The starter pitches well for five or six innings, then the bullpen comes in and throws three or four shutout innings. Add a few key hits from the offense, and it’s Sinatra time.

It’s hard not to be optimistic given the way things have been going, but tonight looks like a real good matchup for the Bombers. They’ll be facing Toronto’s 30-year-old left-hander Yusei Kikuchi, while Nestor Cortes gets the ball for the road grays.

Kikuchi is in his fourth season (second with Toronto) and has never been particularly good. He’s made 74 starts in his career and over 380.1 IP, wears an 85 ERA+ and 4.99 FIP. He’ll be making his fifth start of 2022 – the first was on April 12th when the Yankees touched him for five hits and three runs in 3.1 innings – and it’s been a rough go so far. He’s walked batters at a higher rate than 97 percent of MLB pitchers while also yielding very hard contact. (I’m not a pitching coach, but I think that’s a very bad combination.) He features a four-seamer, cutter, and slider, with the first two showing a proclivity to find middle-middle in the zone often.

Meanwhile, Nestor Cortes has been the polar opposite. You may remember that on July 4th of last year, Gerrit Cole blew a three-run lead to the Mets at Yankee Stadium, then Aroldis Chapman imploded in what would be a humiliating 10-5 loss, and the low point of the 2021 season. In the second game of the doubleheader, Cortes made his first start of 2021 and only the third of his career and led the Yankees to a 4-2 win in the nightcap. The Yankees were 41-41 entering action that night and have gone 69-35 since.

Of course, there are plenty of other factors that go into that, but Cortes being one of the best 15 pitchers in the AL over that span – maybe top 10 – has had a huge impact on the swing in the team’s fortune. So far in 2022, remarkably, Cortes ranks in the 87th percentile or better in MLB in xwOBA, xERA, xBA, xSLG, K%, and BB%.

Tonight’s matchup looks great for New York, but ya’ gotta play the game. The first pitch from Toronto is at 7:07 PM, EDT. You can watch the game on the YES Network, the MLB Network, and stream it on MLB.tv. John and Suzyn will have the radio call on WFAN 101.9/660 and WADO 1280. As always, give me a follow @mybaseballpage1 and on the “My Baseball Page” on Facebook.

Heave ho, 12 in a row!

Tonight’s lineup:

LeMahieu 2B
Judge RF
Rizzo 1B
Stanton DH
Donaldson 3B
Hicks CF
Gallo LF
Kiner-Falefa SS
Higashioka C

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