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Oakland A's-Yankees series preview: Rumble in the Bronx

The Athletics head east to hopefully begin their surge to contention in a very flat American League.

Yankees catcher Brian McCann celebrates his game-winning three-run home run on July 3.
Yankees catcher Brian McCann celebrates his game-winning three-run home run on July 3.
Mike Stobe/Getty Images

The New York Yankees (44-38) lead the American League East division by 1½ games, but they dropped three out of four games when they visited the Oakland Athletics (38-47) at the Coliseum last May. Can the A's repeat that performance and win another series against the Yankees? They'll have to do it against a Bronx Bombers squad that has won three of its last four games.

Weather may be a factor in this series with Weather Underground showing chances of thunderstorms for the next three days. Wednesday has the greatest danger for a rain delay or even an outright postponement, though it's looking like that storm should taper off if they wait long enough. Overcast skies are predicted for Thursday's day game.

On the mound

Starter Ranks
A's AL Rank Yankees
1st (3.00) ERA 10th (4.32)
1st (3.37) FIP 6th (3.82)
7th (3.75) xFIP 2nd (3.55)

The A's will see neither Michael Pineda (best K/BB ratio amongst qualified American League starters) nor Ivan Nova on this three-game trip. Instead, they'll go up against Nathan Eovaldi, CC Sabathia, and Masahiro Tanaka.

Tuesday vs. RHP Nathan Eovaldi

Tuesday (4:05 PM PDT)
Sonny Gray vs. Nathan Eovaldi
2.09 ERA 4.52
2.66 FIP 3.75
3.28 xFIP 3.84
22.9% K% 16.2%
6.1% BB% 6.4%
1.69 GB/FB 1.83

Nathan Eovaldi's ERA+ of 88 is tied for 34th out of 49 American League qualified starters and his GB/FB ratio of 1.83 is tied for sixth-highest. He is underperforming his FIP, which is perhaps due to a Yankees defense has the second-worst Defensive Runs Saved at -29 or third-worst Ultimate Zone Rating at -15.1. The short porch in right field can't help either.

The right-hander started against the A's on May 30. His team won 5-3 though he only lasted 4⅔ innings while giving up 11 hits and three runs.

Eovaldi throws a 97mph fastball, slider, splitter, and curve, says Brooks Baseball. He'll throw the fastball half the time, and uses it as his get over pitch when he falls behind in the count. With two strikes, watch for Eovaldi to turn to his slider or splitter.

Wednesday vs. LHP CC Sabathia

Wednesday (4:05 PM PDT)
Scott Kazmir vs. CC Sabathia
2.56 ERA 5.59
3.23 FIP 4.56
3.54 xFIP 3.50
23.0% K% 20.2%
8.3% BB% 4.4%
1.39 GB/FB 1.26

CC Sabathia's ERA+ of 71 is 47th out of the 49 American League qualified starters as he continues a second consecutive season of an over-five ERA, and third consecutive over-four.

Pinstripe Alley's Harlan Spence called for the Yankees to stop asking for seven-plus innings out of Sabathia and pull him as if he were a backend starter. Sabathia's third time through the order splits are just atrocious, with opponents batting .330/.345/.670 over 117 plate appearances, with 10 home runs allowed. It appears the Yankees have obliged, as Sabathia has not thrown over 100 pitches in a start since May 11.

Sabathia started against the A's on May 28 in a 4-5 loss. He allowed eight hits and five runs over six innings, allowing two home runs, striking out four, and walking two.

Brooks Baseball says Sabathia throws a sinker, slider, 91 mph fastball, and change. He favors the slider against left-handers, but it's hard to get a read on how he'll approach right-handers, as he doesn't have a strong preference for any one pitch.

Thursday vs. RHP Masahiro Tanaka

Thursday (10:05 AM PDT)
Jesse Chavez vs. Masahiro Tanaka
3.20 ERA 3.94
3.09 FIP 3.82
3.58 xFIP 3.01
20.7% K% 25.2%
5.9% BB% 5.0%
1.19 GB/FB 1.32

Masahiro Tanaka was still on the disabled list when the Yankees visited Oakland in May. His ERA+ of 101 would rank 26th if he were on the American League qualified starters list. Tanaka has struck out 25.2 percent of the batters he has faced, which ranks seventh out of 73 American League pitchers with at least 50 innings pitched.

Tanaka has struggled recently, owning a 7.88 ERA over his last three starts. His recent struggles have come via the long ball, he allowed three home runs to the Houston Astros and three home runs to the Detroit Tigers. His 1.52 home runs allowed per nine innings is tied for 6th-most among AL pitchers with at least 50 innings.

The right-handed Tanaka throws an 88 mph splitter, 83 mph slider, 92 mph fastball, 92 mph sinker, 89 mph cutter, and 77 mph curve, according to Brooks Baseball. He'll go to the splitter a lot more with two strikes. He also ramps up his slider usage against right-handers.

At the plate and in the field

A's AL Ranks Yankees
6th (4.38) RS/G 2nd (4.62)
5th (103) wRC+ T-3rd (106)
11th (70) HR 3rd (107)
4th (.260) AVG 7th (.254)
6th (.322) OBP 3rd (.324)
9th (.397) SLG 4th (.425)
11th (.138) ISO 3rd (.171)
5th (50) SB T-9th (38)
15th (75) Errors 12th (51)
6th (8) DRS 14th (-29)
14th (-25.6) UZR 13th (-15.1)
4th (.721) DE 12th (.694)

Alex Rodriguez, Brett Gardner, and Mark Teixeira are each qualified starters that own a wRC+ over 130. Tex is the only 2015 All-Star of the three, Brett Gardner is one of the final Final Vote candidates, and Alex Rodriguez was left off entirely.

Indeed, the Yankees have given 72 percent of their plate appearances to batters with a 100 or better wRC+, leading to them owning the second-best runs per game in the American League.

On the basepaths, Brett Gardner and Jacoby Ellsbury are leading the Yankees with 15 and 14 stolen bases, respectively. Ellsbury has only needed 170 plate appearances to reach 14 swiped bags, however, and is on a rehab assignment from a sprained knee that has kept him on the disabled list since May 20. He is expected be activated this series.

The Yankees are also going without Carlos Beltran, who suffered an oblique strain that placed him on the disabled list as of July 1.

Sogard Line

The Eric Sogard Line is Sogard's wRC+, representing my gut feel for what represents serviceable offensive production for a bottom of the order hitter with a good glove, but you probably don't want more than one or two of those in your lineup.

Sogard's wRC+ improved from 68 to 69 after he went 2-for-5 against the Seattle Mariners. The Yankees have given 15 percent of their non-pitcher plate appearances to batters with a wRC+ below Sogard's. Stephen Drew owns a plurality of those plate appearances, with 265 trips at a 67 wRC+. John Ryan Murphy, Jose Pirela, Gregorio Petit, and Ramon Flores also show up below the Sogard Line.

Here is how the Sogard Line has moved in recent series, and the percentage of non-pitcher plate appearances opponents have given to batters below that line at the start of the series:

Bullpen

Bullpen Ranks
A's AL Ranks Yankees
13th (231.2) IP 4th (264.1)
14th (4.35) ERA 6th (3.47)
10th (4.07) FIP 3rd (3.41)
T-9th (3.94) xFIP 2nd (3.49)

Hey look at that, the A's don't have the worst bullpen ERA in the American League anymore! They passed the Texas Rangers, who have a 4.40 bullpen ERA. This wasn't the result of Texas being bad. The A's bullpen has been excellent over the last 14 days, owning the second-best bullpen ERA (2.04), behind only the Royals at 1.66. Their only real blowups are the five-spot Evan Scribner conceded to the Mariners and the two-run home run Edward Mujica allowed to the Kansas City Royals.

For the Yankees, Andrew Miller made a rehab appearance on July 6 for a strained forearm that put him on the disabled list June 10, and he could be activated for this series, says Ryan Hatch for NJ.com. The rest of the Yankees bullpen is still quite good, however, with Dellin Betances continuing to strike out batters like crazy.

The Yankees have had the good fortune of two off days in the last week after going to their bullpen heavily.

2015 Stats Recent usage (pitch count from www.rosterresource.com)
Player Hand IP ERA K% BB% GB/FB 6-Jul 5-Jul 4-Jul 3-Jul 2-Jul 1-Jul 30-Jun
Dellin Betances R 42.0 1.50 41.7% 11.0% 1.73
O
F
F

D
A
Y
25 14
O
F
F

D
A
Y
28
Justin Wilson L 29.1 3.07 24.1% 12.1% 2.64 10 13 15
Chasen Shreve L 33.2 1.87 27.3% 9.4% 0.89 17 21
Adam Warren R 87.0 3.52 16.4% 7.9% 1.26 25 40
Nick Rumbelow R 3.1 2.70 38.5% 15.4% 0.25 15 12
Chris Capuano L 28.0 4.82 21.7% 7.8% 1.64 14 21
Bryan Mitchell R 7.2 3.52 21.2% 3.0% 2.20 34
Andrew Miller (rehab) R 26.1 1.03 41.8% 9.7% 1.60 9 DL DL DL DL DL DL

The games

On Wednesday, the Yankees are giving away a Dellin Betances figurine to 18,000 guests. Let's hope we don't see much of him this series. Thursday's game was one of the few day games that was on the original schedule of full production broadcasts, and is not a radio simulcast.

Time (PT) Probable starters TV Promotion
Tuesday 4:05 PM Sonny Gray vs. Nathan Eovaldi CSNCA
Wednesday 4:05 PM Scott Kazmir vs. CC Sabathia CSNCA Dellin Betances Figurine
Thursday 10:05 AM Jesse Chavez vs. Masahiro Tanaka CSNCA