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Series #45: Athletics vs Yankees - A Playoff Preview

MLB: Detroit Tigers at New York Yankees Gregory J. Fisher-USA TODAY Sports

Yankees’ Current Record:

86-51, second place in the AL East. The Yankees are 4.5 games up on the A’s for the first Wild Card spot and 7.5 games behind the Red Sox for the division lead. After sweeping the Orioles in four games, the Yankees have gone 3-4 against the White Sox and the Tigers.

Possible Lineup:

Andrew McCutchen - RF

Giancarlo Stanton - DH

Aaron Hicks - CF

Miguel Andujar - 3B

Gary Sanchez - C

Gleyber Torres - 2B

Luke Voit - 1B

Adeiny Hecharvarria - SS

Brett Gardner - LF

Probable Starting Pitchers:

CC Sabathia - LHP

J.A. Happ - LHP

Luis Severino - RHP

Recent Bullpen Usage:

Sonny Gray had a strong performance in long relief yesterday, but otherwise the Yankees’ bullpen has been well rested and well utilized.

Hottest Hitter(s):

Relative newcomer Luke Voit has been a very surprising shot in the arm for the Yankees’ lineup, the long assumed quad-A player taking off in the pinstripes and OPSing 1.115 in his first sixteen games with his new team. He has led the team in all of AVG, OBP and SLG since his acquisition. Rookie Miguel Andujar leads all first year players in all the triple crown categories as well as extra base hits, as he rescued third base from a cratering Chase Headley.

Coldest Hitter(s):

Left Field has been dragging the Yankees offense down lately. Brett Gardner has just a .601 OPS since the All Star Break, with almost no power to boot. His backup, Shane Robinson, was just designated for assignment after OPSing just .384 during that same stretch.

Hottest Pitcher(s):

While most of the focus fixes upon the Yankees young fireballers on the pitching staff, it has been the veteran starting pitchers, CC Sabathia and Masahiro Tanaka, who have been carrying the team of late. Since mid-July, Sabathia has made six starts, pitching more than thirty innings of a sub-3.00 ERA, and Tanaka, in eight starts, has pitched more than fifty innings with an ERA near 2.50. In the bullpen, Sonny Gray has rediscovered what made him most effective, and can be relied upon to keep the Yankees in the game should a starter stumble out of the gates.

Coldest Pitcher(s):

While his strikeouts are still there, Luis Severino has given up far too many base hits in the season’s second half and has been victimized by the long ball as well. While he was the obvious pick to start the Wild Card game a few months ago, his 6.33 ERA since the All Star Break may force the Yankees front office to consider different options instead. With a few notable exceptions, the long dependable Yankees bullpen has been faltering more often lately, and has been a liability in the middle innings despite getting reinforced at the deadline.

Key Injuries:

Aaron Judge’s absence from the Yankees lineup is a profound one, as the team simply doesn’t have any adequate replacements waiting in the wings for their superstar slugger. Didi Gregorius has been batting injuries as well, but he is due to return during this series. On the pitching side of things, Aroldis Chapman is questionable for the remainder of the season, further stretching an underperforming bullpen.

* * *

With all the recent divisional matchups lately, the prolonged collapse of the Mariners, and first place in the AL West within grasp, it has been easy to place thoughts of the Wild Card game on the backburner and fantasize about taking the west instead. However, in all likelihood, the A’s will be travelling to New York to engage in some baseball thunderdome. This series, while not likely to have much of an impact on the standings at the end of the year, may serve as a Wild Card game preview.

The A’s lost two of three games the last time these two teams squared off in New York, though that was back in May, and both squads look rather different entering this series. The A’s have had to constantly retool their starting rotation as injuries mounted up, and now have an emerging star in center field in addition to emerged stars on the infield corners. The Yankees have lost two of their better hitters to injury, though both are due back relatively soon, and the back end of the rotation and the front end of the bullpen have undergone lots of changes as the Yankees made a series of trades in July and August.

Game #139: Monday, September 3rd, 1:05 - NBCSCA, YES, ESPN,

Trevor Cahill vs CC Sabathia

Road Cahill has reared his ugly head in his last two starts, but will be returning to the comfy confines of Rickey Henderson Field for his latest matchup. Whether or not the drastic differences in performance at home versus on the road are due to luck or poor pacing or poor defense or some sort of mental block can be debated, but what can’t be debated is that Cahill when Cahill is on he is the best starting pitcher on this team, and he has always been on at home. While Sabathia hasn’t been able to get that deep into games this late in his career, he has been amongst the best Yankee starters in run prevention.

Game #140: Tuesday, September 4th, 7:05 - NBCSCA, YES, MLB Network,

Bullpen vs J.A. Happ

The A’s are short on viable starters but long on viable relievers, so the team will return to the bullpenning strategy on Tuesday. While the team got less than stellar results on Saturday using that strategy, it doesn’t mean that the idea was a poor one. Happ has had the strongest WHIP of all Yankee starters since the All Star Break, and will be a tough task to solve for A’s hitters.

Game #141: Wednesday, September 5th, 7:05 - NBCSCA, YES,

Mike Fiers vs Luis Severino

After being nearly flawless in his first four starts with the A’s, Fiers finally had a bad outing in his last time out, giving up five runs in less than three innings. Severino was looking like a potential Cy Young candidate for the first half of the year, but since the season turned to summer the fireballer has been reeling.