Home Series 8 Preview: Cubs vs. Yankees
Masahiro Tanaka has been one of the best pitchers in baseball this season. The Cubs will face the rookie for the second time Tuesday. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
The Yankees failed to make the playoffs for only the second time in the last 19 seasons in 2013, leading the Bronx Bombers to do what they do best—spend money. The New Yorkers revamped their offense by doling out big-money, multiyear contracts to several players in the offseason and outbid the Cubs, among others, for the services of Japanese pitching sensation Masahiro Tanaka. Despite injuries to an aging team (the average age is over 33) and holes in the pitching staff and infield, the Yanks find themselves in their familiar spot atop the always difficult AL East.
4.6 Runs Allowed Per Game, 7th in AL
Tanaka is not only the talk of the high-priced Yankees rotation, but of the entire league. The 25-year-old received a 7-year/$155 million deal from the club before he had thrown a pitch in the majors, and through the first quarter of the season, he looks to be worth every penny, sporting a 6-0 record with a 2.17 ERA and 10.2 K/9 over 58 innings. He is currently carrying a pitching staff littered with injuries. Veteran ace CC Sabathia isn’t expected back for at least another month with knee issues, Michael Pineda (who has already been suspended this season for sporting a foreign substance on his neck) went on the DL with shoulder soreness, and young right-hander Ivan Nova was lost to Tommy John surgery. Hiroki Kuroda remains a cog in the rotation, though his streak of years with a sub-4.00 ERA might be in jeopardy as he enters his age 39 season. David Robertson is doing his best Mariano Rivera impression in the back end of the bullpen, having racked up eight saves in 11.2 innings and fanning 11.6 batters per nine.
4.8 Runs Scored Per Game, 8th in AL
On paper, the offense looks to be the Yankees’ primary strength. The additions of Brian McCann, Jacoby Ellsbury and Carlos Beltran were supposed to give the team a huge boost offensively. But the reality is the 27-time champs are getting the most production out of guys who are past their primes or are unproven commodities. The 26-year-old Yangervis Solarte has been a big help at third, replacing Alex Rodriguez, who is sitting out the season with a PED suspension. Solarte’s .313/.387/.500 (AVG/OBP/SLG) slash line and five homers have been a huge boost to an offense lacking pop. First baseman Mark Teixeira, who finally seems to be healthy, has provided some unexpected and much-needed power to the heart of the order, putting up nine homers and a .265/.370.549 line at age 34. Originally pegged as the team’s fourth outfielder, Ichiro Suzuki still knows how to hit. He is spelling Beltran, who is currently on the DL with elbow inflammation. Suzuki’s fine play has also allowed former Cub Alfonso Soriano to DH half the time. Brett Gardner continues to be a solid offensive threat, hitting .297 and stealing 10 bases. The offense could be even more potent if McCann was hitting to the back of his baseball card. His season average of .225 is 50 points lower than his career mark. The Cubs will also get a chance to say goodbye to Yanks captain Derek Jeter, who will play his fourth and fifth career games at the Friendly Confines this week. Though his production is down from his career norms, the 39-year-old future Hall of Famer is still the heart and soul of the team.