RECORDS: Yankees 17-9 Cubs 16-12
GAMETIMES: 1:20 Friday, 6:15 Saturday, 7:05 Sunday
TV: CSN Friday, FOX Saturday, ESPN Sunday
OH YEAH, YOU BLEND: BP Bronx
Well, if the national fandom wasn’t sick of the Cubs after two Sunday night appearances in April, two consecutive ones should do it. The Yankees arrive at Wrigley for the third time, with not quite the hype of 2003’s series but certainly more than the 2011 one where both teams basically sucked. It’s the sport’s signature franchise, and the one that just stopped being the outhouse for everyone else. One vs. Twenty-Seven. The Boogey Down Vs. The Friendly Confines. And whatever other silliness you want to come up with to make this more of an event than the first weekend of May usually is.
Funny, and for the first time in history, even when it wasn’t possible, but it would be the Yankees who might view this as a measuring stick more than the Cubs. Before the season the Yanks were looked at as a possible wild-card contender but unlikely to stick with the Red Sox for the division title (or my prediction, Toronto. That’s going well). A 17-9 start, with an offense that might even attract a few people to sit in the first 10 rows to the The House That Opulence Built in the Bronx, has some people recalibrating just where the Yankees might finish when all is said and done and before they make me run.
For the first time in what seems like a GM tenure that’s lasted for 37 years, Brian Cashman was allowed to hit the reset button. And most of the success is coming from guys he brought through his own system. I know, I can’t believe it either.
The big story of the season has been Aaron Judge, he of the large adult son proportions, the 13 homers and .818 slugging, and the 237 wRC+ rating. Judge looked completely overmatched in a brief cameo last year in the majors, with a 44.2% K-percentage. Yeah, guess he’s figured it out. He still strikes out over a quarter of the time, but he’s walking more and when he’s not doing that he’s turning baseballs into plasma and glitter. He’s a good athlete for being power-forward sized, and just might turn into the hitter that Giancarlo Stanton never quite has.
But it isn’t just Judge. Chase Headley is having a ridiculous start to the season, the bonus of which is that we can make more Blazing Saddles jokes. Old friend Starlin In The Sky is hitting .362, though a .407 BABIP might have something to do with that. Aaron Hicks is slugging .615. Now that Matt Holliday can’t hurt himself or anyone else attempting to man left field, he’s got a .256 ISO as a designated hitter. And Gary Sanchez has only played in five games, and is due to return any day. It’s a touch frightening, though Sanchez alone won’t counter the market correction that seems to be coming for Headley and Castro and maybe even Holliday and Ellsbury.
The rotation is anchored homegrown talent as well, if we can be flexible and call Michael Pineda that. He’s been dominating at times with an 11.6 K/9 so far on the year. Luis Severino and Jordan Montgomery are right behind him, though Montgomery has walk problems. Tanaka isn’t striking out nearly as many hitters as he has before, is walking more, and has an air of caution about him. But with the first three so good, he’s been able to hide. Carsten Charles Sabathia hasn’t been able to find the plate.. well, he’s been able to find one kind of plate but not the one he’s paid to find.
Then again, the starters don’t have to do that much. Only Severino and Tanaka are averaging six innings a start, and the latter only just barely. But that’s ok, because this pen is once again a Tower of London, prison for the hopes and energy of any hitter that opposes it. Dillon Betances continues to be something out of Lord Of The Rings, Adam Warren is having another great season back in New York, and of course professional dickbag Aroldis Chapman waits at the end. Tyler Clippard and Jonathan Holder are having effective to better years in front of that. The story with the Yankees is what goes on in the first six innings because after that, traction is not something you’re going to find much of.
With the Cubs pen being somewhat depleted, even after the call-up of Felix Pena at the expense of The Reaper, this is going to be a challenge. Especially tomorrow night when Anderson shows up to a gunfight with his plastic knife. The Cubs are going to need plus efforts from Hendricks and Lester, you’d think.