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On The Horizon: Cubs vs. Yankees series preview

Well, this oughta be interesting.

Photo by Brace Hemmelgarn/Minnesota Twins/Getty Images

Cubs vs. Yankees! Sounds like fun, right?

Well... maybe for the Yankees, the best team in baseball right now. They are playing .714 ball (equivalent to 116 wins in a full season). The Cubs are at their season low, 10 games under .500.

Let’s try to have fun with this series anyway.

For more on the Bronx Bombers, here’s Andrew Mearns, managing editor of our SB Nation Yankees site Pinstripe Alley.

Even though the Blue Jays were preseason AL East favorites, it probably wouldn’t shock a random casual fan on the street if you told them that two months into the campaign that the Yankees would have the best record in baseball. They’d probably assume that Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, Anthony Rizzo, and company had helped them slug their way to the top of the league.

And they would be correct! Judge in particular has hit even better than he did in his electric Rookie of the Year season in 2017, as he’s clubbed a league-best 22 homers with a 1.058 OPS and an eye-popping 199 wRC+. He declined a big extension offer from the Yankees before the season to bet on himself, and he’s on pace to reap the rewards in free agency. However, while the offense’s resurgence from its lackluster 2021 is key to this team’s success, it’s remarkably not the biggest reason. The Yankees have had the best pitching staff in the American League (arguably all of baseball), and it’s not particularly close. They lead with a 2.87 ERA, 3.10 FIP, and 1.06 WHIP, all while limiting hard contact with expertise.

Every single Yankees starter has been terrific, from the not-at-all surprising (Gerrit Cole) to the out-of-nowhere smash hits (Nestor Cortes). The Cubs won’t face them in this three-game set, but they’ll face a challenging trio anyway. Luis Severino is in the midst of his first truly healthy stretch since 2018 and hasn’t missed a beat, striking out 38 batters in his last 5 starts alone while slowly pitching deeper into ballgames. Jordan Montgomery’s 1-1 record is merely a byproduct of his offense failing to give him run support; he’s used excellent pitch movement to record a 3.02 ERA and 1.01 WHIP in 11 starts. Jameson Taillon has been quietly just as good as his old Bucco buddy Cole, albeit with fewer strikeouts. With the help of a cutter and stingy control, Taillon has been second only to Cortes on the team in pitching rWAR (1.7) and he flirted with perfection last week against the Angels.

The Cubs are catching the Yankees at a time when their bullpen is not the best, though. Closer Aroldis Chapman, 2021 relief ace Jonathan Loáisiga, and stalwart setup man Chad Green are all out with injuries, with Green done for the year due to Tommy John surgery. Aaron Boone has gotten some very good relief work out of lesser-known arms like Michael King and Wandy Peralta, but his biggest advantage has been a guy who was lagging in the Pirates’ bullpen just 10 and a half months ago. Clay Holmes has unlocked a truly demonic sinker/slider mix and is now the de facto closer. He’s been dominant, allowing one run on Opening Day and firing 26 consecutive scoreless innings since then, rarely even allowing baserunners. Beat the Yankees before the ninth, or good luck.

Fun fact

Maybe not so fun for the Cubs, who have never won a game against the Yankees in New York. They were 0-4 in World Series games at the old Yankee Stadium (1932, 1938) and got swept in a three-game series at the old stadium in 2005 and in a two-game series in the new Yankee Stadium in 2014.

All-time against the Yankees, the Cubs are 4-20 — 4-12 in regular-season games and 0-8 in World Series games.

Pitching matchups

Friday: Wade Miley, LHP (1-0, 3.38 ERA, 1.188 WHIP, 3.20 FIP) vs. Luis Severino, RHP (4-1, 2.95 ERA, 1.000 WHIP, 3.56 FIP)

Saturday: Matt Swarmer, RHP (1-0, 1.50 ERA, 0.833 WHIP, 5.30 FIP) vs. Jordan Montgomery, LHP (1-1, 3.52 ERA, 1.006 WHIP, 3.61 FIP)

Sunday: TBD vs. Jameson Taillon, RHP (6-1, 2.73 ERA, 1.005 WHIP, 3.06 FIP)

NOTE: The Cubs could start Marcus Stroman Sunday, as he was originally scheduled for Wednesday in Baltimore. Or Kyle Hendricks, who hasn’t started since June 1. Or Justin Steele, who started last Sunday against the Cardinals. Lots of choices, nothing specific as of the time of this series preview posting.

Times & TV channels

Friday: 6:05 p.m. CT, Marquee Sports Network

Saturday: 6:15 p.m. CT, Fox-TV (regional — coverage map)

Sunday: 12:35 p.m. CT, Marquee Sports Network, MLB Network (outside Cubs and Yankees market territories)

Prediction

Well. This certainly appears to be a mismatch, because the Yankees are the best team in baseball and a strong World Series favorite.

I just have a feeling that the Cubs will somehow squeeze out one win in this series and finally defeat the Yankees in New York.

Up next

The Cubs return to Wrigley Field for a four-game series against the San Diego Padres that begins Monday evening.

Poll

How many games will the Cubs win against the Yankees?

This poll is closed

  • 4%
    3
    (16 votes)
  • 4%
    2
    (15 votes)
  • 21%
    1
    (71 votes)
  • 68%
    0
    (226 votes)
328 votes total Vote Now

Here are the odds for the Cubs vs. the Yankees. As you can imagine, the Yankees are favored tonight.