INDIANS (72-49) AT YANKEES (81-41)
7:05 p.m. ET; YES, ST-OH, MLB.TV
With their dominance over the Baltimore Orioles concluded, the New York Yankees are about to take a step up in competition.
Starting with the opener of a four-game series against the Cleveland Indians on Thursday night at Yankee Stadium, New York plays its next 10 games against teams well over the .500 mark.
The Yankees are on a five-game winning streak after concluding their season series against the last-place Orioles with a 6-5 victory on Wednesday, when Gary Sanchez hit a three-run homer.
New York (81-41) is 40 games over .500 for the first time since 2009. The Yankees are 13-2 in their past 15 games even with Aaron Judge in a 3-for-26 slump.
“It’s been fun to be a part of,” Judge said. “It doesn’t matter who we’re playing when we go out there, we’re giving them our best. Our pitching has stepped up, and our hitters one through nine, we’ve got guys who can go up there and do damage. It’s a tough lineup to try to get through. It’s relentless.”
New York dropped two of three in Cleveland in June but is 37-22 against teams who began Wednesday over .500. The Yankees are 8-1 in their past nine home games against teams with winning records. Following this weekend, they visit the Oakland A’s and the NL-leading Los Angeles Dodgers.
Despite losing two of three to the Boston Red Sox, Cleveland heads to the Bronx 9-4 in its past 13 games and 43-19 since June 4.
The surge has erased all but a half-game of the Minnesota Twins’ commanding 11-game lead in the AL Central and also put the Indians ahead in the AL wild-card race.
“Playing these type of high-energy-atmosphere games, it’s amazing,” Indians rookie starter Zach Plesac said Monday. “I feel the chemistry we have is special. Everyone feels it. It’s been so much fun, this whole ride, this whole year coming back and battling up to first place. We have something great going.”
Among the reasons for Cleveland’s reversal from a sluggish start is Jose Ramirez. Although he was 0-for-3 on Wednesday in a 5-1 loss to Boston, Ramirez is hitting .313 (41-for-131) since the All-Star break.
The Indians are getting production from Yasiel Puig, who is hitting .357 since being acquired from Cincinnati on July 31. Puig will return from a three-game suspension Thursday.
With injuries to Corey Kluber and Carlos Carrasco, Adam Plutko (4-3, 4.68 ERA) is getting a chance in the rotation, and he starts Thursday.
Plutko last pitched Saturday in a 4-1 loss at Minnesota, when he allowed four runs on nine hits in six innings. The right-hander faced the Yankees for the first time in his career June 8, allowing two runs on three hits in six innings of an 8-4 victory.
The Yankees are expected to use an opener, and it will likely be Chad Green (2-3, 4.69 ERA). Green will be the opener for the third time in New York’s past seven games.
He last pitched in the nightcap of Monday’s doubleheader against Baltimore and retired the first four hitters. Green has a 1.80 ERA in his 11 starts.
–Field Level Media