This weekend the Yankees host the Blue Jays in a pivotal AL East showdown while the Mets travel to Atlanta to take on the languishing Braves.
On Friday the Yankees will try to solve Blue Jays starter Marco Estrada; in two consecutive starts in August the Bombers plated just two runs in 12.1 innings (six hits) against him. Ivan Nova responds for the Yankees and he has been shaky lately; he’s given up at least three runs in each of his last six starts. The Blue Jays also have good numbers against Nova; Jose Bautista, Josh Donaldson and Edwin Encarnacion have gone a combined 18-for-43 lifetime against him.
Marcus Stroman is scheduled to make his return off a knee injury that was thought to be season-ending for Toronto on Saturday. He was electrifying in 2014 and the Yankees were stumped by him; in three starts against the pinstripers Stroman went 2-1 and surrendered just five runs in 17.1 innings. Michael Pineda answers for Bombers and he has been mediocre since coming off the DL from a forearm strain; in his three starts since being re-activated Pineda has allowed 10 runs on 16 hits. But a bounce-back could be in the cards as the Blue Jays are only hitting a collective .212 against Pineda in 104 ABs.
Veteran knuckleballer R.A. Dickey will square off against the Bombers on Sunday; the Blue Jays have won his last nine starts and he lowered his ERA over half a point in that span. The Yankees have struggled to hit Dickey in the past, batting barely above .200 against him in 10 starts since 2012. However, Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira have had some success against Dickey; A-Rod is batting .276 with a home run against Dickey while Teixeira is .273 with two home runs. Masahiro Tanaka comes into Sunday’s tilt off a gem against the Orioles in which he went eight strong innings while allowing just one run on six hits. Tanaka was shelled by Toronto in the season opener but Edwin Encarnacion is the only Blue Jay with a career batting average above .300 against him (7-for-14 with a home run).
The Mets look to put even more distance on the Nationals in the NL East race when they square off with the Braves on Friday night. This game will mark the second start back from a rehab stint for Steven Matz, who struggled with his control a bit in his first start back against the Marlins. He didn’t give the game away but was yanked after 81 pitches due to a blister. Matt Wisler, who has an ERA above 8.00 in seven starts since August, will start for the Braves. Kevin Plawecki was 2-for-2 when the Mets faced Wisler back on June 19, so don’t be surprised if Travis d’Arnaud gets a day off in favor of him.
On Saturday Noah Syndergaard will make his first start since August 30 after being skipped in the rotation last week. In his one start at Atlanta on June 20, Syndergaard was touched up to the tune of four runs on six hits and two walks in just four innings of work. Williams Perez counters for the Braves, and coincidentally he was the winning pitcher in that June 20 matchup. He had a 2.78 ERA after that game, but thanks to a July trip to the DL and an August swoon his ERA has ballooned to 5.42.
Sunday’s series finale features Jon Niese, who after getting shelled by the Nationals on Labor Day said there is “nothing” he has to correct about his pitching. It could get ugly for Niese because Freddie Freeman, Andrelton Simmons and Nick Swisher are a combined 23-for-79 against him. Niese faces Ryan Weber, who will be making just his second career start. He took the loss against the Phillies in his debut but pitched decently; six innings, four hits, two runs, two Ks, and 14 ground outs compared to just two fly outs.
Probables for Blue Jays/Yankees:
Friday – Marco Estrada (12-8, 3.18) v. Ivan Nova (6-7, 4.50)
Saturday – Marcus Stroman (2014 stats: 11-6, 3.65) v. Michael Pineda (10-8, 4.15)
Sunday – R.A. Dickey (10-10, 4.09) vs Masahiro Tanaka (11-6, 3.73)
Probables for Mets/Braves:
Friday – Steven Matz (2-0, 1.89) v. Matt Wisler (5-6, 5.81)
Saturday – Noah Syndergaard (8-6, 3.31) v. Williams Perez (5-6, 5.42)
Sunday – Jonathon Niese (8-10, 4.36) v. Ryan Weber (0-1, 3.00)