Masahiro Tanaka gets the ball for the Yankees in Game 5 of the ALCS on Wednesday evening. (Photo: Getty Images)

he unofficial second half of the MLB season begins on Friday as the Mariners visit the Yankees and the Mets travel to St. Louis to take on the Cardinals.

The road team has won the last nine meetings between the Mariners and Yankees, with the Yankees being the road team in six of those contests. On Friday, the Yanks take on Mike Montgomery, who has been excellent since being called up. When the Yankees faced him on June 2 (Montgomery’s first major league start) they got just one run on four hits and struck out seven times. The Yankees will counter with Masahiro Tanaka, and he was masterful against the Mariners on June 3. Tanaka allowed just one run on three hits and struck out nine in seven innings.

Hisashi Iwakuma faces the Bombers on Saturday, making just his third start after an arm injury that has sidelined him since late April. Iwakuma struggled to open 2015 but was sensational in the previous two year. Meanwhile, former Mariner Michael Pineda takes the hill for the Yankees. Pineda kicked off his July in a big way with just one run allowed in 13.1 innings of work while striking out 16 batters.

At first glance the Yankees look overmatched on Sunday, as they send out CC Sabathia to face Felix Hernandez, but there is a silver lining. Nelson Cruz and Kyle Seager are both batting below .150 against Sabathia in their careers (minimum 13 ABs). Also, the Yankees have owned “King Felix” in his career. In 211 ABs the Yankees are hitting a collective .289 against the former Cy Young winner.


Meanwhile, the Mets begin a very difficult part of their schedule by visiting the NL Central-leading Cardinals, and the Mets will intentionally sit young guns Jacob deGrom and Matt Harvey this series in order to preserve their arms. The Mets are an atrocious 15-28 on the road this year; they will need to do better than that if they want to see October.

Noah Syndergaard gets the call on Friday and it’s important that he turns in a good start because he has struggled on the road so far (0-3, 5.33 ERA in five starts). Lance Lynn takes the mound for the Redbirds, and we’ll see if he can continue his success against Lucas Duda. Duda recently busted out of a prolonged power slump by bashing two homers against the Diamondbacks last weekend, but Duda is 0-for-10 against Lynn in his career.

Bartolo Colon looks to right the ship over the weekend, either he or Jon Niese will get the ball on Saturday. Colon’s given up at least nine hits in three of his last four starts. Also, the Cardinals bludgeoned Colon back on May 20 to the tune of nine runs on 11 hits. John Lackey has been great for the Cardinals lately; since getting shelled in Colorado on June 8, Lackey has pitched at least seven innings in five of his last six starts while allowing only two earned runs or fewer. Lackey lowered his season ERA from 3.74 to 2.99 in that span.

Should Colon pitch on Saturday that means lefty Jon Niese will pitch on Sunday. Niese has allowed a horrendous .371 batting average to the Cardinals in 132 total ABs in his career. The Redbirds have yet to announce a starter for Sunday, but they will likely turn to either Carlos Martinez or Michael Wacha, both of whom have ERAs below 3.00 this year.

Probables for Mariners/Yankees

Friday – Montgomery (4-3, 2.29) vs. Tanaka (5-3, 3.63)

Saturday – Iwakuma (1-1, 5.22) vs. Pineda (9-5, 3.64)

Sunday – Hernandez (11-5, 2.84) vs. Sabathia (4-8, 5.47)

Probables for Mets/Cardinals

Friday – Syndergaard (4-4, 3.11) vs. Lynn (6-5, 2.90)

Saturday – Bartolo Colon (9-7, 4.46) vs. Lackey (7-5, 2.99)

Sunday – Jon Niese (5-8, 3.61) vs. TBA

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