The Yankees obviously want to come away with a victory on Wednesday night, so they don’t have to face a do-or-die game the next day. Having Masahiro Tanaka get the ball should ease some of that anxiety, but Charlie Morton on the other side is a seasoned vet when it comes to the postseason as well.
Offensively, homers flew out of the park once again on Tuesday, but more in favor of the Rays this time. Giancarlo Stanton accounted for all four runs with his solo bomb and three-run moonshot off Tyler Glasnow. But Randy Arozarena & Co. are also getting good wood on the ball.
With all of that in mind, let’s break down what the Yankees need to do to win this pivotal game and set themselves up to finish the series on Thursday night:
Keep the Ball Down
Where have the Yankees been beat through two games thus far? When they leave the ball up.
For Gerrit Cole, it came on the fastball that was high but still hittable for Arozarena and one to Ji-Man Choi that was in the middle of the plate. J.A. Happ was also leaving the ball up, and the Rays were jumping on that.
If Tanaka is on tonight, this shouldn’t be a problem. His splitter last time out against the Cleveland Indians, though, was staying up in the plate and they were hitting him hard. Granted, there was a long rain delay that may have thrown Tanaka off his rhythm a bit, but this Rays offense is much better than the Indians’.
There’s no rain to worry about this time, but if Tanaka doesn’t want a storm of hits off him, he’ll be sure to find that splitter feel early on and use his signature out pitch to keep the Rays at bay.
Right-Center Approach at the Plate
Unlike the matchups against Blake Snell and Glasnow, Morton offers a plethora of pitches that hitters must deal with. But other than a mid-90s heater, he loves to go to his signature, sweeping curveball.
Morton gets tons of spin on this pitch that he perfected with the Houston Astros, and something the Yankees will remember a few years ago in 2017. The 2887 spin rate on the pitch gets it to move from the inside corner to the outside part of the plate. And generates lots of swings and misses with a 31 percent whiff rate.
The Yankees have been relatively good with some nasty curves this postseason, with Shane Bieber added to that list as well. But Morton’s is a different animal, moving horizontally instead of vertically.
So, to counteract that, the Yankees may want to be thinking right center when they step in the box. That will allow them to keep their body from opening up and flailing at the pitch as it’s streaking across the plate. And Morton uses the pitch just about as much as his fastball (35.5 on the four-seamer compared to 32.7 percent of pitches).
He may offer a sinker, splitter and cutter at times too, but the fastball-curveball combo is Morton’s bread and butter. Going with that curveball instead of pulling it will be ideal.
Judge’s homer was a big one in Game 1. But that was his only hit of the postseason thus far. Voit also has just two postseason knocks after leading the league in homers in the regular season.
If there ever was a time for these two to show up, it would be right now.
Both have had trouble with Morton in their careers, especially Judge who’s struck out nine times in 13 at-bats. But sitting in the No. 2 and No. 4 spots in the lineup means they both need to start producing. Voit is playing hurt with his injured foot, but if you know him, excuses aren’t in his vocabulary. He knows he needs to be better in the cleanup spot. Judge also can’t go 0-for-5 with three strikeouts.