The iconic New York Yankees (37-25) are marching to DC to face off against the red hot Washington Nationals (38-23) this weekend in what has been called possibly the best interleague matchup of the 2012 season.
The Nats and the Yanks have been strikingly similar in their winning ways this month, which is one of the reasons this series is going to be so exciting to watch. With a winning percentage of .623, the Nationals have the second-best record in baseball to the Los Angeles Dodgers (.625). They are coming off a six-game winning streak and have won nine of 12 games in June. The Yankees have been equally as impressive, posting an AL-best winning percentage of .597, winning 10 of 12 June games, and earning a six-game winning streak of their own. With that much momentum coming into the series from both sides, this is a series few people in the baseball world are going to want to miss.
Historically, the Nationals have been winners in matchups against the Yankees. The Nats have only played six games against them (in 2006 and 2009), and have won four. Two of those wins happened at Nationals Park. However, the Yankees have the all-time best interleague record (164-109), and only had a losing record in interleague play once since its inception.
So if neither momentum nor history can help predict who will win this series, baseball fans will just have to tune in and watch these two first-place teams go head to head.
The Yankees’ offense is good. That’s really the only way to put it. They boast the second-best on-base plus slugging percentage (.791) and the seventh-best batting average (.263). They have hit the most home runs in the major leagues (96) and only five teams have struck out fewer times than them (424).
The Nationals’ offensive stats sort of pale in comparison, although they have been heating up their bats in the past few days. In their last seven games, they have a .270 team batting average (compared to their usual .244) and have hit 10 home runs.
When the hitting stats aren’t as fun to look at for the Nats, there is always their ever-exciting pitching. They still hold first place for ERA (2.94), and opponent batting average (.219), and are in third for strikeouts (526). Also, if any team can stymie the Yankees ability to hit home runs, it’s the Nationals, who have given up the second fewest home runs in baseball (43).
Both the Nationals and the Yankees have been aided tremendously by their pitching staffs this season, and the pitchers have especially stepped up lately for the Yanks; in the last two weeks their team ERA has risen from 18th in the majors to 10th at 3.75.
The more you study these two teams, the more evident it becomes that neither has a clear weakness. What they lack in one thing, they more than make up for in another. Needless to say, this series is shaping up to be a dogfight.
Some notes on pitching
Yankees starter Phil Hughes has only allowed three runs through his last two starts (one of which was a one-run complete game), but he got shelled in the start before that by the Los Angeles Angels, allowing eleven hits and seven earned runs. He has allowed an average of six hits per game this season.
Their next starter in the rotation, veteran Andy Pettitte didn’t make his first start until May 13 of this season, but since then he has been great. He has only failed to pitch into the seventh inning once, and has a .225 opponent batting average. He bruised his hand during his last start, but has been cleared to pitch against the Nationals on schedule.
Sunday’s starter Ivan Nova has had two solid starts recently, going a total of 15 innings and giving up nine hits, just one earned run, two walks and 11 strikeouts.
The Nationals’ Gio Gonzalez hasn’t pitched for a win against the Yankees since 2009 and is 1-4 against them. Current Yankees have a .237 batting average against Gio, and with the way he has been pitching this year, he won’t be letting them build on that number easily.
A-Rod goin’ yard
On Tuesday night, the Yankees’ slugging third-baseman, Alex Rodriguez, hit the 23rd grand slam of his career and tied baseball great Lou Gehrig’s all time record for most grand slams. As long as the Nationals’ pitchers can keep doing what they do to prevent guys from getting on base, they shouldn’t have to worry about A-Rod’s fondness for hitting the ball out of the park when the bases are loaded.
The Yankees helped out the Nationals this week by beating both the Atlanta Braves and the New York Mets, extending the Nats’ hold on first place to a 4.5 game lead. However, the Bronx Bombers aren’t going to be looking to do the Nationals any favors this time around, as they have a first place seat of their own to defend.
Alex Rodriguez (3B) .276 AVG, .804 OPS, 10 HR, 30 RBI, 6 SB, 0 CS
Robinson Cano (2B) .294 AVG, .871 OPS, 11 HR, 30 RBI
Derek Jeter (SS) .319 AVG, .800 OPS, 6 HR, 20 RBI
Rafael Soriano (CL) 1.93 ERA, 11 SV, 12 SVO, 0 HR, 21 SO
Russell Martin (C) .203 AVG, 37 SO, 1 SB
Andruw Jones (RF) .224 AVG, 31 SO, 0 SB, 2 2B
Gio Gonzalez (8-2, 2.35 ERA) vs. Phil Hughes (6-5, 4.76 ERA)
Jordan Zimmermann (3-5, 2.91 ERA) vs. Andy Pettitte (3-2, 2.81 ERA)
Edwin Jackson (3-3, 3.02 ERA) vs. Ivan Nova (8-2, 4.64 ERA)