Despite all their great talent, the fate of the New York Yankees
may be decided by the effectiveness of their backend starting pitchers.
This means guys like 24-year-old Ivan Nova. He gets the start Monday when the Yankees host Minnesota at 4:05 p.m. PT.
The right-handed Nova captured the Yankees’ fourth starting slot by posting a 1.80 ERA in 20 spring innings.
Nova made seven starts and had 10 appearances for New York last year in his first season. His record was just 1-2 with a 4.50 ERA in 42 innings. The Yankees, though, are 5-1 during Nova’s past six starts.
The key for Nova is getting through the middle innings. He had a 2.57 ERA and 0.96 WHIP in the first four innings of his starts. Those figures tailed off to a 12.46 ERA and 2.65 WHIP from the fifth inning on.
New York has been dominant at Yankee Stadium going 97-41 in its last 138 home contests through this past Saturday. The Yankees have been real tough at home against right-handers and American League Central Division foes, which isn’t good news for Minnesota starter Scott Baker.
The Yankees are 52-18 during their past 70 matchups versus AL Central competition and were 74-27 in their last 101 home matchups when facing a right-handed starter.
The Twins know all about how tough New York is at Yankee Stadium. They have lost 30 of their last 36 road games to the Yankees.
New York defeated Minnesota in seven of nine meetings last year, including sweeping the Twins out of the playoffs in three straight games for the second consecutive season.
The Twins have won the past five times the right-handed Baker has pitched on the road. Baker, however, is not the ideal pitcher to deal with the Yankees at Yankee Stadium. He’s a fly ball pitcher prone to giving up home runs. Like the rest of the Twins starters, he’s more effective pitching at Target Field.
Baker has a career mark of 55-42 with a 4.32 ERA. The seven-year pro was 12-9 with a 4.49 ERA last season. Baker has good stuff as evidenced by striking out almost eight batters per nine innings and a strikeout-to-walk ratio of nearly 3 ½-to-1.
However, he frequently gives up the long ball. He’s been tagged for at least 20 home runs during each of the last three years.
Taking advantage of Yankee Stadium’s short dimensions, the Yankees smacked 201 homers last year, the third-most in baseball. They also led the majors in runs and RBIs and were fourth in slugging percentage.
The Yankees had five players with 24 or more homers last year – Mark Teixeira with 33, Alex Rodriguez with 30, Robinson Cano with 29, Nick Swisher with 29 and Curtis Granderson with 24.
Those who have played the Yankees on the run line at home have been richly awarded most of the time as New York has won 48 of its last 54 home games by two or more runs going into the first Sunday of this month.
The Twins already may have fatigue issues with the bullpen having worked 7 2/3 innings through the first two games.
Baker is 2-2 lifetime versus the Yankees with a 4.15 ERA. Nova worked one inning of relief against Minnesota last year giving up no runs on two hits.
The Twins are 2-8 the past 10 times they’ve gone up against a right-handed starter on the road. Minnesota also was 1-10 on the road in its last 11 road contests through this past Saturday when facing opposition with a winning record.
The ‘over’ was 18-7-1 in the Yankees’ last 26 games entering the first Sunday of April. The ‘under’ has cashed in nine of the last 12 meetings between the Twins and Yankees. The ‘under’ is 32-12-4 the last 48 times the Yankees have hosted the Twins.