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June 18, 2012

What You Need to Know

Monday, June 18

by Daniel Rathman

The Weekend Takeaway
The Yankees and Nationals both came into this weekend’s series at Nationals Park on six-game winning streaks. But after Danny Espinosa grounded out to end Sunday’s finale, New York was on cloud nine and Washington was three in the hole.

Though the Dodgers have one more win than the Yankees and four more than the Nationals, by most measures, the teams that squared off in the nation’s capital this past weekend were the two best in baseball right now. After a month and a half of lurking in the background and struggling to find a rhythm, Joe Girardi’s squad has resoundingly announced its presence with the recent surge.

The Yankees have the league’s best record in June at 13-2, and they are well ahead of the second-place Nats with a terrific 2.06 team ERA. The rotation has rounded into form, with Phil Hughes going 3-0 with a 1.69 ERA and 23-to-7 K/BB in 21 innings and Ivan Nova—Sunday’s winning pitcher—allowing just two earned runs in 22 2/3 frames in June. Meanwhile, Nick Swisher has busted out of his early-season slump to bat .326/.415/.565 this month, Rafael Soriano has converted 13 of 14 save opportunities overall, and David Robertson was activated from the disabled list on Friday.

Over the past two weeks, just about everything has gone right for the Yankees, who now have the American League’s best record at 40-25 and lead the Orioles by 1.5 games. They won’t stay white-hot the rest of the way, but this looks much closer to the team general manager Brian Cashman thought he had assembled than the offense that spent much of May figuring out new ways to leave runners in scoring position.

The Yankees will look to make it a perfect 10 with their ace, CC Sabathia, on the mound at home against the Braves tonight (7:05 p.m. ET).

What to Watch for on Monday

  • R.A. Dickey has not allowed an earned run in nearly a month, a span of four starts that dates back to May 22. He has a 59-to-3 K/BB over his last five starts. And the Mets have not lost behind Dickey since April 30. The 37-year-old knuckleballer will try to maintain his recent run of incredible performances when he takes on the Orioles and Jake Arrieta tonight (7:05 p.m. ET).
  • Joey Votto is 39-for-78 since May 24. That’s an even .500 average over a span of nearly a month. Votto reached base nine times in 14 plate appearances when the Indians came to Cincinnati last week, and he will look to do the same as the Reds open a three-game series in Cleveland tonight (7:05 p.m. ET). He is 4-for-13 lifetime with four walks against Indians starter Derek Lowe
  • Randy Wolf has never been known for his bat-missing ability, but the crafty southpaw has been especially vulnerable to right-handed hitters this season, allowing them to bat a combined .323/.379/.456 in 259 plate appearances. That could spell trouble when the Blue Jays—who are loaded with powerful righties, including Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion—come to Miller Park tonight (8:10 p.m. ET). The game will also be Brett Lawrie's first against his former organization and at Miller Park. 
  • Paul Konerko was sad to see Matt Garza leave the American League, but since Garza landed with the crosstown rival Cubs, the White Sox first baseman still gets his wish to face him tonight (8:10 p.m. ET). Konerko is 6-for-12 lifetime against Garza with two homers, two doubles, and two walks; Garza has never struck him out. The AL’s leading hitter is the biggest obstacle between the 28-year-old righty and his first win since April 29.
  • With a perfect game and 14 strikeouts against the Astros on Wednesday, Matt Cain may have set the bar a bit too high for tonight’s series opener at the Big A (10:05 p.m. ET). He will match wits with the resurgent Jerome Williams, who was drafted by the Giants in 1999 and spent more than two years in San Francisco before being traded to the Cubs in 2005. Williams’ only career start against the Giants came on Sept. 9 of that year, when he lost a 2-1 duel to—you guessed it—then-rookie Matt Cain.   

Daniel Rathman is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Daniel's other articles. You can contact Daniel by clicking here

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