When the New York Yankees play in Washington, D.C against the Nationals on Tuesday, it’ll be a matchup of two of baseball’s hottest teams. LHP Gio Gonzalez will be on the mound for the Nationals against the Yankees’ RHP Masahiro Tanaka.
Gonzalez hasn’t faced the Yankees in inter-league play since 2015. For his career, he has a 1-5 record with a 6.65 ERA in eight games against the Yankees and with that record in mind, he should be in for a rude awakening against the current incarnation of the Bronx Bombers.
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Gonzalez, 32, has been with the Nationals for six seasons and becomes a free agent this fall. He has been an extremely durable pitcher over his career, only once going on the 15-day disabled list back in 2014. He’s a two time All-Star and finished third in 2012 and sixth in 2017 for the Cy Young Award.
According to MLB.com, recently Gonzalez has been on a roll, allowing only two runs and striking out 21 in his past 18 innings of work. He has a 4-2 record with a 2.22 ERA in eight games this season.
Jorge Castillo of the Washington Post writes that where Gonzalez was once a hard-thrower, blowing fastballs by hitters, his average fastball velocity has diminished over the past few seasons and he began modifying his approach last season.
Gonzalez told Castillo that in ’17 he became a pitcher, not a just a thrower:
“Last year was a huge adjustment point,” Gonzalez said. “Last year I was actually pitching. I wasn’t trying to throw it. I understand that I have to be a pitcher. And that’s what it was. I don’t have to throw hard to get outs, and last year proved it. You just have to locate.”
Gonzalez has adjusted his repertoire to increase the use of his change-up (83 mph) and curve ball (76 mph), which Brooks Baseball describes as having “exceptional bite,” along with his sinker (90 mph) and a four seam fastball (90 mph).
Gonzalez will be facing a lineup unlike any other in Major League Baseball—- four hitters have ten home runs or more on the season: Aaron Judge (11), Giancarlo Stanton (10), Didi Gregorius (10) and Gary Sanchez (10).
Coley Harvey of ESPN writes of the historical significance of this accomplishment:
“Before this year, the Yankees had never had four players hit 10 or more home runs by the team’s 40th game of a season — or by the 50th game, for that matter.”
On the season, for example, Stanton is hitting .457 against left-handed pitchers with seven homers and he punished lefty Brett Anderson of the Athletics on Sunday going 4-4, including a home run and three RBIs.
Stanton also has a more than a passing familiarity with Nationals Park. According to Fox Sports, he has a .287/.366/.651 slash line in Nationals Park and in 55 career games there has 20 home runs.
Left-handed batter Gregorius is likewise having success against lefties this season, hitting .268 with 2 homers.
There are those who predict a Yankees-Nationals World Series in ’18. Tuesday’s matchup of these two powerhouse clubs may just have that October feel to it!