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Yankees vs. Dodgers: What to know with Aaron Judge facing Yoshinobu Yamamoto in potential World Series preview

On Friday night, the Los Angeles Dodgers and New York Yankees, baseball’s two marquee franchises, open a three-game series at Yankee Stadium. It is a potential World Series preview, though October is a long way away. It is a matchup of two of the best teams in baseball though. Here are the top of the league standings:

  1. New York Yankees: 45-19
  2. Philadelphia Phillies: 44-19 (0.5 GB)
  3. Cleveland Guardians: 40-21 (3 GB)
  4. Baltimore Orioles: 39-22 (4.5 GB)
  5. Los Angeles Dodgers: 39-25 (6 GB)

The Yankees visited Dodger Stadium in 2019 and 2023, and won two of three both times. This will be the first time the Dodgers visit Yankee Stadium since Sept. 2016, however. That was back when Corey Seager still wore Dodgers blue and Aaron Judge was only a month into his big league career. The Dodgers won two of three in that series.

“It’s going to be an amazing atmosphere,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said Thursday (via the New York Daily News). “We’ve gone twice since I’ve been here out to LA in the summer, and it’s been really cool going to Dodger Stadium and seeing that matchup and the buzz around it. I would imagine it’s going to be every bit of that and maybe more. I would expect it to be a pretty special environment.”

New York brings an eight-game winning streak into Friday’s series opener. Here are the details for this weekend’s Dodgers vs. Yankees series in the Bronx. Select games can be streamed on fuboTV (try for free).

Date Start time Starting pitchers TV

Fri., June 7

7:05 p.m. ET

RHP Cody Poteet (2-0, 2.45 ERA) vs. RHP Yoshinobu Yamamoto (6-2, 3.32 ERA)

YES, SportsNet LA, Apple TV+

Sat., June 8

7:35 p.m. ET

LHP Nestor Cortes (3-4, 2.46 ERA) vs. RHP Gavin Stone (6-2, 2.90 ERA)

Fox

Sun., June 9

7:10 p.m. ET

RHP Luis Gil (8-1, 1.82 ERA) vs. RHP Tyler Glasnow (6-4, 2.93 ERA)

ESPN

Friday’s game will be available on both the YES Network and SportsNet LA in addition to Apple TV+. The Yankees and Dodgers will both have their own broadcasts for the series opener. You can still watch on Apple TV+ if you want — Apple’s picture is very sharp — but you are not limited to it. There will be local broadcasts as well.

Poteet is in the rotation because Clarke Schmidt went down with a lat strain last week. Gil is in the rotation because reigning AL Cy Young winner Gerrit Cole is out with a nerve issue in his elbow, and he’s been out of this world. The rookie righty won AL Pitcher and Rookie of the Month honors in May, and has allowed three runs total in his last seven starts.

The Dodgers aren’t at full strength either, of course. Bobby Miller has been sidelined since the second week of April with shoulder inflammation, plus Tony Gonsolin (Tommy John), Clayton Kershaw (shoulder), and Dustin May (flexor) are all working their way back from last year’s surgeries. Stone won a rotation spot in spring training and has been very good, especially lately.

Here are five things to know heading into this weekend’s Dodgers vs. Yankees series, plus a prediction.

These two franchises have a long history

Dodgers vs. Yankees is the most common World Series matchup in baseball history, though the two teams have not met in the Fall Classic in more than four decades. Here is their World Series history, which features several iconic moments:

  • 1941: Yankees win 4-1
  • 1947: Yankees win 4-3
  • 1949: Yankees win 4-1
  • 1952: Yankees win 4-3
  • 1953: Yankees win 4-1 (at 25, Vin Scully becomes youngest World Series broadcaster ever)
  • 1955: Dodgers win 4-3 (Jackie Robinson steals home in Game 1)
  • 1956: Yankees win 4-3 (Don Larsen throws a perfect game in Game 5)
  • 1963: Dodgers win 4-0
  • 1977: Yankees win 4-2 (Reggie Jackson hits three home runs in Game 6)
  • 1978: Yankees win 4-2
  • 1981: Dodgers win 4-2

As for interleague play, the Yankees lead the all-time regular season series 10-9, and they’ve alternated wins and losses just about all the way back to their first-ever interleague game on June 18, 2004. Two Yankees fan favorites started that game: Javier Vázquez vs. Jeff Weaver. If the pattern of alternating wins and losses continues, the Dodgers are due to win two of three this weekend.

This will be the third time the Dodgers visit the Bronx during interleague play (also 2013 and 2016). The Dodgers never played in the old Yankee Stadium during interleague play, which is a shame. If that 2016 series at Yankee Stadium is any indication, the crowd will be electric and split almost 50/50 this weekend. It should be a blast.    

The top of each order is incredible

By FanGraphs WAR, this weekend’s series will feature six of the nine best position players in baseball this season: Aaron Judge (No. 1), Juan Soto (No. 2), Mookie Betts (No. 5), Shohei Ohtani (No. 7), Anthony Volpe (No. 8), and Will Smith (No. 9). Freddie Freeman is all the way down at No. 22. He’s really slacking off this year (I kid, I kid).

Since the second week of the season, the Yankees have regularly hit Volpe, Soto, and Judge atop their lineup in that order. The Dodgers have gone with Betts, Ohtani, and Freeman in the 1-2-3 spots all year, again in that order. The combined numbers for those trios are simply incredible:

Volpe, Soto, Judge Betts, Ohtani, Freeman

Batting average

.298

.308

On-base percentage

.400

.397

Slugging percentage

.564

.529

HR

44

33

RBI

132

113

WAR

11.1

8.6

Smith hits cleanup behind the big three and he owns a .299/.364/.512 slash line with nine homers this year. He’s been great. The Yankees don’t have anyone putting up numbers like that behind their big three, though Giancarlo Stanton has provided a lot of power (15 homers) and Alex Verdugo has come up with an avalanche of big hits (.297/.357/.622 in high leverage spots).

It is fair to say the Dodgers and Yankees both have top-heavy lineups, though that is meant as a compliment to their incredible 1-2-3 slots and not as a knock on everyone else. The Yankees and Dodgers meeting with star-laden lineups just feels right, you know?

Judge and Volpe have long on-base streaks

Matching 32-game on-base streaks, in fact. They are the two longest on-base streaks in baseball this season, active or otherwise, and they are the first set of teammates with simultaneous on-base streaks of at 30 games in two decades. Here are the teammates with the longest simultaneous on-base streaks in the Expansion Era (since 1961):

Players Teams On-base streaks

Cal Ripken Jr. and Eric Davis

1998 Baltimore Orioles

36 games

Edgar Martinez and Ichiro Suzuki

2001 Seattle Mariners

35 games

Rafael Furcal and Andruw Jones

2003 Atlanta Braves

34 games

Wade Boggs and Mike Greenwell

1988 Boston Red Sox

32 games

Aaron Judge and Anthony Volpe

2024 New York Yankees

32 games (and counting)

Judge started the season very slowly, so much so that he was booed on his own bobblehead day, but he’s been on a rampage the last six weeks or so. He now leads baseball in slugging percentage (.658), OPS (1.080) home runs (21), extra-base hits (41), total bases (150), walks (52), and on and on. Once again, Judge is the most dangerous hitter in the game.

As for Volpe, he had a disappointing rookie season a year ago, which led to a retooling of his swing in the offseason. That has led to a breakout sophomore season, one that justifies the hype and top prospect rankings. Judge and Soto have been great and they were expected to be great. Volpe’s emergence has helped the Yankees ascend to the top of the league standings.

Soto left Thursday’s game with an injury

Soto’s status for this weekend’s series is unclear. He exited Thursday’s game after a 56-minute rain delay with what the Yankees called left forearm discomfort. After the game, Boone and Soto revealed it’s something he’s been playing through the last week or so, and they didn’t want to send him back out after the long delay. He’ll have tests on Friday.

“I actually just woke up one day, felt the tightness and discomfort in my forearm. We’ve been working on it, and we’ve been trying to get away with it and it hasn’t gone out,” Soto said about the injury (via MLB.com). “… We all decided to not start getting warmed up again after an hour sitting down here (after the delay). We didn’t want to risk anything like that, so we just decided to stop.”

No Soto this weekend would dampen the excitement a bit, but, more importantly, losing him for any length of time would be a devastating blow to a Yankees’ team that is more or less firing on all cylinders. He has transformed the offense and is irreplaceable. The Yankees will hope Friday’s tests reveal nothing serious, and Soto can return to the lineup in short order. 

Yamamoto has been great since Seoul

Yamamoto’s introduction to MLB did not go well. He coughed up five runs in one inning against the San Diego Padres in the Seoul Series, and that ugly performance seems to have clouded how good he’s been overall. That first start counts, for sure, but in his 11 starts since Seoul, Yamamoto has been one of the best pitchers in baseball. 

Here’s where Yamamoto ranks among the 75 pitchers with enough innings to qualify for the ERA title since the Dodgers started the domestic portion of their schedule on March 28.

Yamamoto MLB rank

ERA

2.67

10th

WHIP

1.06

24th

K%

28.5%

11th

BB%

5.0%

14th

HR/9

0.84

22nd

WAR

1.8

14th

The Dodgers invested $325 million in Yamamoto because he’s only 25 and also very, very good. He is the three-time reigning MVP and Eiji Sawamura Award (Cy Young equivalent) winner in Japan, and despite that rocky first start in Seoul, Yamamoto has been one of the top pitchers in the league as a rookie this year. It’s money well spent, thus far.

The Yankees tried to sign Yamamoto, and their 10-year, $300 million offer had a higher average annual value. Of course, it had a lower total value, and that’s usually what decides free agent bidding wars. Yamamoto landed in Los Angeles, and it’s hard to say the Yankees are in bad shape without him. They’re allowing only 3.17 runs per game, the fewest in baseball by 0.26 runs.

Prediction

Soto’s injury, even if it’s a short-term thing, changes the outlook of the series a bit. I was prepared to say the Yankees would win two of three, specifically rallying to win the last two games after dropping the Poteet-Yamamoto matchup. Even if Friday’s tests bring good news, the Yankees might sit Soto a day or two to let the forearm calm down. In that case, I’ll say the Dodgers win two of three. They’ll win the first two games before Gil outduels Glasnow in the finale to salvage things for New York.

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