Jose De Leon gets his second major league start on Monday, and his first road assignment is against the Yankees at Yankee Stadium in New York in the opener of a three-game interleague series.
De Leon will look to replicate the success he had in his debut eight days ago, striking out nine while walking none in six innings, allowing four runs (three earned) in a quality start and win over the Padres.
In his debut, De Leon got 17 swing-and-misses — 11 times out of 59 times throwing the fastball, and six times in 23 times throwing his changeup, per data from Inside Edge and Brooks Baseball. Those 17 whiffs came in 40 swings, a 42.5% miss rate well above the league average of 23.7%.
To put those 17 whiffs in perspective, Clayton Kershaw averages 15.2 whiffs per start in his 17 starts in 2016. In fact, the only Dodgers with at least 17 whiffs in a single start in 2016 are Kershaw (8 times), Kenta Maeda (3 times) and De Leon.
While very impressive, De Leon will face a tougher test in the Yankees, who rank fourth in MLB in contact rate (79.9%) while batting, while San Diego is fifth-worst (76.0%).
Like De Leon, Yankees starter Bryan Mitchell also got his first major league win his last time out, on Wednesday. That was his only major league appearance this season, but he has appeared in 24 games in parts of the last three seasons, including four starts.
Mitchell will kill some worms if things are working well, with a 52.8% career ground ball rate in his 45⅔ major league innings, and similar recent numbers in the minors. He induced 10 ground balls in his 15 balls in play last Wednesday in five scoreless innings against Toronto.
The 25-year old righthander missed the first four months of the season with a broken toe, and was limited to just 21 minor league innings before his call to the majors.
De Leon will have to contend with Yankees catching phenom Gary Sanchez, who is off to a fantastic start to his big league career. He’s hitting .341/.415/.713 in 147 plate appearances.
Sanchez though has nine doubles and 13 home runs, the latter which is historic. The number of people who have hit 13 home runs in their first 36 major league games can be counted on one hand. That hand belongs to Antonio Alfonseca, but hear me out.
With those 13 home runs in his 36 career games to date, Sanchez matched the starts of Albert Pujols as well as Kevin Maas and Mike Jacobs. The only players with more home runs in their first 36 games are Wally Joyner (15) and Wally Berger (14).
In the final week before the Aug. 1 non-waiver trade deadline the Yankees traded away extraordinary relievers Aroldis Chapman and Andrew Miller, and also dealt slugger Carlos Beltran and starting pitcher Ivan Nova.
The club lost four straight games and on the morning of Aug. 1, New York was 52-52, 5½ games out of the second wild card spot but also with three teams ahead of them also out of playoff position. All the Yankees have done since is go 24-14, and now stand just two games out of a spot in the postseason.
There are four teams tightly bunched in that regard — the Orioles and Blue Jays are both 78-64, in wild card position(s) and just two games behind the Red Sox for the AL East lead, while Yankees and Tigers are 76-66, well within striking distance of at least one extra game in October.
New York won seven straight games before a loss on Sunday to Tampa Bay.
Much like the Dodgers’ charge forward when Clayton Kershaw was out, the Yankees’ run was fueled largely by their offense. New York has averaged 4.89 runs per game since the beginning of August, after scoring 4.03 runs on average in their first 104 games.
Dodgers (80-62) at Yankees (76-66)
Time: 4:05 p.m. PT
TV: SportsNet LA