In order to get off on the right foot this week in a road series against the Minnesota Twins, the Yankees will have to get past old friend Sonny Gray on Monday night.
You remember Gray, right? Was supposed to be the missing piece at the 2017 trade deadline? Kinda was, for a little while, before imploding the next season and begging out of the Bronx? Cost the Yankees Jorge Mateo, which didn't exactly matter for many years before he began to shine in Baltimore last summer and leveled up this season?
This year, Gray has been the best version of himself with the Twins, beginning the year in a Gerrit Cole-like trance. Through four starts, Gray has commanded all corners of the plate with a diverse pitch mix, posting an 0.82 ERA and striking out 26 men in 22 innings.
Can only go up from here, though! Right? ...Right?
Meanwhile, on the other side, the Yankees have struggled mightily offensively in recent weeks, scoring three runs or fewer in eight of their last 10 games. This deficiency dates back to before Giancarlo Stanton's injury, and goes far deeper than the slugger's absence. Willie Calhoun probably isn't providing the results the team envisioned, but that hasn't stopped him from batting fifth. Franchy Cordero already gave us more than we were expecting, but that's over, too.
How can the Yankees get off to the hot start they'll need to tonight, while keeping the pressure on Gray, who's been comfortable at his new digs? Thanks to this helpful breakdown, we can see that his behavior is a little more formulaic than his persona as a master magician lets on.
Yankees should expect two-strike sliders vs Twins RHP Sonny Gray
Luckily, the Yankees will only have to worry about the two-strike slider, considering they didn't have the foresight to add any left-handed bats this year. Kidding! Ha ha! Roster construction on point, we're just kidding.
The reeling Yankees offense will face a significant challenge this series in Minnesota, with both Gray and excellent young right-hander Joe Ryan set for the first two games of the set. Ryan, of course, shut down the Yankees just over a week ago for seven innings of three-run ball in what's otherwise become known as the Jhony Brito Game.
Hopefully, the Yankees don't let the weekend's offensive inactivity spiral, and instead reference the helpful flow chart above before they dig in against Gray in frigid Minneapolis.