The juggernaut franchises faced off within the World Series 11 times between 1941 and 1981. But since then, that they had been limited to 16 interleague games against one another heading into this weekend. And the last time they met, the Yankees and the Dodgers didn’t even look the part.
“I’m glad we get to wear our normal uniforms this time as an alternative of the weird black and whites we wore the last time this happened,” Gerrit Cole, the ace starting pitcher of the Yankees, said Friday afternoon when discussing the three-game series in August 2019 wherein the players wore alternative jerseys for the short-lived Players’ Weekend.
While the long-lasting Recent York road grays and Los Angeles home whites have everyone looking sharp, the teams are still working hard to play more like themselves.
On the surface, though, every part has seemed wonderful.
The Yankees ripped through the past month, winning 19 of 29 games before Friday and constructing the perfect record in Major League Baseball since May 2. The Dodgers, after beating the Yankees, 8-4, in Friday night’s series opener, were tied with Arizona for the perfect record within the National League (35-23).
Those are the outcomes teams expect after they spend just like the Yankees ($277 million) and the Dodgers ($226 million). Yet the primary two months of this season saw the clubs test the depth provided by those huge payrolls. When that depth wasn’t quite enough either, each began to improvise.
The managers, Aaron Boone and Dave Roberts, have found themselves within the margins, playing mix-and-match, with the Yankees leading the majors in days lost to the injured list, with 747, and the Dodgers rating third, with 636.
This weekend, though, might be something of a turning point for the Yankees, who’re trailing Tampa Bay and Baltimore in a wildly competitive American League East. On Friday, the Yankees activated designated hitter Giancarlo Stanton and third baseman Josh Donaldson from the injured list. Perhaps now they may be less depending on Aaron Judge, the team’s captain, who was announced because the A.L.’s player of the month for May on Friday after he batted .342 with 12 homers, 25 R.B.I. and 23 runs scored within the month while leading the majors in slugging percentage.
The returning sluggers took part within the series-opening loss, and each produced. Donaldson smashed a Clayton Kershaw slider over the left-center field fence in his first plate appearance since April 5, then blasted a second home run within the ninth inning. Stanton also homered off Kershaw, a 417-foot shot within the fourth on a lazy slider.
That was all too little and too late since Luis Severino, the Yankees’ oft-injured right-handed starter, taking the mound for under the third time this season, was torched for six runs in the primary inning by the Dodgers.
Still, each the sweetness and the challenge of a season include the what’s next, and getting back two previous winners of the Most Worthwhile Player Award (Donaldson in 2015; Stanton in 2017) would boost any team’s spirits.
“The guy has been a wrecking machine his whole life,” Boone said of Donaldson, now 37 and limited some by a series of leg injuries. “He still has his power, his twitch, his bat speed. I understand it’s in there. When he’s right, he’s an ideal player.”
Stanton — also vulnerable to muscle pulls and strains — shall be limited to D.H. duties for his first couple of weeks back while the Yankees be sure that to “construct him up properly” and Boone works to “move the puzzle around.”
With the team committed to the rookie Anthony Volpe at shortstop, and Gleyber Torres playing well at second base, Boone could have to get creative to seek out time on the sphere for Donaldson, while also keeping D.J. LeMahieu, the team’s utility infielder, sharp.
Having some days where he has too many options for his lineup card is a challenge of sorts for Boone, however it is a welcome change from the previous few months.
“Hopefully they’re all doing their thing and banging and you realize that every day you’re sitting an excellent and dangerous player over there,” Boone said. “We’ve been working hard to get ourselves whole and healthy”
With a starting rotation in tatters, the Dodgers can relate.
The correct-handed starter Dustin May (right elbow) is out for the foreseeable future, while the lefty Julio Urías (hamstring) is scheduled for a 30-pitch bullpen session Saturday afternoon because the Dodgers determine their next move with him. Then there may be Noah Syndergaard, the veteran right-hander who signed a one-year deal this yr as a bridge to the subsequent wave of young pitchers. As a substitute, he seems one or two more bad starts away from losing his job.
After the Nationals treated Syndergaard like a batting practice pitcher on Wednesday, ballooning his E.R.A. to six.54, Syndergaard was despondent. “I’d give my hypothetical first born to be the old me again,” he said. “I’ll do anything possible to get back to that.”
Though Roberts confirmed Friday that Syndergaard will make his next start in Cincinnati on Wednesday, nothing is promised after that. And while Kershaw held the Yankees to 2 runs over seven innings on Friday, a notable improvement after his 5.55 E.R.A. in May, the Dodgers were expected to send out a pair of rookie starters, Michael Grove and Bobby Miller, for Saturday and Sunday’s games against Recent York.
Miller, a first-round pick in 2020 who will start Sunday, has impressed up to now, winning his first two starts since being called up.
“He’s a special arm talent,” said Andrew Friedman, the Dodgers’ president of baseball operations. “Only a full repertoire of pitches that offers him a probability to match up against any hitter within the league. Obviously, it at all times comes all the way down to execution. The stuff’s there. The will to be great is there. And this experience that he’s gaining is invaluable.”
The Dodgers’ lineup has also featured far fewer options, though that was by design.
Justin Turner, a mainstay at third base, was allowed to walk as a free agent after the Dodgers won 111 games last yr. The identical was true of outfielder Cody Bellinger and shortstop Trea Turner, neither of whom was retained because the Dodgers worked to trim payroll in a yr wherein they were expected to step back and regroup.
Then, when Gavin Lux, Trea Turner’s projected alternative at shortstop, blew out a knee in spring training, things really turned dicey. Coming into the yr, few could have predicted that Mookie Betts, the team’s Gold Glove right fielder, would have six starts at shortstop.
In some way, though, a team with a middling rotation, a nasty bullpen and a lineup that seems far less ferocious than it did in recent times, has managed to bully its well past opponents.
The Yankees saw that firsthand on Friday. But they welcome that form of challenge.
“We’re excited to be here and I’m excited to pitch here,” said Cole, who’s scheduled to begin Saturday night. “It’s at all times fun coming here, but especially as a Yankee, it’s the history going back to Recent York. It just makes it slightly bit more special.”
And even when neither team has looked quite right this season, each are preparing for October baseball, similar to at all times. A June series against one another serves as a convenient test of their readiness.
“There are games, series, throughout the 162-game season that do get slightly greater feel,” Boone said. “I believe it’s great. Whether it’s once we go to London otherwise you play within the Field of Dreams game, there’s something really cool about that within the grind of 162 that, you realize, obviously with the tradition of those two teams, interleague. I believe a weekend in June, Dodgers-Yankees, has an excellent sound to it and doubtless does provide you with slightly extra juice.”