Yankees vs. Dodgers: MLB's best record could be on the line, plus what to know about this potential World Series preview

This weekend at Dodger Stadium, the Los Angeles Dodgers will host the New York Yankees in a three-game series that could very well be a World Series preview. The Dodgers and Yankees are two of the best teams in baseball. A date in October could await.

"Hopefully it's not the only time we play there this year," Yankees outfielder Brett Gardner told reporters, including George King of the New York Post, on Thursday.

Eleven times the Yankees and Dodgers have met in the World Series -- Yankees vs. Dodgers is the most common matchup in World Series history -- with New York holding an 8-3 series edge. This rivalry dates back a long time, back to when the Dodgers called Brooklyn home prior to 1958.

Here are the details for this weekend's series at Chavez Ravine. Games on YES can be streamed regionally on fuboTV (try for free).

DateStart TimeStarting PitchersTV

Fri., Aug. 23

10:10 p.m. ET

LHP James Paxton (9-6, 4.53 ERA) vs. LHP Hyun-Jin Ryu (12-3, 1.64 ERA)

YES, SportsNet LA

Sat., Aug. 24

4:05 p.m. ET

LHP CC Sabathia (5-7, 5.01 ERA) vs. RHP Tony Gonsolin (1-1, 3.00 ERA)

YES, SportsNet LA, FS1

Sun., Aug. 25

7:05 p.m. ET

RHP Domingo German (16-3, 4.15 ERA) vs. LHP Clayton Kershaw (13-2, 2.71)

ESPN

Significant pitching edge to the Dodgers on paper, as expected. They have one of the best rotations in the game -- they'll get to throw Walker Buehler along with Ryu and Kershaw in a short postseason series -- whereas the Yankees have an underperforming rotation buoyed by a strong offense and a powerful bullpen.

"I'm excited to see it packed out with the fans going crazy," Yankees outfielder Aaron Judge told reporters, including James Wagner of the New York Times. "They've got a young good team like we do. I've been looking forward to this game for a while. They're the best in the NL and been to the World Series two years in a row and won their division. You want to play the best teams."

It can be easy to read too much into an August series between baseball's powerhouses, especially when they play as infrequently as the Yankees and Dodgers, though this series will definitely have a postseason feel. The fans will be into it and the players will definitely be into it. Here's a look at seven things you need to know, plus a prediction, going into this weekend's Yankees vs. Dodgers series.

1. The interleague history is very close

Thanks to interleague play, the Yankees and Dodgers meet once every three years. They don't always visit each other's ballparks, however. The Yankees will visit the Dodgers this season and that's it. The Dodgers are not making a return trip to New York.

These two teams last played in September 2016, when the Dodgers visited Yankee Stadium and won two of three. Here is the relatively brief interleague history between the Yankees and Dodgers:

  • June 2004: Three games at Dodger Stadium (Dodgers won series 2-1)
  • June 2010: Three games at Dodger Stadium (Yankees won series 2-1)
  • June 2013: Two games at Yankee Stadium (series split 1-1)
  • August 2013: Two games at Dodger Stadium (series split 1-1)
  • September 2016: Three games at Yankee Stadium (Dodgers won series 2-1)

The Dodgers lead the all-time interleague series 7-6 and have outscored the Yankees 49-43 in the 13 games. Weirdly enough, the two teams have alternated wins and losses since their first meeting in 2004. The Dodgers won the first game, the Yankees won the second, the Dodgers won the third, the Yankees won the fourth, so on and so forth. If the pattern continues, the Yankees will win Friday and Sunday this weekend.

2. Best record in baseball could be on the line

The Dodgers hold a massive 20 1/2-game lead in the NL West while the Yankees are merely eight games up in the AL East. Both clubs are going to the postseason -- SportsLine puts their playoff odds north of 99 percent -- and should clinch their respective division titles soon after Labor Day.

Despite their comfortable division leads, this weekend's series is meaningful. The Yankees and Dodgers are vying for the best record in baseball and thus home-field advantage throughout the postseason. Here is the top of the MLB standings as of Friday morning:

  1. Dodgers: 85-44
  2. Yankees: 83-46 (2 GB)
  3. Astros: 82-47 (3 GB)
  4. Twins: 77-50 (7 GB)
  5. Braves: 77-52 (8 GB)

If they make it to the World Series and there is a Game 7, these two teams want it played in their ballpark. Home-field advantage doesn't guarantee anything -- the Dodgers lost World Series Game 7 at home to the Astros just two years ago, remember -- but playing at home is certainly preferable.

"Obviously, we play really, really well at home and it's a place that we feel like we have a real home-field advantage," Yankees manager Aaron Boone told reporters earlier this week. "But we also know we're capable on the road as well."

For the record, the Dodgers are 51-16 at home this year, a .761 winning percentage. They are 34-28 (.548) on the road. The Yankees are 49-20 (.710) at home and 34-26 (.567) on the road.

3. There's not much familiarity here

At least with the starting pitchers. Russell Martin is the only Dodgers player to have faced German, for example, and he's only faced him four times. One Dodgers player has faced Sabathia more than 10 times and Sabathia has been in the league nearly two decades now. Here are the Dodgers against New York's starters:

SPTotal PAAVG/OBP/SLGPA LeaderOther Notables

German

4

.000/.500/.000

Russel Martin (4)

N/A

Paxton

54

.240/.296/.440

David Freese (22)

Tyler White is the only other Dodger to face Paxton more than nine times.

Sabathia

73

.250/.319/.392

Martin (36)

David Freese and Justin Turner have face Sabathia nine times each, second most among Dodgers players.

Yankees hitters don't have much experience against the Dodgers scheduled starters either -- no Yankees have faced Gonsolin, who's thrown 18 innings as a rookie this year -- though DJ LeMahieu (Rockies) and Cameron Maybin (Padres) did spend several years in the NL West. Those two have some familiarity with Ryu and Kershaw. The numbers:

SPTotal PA AVG/OBP/SLG PA Leader Other Notables

Kershaw

132

.195/.275/.246

LeMahieu (66)

Maybin has faced Kershaw 40 times. No other Yankees has seen him more than nine times.

Ryu

38

.216/.237/.216

LeMahieu (17)

Maybin has 10 plate appearances against Ryu and no other Yankee has more than five.

For fans and analysts, it can be easy to read too much into hitter vs. pitcher splits. I absolutely believe a hitter can "own" a pitcher and vice versa. Some guys just throw your speed, you know? I also think the hitter vs. pitcher stats aren't useful because they are almost always small sample sizes, and weird things happen in small samples. They are stats that tell you what happened, not what will happen next.

That all said, there is no doubt hitters are more comfortable when they've faced a certain pitcher before, and vice versa. The best scouting report is always in the player's head. Aside from Martin, who spent a few years with the Blue Jays, and LeMahieu, who played all those years in Colorado, there isn't much history between the hitters and pitchers this series. Many guys are going in blind and that is advantage pitcher, in theory.

4. The Dodgers are rolling offensively

You wouldn't have known it from watching Blue Jays righty Jacob Waguespack hold them to one hit through seven innings Thursday night, but the Dodgers are locked in offensively. They rallied against Toronto's bullpen for their 12th -- 12th! -- walk-off win of the season.

The Dodgers are averaging 6.26 runs per game in August and, as a team, they are hitting .264/.349/.540 this month. It is kind of like having nine Matt Olsons in the lineup (.262/.345/.533). Four Dodgers have at least 70 plate appearances in August. Their numbers are great:

PLAYERPAAVG/OBP/SLGHRRBI

Cody Bellinger

78

.254/.321/.662

8

20

Max Muncy

82

.250/.415/.641

7

17

Corey Seager

76

.268/.316/.563

3

11

Justin Turner

71

.328/.411/.641

6

11

Seager started the season slowly after coming back from Tommy John surgery, which is understandable. There was rust to shake off. He's really started to hit his stride these last few weeks though, especially in the power department.

Not included in the table are standout platoon weapons like A.J. Pollock (.378/.455/.676 in August) and Matt Beaty (.341/.442/.636), or upstart catcher Will Smith (.306/.397/.816). The Dodgers have stars and they have unmatched depth, and they have shined offensively in August.

"I think there's something to that, I do," Dodgers manager Dave Roberts told reporters, including MLB.com's Ken Gurnick, when asked about the Dodgers being built around depth. "On the larger sense of a season, when you can go 35 (players) deep and keep guys fresh and get guys out of games and give guys a day off, and energized and fresh, and also hungry for more at-bats, that's a luxury we do have with the depth ... We almost beat teams and we just outlast them."

5. Judge is coming out of his slump

View Profile
Aaron Judge NYY • RF • 99
BA.264
R49
HR13
RBI34
SB2

When we last checked in on Aaron Judge, New York's hulking right fielder was mired in a nearly month-long slump that saw him go 12 for 81 (.148) with one home run and 31 strikeouts in 21 games spanning July 25 to Aug. 15. The Yankees kept winning -- they won 15 of those 21 games -- but their best player wasn't right.

Judge has started to snap out of that slump these last few days. He is 7 for 20 (.350) with three doubles and one home run in his last five games -- he has multiple hits in three of the five games -- and the home run was his first pulled homer of the season. Yes, Judge's first homer to left field this season came on Aug. 20.

"To really get into one like he did was good to see and hopefully (it is) something that he continues to build that momentum," Boone told reporters, including NorthJersey.com's Pete Caldera, following the homer.

Five games does not mean Judge is out of that slump yet, but it is encouraging. He's hitting the ball extremely hard -- Judge leads baseball in average exit velocity by more than two miles an hour -- and he's started to get it elevated again. When he was slumping, he was hitting everything on the ground. The Dodgers will see a ostensibly revived Judge this weekend.

"I've felt good for a couple of months now," Judge told Caldera. "Hits will start falling, that's about it. Just having quality at-bats is the goal."

6. The bullpens are in very different shape

View Profile
Kenley Jansen LAD • RP • 74
ERA3.70
WHIP1.05
IP48.2
BB11
K64

Although the Dodgers came back to win, Kenley Jansen blew his second straight save opportunity and third in his last six save chances Wednesday night. His 3.70 ERA and eight home runs allowed are decidedly un-Kenley-like. Roberts was asked whether a change would be made in the ninth inning following Wednesday's game.

"At this point in time, I'm not tempted," Roberts told reporters, including Bill Plunkett of the Orange County Register. "I do think that this is a performance-based business. I expect him to work through things. But there's no guarantee for anyone – nor should there be – if performance doesn't warrant it. That's something that from Day One I've said that my job is to do what's best for the Dodgers, not for an individual player. So this is me saying that I will still bet on the fact (Jansen will improve)."

Righty Joe Kelly has been dynamite in the second half and Pedro Baez has been very good at times as well. Otherwise, with Julio Urias serving his suspension under the league's domestic violence policy, Roberts and the Dodgers are still sort of searching for answers in the bullpen. Could be Gonsolin, could be Dustin May, could be Casey Sadler. It's a work in progress.

New York's bullpen, meanwhile, is one of the best in the business, especially in the late innings. Lefty Zack Britton and righties Tommy Kahnle and Adam Ottavino form a dynamite setup crew ahead of closer Aroldis Chapman. The Yankees are a perfect 22-0 when those four all pitch in a game this season. They're coming into the series well-rested too. Britton, Chapman, and Kahnle haven't pitched since Sunday and Ottavino has thrown eight pitches this week.

Clearly, the Dodgers have the advantage early in the game when the starting pitchers are on the mound. And, clearly, the Yankees have the advantage in the late innings, once the bullpens come into play. Jansen is still struggling with the home run ball and the setup crew is still settling in. The Yankees, on the other hand, have an established and rested relief corps heading into the series.

7. It's Players Weekend!

You won't see the Dodgers in their classic home whites or the Yankees in their road grays this weekend. This weekend is the third annual Players Weekend. The Dodgers will wear all-white uniforms while the Yankees wear all black:

yankees-dodgers-players-weekend.jpg
The Yankees and Dodgers won have their iconic uniforms on this weekend. MLB/CBS Sports

Each player will have a nickname on his jersey. Muncy will have "FUNKY MUNCY." Britton is going with "WITH A K" after his offseason name change from Zach to Zack. Joc Pederson is going with the 👑 emoji and Domingo German will start Sunday's game with "SUNDAY" on his uniform, because Sunday in Spanish is Domingo.

MLB.com's Ken Gurnick has all the Dodgers' Players Weekend nicknames while MLB.com's Bryan Hoch has the same for the Yankees. Check 'em out.


Prediction time

What better way to close out a preview piece than with a prediction? The official CBS Sports prediction for this weekend's series: Dodgers sweep. Not only that, I'm also going to predict New York's streak of not being shutout will end this weekend. The Yankees are currently riding the third longest streak of not being shutout in baseball history:

  1. 1931-33 Yankees: 308 games
  2. 1978-79 Brewers: 212 games
  3. 2018-19 Yankees: 211 games

With no DH and so many important hitters still on the injured list (Edwin Encarnacion, Aaron Hicks, Luke Voit), plus the Dodgers boasting a stellar rotation, I think the Yankees get blanked one game this weekend. How's Friday sound? Overall, the Yankees are reeling a bit (2-4 in their last six games) and I'm skeptical their rotation can keep the Dodgers bats down. Plus Los Angeles is damn near unbeatable at home. They'll be in position to win the game long before the Yankees can deploy that killer bullpen.

CBS Sports Writer

Mike Axisa joined CBS Sports in 2013. He has been a member of the BBWAA since 2015 and has previously written about both fantasy baseball and real life baseball for MLBTradeRumors.com, FanGraphs.com, RotoAuthority.com,... Full Bio

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