Braves: Touki Toussaint looks to build off his best start against the Yankees

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Last time we saw Touki Toussaint, he looked like a top of the rotation caliber pitcher against the Blue Jays, striking out a career-high nine batters in 6.2 innings.

Everything was working for the 24-year-old righty that night. Toussaint’s fastball was live, sitting from 94-96. His curve, as always, made batters look foolish, but his splitter also had the same effect, and he was throwing a sharp-biting slider for strikes as well. Toussaint had four pitches he could control throughout the game, and when that happens, even the best hitters in the world are going to get frustrated. It was the kind of outing that should give a young arm a sense of self-assurance, but that confidence will be put to the test tonight against the Bronx Bombers.

After winning six straight games, the Yankees have lost five of their last seven, but they still sit atop the AL East, and that doesn’t make their lineup any less daunting for an inexperienced pitcher.

D.J. LeMahieu leads it off for the Pinstripes, and he’s probably one of the least talked about MVP candidates in recent memory. The Yankees second baseman is followed by Aaron Judge, who leads the MLB in home runs this season with eight already. Aaron Hicks typically bats 3rd with Giancarlo Stanton sitting behind him in the cleanup spot. The towering right-handed bat is off to a fantastic in this shortened season, hitting .293 with three home runs.

Most lineups start to teeter off after the first four batters, but the Yankees offense never slows down. Talented shortstop Gleyber Torres usually hits behind Stanton. Although he’s off to a bit of a slow start, hitting just .157 so far this season. Let’s hope Toussaint can keep it that way.

Like most lineups, the bottom half is typically shaken up, but you can bet Toussaint will have to face third baseman Gio Urshela, who is hitting over .300 with three homers and 13 RBIs this year. Powerful catcher Gary Sanchez will also likely be in the lineup. He hit 34 homers last year but is off to an abysmal start this season, boasting an average of .103. The Yankees will then mix in veterans like Brett Gardner and the powerful Luke Voit, who already has four bombs this year in just 13 games.

No matter who the pitcher is, this lineup is a gauntlet to face with game-changing power one though nine, especially in a small ballpark like Yankee Stadium. For Toussaint, it has to be all about staying within himself and sticking to the gameplan. He will likely give up a homer or two, but as long as he keeps throwing strikes and attacking batters, the Braves offense should have a chance to win. Tonight will be the most challenging test of Toussaint’s young career, but it couldn’t come after a better confidence-building start.

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