The White Sox will present a glimpse of their youthful future while the Yankees will hope for a boost from their veteran present when the two teams square off for the final time this season on Wednesday.
Erik Johnson, ranked by MLB.com as the No. 2 prospect in the White Sox system, will make his Major League debut at Yankee Stadium, meeting lefty CC Sabathia in a game that means a lot more to the Yankees this season, fighting for a postseason spot, but means plenty to the White Sox for their future.
The present for the Yankees is they'll be entering Wednesday's finale looking for a much-needed series sweep. They want to remain solidly in the American League Wild Card race and within shouting distance of the Red Sox in the AL East with the other Sox coming to town later this week, and Wednesday is the next big game in that quest.
For Sabathia, there's no time like the present to finally get on track. He has won three of his last four starts, but with a 6.17 ERA that has his 4.91 mark heading for a career high. Sabathia could use some solid starts in September, and if he can settle into a groove, that can only buoy the Yankees down the stretch.
"It makes it easier if you have five starters on a roll, obviously," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said Tuesday. "We could go out and bang 10 runs a game, and pitching becomes less of a factor. Obviously, we'd like to see [Hiroki Kuroda and Sabathia] get on a roll in September, and if it does, it's really going to help us."
The future for the White Sox is now, and the 23-year-old Johnson could be a big part of it. He certainly has knocked the door down for the opportunity to pitch in the big leagues, going 12-3 with a 1.96 ERA (31 ER/142 IP), three complete games and 131 strikeouts over 24 starts between Triple-A Charlotte and Double-A Birmingham this season.
And now he's kicking off his career in the Bronx.
"It's a great opportunity," Johnson said of making his debut at Yankee Stadium. "If you ever wanted to start somewhere in your Major League debut, this would be it."
Even after the season he put up in the Minors, Johnson said he wasn't anticipating the chance to start in the Majors this soon.
"I couldn't tell you that. I take it from start to start and make sure I focus on the next one. You never look too far ahead and always look toward your next start," he said.
His next start is at Yankee Stadium, which is a long way from Charlotte and Birmingham. And White Sox manager Robin Ventura is looking forward to seeing how the youngster handles it as his club goes with six starters down the stretch.
"He's excited to be here, but he wasn't really expecting to start so quickly. He had a little bit of a notion, but he is excited to get it going," Ventura said.
White Sox: Teaching down the stretch
• Part of what the White Sox will focus on in September is providing teachable moments for their younger players, giving them a glimpse of how they need to perform at the Major League level.
It'll be a bit of an education for players like Johnson and infielder Marcus Semien, also brought up with roster expansion.
"That's where we're at right now," Ventura said. "That's part of doing it in the situation we're in with the guys that we have and bring up. You want to get them into as many situations as you can. You're looking into the future for what they might be doing and what you might need to fill. You might see Semien playing some third, playing some shortstop and seeing what he can do."
• Including Chris Sale's outing that went so well until the eighth inning Wednesday, the White Sox rank fifth in the AL in quality starts with 78 on the season.
Yankees: Can't help peeking
• With the Yankees fighting to pick up ground in the postseason races, Girardi knows there's a tendency to check the out-of-town scoreboard once in a while.
"It's hard not to scoreboard watch. It's right in front of you, and it's flashing at every ballpark," Girardi said. "Does it take your attention away from the game? No. But it's pretty hard not to look."
• The Yankees are 21-11 against the AL Central this season. They'll play 17 of their last 24 against AL East opponents, and they have a 32-27 mark against their own division.
• New York's second straight win over the White Sox on Tuesday came after Chicago had claimed six consecutive over the Yankees dating back to last season.
• After Wednesday's finale, the White Sox will head down to Baltimore for a series against another AL East postseason contender in the O's, while the Yankees will welcome the rival Red Sox for a four-game set.
John Schlegel is a national reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.