Thursday, April 17, 2014

Yankees Slug the Rays

 
I expected the Yankees to do well in this series against the Rays. The momentum they had during their home stand was bound to carry over with this group of guys that are building chemistry amongst each other. However, I did not expect them to come into Tampa and completely slug ace pitcher David Price. The Yankees offense got to Price for six runs on two home runs, two consecutive triples and countless doubles in the five innings Price threw against the Yankees. Usually, the match-up between Price and Sabathia goes in the Rays favor but tonight the Yankees broke out the sticks against a former left-handed Cy Young award winner. The offense scored ten runs in all, hitting three homers, two triples and four doubles in their sixteen total hits. Ichiro and Beltran were the only two starters who did not get hits against Tampa Bay pitching. Another notable occurrence surrounded Yangervis Solarte who hit the first home run of his Major League career. It has been a long road for Solarte, but he has proven that he is up at the Major League level to stay, and he is making a loud statement. You know that he won't get sent down when Mark Teixeira returns on Sunday. Along with the home run by Solarte, he also had a double and a single, making him a triple short of hitting for the cycle. He was not the only Yankees who came up just short of hitting for the cycle. Brian Roberts, who was dealing with a sore back for the last few days and before that was in the midst of a terrible slump, was also one hit short of the cycle. However, Roberts was a home run shy of the cycle. He hit a triple, a single and a double.

CC Sabathia was given a nice lead early on, as the score was already 4-0 Yankees by the time Sabathia had already recorded only three outs in the game. Sabathia needed a start like the one he had tonight. His offense scored a lot of runs for him, which allowed the lefty to experiment with pitches and challenge the hitters. Sabathia ended having thrown seven innings, allowing only two runs on seven hits. CC struck out six batters, which is significant because since he lost the velocity on his fastball, his strikeout rates have been lower. Also going in CC's favor was the ability of his defense to turn an around-the-horn triple play (5-4-3) in the third inning with runners on first and second with no outs. His only blemish was a home run to Sean Rodriguez in the seventh inning, but the game was already a blow out at that point so the solo shot meant nothing to the lefty or to the Yankees.

The Yankees passed their ultimate test today; they were able to knock around Price, who is the only legitimate starter on this club right now. Tomorrow evening, Hiroki Kuroda will face this anemic offense and Erik Bedard will pitch against the Yankees. Bedard has faced the Yankees many times and has not done a good job. The Yankees have won six of their last seven games, and will look to make it seven straight tomorrow night.

Lineup vs. Price

Jacoby Ellsbury CF
Derek Jeter SS
Carlos Beltran RF
Alfonso Soriano DH
Brian McCann C
Yangervis Solarte 3B
Scott Sizemore 1B
Brian Roberts 2B
Ichiro Suzuki LF

SP: LHP CC Sabathia vs. LHP David Price 

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Game 2/2 Analysis: Yankees Sweep Double Header

 
Not only do the Yankees sweep the day/night double header against the Chicago Cubs, but they also shut them out in both games, marking the first time the Yankees have shut out an opponent in two straight games since Aug 7-8, 2009 against the Red Sox. To go even further, the Yankees have not allowed a run in 21 innings, since the sixth inning of Sunday's game against Boston which the Yankees went on to win. The two starters for the Yankees today were the two biggest wildcards of the season. However, both went on the mound and proved why they should not be doubted. Michael Pineda pitched the night-cap of the split double header, and despite running into trouble and putting men on base he escaped his own jams and went on to pitch six solid innings. Girardi took Pineda out because he doesn't want the 25 year old fresh off major shoulder surgery to reinjure himself. Pineda's pitches weren't especially devastating today as highlighted by his three strikeouts. He still managed to give the Yankees quality innings though, and kept them in a game that they could easily have lost because the Yankees offense scored only two runs and a combined five runs in both games. There were not many negatives to take away from either of today's games. As a matter of fact, there was a lot to be excited about in both games, specifically in regards to the starting pitching performances. The Yankees future was on display in the double header. The future is Michael Pineda. The future is Masahiro Tanaka. If these pitchers can stay healthy and pitch as well as they have combined this season, I feel good about the Yankees long term starting rotation plans.

After taking both games against Chicago and winning three out of four against the Red Sox, the Yankees will take their 9-6, first place record to what has been a house of horrors for them in recent years. They will play four games in St. Petersburg, Florida against the depleted Tampa Bay Rays, who have been having trouble all season long scoring runs. Also, every time you turn around, another one of their starting pitchers is injured, most recently Matt Moore who is headed for Tommy John surgery. Given that the top notch starters besides David Price are not in the rotation, I expect the Yankees to continue what they have been doing since Thursday. They are riding a 4 game winning streak, and I believe they can sustain that in Tampa.

Game 2 lineup

Brett Gardner CF
Derek Jeter SS
Carlos Beltran DH
Alfonso Soriano LF
Yangervis Solarte 2B
Ichiro Suzuki RF
Scott Sizemore 3B
Kelly Johnson 1B
John Ryan Murphy C

SP: RHP Michael Pineda vs. LHP Travis Wood

Game 1/2 Analysis: Tanaka Delivers Ace Performance

 
Tanaka's line in this afternoon's start was one worthy of an ace headline. Tanaka pitched eight full frames, allowing just two hits and no runs. He struck out ten batters and walked only one in his 106 pitch performance. He could easily have pitched into the ninth, as his pitches became better as the game progressed but Girardi decided to keep him fresh being that it is only April 16th and the Yankees still have a whole season to play. Combine that with Tanaka making so much, the Yankees wouldn't want to risk injury for one more inning against the Cubs in April; it wouldn't be worth the loss in the long run. On an interesting side note, Tanaka has now surpassed Al Leiter's 25 strikeouts in his first three career starts as a Yankee, with 28 K's in his first three games. On top of his 28 strikeours, Tanaka is 2-0 with a 2.05 ERA which signals the ace conversation. Perhaps the sunlight contributed to Tanaka's outstanding performance, as many pitchers (like Andy Pettitte and Hiroki Kuroda) prefer(red) to pitch during the day or their numbers just reflected the sentiment.

Entering the season, there was much doubt surrounding Tanaka and his ability to adjust to Major League Baseball. The 25 year old certainly looks like he has been pitching in the states for his entire career, as he has yet to be vulnerable in any of his first three starts for the Yankees. If the ace pitcher can continue at his current rate, he will be the Yankees Opening Day starter for many years to come, but lets not get ahead of ourselves. He is new to the league and a majority of the teams have not even faced him yet. After this season, we will be able to make a judgement call on Tanaka. However, that doesn't take away from his brilliance on the mound today. I have to give credit to catcher Brian McCann, who has made it his mission to get to know the pitchers on the staff and lead them to success in calling the game from behind the plate.

The Yankees offense started out with a bang courtesy Carlos Beltran, who was named AL Player of the Week for last week. He homered to open the scoring in the first inning. The one run would be all Tanaka and the Yankees would need as they shut out the low scoring Chicago Cubs. The remaining two runs scored by the Yankees came on a sac fly by Dean Anna and on an RBI groundout by Ellsbury, who also stole his seventh base of the season today. Newcomers Ellsbury and Beltran continue to be the Yankees hot hitters in the early going while players like Alfonso Soriano and Brian McCann are still finding their groove. With that said, I now believe that this lineup has come together and will only improve with time, not to mention especially since Mark Teixeira will return from the disabled list on Sunday in Tampa.

In the nightcap, dominant Michael Pineda will start for the Yankees, as he looks to replicate his previous start against the Red Sox where he allowed one run in six innings. Thanks to Tanaka's lengthy performance today, the bullpen is well rested and will be ready in case Pineda's pitch count gets too high or if Girardi sees his effectiveness slipping, which was the case in the seventh inning of his last start.

"Frozen" lineup

Brett Gardner LF
Carlos Beltran RF
Jacoby Ellsbury CF
Alfonso Soriano DH
Brian McCann C
Yangervis Solarte 2B
Kelly Johnson 1B
Dean Anna SS
Scott Sizemore 3B

SP: RHP Masahiro Tanaka vs. RHP Jason Hammel

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Crazy Win for the Bombers

 
This game had just about everything in it: outfield assists, spectacular catches, player debuts at positions, an overturned challenge, three injuries, an ejection and big strikeouts. Unfortunately for the Yankees, all of the injuries came to their players. First, Francisco Cervelli pulled a hamstring beating out a fielders choice that would end up being the deciding run. He would leave the game and the umpire at first initially called him out however that would be the successfully challenged play. After the umpires ruled that the runner at first was safe, the Boston manager was fuming at the umpire and immediately was ejected from the game. In the following inning, Carlos Beltran would make his first career appearance at first base. Beltran was the star of the game, going 3-4 with a two run homer, a single and a double. This was the second game this year where Beltran had a single, double and a home run in the same game. It is April 13th. Carlos Beltran is beginning to fit in with the Yankees and has found his comfort zone, already with three homers this season. Solarte would also pull up lame as he tried to beat out a ground ball in the sixth inning. Solarte would stay in the game but had a noticeable limp as he came out to second base. With Roberts' back already an issue this year the Yankees infield has already seen multiple injuries, and that is not even counting Jeter's sore quad which made him miss two straight games against the Red Sox. Considering how well the Yankees were hitting against Doubront to begin the game the fact that they were able to win with only three runs is surprising to say the least.

Ivan Nova earned his second win of the season. Nova induced nine ground ball outs in 7.1 innings and struck out four batters as he allowed only two runs. However, Nova was not locating too well as there were several balls that were hit to the warning track that may have been home runs in other ballparks. All things considered, Nova gave the Yankees length as he is the first Yankee starter this year to pitch into the eighth inning. With the bullpen extremely thin he gave his team what they needed and more. Facing Matt Thornton, David Ortiz hit a ball to deep right center that looked like it had a chance but Ichiro had other ideas. After replacing Beltran in right field following Cervelli's injury that forced Beltran to play first for the first time in his career, Ichiro leaped and caught Ortiz's ball that would have put him on second base and would have eventually led to the tying or go-ahead Boston run. After loading the bases with two outs, David Phelps got a huge strikeout of Mike Carp to keep the one-run lead and Shawn Kelley would pitch a perfect ninth inning to give the Yankees the series win over the Red Sox.

Following an off-day tomorrow, the Yankees will welcome in the Cubs on Tuesday evening for the first time since the Yankees inaugural season in 2009. Former Oriole Jason Hammel will pitch for the Cubbies and Tanaka will make his third start in the Major Leagues, looking to improve on each of his following two outings where he got out of the gates by allowing three runs each time.