After a rough outing by Joba Chamberlain and the bullpen last night led to a frustrating loss, it was up to AJ Burnett to get the Yankees back on track, taking on Ranger rookie Derek Holland, a big-time pitching prospect. The Yankees helped Burnett out right away by getting ahead against Holland early, something they have done consistently during their recent stretch of successful play.
Derek Jeter got the first inning going by recording the first of his 3 hits in the game, a liner to center field. After Johnny Damon, the only Yankee without a hit today, struck out, Mark Teixeira launched a home run to left field to put the Yankees up 2-0. After Burnett retired the side in the 1st, the Yankees got to Holland again. Consecutive doubles by Kevin Cash and Jeter plated another run, to give the Yankees a 3-0 lead.
That would be all the scoring that the Yankees would need, as Burnett threw 6 shutout innings, walking 4 and allowing 3 hits while striking out 6. AJ was not at his most efficient, throwing 118 pitches, but nonetheless was very successful with his fastball-curveball combination. The Yankees added 3 runs in the 5th on a homer by Hideki Matsui and a 2-run single by Cash, as well as 2 more in the 7th on a second Matsui homer.
Burnett was replaced by Jose Veras in the bottom of the 7th, who once again struggled with control and was ineffective. Veras allowed a leadoff double to Jared Saltalamacchia, followed by a groundout by Elvis Andrus. With 1 out, Ian Kinsler took Veras deep, making the score 8-2. A walk to Michael Young on a 3-2 slider, inexcusable given a 6-run lead, led Girardi to pull Veras, and replace him with David Robertson.
Robertson, who pitched well last night, once again impressed. He struck out the dangerous Josh Hamilton on an outside fastball, and then got Andruw Jones to line out to Damon in left.
Chien-Ming Wang replaced Robertson to pitch the 8th and 9th, and was by and large effective, retiring all 6 batters he faced: 2 via the groundout, 2 flyouts, and 2 strikeouts. His sinker had good movement tonight, but it was sitting around 91 mph, and at his best Wang throws it a few ticks faster than that. He also threw a few mediocre sliders and hit 92 with his 4-seamer. A Robinson Canó solo homer in the 9th made it 9-2, but the Rangers did not have a comeback in them.
Overall, another encouraging win against a 1st place team (albeit, in the mediocre AL West). Burnett pitched effectively to earn his first win in a while, and the offense set the tone early. Jeter and Matsui were the offensive stars, with Jeter going 3 for 4 with 2 walks, and Matsui hitting 2 homers. Kevin Cash was a surprising asset today, going 2 for 4 with a run and 2 RBI, and throwing out the speedy Elvis Andrus attempting to steal. With Jorge Posada set to return on Friday, Cash’s time in the majors is likely done, and this may have been his last game. Brett Gardner also played well filling in for the injured Cabrera, collecting 2 hits including a bunt single that induced a throwing error by Holland. With Cabrera out for a week or so, I would like to see the Yankees call up another outfielder, maybe Todd Linden or John Rodriguez (Austin Jackson’s not ready yet) as a backup to replace the thoroughly useless Angel Berroa on the roster.
buy Pulse 2: Afterlife Veras once again was awful, and I’m not sure how much longer Girardi can keep sending him out there before they replace him, whether with Mark Melancon from the minors or by making a trade. He is a liability at this point, as he is always getting himself into trouble with walks and home runs, a bad combination.
I was happy to see Wang get an opportunity to get some work against major league hitters in a low-pressure situation, but I’m not sure if he will be able to get regular work in his current bullpen role. I would like to see him work his way back into the rotation, because when he’s right, he can another horse in the rotation who can give the bullpen a rest while shutting down the opposition with his sinker. His velocity is not where it needs to be yet, but hopefully it is a matter of building arm strength and maybe fixing his release point.
With this win, the Yankees move to 27-20, into a tie for first place in the AL East with the Red Sox, who lost to Minnesota tonight. They have an off-day tomorrow (so maybe I can get my draft post up then), and begin a 4-game set at Cleveland on Friday. Posada is supposed to join the team in Cleveland, so hopefully he’ll hit the ground running.