I probably need to start giving the Rangers’ pitchers some credit. I didn’t believe in C.J. Wilson or Colby Lewis last year, and Matt Harrison seemed like a prime candidate for a beatdown on Friday evening at Yankee Stadium.
Instead, Harrison took my regression prediction and ostensibly told me to shove it, tossing eight innings of two-run ball, largely on the strength of an American League-record tying six(!) double plays. Harrison only racked up three strikeouts, while walking three and giving up seven hits. Incredibly, Harrison managed to lower his ERA from 1.29 to 1.23. Not to take anything away from Harrison’s impressive outing, but the regression monster is coming for you, my friend. It’s coming after you in a big, bad way.
The Yankees, to their credit, made this one interesting in the ninth. Down 5-2, Alex Rodriguez just missed another home run and had to settle for a double before being knocked in by an Eric Chavez pinch-hit single. A Jorge Posada walk brought Russell Martin to the plate with an opportunity to win the game with one swing of the bat, but Martin — perhaps a bit overeager — offered at Neftali Feliz‘s first pitch and flied out to right to end the game, as the Rangers locked down a 5-3 victory.
About the only good thing to occur for the Yankees on the pitching side of the ledger was the impressive MLB debut of Lance Pendleton. Pendleton — who, you may recall, spent spring training with Houston after being selected in the Rule 5 draft, but was returned to the Yankees at the end of March after an ineffective seven-plus innings — was flawless, retiring all nine Rangers he faced over three scoreless innings. It was most likely the result of Pendleton being an unknown to the Rangers moreso than anything else, but Pendleton actually looked pretty good out there, and it’s a mighty impressive feat to throw three perfect MLB innings in one’s first-ever appearance.
The Yankees found themselves in a 5-1 hole for the second straight night, thanks to a wildly ineffective outing from Ivan Nova, who lasted only 4.1 innings. Though Nova only yielded four hits, he issued 5(!) walks and a HBP, and was ultimately responsible for all five Texas runs. Nova’s ERA on the young season stands at an ugly 7.36, and while I was encouraged by his last outing against the Red Sox, I’m beginning to get a tad concerned about Nova in the rotation going forward.
I’m not really sure what the answer is, but so far the Yankee rotation outside of CC Sabathia and A.J. Burnett has been pretty ineffective, and it’s a testament to the Yankee offense that the team has the record that it does. While the mid-2000s Yankees seemed to make an annual habit of bashing their way to the playoffs in spite of weak starting pitching, that’s not a formula for long-term success, and hopefully the team can bring some stability to the rotation with the addition of Bartolo Colon, and perhaps Hector Noesi, if Nova continues to falter.