Hiroki Kuroda goes for the Yankees and the Blue Jays will start Chad Jenkins. Kuroda, of course, has had a successful season for the Yankees and has been a terrific pickup for the team this season. And yet, Yankee Universe still tends to hold its breath whenever he starts. That is probably because after watching him all seasons, he has games where he will simply handcuff a team for seven or eight innings, and in others, he will be rather ordinary and prone to the long ball. Thus, Yankee fans are never sure which Kuroda will show up on a particular night. But let’s put it this way: A lot of the Yankees’ post season (if they get there) hopes are pinned to Kuroda being successful. If he cannot be counted on to win a game like this, can you really count on him for the playoffs?
Chad Jenkins is 24 years old and has pitched in a grand total of eleven major league games. He is a control pitcher without a real out pitch. He has a four-seam fastball that he throws 24.6% of the time and a two-seam fastball that he throws 46.3% of the time. He mixes in a cutter (5.1%), a slider (21.1%) and a change (2.2%). All of his fastballs average right around 90 MPH, so he is not going to blow you away. In fact, his strikeouts per nine rate thus far is 4.63 with a rate of 4.49 in the minors. So far, he has benefited greatly from a low BABIP of .250 and a strand rate of 78.7%. Both of those are very hard to sustain. Thus, his actual ERA of 4.24 pales to his FIP of 5.34. He throws from the right side, which is good for the Yankees except for Derek Jeter.
The Yankees really should win this one.
Saturday’s game is an afternoon game and pits Andy Pettitte against Ricky Romero. Pettitte has been amazing since coming back from the disabled list. He has thrown eleven innings and has allowed no runs. Of course, to expect that kind of thing is a bit much. But if Pettitte can limit the damage to two or three runs, which is more his career norm, the Yankees should win this game. Ricky Romero has had a tough season. But he finally won a game after a gazillion losses in a row with a win over the Orioles this past week. But even so, his control and command issues continued and he allowed four runs in five-plus innings. His walk rate is easily the highest of his career and is over five. His ERA is over five. And his WHIP for the season is 1.66.
Romero did pitch against the Yankees on September 19 at the Stadium and held them to one run despite seven hits and five walks allowed over six innings. So there is that to think about. But I still can’t see the Yankees losing this game as long as Pettitte is the normal career Pettitte. Romero is a lefty, so it will be interesting to see what Girardi does with that lineup.
Phil Hughes starts for the Yankees and Henderson Alvarez gets the start for the Blue Jays. Hughes looked dominant in his last outing until that one inning turned the game around. And many still believe that if Girardi has left Hughes in there instead of bringing in Boone Logan, the Yankees would have won the game. Who knows. It was a moot point. The real point is that Logan allowed all of Hughes’ runners to score despite there being two outs and it really marred what was a terrific outing. Hughes is pitching with a lot of confidence and will need every ounce of it to put this game in the win column.
Henderson Alvarez is not having a good season. His control is still good, but not as good as last year. He does not strike batters out and only strikes out 3.72 per nine innings, by far the lowest rate in the majors among qualifying starters. He has also allowed 28 homers this season which is a lot considering that he is an extreme ground ball pitcher. That latter statement is the only thing that is worrisome. The Yankees hit a lot of ground balls and if Alvarez is right, the Yankees will feed right into what he is trying to do. The Blue Jays are very active with their defensive shifts, and if the Yankees roll over too many pitches, this could be a long day. They will need to make Alvarez get the ball up and if he does not, then they need to hit some balls up the middle and to the opposite field to make solid contact.
Wrapping it all up.
There you have it. As one comment in Monday’s post indicated, this is all small sample size stuff and at this point in the season, anything could happen. All three match ups favor the Yankees. With the exception of Mark Teixeira, they have most of their pieces back and are nearly at full strength. Robinson Cano seems to be hot again and Ichiro is hitting well. Nick Swisher has picked it up in his last few games.
The Yankees need to win and keep winning and they punch their own ticket. They have very little margin for error and the Orioles are like the hounds of hell nipping at their heels. Fortunately, these weekend match ups all favor the Yankees. That doesn’t mean they will win them all. But they darn well should.