Sunday’s game against the Tampa Bay Rays felt like some sort of time warp as Derek Jeter and Alfonso Soriano led the offense and Mariano Rivera recorded the win. All we needed was an Andy Pettitte start and I would have felt like Rip Van Winkle waking up from a nap started ten years ago. And I realized after watching the game that perhaps the owners that overruled Brian Cashman to go get Soriano made the right decision.
It is not that Soriano might carry the Yankees to a miracle comeback. Hardly anyone expects that to happen. But the addition gives the lineup some context for the fans. It has not just been that a bunch of fill-in starters have been penciled into the Yankees’ lineup or that they have been hitting poorly. The problem as a fan was the lack of continuity. Losing so many regulars from the lineup meant that there was nobody we “knew” playing on a regular basis. It was like watching someone else’s team for four months.
And I do not know how well Derek Jeter will hold up or even how well he will perform down the stretch. But it is someone we know. It was a Yankee. The return of Soriano felt the same way. He was a Yankee.
So while we wait for the hammer to fall on Alex Rodriguez. And while the games this week will all be on West Coast time and finish in the early hours of the morning, at least there are a couple of names we can root for in the lineup. And Curtis Granderson will not be too far behind.
That said, a West Coast swing is never a fun stretch for the Yankees or their fans. After a day off today, the Yankees will play the Los Angeles Dodgers, the hottest team in baseball, for two games and then spend another off day to get ready to play the San Diego Padres for the weekend. At least the latter series seems doable.
So how does the week look? Let’s take a look.
The last time the Yankees played the Dodgers was back on June 19 and 20 at the Stadium. At the time, the Dodgers were in fifth place, eight and a half games back and had a record of 29-40. What a difference a month and a half makes.
Yasiel Puig was just starting to make his mark and Hanley Ramirez had just returned from the disabled list. Both have been outstanding since and the Dodgers have gone 25-8 to roar all the way to the top of the NL West. Puig and Ramirez were not the only factors. Zack Greinke‘s return and some hot, hot pitching from Chris Capuano have helped immensely.
The Yankees will not see Capuano, but will see Clayton Kershaw and Greinke in those two games. Historically, Greinke has not pitched well against the Yankees and has a lifetime ERA over six against them. But those were different years and different Yankee teams. Kershaw, of course, is one of the best pitchers in baseball.
But the Yankees will not throw slouches against them either. Andy Pettitte should enjoy pitching at Dodgers Stadium and Hiroki Kuroda will return home to face his old team. His old team should have kept him as he has been fantastic for the Yankees.
If Pettitte can hang with Kershaw and Kuroda with Greinke on Wednesday, the games might become bullpen battles and I would take my chances on the Yankees’ bullpen being better. But all in all, a split would be great in this series.
And, it will be good to see Don Mattingly. It is funny how the calls for his dismissal have disappeared. The players win and lose the games.
The Yankees will have another off day on Thursday. It is almost as if the scheduler knew that Jeter would need the extra rest. After the day off, the Yankees will travel just south of LA for a series against the Padres.
The Padres have won six of their last ten, which is not bad. But the Friars are ten games below .500 and out of any kind of contention. The Padres have scored twenty more runs than the Yankees and have a better team OPS (.693 vs. .676). But they have given up sixty-nine more runs than the Yankees.
And by the time this series occurs, the Padres might have traded away some of their bullpen pieces, one of the better aspects of that team.
The pitching lines have not been set, but we can expect the Yankees to pitch Ivan Nova, CC Sabathia and Phil Hughes (if he is still a Yankee). The Padres will most likely feature Jason Marquis, Andrew Cashner and Tyson Ross. The latter two have decent arms and could pose problems.
Realistically, the Yankees should take two of three from the Padres, thus making my prediction for the week as a 3-2 week for the Yankees.
The Yankees will lose the DH for the week. But since Yankee designated hitters have a combined .644 OPS for the season, that is not much of a loss. Joe Girardi will still find a way to get Vernon Wells playing time so that we can all grit our teeth. The smart play would be to bench Wells all week.
I also hope that Brent Lillibridge does not lose playing time at third in favor of Jayson Nix. They are about a push offensively with maybe a slight edge to Nix. But Lillibridge has been fantastic around the hot corner and David Cone compared him to Graig Nettles over there. But Girardi sticks with his guys and Nix is one of his guys.
It should be an interesting week. The Alex Rodriguez thing will break this week. Our writers will have to contend with insanely late games and who knows, maybe the Yankees will put together a very good week while we all sleep in our nice toasty beds.
Have a great Yankees week, everyone.