It’s a big game for Michael Pineda tonight, who will pitch in the Bronx for the first time in his career. On top of that, the Yankees are facing the Red Sox. Oh, and they’ve lost their last two games. No pressure! In his last performance, Pineda looked excellent against the Blue Jays, but the Red Sox have a more impressive lineup, and the big right-hander needs to delicately maneuver around these bats in the small confines of Yankee Stadium. Another nice performance could go a long way for both his confidence and management’s confidence in his shoulder.
Brian Roberts is only batting .160 but he’s been a pleasant surprise for the Yankees so far. Despite the average, he’s taken some good swings, and he’s walked 7 times with 8 strikeouts. It seems that everytime he goes to the plate, he works the count to 3-2 and then fouls off some more pitches. At bats like that can get into the pitcher’s head, and at the moment he’s averaging 4.79 pitches per plate appearance. His defense has also been good enough to leave most fans satisfied, which says a lot when they’re adjusted to seeing Robinson Cano at second base. Over the last couple of games, he’s hit a ton of foul ball line drives and big fly balls, so hopefully we see him break out of his hitting slump soon enough.
In the last series, the Yankees had to run on Matt Wieters, which isn’t a simple task. Regardless, this team is fundamentally built on speed. There is always a huge risk in taking that extra bag, but the Yankees will need to take those chances if they want maximize their lineup. Yesterday, there were a couple of instances where the Yankees looked too stationery. In the 1st inning, after Brett Gardner led off with a single, and with Jeter batting behind him, the center fielder stayed at first base for the first three pitches. If the Yankees are going to bat Jeter second, the runner ahead of him needs to be extremely aggressive and consider the rate at which Jeter hits double play balls. Gardner was doubled up in the instance. Again, in the 9th inning, the Yankees pinch ran Ichiro Suzuki for Kelly Johnson at first base as the tying run. Ichiro was also doubled up on a Yangervis Solarte ground ball. Maybe Ichiro runs and gets gunned down by Wieters, but this roster is built on speed as much as it’s built on power, and with ground ball and line drive hitters in the lineup, double plays are nearly as risky as getting caught stealing.
Finally, Kelly Johnson‘s bat has looked great in Yankee Stadium, but he’s clearly no first baseman. His range at the bag might even be better than Teixeira’s, but he’s a risk at the bag when it comes to throws. Johnson didn’t look comfortable with some of the stabs he made in the first few games, but yesterday he finally made his first error on a pickoff attempt by Adam Warren. Mark Teixeira is a big part of the offense and defense, and the Yankees are missing him a lot, but with the injury risk of his wrist and now his hamstring, the front office needs to find a better true backup than Russ Canzler in Triple-A.