The Yankees have been in sole possession of first place in the American League East for 61 consecutive days, are riding a winning streak, and are looking to sweep the Blue Jays out of Canada. They’ve outscored Toronto 15-6 over the first two games of the series–35-22 on the year–and they’ve won five of the seven games they’ve played against the Jays.
But things are not all well in Yankeeland: ace CC Sabathia was placed on the 15-day DL with elbow soreness yesterday, and there have been suggestions floating around that he will have a cortisone shot to ease swelling. Sure, that could just be a precautionary procedure–it is a relatively common treatment for soreness caused by inflammation–and this could be a short-term injury. But the for Yankee fans, every second that Sabathia is on the DL will feel a lot longer than it should.
Today, the Yankees will look to Phil Hughes–who has been getting better and better this year–to delay the inevitable Sabathia-panic. The Jays will turn to recently-acquired lefty J.A. Happ (7-10, 4.98 ERA) to stop the bleeding.
1. D. Jeter, SS
2. N. Swisher, RF
3. M. Teixeira, 1B
4. R. Cano, DH
5. A. Jones, LF
6. C. Granderson, CF
7. C. McGehee, 3B
8. R. Martin, C
9. J. Nix, 2B
Blue Jays (53-60)
R. Davis, LF
M. McCoy, 2B
E. Encarnacion, DH
D. Cooper, 1B
M. Sierra, RF
J. Mathis, C
Y. Gomes, 3B
A. Gose, CF
A. Hechavarria, SS
Ivan Nova had been downright terrible in his last five starts, giving up cheap runs, failing to keep the ball down, and, most importantly, not spotting his pitches. That all changed this afternoon in Canada, when the young hurler reminded everyone why the Yankees were so high on him coming into the season: he threw seven and one third innings of two-run, five hit ball, while striking out ten and walking one.
He had perfect command of his curveball and slider, both of which he used to great effect: they accounted for eight out of his ten strikeouts, and he could throw them in any count to any batter. His fastball sat in the mid 90′s, and was the perfect table-setting pitch, as he used it time and again to make the Jays change their eye levels, while simultaneously keeping them from sitting on his breaking stuff.
Felix Hernandez did not pitch for the Mariners this afternoon in the Bronx. That was pretty much all the Yankees needed, as their offense seemed to shake off the King-induced haze and strike for six runs–despite stranding quite a few–to defeat the Mariners 6-2. Freddy Garcia, pitching against his former club, tossed six innings of two-run ball, despite struggling with his command for large chunks of the game. Hisashi Iwakuma, making his eighth start in the bigs at 31, allowed four runs (three earned) over five innings. Iwakuma had started one previous time against the Yankees, going five innings and giving up one run in a loss on July 25th.
The game was never really in doubt for the bombers, despite Jesus Montero’s first-inning RBI single. “Babe Jeteriguez,” as one reporter called him, went 2-for-4 on the night, providing the only offense the M’s could muster (how many times in the next five years do you think you’ll hear that phrase? Over/under fifty?). The Yankees scored quickly, and threatened often, tying the game in the bottom of the first (but stranding Cano on third), then opening up a 2-1 lead in the second when a Curtis Granderson grounder shot through Dustin Ackley’s legs at first base (oops!) scoring Chris Stewart.
And it was pretty much over from there.
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Two major cogs in the Mariner machine of the late 1990′s/early-2000′s will take the field Sunday afternoon as the Yankees play Seattle in the Bronx (1:05 PM EST). Freddy Garcia will be on the mound, and Ichiro Suzuki will be backing him up in the outfield; they’ll both be playing for the Yankees, however, and will be looking to put an end to their team’s consecutive series losing streak.
On the other side of the mound (not literally, of course) will be Seattle’s not-young rookie Hisashi Iwakuma, who, at 31, has started five games in his career in the majors. He’s 2-2 with a 4.19 ERA.
Still, that’s better than Freddy Garcia, who is 4-5 with a 5.10 ERA this season.
Here are your lineups:
Ichiro Suzuki’s batting numbers tell a sad, sad tale: his batting average plummeting, his walk rate almost non-existant, his power drooping, he looks like a shell of his former self offensively. We all remember his magical first few years in the league–those slow rollers to third where we all thought, “alright, he’s out,” but he’d be safe by three feet; those laced singles into left that turned into triples because of his speed; his ability to connect with everything, and then make every play hard–but he has long since lost that kind of offensive magic. His batting average sits at a barely-acceptable .261, his on-base percentage unacceptably low at .287, and his slugging touching on reasonable at .353. His .281 wOBA is ungainly–and the worst of his career.
So why on earth am I titling this article “Ichiro: not as bad as you think”? Because he isn’t. He’s actually, when you look at the holistic metrics, the second or third best outfielder on the Yankees.
This isn’t a complicated–or a long–argument. It’s pretty much explained by this list:
What is there to say about Felix Hernandez that hasn’t already been said? We recycle so many words and phrases to describe some players that we don’t know what else we can say, what combinations we haven’t tried. We’ve given him the nickname “King,” he has won the Cy Young award while pitching for one of the worst teams in baseball, we’ve called him “electric,” “transcendent,” “great.” There are only a few new ways to express how fantastic Felix Hernandez has been, is, and will continue to be when he is at his best.
And he was certainly at his best on a hot afternoon in Yankee Stadium. His fastball was sitting around 94 MPH, his changeup was biting, his slider sharp, and he couldn’t miss with any of them. Towards the end of his outing, Paul O’Neill, sitting in the YES Network press box and providing color commentary for the game, said something along the lines of “well, Felix has three plus plus pitches when they’re on–his fastball, changeup and slider–and tonight he can throw all of them for strikes. It’s hard when that happens as a hitter, because you can’t just wait and sit on one pitch.”
This afternoon, the Yankees couldn’t even sit on two pitches. Everything that King Felix threw was perfectly executed, from his explosive four seam fastball, to his biting slider that he located up and down in the zone. Most pitchers would hang at least one slider up…but not Felix, not today.
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A series with the streaking-but-still-terrible Seattle Mariners looks to be just what the doctor ordered for the struggling Yankees, especially after last night’s 6-3 thumping in the Bronx (a game that actually seemed a lot easier than the final scoreline indicates). Unfortunately, they will again run up against Mariners-ace-having-adown-but-still-pretty-fantastic-year King Felix Hernandez. The young fireballer has absolutely dominated the Yankees in his starts in New York, going 3-1 with a 1.47 ERA…but he hasn’t been completely flawless: last May 11, he served up four runs in a 6-2 Yankee win.
The opposing pitcher on that afternoon? Tonight’s starter Hiroki Kuroda.
This afternoon (1:05 PM EST) the bombers will try to replicate the last time they beat King Felix: they’ll need a strong outing from Kuroda (a given), and they’ll need Felix to be slightly off his game. At the beginning of the year–in May, the last time they played–Hernandez was struggling with his velocity and his location, two things that have come around since then. But there are still some lingering questions, some issues, that the Yankees can at least attempt to exploit: he has a tendency to work himself into trouble at times (not that he can’t get out of it), and a few well-placed (lucky) hits would go a long way to deposing the King.
Incidentally, that last statement is true about everything always. It’s a John Madden-esque truism: you need hits to win a baseball game (well, to win 99.9% of baseball games), and you need some luck to get hits.
I’ll have the lineups for you when I know them–right now, I’m about to get on a flight from DC to Vermont,
and I’ll post them up when I land. Here they are:
Granderson, C, CF
Jeter, D, SS
Cano, R, 2B
Teixeira, M, 1B
Ibanez, R, DH
Swisher, N, RF
Chavez, E, 3B
Suzuki, I, LF
Martin, R, C
Ackley, D, 2B
Saunders, M, CF
Montero, J, DH
Jaso, J, C
Seager, K, 3B
Wells, C, LF
Carp, M, 1B
Thames, E, RF
Ryan, B, SS
It was déjà vu for the Yankees in the Bronx Sunday night, as they fell behind early–the Red Sox scored twice in the second inning–and saw their late-inning rally disappear when Pedro Ciriaco dropped a big hit to re-take the lead. Starters Hiroki Kuroda and Felix Dubront both pitched fantastic games, with the only blemishes on either record coming in the top of the second–when Kuroda allowed two runs on a double to Ryan Sweeney–and the bottom of the seventh–when Russell Martin (yes) hit a home run into the right field stands. With the win, the Sox clinched their first series victory against the Yankees since last August.
The Yankees haven’t lost a series to the Boston Red Sox since last August. This is a fact. Tonight, Felix Dubront, Pedro Ciriaco and Adrian Gonzalez will try to change all that–and they’ll probably have to do it single handedly. Well, not exactly, but you get the idea. Ciriaco will start at short for the first time in a few weeks, while Nick Swisher will make his starting-lineup return for the Yankees at DH.
Hiroki Kuroda, who has been nothing short of spectacular over his last few starts, will get the nod for the bombers, who are looking to maintain there double-digit lead over the Sox at the top of the AL East.
First pitch is at 8:00 PM EST on ESPN.
Red Sox (50-51)
x1. J. Ellsbury, CF
2. C. Crawford, LF
3. D. Pedroia, 2B
4. A. Gonzalez, 1B
5. C. Ross, DH
6. J. Saltalamacchia, C
7. W. Middlebrooks, 3B
8. R. Sweeney, RF
9. P. Ciriaco, SS
P: Felix Dubront (10-5, 4.54 ERA)
D. Jeter, SS
C. Granderson, CF
M. Teixeira, 1B
R. Cano, 2B
N. Swisher, DH
A. Jones, LF
R. Martin, C
I. Suzuki, RF
J. Nix, 3B
P: Hiroki Kuroda (10-7, 3.34 ERA)