When Joe Girardi's lineup card hit Twitter, I though it may have been an April Fool's joke, but I was wrong.
After months of asking what the Yankees were going to do to remedy their problems, the opening day roster was about as awe-inspiring as we all expected. Eduardo Nunez batted second, Vernon Wells fifth, Ben Francisco was your DH, and Jayson Nix was at third base instead of a glue factory. But with Brett Gardner, Robinson Cano, Ichiro Suzuki, and the rest of the gang on the field for CC Sabathia, the Yankees might not need much offense. There's no doubt that this was Girardi's plan, defense-first and start all your scrappy right-handed hitters against Jon Lester.
The Yankees may have lost a considerable amount of home runs since 2012, but at least they still have pitching and defense. At least that's what we've been telling ourselves. On paper, the Yankees have one of the strongest rotations and bullpens in baseball, but you wouldn't think that if you watched today's game. Sabathia struggled to locate his pitches, while the defense looked like the latest editions of Volkswagen commercials.
The game started out strong for the Yankees' big southpaw. Sabathia took the mound and showed off some rather sharp breaking pitches, good movement on his fastball, and one of the best changeups I've seen him throw. He was only sitting 89-91 mph, but after a short Spring Training, this is expected in what was only his third start of the year. By the second inning, the lefty was getting no help from the home plate umpire Ted Barrett, and a lack of control with both his fastball and slider created some dangerous situations. A number of walks, three ground ball singles, and some lackluster defense allowed four runs to score far too early in the game.
Sabathia found a way to manage with his command, mostly due to a strong changeup, but the Yankees' offense was about as fearsome as it looked on paper. The team didn't earn their first hit until the bottom of the third inning, when Brett Gardner hit the ball 10 feet for an infield single. In the fourth, Kevin Youkilis led off with the only extra base hit of the game. Vernon Wells hit what should have been a double down the left field line, but the third base umpire mistakenly called it foul. He ended up drawing a hard-fought walk. Shockingly, the two right-handed hitters that were added to the lineup to mash Jon Lester popped up (Francisco) and struck out(Nix). Ichiro singled to move Wells and Youkilis over, and sure enough Francisco Cervelli came through with a big single to drive in the Yankees' only two runs of the game.
The Yankees' offense wouldn't threaten again until the 7th inning, when Cervelli and Gardner walked, followed by three strikeouts in a row from Nunez, Cano, and Youkilis. In the end, Gardner, Cano, Hafner, Ichiro, and Cervelli all collected singles, with Youkilis earning the only extra base hit.
The bullpen was equally bad. For some reason, David Phelps came out to pitch in the 6th inning, despite having a start on Saturday. I thought his warm up was rushed in the bullpen, and sure enough he gave up a hit and 2 walks in his 1.1 innings of work. Boone Logan wrapped up Phelp's mess in 7th inning, and Shawn Kelley looked really great in his 1.0 inning of relief in the 8th. Joba Chamberlain came out to pitch the ninth and couldn't get a call from the home plate umpire. Everyone pitching today had a problem with Ted Barrett's strike zone, and Chamberlain was no different. Cody Eppley finished off Pedroia in the ninth, but not before the Red Sox had reached an 8-2 lead.
On defense, there were no errors, but there were a number of bad plays. Youkilis dropped the ball on a couple of infield singles, and ground balls had an easy day finding holes behind some limited range. Jayson Nix let a line drive fall out of his glove in the second inning, which helped the Red Sox' big four run inning. Nunez and Cervelli would probably be the biggest concerns out there if we looked at this lineup a month ago, but each of them flashed the leather a couple of plays.
In the end, what did we expect with this team? Of course Girardi is going to play his right-handed hitters against a left-handed pitcher. Hopefully it's only a matter of time before Derek Jeter, Curis Granderson, and Mark Teixeira return.
The Yankees lost their first home opener to start the season since 1982 today. It's just one game, but it looks like we're going to have a month full of these kinds of days until the Yankees can start rebuilding their lineup.