Happy Memorial Day! I hope your weather is better than mine here in Maine. We are working on our seventh rainy day in a row and everything here is soggier than a vanilla wafer that broke off in your milk glass. There will not be a barbecue here today.
Speaking of flame broiled, the Yankees were not exactly red hot this week. But finishing the week, 3-3, while on the road against division rival like the Orioles and Rays, is plenty acceptable. The middling week did cause the team to finish in a virtual tie with the Red Sox thanks to a total meltdown of the Indians' closer on Sunday. Curtis Granderson broke another bone after just a few games back. We said goodbye to Ben Francisco, which was not a bad thing, and hello to David "hassle" Huff, which was not a good thing.
This week, the Yankees play four games against the Mets, the first two at Citi Field and the second two at home. Then the Red Sox invade Yankee Stadium for the weekend. Here is a gander at the week.
First off, a rant of sorts: Today is a holiday. And holidays should mean day games. Day games mean families and hot dogs and everything that goes along with it and everyone gets home in time to get to bed for school and work the next day. The Yankees play at Citi Field at 7:10. That is wrong.
Now we can continue. The first game against the Mets today features Phil Hughes and Jonathon Niese. Have you ever noticed that Niese's first name ends in, "ON," instead of, "AN?" I got that wrong from 2008 until just about a month ago. Just call me observant. The good news here is that someone is going to have to hit the ball a lot further to get a homer off of Hughes than normal. They did bring the dimensions down a bit at Citi, but it is still more of a pitcher's park. Put it this way: I would rather have Hughes pitching at Citi Field than Yankee Stadium.
Jonathon Niese is not having a good season. And without spending a lot of time going in depth about his problems, though his velocity is the same, his strikeout rate, swing and miss rate and pitches swung at out of the strike zone as a percentage are all off his career numbers and in the worst shape of his career. His walks are up and his first pitch strikes are way down. Unfortunately, this lovable bunch of retreads the Yankees are featuring are not the patient sort of players that the broken rich guys are. TheYankees should wait out Niese, but that is not the kind of lineup they are featuring these days. And without the DH, their most patient retread, Travis Hafner, will be sitting this one out.
Tuesday night should be really fun to watch. The Yankees' best pitcher, Hiroki Kuroda, will go against the Mets' best pitcher, Matt Harvey. Harvey has been terrific. He is averaging seven innings per start and has a 1.93 ERA and a 2.45 FIP. With a 0.83 WHIP and 4.35 strikeout to walk ratio, the Yankees will have their hands full with the young Mets' pitcher. Kuroda will have to be at his best to match him. He is certainly capable of pitching that type of game. One or two runs could win this one.
The action shifts to the Bronx on Wednesday and the Yankees get their DH back. And this one seems to favor the Yankees as David Phelps matches up with Jeremy Hefner. Hefner is just the opposite of Harvey. Harvey is 5-0. Hefner is 0-5. Harvey is going deep into games. Hefner is not. Plus, Hefner has a brutal home run rate right now and perhaps the Yankees can take advantage of his struggles. Of course, success will depend on how well Phelps pitches and we will have to hope that there are no lingering effects from him getting hit with a line drive at the end of his last outing.
This little subway interlude comes to a close on Thursday and Vidal Nuno will get his third start of the season. Both of Nuno's starts have been successful and the Yankees have won them both (Nuno won one). I would be a little happier with his performances if he was missing a few more bats. But his left-handed tosses should neutralize guys like Lucas Duda, Ike Davis and Rick Ankiel.
The Mets will finish the series with Dillon Gee. And gee, Gee has not been very good this season. Like Hefner, his home run rate is high, his ERA is over six and his FIP is at 4.93. And worst of all, Gee has averaged 4.92 innings per start. That is somewhat brutal.
The Yankees should win three of these games at the least. Harvey is going to be tough. But otherwise, the rest of the Mets' rotation is quite soft. I just hope that I did not jinx the Yankees. I wrote on Sunday at my own site that the Mets should cut their losses with Ike Davis and of course, he went two for three and knocked in the winning runs the same day.
The Yankees will then host the Red Sox for the weekend and this is not your 2012 Red Sox. This year's version is a very good team with a deep bullpen and a solid lineup. David Ortiz is killing the ball. The starting pitching has been much better. The Red Sox are not without their flaws. But they are not the pushovers of a year ago either.
As usual, the pitching lines have not been announced that far in advance. If things follow their normal course, the Yankees should feature CC Sabathia, Phil Hughes and Hiroki Kuroda. Jon Lester is going on Thursday, so the Yankees will miss him. If the Red Sox rotation stays true, then the Yankees will face (in order) Felix Doubront, Clay Buchholz and Ryan Dempster. Only Buchholz is worrisome as a shut down guy.
I am predicting a 5-2 record for the Yankees this week. That works out to three or four wins against the Mets and one or two wins against the Red Sox.
One last personal note: My dad, William R. Tasker, was born in 1923 in Fort Lee, NJ and grew up in Bergenfield. During World War II, he served in the Air Force and was a radio man in a bomber which flew many missions during the war, first in Africa and then later in Europe. I proudly display his medals in a case here and honor him as he was one of the many heroes of that war. He died in a car accident in 1966 when I was ten years old. Memorial Day and Veterans Day are not just days off for me and long weekends. They are another opportunity to honor my dad and all the men and woman like him who have served our country. This one is for you, Dad. I miss you.
Have a great week, everyone!