The New York Yankees had about as ugly a week as you can possibly imagine. They went 1-6 by losing four straight to the New York Mets and two of three to the Boston Red Sox. The team has now lost seven of their last eight and has scored more than four runs only once in its last eleven games. The pitching faltered too as David Phelps and Phil Hughes had horrid starts and the bullpen lost two games. The raging question is whether this is just a bad spell or the true leveling of where this team should have been playing all along. Just about the only encouraging sign seen this week was the brilliant outing CC Sabathia had against the Red Sox.
The return of Kevin Youkilis and Mark Teixeira made little difference on what has become a staid and feeble offense. The bloom is off the Vernon Wells rose as he cannot help himself from swinging at outside sliders. He certainly has found himself a case of Alfonso Soriano disease. Austin Romine has been getting far too much playing time and the Yankees' catching situation has been about as bad as it gets. Only Brett Gardner seems to have any kind of offensive spark these days.
So what will happen this week? Can the Yankees pull themselves out of it? Will the return of Andy Pettitte help? How long can the Yankees depend on Phelps and Hughes? Let us take a look at the week to come and ponder together.
The week starts with three games at home against the Cleveland Indians. This Indians' team is in far better shape then when the Yankees first saw them earlier in the season. Back then, the Indians could not get anybody out and were getting beat up regularly. Now the Indians are only a half a game back from the first place Tigers and seem to be in a better position than the Yankees.
The first game features the return of Andy Pettitte. It would be nice if Pettitte was not always "returning" and could do a bit of "staying." He gives the pitching staff a bit of stability. That is not to say that he will always be great. But at least he knows who he is and what he can do from game to game. Pettitte will face Justin Masterson, who, on paper, is the Indians' best starter. Masterson still induces a ton of ground balls, but on top of that, his strikeout rate has really risen this year over his past couple of seasons. He is striking out more than a batter an inning.
Pettitte will have to be very good in this game as the Yankees propensity to roll over and pull weak grounders is getting alarming. Perhaps Masterson will have a bad day.
The second game features David Phelps against Scott Kazmir. Phelps did not last the first inning in his last start, easily the worst start of his career. He will need a bounce-back effort on Tuesday. Kazmir is lasting about five innings per start, but otherwise, his numbers are encouraging. His strikeout rate is over nine per nine innings and his walk total is manageable. Home runs have been a problem for him. But his FIP is much better than his actual ERA and he is not pitching badly after being left for dead the last couple of seasons.
The series wraps up with a getaway day game on Wednesday. Sabathia will try to build on his last great start and it would be a happy occasion for Yankee fans if he could show two dominant outings in a row. He faces a very tough pitcher in Corey Kluber. Just for fun, say, "Corey Kluber," over and over using The Muppets voice of that crazy chef. Try it, it is fun. But anyway, Kluber has a very fine 5.75 to 1 strikeout to walk ratio. All three pitchers the Yankees face in this series have a K/9 rate over nine. For a team that strikes out a lot, this is not a good thing.
If the Yankees can somehow grab two of three from this series, they will be fortunate.
After Wednesday's game, the Yankees will fly all the way to Seattle to face the Mariners for a four game series that will wrap through the weekend. It should prove to be an exhausting trip to have to go out and play on Thursday. And Lord knows, those late games on the West Coast are killers for fans on this side of the country.
The Yankees will catch a bit of a break in that series as Hisashi Iwakuma pitches Wednesday and will miss the Yankees' series. The Yankees could get Felix Hernandez on Sunday. But otherwise, they will get three meatballers in Aaron Harang, Jeremy Bonderman and Joe Saunders. The Yankees have not announced their pitchers for that series, but it should be Hughes, Kuroda, Pettitte and Phelps.
In a perfect world without the Yankees being terrible, they should win three of four games in that series. That said, the prediction here would be that the Yankees have a 4-3 week. That is not a great week, but after this week, anything will seem like progress.
Enjoy your week, everyone!