If someone were to tell me that the New York Yankees were to go 6-1 in the last week after the week they had previously, I would have thought they were crazy. But as good a week as it was, that last game against the Orioles really hurt. Speaking as a fan here and not a journalist, I would rather see the Yankees lose in any other way than via a Mariano Rivera blown save. Ugh. The pits. That was brutal. And the thing about that Adam Jones homer was that, not only was it poor execution by Rivera on the pitch, but it was bad strategy by the battery as a whole. Jones will swing at everything, so to throw him strikes is...well...you saw the results.
All in all, it was a good week. So what will this week bring? Let's take a look in this latest version of "This week in Yankees baseball."
The first bit of good news is that the Yankees are at home at Yankee Stadium all week. The second bit of good news is that they play four games against the Royals and three against the Twins. These are two teams that give the boys from the Bronx plenty of chances to win. The Royals should pose more of a problem than the Twins, but still. The Yankees have made their living over the years beating teams like this.
The one problem is that the Yankees have not had an off day in like forever. That is hard on a pitching staff and hard on a bullpen. As good as Joe Girardi is at handling the latter, all it takes is a couple of tough games to break it all apart. Even so, the Yankees got a bit of a boost this past week with the return of Eduardo Nunez (as weird as that sounds). And it is a very good thing that Girardi is playing Zoilo Almonte every day. Vernon Wells is best used in small doses.
As the Royals come to town, the first game features Jeremy Guthrie for the Royals against Phil Hughes of the Yankees. Hughes has had two good outings in a row. Will that continue? Or will be go back to grinding our teeth watching him pitch? Guthrie can cobble together a really good game every once in a while. He has some skills. The Yankees will need to get to him early and Hughes needs to keep the Royals offense down and in the park.
On Tuesday, it will be CC Sabathia against James Shields. In theory, these are each team's best pitcher. Shields has not been as good as the Royals hoped and he has been plagued by the long ball like he was a few years back. The Yankees would not mind if that trend continued this week. The weather is getting warmer and Sabathia is getting tougher. Despite all the talk about him not being the same pitcher, he has nine wins against six losses and a Sabathia start is a chance to win a ballgame.
Wednesday is enigma versus enigma as Ivan Nova pitches--after his brilliant last outing--against Wade Davis. Davis is like Hughes and the two could be twins. In fact, seeing Hughes and Davis on the same field will prove to me once and for all that they are not the same person. The bottom line is that both Davis and Hughes are better suited for the bullpen. Anyway, Nova finally gave us an insight into why the Yankees need him to put his considerable skills together because when he does, it is really quite a show.
The series finale on Thursday will feature Andy Pettitte against Ervin Santana. Santana's problem the last two seasons have been the home run ball. That being the case, catching him at Yankee Stadium could be fun for the Yankees. Pettitte was a little better in his last start, but he has not been really sharp since early in the season and that has to be a bit of a concern for the Yankees.
The Twins come to town on Friday and that has long been good news for the Yankees. The Yankees just swept them for four games this past week in Minnesota. So you would think it would be a good thing to face them in the Bronx.
Other than Scott Diamond pitching on Friday, the rest of the weekend pitching lines for the Twins and the Yankees have not been announced. It would seem logical for Hiroki Kuroda to pitch on Friday as it would be his turn followed by Hughes and Sabathia, but given the workload lately, it would not be a surprise to see a guest appearance by a starter here. Could we see Michael Pineda for a game? Wouldn't that be fun!
It really does not matter who the Twins pitch. They are all the same as low strikeout, low walk guys with minimal stuff and a reliance on getting batted balls to find gloves in the field. It is this strategy, which has been an organizational one, that, in my opinion, has sunk the Twins more than any other reason for the past three years. We are in a strikeout world and pitching to contact is not a market inefficiency.
The Yankees should win three of four from the Royals and no less than two of three from the Twins. Anything less than a 5-2 week would be a major disappointment and not taking advantage of teams the Yankees should beat.
A major question will be if we will see Derek Jeter by the end of the week. And if so, what will that bring to the table? IIATMS writers will be tackling that subject today, so there is no need to delve into it here. Speaking again as a fan, it would be fun to see him again. As a journalist, Jeter's return brings nothing but questions.
Have a great Yankees week!