Category: Mariano Rivera

Preview of the series against Boston, Yankees need to win the first game

The Yankees play the first of three games against the Red Sox in Boston tonight.  It will be crucial that the Yankees improve upon their dreadful 2-10 record against their rivals to the north, especially since they trail them by 1.5 games in the standings.

Boston comes into this series having won four out in their past two series against the Texas Rangers and Oakland Athletics.

Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez were out of the lineup last night with minor injuries, but tonight against the Red Sox only Jeter will make his return.  Somewhat surprisingly, with Jeter and Rodriguez out of the lineup, the Yankees are 7-0 this season.  When Rodriguez is out of the lineup and Jeter is playing, a bigger sample size because of AROD’s surgery, the team has a 24-17 record.

This proves how deep their lineup is and that their role players are able to step up like Nick Swisher, who has been on a home run binge recently with six out of his last eight hits being sent out of the park.

In order for the Yankees to continue their modest two-game winning streak, CC Sebathia, will have to pitch like he has against everybody else in the contest tonight.  He has not performed anything like the CY Young candidate that he is against the Red Sox this season.

Sebathia has 199 strikeouts and a 2.99 ERA on the season, but in his last start against the Red Sox he gave up seven runs in six innings.  In his four starts against the Yankees’ bitter rivals during this campaign he has a 7.20 ERA, having allowed 33 hits in 25 innings.  This will need to improve as he is the ace and will be relied upon to defeat the Red Sox in the playoffs as well.

John Lackey will be taking the hill for the Red Sox as his execution has been severely lacking this season compared to when he pitched for the Angels.  Lackey has a 12-9 record, which is not that bad, but he sports an ERA of 5.98.  The Yankees bats should be happy to see that number coming into the game.

Two more factors going against Lackey in this game are that in his career versus the Bronx Bombers, 21 starts, he has a 4.67 ERA, and he pitches worse at home (6.16 ERA) than he does on the road (5.75 ERA) even though neither are numbers to write home about.

On Wednesday, Phil Hughes (4-4, 6.46 ERA) will pitch for the Yankees while Red Sox ace Josh Beckett (11-5, 2.43 ERA) will take the hill.  Hughes’ numbers are not nearly as underwhelming since coming off the disabled list as he has allowed two runs or less in five of his seven starts.  However, in those other two games he allowed an alarming 13 runs combined.  If Hughes can allow three runs the Yankees will be competitive against Beckett.

In the series finale, on Thursday, the enigma that is A.J. Burnett (9-11, 5.31 ERA) will take on Boston’s second best pitcher, left Jon Lester (14-6, 3.09 ERA).  Burnett has allowed an alarming 16 runs in his last two starts and deserves to be demoted.  We will have to see as a decision should be coming soon.

It will be crucial that the three starters for the Yankees slow down Adrian Gonzalez (.345 and 103 RBI) and Jacoby Ellsbury (23 homers, 95 runs and 35 steals) who are both having unbelievable seasons.

MVP candidate Curtis Granderson is not hitting well this season against the Red Sox but he does have a solid .318 average against Lackey, for his career.  Cano is hitting .289 during his career against Lackey but is also struggling against the Red Sox this season.  Brett Gardner continues the same pattern as Cano and Granderson.

They Yankees need to at least win this game since most of the team has impressive numbers against Lackey.  Hopefully they can steal one of the others against Beckett or Lester.  They will also need future Hall of Famer, Mariano Rivera, to not blow a save during this series like he has had somewhat of a propensity of doing in the past.

Yankees offense has an Irene induced hangover against Zach Britton

In the first game of a doubleheader, the Yankees bats came back rusty, after the team had to spend Saturday in their Baltimore hotel during Hurricane Irene, being shut out 2-0 by Zach Britton, for the Orioles (53-77) sixth straight win.

Britton allowed one run in his last start after allowing an alarming 17 in his previous three.  This was an unexpected pitching performance from Britton because in his last start against the Yankees, on July 30th, he didn’t make it out of the first-inning while allowing six runs on seven hits.

Bartolo Colon will get over-shadowed by Britton because the Orioles got the victory, but Colon had a very respectable start in his own right.  He dominated the O’s for the most part, shutting out the opposition for six innings while allowing a run in the seventh and eighth.   In each of his last two starts he allowed five runs and two home runs, so the Colon from earlier in the season has returned.

There is some question as to who should be the number two starter behind CC Sebathia in the playoffs, but if can Colon can display another start like he did today, it should likely be him.  He was able to locate all of his pitches today and the over-weight Colon has been the Yankees most consistent starter this year besides Sebathia.

The only hitter who produced for the Yankees was Mark Teixeira, who chipped in with three hits, but they were wasted because everybody near him in the lineup failed to reach base.  The Bronx Bombers could only muster two other hits during the contest.

Curtis Granderson is having his first major cold stretch, during his MVP caliber season, as he is now three for his last 26.  However, he held his head high after the game, giving praise to the Orioles starter by giving all the credit to him.

The Yankees should have been able to score some runs but sometimes the pitcher just has the upper-hand, commanding all his pitches while knowing the scouting report, and that is what happened this after-noon.

The game winner ended up being Vladimir Guerrero’s single through the infield to Nick Swisher in right-field, which scored Nick Markakis.  This would give Baltimore a lead that their suspect bullpen would not surrender.

After Colon struck out Robert Andino looking on the outside corner to give the Orioles two outs in the eighth, J.J. Hardy would go on to hit a single between Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez to make the score 2-0.  That would spell the end of Colon’s afternoon.  Sometimes pitchers get hard luck losses like this one, but on the other hand sometimes they get the victory after allowing five runs.

In the ninth inning Teixiera added his third hit by hitting a line drive off of the first base bag, which bounced into right field.  Rodriguez had the opportunity to tie the game with one swing, be he did not cooperate.  He hit into a tailor made double play right to Hardy at short to give the Orioles the first two wins of this four game set.

This also gave struggling closer Kevin Gregg (4.32 ERA) his 19th save of the year.  Also, the Orioles hit seven hits, two more than the Yankees, but they were able to take advantage of scoring opportunities.

At one point the Yankees had three hits and Teixeira had a two of them, which is not a promising sign for victory, even though Colon only allowed two runs.  Also, the Yankees’ seven strikeouts were way too many against the caliber of pitching that they were facing.

Hopefully the second game of the double-header brings enough runs so that the end game combination of Rafael Soriano, David Robertson and Mariano Rivera can shut down the Orioles for a Yankees victory.  After not getting a hit this afternoon, Alex Rodriguez will have the evening off being replaced by Eduardo Nunez, at third.

Ivan Nova will pitch tonight, and they need another solid start out of him in order to have a chance of splitting the series on Monday.  He is likely one of three names in consideration for Rookie of the Year and he deserves it because of his 13 wins, while having gone more than nine starts without a loss.

On the other hand, Orioles starter Brian Matusz is having one of the worst seasons in all of baseball.  The Yankees offense should be looking forward to the first pitch as Matusz has allowed five earned runs or more in his last four starts, and has a sky-high ERA of 8.92.  The former fourth overall pick in 2008 has not nearly lived up to expectations so the Yankees should be able to have their way with him.

>Issues Entering a Seven Game Road Trip

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As the Yankees enter a seven-game road trip, against the Tigers and then the White Sox, they have proven that the two game skid from early last week has not affected them.  They have now won four of their last five games, against the Blue Jays and White Sox, and have proven to be a resilient team because they are winning without Phil Hughes or much contribution from Derek Jeter, Jorge Posada, Brett Gardner or Nick Swisher.

A positive sign is that the back end of the bullpen has bounced back after a few shaky performances by Mariano Rivera and Rafael Soriano.  Rivera was not like his normal dominant self, giving up blown saves on April 19th against the Blue Jays, as well as April 24th against the Orioles.  Luckily, the Yankees were able to come back in extra innings to win against Baltimore but the performance was still slightly alarming.  Soriano has had somewhat of a surprising start to his Yankee career considering his utter dominance from last season.  This continued when he allowed one run and two runs, respectively, in Yankee losses to the White Sox on the 25th and 26th    

However, these struggles by Rivera and Soriano were never that much of a concern because Soriano and especially Rivera’s track record has been outstanding.  Rivera is most likely the best closer of all time and Soriano was an All-Star and led the league in saves last season.  Soriano has recently returned to respectability recording consecutive holds during the eighth inning, on Saturday and Sunday, only giving up a hit and a walk combined.  In three appearances since the 24th Rivera has gone onto only allow one base hit while converting three saves.

Those two players have broken out of their mini slumps but four players on offense could use some intervention from hitting Coach Kevin Long.  Curtis Granderson met with him last August in Texas to revamp his swing and since then he has hit 22 home runs, which is the 3rd highest total in baseball behind Jose Bautista and Troy Tulowitzki. 

Gardner seems to be showing signs of a turn-around having five hits in his last eight at bats, with a home run and a stolen base.  His .200 average is still not where it should be but all the Yankees can ask for is for him to continue hitting the way he has the last four games.  Gardner plays excellent defense and is able to catch many fly balls that other outfielders are not able to.  Swisher had a breakout year last season and is only batting .218 so far.  He showed signs of last season’s form with on April 28th against his former team, the White Sox, hitting three hits and his first home run of the campaign.

The last two struggling Yankees are Jeter and Posada.  It is hard to tell whether it is their advanced age catching up to them, a prolonged slump or a combination of the two.  Jeter is 36 while Posada is 39, and that is what might be causing them to produce stats much less than their career average.  Jeter is hitting .242 with only six RBI and is hitting ground balls at an alarming rate.  Posada is only batting .133 but his six home runs is slightly encouraging.  However, a slugging percentage of .387 and 12 RBI so far is not typical production form a Designated Hitter.  Hopefully Long can tweak something with their swing to help them getting on base and produce runs like they are accustomed to.

This probably will not happen but it would make sense to bat Jeter seventh or eighth in the lineup.  He is only 51 hits away from joining the 3,000 hit club, which will be a major accomplishment, so he will probably continue batting leadoff until then.  This will give him as many opportunities as possible but afterwards I would bat him seventh or eighth.   Once he moves down in the order it would make sense to leadoff Gardner since he has so much speed. This would be best for the team. 

A change that was made which was a very smart decision by Joe Girardi was hitting Granderson second in the lineup.  This should continue for the foreseeable future because he is currently not showing any flaws in his swing, while hitting for power and average.

The pitching matchups for the series against the Tigers at Comerica Park sees Bartolo Colon face Justin Verlander, CC Sebathia matches up against Brad Penny, Freddy Garcia takes on Max Scherzer and A.J. Burnett battles Rick Porcello.  I could see the Yankees winning three out of four with the loss coming on Wednesday against Scherzer.  Even though Garcia has the much lower ERA he showed signs of ineffectiveness and loss of control in his last start. 

Tonight the Yankees are facing Verlander, who is one of the best pitchers in the American League, but Colon has pitched like an ace so far, so it seems like the game could be a pitcher’s duel.  The Yankees will have the edge if the game gets to a battle of the back end of the bullpen.