You know, watching the team play last night almost made me forget about the dismal first half. Okay, maybe not so much, but it was still a damn good effort on the part of the Yanks. It’s against the lowly Devil Rays, but the Yanks have to beat up on these teams to have a shot. The Yanks need at least three out of four in this series if we’re going to take them seriously. Now we’re back at .500, and looking to get back over the hump tonight.
What’s encouraging is seeing that everyone in the lineup got a hit — except Cano. And for the most part, they beat up on one of the surprisingly good starters for Tampa Bay. James Shields surrendered three home runs — all in the same inning — and three doubles, accounting for 2/3 of his total hits allowed. That, my friends, is how the Yankees are supposed to win ball games.
For what it’s worth, Cano did put a few good swings on some pitches. His strikeout was rather embarrassing, but aside from that, he looked decent. His swing resembled that of 2006 rather than that of May 2007, which is an encouraging sign. Watch for it tonight. In May, it seemed that every muscle in his body was trying to propel his bat through the zone. That resulted in more moving parts and an ugly swing. Now it looks more like he’s turning quickly with his hips, allowing his hands to drive the bat through the zone. That’s Robbie’s formula for success. If he keeps doing that, the hits will come.
Boy, does Bobby Abreu continue to impress or what? He’s done this before this season, so I’m not getting my hopes up about a huge second half. But he’s really locked in there, going 3 for 4 with a homer and a double. His OBP is up to .356 and his SLG is up to .390; poor marks overall, but a noted improvement for Bobby. What’s strange about Bobby’s stellar July (.483/.469/.793) is that he’s walked just once.
Unfortunately, you absolutely, without a doubt have to sit Bobby tonight. To play him would rank among the stupidest moves from Joe Torre, and that’s saying a lot. Allow me to explain.
From April 24 through May 19, Bobby Abreu’s OBP dropped from .404 to .307. He hit .181/.220/.245 over that stretch. From May 20 through June 19, he brought his OBP back up to .369, going .333/.470/.516 over that stretch. His OBP then dropped to .342 from June 20 through July 1.
So what do April 24 and June 20 — the beginnings of Abreu’s putrid stretches — have in common? Well, on April 24, he faced Scott Kazmir; on June 20, he faced Jeff Francis. Both are tough lefties. That is why he must sit tonight against Kazmir.
I’m not saying that if Abreu plays tonight that he’ll shave nearly 100 points off his OBP like he did last time. But why would you risk that? If Abreu is so integral to this team’s success (he is), it makes no sense to play him. We can only pray that Torre sits him like he did against Johan Santana.
Finally, we got to Andy Pettitte, who is coming back to earth after a monstrous first half. And by coming back to earth, I mean his ERA is above 4.00 — 4.27 to be exact. See, this is why ERA is such a shaky measure of a pitcher’s performance. Andy was a beast in the first half, but two terrible and one shaky performance have ballooned his ERA to a point where we peg him as a No. 3 starter. His 4.27 mark doesn’t nearly tell the story of what he meant to the Yanks in the first half. If they had actually hit when he pitched, we’d be well above .500 right now.
I also don’t like the decision to yank him with two outs in the sixth. Yes, it all turned out well, so it’s tough to criticize the move. But I’m of the opinion that you have to let your starter work out of jams. He had only thrown 102 pitches, and had an acceptable number of strikes (63). I thought Andy could have gotten one more out. Who knows; maybe Torre saw something he didn’t like. But under normal circumstances, it’s the starter’s job to finish that inning.
Oh, and that’s twice in recent memory that Mo has struck out a batter to end a game. Those are my absolute favorite Yankee wins. I can even tolerate John Sterling during those moments: “Heeeee stuck him out swinging! Ball game over! The Yankees win! Thaaaaaaa Yankees win!” It may be corny, it may be cheezy, but it’s a damn good feeling.