A few hours after I got home from the Bronx, I was talking to my mom about the game. It was, we decided, one of the nicer days at Yankee Stadium. The weather was perfect; the game was fast and crisp; and, of course, the Yankees won. It was, in other words, a day on which I could easily imagine Ernie Banks waking up, stepping outside and saying, “Let’s play two.”
Sadly, for the Yanks, two against the Mariners was not in the cards today. They had to settle for one win and their first three-game sweep of the season. The Yanks now find themselves in second place at 17-16, three games behind the Red Sox for the AL East lead and two back of Oakland for that fourth playoff spot.
The good news for this weekend was the emergence of the Yankee offense. During the three-game set, the Yanks scored 19 runs and banged out 27 hits. With three solid outings from Chien-Ming Wang, Mike Mussina and Darrell Rasner, this weekend’s sweep came easy to the Yankees. It was baseball as it should be in the Bronx, and everything was ok.
The offensive started, as it should, with the top of the order. After racking up 10 hits on Saturday, the Yanks’ one through four hitters dialed it up to 11 on Sunday. Over the last two days, Johnny Damon, Derek Jeter, Bobby Abreu and Hideki Matsui are a combined 21 for 37 with 11 runs scored and nine RBIs. The table-setters are setting the table, and the clean-up crew is cleaning up. While the top of the lineup won’t hit .568 all season, it certainly makes for an easy baseball game when they do.
On the other side of the ball, Darrell Rasner was everything the Yanks expected him to be and more. He got off to a rocky start, giving up a two-run home run in the first, but that would be all the Mariners would muster against the 27-year-old. Rasner threw two-thirds of his pitches for strikes and didn’t walk anyone. He also managed to keep his pitch count low, throwing just 76 pitches through six innings. Ian Kennedy should take a lesson.
And that brings me to my one and only nitpick of the game. Why did Joe Girardi opt to remove Rasner from the game after six innings? Rasner hadn’t thrown a game in a few days, and he’s a 27-year-old. He was rolling, and he could have thrown at least another inning and maybe two. It seemed like knee-jerk management to me: Have your starter throw six good innings, and then turn things over to the bullpen.
In my book, if your starter is rolling through six innings with a six-run lead and his pitch count is at 76, just keep him in. It’s far better to go with the known — Rasner’s command — than the unknown coming out of the Yankee bullpen. (To take this one step further, the Yanks could have used Joba to throw the last two innings today to stretch him out. They have an off-day tomorrow, and he really has to start making some multiple-inning appearances.)
But that complaint is small beans. The Yanks won decisively; they got a good start from someone other than Wang or Mussina; and the bats seem to have woken up from their early-season slumbers. The Cliff Lee 0.96 ERA buzzsaw comes to town on Tuesday, but we’ll worry about then. For now, let’s just enjoy the sweep and hope for more days of solid baseball under the sun this spring.