As the saying goes, don’t look a gift horse in the mouth. So pardon me while I throw proverbial wisdom out the window.
Yesterday afternoon, the Yanks’ first fifth starter – one of the three they have in their rotation – took the mound against the Mets, and by a baseball fan’s standard accounting, he had himself a pretty decent outing. Darrell Rasner, coming off a few shaky starts, labored through five innings and left the game down 2-0 in the fifth. That’s a completely acceptable line from one of the many back-end starters on the Yanks, right?
Well, sure, if you don’t look too closely.
On the day, Rasner allowed eight hits and walked three in five innings. The Mets’ inability to get that one big hit kept him and the Yankees in the game longer than anyone would expect with those numbers. And therein lies the rub. While more than two base runners an inning won’t kill a pitcher against the relatively punchless Mets, Rasner won’t always be so lucky, and many of the better AL teams would light him up.
Every time Rasner heads out to the mound, the Yankees are walking a tightrope of inevitability, and in June, the wheels came off in a big way. On the month, Rasner was 1-5 with a 6.47 ERA in six starts. He allowed 58 baserunners in 32 innings for a WHIP of 1.81 and lost to such powerhouses as the Royals, Pirates and A’s.
But through thick and thin right now, the Yankees are stuck with Rasner. While the team would be okay relying on him as a fifth starter behind four other top-line pitchers, the reality is that the Yanks have three good starters and a gaping hole at the end. Here, we see the lasting impact of Chien-Ming Wang’s and Phil Hughes’ injuries. Here, we see how the Yanks are getting burned by Ian Kennedy’s ineffectiveness and the Yankees’ brass challenge to him to pitch his way back through the system. With these breaks, the Yanks are relying on a collection of fifth starters – Rasner, Sidney Ponson, Dan Giese – to fill two rotation spots for the time being.
On Friday, the Yanks saw Ponson go through the same high wire act. He pitched six scoreless innings but had put on nine baserunners in the game’s first four innings. I hate to rock the proverbial boat when the results belie the outcome, but the Yanks can’t expect to see themselves in close games if their back-end starters are allowing two or more opposing hitters to reach base each innings. That’s just playing with fire. Other than keeping their collective fingers crossed, the Yanks better come up with a solution and fast. They can easily overcome a 5.5 game deficit, but they can’t afford to watch more ground slip away.
And speaking of rocking the boat…
Today’s lineup was something of a mystery, and as Mike said to me this afternoon, is anyone surprised that the Yanks managed to score just one run?
The Yanks, facing a lefty tough on lefties, put up one of their worst lineups of the season. The outfield featured Justin Christian; the infield Wilson Betemit and Jose Molina. Missing were three of the team’s hottest hitters: Robinson Cano (10 for his last 22 with 2 HR), Bobby Abreu (11 for his last 23 but 0 for 10 against Perez) and Jason Giambi (8 for his last 23). Sitting this lefty triumvirate hurt the team. While I know Joe Girardi didn’t want to see his lefty bats flailing against a tough southpaw, perhaps that was a boat better left unrocked and a close game lost that could have been won.
A promotion but what demotion?
According to The Times and Democrat, a local paper from South Carolina, Brett Gardner has been called up to the Bronx. He will be in uniform for tonight’s Yankees-Rangers game. I don’t yet know what the corresponding roster move will be. We’ll have an update when we know.