While today’s game got real ugly later on, it wasn’t exactly pretty in the early going. The Yanks put eight men on base in the first four innings without scoring a run, and left a total of 15 men on base during their too-long affair. It wasn’t the home opener that most Yanks fans had envisioned. Good thing they’ll play 152 more of these things, and two of their major weaknesses in the game — the bullpen and the ability to drive in men on base — have been fairly good for most of the season.
Sabathia wasn’t exactly economical, a la Burnett and Pettitte from the previous two games, as he used 122 pitches to get 17 outs. The top of the 5th particularly hurt, as he used 30 pitches to retire three Indians, though he didn’t allow a run. It all added up, though — the five hits, the five walks, the four strikeouts — and CC had to exit early. It wasn’t terrible in terms of results, but as we’d learn later the Yanks could have used another inning and a third from their ace.
A quick note on CC’s walks. That number might seem high right now. As Andrew pointed out during the game, CC walked 59 batters last year and has 10 already this year. That, however, is misleading. CC racked up nine walks over his first three starts last year, in which he pitched just 14 innings. His 10 walks come after 17.2 innings this year. Furthermore, CC allowed 14 walks through his first four starts last year, spanning 18 innings. From that point on, he tossed 235 innings with a 1.74 ERA, walking just 45. CC’s going to be just fine.
Damaso Marte and Jose Veras generated plenty of complaints, and with good reason. But to make sweeping statements about them based on one appearance is a bit much. We know what Veras is at this point: a guy with an electric fastball and a devastating curveball. There are going to be days when he can’t hit the strike zone with the fastball, rendering the curveball moot. Does that mean he sucks? No. He has his flaws, just as pretty much every reliever in the bigs has flaws. That’s why they’re relievers and not starters. Marte had a tough outing, too, reminiscent of his stinker in Texas last August. Yet to make proclamations about how he stinks is to ignore years of quality work — not to mention the quality work he’s done for the Yanks outside of a few appearances which stand out in fans’ minds.
What do you get when you cross an inefficient starting pitcher with a lack of hitting with runners on base, and then cross that with a bullpen having a bad day? A loss for sure, though one would hope not as bad as today’s. Those are the breaks in baseball, though. Some days you just can’t knock the guy in from second. Some days you call on the wrong reliever. We’ve seen this — the latter, at least — a few too many times in a young season, which is the leading cause of fan overreaction. Games in April count just as much as games in September; each game is 1/162 of the season. The difference, of course, is that the team has time to address their issues and correct them in April. I have all the confidence in the world that the Yankees will do just that.
Another day game tomorrow, again at 1:00. Joba Chamberlain goes up against Cardinals-castoff Anthony Reyes.
Random note we intentionally left until the end of the recap: Today marked the first time the Yanks have lost a home opener since 1997 when Oakland prevailed 3-1 in 12 innings. The bullpen blew that game too, except it was Mariano Rivera who gave up the tying run on a Mark McGwire homer. The Yanks somehow managed to recover (they were 4-5 with the loss) and made the playoffs. Oh, and guess who picked up the win in that game. Too late: Aaron Small.