After a rough start to the season, the Yanks picked up their first victory on Thursday and hope to ride that into their first series win of the season this weekend in Kansas City. They’ll see the season debuts of Andy Pettitte and Joba Chamberlian, and CC Sabathia gets a chance for redemption on Saturday.
The Royals are rolling after their first series with the White Sox. If not for a poor decision to let Kyle Farnsworth face Jim Thome, the Royals could have swept the defending AL Central champs, but they’ll take two out of three any day. Their starting pitching was stellar, allowing just one run over 20 innings while amassing 21 strikeouts and issuing four walks. Shaky youngster Kyle Davies impressed in his start yesterday, going 7 innings while allowing no runs on 3 hits and 2 walks, striking out 8.
The offense, while racking up just six runs during the series, hasn’t been too hot. New leadoff hitter Coco Crisp has two doubles and a homer — and the homer won the game in the top of the 9th yesterday. Alex Gordon recorded the first Royals run of the year with a homer on Tuesday, but that’s one of just two hits he has on the season. It’s still early, of course, and some of these guys could pick up the pace. Yet it’s not promising that the team has zero hits from first base so far this season, and that Jose Guillen, surprise surprise, has more strikeouts than hits.
The Yanks starting pitching struggled in the first two games, but Burnett rebounded with a solid outing yesterday. The bullpen has been a bright spot, as it’s had basically one bad inning — the eighth on Opening Day — but has dominated in the past two games, allowing no runs in relief of Wang and Burnett. Pettitte could make it all right by going deep this evening and giving most of the bullpen a day off. That’s one of the strengths of the rotation: a bunch of guys who, when they are on, can go deep into games. The one exception, Joba Chamberlain, is surrounded by workhorses Sabathia and Wang.
On the offensive side of the ball there wasn’t much to complain about. The exception, perhaps, is the number of men they left on base, but that’s going to happen when you put a lot of guys on base in general. The Yanks put 45 runners on base in the first three games and scored 21 runs, so that’s not a terrible ratio by any means. Just imagine this lineup once A-Rod makes his triumphant return.
Here are the pitching match-ups for the series. All games are on YES and CBS 880 AM.
Friday, 4:10 p.m.
LHP Andy Pettitte vs. RHP Sidney Ponson
After getting bounced from the rotation late last year, Ponson went unnoticed for most of the winter until he turned in a decent WBC performance for the Netherlands. Kansas City then signed him to a minor league deal, and he won the fourth rotation spot out of camp. Hopefully the Yanks offense can repeat the last time they faced Ponson.
LHP CC Sabathia vs. LHP Horacio Ramirez
Nothing has been more frustrating over the past few years than the Yanks’ flailing efforts against soft-tossing, mediocre lefties. Over five appearances against the Yanks in his career Ramirez has held them to a .739 OPS, among his best against any team. They fared a bit better off him last year, when he faced them twice in relief appearances. The totals: 1 IP, 3ER, 0 K. He faced the Yanks as a starter twice with Seattle in 2007, going 6.1 innings of one-run ball the first time, but getting smacked around for four runs, three earned, in 5.2 innings the second go-round.
RHP Joba Chamberlain vs. RHP Gil Meche
As mentioned above, Meche had an impressive start to the season, allowing one run through seven innings of work, striking out six and walking none. He was in line for the victory until Kyle Farnsworth blew it in the eighth. He’ll get another chance at his first win against Joba, who gets his first start of the season. In 13 games lifetime against the Yanks, Meche has held them to a .734 OPS. In one start last year he went six innings, allowing one run and striking out eight. The Yanks are hoping for a result closer to 2007, where they mashed Meche for 13 runs over 17.1 innings, with just six strikeouts.
Keys to the series
The key to any series is scoring more runs than you allow. It’s a revelation, I know, but that seems to be the way you win baseball games. Specifically, the Yanks will have to tee off on the ass-end of the Royals rotation and pick up those first two games. There’s no reason that Pettitte should lose to Ponson, and even less reason (yes, less than none) that CC should lose to Horacio freaking Ramirez. Meche is a dicier proposition, but if the Yanks head into the game already up 2-0, it might make things a bit easier.
One thing I’d like to see in the series: Ramiro Pena get a start at third. The best time would have been tonight, though, since Cody Ransom’s strength is against lefties. There’s always Sunday.
Keeping up with the Royals:
I often talk about keeping up on all 30 MLB teams with an RSS reader. For the Royals, I mostly read beat writer Sam Mellinger’s blog and his newspaper, the Kansas City Star. If any Royals fans are reading and write a blog which is updated at least once daily, email me and I’ll check it out: josephp at riveravebles dot com.