Baseball is a tricky game sometimes. Take last night for instance. Was the Yankees offense horrible, or did Justin Verlander bring his A game? I thought it was mostly the latter, with a smattering of the former. In any case, he mowed down the Yanks with precision, tossing 79 of his 110 pitches for strikes. He lasted only two batters into the eighth, which seems strange for a guy who had pitched a shutout to that point, but striking out nine guys tends to work up the pitch count.
Yet the offense still had its faults. The Yanks put the leadoff runner on in four of the nine frames, and managed to score only in the ninth. The worst of the failings was in the fourth, when Teixeira and Matsui hit back to back singles. After a Cano fly out, Verlander struck out Nick Swisher and Melky Cabrera, thus ending the threat. It happened again in the eighth, with back to back singles by Ramiro Pena and Derek Jeter which chased Verlander from the game. On came Bobby Seay, he of the 1.491 WHIP last year, who took out Johnny Damon, Mark Teixeira, and Hideki Matsui to preserve the shutout.
On the bright side, the Yankees saw a far more efficient version of CC Sabathia last night. Four runs over 8 innings doesn’t look too pretty in the box score, but for anyone watching the game it wasn’t bad at all. The run in the first was an unfortunate one, but easily forgivable. Placido Polanco hit a double on a pitch at his shins, and Cabrera hit a sharp liner that I thought that Jeter would have had for sure. Still, it was just one run. The Yanks had time to recover and they didn’t capitalize. Meanwhile, CC continued to cruise.
His only other blemish came in the sixth, which started with a Curtis Granderson bunt single — one which CC made every conceivable effort to field and make a play on. Polanco’s subsequent double wasn’t exactly a torched ball; it kind of fell in between Melky and Damon and rolled slowly for a bit. It bought enough time for Granderson to score from first. And then came the Mags homer which, judging by his expression after hitting it, even he didn’t think was going out. Oh well. It happens.
It took CC just 99 pitches to finish off eight frames, giving the bullpen a much-needed day off. Moreover, he threw 70 of those pitches for strikes, a far better mark than he’d seen even in his other good outing against the Royals. The six hits, seven strikeouts, and especially the zero walks were also encouraging. It seems CC was done in by the home run. Otherwise it was a solid outing, and a good sign that CC is over his early-season shakes.
Finally, let us take another minute to appreciate Robinson Cano. Dude has been on fire to start the season. He’s quickly put 2008 behind him, which is all you can hope for.
They’ll do it again tomorrow, same time, with Phil Hughes making his 2009 debut against Edwin Jackson. The Yanks could really, really, really…really use a win.