It’s not quite a nine-game win streak, but the Yankees have been rolling lately. They snapped the streak while losing two out of three to Philadelphia, but since then have taken two of three from Texas, three out of four from Cleveland, two out of three from Texas again, and two of three from the Rays. A win capped that last series, as the Yanks bats powered them over the Rays, 5-3. They’re now 9-3 since the Philly series, and yes, they’re still atop the AL East.
Looking at the box score, it wouldn’t appear Andy Pettitte pitched badly. And really, he wasn’t bad, in the Hughes-against-the-Orioles kind of way. But he labored yet again, walking three and allowing five hits in six innings. The worst, by a long shot, was a two-run shot to Gabe Kapler, who entered the game hitting a robust .169/.261/.260. YES nominated him for the player of the game, but I believe there’s a statute buried somewhere deep in the MLB rulebook which says no one who surrenders the first homer of the year to a guy hitting on the Interstate shall be awarded player of the game. I’ll look it up sometime.
Pettitte did battle, though, and you can’t really complain about six innings and three runs, especially when they come with seven strikeouts — though six came in the first three innings. The thing that concerns me is that Pettitte will look like this the rest of the season. Sometimes he’ll win his battles as he did tonight, perhaps losing a significant one along the way but generally limiting the damage. There will be games, though, where other teams bomb him. The Yanks have been able to avoid that, for the most part, since it happened a few times in April. It’s been a big part of their turn-around.
Of course, there’s little the team can do about it. They could put him on the DL to give his back a rest, and that might be the best decision from a team standpoint. Clearly, that’s not what Andy wants to do. He’s got innings-based incentives in his contract. Combined with considerable pride, and you have a guy who is going to insist on taking the ball every five days. Generally I respect this mentality. However, it’s different when it involves being sick than when it involves being injured. I’m not saying Pettitte must go on the DL, but I am saying that if Pettitte’s next five starts are going to resemble his last five, perhaps a two week vacation could do him some good.
Pettitte and the bullpen kept the team in the game, and the offense delivered on their end of the deal. It was once again a homer party for the Yanks, as they scored all five runs on the longball. Mark Teixeira solo job, Swisher with a no-doubt-about-it two-run shot, Johnny Damon with a right-field special, and finally Derek Jeter, after falling just short previously in the game, deposited one in the stands in right. That’s five runs on four homers. Strangely, despite the power surge, the Yankees hit no doubles in the game (neither team did). In fact, the only non-homer hits for the Yanks were an infield single by Swish and a leadoff single by Cano in the second.
The only point of complaint about the offense was that it seemed like they were swinging at too much of Andy Sonnanstine’s out-of-the-zone slop. The guy doesn’t have the greatest stuff, and it looked like he didn’t have his command last night. Those are the games where you’d like to see the Yanks take their walks, but they drew just two. It seemed like they could have had five or six. Worse yet, on the AB after Sonnanstine walked Hideki Matsui on four pitches, Nick Swisher hacked at some pitches you’d normally see him take. The result was a double play. At the time, with the score tied at three, it was horribly frustrating. Upon reflection, yeah, we can’t expect them to be perfect all the time. But when a guy with mediocre stuff isn’t hitting his spots, you’d like to see them take some more of the free passes he’s handing out.
While there were some frustrating moments from Pettitte and even a few from the offense, nothing drew my ire last night like Girardi’s decision to take out Hughes after an 11-pitch seventh inning. He absolutely mowed down the Rays’ 1-2-3 guys, but wasn’t given a chance to pitch a second inning, even though he hadn’t thrown in a week. Instead Phil Coke came out to face the lefty Pena. Girardi explained on the postgame that “it’s Cokey’s job” to get the lefty, but really it’s every pitcher’s job to get outs. Pena does have a pronounced split — .962 OPS vs. righties, .779 vs. lefties — so the decision is at least somewhat defensible. Still, Hughes could have used the work, and it’s not like he did anything to show he couldn’t get Pena (and please, his three career at bats are the definition of meaningless). It’s not the end of the world, and we will not treat it as such. Consider it a mild complaint on behalf of those who want to see Hughes get in some innings, especially when he just tossed a marvelous seventh.
Surprisingly, Mo came out to pitch the ninth for the third straight day. Surprisingly again, but this time in a sarcastic manner, Mo isn’t done. After blowing the game Friday he retired six straight batters and locked down two straight wins. It’s a bit scary a proposition to not have him available for a game in Fenway, but that’s the way it’s gotta be. Would Girardi dare call on Mo for a fourth straight appearance if the Yanks are up one going into the bottom of the ninth? Who else would he call on? Hopefully the Yanks offense can just tee off on Beckett and make it a moot question.
Tomorrow’s quite the big day. Not only are the Yanks in Boston with Beckett vs. Burnett on the hill, but we have the MLB Draft. Stay tuned to RAB, as Mike will bring you the dirt from the draft while Ben and I bow in admiration and cover the rest of the team. Draft question to get everyone warmed up: If Kyle Gibson, Tanner Scheppers, and Aaron Crow are all on the board when the Yanks pick, which one should they choose?