You can’t expect a sweep. They just don’t happen too often, even with the best teams. By the third game of a series, it’s oftentimes a moot point. The situation for the Yanks tonight, though, is a bit different. They’ve won the first two games of the series and have their ace on the mound. This is the kind of game you just have to win. But not pressure or anything.
Carsten Charles was simply brilliant in his last outing against the Mets. He locked them down through seven innings, surrendering just three hits — all in the same inning — and striking out eight. This came after a bout of biceps tendinitis, so it appears that scare is over. He threw just 99 pitches in that effort, so it looks like Girardi is going to keep his pitch count in the safe zone for a bit. With the way the Yanks bullpen has been pitching lately, that’s not such a terrible idea.
Opposing him will be Jason Vargas. The Marlins selected him in the second round of the 2004 draft, and traded him to the Mets in a deal which landed them their current closer, Matt Lindstrom (who is currently on the DL with an elbow strain). He went to Seattle in the J.J. Putz/Aaron Heilman deal. He saw only limited time with the Mets, turning in the team’s worst starting pitching performance of 2007 (9 runs, 11 hits, balk, wild pitch, two HR) before being sent back down to New Orleans. He had surgery following the season to remove bone spurs from his elbow, and then missed the entire 2008 season with a torn labrum in his hip. It’s freaking contagious.
Vargas pitched well enough at AAA Tacoma in four starts to earn a call-up. He was a high-strikeout guy in the minors who just hasn’t been able to accomplish that at the big-league level. Through 181.2 career innings he’s averaged just 6.9 K/9. He averaged 8.4 per nine in the minors. In his limited sample from this year he’s been susceptible to the home run, allowing nine in 54.2 innings. That does not bode well for a slugging team in a hitter’s park.
One thing I’ve been going over in my head over the past two days is the Mariner’s defense. This was spurred by a post by Dave Cameron at FanGraphs. Dave, you might know, writes U.S.S. Mariner, one of two indispensable team blogs (Lookout Landing being the other). While his post had nothing to do with the Mariners, it made me think of their highly-touted defense. They have a number of highly talented defensive players on their team, including center fielder Franklin Gutierrez, who we’ve seen make a flashy play or two this series.
You can’t defend against the home run, though. While Gutierrez might bring a lot to the table defensively, so that he’s far more valuable than his offensive stats would imply, if the team’s pitchers keep giving up long balls there’s not much he can do. It also hurts his overall value, since his excellent defensive capabilities go to waste when the ball leaves the park. In other words, defense is great, even underrated to an extent. However, you need pitchers who can keep the ball in the park in order to take advantage of it.
And on the mound, number fifty-two, Carsten Charles Sabathia.