At the All-Star Break last year, the Yankees were 50-45, six games back of Boston for first place and 5.5 back of Tampa for the Wild Card. They opened the second half on a tear, winning their first eight games, two of which were against the Red Sox in Boston (lest we forget the Joba game). The Yankees look to build a similar post-break streak this year, as they’ve won their first three. The difference, of course, is that the Yankees were 51-37 at the break. That, and they’re fielding a much stronger team this year.
Next on the ledger is the Baltimore Orioles, the team which derailed the Yanks’ efforts last season. The Yanks lost the series finale to Boston, which is understandable, but then dropped two of three to Baltimore before embarking on a mediocre August. That put them pretty much out of the race.
They’ll lead things off against rookie right-hander David Hernandez. A 2005 16th round draft pick, Hernandez traveled the minors a level per year, posting ho hum results until last season in AA. There he threw 141 innings to a 2.68 ERA. His strikeout rate was a ridiculous 10.6 per nine, though he walked 4.5 per nine, which is always a concern. His strikeout rate actually jumped when he moved to AAA this season, 79 in 57.1 innings (12.4 per nine). The difference is that his walk rate dropped below the 3.0 mark.
As is the case with many minor leaguers, the strikeout rate hasn’t yet translated to the majors. The only appearance in which he recorded more than three strikeouts is a 2.2-inning relief appearance against Oakland in June. He has a solid 93 mph fastball which he can dial up to 95. He also has a changeup and a slider, though FanGraphs’ Pitch Type Values pegs the latter as his weakness.
Hernandez looks like the prototype of the kind of pitcher the Yanks struggle with: they’ve never seen him before, he’s on a crappy team, and he’s posted mostly middling results. If he can hit his spots tonight, I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Yanks struggle. Then again, maybe the offense is ready to feast on a neophyte after facing two of the league’s best in the past two days.
Strangely, Posada caught all three games this weekend, including CC in a day game after a night game, yet Molina gets the call to catch Pettitte, one of the pitchers vocal about how he enjoys pitching to Jorge. The message from Girardi is simple: you’ll pitch to whoever is catching on any given day.
And on the mound, number forty-six, Andy Pettitte