A Golden Opportunity

Matusz stifles bats, Yanks lose to O's
The Roster Madness
(Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)

The Yankees wrapped up the toughest stretch of their early-season schedule over the weekend, going 5-3 with a rain out in nine games against the Red Sox, Rangers, and Tigers. They woke up this morning 2.5 games out of first place after splitting the first two games of their three-game series with the Orioles, not an ideal position but hardly one worth getting worked up over on May 2nd. You can’t win a division title this early in the season, but the Yankees are in a position to improve their odds of winning a second straight AL East crown in a big way in the coming weeks.

The Rays announced yesterday that Evan Longoria will be out 6-8 weeks with a partially torn left hamstring, and injury he suffered running the bases on Monday night. Tampa Bay has a really, really good team, but it’s impossible for any club to replace a player of Longoria’s caliber. Joe Maddon & Co. will try to get by with in-house replacements like Jeff Keppinger, Elliot Johnson, and Will Rhymes for the time being. Longoria’s injury is obviously a major blow to a chief division rival.

Needless to say, the Yankees have a golden opportunity now. Not only will the Rays be without their best player for the next two months, but New York will also enjoy a rather cushy schedule. Only three of their next 27 games are against 2011 playoff teams — a three-game set in the Bronx against the Longoria-less Rays next week — and only nine of their next 55 games are against 2011 playoff clubs (including interleague play). That stretch takes them almost all the way to the All-Star break. It’s hard to ask for anything more.

Thanks to the new Collective Bargaining Agreement, winning the division is of the utmost importance now. The Yankees have a chance to pad their win total during what appears to be an easy stretch of the schedule while Tampa will have to try to survive without one of the game’s very best players. The two clubs are in very different situations, and there’s an opportunity for New York to create some separation between themselves and a primary AL East competitor over these next few weeks. The sooner the starting rotation sorts itself out and the Yankees can get on a roll, the better.

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Matusz stifles bats, Yanks lose to O's
The Roster Madness
  • https://twitter.com/#!/philgalletto theyankeewarrior

    Couldn’t agree more, Mike. I’ve been saying for a couple weeks now that May is their month. Cano, Tex, Alex, & Russ are due to break out. Just need to start a little winning streak while the competition is down.

  • Kosmo

    I heard about Longoria´s hamstring this morning. Rays have an good team but their offense without Longoria is a huge blow. The Rays have been getting by on the strength of their pitching . Their bullpen is suspect and when your second best hitter is Matt Joyce your going to have problems scoring runs.

    • Kosmo

      of course by morning I mean I´m 6 hours ahead of you folks.

    • JohnC

      But their strong pitching will still keep them in most games

      • Kosmo

        I can´t disagree. They do have some great SP.

      • jjyank

        No doubt, the Rays will still win plenty of games. But losing Longoria will really shorten that lineup.

  • HyShai

    You could probably say the same about the Rays: better take advantage now with the Yankees missing a couple of their best player, Teixera and Cano. #Trololol

  • OldYanksFan

    While our SP has been pretty bad, I’m not too worried… as my expectations for this staff are moderate. My worry is our 3-4-5… ARod, Can and Teix.

    ARod’s bunt base hit tells you something about this guy. That is pure team play. I remember when Mantle did the same thing. ARod is 37, and I expect him to post and .800+ OPS, and hope for more. Cano has been hitting the ball a bit better of late, and I feel confident he will post his usual .850+ OPS.

    However, Teix scares me. He leans back more then Charlie Brown, and swings out of his shoes. He doesn’t look to drive the ball… rather, destroy it. It’s a very bad approach for someone who is both slumping and declining.

    If we can’t get at least an average of an .850 OPS from these 3, we are in trouble.

    • LarryM.,Fl.

      I cannot disagree with your post. In fact Teix. to me has regressed with his approach or appears to have forgotten the idea of hitting the other way or where the pitch is located. I have seen more pulls of outside pitches from the short porch side.

      His demeanor after and AB displays ambivalence to the need for him to start hitting if not for average at least some RBI’s. His defense is solid as usual.

      • MannyGeee

        Tex started the 2011 ALOT worse. He will pick it up eventually. He always starts slow and we always curse him all through April.

        That said, it’d be nice if he would warm up now…

  • ADam

    A little line up switch could really help them in this stretch as well once Gardy gets back. Have him lead off, Jeter is hitting well enough to get back in the #2 and I think you need to drop Tex 7th, since he is just abysmal. This way you have a ton of freedom in the 3-6 spots…

  • Robinson Tilapia

    Agreed that this is a great opportunity to get ahead and start putting some space in between the Yankees and who is bound to be their biggest challengers. Regardless of how this series ends (and games like last night’s are going to happen to anyone), Baltimore will looking up at the lights soon enough.

    KC should be ripe for the picking. Hopefully, Phelps can put together five good innings and leave the rest of the series in the hands of CC and Kuroda, who I’d put my money on getting the job done.

    • jjyank

      KC actually scares me. Sure, they’re not a playoff contender now, but I feel like that team is a ticking time bomb (in a good way, for KC fans anyway). They have loads of young talent and I feel like they could bust out at any moment. I’m just hoping it isn’t right around the corner. Yanks do need to start stringing together some wins, and this is the part of the schedule to do it in.

      • Cris Pengiucci

        Last I looked, they were 0-10 at home. That scares me, as it is unsustainable and they are due for some wins at home.

        • Dale Mohorcic

          Maybe they can break Broxton again.

      • Robinson Tilapia

        KC’s looked like that for a mighty long time, though.

  • rek4gehrig

    Not if they continue to score only 1 run against pitchers like Matusz :-(

    • Reggie C.

      Hey man, last night’s “flat” game is going to happen. Won’t be a common occurrence by any means bc Cano and Teix will pick up the offense. Though i’m not as confident in Teix’s ability to carry the offense, I’ll bet Cano is able to come close to his career averages by season’s end.

      We did hit Verlander pretty hard last week. dwell on that!

      • Hummingbird S.

        Problem is, 3-4-5 hitters have been terrible since the beginning of the season, not simply last night. If they don’t turn it around soon (and there’s a good chance A-Rod and Teix never will get back to good numbers) this offense is suddenly not that good.

        • jjyank

          I think people are jumping the gun a bit on Tex and A-Rod. Tex probably won’t be an average guy anymore, but he’s still gonna get on base and launch 30+ bombs. He hit 39 last year. Slow starts suck, but Tex does this all the time.

          And A-Rod was mashing last year before he went down with injuries. Even when he came back, he was battling those thumb issues down the stretch. If A-Rod is healthy, he’ll turn it around too. I doubt he’ll put up MVP numbers again, but he can still be a very good player.

    • Robinson Tilapia

      Pitchers like Matusz are guys who have incredible stuff, but haven’t put it together. If you’ve been watching baseball for more than five minutes, you know these pitchers can often look like Cy Young for a start, and not just against the Yankees.

      Remember Brian Bullington’s start against the Yanks a couple of eyars back? It happens.

  • JohnC

    Remember when Bullington shut them out in KC?

    • Bartolo’s Colon

      pretty certain that in 2029, people will still bring that up on the RAB virtual hologram board

      • Robinson Tilapia

        I need to learn to scroll down sometimes.

  • http://theevilsquare.com handtius

    i’d like to see this order:

    1. gardner
    2. jeter
    3. granderson
    4. arod
    5. cano
    6. swish
    7. tex
    8. ibanez/jones
    9. martin

    keeps the lefty, righty thing going, but puts our most productive bats at the top. jeter is out of his mind. yanks should take advantage before he cools (i think he has a great year, but not a .400 year)

    • bonestock94

      Batting lineups are pretty inconsequential

      • Hummingbird S.

        in the long run, yes.. just for a game or 2, it can have a greater impact.

        • bonestock94

          Disagree, because you cannot differentiate between randomness and a real correlation (IE: Batting lineup to performance) until you have a large sample size. Assesing on a game to game basis completely disregards that essential rule.

          • http://theevilsquare.com handtius

            if three batters are currently on a hot streak, batting close to 400 and one has 7 homers in his last 9 games, you don’t think stacking them would lead to immediate runs or at least increase the odds? come on. that’s balarky.

      • http://theevilsquare.com handtius

        usually i agree with that sentiment, but when your 3-4-5 batters are producing little to nothing, you can cluster your best together and get some offense. batting order is inconsequential over a full season, but can have a very real impact in the immediate.

    • Jesse

      Teixeira 7th? I know he’s struggling, but I just don’t see Girardi moving him down there even if his struggles last awhile longer.

      • http://theevilsquare.com handtius

        i’m definitely not expecting this line up, more of a wishful thinking. he’s not going to move jete out of the lead off. think that’s obvious.

      • OldYanksFan

        Agreed. But that lineup is good if you bat Teix 6th and Swish 7th,

  • Bartolo’s Colon

    is c-dick hurt, he’s still in aaa, right? i would really like to see him take ibanez’s spot. i know he doesn’t hit much, unless it’s against felix hernandez of course, but i really think we need an actual outfielder on the bench

    • http://theevilsquare.com handtius

      not on the 40 man. they don’t want to chance loosing him when they send him down. have to save him in case of a long term injury.

      • jjyank

        Yeah if anyone gets called up, it’ll be Wise.

    • bpdelia

      Yes and id say for this little run itspd bebetter to uust call up Wise and start Jones. Hey Cashman can we please have a backup OFer on the roster? Nunez obviously OBVIOUSLY cannot play the OF. Good idea but thus far the impossible has proven true and he is worse out there than in the IF. Dl swish or stop it with carrying too many pitchers. Send mitchell back down today and bring up wise.

    • TomH

      Could you have meant “Chris Dickerson”?

  • ROBTEN

    Hopefully, these kinds of opportunities will continue to rain down on the Yanks all season…sort of like a golden shower of success, if you will.

    Wait, what is everybody looking at?

  • Ton loc ton

    Perhaps they can sit Tex for a while and bring up that young phenom montero – see if he is any good at first base – we could be using some young blood in the lineup

    • mike

      or bring up that mediocre outfield prospect that the Yanks developed over the past few years….whats his name??

    • jjyank

      Seriously, we’re going to do this in another thread too?

  • Duh Innings

    Here’s why I don’t like the “win the division” thinkimg:

    Yes, first things first and you want to avoid having to start your ace or #2 in the wildcard game, but the real goal should be at worst making it to the World Series and at best winning it. I honestly don’t know if the 2012 Yankees have the rotation after CC to make it.

    If Pettitte is his usual solid self and Nova has a 2012 like his 2011, they have a chance but they will most likely have to go with those two and CC – a three-man rotation – throughout the postseason to have a chance to win it all unless Kuroda shows he could make it a four-man postseason rotation or the Yanks acquire someone who could.

    Also baseball unlike any other sport is a cyclic game. Look at Brian Matusz. He was an 0-3, 5.66 ERA pitcher going into last night’s game and he shut down the Yanks. The Royals have been so bad so far aren’t they due to be better? What if they keep sucking but only after facing the Yanks? Just splitting a series with the Yanks would be a major coup for them. On paper the schedule looks light but remember: the Yanks backend of the rotation is suspect and Kuroda isn’t quite up there with CC and Nova yet. Also Nova is LOOOONG overdue to have a bad start or stretch and CC has yet to really have a bad start.

    In the end the Yanks will determine their fate and you could argue that since they have a light schedule to the tune of only 9 games out of 55 vs. 2011 playoff teams (not even a sixth of these games vs. playoff teams), the biggest enemy they have is themselves.

    I expect nothing less than 35-23 in the next 58 games for a 48-33 first half (a 96-win pace which probably gets them the division title.) Ideally they could win the next five games (win the series over the Os then sweep the Royals) so they have to play only 30-23 ball to get to 48-33.

  • Treve

    Now everyone will see the value of Montero. The guy had a impact bat because of his ability to hit good pitches. Only two of our hitters are of doing that Jeter and Cano. You don’t trade that type bat away especially when u have declining players. He could DH and spell Martin at catcher. Dumb trade

    • Robinson Tilapia

      I am going to punch a fire extinguisher. I swear. He’s not coming back. Get over it. This is the last Montero-obsessed fan I’m responding to.

      • jjyank

        Is this what’s going to happen every time Montero has a multi-hit game? I don’t get it, these posts have literally nothing to do with Montero and two threads in a row is littered with this garbage.

        Maybe they’ll all Seattle fans just coming here to troll.

        • Robinson Tilapia

          I’m done with it. They can indulge in their Montero fantasies on their own.

          Maybe there’s an untapped market for Mariner blogs/Venezuelan porn we could make some money off of?

          • jjyank

            Hey, there’s a niche for everything.

    • jjyank

      Dumb post.

    • DJ4K&Monterowasdinero

      Get ready for the Montero-attack dogs!

      He outhit Tampa last night and they still lost.

      I think Tampa will be fine without Longoria. They have great pitching, timely hitting, Joe Maddon and Matsui in the wings!

      • jjyank

        No, the only “attack dogs” are the ones who feel compelled to post irrelevant crap about Montero in every damn thread, even if the post does not involve Montero or the Mariners in the slightest.

        They only thing these posts accomplish is making the poster look whiney and diverting our attention away from the quality post that we’re supposed to be commenting on.

    • thenamestsam

      Holy crap is this getting old. If Montero was on the Yankees instead of the Mariners we’d already be having posts dedicated to why he wasn’t hitting. Last night’s big game finally got him above a .300 OBP and into positive WAR territory. Not quite celebration territory yet.

      • http://nova Tun Loc Tun

        Really it goes back to 2003 when cash for brains failed to sign david Ortiz — montero is gone and never coming back

  • DJ4K&Monterowasdinero

    But getting back to Tampa….timely hitting, aggressive baserunning, great starting pitching to take the load and pressure off the bullpen, Maddon, post-season experience, Matsui…..they have alot going for them beyond Longoria.

    They’ll be in it right to the end.

    • http://armpit/ Ty Cobbs left armpit

      Hughes should be traded for Felix