In what has become a theme early in the season, the Yankees neither pitched well nor hit well on Friday afternoon against the Tigers. The result was an 8-3 loss, the team’s third in its first four games of the year.
Although the results were mostly the same (four runs in 4.2 innings), Ivan Nova did not look like the guy we saw last year. Last season he threw a lot of strikes and gave up a ton of hard contact. On Friday it was death by a thousand cuts, meaning constant nibbling and deep counts. Of the 21 men he faced, five saw a hitter friendly 2-0 count, eight saw a full count, 12 saw at least five pitches in their at-bat, and only eight saw a first pitch strike. Nova needed 96 pitches (53 strikes) to record 14 outs.
One start, the first start of the season no less, isn’t the end of the world obviously. It sure would have been nice for Nova to come out and instill some confidence after his ugly 2012 season, but instead we’re left with the same questions and more. Was he nibbling because he was just off? Was he gun shy after getting hit so hard last year? Can he be an effective starter in the big leagues? Was the second half of 2011 a mirage? Who knows, but it’s pretty clear the team will give Ivan every chance to succeed. Too bad he hasn’t has much actually success over the last 18 months.
Death By Bullpen
I said the other day that Boone Logan scares me because of his barking elbow and last year’s workload and all that, but I guess we should add middle of the plate fastballs to that list as well. Brought in to face Prince Fielder and clean up Nova’s men on corners, two outs mess in the fifth inning, the team’s only lefty reliever left a fat two seamer up and over the heart of the plate — it was actually way up and out of the zone — that Fielder crushed for a three-run homer.
If Logan manages to retire Prince and preserves the lead, who knows what happens after that. Instead, the game was effectively over given the no-show offense. Just to make sure things were completely out of reach, de facto long-man Shawn Kelley allowed a two-run bomb to Fielder two innings later. The first dinger hit the short fence just over the yellow homer line, but the second one was a bomb that landed several rows up. Prince usually doesn’t get cheated. He worked the Yankees over on Friday.
Three Token Runs
Four games into the season, the Yankees have yet to score more than four runs in a game. It wasn’t until their 17th game of the season that they scored four or fewer runs for the fourth time last year. Yep, the days of a powerhouse offense are long gone.
The Yankees scored all three of their runs in the fifth inning, when Brett Gardner scampered home on a wild pitch before Kevin Youkilis clubbed a two-run homer to left-center, his first of the season. He’s the 69th player to homer for both the Yankees and Red Sox. The Bombers actually had plenty of chances against Detroit starter Doug Fister, putting a man on-base in all five of his innings and multiple men on-base in three of those five innings. They couldn’t touch lefty long reliever Drew Smyly though, he retired all 12 men he faced for the save. New York is very weak against southpaws right now.
Eduardo Nunez left the game in the fourth inning after taking a Fister pitch to the right biceps. The replay wasn’t all that helpful and it was unclear if the ball hit him in the arm or the chest. Given the mound of pain he was in, I was worried it got the collarbone. Thankfully, x-rays were negative and it’s just a bruise. He’s day-to-day.
Robinson Cano hit a ground ball single through the right side, a ball that would have been scooped right up by the Red Sox’s infield shift. As Mark Simon was kind enough to show with a heat map, opponents have been pounding Robbie away this year — 43 of the 59 pitches he’s seen in the four games were on the outer third or off the plate away. At some point Cano will adjust and start lacing those ball to the opposite field … I think.
Youkilis had a single in addition to the homer while Travis Hafner singled — he tried to check his swing and wound up poking the ball into shallow left — and drew a walk. Brennan Boesch also singled and made a real nice leaping catch at the wall to rob Fielder of another extra-base hit. Lyle Overbay drew a walk, Chris Stewart slapped a single back through the box, and Gardner got hit by a pitch. That’s the offense right there.
David Robertson became the final member of the Opening Day roster to appear in a game, throwing a perfect eighth inning on just four pitches. It was just a “David needs work” thing, not a “we’re still in this game so let’s keep it close” thing, unfortunately.
It’s the first FOX Saturday afternoon game of the year, so get ready for some Joe Buck and Tim McCarver. Phil Hughes will be activated off the DL to make the start with David Phelps shifting to the bullpen to help an already overworked relief corps. Max Scherzer will be on the bump for the Tigers.