The Yankees have to be glad to wake up in their own beds this morning. Their mini road trip did not go quite as expected, 3-4 after kicking it off with two wins over the Red Sox. While they did get two particularly poor pitching performances, Burnett on Sunday and Sabathia yesterday, the starters did their jobs in every other outing. That includes Sergio Mitre, who didn’t pitch well by most measures but who stepped in and did what was expected of him.
When an offense can’t get to a starting pitcher, they tend not to score many runs. Most bullpens feature weak middle relief corps, but plenty of teams, especially winning teams like Detroit, have a quality endgame. If a starter can hand the ball straight to the primary setup man, it represents a success. That’s what happened to the Yankees in their four losses from Friday through Thursday. They couldn’t get to the starter, and then the back of the bullpen did its job.
On Sunday night Jon Lester continued to make up for his poor start. He threw 107 pithes in seven innings, striking out seven Yankees and holding them to just two runs. His offense took care of the rest, blasting A.J. Burnett for nine runs and putting the game out of reach pretty early. The only rally they managed came off Manny Delcarmen in the eighth, but it wasn’t nearly enough. Lester had held them, though it didn’t much matter with Burnett’s performance. Still, taking two out of three from the Sox at Fenway for the second time this season felt good.
Monday was essentially a bullpen game for the Tigers, so the Yanks didn’t have the chance to get shut down by a starter. Instead, Eddie Bonine stepped in and held the Yankees to two hits through 2.1 innings, handing the ball to Joel Zumaya in the sixth. Zumaya had some troubles, but pitched well enough to get out of it. It was disappointing to see the Yankees fail to capitalize off two pitchers not good enough to crack the Tigers’ rotation, but everyone has off-days. Plus, the Yanks would get Rick Porcello next, who had gotten off to a horrible start in 2010.
Of course, the game didn’t go as planned. Porcello threw 91 pitches through seven innings, allowing just four hits and walking three. The Yankees got nothing going at all, and stranded six — the last one erased by a Ramiro Pena double play. It was the first time the Yankees had been shut out this season. It wouldn’t be long until it happened for a second time.
In the nightcap the Yankees faced another struggling starter, Jeremy Bonderman, but still couldn’t hit him. He allowed five hits through seven innings, walking just one. They manufacture a couple of runs, which was all they’d need. Phil Hughes took care of that one. The final score, 8-0, looks that way because Phil Coke and Alfredo Figaro let the game get out of hand in the ninth. Before that, though, the Yankees’ offense looked rather tame.
After scoring runs late on Wedneday night I thought they might come back with some offense against Justin Verlander on Thursday. I couldn’t have been any more wrong. Derek Jeter managed a leadoff hit off Justin Verlander, but it was just one of four the Yankees got yesterday. Jorge Posada was responsible for two of them, and Brett Gardner the other. The rest of the lineup pulled a collective 0-for, despite drawing four walks off Verlander.
Thankfully, the team is headed home, where it has hit much better this season. In 873 road plate appearances this year the team is hitting a collective .260/.355/.387. Part of that stems from the absence of Curtis Granderson and Nick Johnson, but it’s also because of poor hitting from the middle of the lineup. At home, though, the Yankees have hit .292/.384/.494, though in just 456 PA. If there’s one saving grace to their poor road numbers it’s that they’ve played an inordinate number of games on the road so far. That means more games at home this summer, when hopefully the team has heated up.
NOTE: I am totally cramping Fack Youk’s style here.