After losing the series 2-1 in Tampa to the Rays over the weekend, the New York Yankees are back in the Bronx.
The Toronto Blue Jays are in town and the Yankees lost the first game at the stadium yesterday.
This is two losses in a row, and the Champs no longer own the best record in baseball. They now they share it with the Rays.
It all started Sunday afternoon in Tampa, when skipper Joe Girardi substituted new Yankee Lance Berkman for Mark Teixeira at first base, gave Alex Rodriguez a day off, and Brett Gardner was not in the outfield.
It made me question Girardi’s train of thought, considering CC Sabathia was on the mound, which gives the team a major advantage to win.
From a fan’s perspective, it didn’t seem like winning the game was on the priority list of Joe Girardi. He didn’t put the best team out there. It looked like practice, or that the Yankees were not that concerned about leading the division.
In the end, the Rays won and moved one game away from tying with the Yankees.
Than last night, AJ Burnett on the mound was back to the old four innings of domination. Then in the fifth inning, Burnett fell apart and Toronto had batting practice.
At the same time, the Rays beat the Minnesota Twins at Tropicana Field. Then the Yankees lost and now the AL East has a tie for first place for the first time since May 18th.
The Yankees bullpen needed help and Cashman’s answer was Cleveland IndiansKerry Wood. He claims it had nothing to do with Joba and every thing to do with Chan Ho Park, who was designated for assignment.
This has everything to do with Joba, but in one sense Wood is a veteran who once dazzled the city of Chicago with his fastball. Wood was Chicago’s pride after striking out 20-batters in his sixth career start.
Wood’s career didn’t pan out like it should have, as he spent 14 times on the DL in his 13 seasons. His latest just days before he landed in New York.
Wood has 62 saves over the last three seasons, with 165 strikeouts in which he appeared in 146 games out of the bullpen.
For now, Wood is a walking liability, but with an upside that might be worth the risk. Wood’s experience could be just what the doctor ordered for changing Joba back into the phenomenon everyone witnessed in 2007.
Wood has been in Joba’s shoes, as he has yo- yo-ed from starter to reliever like musical chairs.
The other hope for Wood is to help down the stretch out of the bullpen in getting to Mariano Rivera. The fact is Wood is an upgrade from Chan-Ho Park.
So, Cashman covered his ass there, maybe the Yankees secretly banned Wood from the DL list. Who really cares because this could work.
Leaves many questions unanswered, for example could Brian Cashman have kill two birds with one stone?
My bet is yes and Cashman will be deemed a genius because the concept is just shy of being too good to be true.
Rays James Shields is a lights-out pitcher if you are referring to his high strikeout numbers.
In 2010 Shields has posted 122 strikeouts over 135 innings. He maintains a minimal number of walks with 31.
So what explains Shields ERA being 4.79?
It is because Shields has given up 22 home-runs this season, along with 72 earned runs. His weakest pitch is his fastball and it gets hit hard. Shields change-up is his strongest pitch, but without it he is very hittable.
Over his last three starts, Shields is 2-0, pitching 19 innings, allowing nine earned runs, while walking five and striking out 13. Still, he has been better after a horrible June and he has won his last two starts.
If Shields doesn’t shield his pitches and is predictable the Yankees bats will eat him alive. Jeter and Cano have done it in the past, so look for them to go after Shields from the start.
New York Yankees: CC Sabathia (13-4)
Yankees ace CC Sabathia had his first loss since May 23rd, but he actually pitched very well. Lack of run support, along with some sloppy fielding behind him was to blame for the result.
Fresh off throwing the franchiser’s first no-hitter in its 13-year history, SP Matt Garza’s overall outlook doesn’t change much. Garza is still trying to get back to his 2008 form.
Garza likes pitching at home, even if home is Tropicana Field. At the Trop Garza has a .230 OBA against batters with runners in scoring position.
This season Garza has a 4.06 ERA in 128 innings. He has allowed 118 hits, 58 earned runs, giving up 18 homeruns and 41 walks. Four of the homeruns were given up on July 20 against the worst team in baseball, the Baltimore Orioles. Garza has also thrown two complete games and a no-hitter.
Garza relies a lot on his fastball, as he threw it 99 out 120 pitches during his historic no-hitter. Well, why stop what seems to be working as in his last three starts Garza 2-0, going 21 innings, with a 2.95 ERA with 13 strikeouts and only walking two batters.
Garza might not find success against a hot Yankees line-up, who tend to hit fastballs out of the park. Garza needs to throw a variety of pitches to keep the Bombers on their toes, or it will be ugly.
New York Yankees: Javier Vazquez (9-7)
Javier Vazquez has turned his season around after a horrible April. Finally, Vazquez is that durable pitcher the Yankees wanted in the rotation.
Friday night, the New York Yankees are at Tropicana Field to face the Tampa Bay Rays, and it will be a true battle of the young guns on the mound.
Since pitching and defense will dictate the outcomes of all three games, the match-ups on the mound will set the tone. Let’s look at the Friday night’s pitchers.
Ironically, both the Rays and the Yankees have their “young guns” squaring off. Both players are 24 years old, both stand at 6’5 feet, and both are right-handed pitchers.
Tampa Bay Rays: Wade Davis (8-9)
Davis didn’t look very good this season, after losing all five of his starts in the month of June. Davis’ June numbers included an ERA of 6.0, and batters were hitting just shy of .270 against him.
Since the start of July, Davis has looked like a different pitcher. He has gone unbeaten. Over his last three starts, he has posted an ERA of 2.11. For the month of July, Davis has pitched 25 innings, faced 110 batters and allowed nine earned runs, six walks and 12 strikeouts. Eleven of those 12 strikeouts were in his last three starts and a monthly ERA of 3.12. That is pretty impressive stuff.
Davis is suddenly throwing with a lot more confidence. Davis is not afraid to throw hard because he is locating the ball much better.
Davis faces a potent Yankees lineup who have seen him before. This works in the Yankees favor because Davis is not new, and they have hit him successfully.
Davis needs to be careful with Cano, Gardner, Granderson, Thames, A-Rod, and Jeter because all have multiple hits in the few at-bats they have had against him.
The Yankees are in first place, with a margin of only two games before they get caught.
This added a lot of pressure on an already erratic AJ Burnett. It was mandatory that Burnett put the team in a winning position.
Burnett surpassed all that was required, as he dominated the Indians batters. Burnett’s teammates helped make sure he had a chance to shine again and the Yankees won 8-0.
Another factor in the Yankees success is using David Robertson in the eighth inning.
It is no secret where the Yankees biggest weakness lies—in the bullpen.
With Alfredo Aceves on the DL since May, the Yankee bullpen has become a total mess. Chan-ho Park, Joba Chamberlain, and Boone Logan are not reliable at all and it has spelled trouble whenever they were called on.
Robertson was right in the mix, with a bad beginning to 2010.
The timing could not have been more perfect for Robertson to get find his form again.
Robertson thrived as the eighth inning guy even under the lights of the 2009 World Series. Translation: The pressure does not bother Robertson.
Skipper Joe Girardi realizes that he can count on Robertson to get the outs needed with no regrets.
Robertson’s small role has made the biggest difference since the All-Star break.
Still, the bullpen is the biggest roadblock for the Yankees. Most Yankees fans take comfort in the idea that Hughes will join Robertson once Andy Pettitte gets off the DL in a few weeks.
For now, the Yankees will head to Tampa following the fourth game against the Indians. Friday night starts a three-game set at Tropicana Field against the second place Rays.