With the Yankees losing 2 of 3 to the Royals, the weekend series with the Red Sox has become crucial in terms of stopping the bad momentum. The Red Sox started the year 0-6 and even though Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford are starting to hit, the results are not there yet. Here is a tale of the tape I did with Derek Styalko of bosoxinjection.com
Red Sox: (17-20), 5 GB of Tampa Bay in the AL East
Yankees: (20-15), 1 GB of Tampa Bay in the AL East
Starting Pitching Matchups
Friday, 7:05, YES: Clay Buchholz (3-3, 4.19 ERA) vs. Bartolo Colon (2-1, 3.86 ERA)
Derek: Buchholz is coming off one of his best performances of the season and it was a heroic and gutsy one at that. After a two hour rain delay, Buchholz returned to the mound and was excellent despite the long layoff. He picked up his third win of the season with the victory over Minnesota and will look to continue his winning ways. It won’t be easy for Buchholz as lifetime against the Bronx Bombers he’s just 1-3 with a 6.25 ERA. In his career against New York he’s thrown 31.2 innings and has only struck out 15 batters. That’s been a common trend with Buchholz this season, his strikeouts per game are alarmingly low. His last start produced his season high of 6. His command has been off as evidenced by surrendering 6 home runs already through the first 6 weeks of the season. All of last year, Buchholz only gave up 9 long balls. He’ll need to be sharp and have good command against a Yankee lineup that can hit, as they’ve proven that already this year.
Me: This is an important start for Colon in terms of his trust amongst Yankee fans. He did pitch well against the Red Sox back in April coming in for an injured Phil Hughes. But, Bartolo struggled against the Rangers in his last start on Saturday, giving up five runs in 4+ innings. I cannot see him pitching well in this game because it is tough to get the distraction out of your head that the MLB is investigating his elbow surgery for potential HGH use. This game will be the offensive one out of the three with Buchholz’s lack of success against the Bronx Bombers (1-3, 6.25 ERA), including giving up four runs in 3+ innings back in April. Yankees win this one in a 7-5 kind of game.
Saturday, 7:10, FOX: Josh Beckett (2-1, 1.99 ERA) vs. CC Sabathia (3-2, 2.89 ERA)
Derek: A rematch of the last time these two teams met on April 10th in Boston will once again see Josh Beckett square off against the Yankee ace, CC Sabathia. It was Beckett was dominating in that game and you could argue it was that start that got his season turned around. Despite only having 2 wins on the year, Beckett has been lights out and thanks to little or no offense when he starts, Beckett could easily be 5-1. His last four starts have all been no decisions, despite opponents hitting .174 against him. Beckett’s last outing was again brilliant; 7 innings of shutout ball and still got a no decision due to no run support. He’s gone on record to say that he doesn’t care if he gets a no decision for the rest of the year, as long as the team wins the games. While Beckett has a winning record lifetime against New York, his ERA over those games is 5.90. Let’s hope his best stuff is with him again on Saturday.
Me: With all the talk about Boston’s rotation coming into the year, Beckett is pitching like the guy who won 2 World Series’ rings. In his last start against the Yankees, he was unhittable and outpitched Sabathia at Fenway Park. In his history against the Yanks, he has known for being either unhittable or a guy who can get taken to the woodshed very quickly. Both Beckett and CC have been on the wrong side of luck as of late, so this could be similar to the 15th inning game back in 2009 that was all zeros before the A-bomb by A-Rod. I will give the slight edge to Sabathia because even if he does not have his best stuff, he keeps the Yankees in the ballgame as he did on Mother’s Day against the Texas Rangers.
Sunday, 8:05, ESPN: Jon Lester (4-1, 2.96 ERA) vs. Freddy Garcia (2-2, 2.61 ERA)
Derek: After his start where he admitted he didn’t have his best stuff, Lester will look to get back on track and go for his fifth win of the season. His last outing against Toronto, Lester went 5.1 innings allowing 5 runs on 7 hits. If history serves us right, this one is going to be too close to call as both starter’s have excellent track records when facing the opposing clubs. Lester has a career 6-1 record, with a 3.28 ERA against New York. His opponent, Freddy Garcia has been a nice comeback story in the Majors this year, even if it is with the rival Yankees. Lifetime against the Red Sox he’s 8-2 with a 4.44 ERA. Albeit none of those starts were with the Yankees and on the largest stage of them all, Yankee Stadium, Yankees and Red Sox. But he is a proven veteran, so nerves shouldn’t be a factor.
Me: As good as Freddy Garcia has pitched of late; this is the mismatch of the series in favor of the Red Sox. Lester has a history of being unhittable for the Yankee bats (6-1, 3.28 ERA) and has 21 K’s in his last three starts. Since New York seems to have struggled to score runs at home in the last couple of series, it could be a long night for them. As for Garcia, he is 8-2 lifetime against the Red Sox, but has not started against them in a long time. He gave up one run in a relief appearance during the Sabathia start at Fenway Park, but there was not much positive vibe to take from that. With the way Gonzalez and Crawford have swung the bats, Boston will find a way to salvage one game in this series. Prediction: Yankees take 2 of 3.
Red Sox: Adrian Gonzalez – for the first month, Gonzalez was mainly smacking singles with some doubles mixed in and was still batting around .300. Over the past two weeks it’s been long balls over the wall and long doubles off the wall. He’s hit safely in 17 of his last 18 games and has smashed 5 home runs in his last 6 games, most of them the other way to left. He’s starting to produce the kinds of numbers that made him so attractive to the Red Sox that led to them giving up a lot of prospects to get him.
Yankees: Derek Jeter – With all the talk about the fall of Jeter over the last week or so, he has seemed to respond his critics. Over the past week, the Captain has 13 hits (as of Wednesday), including two home runs. He is not the same player he was a few years ago, but he just had a bad month. Most people forget sometimes that you are allowed to have a bad month occasionally. Even with Ian O’Connor’s book coming out about the negotiations that went awry with GM Brian Cashman in the offseason, Jeter has re-found his swing and is starting to put himself on base for the power hitters to drive in more runs. After Tuesday’s win against the Royals, Jeter said, “When things are going well, the results are there.” Well, the results are finally showing up.
Red Sox: Dustin Pedroia – continues to struggle, but still remains in the number two spot in the batting lineup. In his last ten games, Pedroia is batting .195 with 11 strikeouts. With his competiveness and desire to win, I expect him to bounce back this series in New York and help lead his team to some victories.
Yankees: Jorge Posada - While one veteran hitter finds his swing, the other offensive player of the core is starting to lose his. The 39-year-old catcher turned designated hitter does have six home runs, but he only has fifteen hits and has not hit a long ball since April 23rd against the Orioles. After batting .132 in April, he is hitting .242 in May, but only has 3 RBI’s and is only hitting .143 with runners in scoring position. If Russell Martin did not get off to a good start, a lot of Yankees’ fans would be calling for star prospect Jesus Montero to be called up to be the DH. But, with Eric Chavez on the DL with a broken toe, Posada will still get his fair share of at-bats. I expect him to turn it around soon, but when does the option come up with manager Joe Girardi of decreasing his playing time each week? Since Posada and Girardi do not seem to see eye-to-eye on many things, that conversation would be very interesting to sit in on.
- Junichi Tazawa (P) – 60-day DL, torn ulnar collateral ligament – could being rehab assignment in late May. Return in July
- Bobby Jenks (P) – 15-day DL, Right biceps strain – experienced cramping during game on May 4. Return TBD
- Dan Wheeler (P) – 15-day DL, calf strain – Placed on DL May 5. Return TBA
- Marco Scutaro (SS) – 15-day DL, injury to left side – Underwent MRI on May 8. Return TBD
- RP Rafael Soriano – inflammation in his right elbow – should be available for Friday night
- SP Phil Hughes – 15 Day DL – right arm fatigue
- 3B Eric Chavez – 15 Day DL – fractured right foot
- RP Pedro Feliciano – 15 Day DL – strained left rotator cuff
Six Pack of Questions
Derek: Prior to the season starting, there was a lot of speculation surrounding the Yankees starting rotation. CC Sabathia being the lone exception, no one really knew what kind of performance the other 4 starters would turn, and to add to that, no one was really sure who the other 4 starters were going to be. Six weeks into the season, the Yankees are sitting in first place. How much of that can be attributed to their starting pitching and how would you rate the 5 starters thus far?
Me: When you think of the Yankees, you think about the bandbox that has become Yankee Stadium, but the starting pitching has been a pleasant surprise for Yankees’ fans this year. With Cliff Lee shunning the Yankees and going to Philadelphia, how was New York going to fill the void that Andy Pettitte left to back up Sabathia? Well, Brian Cashman made some solid moves in getting Bartolo Colon and Freddy Garcia, who are both providing some stability to the back end of this rotation. That has become vital, especially with the uncertainty of when Phil Hughes will return to the rotation following an 18-win season in 2010. A.J Burnett has limited his blowups, Ivan Nova has become more confident in his off speed pitches and Sabathia continues to be the ace that keeps New York in the ballgame. You can make the case that the starting pitching has helped the Bombers stay near the top of the standings because of the lack of bad starts that each of them has had and having a staff average ERA of 3.43 (as of Wednesday) ranks among the top rotations in the American League to this point.
Here is how I rank them:
Derek: Rafael Soriano was signed as a free agent to serve as the set up man to Mariano Rivera. During his time in Tampa Bay, Soriano made it known that he didn’t want to do anything other than close baseball games. A shaky start to the season and recently some soreness in his throwing elbow, how are Yankee fans accepting Soriano?
Me: Many Yankee fans have become more impatient with Soriano’s shaky start, or as I like to call him Sayonara Soriano. When he is pitching on the mound, he has that look on his face that he wants to be anywhere but here. Yes, I know he had that same facial expression when he was in Tampa Bay, but that kind of body language gets magnified ten times more in New York City. I was at the game on April 28th when Soriano gave up the two run homer to Paul Konerko to lose the game and he received 40,000 boos that were as loud as I have ever heard them for one player. It went from a sure thing in the eighth to re-finding the bridge for Mariano Rivera.
Now, the blow has become less and less as David Robertson continues to be reliable in the 6th and 7th innings and Joba Chamberlain has seemed to find his velocity that he lost during Cashman’s experimentation of him as a starter. But, if New York is going to win their 28th World Series this October, Soriano needs to play an essential role in that feat and maybe swallow a little humble pie in the process. First, talk to the media, then go out there and do your job.
Derek: While we’re not quite at the end of the first quarter of the season, who has been the most pleasant surprise for the Yankees in your eyes so far? Who’s been the most disappointing?
Me: The most surprising player for the Yankees has been Curtis Granderson. First off, he has been the most consistent bat in the lineup for Yankee fans at this point. He has a major league leading twelve home runs, including five off left handed pitching. Before he was traded to the Yankees, Granderson’s problem was that he could not get hits of southpaws, but hitting guru Kevin Long has solved that problem. His defense in centerfield is still top knotch. On Tuesday, when New York went 2-17 with RISP, Granderson got the big hit off All-Star closer Joakim Soria to tie the game in the 10th inning. He could be having a MVP season for the Bombers if this keeps up.
As for my most disappointing player, I am going to go with Brett Gardner, for the sake of not saying Posada’s name twice. Gardner has so much speed and his average has risen up to .239 over the last week or so. However, he gets caught stealing too much for a man of his speed. When you only steal five out of ten bases, it makes the manager become more cautious in late game situations. This is why we saw Joe Girardi allowed Derek Jeter to bunt with Gardner on first in the 8th inning, which led to another blown opportunity with runners in scoring position. In addition, Gardner needs to work on his bunting a lot more. If he can master bunting for base hits to go with his solid contact hitting, he can become a much better player and a bigger threat at the bottom of the Yankees’ lineup.
Red Sox Questions
Me: Carl Crawford, of course, signed a big contract for you guys before the season, but had a terrible April. He has picked it up and owns a May-long hitting streak (jinx, jinx, jinx) through Tuesday’s action, but his average is still just .210. Is The Nation worried about him?
Derek: The Nation has taken a huge sigh of relief lately thanks to Crawford’s recent 10 game hitting streak. He’s also helped his own cause to win back the support of many Red Sox fans, by coming through with two clutch walk-off hits that provided two huge wins for his ball club. The month of April was a struggle to be polite and many fans were on the verge, or had lost their patience with Crawford. The day that the calendar flipped over to May, all that changed. He is starting to show signs of the old Carl Crawford that terrorized Red Sox pitching during his tenure with the Rays and with it comes renewed optimism from many in Boston. While I don’t expect him to regress from here on out, there is that chance of another slump, but his play of late is helping his popularity with fans.
Derek: For the short term I think Tito will stick with Matsuzaka. His last start he struggled in the first inning giving up 3 runs and put the Red Sox behind early. After that he seemed to settle down a little bit although he didn’t have his best stuff. It was good enough to get a win thanks to some big offense, but you’re right, Dice-K has been all over the map this year and you never know what to expect from him until his outing is over. There is an outside chance the club could trade Dice-K, but in order to get some value in return Dice-K has to help his own cause and prove his worth to other teams. Should he continue to struggle, then a spot in the bullpen is an option. Problem with that is the Red Sox don’t have a lot of options for full time starters. Wakefield is a possibility, but in reality spot starts are probably his best value to this team. Alfredo Aceves is another option but again more of a spot starter. Thanks to the Gonzalez deal that saw Casey Kelly go the other way, the Red Sox AAA club doesn’t hold the answer for a fifth starter. Throw in the curious case of John Lackey and all of a sudden Dice-K is of value to this organization.
Me: Who has been the MVP for the Sox so far this season? The LVP?
Derek: Let’s start with the LVP. Catcher Jared Saltalamacchia to me has been a complete bust since the Red Sox brought him over from Texas. His offensive lines are .208, .260 & .278, with 8 RBI and 0 home runs. Hardly worth a full time job behind the plate and a result, his duties are now shared with captain Jason Varitek. Salty hasn’t proved his worth on the defensive side either. He’s thrown out 25% of base runners and on more than one occasion he’s thrown the ball into the outfield to advance the runner. He’s been frustrating to say the least and you have to wonder what the Red Sox plan on doing with him, should he continue to struggle.
The MVP is a little harder to pick. Jon Lester has looked great so far as the Red Sox ace. Throw in the resurgence of Josh Beckett and what he’s done on the mound so far and you could make a case for him. Jacoby Ellsbury and Jed Lowrie could also be considered for the MVP, but when I look at the overall numbers, I would say the MVP so far has been Adrian Gonzalez. While he only had 1 home run in the month of April, he has now belted 5 in his last 8 games, good for the team lead. He also leads the team in RBI with 28 and SLG (.541), hits with 48 and is batting .324, good for second only behind Jed Lowrie. Gonzalez, for most of the season has been batting over .300 and on a club that is hitting just .256 on the year, he is providing clutch hits in big spots. He’s a lot of fun to watch at the plate, but don’t over look his gold glove at first base. He’s been instrumental in turning key double plays to get out of jams and on a nightly basis he’ll scoop a handful of throws out of the dirt to record the out. He also said that when he signed with Boston he is going to be aggressive with his arm at first base and he’s proven that on a few occasions this year, throwing out the lead runner heading for third rather than taking the sure out at second.
Thank you to Derek for participating in the Q+A!
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