I was Sunday's game away from being dead on in my prediction for this past week. But the Yankee bats went silent against Chris Archer and the Rays' bullpen and pushed across just a single first-inning run. Sunday's loss left them at 3-3 for the week. And while playing .500 ball at home is a disappointment, the Yankees still managed to gain some ground on both the Red Sox and Orioles as both of those teams stumbled this past week. I feel like I am living in a glass-half-full / glass-half-empty kind of world. The good news is that the Yankees are still hanging in the same zip code as the division leader. The bad news is that what has kept them at nearly a .500 team for the last month continues: paltry offense, uneven starting pitching and inconsistency in the bullpen for people other than David Robertson and Mariano Rivera.
While Brett Gardner continues to be the best player on the team, the debut week of Zoilo Almonte sure was fun. It has been incredibly refreshing to have him take over in left field and hit the ball where it was pitched. Both of his doubles yesterday were to the opposite field. Vernon Wells is more palatable as a pinch hitter off the bench and he had one of the biggest hits of the week (year) in that capacity. His three-run double on Saturday doubled his June output for extra base hits. But Almonte has been the bomb.
Conversely, David Adams is not doing well. He had about as bad a day at the plate on Sunday a batter could have with two strikeouts and a double-play grounder in four feeble at bats. Ichiro Suzuki built some good will on the bases and in the field this week and then negated all of that goodwill with his pop-out bunt in the first inning of Sunday's game. Ugh, Icharo!
So what happens this week? On paper, it is a tough schedule. The Texas Rangers visit for three games after an off day today and then the Yankees' home stand ends and they travel to Baltimore to play the Orioles. Let's take a closer look at this week in Yankees baseball.
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As mentioned, the Yankees get an off-day today to enjoy themselves at home and then begin a three game series against the Texas Rangers. The Rangers have regained the lead in the American League West after winning its last five in a row, including a sweep of the St. Louis Cardinals, one of the hottest teams on the planet. What was really impressive in the Cardinal series was that the Rangers' pitchers shut down the Cardinal offense, which is one of the most explosive in baseball. If the Cardinals could not score against the Rangers, what will the feeble offense of the Yankees do?
The series starts off with a corker on Tuesday as Yu Darvish lines up against Hiroki Kuroda. Darvish has unbelievable stats. He is striking out 12.2 batters per nine innings and has a WHIP under one. When you watch him pitch, you wonder, first, how can anyone ever get a hit against him, and second, how does he ever lose a ballgame? But he does give up two or three runs a game and has won seven of his fifteen starts. That means that if Kuroda is really on, the Yankees have a chance if they can push across a run or two. But, then again, it is hard to forget the only other time the Yankees faced Darvish and he made them look like school kids. It should be fun to watch.
I like the Yankees' odds a little better for Wednesday's game as Andy Pettitte squares off against Justin Grimm. Grimm is no Yu Darvish and has a 5.57 ERA with a WHIP of 1.54. Of course, Andy Pettitte has not been sharp either since coming off the disabled list. His last three performances have even caused some volatile Yankee observers to suggest the Yankees DFA Pettitte. Sacrilege! Old Andy is not done yet. He has a few more good outings in him. Just you watch.
The series and the home stand conclude on Thursday with an afternoon start and this one is not promising at all. First of all, Phil Hughes is the scheduled Yankee pitcher and he has proven time and time again that he cannot handle pitching in Yankee Stadium. With the off day, would it not be better to skip him and start David Phelps at least? On top of that, the Yankees face Derek Holland. While the Yankees have beaten Holland in the past, that was not with this collection of Yankees. This collection can only manage a .330 slugging percentage against left-handed pitching. The combination of Hughes and the offense facing a lefty is not a hopeful combination.
After the series with the Rangers, the Yankees will travel just down the road to play the Orioles at Camden Yards. The Yankees may be catching the Orioles at a good time as the Baltimore team is struggling as a pitching rotation. Injuries and ineffectiveness got them bombed up in Toronto. The 359 runs the Orioles have allowed this year are the most in the American League East and only the Astros have given up more in the American League as a whole. But the Orioles score a lot of runs too and even have a +14 run differential. The Yankees have fallen below the run differential scale to -1 for the first time that I can remember.
Naturally, the pitching lines have not been announced. The Yankees should definitely have CC Sabathia and David Phelps in that series with Sunday being the only question mark. They could give Ivan Nova another start as he was not that bad against the Rays yesterday. Well...he did allow twelve base runners in 6.2 innings, but the bullpen allowed two of his three runs to score. The Yankees will not face Chris Tillman, Jason Hammel or Miguel Gonzalez as all three are pitching during the week for the Orioles. The Yankees, therefore, should get the underbelly of the Orioles' current rotation, which has been a sorry sight.
Be that as it may, I am already having nightmares about Chris Davis, Manny Machado and Nick Markakis. Realistically, the Yankees will probably lose two of three against the Rangers and then win two of three from the Orioles. It looks like another .500 week. Then again, these days, that is about the best we can hope for.
Have a great Yankees week, everyone.