Thursday, April 4, 2013

Oy and Two

The Yankees are now 0-2 to start the season.

They started 0-3 last year, and won the Division.

On the other hand, we've had a poor start from CC Sabathia, and an injury-shortened start by Hiroki Kuroda.  If pitching is supposed to keep us afloat until the big bats come back, this is a bad sign.

Kuroda (0-1) tried to field a ground ball off former Phillie Shane Victorino, "the Flyin' Hawaiian," and hurt his middle finger.  This is a pitcher's most important finger -- and  that's no joke, as it is for a fan, for whom it is especially the most important finger when their arch-rivals are in town.  That finger does more than any other to guide a pitcher's pitches and maintain his control.

He had X-rays last night, and it's only a bruise.  As Keith Olbermann would say, "He's day-to-day.  We're all day-to-day." But he may not even miss a start.

Clay Buchholz (1-0) pitched 7 strong for the Red Sox.  When he left the game, the Yankees had 5 hits: A single in the 1st inning by Kevin Youkilis, a home run (the club's 1st of the year) in the 4th by Travis Hafner, a subsequent single by Vernon Wells, a single in the 5th by Eduardo Nunez, and a single by Lyle Overbay.  In other words, NunE6 and each of the aging emergency acquisitions.  Can't blame Brian Cashman for this loss.

Blame Victorino for hitting that comebacker, or Kuroda for trying to field it with his bare hand.  Or Joe Girardi for leaving Kuroda in to face more batters, before realizing that Kuroda wasn't going to have any more effectiveness tonight (last night).  And Giradi again for bringing in Cody Eppley, who got lit up like a pinball machine.

One guy you definitely can't blame for the loss is Adam Warren.  A 25-year-old righthanded pitcher from New Bern, North Carolina and the University of North Carolina, he's spent the previous 2 seasons at Triple-A Scranton, not looking like he'd make it in the majors.  He made 1 major league appearance before last night, last June 29, and in a little over 2 innings got shelled by the Chicago White Sox.

Last night was a totally different story.  Girardi must have seen something in him to have him on the Opening Day 25-man roster, and, wearing Number 43 (after wearing 61 in his one appearance last year), he justified that faith, at least for 5 1/3 innings, allowing 1 run on 5 hits, 1 walk, 4 strikeouts.  He lowered his career ERA from 23.14 to 1.69, and his WHIP from 4.286 to 2.087.

Even if that one run he'd allowed had ended up mattering, it was still a nice performance, and a very encouraging one.  If a player, especially a pitcher, doesn't stick in the majors by the time he's 26 (Warren will be 26 on August 25), it usually means he's not going to make it.  But if last night's outing means Warren is going to be a good big-league pitcher, then I'll gladly sacrifice last night's game to exchange it for all the games he ends up helping us win.

Shawn Kelley, another marginal pitcher (and one about to turn 28 so this is probably his last chance) pitched the 9th, and it was scoreless, as was the inning he pitched on Wednesday afternoon.  Maybe there's a good middle reliever there.  It is worth noting, though, that NunE6 made an error, after Kelley had walked a batter, but Kelley showed some character by inducing an inning-ending groundout.

After 7 innings, it was Boston 7, New York 1.  But I said then, "As long as the Red Sox have a bullpen, their opponents have a chance." I was right.  Just not right enough.

Andrew Miller replaced Buchholz for the 8th, and the first batter he faced was Ben Francisco, pinch-hitting for Ichiro Suzuki.  Miller hit him -- although I don't think this was a typical thug move by a Red Sox pitcher.  At this point, he can impress his manager much more with control than with machismo.  Robinson Cano hit a long fly to center, and Sox manager John Farrell, apparently trusting his eyes instead of a binder like Girardi does all too often, decided he'd seen enough.  He brought in Alfredo Aceves, our old friend from the 2009 title.  But Youkilis -- Youkilis a Yankee, Aceves a Sock? Weird, man, weird -- singled Francisco to 2nd.  Hafner moved the runners over with a ground-out, and Wells hit one out to left.

Yes, Cashman-haters, I've been with you a lot since last October, but Vernon Wells hit a 3-run homer.  Overbay couldn't keep it going, and grounded out, but the Yanks had closed to within 7-4.  All we needed was another such inning in the 9th, plus a scoreless inning from our pitcher (which, as I said, Kelley provided), and we were at least going to extra innings and in business.

But it didn't happen: Farrell brought in Joel Hanrahan, and after a leadoff single to Nunez, he got Francisco Cervelli to ground into a force place, struck out Brett Gardner, and got Francisco to fly to right.  Game over.

So, not a good start.  But there are some good signs.  If Kuroda had simply let Victorino's single go through, maybe the 1 Sox run that scored that inning still scores, but maybe he doesn't allow the runs that Eppley allowed, and instead of 7-4 Sox, it ends 4-1 Yanks.

The series finale is tonight, with our old friend Andy Pettitte starting against longtime National League pitcher Ryan Dempster, a man who won 15 games as recently as 3 years ago with the Chicago Cubs, but has made a grand total of 12 appearances in the American League, all with last year's Texas Rangers, and he was a big reason why they choked away the AL West title last year.

*

Speaking of marginal Yankee pitchers, Clay Rapada cleared waivers yesterday, and the Yankees released him.  He's a lefthanded reliever, and he's "only" 32.  But he's played for 5 big-league teams in 6 years, so getting picked up by someone else would make it 6 in 7.

But what does it say about Rapada that the Yankees released him, knowing that the only lefthanded pitchers remaining on the roster are starters Sabathia and Pettitte, and reliever Boone Logan? That Girardi would rather have Logan's Runs than Rapada?

We better get us a lefty reliever who is better than Logan.  And fast.  Brian Cashman, you're on the clock!

*

The Mets are 2-0.  Already, their fans, whom I've dubbed the Flushing Heathen, are talking about how they're the best baseball team in New York.

Yes, because it's all right to start planning the parade.  After all, there's only 160 games to go.

It's like that scene from Bull Durham:

Nuke: Can't you let me enjoy the moment?

Crash: Moment's over.

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