Monday, April 8, 2013

Party Like It's 1998? We'll See

On Saturday, the Yankees fell to 1-4, following an 8-4 loss to the Detroit Tigers.

In 1998, the Yankees started out 1-4, and ended up winning 114 games and the World Series.

Yeah, but that was when they had this lineup:

2B Chuck Knoblauch
SS Derek Jeter
RF Paul O'Neill
CF Bernie Williams
DH Darryl Strawberry or Chili Davis
1B Tino Martinez
3B Scott Brosius
C Jorge Posada
LF Ricky Ledee or Shane Spencer

And now, due to injuries, they have...

CF Brett Gardner
2B Robinson Cano
3B Kevin Youkilis
DH Travis Hafner
LF Vernon Wells
RF Brandon Boesch
C Francisco Cervelli
1B Lyle Overbay
SS Jayosn Nix

Yes, Cervelli is batting 7th, not 8th or 9th.

Phil Hughes came off the Disabled List and started on Saturday, but only went 4 innings.  He went into the 5th, but got into trouble.  Joe Girardi consulted the damned binder again, and brought in Boone Logan again.  Though his pitching wasn't spectacularly bad this time, it got the job done... for the Tigers.  It was 1-1 when the inning began, 3-1 when Logan came in, 4-1 when he left, and 5-1 after David Phelps finally closed out the inning.  The Yankees got 3 runs back in the top of the 6th, but the Tigers pulled 2 back in the bottom of the inning.

WP: Max Scherzer (1-0).  LP: Hughes (0-1).

*

1-4.  Can the Yankees really party like it's 1998? They'd have to have won yesterday afternoon, and it didn't look promising: CC Sabathia was starting for us, and he didn't do so well on Opening Day; while the Tigers had Justin Verlander, the best pitcher in the American League the last few years.

The Yankees weren't intimidated.  Wells led off the top of the 2nd with a walk.  Ichiro Suzuki grounded into a force play.  Cervelli doubled, scoring Ichiro.  Overbay flew out.  Then Nix hit one out (1st home run of the season).  Yankees 3, Verlander 0.

Those were the only runs Verlander allowed in 7 1/3 innings, which left him better off than some other aces.  Cole Hamels, Stephen Strasburg, David Price, James Shields, Matt Cain, Yovani Gallardo and R.A. Dickey all got rocked yesterday.  (It was the 2nd straight bad outing for Dickey, whom the Pesky Blue Jays of Toronto are counting on to help them win the AL East in place of the banged-up, aging Yankees and the collapsed Red Sox.  Welcome to the American League, Knucksie.)

Two aces did pitch well yesterday.  Adam Wainwright got the win for the St. Louis Cardinals.  And for the Yankees, CC was, yet again, a beast.  Given a 3-0 lead, he cruised through 7 innings, allowing 4 hits, 3 walks, 4 strikeouts, and no runs.

The Yankees tagged the weak Tiger bullpen for 2 runs in the 8th and 2 more in the 9th.  Seriously, they've gotten to back-to-back AL Championship Series, and in the last 7 seasons they've won 2 Pennants and gotten to at least a Game 163 4 times, but their bullpen has been their Achilles heel, worse than the Red Sox or the Los Angeles Dodgers.  (If not as bad as the pathetic Mets.) General manager Dave Dombrowski is going to have to get a reliable closer if the Tigers are to go all the way: Despite those 2 Pennants, they've won a grand total of one World Series game since they clinched in Game 5 in 1984.  That's 29 years as of this coming October.  Clearly, former Yankee lefthander Phil Coke is not it.  The Tigers had a Coke, and the Yankees had a smile.

David Robertson pitched a scoreless 8th, and, in spite of a 7-0 lead, no save situation, Mariano Rivera needed the work, so he went out for the 9th, and finished the shutout.

*

So, after 1 week of baseball that counts, here's how the AL East stands:

Boston 4-2
Baltimore 3-3, 1 game behind
Tampa Bay, 3-3, 1 game behind
New York, 2-4, 2 games behind
Toronto, 2-4, 2 games behind

As you can see, as bad as the Yankees' start has been, they're still only 2 games behind.  There's 156 games to go.  Anything can happen.

It's worth noting that the 4 emergency old-guy acquisitions are doing well.  Youkilis is batting .409 with a homer and 4 RBIs, Hafner .350 with a homer and 2 RBIs, Wells .294 with 2 homers and 4 RBIs.  Overbay is only batting .211, but he does have 4 RBIs.

As I said, there's 156 games to go, but, so far, so good for them.  Maybe that fall not only broke Brian Cashman's leg, but straightened out his brain.

Next up, a trip to Cleveland.  The Indians have their home opener at 4:00 this afternoon, throwing Ubaldo Jimenez against Hiroki Kuroda.  Tomorrow night, the Yankees send Andy Pettitte against Carlos Carrasco.  On Wednesday night, Ivan Nova against former Philadelphia Phillie ace-turned-reliever Brett Myers.  And the series concludes on Thursday night, Hughes against Zach McAllister.

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