Monday, June 9, 2014

Rainout Interrupts Yankee Slump... Will It Stop It?

Tonight's game between the Yankees and the Kansas City Royals, meant to be the finale of a 4-game series, has been postponed by rain. According to the Royals' website, "A makeup date had yet to be announced, but was expected soon."

This is a bad thing, as it's the only Kansas City trip of the season. The Interleague schedule has meant that we only visit each of the AL Central teams once per season. If it has to be rescheduled, there aren't a whole lot of open dates for both teams. One possibility: The usual All-Star Break has been tweaked, and instead of play resuming on the Thursday night after the All-Star Game is played on a Tuesday night, both the Yankees and the Royals start again on the Friday night.

But the postponement is also a good thing, since it means Vidal Nuno won't be starting tonight, and may have his spot in the rotation skipped entirely.

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If the Yankees are going to get out of their current hovering-around-.500 doldrums and make a run at the Playoffs, they're going to have to win the games that Masahiro Tanaka starts, and some of the ones that he doesn't.

The arrival of Chase Whitley is encouraging. But it's easy to forget that, beyond the inadequacy thus far of Nuno and David Phelps, and the long-term injuries to CC Sabathia, Ivan Nova and Michael Pineda, Hiroki Kuroda is pushing 40.

However, Kuroda looked fine in his start against the Royals yesterday. He went 7 innings, allowing 2 runs on 5 hits and 2 walks.

Which would be a good start by just about anybody's standards. All the Yankees would have needed was 3 runs. At the least, 2 in the first 7, with the hope that they could later get a 3rd.

But James Shields, who previously gave the Yankees (and some other teams) fits as the ace of the Tampa Bay Rays, was even better. He held us to 1 run on 6 hits and 2 walks, striking out 8. The Royals used a pitcher in each of the last 3 innings, and they combined to allow 2 baserunners. All told, they struck out 12 Yankees, walking just 2.

The only Yankee run came in the 6th inning: With 1 out, Yangervis Solarte doubled, and a passed ball got him to 3rd base. Ichiro Suzuki grounded to short, deep enough to score Solarte.

That was it: The Yankees wasted a leadoff single by Brett Gardner in the 1st, a Solarte single and a Brian Roberts walk in the 2nd, a leadoff double by Jacoby Ellsbury in the 3rd... Oh, what's the use in telling you about any more Yankee RISPfail?

Royals 2, Yankees 1. WP: Shields (7-3). SV: Greg Holland (18): LP: Kuroda (4-4). The Royals took 2 out of 3. Unless the Yankees can win the rescheduled game, this will be the first time in 14 years the Royals have taken the season series from the Yankees.

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The Yankees, back at .500 at 31-31, move on to play the Seattle Mariners. Here's the projected pitching matchups, with all games set to start at 10:10 PM Eastern Time (7:10 Pacific/local):

Tomorrow: Tanaka vs. his countryman Hisashi Iwakuma.

Wednesday: Whitley vs. the veteran Chris Young.

Thursday: Phelps vs. Roenis Elias.

Then, it's on to Oakland, before starting a homestand against AL East opponents Toronto and Baltimore.

The Yankees need to start hitting, well enough to give their good pitchers a lead, and well enough to give their not-so-good pitchers the confidence to know they don't have to be as good as Tanaka or Kuroda, or Whitley's early performances.

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