Monday, April 6, 2009

Sour Start

This is not how we envisioned the season starting. With our new stud ace on the mound against a team that's believed to be a second-division team, this was supposed be a routine win. Instead, it turned into a 10-5 spanking at the hands of the Orioles in Baltimore.

It's way too early for concern, but here are a few thoughts:

The Good
Brett Gardner's biggest value might be that he will force the Yankees to manufacture runs -- one of their biggest problems last season. In the third, Gardner led off with a double, advanced to third on a hit-and-run single by Derek Jeter and scored on Johnny Damon's sacrifice fly. Because scoring runners from third with less than two outs was a huge problem for the Yankees last year, I will be tracking how they do in those situations throughout the season. Last season, the Yankees were seventh in the league in runners scored, despite being able to get plenty of runners on base. ... Gardner also threw out a runner at home. ... Jorge Posada's power seems to have returned. His shoulder problems last season robbed him of his home run stroke. He homered in the sixth Monday. ... The Yankees executed the run down perfectly to get Brian Roberts attempting the steal in the sixth. Always nice when the fundamentals are executed properly. ... Hideki Matsui's late spring power surge was no fluke. His two-run homer in seventh closed the deficit to 6-5. ... Robinson Cano walked twice. ... Jeter finished 3-for-5 and Damon 2-for-3.

The Bad
CC Sabathia struggled and could not control his fastball. He pitched 4-1/3 inningss, but constantly fell behind hitters, allowing six runs, eight hits and five walks . He failed to strike out a batter for the first time since July 25, 2005. Not the kind of outing you want from your ace, and not what Yankee fans wanted to see on Opening Day. I expect CC will better the next time out. Let's chalk this up to the process of adjusting to NY. ... Xavier Nady was thrown out after going too far past third on Jeter's infield single with two outs in the sixth. ... Nady killed a rally in seventh. With two runs in, runners on first and second, and one out, Nady grounded into a double play. ... The Yankees had a chance to tie in the eight, but ran into their bug-a-boo from last season, failing to get a runner in from third with less than two outs. Nick Swisher led off with a pinch double and pinch runner Ramiro Pena advanced to third on Gardner's sac bunt. Jeter then grounded out and after a walk to Damon, Mark Teixeira grounded out. Teixeira traditionally is a slow starter (.259 career April average), but was hoping to get off fast to help make up for the loss of A-Rod. This performance (0-for-4) was not what he was hoping for. ... Phil Coke was impressive through 1-1/3 innings, but Joe Girardi pressed his luck by sending him out for the eighth. The result: a two-run homer by Cesar Izturis to make it 8-5. I still saw enough to make me believe that Coke could become the eighth-inning bridge to Mariano Rivera. ... Brian Bruney struggled with his control, setting up Damaso Marte to allow a two-run double to seal the loss. If Bruney can't throw strikes, we'll be wishing we had Kyle Farnsworth back.

What We Learned
Playing for the Yankees is a tough adjustment, and it appears that will be no different for Sabathia and Teixeira. Both struggled in their debuts as some many before them have. In fact, I can't recall the last free agent signing to do well in his Yankees debut. Any one out there have any thoughts? ... We also saw the offense is dynamic and capable of scoring runs in numerous ways to keep the Yankees in the game, though failing to deliver in the eighth was a big blow. The bullpen, however, needs to prove it can be solid. Even after failing to score in the top of eighth, the Yankees could have pulled this out had the bullpen delivered.

Alex Rodriguez will head to Tampa to continue his rehab on April 13.

Hey Dave...
Mark Teixeira got the Fenway treatment at Camden. Fans booed loudly and one had a sign that read, "We Hate You Tex!" Baltimore fans cleary aren't happy Teixeira did not sign with his hometown Orioles, but the reality is Peter Angelos' contract offer to Teixeira wasn't even competitive with the Red Sox's offer, much less that Yankees'.

Runners On Third With Less Than Two Outs

Two situations
0-1, SF, RBI

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