FOX missed the marquee pitching matchup of the Cleveland/New York series by one day. Chien-Ming Wang and C.C. Sabathia rematch Game One of last year’s ALDS tomorrow, but today 25-year-old Jeremy Sowers makes his season debut against 23-year-old Ian Kennedy and his 9.64 ERA. This is Kennedy’s first start since pissing off Joe Girardi by nibbling against the Orioles and walking five men in 2 2/3 innings. Kennedy had pitched well in his two outings prior to that, throwing a quality start at the Rays before getting hit in the hip by a comebacker and pitching well in relief on a rain-soaked night night in Kansas City, retiring nine of his last ten batters after allowing two of the first four to score. He says he’s gotten the message, so look for Kennedy to attack the zone today.
Like Kennedy, Sowers was college hurler who was drafted in the first-round and moved quickly through the minors. Kennedy was drafted 21st overall out of USC in 2006 and made his major league debut in September 2007. Sowers was taken sixth overall out of Vanderbilt in 2004 and made his major league debut in June 2006. Sowers was strong in his rookie season with the Indians, but stumbled as a sophomore last year, pitching his way off the team by mid-June. The issue seemed to be a decline in his ability to induce groundballs, which combined with the steep reduction in his strikeout rate upon reaching the majors essentially eliminated his ability to get hitters out with any consistency. That said, in his one major league start since then, Sowers shut out the Mariners for five innings. Sowers last faced the Yankees last April and got lit up for six runs in 2 2/3 innings, though he also pitched a gem against them in his second major league game in early June 2006.
Sowers is the first of three consecutive lefty starters the Yankees will face to conclude this series. They’ve faced just two previous lefty starters this season, beating John Bale in Kansas City and losing to Brian Burres in Baltimore. In both games, Joe Girardi sat both Bobby Abreu and Jason Giambi. In their places, he played Hideki Matsui in right field and worked Morgan Ensberg into the lineup. He also used the non-catching version of Jorge Posada in those games, at DH against Bale and first base against Burres. With Posada back behind the plate, Girardi will need another righty bat if he wants to continue to rest Abreu and Giambi against lefties.
Enter Shelley Duncan, who has been recalled and will start in right field today (no word yet on who’s being optioned to make room for him). Giambi, coming off his two-homer game last night, stays in the lineup, but lefties Hideki Matsui and Robinson Cano do not. Alberto Gonzalez starts at second base for the second time in his major league career. Morgan Ensberg plays third while Alex Rodriguez takes Matsui’s usual spot as the DH. Given Giaradi’s tendencies thus far, I’d expect to see a different combination against lefty C.C. Sabathia tomorrow. Oh, and unrelated to the pitcher on the mound, Jose Molina will catch in today’s late-day game after last night’s night game.