"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice

Time To Split

It’s cold and rainy in Cleveland with a chance of snow (!), but the Yanks aren’t scheduled to return there this season, so they’ll likely make every attempt to get the game in, much like they did on their final day in Chicago, when rain twice interrupted the game and ended Phil Hughes night after just two innings.

Mike Mussina will be the man contending with the elements tonight. Moose is coming off the gem he twirled against the Chisox when he had unusually good movement on his non-curve pitches. He and the Yankee hitters will be facing 23-year-old lefty groundballer Aaron Laffey. Laffey was reliably average in his nine starts for the Tribe as a rookie last year. He lasted five or more innings in all but one start (and four innings in the exception) and allowed no more than four runs in any of those five-plus-inning starts (he allowed five runs in the four-inning outing). Tonight will be his first time facing the Yankees.

Laffey is the third of five lefty starters the Yankees are facing in a six-day span. In the first two of those games, Joe Girardi has radically rearranged his lineup, leaving some of his best hitters on the bench, and received four runs of total offense as a result. Resting Bobby Abreu I understand, as Abreu’s the one left-handed Yankee hitter who really struggles against his own kind. Using the opposing lefty as an excuse to rest the struggling Robinson Cano I also understand. Sitting Hideki Matsui for two straight days just because there’s a lefty on the mound I do not understand.

Prior to sitting out the last two games, Matsui was riding a seven-game hitting streak during which he had hit .318/.516/.500. On his career, Matsui has hit a respectable .293/.359/.448 against lefties. He is 0 for 9 with a walk in his career against C.C. Sabathia, so I understand Giardi’s reasoning for sitting Matsui yesterday, but if that was the plan, he should have started Hideki on Saturday. Tonight, Matsui’s back in the lineup, but Johnny Damon is sitting out. Damon is hitting .433/.485/.800 over his last seven games with two homers and five doubles. On his career, Damon has hit .286/.349/.404 against lefties. Against lefties the last two days he’s gone 5 for 9 with two of those doubles. I just don’t understand resting the team’s hottest hitter when the offense has sputtered for three straight days.

Shelley Duncan and Morgan Ensberg combined to reach base once in 12 plate appearances over the last two games. Duncan, who was the guy who got on base, sits tonight. Ensberg plays third as Girardi uses the DH to protect Alex Rodriguez’s tender quad.

Catcher Chris Stewart arrives from Scranton to take Jorge Posada’s spot on the roster tonight. A career .253/.314/.361 hitter in the minors, Stewart is your typical generic backup catcher. A big fella, the 6-foot-4 Stewart is a 26-year-old career minor leaguer who spent most of his career in the White Sox’s system after being drafted by Chicago in the middle rounds of the 2001 draft. After hitting .264/.314/.393 in his first full year at triple-A in 2006, he was traded to the Rangers and actually opened the season as the back-up on the major league roster. He hit .243/.300/.297 in 17 games (11 starts) before the Rangers bought Adam Melhuse from the A’s in early June and optioned Stewart to triple-A, where he remained for the rest of the season, hitting a similar .242/.294/.333. In 15 games for Scranton this year, Stewart has hit .300/.404/.375, walking seven times against just one strikeout.

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"This ain't football. We do this every day."
--Earl Weaver