The Yankees lost the first two games of the season because their starting pitchers weren’t sharp. CC Sabathia and Chien-Ming Wang combined for this line in those two games: 8 IP, 17 H, 13 R, 1 HR, 8 BB, 0 K, 3.13 WHIP, 14.63 ERA. End of story. Neither was suffering from anything worse than poor mechanics (Wang) or a simple lack of feel (Sabathia). I’m not concerned about either, and Sabathia will be back on the bump tomorrow.
The bullpen coughed up four insurance runs after the Yankee offense pulled within a run in the opener, but in the last two games, the bullpen contributed eight hitless, scoreless innings. Included among those were perfect frames from Phil Coke and Brian Bruney, who had given up the four runs on Monday. Every man in the pen pitched in the series. The only one who remains a concern moving forward is Damaso Marte, who faced two batters on Monday. He gave up a two-RBI double to the lefty (both runs being charged to Bruney) before getting the righty to ground out.
Also encouraging is that the offense scored 21 runs in the first three games, showing resiliency by rallying back to within a run of the O’s in the first two games, then dropping 11 runs on Baltimore in the finale. Perhaps the best news to come out of the opening series is that the hitting star of the series was Robinson Cano, who went 6-for-11 with a double, a home run, and three walks. Last April, it took Cano eight games to get six hits, 12 games to get two extra-base hits, and 19 games to draw three walks; this year each took him just three games.
The other hitting star of the series was Nick Swisher, who only started in yesterday’s finale, but delivered a pinch-hit double in the opener and a pinch-hit walk in the second game. Yesterday, he went 3-for-5 with a double and a tie-breaking home run, collecting a career-high five RBIs. Xavier Nady had two doubles and a walk himself, but Swisher has already given Joe Girardi reason to reconsider how he deploys his two right fielders.
Other positives: Jorge Posada picked up a double, a 425-foot home run, and a walk in eight trips. He also threw out a stealing Brian Roberts by so much that Roberts turned around and headed back to first base (where he was tagged out). Derek Jeter went 5-for-13 with a homer, a walk, and a steal. Ramiro Peña singled in his first (and still only) major league at-bat yesterday. After starting the season 0-for-8 with a walk, Mark Teixeira went 3-for-6 with a double and a game-tying homer to finish the series; the double came in his only right-handed at-bat. Johnny Damon went 3-for-11 with a triple, two walks, and a steal. Even Jose Molina reached base twice in four trips.
The bad: While Hideki Matsui homered in the opener, that was the only time he reached base in ten at-bats. In his pinch-hit appearance yesterday (his only at-bat of the series), Melky Cabrera missed badly on three straight Matt Albers breaking balls.
Less noticeable was the fact that the Yankees won the war on the bases. The Bronx Burners went 4-for-4 in their own steal attempts and threw out (or picked off) four of the seven attempting Oriole base stealers.
Finally, the defensive upgrades at first base and center field, as well as in right field when Nick Swisher was out there yesterday, where instantly noticeable, and Cano’s fielding seems to have rebounded along with his bat.
Of course, it was just three games . . .