Entering their current two-game series in Toronto, the Yankees had to be anticipating a split due to Roy Halladay starting Game 1. Now that they’ve defeated Halladay, however, the Yanks have to be thinking sweep, which would give them a three-win head of steam heading into this weekend’s four-game showdown with the second-place Red Sox.
That’s easier said than done, however, as they have Sergio Mitre on the hill tonight. The Yanks are actually 2-1 in Mitre’s starts, and Mitre himself is 1-0, but things have been trending in the wrong direction. After a solid 5 2/3 innings his first time out (1 BB, 4 K), Mitre took a small step backwards in his second start (5 IP, 1 K), then crapped out against the White Sox on Friday, allowing five runs on seven hits in three innings. Most alarmingly, Mitre failed to induce more groundballs than flyballs in Chicago after getting 13 grounders to a pinch more than half as many flies in each of his first two starts.
After that disaster, Mitre said that the problem was mechanical and something he was going to address in his bullpen session. I’m curious to find out exactly what the problem was and whether or not he was able to fix it.
Opposing Mitre is 23-year-old rookie left-hander Marc Rzepczynski (pronounced rez-PIN-sky). Rzepczynski is also a sinkerballer, but compliments that pitch with a solid curve and change and is thus more of a strikeout pitcher than a groundballer. After posting a 9.8 K/9 across parts of three minor league seasons, he’s struck out 30 men in his 27 2/3 major league innings, albeit with 17 walks. He’s pitched in some hard luck thus far; the Blue Jays have scored just 3.13 runs per game in his five starts and thus gone 1-4 in those games despite Rzepczynski’s 3.25 ERA. If the Jays can get to Mitre tonight, however, Rzepczynski, who has allowed just one home run since reaching the majors, could deliver the win.
Alex Rodriguez gets a half-day off on the turf and Jorge Posada gets a full rest both in anticipation of starting all four games against Boston. Jerry Hairston Jr. mans third base, his worst defensive position, and bats eighth in front of Jose Molina. Nick Swisher hits fifth.
Cody Ransom has been DFAed to make room for extra bullpenner Anthony Claggett. Claggett, who came over in the Sheffield trade, was lit up by the Indians in the opening series at the new stadium in what remains his only major league appearance. He’s pitched well for Scranton since, but walks too many and strikes out too few, getting by with groundballs and a corresponding lack of homers. Seems Claggett is here to keep the pen rested in advance of the Boston series should Mitre only make it through three more innings. I’d expect Claggett to be farmed out again tomorrow in favor of Ramiro Peña, who no longer has to worry about playing center now that Hairston’s on the team. (For those wondering, barring an injury, Shelley Duncan won’t be eligible to be recalled until after the Boston series.)