Some notes and observations from the opening series of the 2009
Well...C.C. Sabathia was a disaster this afternoon. His breaking ball looked spectacular, but if he can't locate his fastball, he's as good as useless on any given day. His velocity on the pitch was down around 90-91, and he couldn't throw the first-pitch strikes he's used to. In short, he looked nervous, like at the beginning of last year when he was pitching for a contract.
The rest of the team wasn't particularly impressive; a four-run eighth inning given up by the bullpen, a couple of runners failing to advance in big spots. Teixeira and Ransom, in particular, looked like they were trying to do too much with every pitch they swung at.
Bright spots? Posada looks healthy; he threw out Roberts trying to steal (no small feat) and looked comfortable and hungry at the plate. Cano was locked in. Nick Swisher had a great at bat pinch-hitting late in the game.
The Yankee plate approach looks intact: See a lot of pitches and make the bullpen kill itself for four innings instead of having an easy two. I liked that everyone was trying to hit the ball to the opposite field. I won't miss Giambi's compulsion to pull everything he sees.
April 8: Orioles 7, Yankees 5
Wang looked like he didn't know the 2007 ALDS was over...I think he was wondering where Torre was when Girardi came to get him in the fourth.
The bullpen was awesome. Hands down, this is the best collection of arms we've had since the Stanton-Lloyd-Mendoza crew in the late 90s. The Orioles will absolutely live to regret turning Tex around to hit right-handed against Sherrill in the ninth. Maybe as soon as tomorrow.
Matsui looked pretty bad. Cano looks awesome. Gardner could stand to work a couple more walks. Ransom is hitting the ball hard, right at people. Jeter is (sigh) not as fast as he was two or three years ago. Where's that Rodriguez guy?
April 9: Yankees 11, Orioles 2
As soon as Burnett got Huff to swing over that 3-2 slider to get out of a bases-loaded jam, I knew the Yankees would win this game. His stuff is filthy. I can't wait to see him face off against Beckett or Penny in a few weeks. He looks like he's relaxed, and he looks like he loves being a Yankee. The fist pump when he walked off the mound was Joba-esque.
Speaking of fist pumps...Swisher is my new favorite Yankee. Three big RBIs and a hilarious post-game press conference will do that real quick. Nice to have a big, goofy personality in the clubhouse who's more talented than "El Sid" Ponson.
Tex hit a home run to the opposite field. Cano hit a home run to the opposite field. Jose Molina drove in a run on a single to the opposite field. Watch for this pattern to continue revealing itself in most of the Yankees' wins this season.
Another strong performance by the bullpen. Since the eighth inning of Opening Night, eight hitless, scoreless innings. I'm a happy boy. Things are looking up. Rivera ended the game by striking a dude out looking on a back-door cut fastball. Consistently 91 mph at 40 years old. He's so good.
April 10: Yankees 4, Royals 1
Anybody doubting my man Pettitte right now? Anyone? Out of the No. 4 spot, facing the Ponsons of the American League, he should win at least 20 games. He also really knows how to pitch. I'll say it again: He's the real thing, and he's hungry. If he stays healthy, he'll be in the running for a Cy Young. Out of the No. 4 spot, no less.
Three switch hitters with pop in the middle of this lineup. Tex, Jorge, and Swish. Gardner, Jeter and Damon are all going to score 100 runs if Gardner gets on base a little more often. When A-Rod gets back, there's not a starter in the league who's going to enjoy facing us.
Too many lefties in a row for the Royals. David DeJesus is the early favorite for the Bip Roberts Award, given each year to the most hilariously unlikely third or cleanup hitter in the league. (Quick quiz: for whom did Bip Roberts hit cleanup in 1996? Yes, of course, it was the Royals).
April 11: Yankees 6, Royals 1
Okay, now I understand why we got Sabathia. Up five miles per hour on his average fastball. Six singles in seven and two-thirds innings. First-pitch strike after first-pitch strike. I'm sold. We're in great shape.
Posada is on a tear. I knew we missed him last year on the field, but as Michael Kay continues to mention every five minutes, we missed his bat terribly as well (more on Michael Kay later).
As lost as Matsui looked all week, Swisher's continued destruction of the Royals' pitching staff makes me think he'll be starting more often than Godzilla by the end of the month. I could be wrong. Girardi seems to think he'll snap out of it. I've seen him go into exactly this type of slump before, where he pulls off every single swing, and I assume the skipper's right.
I just don't want to wait too long while we're already forfeiting three at-bats a game with Ransom.
April 12: Royals 6, Yankees 4
After watching three Yankee relievers blow a one-run lead in the bottom of the eighth inning, Kay decided that the top of the ninth was the appropriate time to scoff at how much more important a quality fifth starter was than a quality eighth-inning setup man.
Joba was decent in his six innings, but with Hughes absolutely ready to go, and the Yankees guaranteed to hold their breath through every close game all year until the change gets made, I again implore Cashman and Girardi to see the light, call up the other kid, and make Joba the heir apparent to Mo in the bullpen.
Three to six blown late leads can kill an entire season. We can't let this keep happening.
Beyond that, I'm optimistic. Let's hope Wang can return to form tonight in Tampa.