So this is kinda it, right? Either hit it hard and hit it now or get hit hard and it could be selling time. Or, you know, not. Whatever significance this season holds will likely be enhanced by a couple wins at New Yankee Stadium this weekend. If you choose to look at it this way, this series is an opportunity. It's an opportunity for the team, for the first time in a while, to alert the baseballing community that, hey, we're the guys from Boston and we still matter. Or it's an opportunity to, once again, waive that little white flag like Wile-E-Coyote just before gravity yanks him down several thousand feet into that massive ravine that he didn't see. But we do that once a week this season so, how 'bout trying something different, huh?
Since last we saw them, the Yankees have undergone a few changes. First, Alex Rodriguez broke his pinky (the funniest things happen to that guy) and is out possibly for the rest of the regular season. That means former good player and current mustachioed place-holder Eric Chavez will see the lion's share of time at third for New York. Beyond that, we learned that Brett Gardner will miss the rest of the season though he hasn't seen plate appearance one yet so that won't appear any differently on your score books. Nick Swisher is dealing with a strained hip flexor and will miss Friday's game, but may be active Saturday.
Oh, and that whole Ichiro thing. He's a huge name and huge star, but over the past couple seasons he's shown his age (38). That's a reference to 1157 plate appearances of 85 OPS+ hitting. He's in New York to be a fourth outfielder though with A-Rod out and Nick Swisher's hip flexor, there is suddenly room for him in the line up. Ichiro is probably a Hall of Famer, but that's good news for the Red Sox or which ever team the Yankees are playing.
Game 1: Aaron Cook (36 IP, 1.0 K/BB, 126 ERA+) vs. Phil Hughes (114.1 IP, 3.6 K/BB, 104 ERA+)
Game 2: Jon Lester (120.1 IP, 2.6 K/BB, 80 ERA+) vs. C.C. Sabathia (120 IP, 3.8 K/BB, 129 ERA+)Aaron Cook's smoke and mirrors act might be getting old. Ground balls are great and everything but if you allow only ground-balls and never strike anyone out the chances the opponent strings some hits together gets worse. And that's if you only allow ground balls. If you throw a stinker sinker in there somewhere then you're really in trouble, which is kinda what happened last time (5 runs, 3 earned, over 6 1/3 innings) against Toronto. Though, in fairness to Cook, he wasn't helped out much by his defense that day.
The positive is that Cook's style might be best suited for the bandbox they call Yankee Stadium as balls hit on the ground can't turn into pop-ups to second base that somehow sneak over the right field wall (for proof of this, check out Raul Ibanez's home/road splits). A double is always preferable to a home run when you're on the mound. (<- best sentence ever)
Felix Doubront has clearly hit a wall of some kind. The only thing we know about the wall is that it's not the forgiving type of wall, like your cheese walls, your cake walls, and so on. In his first 11 starts, Doubront posted a 3.75 ERA and 66 strikeouts and 25 walks in 62 1/3 innings pitched. That's pretty good. In the eight starts since he has a 5.64 ERA though the good news is his K/BB ratio is similar. The bad news is he's just getting hit harder. More line drives, more homers per inning. This wall is made of tougher stuff. Maybe metal or something.
The Yankees two best starters in Sabathia and Kuroda if you don't count Andy Pettitte who may or may not return from a fibula fracture before the regular season ends. Sabathia spent a bit under a month on the DL and has given up three runs in 13 innings since returning. Kuroda had a tougher start to the season but as the weather has warmed so has he. In six starts worth 41 innings in June, Kuroda posted an ERA a smidgen below 2.00.
Other than Cook versus Phil Hughes, who has a sub-3.00 ERA in his previous nine starts, the numbers above don't favor any Red Sox starter. That puts a lot of pressure on an offense that didn't show up for their three game date in Texas this week.
On paper the match-ups aren't particularly favorable. But then games aren't played on paper. There's still time to salvage this season, but if anything is going to come of it besides disappointment it's going to have to begin tonight in the Bronx.