Tin soldiers and Nixon coming,
We're finally on our own,
This summer I hear the drummin',
Four dead in Ohio.
[Yankee related sidenote: This song is about the infamous Kent State Massacre back in 1970. KSU is the alma mater of both Stick Michael and Ohio native Thurman Munson and the baseball field there is named in Michael's honor.]
While the Yankees were down in Texas this week, the Indians did a commendable service to everyone in the A.L. East, save from the Rays, that is. Heading into the series with a record of 17-28, the Indians pulled off a four game sweep which included a 7 run, 9th inning comeback, a dominant outing by Carl Pavano, overcoming a 5 run first inning defecit, and a mix and match pitchers duel where 4 hurlers combined to hold the Rays to one run.
As it stands now, the Rays are tied for last place in the AL East and have lost much of the preseason shimmer that had carried over from their World Series run last year. Their "ace" Scott Kazmir has a 7.69ERA in 9 starts and is currently on the 15 day DL along with closer Troy Percival who was also quite ineffective (6.35ERA). They've scored the most runs in the AL, and as a result, their Pythagorean W-L record says they should be 28-22 instead of the 23-27 they find themselves at as opposed to last year, when they outperformed their run differential by 5 games.
The Indians are also underperforming their Pythag of 24-25, but that is clearly inflated by the 10-2 and 22-4 wins against the Yankees in their first meeting of the year. They are at 11-11 against the AL East, which is pretty impressive considering they are 10-17 against the rest of the league and they haven't even faced the Orioles yet!
Tonight's pitching match-up squares off lefties Cliff Lee and Andy Pettitte. It is the third such southpaw showdown the Yanks have been a part of in the past six days.
Lee, last year's Cy Young Award winner stumbled out of the gate but has seemingly righted the ship. In his last eight starts he is averaging over 7 1/3 innings pitched and has a 1.86ERA. During that stretch, he lowered his ERA from 6.75 to 3.04. Pettitte, on the other hand has exactly one quality start in his past five outings, but despite all of that has a record of 4-1 as opposed to Lee's 2-4. Lee has already lost more games than he did all of last year - 3.
The most significant note for the Yankees is that Jorge Posada has returned to the line up. Amazingly, since he went on the DL on May 5th, the Yankees have gone 14-7, but he will be a welcome addition to the batting order, nonetheless. As Matt suspected, Kevin Cash has been optioned to Scranton to make room.
Yesterday morning, Joel Sherman had this to say about Jorge behind the plate:
Posada's defense has regressed in recent years, and we are not just talking about his throwing after shoulder surgery. Pitchers do not generally enjoy pitching to him for a variety of reasons, including his inadequacy at framing pitches and his sketchy game calling.
But the general point here is that the Yankees are playing a cleaner, crisper game than they have over the past few years. It is probably not coincidence that it happened with Posada out with injury.
No, Joel, it probably is just a coincidence. Welcome back, Jorge. Let's go Yanks.