Taking the mound for O's will be David Hernandez, a rookie who the Yankees have never seen. Perhaps it's just the attention that has been focused on these types of games, but it seems like the Yanks have faced more than their fair share of fresh meat so far this season. Hernandez is a big 24 year old righty, at 6'3", 215, and has a 4.30 ERA and a 2-2 record in 5 starts this year. He hasn't been dominant, striking out only 13 in 29 1/3 innings and walking 12 in the process.
For the Yanks, Andy Pettitte will be pitching on 9 days rest. His career numbers are slightly better on six or more days rest, which is a good sign, but his stats at the New Yankee Stadium leave much to be desired. Pettitte has been fairly vocal about his poor performances at the new digs. He's blamed his lack of success on his tendency to give up more home runs in the Bronx and a resulting reluctance to challenge hitters, leading to more walks. Here's what he said after his last start at home against the Blue Jays:
"It's very discouraging because I felt like I might've had my best stuff," said Pettitte, who surrendered five walks and five hits, including Alex Rios' three-run, third-inning blow to left. "I feel like a broken record saying I need to keep the walks down, especially here, where you just can't walk guys like that.
"I'm really scratching my head figuring out how I walked so many."
Pettitte's K/BB ratio is actually identical at home and on the road at 1.63, and his walk rate is slightly higher away from TNYS (3.52/9 to 4.13/9). He goes deeper into games on the road as well. True, his home run totals are dramatically different with 12 of them coming in the Bronx against only 3 on the road but that gap is narrowed a bit by the fact that he's thrown 15 more innings at home. To boot, 8 of the ones at home have gone out to left field, which by most accounts isn't that much easier to reach than it was in the old ballpark.
What I'm getting at is that I think much of Pettitte's struggles are in his head. Perhaps it's a product of bad luck. His BABIP is .054 higher at home which you would assume to be even higher, given all the home runs that are taken out of the equation. Bad luck doesn't change what happened in the past, but it does help to more accurately predict the future. In his career, Pettitte's ERA is nearly a half run lower at home and I'm guessing that New Stadium will be kinder to Pettitte in the second half of the '09 season, which very well could be the last of his career. Hopefully tonight will be a step in that direction for him.
Sing me back home with a song I used to hear,
Make my old memories come alive,
Take me away and turn back the years,
Sing me back home before I die.