Sunday, April 18, 2010

Game 12: Dust My Broom

In the first two games of this series, the Rangers have been betrayed by their defense. They've been charged with one error in both games, leading to two unearned runs, but if not for some home cooking from official scorer Bill Shannon, the error total would be closer to five or six. If not for Texas' lackluster leather on Friday night, the Yankees may not have escaped with a rain shortened victory.

Texas may have a cure for what ails them this afternoon, as Rich Harden takes to the hill. Since making his Major League debut with the A's in 2003, Harden has been a strikeout machine. He's never posted a K/9 below 7.9 and has been at 9.5 or above for the last four seasons, including 10.9 and 11.0 in the last two years. Harden's also fairly adept at giving out free passes, posting walk rates greater than league average in all but one of his seven seasons, and allowing 35% of his career baserunners against via the walk. Those factors combined mean that Harden generally puts less pressure on his defense than the average pitcher.

An extreme example of this occurred in Harden's first start this year, against Toronto on April 7th. Harden went only 3.2 IP, but struck out 8, walked 5, plunked a batter, and surrendered a gopher ball as the only hit he allowed. He faced 19 batters and only four of them put the ball in play. And even at that, his defense still made an error behind him, with Michael Young booting a ball at third. Crash Davis would say Harden was a little less fascist his next time out, only stirking out three over six innings, and allowing 18 balls in play, with another error made behind him.

For the Yankees, Andy Pettitte will make his third start of the season. Over the past several years we've seen Pettitte morph into the stereotypical crafty lefty, seemingly working his way into and out of trouble every other inning, but rarely getting touched up. Never has that been more true than in his first two starts this year. Through twelve innings of work, Pettitte has surrendered eleven hits, issued six base on balls, and hit a batter. But he's yet to allow a home run, and has managed to strand a ridiculous 94.4% of those 18 runners. With 17 runners left on base and just a single earned run on his ledger, Pettitte boasts a sparkling 0.75 ERA despite a 4.46 xFIP.

In contrast to Aprils past, the Yankees have been moving right along in the early goings of the 2010 season. They've won their first four series for the first time since 1926, and today, they go for their first sweep of the young season. It's been a happy home stand, with four wins already in the bank. Time to dust off the brooms and then leave home for a West Coast road trip. To help us on our way, here's the King of the Slide Guitar:

I'm getting up soon in the morning, I believe I'll dust my broom
I'm getting up soon in the morning, I believe I'll dust my broom
I quit the best gal I'm loving
Now my friends can get my room

I believe, I believe my time ain't long
I believe, I believe my time ain't long
I ain't gonna leave my baby
And break up my happy home

Derek Jeter is nursing a head cold, so he gets the day off. Brett Gardner moves up to the lead off spot and Ramiro Pena gets his first start of the year, taking Jeter's spot at short and Gardner's customary spot at the bottom of the order. The rest of the lineup remains as usual.
Gardner LF
Johnson DH
Teixeira 1B
Rodriguez 3B
Cano 2B
Posada C
Granderson CF
Swisher RF
Pena SS
Some changes for Texas today. Lefties Julio Borbon and Chris Davis hit the bench for the first time this series. Taylor Teagarden, still hitless on the year, and Joaquin Arias are also not starting. Josh Hamilton slides over to center; Elvis Andrus, like Brett Gardner, moves from the nine hole to the leadoff spot. David Murphy, Ryan Garko, Matt Treanor, and Andres Blanco all see their first action for the weekend.
Elvis Andrus SS
Michael Young 3B
Josh Hamilton CF
Vladimir Guerrero DH
Nelson Cruz RF
Ryan Garko 1B
David Murphy LF
Matt Treanor C
Andres Blanco 2B

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