For the second time in as many series, the Yanks look to take two out of three after dropping the first. Unlike the nip-and-tuck set in Boston, however, neither of the past two games were remotely close. Yesterday's win had more than it's share of drama and intensity, but not from the usual part of the scoreboard. I get the feeling that we'll be treated an entertaining contest this afternoon - one that hasn't already been decided by the 5th inning, anyway. But if the Yanks want win 10-0 again and flirt with a no-hitter, that would be fine too.
Like CC Sabathia did last night, A.J. Burnett made a run at a no-no in the beginning of last season in Tampa. After Chien-Ming Wang completed his second implosion of the season and Joe Girardi blew through their bullpen so badly that Nick Swisher had to pitch the night before, Burnett vowed to go deep into the game to save the 'pen. He followed through on that promise. A.J. held the Rays hitless through 6 innings, but unlike CC's game yesterday, the Yanks were only leading by 2. Burnett gave up three straight hits to start the 7th and in the blink of an eye, the Rays tied the game, shifting the emphasis from entering the record books to salvaging the win. Fortunately, the Yanks regained the lead in the top of the 8th, Burnett pitched a 1-2-3 bottom half and Mo nailed down the save.
The catcher that night was Jose Molina, but Burnett's security blanket is long gone. Coming off a marginal start at Fenway on Tuesday night (5IP, 7H, 3ER, 5K) made worse by some shaky receiving, Burnett and Jorge Posada forge ahead with they renewed partnership. Hopefully those two will tighten up as the season moves on.
For the Rays, their rotation turns over for the first time as Opening Day starter James Shields gets the call. The 28 year old right hander threw six innings of three run ball against the Orioles with all the damage coming on three solo home runs.
Shields tweaked his pitching arsenal a fair amount this offseason, decreasing his reliance on his excellent changeup and placing more emphasis on his cutter, both trends which have been developing throughout his career. In his first outing, 22% of his pitchers were cutters, more than three times the proportion he's thrown in the past. It will be interesting to see how long it takes the Yankees to adjust to Shields' new approach.
If Shields' comes through with an inspired performance today, we might be able to chalk it up to the fact that his wife just gave birth to their second daughter on Wednesday. For some odd reason, "Big Game" James won't disclose the little girl's name yet, referring to her only as "Baby Game".
Today's matchup represents the last game of the short road trip the Yankees began their season with; after the last pitch is thrown, it's time to head back to the Bronx. Burnett's near no-hitter last year was the second to last game before the opening of the New Yankee Stadium. Back then it was new and foreign. After five months away from it and a new World Series title to celebrate upon return, now it truly seems like home.
As you travel day by day, down life's long highway,-Lineups-
Are you on the wrong that leads to wrong?
If you'll just travel in his light, and pray both day and night,
Then you'll be ready to go home.
Jorge is back and Swisher drops down to the 8 slot.