Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Game 44: Between The Lines

The Yankees' current struggles can be traced back to their series with the Tigers that started two Mondays ago, but the heartbreaking loss they suffered at the hands of the Twins last Saturday began a shorter but much more ugly stretch. The Yanks were poised to sweep the Twinkies for the fourth straight time (including last year's ALDS) but Joba Chamberlain and Mariano Rivera couldn't nail down the final 6 outs without surrendering a two run lead.

Including that game, the Yanks, thanks to a combination of more bullpen implosions, poor starting pitching and the inability to get runners in from third with less than two outs or hit with them in scoring position in general, have dropped six of eight. While the team evaded the slow start that plagued them in recent years, the last two weeks have erased much of the cushion they built up in their first 30 or so games.

And because the team has been losing, players whose struggles had been camouflaged by the team's winning ways are now being spotlighted. Rivera's hiccups, A-Rod's lack of home runs, Derek Jeter's supposedly declining defense, CC Sabathia's rough patch, Brett Garnder's recent skid, and of course, Mark Teixeira's continued struggles have all been splayed out across the interwebz in recent days.

One of those stories could have been (and probably was) written about A.J. Burnett. After sporting an earned run average of 1.99 through his first seven stats, Burnett has given up 18 runs over his last three outings (17 2/3 IP) and seen his ERA nearly double. Over that time he's given up 25 hits, walked 11 and struck out 12, and thrown 55% of his pitches for strikes. During his strong start, he was allowing just over a hit per inning, striking out twice as many as he walked and throwing 60% strikes.

If there's one positive that can be taken from Burnett's last three outings it's that the best one of the them (6.2 IP, 3R) came against Minnesota. As it will be tonight, Burnett's opponent in that game was Scott Baker.

The 28 year old right hander has thrown a couple of gems this year and because he can get batters to whiff, hardly walks them and doesn't give up too many home runs, his FIP is a solid 3.72. However, his ERA of 4.88 indicates that he just hasn't been able to put together quality outings on a consistent basis.

Last Friday, the Yanks touched up Baker for five runs in six innings en route to a 8-4 victory - their second in a row over the Twins. At that time it appeared that the Yanks had put the tough series against Detroit behind them, only to spiral out of control in the ensuing eight games. When they get back between the lines this evening after a much needed day off, they'll have a chance to right the ship with another Burnett vs. Baker matchup.

Road trips, turn to head trips,
Became a hunger for sedatives and essentric etiquette,
Optimism needs to feed off self-esteem,
But it seems as if he doesn't see it or hasn't felt a thing.
[Song Notes: Atmosphere is a Minnesota-based hip hop group that I use for these previews quite a bit, so it's only appropriate that I bust one of their songs out when the Yanks are in the Twin cities.]


Matt here with the lineup. Tex gets another half day off, unfortunately it's not the half that's brutally struggling right now. Francisco Cervelli makes his eighth consecutive start behind the plate. And, even with a right hander on the mound, Kevin Russo gets the start in left field.
Derek Jeter SS
Brett Gardner CF
Mark Teixeira DH
Alex Rodriguez 3B
Robinson Cano 2B
Nick Swisher RF
Juan Miranda 1B
Francisco Cervelli C
Kevin Russo LF

Denard Span CF
Orlando Hudson 2B
Joe Mauer C
Justin Morneau 1B
Michael Cuddyer RF
Jason Kubel DH
Delmon Young LF
J.J. Hardy SS
Brendan Harris 3B

Minor League Injury Notes

Good morning Fackers. Did you enjoy your off day? Feeling rested? I hope so. We've all been stressing a bit too much about the way things have gone over the past week or so, so yesterday's off day came at a good time.

The minor league affiliates did not have yesterday off however, and there are some notes coming out of the system. It appears the injury bug that was ravaging its way through the Yankees clubhouse a couple weeks back has now made its way down the organizational ladder.

As we mentioned last week, Trenton placed starting pitcher Jeremy Bleich on the disabled list with shoulder stiffness. He was sent to the team's complex in Florida for evaluation and yesterday the worst case scenario was realized. Bleich has a torn labrum, will require surgery, and is looking at ten to twelve months before he can return.

If there's any silver lining to this, it's that perhaps the labrum problem accounts for some of the control issues Bleich has had over the past year. Aside from his stellar performance against New Britain earlier this month, he has been wild, posting at 26:28 K:BB. The downside is that Bleich, who many considered a bit of reach with the 44th overall pick two years ago to begin with, has already dealt with elbow issues in college and is now facing the far more uncertain prospect of a shoulder operation.

Also in Trenton, second baseman David Adams, off to a torrid .309/392/.507 start this year, injured his ankle breaking up a double play Friday. He too is on the DL and is expected to miss two to three weeks. Adams is tied with teammate Austin Romine for the Eastern League lead in doubles and is in the top ten in batting, on base, slugging, OPS, runs, RBI, hits, triples, and total bases.

In positive news, Curtis Granderson is three games into a rehab stint at Scranton. He's DH'd twice and made an appearance in center field, going for 4 for 11 with a walk. He could rejoin the team as early as Thursday, which would be very helpful in firming up the bottom of the lineup. [UPDATE 10:15 AM: Granderson will be activated for Friday's series opener against Cleveland.]