As I wrote last week, Josh Tomlin might have found a good weapon to use, and a bit of a nod should be directed to Rivera for inspiration. He showed the world the power of a well-thrown cut fastball, and against the Reds Tomlin utilized one beautifully. The Yankees are similarly powerful, though their lineup is deeper so Tomlin won’t have any time to rest. In three starts since 2010 against the Yankees, he’s allowed only nine runs. It’s a similarly constructed lineup to the ones from ‘10 and ‘11 too, so perhaps we have reason to be excited about his ability to win in New York. It’s hard being a fly ball pitcher in the Bronx though, they have a propensity for flying over the wall, but Tomlin has faced 26 batters there and given up no homers. That’s not a lot to hang your hat on, but it’s something. If last week’s outing was the debut of Ace Josh Tomlin, let’s schedule the block party soon.
Hiroki Kuroda is having a fine time in his first season in the American League. The Yankees’ one real problem the last couple years has been consistent pitching, and that’s what Kuroda brings to the table. He won’t blow you away (91 average mph on both his fastball and his sinker) but he’s got a wide array of pitches and knows how and when to use them. He’s always been a pretty good pitcher, though when a team is facing a guy for the first time the hurler typically has the upper hand. He’s never faced the Indians, being a Dodger till now, and only three Cleveland starters have faced him before (Johnny Damon, Jack Hannahan and Casey Kotchman). Kuroda is underrated, consistent and has probably been the second-best pitcher on his team throughout his career. He’s a competitor, and that’s all the Yankees ask.
In his last five starts, Justin Masterson has 11 earned runs in 35 innings and held opponents to a .573 OPS, striking out 35 while walking only six. Justin is not a strikeout pitcher, but he still throws hard and when he faced the Reds last week Manny Acta compared his sinker to a bowling ball. He’ll need that in New York, where the ball wants to fly and he’ll need to keep it on the ground. He’s never pitched at Yankee Stadium (the newest one anyway) but last year he held New York to three hits and no runs over eight innings in Cleveland. With how he’s been pitching recently, there’s no reason to believe there couldn’t be an encore.
Phil Hughes is showing us more and more what he is. The New York media and the Yankees’ internal spin machine had many believing we had another Whitey Ford on our hands, but right now Phil is a guy with an 85 ERA+. He’s striking out a good deal of guys (8.8 per nine) and not walking too many (2.3 per nine), but he’s given up 19 homers already this year in only 78 ½ innings. In Hughes’ 10 starts for his career at Yankee Stadium the other team has recorded an .838 OPS off him, so maybe it’s the home cooking that just doesn’t agree with him. The Indians will need to get to him early because that bullpen looms large, so early runs and a great outing by Masterson (with a dusting of Pestano and Perez) is what we’ll need to win this one.
Jimenez was a killer last time out, going 6 ⅔ scoreless with six strikeouts against a not very good Houston team. But this is a whole other animal—the Yankees won’t go after borderline pitches, and they’ll destroy his mistakes. If he doesn’t make too many mistakes, can keep them off balance, can have a secondary pitch working and can locate his fastball, Ubaldo will lock in a win. His last four starts have actually been pretty great: 26 ⅓ innings, 21 hits, seven walks and 25 strikeouts with six earned runs—a nice streak to be on heading into the Bronx.
Pettitte is a lefty, and a darn good one at that, so it could get ugly quick for the Tribe. The good news for Indians fans: Pettitte has lost a bit, though just a bit. His four-seamer is averaging 87.6 mph compared to his career 89.1, though his cutter is up nearly 2 mph on average to 87.2. He’s forcing an unusual number of ground balls, so maybe he’s remade himself into a junkballer and will pitch till he’s dust, like Jamie Moyer. It’s not just luck, as his 2.91 SIERA will attest, so perhaps like Bartolo Colon a year ago, the Yankees have taken a man and resurrected him to be a top of the rotation starter. What’s old is new again, as it were. It’s heartening to see, even if you’re a Yankee hater, but for at least one day, here’s hoping Andy shows his age.
However hard it may be to play the Yankees, it’s always a fun time. They’re the biggest name in baseball and have some of the biggest stars, so it’s like watching a small version of the All-Star Game. With the stakes actually being relatively high (both in fighting for that top spot, trying to grab a playoff berth in very contentious divisions) both teams will be on the top of their game. You never learn a whole ton from one series, but after a disastrous time in Houston it will be nice to see how the Tribe handles being thrown into the fire like this.
Topics: Alex Rodriguez, Andy Pettitte, Boone Logan, Clay Rapada, David Robertson, Derek Jeter, Eduardo Nunez, Eric Chavez, Hiroki Kuroda, Josh Tomlin, Justin Masterson, Mariano Rivera, New York Yankees, Nick Hagadone, Nick Swisher, Phil Hughes, Rafael Soriano, Robinson Cano, Russell Martin, Ubaldo Jimenez