Yankees fans breathed a little easier last night with C.C. Sabathia’s return. He went 7 1/3 innings in the Yanks’ 3-1 victory over Cleveland, gave up four hits and a walk, and, best of all, struck out nine. His ERA has now dropped below 3.50 for the season.
Then again, he was pitching against the Cleveland Indians, which — while not the worst team in baseball — certainly have been pretty awful the last 30 games, over which they have lost 21.
Yankees fans will probably feel even better tonight when Hiroki Kuroda, the Yankees’ ace (with a 12-8 record and an ERA of 2.96, that’s what Kuroda is) makes the start — since getting shellacked by the Blue Jays on May 16, Kuroda’s won nine of 12 and has an ERA of about 2.40.
If Sabathia is back whole, the Yankees have at least two starters to match anyone’s in a big series. When Pettitte returns, maybe a 1-2-3 of aces.
Right now, though, the big problem may not be the starting pitching but the hitting. Friday night, they were held to just one run in five innings by Corey Kluber, who went into the game 0-2 with an ERA 6.27. Nick Swisher hit the game winning homer off Kluber’s successor, Cody Allen.
The frist inning was So Yankees – that is, so from July on Yankees. Derek Jeter doubles, Swisher doubled him home, and it looked as if the rout was on. Then with bases loaded and one out, Eric Chavez took two fastballs down the middle and swung at a pitch in the dirt for strike three. Russell Martin — on whom the word is now out: don’t ever throw him a pitch that isn’t six inches wide of the plate — struck out on a full count to end the threat.
Over the next 5 innings, the Yankees left nine runners on base against Kluber, who looked like the ghost of Bob Feller.
How and why this keeps happening, I haven’t a clue; there’s no question that the Yankees do lack a solid right-handed bat like the kind Alex Rodriguez swings, and his return to the lineup – or at least to the batting order in the DH slot – is now beginning to look as important as Andy Pettitte’s.
I kept expecting the Yankee’ TV people — particularly Michael Kay, who doesn’t usually shy away from anything – to bring up Skip Bayless’ accusation – some are calling it a hint, but when you bring a rhetorical question to a subject like his, it’s an accusation — that Jeter “is on something.”
But instead, Kay came up with an even more intriguing topic: “Does anyone out there think that Jeter’s an MVP candidate?” Well, how about it? Going into Friday night’s game, Derek is 1st in the AL in hits at 171, 3rd in batting at .326, 6th in runs scored with 80; he has 13 home runs, an OBP of .367, and a slugging of .452. He’s also stolen 9 bases in 12 tries. If he continues to hit the way he’s been hitting the past couple of weeks and pulls the Yankees out of this tailspin, why not a consideration for his first MVP?