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Friday, April 24, 2009

The Yankees, Unobstructed

April Baseball is Not Important

One of the toughest aspects of being a baseball fan, is keeping April in its proper context. Some players and teams start hot, other slump from the get-go. Judging from what we have seen so far, Mark Teixera is a bust, Andy Pettitte is unstoppable, Chien-Ming Wang has become the worst pitcher ever, Melky Cabrera is ready to bat clean-up and of course, 700 home runs will be hit at the new Stadium this season.

Undoubtedly, the most striking set-back that the Yankees have had so far, has been the pitching of Wang. A 34.50 era in three starts is unsettling, no matter what time of year it is. While the Yankees say they saw improvement during Wang's extended spring training game yesterday, they also thought he was good enough to pitch at the beginning of the season. Despite Wang's performance of late, even if he ends up on the disabled list with (a totally real and not made up condition, such as) arm fatigue, the Yankees have some solid #5 starters in the minors. Phil Hughes, for instance, has a 1.86 era through three games for the Scranton-Wilkes Barre Yankees (12-1).

Despite Wang, if the Yankees' outfielders keeps producing at the rate they have, the Yankees will be unstoppable. Center field alone, must make Joe Girardi giddy. Each day, Girardi gets to choose between Brett Gardner (who is not hitting well, but has steals on four of his nine singles) and Melky Cabrera, whose .826 slugging leads the team. And of course, flanking the center fielders are Johnny Damon (.407 on-base percentage and three steals) in left field and Nick Swisher, who leads the team or is tied for the lead in home runs (4), runs batted in (12), touched bases (35), walks (10) and on-base percentage (.433), in right field.

This weekend, the Yankees head to Boston for their first meeting of the season. Expect these games to be billed as "Both Team's Most Important Games this month." Although the Red Sox have won seven straight games, the Yankees should be able to squeeze out two wins this weekend. Tonight's starters are Joba Chamberlain (5.06 era) and Jon Lester (5.50 era). Despite Lester's poor start to the season, this might prove to be the Yankees' toughest game. Last season, the Yankees absolutely could not touch Lester. In two starts against the Yanks, he was 2-0 with a 1.79 era. It gets better for the Yankees after Lester though.

In game two A.J. Burnett faces off against Josh Beckett. Against the Yankees, you never know which Beckett will show up, the one who can't be hit, or the one who stomps around on the mound and screams into his mitt all day. Even if the unhittable Becket shows up on Saturday, I like the Yankees' chances, because of Burnett. In eight career starts against Boston, Burnett is 5-0 with a 2.56 era.

For Sunday's match-up, the Yankees have a solid advantage coming in. Andy Pettitte has been the team's best pitcher so far this year and he's facing off against Justin Masterson, who has not had great success against the Yankees (a 4.82 era in five starts).

No matter how this first Boston-New York meeting goes, expect to hear dire predictions for what this series means to both teams....until they meet again in less than two weeks.

Make sure to check back every Wednesday for Pinstripe Politics, your #1 source for news about the Yankees as they relate to the Bronx community, and every Friday for this column, newly titled, "The Yankees, Unobstructed."


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