July was a tough month for the Yankees. The hot streak they were on in June started to peter out a bit before the All Star break, and came to a screeching halt not too long after it. Their last trip out to Oakland wasn't nearly as fruitful as the one in May, and since then the Yankees have played more bad baseball than good and experienced more bad luck than good. Some of the feast-or-famine problems that hurt the offense earlier in the season came back, as did the inconsistencies of the starting rotation. And don't even get me started on the continuing injury problems that only seem to affect the biggest names on the roster.
Despite all of that, the Yankee still found themselves comfortably in the lead in the AL East, and still find themselves comfortably out front today. They're getting by with the guys they have, trying to establish some consistency in the lineup with some new faces and without some key missing ones, and one more strong 15-20 game stretch might be all they need to lock up the division. It's a few days later than I planned on doing it, but let's take a look back at the best of July for the Bombers.
('Twas a valiant effort by Hiroki. Courtesy of The AP)
Hiroki Kuroda has been the Yankees' best starting pitcher for 2 months now. With CC showing signs that he's starting to return to form in his last outing, that's a very encouraging sign for the Yankees. Felix Hernandez, and I say this with no disrespect towards Kuroda or Sabathia, is a better pitcher than both of them, however, and the Yankees failed to take advantage of him when he wasn't at his best the last time they faced him. They had an opportunity to right that wrong yesterday afternoon, but on this day Hernandez was at his best and then some. A matchup between he and Kuroda should have been a pitchers' duel and it was, with Hernandez coming out the victor by the slightest of margins.
- Kuroda was getting hit a little harder than he would have liked, and wasn't generating a ton of groundballs, but he still only allowed 1 run through 4 innings on a Mike Carp RBI single in the 2nd.
- Hernandez was even better, blanking the Yankee offense and holding them to just 2 hits through 5 innings. He wasn't dominating them with strikeout stuff, but generated a lot of weak contact and 7 groundball outs.
- While Hernandez was cruising, Kuroda had to work harder to get his outs due to his shaky command. He put 2 runners on in the 5th and 6th, and he tired in the 7th and was removed after he hit Bredann Ryan, the #9 hitter, with a pitch in what could have been a bit of revenge for Hernandez's plunkfest last time.
- The Yankee hitters helped make life easier for an already solid Hernandez by swinging early and not working many counts. Hernandez threw just 88 pitches to get through 8 innings, and didn't walk a batter until the 6th. The Yankees just didn't have any answers for him.
- The bullpen trio of Boone Logan, David Robertson, and Clay Rapada combined to pitch 2.2 scoreless innings of relief and keep the game at 1-0, but it made no difference. On this day, Hernandez was just the best player on the field.
- By going 1-3, Ichiro set the new MLB record for most consecutive games with exactly 1 hit with 11. It's an interesting record, but not one that speaks to how productive Ichiro has been at the plate since donning the pinstripes.