(September hasn't been nearly as kind to Hiroki as August was. Courtesy of the AP)
I've already thrown a Grade-A AB4AR jinx on the Yankees' playoff hopes once this season, and I've learned my lesson. I've been taking very careful steps to not mention the "P" word like its a foregone conclusion again as we come down the homestretch of the 2012 regular season, even as the Yankees have turned things around, and I'm certainly not going to do that here. What I am going to do is touch on some things that the Yankees should be monitoring as they make their final sprint to the regular season finish line.
Some discussion got stirred up yesterday afternoon after David Aardsma took to his Twitter account to drop hints that he was going to be activated by the Yankees today. Aardsma has been out all year recovering from TJS, and already had his comeback temporarily put on hold after he suffered a setback during his rehab outings. The expectation, at least mine, was that Aardsma would be shut down for the year to not risk further serious injury to his elbow and to allow him time to fully recover and fully prepare for the 2013 season, when the Yankees will have a dirt cheap 500k option on him. Now it looks like plans have changed.
It's a little surprising to see Aardsma coming back this late in the season, and in a similar fashion as Andy Pettitte, without the benefit of real, actual game action as part of his rehab process. At least it's surprising with respect to just Aardsma and his health. When you factor in the workload being taken on by the bullpen recently, though, it does make some sense. But enough sense to overlook the risks to Aardsma?
(No biggie. Just a little tune-up start against a Quadruple-A team. Courtesy of the AP)
In all honesty, I had no clue who Liam Hendriks was before last night's game. I looked the guy up on FanGraphs and Baseball Reference and I STILL don't know who he is. I'm not entirely convinced he's a real person, let alone a person who got to start a Major League Baseball game. He sounds like a comic book character, like the alias of a superhero. Too bad for him his starting effort against the Yankee lineup was far from heroic, and too bad he was facing the wily old Jedi veteran Andy Pettitte. There's every reason to think that the Yankees can, should, and will sweep the Twins in this series, and they got off to a fine start of that last night behind a solid Pettitte performance and some of that famous Yankee power.
- Hendriks gave up a leadoff walk to Derek Jeter and a follow-up double to Ichiro Suzuki to start the game, which was not good for him. Robinson Cano drove in Jeter with a sac fly, Nick Swisher hit a 2-run home run, and just like that the Yankees had done a little bit of everything to take a 3-0 lead.
- They extended that lead on a Curtis Granderson solo HR in the top of the 4th, his 40th of the season. With that shot, Granderson became the 5th Yankee all-time to have back-to-back 40-HR seasons, a pretty impressive accomplish for a non-HR hitter.
- Andy labored through the 1st inning, gave up a few hits here and there, but managed to work through trouble and keep a relatively low pitch count through the early innings. He got some help on a great throw by C-Grand to nab a runner at the plate to end the 4th and keep it a 4-0 game.
- Pettitte's 6th and final inning might have been his best. Approaching his pitch count limit and facing the middle of the Twin lineup, he retired Joe Mauer, Josh Willingham, and the hollowed-out husk of Justin Morneau in order. A fine performance.
- With the 'pen being counted on for 3 innings, the offense turned the power back up in the top of the 7th with a pair of solo HRs by Raul Ibanez and Eric Chavez to chase a tiring Hendriks from the game.
- Cory Wade allowed a solo shot in the 8th, and Justin Thomas and D-Rob made a small mess of things in the 9th, but not enough to put the win in any kind of jeopardy.
- Honestly, that's exactly the way this game should have gone. Yanks build a big lead against an inferior team thanks to better hitting and better starting pitching, then give some of the lead way late because the opposing team's lineup can only score against New York's worst pitchers. I'm cool with that.