Ivan Nova picked up his 3rd straight win yesterday Tuesday afternoon and 5th since rejoining the rotation in late June. For the second straight start it was more of a struggle for him than it had been in most of his previous outings. He was just a touch off with his command in and around the strike zone, and with his transformation into a fastball/curveball pitcher that lack of command made him more hittable. Last year a game like yesterday's would have ended in disaster for Nova. As it is he put 11 men on base and gave up 4 ER, hardly eye-popping numbers. He also gave all those runs up in the 2nd inning and recovered to pitch scoreless from then on into the 7th inning. Considering the 2012 alternative, you'd have to call yesterday Tuesday a good start for Nova.
A sweep of any division rival is sweet, but the Yankees got slapped back into reality last night in the first game of their weekend series against the Rays. Beating up on the AL East doormat Blue Jays was a huge help in bringing the Yankees back into the playoff picture. If they really want to stay in that picture, however, they have to beat the good teams in their division too. Heading into the final 5 weeks of the regular season, they'll have plenty of opportunities to do so.
The Yanks have 34 games remaining this season, 25 of them against AL East opponents. Only 10 of them will be at home, with 15 on the road, and 19 of them are against the Rays, Orioles, and Red Sox. They're in the middle of a 16-game stretch against nothing but AL East teams and even after last night's loss they're still 6-2 in those 8 games, so they're off to a good start. They've got 3 more against the Jays on the road and then 3 against the O's at home after this series, and if they want to keep moving forward in the playoff race they can't have more results like last night's.
6 back in the division, 4 back from the second Wild Card, and plenty of games against 3 of the teams ahead of them in those races. The Yankees have done a great job dragging themselves out of their grave these last 2 weeks, and they now control a small part of their destiny. If this is really a playoff-caliber team, they need to prove it against their main playoff chase competition.
("We should probably take you out, but you wanna stay in and give up another home run?" Courtesy of the AP)
The Yankees were riding high on their way into Tampa. Winners of 5 in a row, 6 of their last 7 against AL East rivals, and 11 of their last 14 overall. But they were stepping into a zone of danger against Tampa starter Chris Archer last night. After an uneven start to his season, he seemed to find his stride in July and August and he's been a big reason why the Rays have stayed at the forefront of the playoff race while dealing with a never-ending string of injuries to their starting rotation. He's also already beaten the Yankees twice this season. Joe stacked lefties at the top of his batting order last night to try to jump on Archer early, but the result was the same as it was the other 2 times.
- Quick start for the Yankee offense. Brett Gardner walked, stole second, and scored on a 2-out Alfonso Soriano single in the top of the 1st and the Yanks had a lead.
- Tough start for Hiroki Kuroda. He was struggling with his slider command in the bottom of the 2nd and it got him into trouble. With 2 on and 2 out, he hung a first-pitch slider to Jose Lobaton and watched it turn into a 3-run homer to erase the lead.
- The command never came for Hirok in the following innings. He gave up 2 more runs on solo homers in the 3rd, a run in the 4th, and another in the 5th on his 4th (!!) HR allowed on the night. He pitched 6 innings, but that had more to do with the 'pen needing rest than anything else.
- Much like the last time they faced him in July, the Yankee lineup didn't have anything for Archer. He only gave up 2 more hits through the next 5 innings, one of them a triple by Gardner to lead off the 6th that led to the second Yankee run.
- A run differential of 5 or more runs in either direction means it's Joba Time and Joe used him wisely to bring this stinker home. Naturally, Joba worked 2 perfect innings with nothing on the line.