Friday, May 27, 2011

Kings, Princes, and Other Road Obstacles

The Yankees open a tough, nine game road trip tonight in pitcher friendly Safeco Field in Seattle. While most people point at Saturday's quest against Felix "The King" Hernandez as the toughest game on the road trip, things won't be much easier tonight for the Yankees when they face rookie Michael Pineda.

The native of the Dominican Republic, given the moniker "Prince", made the Mariners out of spring training this season after going 11-4, 3.36 (with 154 strikeouts in 139.1 innings pitched) between Double-A and Triple-A last season.

At 6'7", 255 lbs, Pineda is an opposing figure to deal with as is his mid to upper 90's fastball. Through nine starts, Pineda has compiled a 6-2 record, a 2.16 ERA (1.65 at home) and has struck out better than nine batters per nine innings (9.4). He's allowed just 41 hits hits and issued a mere 14 walks in 58.1 innings pitched, has allowed just three home runs, and limited opponents to a .194 average. For more on Pineda's outstanding control, check out this piece by ESPN's Lee Singer.

A.J. Burnett has the task of out dueling Pineda, while Ivan Nova must take on Hernandez tomorrow. The Yankees do, however, have several players with pretty good numbers against Hernandez.

Curtis Granderson, Derek Jeter, Mark Teixeira, Russell Martin, Brett Gardner, and Jorge Posada are all near or over .300 against the reigning AL CY Young winner. On the flip side, Nick Swisher, struggling already this year, is just 8-34 against Hernandez and could very well have a seat on the pines come Saturday night.

The Yankees most favorable match up comes on Sunday when CC Sabathia squares off with Jason Vargas. After the Seattle series, the Yankees move on to Oakland to face a pitching staff that leads the Major Leagues with a 2.87 ERA. The series opens Monday with Bartolo Colon facing Trevor Cahill and his 2.02 ERA. Tuesday's Yankees starter has not yet been announced, but the A's go with sharp left-hander Brett Anderson (2.84). No starters have been announced for Wednesday's finale as of yet, but's likely Freddy Garcia will get one of the two games. Remarkably, the weak hitting A's have scored just one less run than the Yankees (413-412), though NY does have three games in hand.

The trip concludes in Anaheim, the site of many of the Yankees in-season and post-season horrors. Who'll take a 6-3 road trip right now? A lot of hands.

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