Sunday, April 8, 2012

Yankees in Cellar's Market

1966 was a horrible year for New York Yankees baseball. Their stars either retired early or had stayed too long. The Yankees finished 70-89 that year and in 10th place...which was out of 10 teams.

No one is saying 2012 holds the same fate for the Yankees, but the last time the Yankees and Boston Red Sox (who blew two final inning leads on Sunday) started the season with an identical 0-3 record was in that horrid 1966 season.

The Yankees pitching staff only allowed three runs on Sunday, but their bats were put to sleep by a near complete game shutout by Jeremy Hellickson. Only a two out walk to Nick Swisher in the 9th prevented the second year right-hander from finishing off a 3-0 Tampa Bay Rays win.

Phil Hughes made his first start of the season and took the loss. While he had effective stuff, he burned out early and was pulled after 99 pitches and 4.2 innings. Stuff will only get you so far, just ask A.J. Burnett.

The Yankees continued to make the mistake of pitching to Carlos Pena. Already leading 1-0 on a Matt Joyce 1st inning RBI triple, Pena double the score with his second home run and 7th RBI of the series. He later had a near home run turn into a ground rule double due to fan interference.

But the story of this game was Hellickson, who walked four batters, but limited the Yankees to just three hits. All three were doubles (Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira and Swisher), but the Yankees bats failed in the clutch, much as they did in the entire three game series. Pena's 24 home runs against the Yankees are his second highest total against any one team.

Series Notes

It's only the first series of the season, but a team should be embarrassed when Fernando Rodney saves two games against you.

The Yankees three starters in the series, CC Sabathia, Hiroki Kuroda, and Hughes, combined to allow 11 earned runs in 16.1 innings pitched. Mariano Rivera, Clay Rapada, and Boone Logan gave up a combined five additional runs out of the pen.

Eduardo Nunez' season got off to a rocky start in the field Saturday evening. After making an error on the very first ball hit to him in this year's Spring Training debut, Nunez repeated the feat when he started at shortstop behind Kuroda. Unfortunately for Nunez, Kuroda didn't pick him up and gave up a 2-run single to Luke Scott.

Kuroda fooled no one, except maybe his catcher Russell Martin, in his AL debut. The former Japanese star and LA Dodger mainstay, allowed six runs, four of them earned, eight hits, and walked four in just 5.2 innings.

Joe Girardi has fans and media scratching their heads already. He left southpaw Clay Rapada in to face right-handed hitters in Saturday's game despite the fact Rapada cannot get righties out. The result was a pair of extra runs that proved to be the difference in the ball game.

The Yankees had managed just one run off of starter David Price through 6-plus innings, but rallied against the Rays pen in the 9th. Swisher had the big blow with a 3-run home run to pull the Yankees to within two. But after a Robinson Cano walk, Rodney retired Rodriguez, who represented the tying run, with a bounce out to second to end the game.

The Week Ahead

The Yankees move on to Baltimore for a three game set with the Orioles before returning home for Friday's home opener with the LA Angels.

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