The noodle-bat Mariners came to Yankee Stadium last week and took two out of three on the strength of spectacular starting pitching from two of the best pitchers in baseball, Cliff Lee and Felix Hernandez.
Unfortunately for the Yankees they are going to have to face both Lee and Hernandez again in this four-game set leading up to the All-Star break, although perhaps having just gotten to see them will actually play to the Yankees' favor.
This is also the Yankees' last west coast swing of the season, unless you count five games in Arlington (two in mid-August and three in mid-September), but I don't -- it's only a three-hour flight to the great state of Texas, and a one-hour time difference, so it's no big deal. It's actually kind of unreal that the Yankees don't have to set foot in the Pacific Time Zone after the All-Star Break -- I remember being frustrated that they had to fly to California to face the Angels during the penultimate week of the season last year, so it's nice to see the scheduling gods smile down upon New York for once.
In the first game, Andy Pettitte (2.82 ERA; 3.92 FIP; 4.08 xFIP) takes on Jason Vargas (3.22 ERA; 3.68 FIP; 4.84 xFIP). Like the majority of the Seattle rotation, Vargas is having a fine year for himself -- it's actually kind of scary to imagine how dangerous the M's would've been this year if they had any offense to speak of -- although not as fine a year as Dandy Andy's put together. Let's hope the Yankees grab this one, because the next two are going to be rough.
Phil Hughes (3.83 ERA; 3.75 FIP; 4.02 xFIP) gets a rematch against Cliff Lee (2.34 ERA; 2.22 FIP; 3.25 xFIP) in the second game. Last week many anticipated a pitcher's duel, but Hughes didn't live up to his end of the bargain, continuing a rather poor stretch for young Franchise. Phil's got a 6.53 ERA to go with an ugly 5.57 FIP during the last month, so he basically can't be any worse than he's been, and hopefully he can start to regain some of his early-season dominant form against the light-hitting Mariners.
Of course, even a textbook quality start likely won't be good enough to beat Lee, who continues to be the best pitcher in the American League. In the unlikely event that the Yankees bring Nick Johnson back next year The Stick will have to yield #36 and pick another number during the offseason, as Lee's gonna be incredible to watch in the Bronx in 2011.
Javier Vazquez (4.81 ERA; 5.02 FIP; 4.62 xFIP) gets the unenviable task of opposing Felix Hernandez (3.01 ERA; 3.20 FIP; 3.47 xFIP), who flat-out dominated the Yankees last week even moreso than Lee did. While we all know you can't predict baseball, I feel pretty confident in saying the Yankees will lose this game.
CC Sabathia (3.19 ERA; 3.80 FIP; 3.88 xFIP) gets a rematch with Ryan Rowland-Smith (5.74 ERA; 6.66 FIP; 6.03 xFIP) in the finale. Given Rowland-Smith's paltry numbers I figured the Yankees were going to go to town on him, so of course he only ended up yielding two runs. This time around I expect the bats to rip Rowland-Smith up -- combine that with Sabathia, who's been the 4th-best pitcher in baseball over the past month, and the Yankees have no excuse not to win this game against the last-place Mariners.
Here are the two teams' offense and pitching numbers:
Not much has changed since these two teams met last week. The M's still can't hit their way out of a paper bag -- even if the Yankees did somehow allow them 16 runs -- and the Yankees still have one of the top offenses in baseball, and are only going to be more dangerous as Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira continue to heat up.
All in all, it's plenty reasonable to expect the Yankees to split this four-game set, and if they can get over this tip-of-the-cap-itis they've exhibited against the league's elite pitchers, perhaps they can steal one of the Lee/Hernandez games as well. In any event, I suspect this year's west coast swing heading into the All-Star break will have a far more positive outcome than last year's, when the Yankees were swept in Anaheim by the Halos.