For those of us watching Alex Rodriguez's every at-bat (I count myself in that category), Chen has apparently owned A-Rod. Alex is 5-22 against the lefty. Fortunately, the red hot Mark Teixeira has beat this guy like a drum. Tex is 7-11 against Chen with 6 (yes, 6 of his 7 hits off this guy have gone yard) home runs. Also, Derek Jeter is 11-28 against Chen, which ain't too shabby. The Yankees have faced Chen before so they should win this one.
On Friday A.J. Burnett will try not to hurt himself against Brian Bannister (7-8, 5.65 ERA). Hopefully good A.J. will show up, but who knows. The key to this game will beating up Bannister, not getting through to the Royals' bullpen. KC has a surprisingly good bullpen (more on that in a minute). This one could go either way, so I'm sticking with the home team.
On Saturday Sergio Mitre makes his triumphant return (Andy Pettitte, get well soon) against Kyle Davies (4-6, 5.45 ERA). This one has slug fest written all over it. I see neither of these guys lasting more than 5, with each giving up at least 4 runs. I'll choose the Royals here because I trust their bullpen more than ours.
Phil Hughes pitches against Anthony Lerew (1-4, 8.54 ERA) in the series finale. On the one hand, this is Lerew's first year as a starter in the AL and the Yankees have never seen him before. On the other hand, he's terrible. I'm going with the Bombers in this one. I don't think it'll be the rout that it should be, but this pitcher stinks and Hughes has a habit of coming back against bad teams. I also think it helps that the Royals have yet to face him this year.
So, about that Royals' bullpen, or why I don't think the Yankees will sweep. The worst pitcher this year in the KC bullpen is Blake Wood with an ERA+ of 90. Joakim Soria, the KC closer, has a 178 ERA+, and is one of the best closers in baseball. Rob Tejeda is pitching to an ERA+ of 132. Lefty Dusty Hughes has an ERA+ of 94, which should be good enough to strike out Curtis Granderson. Finally, Kyle Farnsworth (yes, him) is dealing, with an ERA+ of 174. The Royals have 3 relievers with an ERA+ above 100, 2 with an ERA+ above 170 (!), and 2 more who are just below average but still reliable.
The Yankee bullpen, on the other hand, has God, and then one other reliever with an ERA+ above 100 - none other than Boone Logan! (God, by the way, has ERA+ of 405!) Technically Damaso Marte, Alfredo Aceves and Sergio Mitre all have ERA+'s above 100, except one of them is a starter now and the other 2 are hurt. After that the next best Yankee reliever is David Robertson, who's ERA+ is 82. An ERA+ of 80, you may recall, is replacement level. And before you say that Robertson has been stronger of late remember that his WHIP is 1.67. It's just a matter of time. Bluntly, I think the Royals can beat the Yankees in a close late inning game, even at the Stadium, unless they give the rock to Farnsworth.
To throw a little more fuel on this fire, the Royals can hit. They hit so well that they are leading the Major Leagues in BA at .281. Only 3 everyday Yankees are hitting better than that. For the record, I stand by my earlier prediction that the Yankees take this series 3-1. I'm just pointing out that it isn't the romp it should be. The Royals are bad because their starting pitching sucks, but they can hit and their bullpen is flat out better than the Yankees'. That 3-1 prediction could easily turn out to be 2-2 if A.J., Mitre or Phil can't get the job done. Tampa, meanwhile, has an off day before going to Cleveland for 3.