First Week of Season Exposes Yankee Inconsistencies
We’ve waited all winter, and we finally got our first look at our new rotation and lineup, the ones we’re all hoping take us to the World Series. So far, little has seemed to change from last year: they’re still struggling with runners in scoring position, starters are suffering from lack of run support, and Mark Teixeira’s already hurt.
Four out of the five Yankee starters produced quality starts on the season-opening road trip in Houston and Toronto. However, only Ivan Nova and Masahiro Tanaka walked away with wins. Hiroki Kuroda and Michael Pineda fell victim to a lack of run support, a theme that permeated throughout the 2013 season.
The 2014 season got off to an inauspicious start, with CC Sabathia giving up four runs before the sun had even set in New York. By the second inning, the Astros, a team that lost 111 games last year, were up 6-0. Sabathia reported feeling overly amped for the Opening Day start, which led to his disastrous performance. To his credit, Sabathia settled down and remained in the game for six innings, but the Yankee bats failed to bail him out. The Astros took the first game 6-2.
The second game included a much more solid start by Kuroda, who went six innings and surrendered only two runs. But the offense was practically nonexistent; the only run in the 3-1 loss was driven in when Yangervis Solarte grounded into a double play in the seventh inning.
Nova helped the Yankees salvage the final game in Houston. Though his outing was far from dominant—he scattered six hits and walked five–he was able to keep the Yankees in the game by making put-away pitches and getting ground ball double plays when he needed them most. It also helped that both Derek Jeter and Solarte, who is quickly garnering buzz early on, each produced timely RBI hits with two outs, Jeter in the fifth and Solarte in the seventh.
By far the most promising game of the young season was their first game in Toronto Friday night. It was Tanaka’s much-anticipated first start, and he did not disappoint. The Yankees jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first, thanks to RBI singles by Carlos Beltran and Teixeira. However, for the fourth straight game, a Yankee pitcher surrendered a run in the first inning when Tanaka served up a home run to former Yankee Melky Cabrera.
Tanaka would give up two more runs in the second, but settled down to pitch five subsequent scoreless innings. He was also the beneficiary of prolific Yankee offense to the tune of seven runs and sixteen hits, including a 3-for-4 night by Jacoby Ellsbury and three RBIs from Solarte. The only downer Friday night was the fact that Teixeira was pulled from the game with a hamstring injury and landed on the 15-day disabled list.
Saturday was Pineda’s debut start as a Yankee, and he couldn’t have pitched much better. He hurled six innings, gave up five hits and a run, and fanned five. He also exhibited his trademark control by not walking a single batter, a feat not easily accomplished when throwing upwards of 95 miles per hour.
But the Yankee offense took a page from the 2013 book when they failed to score a single run despite having multiple opportunities, including identical openings to the sixth and eighth innings with Ellsbury singling and Jeter walking to follow. Offseason acquisitions Beltran and Brian McCann failed to produce when given RBI opportunities. Also disconcerting was reliever David Phelps’ performance in the bottom of the eighth. Pineda’s onetime competitor for the fifth spot served up two home runs, meaning he’s already given up three in only 3 1/3 innings pitched this season.
If the Yankees truly want to compete in a division where just about every team spent time during the offseason improving themselves, they will need to rectify some of the ailments that hurt them so much last year. New faces like Ellsbury and Solarte, as well as returning ones like Jeter, have a huge responsibility on their shoulders to provide that spark when the team needs it most.
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