Jobu presents his review of the Yankees 3-game series against the Anaheim Angels.
During the off-day on Thursday, I read a quote from Joe Girardi that said something along the lines of the season doesn’t start until you play one at Yankees stadium. After starting the season with six games on the road, the Yankees finally came home to open the season on Friday afternoon. Their opponents? A struggling (2-4 coming into the series), but very talented Anaheim Angels team. Albert Pujols would be playing his first game at Yankees Stadium as a member of the Angels. In the end, the Yankees took two out of three, and here’s how they did it.
Game 1: Yankees 5, Angels 0
Aside from being the home opener, this was a big game for one other reason. Hiroki Kuroda was making his Yankees Stadium debut after a not-so-inspiring performance in the second game of the year against Tampa Bay. Pitch well, and the fans forgive. Pitch poorly, and they might have booed him all season long. The Yankees also came into the game riding the momentum of a three game sweep in Baltimore (read our series review here), and the weather was perfect, so it really was a great day for a baseball game. And, at least as far as Yankees fans were concerned, it was a great game.
Early Offense: Swisher Style
In his last at bat of the third game against the Orioles, Nick Swisher hit a towering home run that eventually won the game. In his first at bat of the home opener, Swisher almost did it again. Instead of a 2-run homer, however, Swish hit a 3-run double, and that was basically all the Yankees needed. A-Rod added a solo homer in the 3rd (tying Ken Griffey, Jr. with 630 career homers), and Granderson scooped one over the fence in the 5th, and that was it. The Yankees ended up with 5 runs on 8 hits. Clearly, the big story of the day was not the offense…
Notable Offense: HR – Rodriguez (1), Granderson (2), RBI – Swisher 3 (9), Rodriguez (1), Granderson (4), 3 hits for Rodriguez, 2 for Swisher
Hiroki Earns His Stripes
The reason the Yankees didn’t need any offense after Swisher’s 3-run double in the first was because Kuroda was outstanding in his Yankees Stadium debut. He had said before the game that he was very nervous about his first Stadium start, but it never really showed. Things started out ever so shaky, when Erick Aybar led off the top of the first with a single. After an out, he stole 2nd. Kuroda got Pujols to just miss on a swing and hit a very high fly to right, and Kendrys Morales struck out, ending the threat.
Once Kuroda got the three-run lead, he settled in nicely. He had the Angels off balance all game long, and the only other time he was really in any trouble was in the top of the 5th, when the angels got two men on with two out. A ground out by Aybar ended the threat and that was that. In the end, Kuroda pitched 8 innings of 5 hit, 2 BB, 6K 0 run baseball on 104 pitches. Girardi sent him out to try to finish up the shutout, but a leadoff infield single by former Yankee Bobby Abreu signaled the end of Kuroda’s night. The Yankees faithful gave him a well-deserved rousing ovation as he walked off the field. David Robertson came in and induced a double play on his first pitch. A strike out of Morales later, and the home opener was over. Yankees win.
Game 2: Angels 7, Yankees 1
There really isn’t much to talk about in this game, as it was pretty damn ugly from the beginning. I must admit I didn’t watch this whole game. For one, every time I looked at the television, the Angels were hitting home runs. Secondly, I was at a friend’s 30th birthday party and the beer was flowing. While that really helped me not get too upset by the pounding the Yankees took, it also kept me from reporting accurately for you fans. Believe me, we didn’t miss much.
Phil Hughes Hates Me
Phil Hughes earned his spot in the rotation out of Spring Training because he pitched brilliantly. This led me to predict big things from the 25-year-old righty. Boy did he pull the wool over my eyes. After his first outing in Tampa, in which he threw 99 pitches in just 4.2 innings, I gave him the benefit of the doubt. After Saturday, I don’t know if I have any more benefits of doubts to give. To put it simply, Hughes got trounced.
This time, he only made it through 3.2 innings before exiting with 84 pitches and allowing 6 runs on 8 hits and 2 BBs. He gave up a 2-run home run to Chris Iannetta (a total Yankees Stadium cheapy), an RBI double to Albert Pujols, and a 3-run bomb to Howie Kendrick (God, I really hate him), before giving way to the bullpen in the top of the 4th. Hughes looked very, very hittable, and it was not what the Yankees were hoping for, or expecting. If there was a silver lining, it was that Hughes did have 6 Ks in his 3.2 innings. I guess we can take some positives away from that. He has to start being more efficient with his pitches. So far this season he has used 183 pitches to get through just 8.1 innings in two starts. If he can’t start bringing that down, he’s not long for this team, let alone the starting rotation.
A Star is Born?
As horrible and putrid as Hughes was, his ineptitude made it possible for David Phelps to really turn some heads in relief. The kid, who last impressed us with 2.1 innings against he Orioles last Tuesday, took the ball after Kendrick’s 3-run homer in the top of the 4th, and never looked back. He got the first four hitters he faced out before Vernon Wells touched him for a solo home run in the top of the 6th. That was it. And when I say that was it, I don’t mean they took him out. I mean that was it. In all, the kid pitched 5.1 innings of 1-hit, 1-run ball. He walked two, struck out 4 and threw 78 pitches. Very impressive.
This is why Phelps made the team. He’s supposed to be the guy that picks up the bullpen when the starter gets beat early. Phelps did that and more. His 5.1 innings kept everyone else in the bullpen fresh, and also started the murmurs (mostly in my own head) about just who should be starting every fifth day. I’m not saying Hughes should be taken out of the rotation now. He’s earned himself a couple of starts to get his stuff together. But, if he throws up a couple of more stinkers like he has been, it’s nice to know that Phelps is there (if Pineda or Pettitte suffer any setbacks). Very impressive outing for the rookie.
None really. C.J. Wilson really shut the Yankees down, and the Angels’ solid bullpen did more of the same. The Yankees squandered some scoring opportunities, but at the end of the day they just ran into an ace, pitching like an ace. Can’t fault them for that.
Notable Offense: RBI – Cano (1), 2 hits for Jeter, 10 LOB
Game 3: Yankees 11, Angels 5
With the Red Sox picking things up a bit in their series against the Tampa Bay Rays, a win on Sunday night against the Angels was probably pretty important. Tough to say the game was a “must win,” but it’s nice to show the league that you can take two out of three from one of the better on paper teams in the league. This one started out looking like a laugher in the Yankees favor, but it got a little hairy for a while there. In the end, the Yankees, to steal a line from former Georgetown Hoyas coaching legend John Thompson, “stomped they neck.”
Iván Nova Doesn’t Lose
Not losing is not always something that can be attributed to a pitcher’s skill or performance, but when you win 14 straight decisions, you’re doing something right. Iván Nova hasn’t lost since las June, and he didn’t lose on Sunday night. Like in his first start, Nova did not have his best stuff. He looked great early, striking out the side in the 2nd inning, but he definitely tired towards the end of his outing, and that kind of made things interesting in the middle innings before the Yankees put things away late in the game. Nova’s final line was 6 innings, allowing 4 runs on 8 hits and 2 BBs. He did strike out 8 guys in this one though, which is a good sign that he is challenging hitters. However, he did allow two home runs–which is the first time he’s ever given up multiple home runs in a game–and a lot of deep fly balls. I’d maybe prefer he get back to giving up all those ground balls like he did last year with less strikeouts, but a win is a win, and the kid is 2-0.
Houdini Escapes Again
David Robertson’s nickname in the Yankees clubhouse is Houdini, and he once again amazed us with his escapability in the top of the 7th inning. With an 8-4 lead, Girardi turned to his established formula and brought in Rafael Soriano. Soriano hadn’t thrown a lot lately so I don’t want to be too hard on him, but he was pretty terrible. Fonso walked the leadoff hitter (can’t have that) and that damn Howie Kendrick reached on a bunt single before Albert Pujols dropped a single into left to make it an 8-5 game. After a deep fly ball to Torii Hunter moved Kendrick to third, Vernon Wells lined sharply to A-Rod at third. Instead of getting out of the inning, Soriano walked Bobby Abreu on four pitches. Girardi brought out David Robertson for some heroics, and the righty responded accordingly, getting Mark Trumbo to fly out to right to end the threat. The Yankees ended up making it ugly again, but that fly ball was definitely the biggest out of the game.
Stomp They Neck
The Yankees didn’t really mess around with Jerome Williams. After a 123 bottom of the first, the Yankees pushed a run across in the bottom of the second, when Raúl Ibañez singled in Robinson Cano before Russell Martin grounded into a double play to end the inning. Ibañez came into this game hitting under .200, but he keeps getting big hits (more to come in a bit).
The Yankees offense really got it going in the bottom of the third, and Jerome Williams wouldn’t survive it. Gardner led off the inning with a tough walk, and moved to third on a double by Jeter. Curtis Granderson grounded to first to drive in Gardner, and the Yankees had retaken the lead at 2-1. A-Rod then singled to center to drive in Jeter and Robinson Cano walked to bring up Mark Teixeira. Now, this is when I’m pretty sure my television started playing tricks on me. I could have sworn I saw Teixeira lace a double to right field to score A-Rod, but that would mean Tex and A-Rod had both driven in a run in the same inning, which I’m pretty sure is inconceivable. I’ll suspend my disbelief and accept it, but if this keeps happening, I’m getting a new TV. Anyway, RBI man Nick Swisher then hit a sacrifice fly to left, the Yankees had a 5-1 lead, and that was that for Mr. Williams.
In the bottom of the fourth, the Yankees had some more fun, this time at the expense of Angels reliever Hisanori Takahashi. Russell Martin led off the inning with a walk (always a killer) and Brett Gardner singled him to second, which brought up the Captain. Captain Jeets hit his typical home run to right field on an inside pitch, and the Yankees led 3-0. Who’s hitting the ball better than Old Man Jeter? Remember when he was done in the first half last year? He’s hitting over .330 since his 3,000th hit, so maybe he’s got a little gas left in the tank yet, huh?
After Nova and Soriano brought the Angels back within three runs, the Yankees offense went back to work. The bottom of the 7th started out innocently enough, with a grounder by A-Rod, a walk to Cano and strikeout of Tex. That’s when things picked up a bit. Swisher singled in Cano for his 11th RBI of the year (Cano had stolen 2nd on the Tex strikeout), which brought up Raúl Ibañez. The oldest player on the team became just the third player to homer into the upper deck at the new stadium, mashing a 415 footer to right. Replays showed Angels right fielder Torii Hunter saying “wow” after the ball landed. It was now 11-5 Yankees, which is how it ended. The Yankees offense had by far its best game, scoring early to take a big lead and tacking on some late-inning demoralizers when things got close again. Great performance.
Notable Offense: HR – Jeter (2), Ibañez (2), RBI – Jeter 3 (6), Granderson (5), Rodriguez (2), Teixeira (2), Swisher 2 (11), Ibañez 3 (9), SB – Teixeira (1), Cano (1), 2 hits for Jeter, Cano, Teixeira and Ibañez
As I mentioned earlier, this was an important series for the Yankees to win. After getting swept by the Rays and sweeping the lowly Baltimore Orioles, the Yanks needed to prove that they could beat a contender. They did just that, taking two out of three from a very good Angels ballclub (assuming they fix their bullpen). Offensively, the Yankees were pretty on point all series, except for game two when they ran into C.J. Wilson. Wilson has silenced many bats in his career, so I can’t be too upset at that. In game three, the offense finally showed its full potency, and even got some clutch hits (5-12 with RISP)!
Minus the worrisome outing by Phil Hughes, the pitching was pretty solid in the series too. Kuroda was outstanding on Friday and Nova put in another solid performance on Sunday night. The bullpen was very good overall, highlighted by David Phelps’ 5.1 innings of 1-hit ball on Saturday afternoon. The Angels always play the Yankees tough, so we couldn’t really expect a sweep. We got two out of three, which ain’t so bad.
Next up? The Minnesota Twins. I’ll be at the game on Thursday night, so I’m not sure how I’m going to post my series review on Friday, but I hope you guys don’t kill me if it’s a day late.
Featured image courtesy of: Tom Klinger/Jobu’s Rum
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