Photo Credit: Bill Kostroun, NY Post
Resume now includes 250 wins and 3,000 strikeouts…
Many of us fans were getting discouraged with the June Yankees after the May Yankees had made baseball fun again, but it’s funny how a nice little five-game win streak quickly changes one’s perspective. I was a little late tuning into yesterday’s series finale against the Tampa Bay Rays, and it was already 6-0 in the first inning and the Rays were on their second pitcher after AL Cy Young winner Blake Snell had been pulled after one out and 39 pitches. Yikes! That’s the Yankee Juggernaut this team is capable of.
Congratulations to CC Sabathia for the achievement of his 250th Major League victory with the 12-1 win. I know it took a few tries and CC was more worried about getting the Yankees their 46th win this year than the 250th of his career, but it’s an amazing achievement for the big guy from Vallejo, California. With a career record of 250-157, 3.71 ERA, and 3,043 strikeouts, he seems like a shoo-in for Baseball’s Hall of Fame. As an eleven-year member of the team, it seems natural that he should go into the Hall as a Yankee despite his early years in Cleveland. I suspect in five years, CC will need to make travel arrangements for Cooperstown, New York. He’s been a great Yankee.
The sweep of the Tampa Bay Rays couldn’t have come at a better time. Entering the series, the Yankees held a slim ½ game lead over the Rays and had been scuffling for a few series until they finally won the last two games of the four-game set in Chicago with the White Sox to earn a split. Now, three days later, the Yankees have a more comfortable 3 ½ game margin on the Rays and barring another tailspin should enter the month of the July atop the AL East Standings.
Now the challenging part. The Houston Astros are in the Bronx for a four-game series starting this evening. Yes, the Cincinnati Reds just swept the Astros and Houston is on a four-game losing streak but they still have the second-best record in the American League behind the Minnesota Twins at 48-27 (two wins more than the Yankees but the same number of losses). Regardless of what happened in Cincinnati, playing in Yankee Stadium will energize the Astros and it will almost certainly be a playoff-like atmosphere. I expect it to be a very tough series, more challenging than the last three days. Not taking anything away from the Rays, they are a very good team, but in my mind, the Astros, who many predict to advance to the World Series this year, are the team to beat. They are boosted by the return of second baseman Jose Altuve who was activated off the IL yesterday. Similarly, the Yankees benefit from the returns of Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge (the latter played his last rehab game for the RailRiders last night and should be activated for Friday night’s game). It feels like the Yankees are catching the Astros at the right time, and I am glad the series is in New York and not Houston. If the Yankees continue to get the pitching performances they’ve seen the last few games, I like the Yankees’ chances of taking at least three of four from the Astros. After getting swept in Houston earlier this season, it would be fun if the Yankees could return the favor.
The pitching matchups are set:
Thursday: Houston’s Framber Valdez (3-2, 2.77 ERA) vs Chad Green, Opener (1-2, 7.54 ERA) who will most likely be followed by Nestor Cortes Jr (1-0, 3.79 ERA).
Friday: Houston’s Brad Peacock (6-4, 3.67 ERA) vs James Paxton (4-3, 3.93 ERA)
Saturday: Houston’s Wade Miley (6-4, 3.30 ERA) vs Masahiro Tanaka (5-5, 3.23 ERA)
Sunday: Houston’s Justin Verlander (9-3, 2.59 ERA) vs J.A. Happ (7-3, 4.59 ERA)
I am kind of glad the Yankees will be missing future Yank Gerrit Cole this series. I think the only matchup that truly concerns me is Verlander-Happ. Hopefully Happ can go toe-to-toe (or maybe I should say arm-to-arm) with Verlander with the Yankees’ offense providing the difference.
The Cameron Maybin decision. I agree with those who say the best course of action after tonight’s game is to option Cortes Jr to Triple A to clear a spot on the 25-man roster for Aaron Judge. If Cortes Jr can pitch at least five innings tonight, he won’t be ready to pitch again for five days so it buys more time for Maybin on the Yankees roster. Sadly, if Aaron Hicks, Giancarlo Stanton, and Aaron Judge stay healthy, I do not see room on the roster for Maybin. It sucks because I think he’s been a fantastic addition and he fits so well into the clubhouse, but inevitably, the Yankees will need his roster spot. Brett Gardner will provide the necessary outfield insurance so at that point, Maybin becomes a redundant part and one not likely to play much. Hopefully Brian Cashman can work his magic and get a little something for Maybin rather than just lose him on waivers. Of course, an injury could change this in a heartbeat. I do not wish injury upon anyone, but I am in favor of buying as much time with Maybin as we possibly can before the inevitable guillotine falls. That’s why I feel the Yankees should drop to a 12-man pitching staff at least temporarily.
I really do not get the adverse reaction Giancarlo Stanton has gotten from Yankee fans. I feel it is unrealistic to expect players who have missed so much time to immediately hit to normal standards. Recapturing one’s timing is a process. Facing Triple-A pitchers is not the same as MLB pitching. Stanton missed 68 games until he was activated earlier this week. I had absolutely no problem with Aaron Boone’s decision to rest Stanton yesterday. If Boone wants to take his time working Stanton back into form, he certainly knows more about the situation (where Stanton is physically and mentally) and it’s his right to make those decisions. I know Stanton will eventually hit and I am not going to get on him for every strikeout until it happens. He deserves our patience and support, not our abuse. I am glad Giancarlo Stanton is a Yankee and if the Yankees win the World Series this year, I have no doubts Stanton will be a huge reason why. If you choose to boo him, I don’t consider you to be real fans anyway.
The Yankees had a couple of minor league transactions of note yesterday. Pitchers Drew Hutchison and Danny Farquhar were released. I never really expected Hutchison to last in the organization. He wasn’t going to get a chance at the Big League level and apparently he had an opt-out in his minor league contract. There was a time when I thought the one-time Blue Jay had potential but that time passed years ago. Farquhar is the sadder story. After his life-threatening brain aneurysm with the Chicago White Sox last year, he was the feel-good story of the Spring as he attempted his comeback with the Yankees. While I didn’t think he’d crack the Yankees’ vaunted bullpen, there was a part of me that kind of hoped he would. I wish him nothing but the best as he continues his journey back to the Major Leagues. I hope he has better luck with his next organization and I look forward to the day he stands on a Major League mound again.
Lastly, a quick note on the starting pitching speculations for our favorite team. As much as I would love to have Max Scherzer and there’s probably no untouchable prospects to get him (in my mind), he will never be a Yankee. Primarily, I don’t think the Washington Nationals will trade him. They’ve won 16 of 23 games and are only 4 games out in the NL Wild Card hunt. Sure, much can happen between now and July 31st, but I don’t see the Nationals in seller’s mode (at least not as far as Scherzer is concerned). But even if the Nats were willing to trade him, I honestly do not feel the Yankees would take the contract, even if Washington was willing to include a few dollars in the deal. I know Hal Steinbrenner is on record saying that he’d be willing to surpass the highest luxury tax threshold if necessary to improve pitching but what he says and what he does are often two different things. There always seems to be the eye on the bottom line and truthfully Scherzer is probably the only pitcher worth paying the highest tax but I don’t see it happening. I guess you can never say never, but as much as I like Max Scherzer, I don’t think we’ll ever see him calling Yankee Stadium home.
As always, Go Yankees!