In each of the first two series to start the season, the Yankees have only come away with a win in the final game. For the next four days in Cleveland, they will battle the Indians with the hopes of winning more than just one game.
The Indians are coming off an offensive outburst yesterday as they hit five homeruns and scored 13 runs in Tampa. Having faced both the Rays and Blue Jays in the first six games of the season, Cleveland is 3-3 and deeply entrenched in the AL East. The line-up transformation for the Indians took place this off-season with the additions of Michael Bourn, Mark Reynolds, Drew Stubbs and of course former Yankee, Nick Swisher.
Having upgraded the offense with both power and speed, the Indians have the talent up and down the line-up to beat teams with their bats every day. With the new additions and the core of Asbrubal Cabrera, Carlos Santana and Jason Kipnis the Cleveland offense will show vast signs of improvement this season. In the first week of the season the Indians offense ranks 11th in runs scored and ninth in homeruns across all Major League Baseball. Those numbers even included two games in Tampa where they were shut out.
Yankee pitchers will have their hands full trying to get through the Indians line up in each of the four games this week. First try goes to Hiroki Kuroda who gets the start Monday as he looks to rebound from his early exit in his first start against Boston. Kuroda left the game in the second inning after a comeback line drive grazed his finger and forced him to leave the game. Before that, he had given up two runs on four hits. Fortunately for him, and the Yankees, he is able to make this start and not miss any time. Andy Pettitte will take the mound on Tuesday after throwing an outstanding eight innings of one run baseball against Boston last week. Ivan Nova and Phil Hughes will take the mound for the last two games in the series as they both look to improve on their control of the count as both men threw way too many pitches in their last starts. Nova clocked in with 96 pitches in 4.2 innings, and Hughes registered 87 in 4.0 innings.
As much as the Yankees need their pitching staff to take control of the game, the batters need to improve as the team has struggled in the first six games. The Yankees rank 19th in runs scored, 16th in homeruns and 19th in team average. Right now with all the major injuries on this team, the offense revolves around Robinson Cano. After Cano’s MVP performance in the World Baseball Classic, Yankee fans thought his hot bat would carry right over to his at-bats in the pinstripes, however that is far from the case. Through six games, Cano is an ice cold 3-23 at the plate with no homeruns and no RBI. His bat needs to get hot for the wins to start coming in bunches as we wait for the reinforcements to arrive. It has been nice to see the role players coming up in big spots with the stars struggling and hurt. Francisco Cervelli is batting .308 with a homerun and five RBI and Vernon Wells is hitting .294 with two homeruns and four RBI.
As Cano and the rest of the line up try to hit their stride, they will take their hacks this week against the likes of Ubaldo Jimenez, Carlos Carrasco, Brett Myers and Chris McAllister. This is a staff that the Yankees could take advantage of as there is no overpowering stuff from any starter the Indians can put on the mound. Two of the three wins to Cleveland’s record have come from Justin Masterson (who the Yankees will not see this series); in their three losses they have given up 20 runs. If the Yankees want their bats to wake up, this is the series to get going.
Seeing the Yankees bats heat up would be a welcome sign for everyone, but the pitching needs to be there as well, especially against the talented line up Cleveland will bring to the plate. The combination of both the pitching and hitting has never been more important to the Yankees success then early this season. The broken-record talk about the injuries is something the team can’t lean back on and have in their pocket and think things will be okay when the stars come back. The team that takes the field every day is still capable of beating teams, but it has to be done differently then in the past. We can no longer wait for the home run to take us to victory, runs need to be manufactured and valued in every aspect of the game.
This week is the time for these new Yankees to show their stripes and take the field in Cleveland and start putting together some wins. I expect to see some very good games between these teams as old rival Terry Francona has this Indians team believing they have what it takes to win.
Tune into the games starting today at 4:05, whether you watch on TV, listen on the radio or follow on your computer at work; it is time for some Yankees baseball!