Minnesota Twins (42-38) @ New York Yankees (37-41)
The Twins finished June strong, going 13-6 before starting off July with a frustrating 1-0 loss to the Tigers on Sunday night. The Yankees, on the other hand, started off strong in June, going 13-2 before losing 9 of their last 11 games including 2 of 3 to Oakland this weekend to start off their current 10 game homestand. The Yankees will host the Angels following the Twins series leading into the All-Star break. The Yankees slide has put them 11 games back of the Red Sox, in third place in the division. They have struggled on the road, but are a respectable 21-16 at Yankee Stadium. The Twins come into the Bronx with a 20-18 record on the road. The Twins also have an odd statistic of losing or splitting 8 of 9 of the first three series of each month this season (the only series win coming with the sweep of Baltimore in the season opener).
All-Star Trivia: If Pat Neshek were to win the Final Vote and be named to the All-Star team, he would be a rarity in that he would be named as a relief pitcher who isn’t a closer (38 appearances, 0 saves). Who was the last relief pitcher to be named to the All-Star team without recording a save through the All-Star break in that season? (hint: it’s not Fransisco Liriano in ’06, who had 12 relief appearances but recorded 1 save)
The Yankees recent swoon (and large divisional deficit) has caused a lot of Yankee fans to pack it in for this season. Others are trying to justify their continued attention, or put the season into some kind of context. Still others are turning their attention to the other teams in the league, trying to combat the commonly held misconception that New Yorkers only care about New York. Here’s one Yankee fan’s look at the rest of the big leagues.
Many frustrated Yankee fans are pointing the finger at Torre and Cashman. Cashman is no doubt trying to acquire the best pieces out there for the Yankees. Although, he’s not so busy that he has forgotten about his adoring fans. According to his diary, Steinbrenner is dreaming of firing Torre, while at the same time plotting his revenge on those who cast the “Bronx is Burning” series on ESPN. As far as replacements for Torre, why not Billy Joel?
There were a couple of recurring items that were brought up in my searches as causes for the Yankee struggles. Both first base and the outfield have struggled offensively. With Doug Mientkiewicz’s injury, a surprising number of replacements have been auditioned at the first base position. Giambi, never the best option in the field, is dealing with a torn plantar fascia. Even Jorge Posada got a turn at first. Of course, these being the Yankees, there is always the option of acquiring a replacement from outside the organization. In the outfield, Johnny Damon has been injured, but not enough to go on the DL, so he continues to struggle trying to play through the pain. At some point, enough is enough, NoMaas has put together the following campaign poster for the good of the Yankees outfield.
Pitching matchups for this four game set include Boof Bonser taking on Roger Clemens on Monday, who’s much ballyhooed return began with a victory in his first start, but has since not been very productive (0-3, 5.40 ERA, 1.56 WHIP in 3 starts).
Tuesday brings Carlos Silva against Chien-Ming Wang (7-4, 3.86 ERA). Wang didn’t get a loss in June, going 4-0 over 6 starts. However, in his last two starts he earned two no-decisions while giving up 10 runs.
Johan Santana will face Mike Mussina (4-5, 4.63 ERA) on Wednesday. Mussina made an abbreviated start against the Twins in April but left after two innings and ended up on the DL. Recently, Mussina has been effective, not allowing more than 3 runs in any of his last 5 starts.
The finale on Thursday will pit Kevin Slowey against Kei Igawa. Igawa was sent to the minors for most of May and June, since his recall, he has made two starts, posting an ERA of 4.91 and a WHIP of 1.45.
Not many links in the starting pitching section of this preview. That’s because all the action is in the bullpen. Kyle Farnsworth attracted some attention when he threw a tantrum after being unable to finish an inning recently. His lack of success thus far (ERA over 6 in his last 10 appearances) in 2007 hasn’t earned him much tolerance in the Yankee blogging community. Adding to the insanity is the fact that Scott Proctor is perhaps misunderstanding the bullpen’s role of “putting out fires“. This, of course, comes after another outing that does nothing to inspire confidence in Yankees fans.
Finally, this would probably fit better in AMR’s Mugshot Purgatory, but I found it too late last night to pass it on. Ten of the remaining sixteen contestants in the Mustache Madness bracket are former Yankees (Sal Fasano sighting!). That is a long and storied mustachioed tradition that Yankee fans should certainly be proud of.