Thursday, September 3, 2009

Yanks use consecutive sweeps to push lead over Boston back to 7.5 games

The Yankees needed to bounce back from the Texas series in the worst way, and the white-flag-waving White Sox (now four games under .500, seven games back in the AL Central, and waiving veteran players) and hapless Orioles were the perfect remedy for what was ailing New York.

The Yankees scored more than five runs in every game of the series and allowed more than three just once. This stretch could have turned out differently if not for Robinson Cano, who came through in the 10th inning of game one against Chicago with a walk-off three-run home run, adding to the long list of Yankee walk-off wins this season.

Sergio Mitre was uncharacteristically lights-out in game two, holding the Sox to just one hit and no earned runs in 6.1 innings of work before leaving with a bruised forearm, by far his best outing since joining the Yankees rotation in late July. As great as it was to see Mitre pitch well, just as encouraging was the fact that Chad Gaudin didn't allow a hit over the final 2.2 innings in the 10-0 romp.

Joba Chamberlain had an extra short leash in game three, throwing just 35 pitches in three innings and allowing two earned runs. Alfredo Aceves followed up with three big scoreless innings for the Yankees, who are doing everything they can to protect Joba at this point.

If they aren't going to honestly let him throw more than 40 pitches in a game, why bother starting him? As Derek Jeter said afterwards it's a good thing the team is winning, because if they weren't this would be a much bigger issue.

After Mitre dazzled with his one-hitter against the White Sox, Andy Pettitte tried to one-up him in the opener at Camden Yards. Pettitte took a perfect game into the seventh, where a two-out error by Jerry Hairston Jr. on a routine ground ball to third broke it up. Nick Markakis then slapped a ground ball past Hairston down the left field line to end the no-hitter.

Hairston was only playing because it was Alex Rodriguez's day off for the week, and it's safe to say A-Rod would have made that play. But Pettitte pitched great regardless and moved into third on the Yankees all-time wins list all by his lonesome, passing Lefty Grove.

A.J. Burnett had a much different experience in the second game of the series, allowing 11 hits and six earned runs in five-plus innings. There continue to be communication issues between Burnett and catcher Jorge Posada, but Posada proved why he's behind the plate more often than not with his two home-run, three RBI day.

After getting shelled by Boston and striking out 12 Rangers in six innings in his next outing, Burnett went back to his recent inconsistent ways. With all the uncertainty around Joba's availability right now, the Yankees need to find a way to get Burnett's confidence back. If that means catching Jose Molina and using Posada as a DH to keep his bat in the lineup, so be it. I think this offense can afford being without Hideki Matsui once a week if it helps foster a good outing from Burnett.

While Burnett's recent stretch has many Yankee fans scratching their heads over the money the Yankees threw at him in the off-season, very few are questioning bringing in C.C. Sabathia, who continues to be a horse for New York. He capped the Yankee sweep by allowing just seven hits and one earned run in seven innings with nine strikeouts.

For the fourth straight start, Sabathia walked one batter or less and he hasn't walked more than two batters in a game since the middle of July. He still needs to prove himself in the postseason, but in moving to 16-7 on the season, he has been well worth the Yankees' investment up to this point.

After struggling against a real contender in Texas, the Yankees were able to bounce back against two teams who can't seem to find themselves right now. When they travel to Toronto tonight for a four-game set with the Blue Jays, they will find more of the same.

This time around they won't avoid Roy Halladay, who is slated to start Friday. Halladay has been hittable recently, however, allowing 22 earned runs in 42 August innings. Expect the Yankees to take at least three of four from Toronto heading into next week's series at home against the Rays, which includes a day-night doubleheader on Monday. That series should be a good barometer of where the Yankees stand right now against a legitimate playoff contender.

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