Normally, a field full of Mariano Riveras would be a Yankees fan’s dream, but on a night when baseball honored Jackie Robinson by having every player wear number 42, the team’s series opener against the Texas Rangers turned out to be a nightmare.
Uniform numbers weren’t the only thing that had the Yankees seeing double. The team also tied an American League record by hitting into six double plays. Each time the Yankees seemed poised to break through against Matt Harrison, he was able to induce a groundball and escape the jam. Over eight innings, Harrison limited the Bronx Bombers to only two runs, pushing his record to 3-0 and lowering his ERA to 1.23. In his three starts this season, the lefty has thrown at least seven innings and surrendering only one earned run each time.
Strong pitching has been a hallmark of the Rangers’ early success. Not only does the Texas staff lead the majors with a 2.50 ERA, but the rotation has turned in nine quality starts in 13 attempts. The Yankees, however, haven’t been as fortunate. In the team’s first 12 games, only one starter has thrown as many as seven innings, while five games have featured a starter who was unable to go more than five. As a result, the Yankees rank near the bottom of the league with only four quality starts.
On a day when the Yankees put Phil Hughes on the 15 day DL with a “dead arm”, Ivan Nova compounded the Yankees’ starting rotation concerns by failing to make it out of the fifth inning for the second consecutive start. In fairness to Nova, the weather was miserable at the Stadium, which might explain why the lanky right hander struggled so much with his fastball command. Whatever the reason, Nova walked a career high five batters before taking an early shower.
Ivan Nova, Inning by Inning
|5th inning||10||7 2/3||14||16.43||48||1.206|
|6th inning||5||3 2/3||2||4.91||17||0.828|
Note: OPS does not include last night’s game.
Although Nova wasn’t hit hard, his continued inability to pitch deep into games has to be a concern. In particular, the fifth inning has proven to be a major obstacle for the young right hander. Including the three runs surrendered in last night’s game, Nova now has a 16.43 ERA in the fifth inning. Considering he is now essentially the team’s third starter, the Yankees will need Nova to learn how to navigate the middle innings.
Amid the frustration of all the double plays and another poor start, the Yankees’ bullpen provided the lone bright spot. In total, the bullpen tossed 4 2/3 hitless innings, including three perfect frames by recently promoted Lance Pendleton, who was making his major league debut. In the ninth inning, the Yankees were almost able to reward Pendleton’s sterling effort with a win when Russell Martin came to the plate as the go ahead run, but instead, the 27-year old righty was forced to settle for a job well done.