The Rangers Ballpark in Arlington (or whatever it is called now, really who can keep track anymore) hasn't been particularly kind to the New York Yankees in recent years. Actually if you want to take it a step further, the state of Texas hasn't exactly been the bearer of good news for the Yankee franchise either.
Sure Texas and New York aren't very similar. NY is a blue state, Texas is red. NYers likes giant apples, Texans like cacti. NY has snowflakes fall from the sky every winter, Texas has practice facilities (too soon? I'm sure there is also a Plaxico Burress-Gun joke that could have been made here, but lets just move on). Either way, that doesn't mean the state of Texas has to unleash a wrath of negative karma upon the Yankees and their fans every time they make the 1,500 mile hike south. Allow me to recap:
2003: The Houston Astros swoop in and steal Andy Pettitte from the Yankees for $30 million dollars (reportedly $10 million less than what the Yankees offered). This was a great coup by Houston, helping them to solidify their rotation behind staff ace Roy Oswalt. It also left the Yankees without their best lefty pitcher since Ron Guidry (or you could even argue Whitey Ford), and helped lead to the acquisition of Kevin Brown, which thus contributed to the collapse to the Boston Redsox in the 2004 ALCS.
2004: The Houston Astros convince recently retired Brett Favr…er Roger Clemens to join their rotation. This wasn't really a shock to anyone that followed Clemens and his ego closely, but still it was hard to watch Javier Vasquez blow chunks in October while Clemens was pitching effectively in Houston.
2007: Rookie pitcher Phil Hughes, while just 8 outs from a no hitter in only his second career major league start, pops his hamstring upon delivering a curveball to Mark Teixeira, thus ending his no hit bid and some very important development time. Hughes is just now getting over the effects of that injury, a mere 2 years later.
June 2008: Yankee ace Chien Ming Wang injures his foot while rounding the bases in an interleague game at Minute Maid Park. Wang would go on to have surgery to repair his torn longus tendon and sprained Lisfranc tendon, however despite the OK from doctors that he's 100% healthy, Wang still hasn't been able to regain his pre injury form. As a result from either sloppy mechanics or lack of confidence, Wang was tattooed in his first 3 starts in 2009 and is now pitching out of the bullpen.
August 2008: Rookie phenom (notice a trend here) Joba Chamberlain leaves a game in the early innings due to an apparent shoulder injury. The injury was later revealed to be just shoulder tendonitis, but it cost Joba the entire month of August, which basically was the final nail in the Yankees 2008 season. Once Joba was removed from the rotation, he was replaced by Sidney Ponson on a full-time basis, and Joba was reinserted back into the bullpen, which allowed that silly debate to continue for yet another offseason.
So after reading that, you'd have to understand why I was a little concerned when the Yankees ventured into Arlington on Monday. Even more so when the schedule revealed that both Hughes and Joba were to pitch games 1 & 2 of the three game series. I mean, the Gods of Texas couldn't be that cruel, could they? Not only was there the fear of injury lurking around every corner or after every pitch, but also for the first time since the Clinton Administration, the Texas Rangers were a very dangerous, and very good baseball team. Not only could they hit, which has always been their trademark thanks to batting genius Rudy Jaramillo, but they were now a good defensive ballclub thanks to players like Ian Kinsler and rookie Elvis Andrus up the middle and they had some decent young pitching too.
Yet three days later I am able to breathe easy again, as not only did the Yankees take 2 out of 3, but they managed to leave Texas without any crippling injuries. Granted Melky Cabrera is likely out 5-7 days after crashing into the wall in the first inning of Game 2, however there has been no indication from the team that this will be a long term injury. Also Brett Gardner has been playing better as of late, so he should be able to pick up the slack in Melky's absence. Not to mention Jorge Posada is likely to be activated from the DL on Friday, thus adding another power bat to the Yankee lineup.
There was some good and some bad which can be taken out of this series also. The good was seeing Phil Hughes go 8 shutout innings on Monday, allowing only 3 hits, 1 walk and 6 strikeouts, in what was probably his best start ever as a Yankee. Also we finally saw AJ Burnett win a game, his first for the month of May. Alex Rodriguez went 5 for 5 on Monday, a statement which screamed out “I am not Dave Kingman”. And of course the cherry on top was Chien Ming Wang pitching 2 shutout innings to close out last nights game. His velocity was still hovering around 90-92 mph, which is about 3 mph slower than where he was last year, however his movement was much better and he showed good command by keeping the ball down in the zone. As Herm Edwards would say, “WE CAN BUILD ON THIS!” Most importantly though, the Yankees won the series and pulled even with Boston for first place in the AL East.
The bad, well there wasn't a lot, but Nick Swisher continued to struggle with the bat, although he had 3 RBI in Monday's game. Joba wasn't particularly sharp in his outing, and his velocity was also down. Perhaps that was a result of the one hour rain delay or maybe his knee is still bothering him after taking a liner off the bat of Adam Jones last Thursday. He wasn't hit hard by the Rangers, but Joba was forced out of the game after only 4 innings due to a high pitch count. So maybe the Texas curse is over, or at least it was put on the backburner for this week. Either way, the Yankees continue to play some excellent baseball, and one can only hope it continues as they now venture into Cleveland. Despite the Tribe's record, they have been playing much better as of late, and Cliff Lee and Fausto Carmona have always given the Yankees headaches in the past. Then there is the whole issue with that Pavano guy…..
I'll be back as soon as I can with a Yankee Bulletin board update, which will detail all the odds and ends surrounding this team. Be sure to check it out. Questions or comments can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org. Later!
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Written by Joseph Gallo