This weekend, the Yankees and Rangers meet for the second of three times this season — this is the Bombers’ only trip to Texas — with nearly identical pitching match-ups as the two teams’ first three-game set.
The Rangers enter this series with perhaps slightly less swagger than they did the Bronx three weeks ago, as the team has cooled off considerably since its 9-1 start. While the Rangers remain a very good team, it’s no surprise that they’ve returned to earth to an extent, given the otherwordly performances they’d received from their starters through the first two weeks of the season.
As expected, both the rotation and the bullpen have undergone considerable regression, with the starters falling from a collective 2.45 ERA/3.41 FIP on April 16 to 3.94/4.39 as of the morning of May 4, while the relief corps have dropped from a 2.76 ERA/4.46 FIP to a 4.03 ERA/4.74 FIP. While we knew the Rangers were in for a regression, that’s a pretty steep fall, and partially explains why Texas gone 6-9 since leaving the Bronx (again, through the morning of May 4).
However, despite the continuing absence of Josh Hamilton, the offense has still more or less held up its end of the bargain. While it was mashing to a .360 wOBA as it entered the Bronx, it’s dipped a bit to .346, which is still excellent. Michael Young, Elvis Andrus and Ian Kinsler have led the charge for the Rangers the last two weeks, and you can be sure that Young will pick up at least 300 hits against the Yankees this weekend.
For their part, the Yankees haven’t exactly been tearing the cover off the ball of late, coming off another wretched four-game set in Detroit in which they dropped the final three games (seriously, what is it about the Yankees and Comerica Park? They’re 7-11 in Detroit since 2007, not to mention 0-2 in the postseason). For whatever reason, the offense has apparently fallen into a coma, averaging a very un-Yankee-like 3.3 runs per game over its last seven contests. You can tip your hat all you want to the pitchers they’ve faced, but there’s no getting around the fact that the Yankee bats have looked straight up ugly of late. Perhaps one thing the Yankees have going in their favor is that, not only are they due to start plating runs with authority again, but in heading to the Ballpark in Arlington they’ll be going from the third-most offense-stifling park in the American League (only Tampa and Angel Stadium, of all places, have been tougher to score at than Comerica) to playing three-games in the friendliest run environment MLB has to offer thus far in 2011.
Tonight’s game features a rematch of Ivan Nova (5.14 ERA/4.04 FIP/4.97 xFIP) and Matt Harrison (4.59 ERA/4.53 FIP/4.21 xFIP). As you’ll recall, last time Nova’s control issues resulted in a rather poor start on his end, while Harrison was the beneficiary of approximately 8,000 double plays. Harrison’s fallen back to earth and then some of late — as per MLB.com, “Harrison went 3-0 with a 1.29 ERA in his first three starts but is 0-3 with an 11.12 ERA in his last three. He has allowed eight runs in the first innings of his last two starts.” With the Yankees’ penchant for scoring early, hopefully they can take advantage. As for Nova, he’ll look to continue his better pitching of late.
On Saturday night, Bartolo Colon (3.00 ERA/3.18 FIP/2.68 xFIP) looks to continue his mighty impressive run against Derek Holland (4.66 ERA/3.72 FIP/3.47 xFIP). Holland pitched well against the Yankees last time, but was left in perhaps a batter or two too long, and wound up suffering the loss. Holland’s been the Rangers’ best non-C.J. Wilson starter, and should represent a formidable challenge once again.
The finale once again pits CC Sabathia (2.68 ERA/2.69 FIP/3.24 xFIP) against Alexi Ogando (2.17 ERA/4.22 FIP/4.06 xFIP). Ogando looked great against the Yankees early last time out before they finally caught on to the fact that he only throws two pitches. For his part, Sabathia pitched well against the Rangers save Adrian Beltre and Michael Young, who together accounted for all five Texas runs in the game. Hopefully Sabathia has a new trick or two to deploy against those two in this contest. I’ll always pick a Sabathia win each and every time he starts, although for one reason or another the Yankees have really struggled to pick up victories in the big man’s outings this year.
In any event, this should be another tightly contested matchup between two of the AL’s best teams. I think the Yankees are due to break through against Harrison, especially after their embarrassing loss, and if Colon can keep up his magic, Saturday’s game is a winnable one as well. While I won’t be so bold as to call for a sweep, I think the pitching match-ups favor the Yankees this weekend and I’d expect them to take two out of three. As an aside, the Yankees have yet to win a game on a Friday, so that bizarre bit of randomness is bound to change soon enough.
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