The Yankees rallied, down 5-0, to tied the score against the Blue Jays last night, but Sterling Hitchcock and the bullpen could not hold the lead and Toronto beat the Bombers for the first time this season, 7-6. The temperature dropped over 25 degrees from the opening pitch to the 9th inning, and the winds were swirling wildly. David Wells started and was not sharp. The fatal blow came when he hung a breaking ball to Carlos Delgado, who smacked a 3-run dinger with practically one arm. (Yikes, that man is stong.)
Just how bad is the Yankees bullpen, and how much should Yankee fans be worried about it? It's piss poor, and with a tough schedule ahead, I would say it's time to start getting a bit nervous. After today's game, the Yanks go out west, and play four against the Twins, followed by 3 against the World Champs, and then 3 in Texas. They return home to host Seattle and Oakland, before going back out west to play the same two teams again. After that, Anahiem comes to the Bronx, followed by Texas. Then the Bombers travel to Beantown for 3, and finally, return home for 4 games against the Jays and then 3 vs. the Sox. All in all, it is the roughest stretch of the year for them. Mariano Rivera will likely be ready by the time the Yanks face Seattle, and believe me, they are going to need him:
Osuna, Hitchcock, Acevedo, Anderson, Contreras and Hammond; there may not be a bullpen of less accomplishment than that anywhere in baseball. Yes, some of those guys had random good years in 2002, but the ones who did are old--the caliber of reliever that regularly floats from good run to bad run, 70 innings at a time. The absolute talent level in the Yankee bullpen is about as low as there is in the game, and if you took these guys out of pinstripes and put them in Brewer blue or D-Ray green, they'd be just another punchline.
The pressure is going to be on the starting pitching and the offense to break even or better during this stretch. It will be interesting to see how the Yankees fair against the league's elite teams with their patch-work bullpen. But I fear it could get ugly.
On a lighter note, Jason Giambi put together an impressive at-bat against his boyhood pal, Corey Lidle, smacking a 2-RBI double on a full-count pitch, as the Yankees rallied to tie the game. Giambi, who has more walks (14) than hits (11), has clearly struggled at the plate; he looked uptight and irritated with himself on the bench last night:
"The interesting thing is, I've never seen a hitter like him walk like he does," Manager Joe Torre said. "A lot of power hitters, when they get to two strikes, end up striking out a lot. He gets to two strikes and walks a lot. That's a credit to him; he's not changing his approach."
..."I'm not punching out," Giambi said, referring to his strikeout total. "I'm taking my walks. That's what you've got to do until everything comes into place. The most important thing is we're winning ballgames. I'm hitting the ball, I'm just not getting a lot of hits."
Just like last year, perhaps Giambi will get into a groove once the Yanks hit the road.
Raul Mondesi continues to impress offensively, taking pitches, and driving the ball with authority. Erick Almonte deftly bunted for a base-hit during the big Yankee rally, but struck out wildly in his next two at-bats. With men on 2nd and 3rd and no out in the 6th, Almonte K'd on a full count pitch. He pulled his head out, and looked as if he was trying to hit a 12-run home run. If he had simply tried to hit the ball where it was pitched, a ground-out to second base would have scored a run. Instead, Alfonso Soriano and Nick Johnson followed with strikeouts themselves, and the Yankees didn't score.
Sori slugged a solo shot off to lead off the 9th, and the Yanks put runners on the corners with 2 outs, but Jorge Posada whiffed to end the game.