Last night the Yankees returned home from the road, dropped a nine-spot on the D-Rays in the bottom of the first that featured 6 RBIs from deadline pick-up and emerging fan favorite Bobby Abreu, got 6 1/3 scoreless innings from recently activated rotation vet Mike Mussina, and saw Hideki Matsui return from four months on the DL to a tremendous ovation followed by a four-for-four performance in which he reached base in all five trips to the plate. That's a tough act to follow, especially with Cory Lidle, who has been exactly what the Yankees needed in the fifth spot in the rotation, even if that does mean he's been pitching like a fifth starter.
Lidle's last four starts have alternated twelve scoreless innings with a pair of disaster outings in which he gave up a combined 11 runs in 5 1/3 innings, inflating his Yankee ERA to 4.81. His opponent tonight will be 24-year-old rookie Jason Hammel. Hammel, a tall slender righty, has made five career big league starts, two back in April and three in a row leading up to tonight. His last, which came at home against the Twins, was the best: 6 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 3 BB, 4 K. Hammel has progressed steadily through the Devil Rays organization and has solid hit, walk and strikeout rates in the minors, so there's reason to believe tonight will be the first of many times the Yankees face him over the next several years as he projects as a mid-rotation mainstay for the Rays.