The Yankees have scored a minimum of eight runs in their last four games and are on a six-game winning streak. Today they send Joba Chamberlain to the mound and will face a far less heralded rookie in Josh Banks.
The Yankees have actually seen Banks before, as his first two major league appearances came in relief for the Blue Jays last year against the Yankees. In his debut in Toronto, Banks retired Robinson Cano, Melky Cabrera, and Johnny Damon in order. A week and a half later in the Bronx, he gave up a run on a walk to Hideki Matsui, a Robinson Cano single, and a Jose Molina double (he also saw Cabrera and Damon a second time, striking out Melky and walking Johnny).
Banks posted a 6.80 ERA in triple-A this year, was claimed off waivers by the Padres in late April, and snuck into the major league roster after both Chris Young and Jake Peavy went down with injuries. The 25-year-old righty started out in the bullpen, but after pitching six shutout innings in the Padres 18-inning win over the Reds on May 25, he was granted a rotation spot, which he nailed down with a complete game victory over the Giants in his first start and a 2-1 win over the Mets in his second.
A command and control pitcher with marginal stuff, Banks hasn't walked a man in 20 innings since entering the rotation, and has been extremely efficient with his pitches, needing just 101 for that complete game and not topping 77 in either of two six-inning outings. That makes him an interesting contrast to Chamberlain, who has filthy stuff, but has struggled with walks since moving into the rotation, and can thus use up a lot of pitches rather quickly. Joba's peripherals went backwards against the Astros in his last start, but despite his four walks, he was cruising along at 89 pitches through six when his turn in the batting order came due, thus ending his outing there. This afternoon, the limits will finally be off . . . mostly. I'm sure the Yankees won't want him to throw more than 100 pitches, but that's a respectable limit for any rookie, and Joe Girardi won't have to pinch-hit for him. For all the hype that has come before, this afternoon should mark Chamberlain's true debut as a full-fledged American League starting pitcher.