Don't look now, but as a result of last night's action, the Twins have slipped past the Yankees for second place in the Wild Card chase, and they still haven't called up rehabbing lefty ace Francisco Liriano, who's been dominating triple-A for a while now. Having lost four of their last five, the Yankees really need to get back on the ball. Sure, they scored six runs last night, but four of them came after the game was out of reach, and three came in the ninth inning which was pitched by Darrens Oliver and O'Day rather than Francisco Rodriguez.
Tonight, the Yankees will have to do better to compensate for their starting pitcher, Sidney Ponson. The Yankees are 4-1 in Ponson's starts, but only one of those wins came in a game in which the Bombers scored less than nine runs. Sir Sidney's ERA since joining the team is 6.08, and he's walked as many as he's struck out (12 of each in 26 2/3 innings). A bad outing today could force the Yankees contemplate their alternatives.
Phil Hughes was just activated off the DL and optioned down to low-A Charleston. He'll pitch his way back up the system without the rehab clock ticking. Alfredo Aceves allowed four runs in five innings in his last start for triple-A Scranton and is still stretching himself out following a groin injury which coincided with his promotion from double-A. That leaves Ian Kennedy, who continues to pitch well for Scranton. In his last three starts, Kennedy has posted this line: 20 IP, 8 H, 2 ER, 4 BB, 14 K. Joe Girardi said that Kennedy would have to pitch his way back up after coming off the DL. I'd say he's done that.
Getting back to tonight's game, having scored just three runs off the Angels' fifth starter last night, the Yankees now have to contend with Ervin Santana. Santana emerged as a young starter with a lot of potential in 2005 at the age of 22. He started to deliver on that potential in 2006, but last year was a lost year for him. Sporting a 6.22 ERA and a 5-11 record in July 17, Santana was farmed out for reeducation. After returning, he was much improved (4.50 ERA, 39 K in 40 IP, 3 HR), but still inconsistent. This year, he seemed to be putting it all together at age 25, boasting a 3.01 ERA and an 8-2 Record on June 8, but in eight starts since then he's been back to his old inconsistent ways: 4.53 ERA and a team record of 4-4 in his games. He's striking out more than a man an inning, but that's the only thing that he does reliably.
Santana last faced the Yankees during the lost portion of his 2007 season, and was accordingly lit up (3 IP, 9 R), so there's no real history to go on here (his two starts against them in 2006 are both ancient history and were middling performances that resulted in wins). One thing's for sure, the Yankees need a win, and they need to light up the scoreboard for that to happen with Ponson on the hill.
Unfortunately, Xavier Nady is out of the lineup with a sore right quad. That puts Johnny Damon in left, Jason Giambi at DH and, with the groundballing Ponson on the mound and a righty going for the Angels, Wilson Betemit at first base.
Having thrown 3 2/3 innings last night Chris Britton is headed back to Scranton (surprise!) and Brian Bruney, as initially expected, is up to fill the final bullpen spot. In seven rehab appearances for Scranton, Bruney posted a 3.29 ERA. He struck out 15 in 13 2/3 innings and allowed no home runs but also walked 11.