Jason Giambi's game-winning home run in the bottom of the tenth last night not only clinched the Yankees' first series win since they swept Detroit at home back on May 24-26, but gives us all the opportunity to enjoy tonight's stellar pitching match-up without having to worry about the Yanks dropping their sixth straight series.
Instead, we'll get Randy Johnson vs. Oliver Perez in all their glory with the Yankees now 4-2 over their last six games (that's .667 baseball, people!) and Johnson coming off his strongest start of the year. The one negative result of that last start, his first with John Flaherty behind the plate, is that Johnson now wants to use Flaherty as his personal catcher, something Joe Torre doesn't mind, but Flaherty himself admirably finds problematic:
"I guess it works for some guys, like when Greg Maddux had Charlie O'Brien and then Eddie Perez. I'm not really a believer in it. First and foremost, we've got an All-Star guy here [Posada] who's always a threat to hit the ball out of the yard and does a great job. Besides, when [Johnson's] on, it doesn't really matter who's behind the plate."
Indeed, Posada was 2 for 4 last night with a solo homer to start the scoring and a key RBI double in the ninth to force extra innings. But then, like Flaherty says (though with a different meaning), when Johnson's on, it doesn't really matter who's behind the plate. And if his inconsistency thus far this season has you worried, perhaps you'll find some consolation in this observation from Steve Lombardi at Was Watching:
In 2004, Randy Johnson had a Game Score of 76+ ten times. And, on five other times, he was above 72. So, last season, Unit was over 72 in 43% of his starts.
Now, here's an interesting thing: In 2004, eleven of those fifteen 72+ games came after June 28th. Perhaps it is true that Unit needs the warm weather to start heating up?
For those of you scoring at home, today is June 16.
On the other side of the ball, Oliver Perez is also coming off his best start of the year in which he dominated the Devil Rays for seven innings with this line: 7 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 0 HR, 1 BB, 10 K, 94 pitches, 67 percent strikes. Perez had been scuffling, turning in just one quality start in his first nine tries, but his last two starts have both been excellent (the other against Atlanta: 7 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 1 HR, 3 BB, 7 K). And in case the fact that two excellent power lefties facing each other wasn't exciting enough, check out these selections from the ESPN scouting report for Perez:
Perez can often be dominating with his power arsenal. He can throw his fastball as high as 97 MPH, though it is usually sits in the 90-94 MPH range. Perez has two kinds of sliders, one with a sharp late break against righthanded hitters and another that sweeps and eats up lefties. . . . Perez is fragile looking with thin legs but has good stamina and keeps his stuff deep into games.
Remind you of anyone?
One final note: the Yankees have sent down Andy Phillips in favor of Bubba Crosby, whom I was certain would never again be seen in Yankee pinstripes. Though some may hope that this is a sign of an imminent Tony Womack trade, it's more likely an indication of the condition of Hideki Matsui's ankle, as Joe Torre continues to refuse to predict when Matsui might return to the field.