Last night, with a significant assist from their manager, the Yankees blew their chance to bum rush second place and the Wild Card race with a sweep of the current series against the Orioles. Instead, all the team has to show for their efforts on Tuesday are the on-going renaissance of Hideki Matsui (3 for 4 with a double and a homer and 2 RBIs, pushing his season line to .305/.372/.495, his best marks since late April) and the continued emergence of Robinson Cano (2 for 4 with a homer and two runs scored from the two-hole) and Chien-Ming Wang.
If Wang's impressive outing against the hard-hitting Orioles wasn't enough to silence his doubters, here's a quick look at the quality starts (min. 6 IP, max 3 ER) the Yankees have received from their seven starters thus far this season:
Pavano should rightly be even with Mike Mussina at .500, as it's hard to blame him for the April 10 start which he was forced to leave in the third inning after being beaned by a comebacker. Meanwhile, Mussina will try to push his mark above .500 as he takes the mound tonight against the Orioles.
Rookie Hayden Penn will foot the rubber for the Orioles, making his seventh major league start. Penn's only quality start thus far came against the Rockies, who are essentially a triple-A team anyway, at home in his second most recent start. His one outing since then was by far his worst in the majors as he gave up seven runs on eight hits and two walks to the Braves in just two innings. Still, Penn is regarded as a legitimate talent. Check out what Baseball Analysts' Bryan Smith wrote about him in a recent post addressing some of the rookie talent to debut in 2005.
First of all, kudos to the Orioles for handling Penn correctly. While promoting the red-hot Penn might have been premature with John Maine in the International League, it hasn't really come back to haunt the Orioles. They also have kept close watch on Penn's pitch counts, only twice letting him go into triple-digits, and never over 103 [which could have cost him as many as three or four additional quality starts--CJC]. But, Penn has been getting hit up of late, with five home runs allowed in his last three starts. Sooner or later, if the ship is not righted, swapping Maine and Penn might be in the best interest of everyone involved. No matter what, Hayden is one fantastic talent.
Incidentally, Bryan has some very kind words for Robinson Cano in that post. Be sure to check it out.