After months of anticipation baseball’s opening day finally arrived in the Bronx. On Monday the New York Yankees beat the Tampa Bay Devil Rays 9 to 5 in a game that Yankee fans have been waiting for ever since the teams early departure from the 2006 playoffs.
All in all, I was’nt too surprised with the game. Lots of talk has been directed toward the performance of Yankee starting pitcher Carl Pavano and every Yankee fan was hoping that maybe he could show some sign of reliable pitching. But as we all expected but didnt want to admit, Pavano didn’t perform up to expectations.
Giving up 4 earned runs and 6 hits in only 4.1 innings pitching to the lowly Devil Rays is no excuse for an opening day pitcher who 3 years ago was so hyped up as the leagues next best pitcher that the Yankees paid him $39.95 million for 4 years. However, since most Yankee fans haven’t seen anything promising out of the pitcher in his first 2 years, no one was really expecting him to “wow” the crowd. But, to be fair, Pavano was put in a sticky situation given the Yankees did make 3 errors which lead to 1 un-earned run and much un-needed stress for the 31 year old right hander.
Regardless, as we all know starting pitching is not what this 2007 Yankees team is about. Luckily though, this year, judging solely on Monday’s game, the Yankee bullpen looked stronger then ever; reminding some of the late 90s Yankees who had a powerhouse bullpen which helped them to 4 world series in 5 years. With a pair of 25 year old Relief pitchers in Brian Bruney and Sean Henn, the Yankees pitching staff controlled the middle innings, which is great news if your going to have your starting pitcher get pulled after only 4.1 innings. Newcomer, relief pitcher, Luis Vizcaino, who was acquired in the Randy Johnson trade looked more impressive than anything Yankee fans had seen outa Randy the past season, as Vizcaino pitched a solid 7th inning to only set up for the rocket arm of Kyle Farnsworth who looked like the set-up man we all envisioned last year. Then, jogging in to his theme music “Enter Sandman”, which makes everyone in Yankee Stadium go insane, Mariano Rivera , who struck out all three batters he faced and made one in particular ( Elijah Dukes) look foolish as he pitifully swung one-handed at Rivera’s high and tight 2 seam fastball.
Moments like those make me realize how much I respect Rivera and his stuff. In recent years I have never seen Rivera pitch with such power as he reached up to 98 mph on his cutter and fastballs. Usually Rivera is in the low to mid 90s on his pitches but I’m thinking ESPN (who is notorious for this) added a couple MPH on Mo’s pitches making him look even more demanding, but it also could have been due to the long off-season rest Rivera desperately needed. No matter what, Rivera was looking on-point and proved to me at least why he is the key to the Yankees late inning success. If he continues pitching like he did on Monday, the Yanks better save some extra dough to re-sign him after this season, otherwise Yankee pitching is going to look rather messy in 2008.
All together, the Yankee bullpen went 5 innings, giving up only 2 hits and striking out 5. I know its only one game, but if that’s a sign to come then we all as Yankee fans can give out a huge sigh of relief seeing that what the Yanks lack in starting pitching they are making it up for in their bullpen.
On the offensive side of the game, well, it really was no surprise to anyone that the Yankee bats produced 9 runs. With that stacked Yankee lineup, scoring anything under 5 will be difficult. But all in all, the Yankee offense was the same old story. Jason Giambi came up with 3 RBI’s, Derek Jeter tied the game with a clutch bases loaded two-run single, and A-Rod hit an 8th inning homerun to insure a Yankee victory in a game that was all but finished. Not that I’m knocking A-Rod, I love the homerun, its certainly the best outcome he could have had, but once again, he hit it when it really didnt matter.
What I did like was A-Rod’s single in the 7th inning followed by stealing second base and setting Giambi up for the go ahead RBI hit. That was much more impressive then his late inning homerun with no men on base.
Going on with A-Rod, I will tell you what impressed me. After making a bone-head error (typical A-Rod, who led the AL in errors by third basemen last year with 25) on a in-field pop up, he did hear some boos. After seeing the error and hearing the boos in the first inning towards A-Rod, I thought oh god its begun already, poor guy…. but in his first at bat, A-Rod was heavily applauded, as if Yankee fans were saying “C’mon A-Rod, we want to see you succeed, we want to support you”, and for a brief moment, I felt good that A-Rod was getting some support from the fans. Of course after A-Rod hit his meaningless homerun he came out to give the crowd a curtain call, which really is kind of ridiculous if you ask me because with a contract of $250 million, hitting a homerun is what your supposed to do, so act like you’ve done it before. Maybe if A-rod had hit 3 homeruns then I would understand a curtain call, but one solo jack in the 8th inning when your already winning is like A-rod was just begging for some positive recognition. I guess hes just easy to hate on a when so much is expected out of him.
Either way, Monday’s game may just be a perfect example of how the Yankees will execute their wins this year. Lots of run scored, lots of runs given up by starting pitchers, and a steady bullpen to finish the game. The Yankees know the season will be like this, the rest of the league know its going to be like this, so you might as well get used to it too. Opening Day 2007 looked like the entire 07 season in a nutshell and a sign of things to come.
Unless of course, we land Roger Clemens, then we can finally sit back and enjoy some Yankee starting pitching…I dont think Yankee fans, batters, our bullpen would mind that.