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June 7, 2004

He's baaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaack...
by Larry Mahnken

Kevin Brown was untouchable to start the season, but since then has been merely good. Javier Vazquez has mixed a couple of terrible starts and a couple of great starts in with some merely good starts. Jon Lieber did really well at first, but has struggled recently. Jose Contreras has just plain sucked.

The Yankees' starting rotation has been disappointing in general, but probably the most disappointing performance--with the possible exception of Contreras--has been that of Mike Mussina. He was winning games, with a 6-4 record, and a five-game winning streak. But Mussina had a 4.96 ERA, it was only the Yankees' offense, scoring 6 runs a game for him, that kept him winning. Moose had only 4 "Game Scores" of 50 or higher, and an average GSc of 26. He was no longer pitching like an ace.

Until yesterday afternoon, that is. Mussina was simply dominant yesterday, striking out ten batters, giving up only four hits (and only one through 6 2/3). He could have pitched a shutout if he had a real centerfielder, as the only run was scored by Rod Barajas, who tripled to centerfield in the ninth, though it was only a hit because Bernie Williams has no range.

Mussina had to settle for a 1-run outing, and the fifth-best Game Score in the AL this season, as Rivera came in after the triple to close out the game (though he allowed the tying run to get to third again).

Jason Giambi came back--and hit what proved to be the winning home run--but the Yankees still had to field a substandard lineup. Jeter got hurt on Friday and is out until Tuesday at the earliest, and Gary Sheffield was sidelined with a stomach ailment. Neither injury is something to be particularly worried about, though, and the Yankees should be ready to pound the Rockies tomorrow.

Things are really clicking for the Yankees' offense, with Jeter finally hitting, Sheffield hitting for power, and even Bernie smacking two homers over the weekend. The Yanks actually scored all their runs on homers this weekend, and their only loss was a blowout where they only managed 7 runners--smallball wouldn't have helped any.

Boston won the last two games in Kansas City to keep pace with the Yankees, but I'd say the Bombers had a better weekend, having beaten a tougher opponent. If Boston doesn't pick up their game soon, they might be forced to sweep the Yankees again at the end of the month just to stay close. With Garciaparra likely back tomorrow and Nixon starting rehab soon, they could get the shot in the arm they need, but if those two aren't on their game from the start, it might not be enough.