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May 14, 2005

by Sean McNally

“I love winning man! It’s like, better than LOSING!” - Ebby Calvin “Nuke” LaLoosh

After a horrific April and a bad start to May, the Yanks have strung together six straight wins (albeit against the non-cream of the AL West crop) and for the first time in five weeks are threatening the breakeven point.

What changed? Firey speeches? Bluster from the Boss? Well, no. For all the talk of lineup changes and shuffling the deck chairs on the H.M.S. Yankee, it’s been the pitching, stupid.

During the streak the Yankee starters have allowed just 13 earned runs and 17 total runs. Starters without Italian surnames have surrendered just 8 runs in their five starts, all of them earned. It includes the startling return of Good Moose™ and the apparent return of Kevin Brown to the living.

As the calendar turned from April to May, questions abounded as to whether Moose, like most the Yankee pitchers, was done. His velocity seemed down, his location was crappy and outfielders were asking Jorge Posada to borrow some padding to keep from getting hurt.

Hitters tattooed Bad Moose™ to the tune of a .361 average, that’s 43 hits in just 29 innings of work. Mussina also walked 10 guys and struck out just 18 – both well out of his historical norm. His April ERA was 4.97 and he was only giving the team a little more than five innings per outing.

Then starting with May 2 start against Tampa, Moose started putting it together. A 6-2 win, Mussina allowed just five hits over seven innings and gave up just a two-run homer to known steroid user Alex Sanchez.

Then things got really good. In two starts versus Oakland, here’s Good Moose™’s line.

16 IP 10 H 12/3 K/BB 2 ER 1.13 ERA .179 BAA

That’s what $19 million a year ought to buy you.

Overall, Moose lowered his season ERA by more than a run (1.04) to 3.46.

Kevin Brown has a less impressive streak of good starts – with one.

Over seven innings, Brown allowed just five hits and one walk in contributing to the Yanks second consecutive shutout. If he can build on that success, or at least improve on his horrid start to be just league average, Angriest Yankee could well be an asset.

Tiger Wang got his first win during the streak too and has proved that so far, he’s all the production of Jaret Wright with none of the big price tag.

Now, even with the streak, all is not well in Yankee land.

Tony Womack is barely an adequate second baseman, which makes him a horrific corner outfielder. Ruben Sierra is set to come off the disabled list soon, creating a logjam of struggling senior citizens in the designated hitter slot with Bernie Williams and Jason Giambi.

Williams and Giambi present their own problems, as injury, age and mitigating circumstances have seemingly caught up with both.

Giambi presents his own issues – although two nice at-bats last night (a long fly-out in the fourth that would have been out of the Stadium and a hard single to right that Bobby Kielty butchered into a two-run, two-base error and screwing Jason out of RBI) may have went a long way to getting him back on track.

The YES broadcasters seem to indicate they have lost faith in Jason, and if Michael Kay no longer has faith in you, then it may well be all over but the crying. Kay losing faith in a Yankee is like Cronkite losing faith in the Vietnam War.

But all that is sideshow as the Yanks have given fans a weeklong glimpse of what $200 million can buy and why perhaps reports of their demise have been greatly exaggerated.