One thing is for certain, this Yankee team isn't playing as well as they should be. The pitching (except for Kevin Brown) has been sub-par, and the hitting hasn't come around like the fantasy team it should be. A-Rod is hitting .160 and has just one hit in his last four games. Gary Sheffield is hitting .255, Jason Giambi is hitting .229, Derek Jeter is hitting .241 and the list goes on from there. Going into game four with Boston, the Yankees were 19th in the majors in runs scored, and 28th in batting average at a terrible .217. Only Toronto (.215) and Montreal (.194) were worse.
Needless to say, the team needs a shakeup, and they need it sooner rather than later. The pressure going into a series against the White Sox barely exists in comparison to the series against Boston, but now the pressure to perform will be setting in. Chicago isn't going to just roll over and help the Yanks get their heads on straight either. They already split a series two weeks ago, and the White Sox are looking like the team to beat in the AL Central these days (though the Twins are right there too.)
I'm not going to go right off and call this a make-or-break series, because it's still April, but the downward spiral needs to stop before it gets worse, and the sooner the better. Personally, I think getting Travis Lee off of the DL is a big step in the right direction. The improved defense becomes one less thing for Joe Torre and company to worry about. I just hope that the Yanks are smart enough to let Giambi DH as much as possible (something like 80% of the time would be about right). And hey, let's give Bubba Crosby some starts in centerfield. The Yanks could use a sparkplug somewhere in the order.
Yankees Road Record: 3-5
White Sox Home Record: 3-0
Tuesday: Alex Graman (0-2, 0.90 with AAA Columbus) vs. Mark Buehrle (1-0,
Graman, a southpaw, is getting his first major-league start. He was off to a hot start with Columbus before Jorge DePaula got hurt and the Yankees needed an emergency starter. Graman won't be around long, as Jon Lieber is expected to return soon, but this could be a good opportunity to get his name out there. Don't expect a brilliant performance, but he's a decent pitcher.
Buehrle was roughed up by the Royals in his last appearance - five runs and seven hits in six innings - but he didn't take a loss since the White Sox won the game eventually. The lefty shut down the Yanks on three hits two weeks ago and, with the way the Yankees are hitting these days, that could happen again.
Wednesday: Javier Vazquez (1-1, 3.38) vs. Jon Garland (1-0, 3.68)
Vazquez was brilliant in his first start against these same White Sox, but then he was hit pretty hard against Boston. The young righty wasn't even pitching too poorly, as he was consistently getting ahead in the count, but those sluggers are going to hit the tar out of the ball if it's left up in the zone. Same goes for Frank Thomas and Magglio Ordonez, who can hit any ball a mile if it's in their reach.
Garland was uncharacteristically excellent against the Yankee the last time he faced them on April 9. He allowed just four hits and a run over eight innings, despite walking seven batters. I doubt he'll be able to get away with handing out that many free passes again, and those pesky Royals hit him pretty hard in his last outing. We'll see.
Thursday: Mike Mussina (1-3, 7.52) vs. Dan Wright (0-2, 6.75)
Will the real Mike Mussina please stand up? I have him on a few too many fantasy teams and his underachieving is now bothering me twofold. This is why I tend to not draft Yankees. When they don't produce, it's twice as exasperating. Mussina needs to pick up his game at some point this year, right? If he gets slapped around again, I say we raid Yankee headquarters and force Moose to take a physical. He wasn't really terrible against Boston, but he seemed to lose control over all of his pitches. Scary thought, that.
Wright has been underwhelming so far this year, striking out just two batters total and not lasting past the fifth inning in either of his first two starts. The Yankees beat him on April 11, and he fell to the Devil Rays a few days ago. Let's just be thankful the Yanks don't have to face Esteban Loaiza this time around.
Predictions and Prognostications:
Graman loses to Buehrle, Vazquez takes care of business as the Yankees wake up and pound Garland, Mike Mussina turns in another mediocre performance, but the Yankee offense grants him a victory anyway as Wright falls. Do I sound positive enough for you? That's what I was going for. Really though, the Yankee offense has to step it up now, and Garland and Wright are the perfect patsies for a little home run derby.