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So, that series against the Boston Red Sox was pretty interesting. New York enters this upcoming 3-game set in the Bronx with a 24-man roster, a player suspended for using pine tar to get a better grip and a starting pitcher who has elected for Tommy John surgery. Did I also mention the New York Yankees exploded for 14 runs during their final game against Boston?
New York enters this series against the Los Angeles Angels with not only an opportunity to get out of April with a record above .500, but an opportunity to also pad their current AL East lead. As anyone can tell you, putting games between you and the 2nd place team in the AL East are very important, even in April. The Yankees welcome a very good Angels team to the Bronx and look to keep this current pace of well-played Baseball going this weekend.
Let’s take a look at some keys for the upcoming New York Yankees (13-9) vs. Los Angeles Angels (10-11) 3-game series:
1. We finally get to see a series where Hiroki Kuroda and Masahiro Tanaka pitch in it:
If you’re just tuning in, the New York Yankees coaching staff has deliberately kept Kuroda and Tanaka out of pitching the same series all season long, hence the reason why Tanaka is actually listed as New York’s 4th starter. The reason being is quite simple, as Kuroda and Tanaka have very similar pitching rotation’s. What a hitter may have trouble with against Hiroki Kuroda, might tip them off to playing better against Tanaka days later.
It’s a concern for the Yankees coaching staff as they have obviously avoided this situation in the first 22 games of the season, but now we’ll be seeing how much of a problem it truly is against the Los Angeles Angels this weekend. It’s really worth keeping an eye on how well Hiroki Kuroda (2-1, 4.07 ERA) and Masahiro Tanaka (3-0, 2.15 ERA) pitch against a good lineup with the Angels to see if this is something New York has to avoid doing for the rest of this season or not.
2. How does Vidal Nuno handle being inserted into the rotation:
Vidal Nuno (0-0, 6.75 ERA) appears to be the guy that will fill in the role of Ivan Nova’s rotation spot for the time being. I like the move by Girardi because it allows New York to throw another “southpaw” into the rotation and gives us an opportunity to see how well Nuno can handle the pressure of being a starting pitcher in Major League Baseball. It’s safe to say that the bullpen may have not been “up” Vidal Nuno’s “alley” after giving up 7 earned runs in 3.1 IP against Baltimore back on April 8th.
Nuno pitched very well for the Yankees against Tampa Bay nearly a week ago in a “spot start” turned “5th starter audition” after Ivan Nova went out with an injury the game before. Nuno went 5 IP, 3 H’s, 0 ER, 2 BB’s with 6 K’s and it earned him the right to stay in the rotation until he gives Joe Girardi a reason not to be there anymore. This Saturday will be Nuno’s 5th career MLB start and he hasn’t allowed more than 2 earned runs in each of his previous 4 starts so the Yankees are expecting a lot out of the newly appointed 5th starter.
3. Is the Yankees offense streaking or is it for real:
We continue “tip toeing” around how well the Yankees offense has played so far this season, quite simply because it’s hard to believe it after the 2013 season. When it comes to all of Major League Baseball, New York ranks 3rd in Team Batting Average (.272), tied for 5th in On-Base Percentage (.333), tied for 4th in Slugging Percentage (.422) and 4th in OPS (.754). Not bad for a team that was “offensively challenged” for an entire season a year ago.
While it’s still April, fans have to be very excited with what they’ve seen so far because New York isn’t hitting this well by just launching the “long ball” like they’ve done in the past (New York ranks tied for 14th in MLB with 19 homeruns). New York is getting some big hits, advancing the runner, being patient at the plate and ultimately scoring some runs in the process. It’s the fundamental Baseball that Yankee fans have been pleading for the past 2 years and it looks like it may have finally come to fruition in the Bronx.
But with anything this early in the season, there are still the slight bit of doubts that this current offensive pace can keep going for an entire Yankee season.