By Brad Carroll
If it wasn't for a three-game sweep of the Kansas City Royals, heads could be rolling for this New York Yankees team. Take away that three-game winning streak and these Yankees have won just two of their last 13 games. Even when adding the three wins over the Royals, the record isn't impressive, with a 5-13 mark over the last 18 games. Of course, these are also different times for the Yankees, as George Steinbrenner isn't here to make sure things like this didn't go by without a harsh warning or statement from the late former owner. Those were the days.
Today, the Yankees plug away without manager Joe Girardi or general manager Brian Cashman, or any of the players for that mater, worried about their job security. That wasn't what this franchise was built on during their dynasty years of the late 90's. It surely helps that the Yankees are somehow still in first place in the AL East, tied with the Tampa Bay Rays, at 26-25 overall for the season. It's a terrible stretch of baseball only tolerable because the rest of the division is bad too. That fact doesn't hide the blemishes of this team, however.
At least the ace is back in the rotation, hopefully for the rest of the season, as Masahiro Tanaka pitches Wednesday afternoon against the Seattle Mariners. That's some good news this team desperately needs. Now, they need to respond with a series win or things might possibly get ugly in the Bronx. Here is our inside look at the three-game series with the Mariners.
New York Yankees (26-25, Tied for 1st AL East)
at Seattle Mariners (24-26, 4th Place AL West)
Monday, 10:10 p.m.
Michael Pineda (6-2, 3.36) vs. Felix Hernandez (8-1, 1.91)
Tuesday, 10:10 p.m.
CC Sabathia (2-7, 5.67) vs. TBA
Wednesday, 3:40 p.m.
Masahiro Tanaka (2-1, 3.22) vs. Taijuan Walker (2-5, 6.18)
Turns out, the three-game series sweep of the Royals was just a blip on the radar of a horrible stretch by the Yankees. After losing three of four to the Athletics, the Yankees have now gone 5-13 over their last 18 games. They've lost five of their last six series, but shockingly enough, are still tied for first place in the AL East, with the Rays. The Yankees finished the month of May with a 13-15 record. After winnings five of six games against the Blue Jays and Rays, the Mariners lost three of four games to the Indians, including the last two, to drop two games below .500 for the season. The Mariners went 14-14 in the month of May.
Three Mariners To Know
1. Hernandez, who starts Monday night's game, is the best pitcher in baseball, plain and simple. He's 8-1 with a 1.91 ERA in 10 starts, allowing 48 hits and striking out 71 in 70.2 innings pitched. He pitched a four-hit shutout in his last start, beating the Rays. As good as Hernandez is, though, he's never won 20 games in a season, an indictment more against the team's offense through the years than his own shortcomings.
2. If the Yankees are trailing in the late innings during this series, don't turn off the television, as the Mariners closer, Fernando Rodney, isn't the most trustworthy option in the ninth inning. Rodney has allowed a run in six of his last nine outings, nine runs in total, and a hit in nine of his last 10, and holds a 6.75 ERA in 22 games. He does have 14 saves with two blown chances, so he's getting the job done in that regard. But if Rodney is on in the ninth during this three-game series, the Yankees will have hope.
3. Former Yankee Robinson Cano is off a terrible start this season with Seattle, but has shown signs of life during the past week. Cano went 6-for-21 (.286) with a homer and five RBI over his past six games. Cano is batting .251 overall with two homers and 16 RBI in 49 games, numbers that are a far cry from what was expected when he signed a 10-year, $240 million deal prior to last season. Cano does have a string of five straight seasons in which he finished in the top six of the MVP voting, so he can turn it on at any moment.
After a day off Thursday, the Yankees return home for a three-game series with the Los Angeles Angels.