Pitching, hitting & dress rehearsal: Thoughts on Yanks’ 10-game streak

Rafael Soriano and the Yankees bullpen have been stellar this season. (Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)

I really wanted the Yankees’ win streak to get to 11 if only so I could tweet: Mine goes to 11 (Google Spinal Tap if you need it explained to you). That aside, those 10 games, which propelled New York to the top of the AL East, were a fun ride. Hopefully, the boys in pinstripes can get back to their winning ways this weekend against the Mets … although I admit to being a little jittery about the R.A. Dickey match up. Here are a few observations on the Bombers’ recent 10-game win streak.

Pitch perfect

It was all about the pitching during the month of June. The whole rotation stepped up. The pitching staff posted a 1.85 ERA during the seven wins against the Braves and Nationals. Even in the game where the streak was snapped, Hiroki Kuroda, who did not have his best stuff, gave the Yanks seven innings. He allowed four runs after only giving up four runs total in his last four starts. During this run of 11 games, the Yankees’ five starters combed for 19 consecutive outings of at least six innings until Phil Hughes followed with his clunker where he gave up meatball after meatball. Which always leads to the question: Will the real Phil Hughes please stand up?

You can’t mention the Yankees pitching without talking about how well the bullpen has been performing — not just during the streak, but all year long. The Yankees’ bullpen is second in the majors posting a 2.73 ERA. Opponents are averaging just .229 against them, and they’ve given up a miserly 56 earned runs (the lowest in all of MLB). After losing future Hall-of-Fame closer Mariano Rivera for the season with a torn ACL and then setup man David Robertson for a month with an oblique injury, the Yankees’ bullpen still is the brightest spot on the team. Now that Robertson is back, they are poised to be even more dangerous.

RISP fail

The Achilles’ heel all year has been the Yankees paltry (and kind of inexplicable) performance with runners in scoring position. During their 10-4 run between May 22 and June 7, the Yanks batted a meager .203 while stranding an average of seven runners. In the final seven games of the streak, they hit just .193 with runners in scoring position. The Bombers are getting most of their runs via those bad old home runs, which the way some sports pundits spin the whole thing, it’s as if those runs don’t even count.

The Yankees lead the league in home runs (105) and are tied with the Cardinals for second in the majors for on base percentage (.336), but rank 28th in all of baseball in the RISP category (.218) … only the mediocre Marlins and lowly Padres are worse. But the first-place Nationals are just two spots ahead of the Bombers with a .225 RISP average. What does it all mean? Not much if you’re winning, but if you’re losing … then it’s all anyone fixates on.

Was Bryce Harper auditioning?

The Nationals series was my favorite interleague match up of the year. Bryce Harper has made no secret that he grew up rooting for the Yankees. He even went so far as to tweet, “Yankees, lets go, get some runs for ya boy CC!” during last year’s playoffs. He later deleted his tweets, but wrote, “I love my Nationals, but if I’m going to root for a team in the post-season it’s going to be the Yanks!”

So, when the Nationals’ phenom outfielder got into the batter’s box against the Yankees’ iconic lefty Andy Pettitte, you had to wonder if there were a few nerves going on. He struck out three times swinging at Pettitte’s nasty slider and five times in total during that game (overall he was 0-7 in the extra inning affair). I’ve watched more than a few of Washington’s games this year and have been pleasantly surprised (and entertained) by Harper’s baseball abilities. I had yet to see him look as over-matched in his young career as he did in that particular game. It’s okay Bryce. If you continue to play the way you had prior to facing Andy and want to come to New York in 2019, I have a feeling the Yankees brass will be quite receptive.

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