West coast trip looking positive for Yankees

Bartolo Colon got the Yankees off on the right foot against the A's yesterday with a complete game shutout. (Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

The Yankees are in the midst of a nine-day road trip out west, which inevitably keeps the faithful fans back east bleary-eyed. While they just completed a frustrating series loss against the Mariners, there are some positives to take away from this trip so far.

When I saw the pitching match ups against the Mariners, I thought it was going to be an uphill battle for the Yankees to win this series. First up, the Bombers were facing rookie phenom Michael Pineda, and as anyone who follows this veteran club knows, they are notorious for not hitting guys they’ve never seen before, never mind a pitcher with a 96 MPH fastball. Up next was the reigning Cy Young winner, Felix Hernandez, who faced New York three times last season, striking out 31 in 26 innings and giving up a measly one run. I figured the final match-up against Jason Vargas was in the bag, especially since he was matched up against lefty ace CC Sabathia, who has dominated the Mariners to the tune of a 0.82 ERA over six starts.

My predictions were correct. The Yankees dropped the first two games, but were actually in the driver’s seat to win all three games. Yes, the pitching squandered a couple of early leads, but the team was never really out of any of them.

The Yankees were able to hold their own against King Felix, something that did not occur at all last season. Robinson Cano, who owns a .320 career average against Hernandez, and Mark Teixeira, who has a .313 career average against him, both continued to hit the ace, each slugging solo home runs. (Message to Mariners’ shrill shill Mike Blowers: yes, the Yankees can hit home runs outside the mythical Bronx “jet stream” and even in “real” ballparks.)

Sunday’s game saw the Yankees scoring runs with RISP and two outs. In addition, the scuffling Nick Swisher went 2-2 with a couple of walks and a solo home run. On Friday, Swish was a robbed of a home run when Franklin Gutierrez made a spectacular catch over the wall, so it looks like he may be starting to see the ball well now.

The road out west does not get any smoother for the Yankees. They are facing more tough pitching in Oakland, with Trevor Cahill (6-2, 2.02), Brett Anderson (2-4, 3.18) and Gio Gonzalez (5-2, 2.20) all due to take the mound. So far so good as Bartolo Colon outdueled Cahill yesterday, pitching a complete game shutout. The bats also did not squander away their scoring opportunities against Cahill when he struggled in the first. Mark Teixeira hit another dinger (that’s three so far this trip) and Curtis Granderson shows no signs of cooling off; he’s hitting .455 in his past five games.

In Anaheim, they will face the likes of Jered Weaver (6-4, 2.35) and Dan Haren (4-3, 2.24). In many ways, it’s probably for the best that this trip is out of the way so early in the season. Even if they come out of it a miserable 3-6, there’s still plenty of time to make up ground, which won’t be the case when they return in September. But it looks like things are going a little bit smoother. It will be interesting to see just where the Yankees stand after they make the long journey home from this Wild West ride.

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