Saturday, August 13, 2011

Back to Business

It's been a while fanatics. To say that I have been busy would be putting it mildly. So busy in fact, that I've missed numerous games this season. Sacrilege! Yet, while it pains me deeply to admit that, it has all been for a worthy cause: my pursuit of a journalism career in sports. I've been continuing toward my degree and doing some freelance writing for a few online outlets. It's kept me away, but, I'm back to Bomber Boulevard, and have no plans on vacating my post anytime soon.

But enough with the personal stuff, let's talk Yankees. It's been somewhat of an eerie week in Yankeeland, and while I'm not the least bit frazzled or deeply concerned about what's transpired, I would be lying if I said that I hadn't, like I'm sure many of you had, raised my eyebrows at the pitching performances of both Mariano Rivera and CC Sabathia. Again, I'm not deeply concerned, but to watch these two--two of the very best pitchers in all of baseball--give up home runs the way that they have in their last few games, well, let's just say I'm a tad bit thrown.

In last night's 5-1 loss to the Rays, CC gave up five homers, three of which came in the third inning.The good news here, was that all of the home runs were solo shots (dare we imagine what the final score would have been had men been on base?). The bad news, is that CC gave up five home runs. How many times have you seen that happen, fanatics? Never. The five homers were a career-high for CC, and marked his worst outing at the stadium this season.

"They put good swings on balls right down the middle," CC said after the game. "It's baseball. It's a humbling sport."

Humbling for sure. Although this was the second time in his career that CC's given up three homers in an inning, it was his first time doing it in a Yankees uniform. Add to that, going into last night's game, he had only allowed eight homers thus far this season. And, consider the homers to Johnny Damon and Casey Kotchman. Two lefties. CC had only given up two homers to lefties all season.

Cause for concern there? Not for Damon.

"I wouldn't make a big deal out of CC's start," Damon noted. "He's still the horse you want out there, and he's probably the Cy Young frontrunner right now, that's how good he is -- especially in the second half."

What I saw last night was a lack of location on CC's fastball. He's one of the best at "painting the corners" with the FB, but he let them fly directly across the plate last night, and Rays' batters took advantage. CC also had trouble locating his changeup, and was unable to get it over for strikes. He still had a representative night, going eight innings with seven strikeouts and no walks, and the ERA remains under 3.00 at 2.93.

And on the six-inning, 7-run debacle in Boston last Saturday? Let's just chalk that up to a loss that we're more than happy to forget.

And now to Mo. To say that the week he's having is any less than shocking would be an absolute lie. His ERA now stands at a whopping 2.40 for goodness sake. Whopping, you say? Yes! We are talking about Mariano Rivera.

He has given up a home run in his last three relief appearances, two of which resulted in blown saves. Unbelievable! The three homers came in games against the Red Sox and Angels, the Yankees biggest rivals, and the two teams that they will probably be in the most contention with for a playoff spot. Once again, Marco Scutaro, who would seem the most unlikeliest hitter to ever tag Mariano with a big-game hit, got him again with an RBI double that tied the score in the ninth of Sunday's game at Fenway. Remember Scutaro's walk-off, three-run homer against Mo in Oakland in 2007? And speaking of the Angels, they continue to be a pest for Mo; his 3.60 ERA against them, is the highest of any other opponent.

Could there possibly be any good news to this? Of course there is. We've seen this before, fanatics. Mo went through a similar stretch of bad game performances last year, and came out of it. The three homers, are the only homers he's given up this season. In 2009,the year they won it all, he'd given up seven. But the best news of all is, he's still Mariano Rivera. For those of you who have come ever so close to hitting the panic button, I would say, relax, breathe and remember who our closer is. He's never been perfect, yet he remains the greatest, ever. The anxiety we fanatics may have felt during his last three appearances, don't hold a candle to the anxiety that still rises in any opposing dugout.

And let's not wallow in our sorrows, people. There has been some good news to report. Alex Rodriguez began in-game rehabilitation yesterday, playing as the DH with the Tampa Yankees against the Blue Jays minor-league affiliate team in Dunedin, FL. And of course, he gave local fans something to remember: a solo shot over the left-center field wall in his first at-bat. He would go 2 for 3 on the night.

"Just to be able to drive the ball out of the park whether it's [Class] A, Double-A, Triple-A," A-Rod said. "The fact that I could drive the ball, hopefully it's a sign of good things to come,"

The surgery on the torn meniscus in his right knee seems to have been a success. Not only will A-Rod play in another start today, he'll be playing the field as well.

"The health of the knee is good now and it's all about ramping it up now."

Originally, Alex was assumed to be heading back with the Yankees this coming Monday against the Royals. Now it seems he'll be back on Thursday when the Yankees play the Twins in Minnesota. Either way, fanatics have to be rejoicing at his return. This may be his first season since 1997 where he won't get to the 30-hr, 100 RBI threshold, but then again, we've seen magic from Alex at times when he's been counted out. He stands at 13 homers and 52 RBIs right now; seventeen homers and 48 RBIs are certainly not an impossible achievement for the 3-time MVP to reach with a month and a half left to play.

Follow Rasheeda Cooper on twitter: @ra_cooper

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