Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Woes on the Mound

Did anyone else feel the need to skip Saturday’s game? I know I did. After Friday, how could I stand to sit there and watch another game of baseball? True, I was baseball deprived at that point because I caught all of 10 minutes of Friday’s game. But I still couldn’t bring myself to watch the Yankees suffer like they had the previous night.

Thankfully, there was no guarantee to that. There’s no guarantee to anything in sports – that’s why we love them. And just as the Yankees made me cringe and cry, “do they WANT to miss the playoffs?!?” on Friday, they had me singing a much more harmonious tune Saturday when they reversed their fate from the previous evening.

See, Friday night’s game (I’m trying to get off this subject, I really am) was just one of “those” affairs. Leiter had diddly squat out there, which led to a swift channel change once the score got to 4-0 in the first. Thankfully, my buddy Jon has digital cable with all the fixings, so the first flip was to HBO Comedy (I needed the laugh), where we caught Bobcat Goldwaith at the beginning of his half-hour stand up.

Greatly needed. I see how some people can think he’s inordinately obnoxious, but not only did he make me laugh, he made me laugh after having seen Leiter throw the game away before getting out of the first (which he never actually did).

After Bobcat had finished up, and the healing process began, Jon and I made a fatal mistake. We pushed our luck. Hell, Bobcat had been making incoherent sounds into the mic for a half hour; surely the Yanks could have covered a bit of ground in that time.

Twelve-zilch. And Jorge DePaula was out there tossing meatballs heavier than Uncle Luigi could ever make. In fact, I was 100 percent sure at that exact moment that DePaula’s Tommy John surgery last year prevented the Yanks from making a grave mistake (remember, he was the fifth starter heading into last year).

This, in all likelihood, means Leiter’s start against either the D-Rays or the Red Sox is going to be his fate. Throw six innings of solid baseball, and the spot in the rotation remains yours. Bomb again, and be prepared to be chatting with Wayne Franklin and Ramiro Mendoza.

Of course, all of this is contengent on Chien-Ming Wang returning to the rotation. I don’t see a reason why he wouldn’t; it’s rare to see a guy rehabbing in Triple A and have the team say, “no, I don’t think he’s going to be ready this year.” Sure, it could happen, but they say he has his velocity. Unless the rotator cuff is morphing the superb movement he gets on pitches into subpar movement, he should be back and ready to take a spot in the rotation.

And then there’s Mike Mussina, who has tendonitis, the most feared injury at the conclusion of a season. Just how long he’ll be sitting is a mere guess at this point, considering he hasn’t even thrown yet and won’t until Friday at the earliest.

I just can’t shake the notion that, like Carl Pavano, Mussina worsened his condition by tossing games with it. Tendonitis isn’t a terribly serious affliction, but is amplified when not rested. Accordingly, I’m not counting on Moose to make another appearance this year, which makes Wang’s comeback all the more crucial.

Speaking of crucial, how about Randy’s start tonight? Painful as it may be, here are Randy’s numbers against the Devil Rays this season:

17.1 IP 14 ER 19 H 3 BB 18 K 6 HR

That compiles to an ERA of 7.26 and a WHIP of 1.21, which is utterly confusing until you take a look at the six homers in 17.1 innings. I wish I could find out how many of those 14 runs came from those six homers – though we can assume it’s more than half. Keep the ball in the park, and it should be smooth sailing.

But that’s obviously easier said than done. Sure, he’s pitched exceptionally in his last two outings, but if we’ve learned anything this season, it’s 1) Randy can’t be counted on against the D-Rays and 2) Randy really can’t be counted on at all.

However, if he musters up some Unit of years past, I’d be willing to forgive and forget. Ostensibly, we got a gift by having six games with the Rays in September. But we all know the trend this season between the two teams. Just remember, they’re still the D-Rays, and they are weak. The Yanks just have to, you know, CAPITALIZE ON THAT FACT!

This could be a long three days…