A rapid fire look at the Yankees’ series against Toronto this weekend…
–The Yankees really, really, really needed a series against a hapless team, and the Blue Jays helpfully obliged. Heading into the weekend series in the Great White North, the Yanks had lost 12 of their last 20 games and had not won a series since taking two of three from Seattle in late July. Their lead over the Orioles in the AL East had shrunk to an alarming 4.5 games with the hard-charging Rays close behind. Enter Toronto, last in the AL East. The Yankees pounded the Blue Jays’ bullpen in a 10-4 win on Friday and got a much-needed quality start from Ivan Nova in a 5-2 victory on Saturday, extending their AL East lead back to 6.5 games.
–After I pilloried Nova in a stat-heavy post last week, the mercurial righty responded with his best start in weeks on Saturday. Nova’s performance came against an admittedly weak Toronto lineup — with Jose Bautista injured, the Jays’ only dangerous hitter is Edwin Encarnacion, who went 2-3 and drove in both runs off Nova. The rest of the lineup had three hits in 28 at-bats for the game. But Nova’s 10:1 strikeout-to-walk ratio was heartening to see, as was his ability to pitch effectively into the eighth inning. Nova’s next start comes Thursday against Texas, so we’ll see how he fares against the loaded Rangers lineup.
–On the flip side… Phil Hughes. Wugh. After a strong July by his standards (2-2, 3.09 ERA, 1.06 WHIP), Hughes has failed to make it out of the fifth inning in his two starts thus far in August. Hughes was AWOL on the mound Sunday, allowing six fourth-inning runs to turn a 1-0 game into a 7-0 laugher for Toronto. The Blue Jays’ bullpen let the Yankees back into the game, but that only made the final score more respectful for New York. The 10-7 loss took a little steam out of the weekend and allowed the Rays and Orioles to gain a game in the standings (they’re now 5 and 5.5 games back, respectively). Hughes’ problem seems to be his fastball, which lacks the consistent 94-96 mph velocity that he had when he came up with the Yankees. Right now, Hughes is throwing 91-93 with limited movement, which is tantamount to batting practice for the upper echelon of American League hitters.
–The biggest and most sobering news from the weekend is C.C. Sabathia’s second trip to the DL this season after six years of not missing a start. The problem spot this time is his left elbow, a frightening body part to be on the fritz for a left-handed pitcher like Sabathia. And if the tabloid stories on C.C.’s injury are true, it’s even more frightening.
The Daily News goes right for the jugular:
When CC Sabathia woke up on Aug. 4, he couldn’t touch his left hand to his shoulder.
Hours after dominating the Mariners in a complete-game victory, Sabathia’s elbow was stiff and swollen, limiting his range of motion.
“I was really nervous, honestly,” said Sabathia, a pitcher with 2,500 career innings and no history of arm trouble.
It’s hard to know where to start with those three grafs. The lede, which all good neurotic Yankee fans have imagined at least once in their nightmares (along with “A-Rod suspended 50 games for PED violations” and “Rivera Tears ACL“)? The “stiff and swollen” throwing elbow of the Yankees’ best pitcher, who actually admitted on the record that it made him really nervous? The pithily devastating clause in the third graf describing C.C.’s greatest strength, at least up until last week? Any way you slice it, the news is sobering and potentially devastating to the Yankees’ World Series prospects.
–I’ll leave things on a more hopeful note heading into the Yanks’ critical four-game set with the Rangers (more on this later today). Trade deadline pickup Casey McGehee had a strong series, going 3-10 with a homer and four RBIs while starting all three games. McGehee’s weekend would have been even better if not for this ridiculous, Ken Griffey Jr.-esque play by Toronto left fielder Rajai Davis.