It says quite a bit about how they started the season if it took the New York Yankees a three game sweep to get back to .500 and out of the basement of the A.L. East. It’s still early, but it was great to see the Yankees--especially the offense--show some consistency in sweeping the Tampa Bay Rays over the weekend.
To be fair, the Rays are the one team in the division that has largely been counted out of playoff contention, so these are the types of games you would expect any team with playoff hopes to win. Nonetheless it was a good sign for the Yankees to put up at least 5 runs in each game, while showing decent power (4 HRs) and receiving contributions from bench players like Chris Young--who has been fantastic in limited ABs--and Garrett Jones--who went 3 for 4 on Sunday afternoon with a triple Jones tied Brian McCann (Yes, Brian McCann) for the team lead at one triple apiece.
It also helped that the Yankees threw Masahiro Tanaka and Michael Pineda (their top two pitchers), in the series. Tanaka was much closer to his pre-injury 2014 performances, going 7.0 scoreless, while Pineda was effective but inefficient, falling short of a quality start for his second straight start. Adam Warren pitched just well enough to win as long as the offense did its part and that’s what you need out of a fifth starter.
All of that is the good news, and there’s usually always plenty of it in a sweep. The bad news, however, is--potentially--on the horizon. Next up for the Yankees are the Detroit Tigers, the first team in the majors to 10 wins this season, against only 2 losses. The Tigers are a team that is clicking on all cylinders, between their offense (American League leading .486 SLG percentage) and their pitching (2.61 ERA and 1.00 WHIP). That kind of early dominance can set them apart in a competitive A.L. Central and it’s a fair bet that Miguel Cabrera, David Price and the rest of the Tigers are not going to step aside and let the Yankees put a stop to it.
With the inconsistent CC Sabathia and Nathan Eovaldi leading the way this series, things could go south quickly. The Tigers are a buzzsaw waiting to run through the Yankees' recent progress, sending them right back to a hand wringing state. It’s up to the Yankees to stop them and, for as good as the offense was during the sweep, the bulk of that responsibility will lie with the pitching. You’re up CC. Don’t stop the good vibes big guy.