By Jason Keidel
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The good news is the Yankees just beat the Orioles.
The bad news is the Bombers are already 2 1/2 games behind Baltimore in the standings.
The Yankees kept the brooms at bay Sunday by beating the O’s with a late-inning rally, thus avoiding a sweep at the hands of their ancient rivals. No game in April will make or break a season, but it’s more than optics that the Yankees left Camden Yards without sinking to 1-5, which would leave already impatient fans in full-throated fury.
The good news is CC Sabathia threw six innings.
The bad news is he’s the only Yankee starter to do so this season.
Those of us who said the Yankees had a perilous pitching situation were hardly pioneers. It didn’t take Dave Duncan to notice that the rotation was on paper-thin ice to begin with. And while the Yankees have a nuclear bullpen, some of us were quite concerned that they didn’t have the starting pitching to get said bullpen the baseball. So far, that’s been troublingly true.
While the crosstown Mets have an absurd surplus of starting pitching, with interchangeable aces and perhaps the return of Matt Harvey from his somewhat self-imposed exile from the mound and our good graces, the Yankees were a scrap heap with a pseudo-cherry on top. If the Yankees’ pitching staff were a doo-wop group, they’d be branded Masahiro Tanaka and the Variables.
The good news is Tanaka has remained refreshingly healthy despite that partially torn ligament in his pitching elbow.
The bad news is he had the worst opening day start in club history and wasn’t all that great in his second outing.
While Sabathia picked up the rotation during the win on Sunday, the Bombers cannot afford a few more bombs from their ace. Tanaka’s eyesore of a stat sheet includes 7 2/3 innings, 14 hits, and six walks, for a swollen 2.61 WHIP. Not to mention the 10 earned runs, for an ugly 11.74 ERA, easily the worst numbers in the rotation after just two starts.
Just before the season, I wrote that the Yankees needed a confluence of good fortunes to keep their nostrils well above .500 waters, much less within a whiff of the AL East crown. Among the elements of a serendipitous season must be health and hot pitching.
The good news is their pitching is still healthy.
The bad news is Luis Severino is still imploding after his stellar rookie season. In 11 starts last season, the Yankees lost nine, and Severino lost eight. The Dominican right-hander has not won a single game he started since Sept. 27, 2015. Things were looking good on Friday as he was staked to a 5-1 lead. Then the new Severino consumed the rookie Severino.
Remove Sabathia’s splendid two games (1.64 ERA), and the remaining four starters have a surrendered 18 runs over 16 1/3 innings. If you’re counting on Sabathia, who turns 37 in July and has averaged six wins a season since the end of 2013, to be your stopper, then your knees may bruise from endless prayer. The point of an ace, beyond the obvious statistical splendor, is to blunt any losing streaks. That’s why teams shell out biblical cash for Max Scherzer, Clayton Kershaw, and Madison Bumgarner. Sabathia used to be that guy, but hasn’t come close to winning 20 games since 2011.
As for the overall health of the club, they can’t afford a key injury to a key slugger. Someone like Gary Sanchez, for instance.
The Yankees’ starting staff has already been horrible, and now they’ve lost their bionic baby, Sanchez, who’s just been plopped onto the 10-day DL with a right biceps strain. Should Sanchez return and continue his Ruthian arc, then the Yankees have at least a blinding future between their young star and most fertile farm system.
The good news is it’s just April.
The bad news, so far, is the baseball gods are hardly grinning upon the Bronx Bombers.
Please follow Jason on Twitter at @JasonKeidel