Sunday, June 10, 2007

The Ideal Rocket-Launcher

With the 13th-best offense in the National League coming into town, Roger Clemens's season debut yesterday was far more auspicious than it would likely have been against the Sox--Red or White--earlier this week or at the end of last week. Still, Rocket didn't get away untouched by the Pirates' lineup--Ryan Doumit and Jack Wilson were able to touch up the Rocket for extrabase hits--but his overall line didn't look bad: six innings, five hits, two walks, seven Ks, and three runs, all earned. One thing that didn't look good: the Rocket's radar gun readings. I didn't see Clemens's fastball get into the 90s all day. He didn't need the extra speed against the Pirates, but he might against the next team he faces.

That line might have been pressing on the Yanks a little last month, but the Pirates' pitching--eleventh in the NL in ERA--kicked in on the other side. The Yanks unleashed an 11-hit, eight-walk attack on the Bucs, and the Pirates' defense didn't do them any favors either. It was all good for a 9-3 final.

Today's matchup had an ex-Yankee factor, as Shawn Chacon was pitching for the Bucs. Chacon had good stats coming into the game, but still got rubbed down for seven runs in under four innings. Needless to say, it felt like old times. Tyler Clippard, however, was discombobulated by some shaky calls in the fourth. He didn't make it out of the inning, and he gave up 6 runs in fewer than four innings.

The hit that cracked things open when the Pirates got back into the game against Clippard was a huge three-run jack by Alex Rodriguez in the fourth inning. Rodriguez then took one to the opposite field for a second homer in the sixth to give him five RBI, and Bobby Abreu went 4-4, perhaps an indication that he's turned the corner. Not a bad weekend's work.


After watching Yanks-Pirates today, I watched the Red Sox and the Diamondbacks--not because I care what the Sox are doing right now so much as for the pitching matchup. Daisuke Matsuzaka against Randy Johnson. I know that Johnson is facing lineups in which the pitcher bats, Watching him pitch today, it was like his time in pinstripes never happened. We sure would have enjoyed Johnson putting up a line like he did today against the Red Sox in 2005 or 2006 (6 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 3 BB, 9 K); I'd also have really enjoyed seeing the easy 94 MPH heat and diving slider he featured against the Sox. What were the odds that the Big Unit would suddenly be a healthy strikeout machine on returning to Arizona.

According to yesterday's telecast, Johnson isn't travelling to New York for the D'backs series at the Stadium starting Tuesday. One would hope it's because he's ashamed to look Yankee fans in the face, although somehow I doubt it.

On Tuesday, it'll be the battle of the wormkillers, as Chien Ming Wang faces the groundballingest pitcher of all, reigning Cy Young winner Brandon Webb.

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