With Alex Rodriguez out of the lineup today, Home Run Watch 2010 gets put on hold and it's just Yankees versus Rays. In winning last night's game, the Yankees assured themselves of leaving Tampa Bay with at least a one-game lead in first place. They're now 66-37, two games ahead of the surging Rays and 7 ½ ahead of the Red Sox in the AL East.
CC Sabathia (NYY) vs. James Shields (TB)
Sabathia is 13-4 with a 3.15 ERA and 1.24 WHIP; second in the American League in wins and ninth in earned run average. His streak of nine winning decisions was snapped in a 4-1 loss to the Indians, but he did pitch fairly well, allowing two earned runs over seven innings. If you're wondering, a year ago at this time, Sabathia was 10-7 with a 3.83 ERA - he then went on to win nine straight decisions. Sabathia features a 93-96 mph fastball, a sharp slider and a diving changeup. He's 1-0 with a 1.84 ERA in two starts against the Rays this season and the team is hitting a collective .176 off him. B.J. Upton has had the most success against Sabathia, going 7-for-20 with two homers and three walks (1.285 OPS). Evan Longoria has also handled the big lefty well, hitting .364 with two homers. As have Ben Zobrist (7-for-20 with a homer) and Jason Bartlett (.317 with a homer). Carl Crawford has had the most plate appearances against Sabathia and has gone 12-for-44.
“Big Game” James is having somewhat of a disappointing season. Shields is 9-9 on a team with the league's second-best record, his ERA (4.79) and WHIP (1.37) are at their highest since his rookie year, and he's given up 22 homers. As well, he's only 2-5 with a 5.29 ERA at home. The 28-year-old righthander does have good “stuff” (122 strikeouts) and a large arsenal of pitches. He throws a four-seam fastball that usually sits between 90-92 mph, a solid changeup, hard slider/cutter, slow curve and an occasional two-seamer. Against the Yankees this season he's 1-0 with a 3.86 ERA in three starts, and they're hitting .229 off him. Robinson Cano has given Shields the most trouble, hitting .438 (14-for-32) with three homers, four doubles and two triples. Derek Jeter has hit .350 and Nick Swisher, despite a .176 average, has tagged two homers off him. Mark Teixeira (4-for-25 with 11 strikeouts) and Brett Gardner (1-for-8) have struggled against Shields.
Back later with live game blog.