I will be attending the next two Yankees-Royals games at Kauffman Stadium, and could not be more excited to be doing so. While the pitching match-ups are nothing spectacular, Kuroda-Paulino and Hughes-Hochevar, the games should be exciting anyway. Here’s a quick look at what to expect:
Derek Jeter is a man on fire.
Jeter, at age 37, leads the American League in batting average at .404, hits, on-base percentage, and total bases. He also has 5 homers after hitting a bomb to deep left-center last night, 1 short of last year’s total. He hasn’t hit the ball with this much authority since 2009, when he finished 3rd in the MVP vote for hitting .334 with 18 homers and 30 steals. If Jeter sustains this level of production, he will be a threat to finally win a (much-deserved) MVP award.
He has also destroyed Royals pitching during the first 2 games of the series, going 6-10 with a homer 2 RBI and 4 runs scored. Jeter also loves hitting in Kauffman, batting .321/.374/.443 in 62 career games, so look for the Captain to carry his hot streak through the weekend.
Can Eric Hosmer get things turned around quickly?
Hosmer has been mired in a major sophomore slump this year, producing a meek .198/.270/.396 line. The early power numbers have been solid however, as Hosmer has mashed 5 homers while knocking in 15. Hosmer hit a very solid .293 a year ago, and the sooner he brings his average up the better for Kansas City. Hosmer is counted on to be the big bat right after on-base machine Billy Butler, and so far he has been a bit underwhelming. He’s had 3 hits so far in the series, including his first triple of the year, so maybe as the weather warms up, so will Hosmer.
How many homers will be hit on Sunday?
Batters have absolutely been lighting Phil Hughes up in the early going this season. He’s allowing 1 homerun every 3 innings, and he has only made it to the 5th inning in one of his 5 starts. With Andy Pettitte due to return to the majors over the next couple of weeks, this may be one of Hughes’ last chances to stay in the rotation. An ERA above 7 and a WHIP above 1.6 just won’t cut it in the big leagues. The only saving grace for Phil is that Kansas City hasn’t hit too many long balls, ranking 11th in the American League with only 21 homers hit. Luke Hochevar hasn’t been great this season either. His ERA is over 7.00 as well, but he has yet to allow a homer. His issue has been command. Hochevar is either leaving too many hittable pitches over the plate, or walking batters. And with the Yankees once again leading baseball in homeruns hit, with 40 already, so expect that trend to continue as well. Even so, if you’re sitting in the outfield be ready, because Hughes and Hochevar will probably allow at least 1 gopher ball on Sunday.
Can David Robertson successfully take over the closer role?
In a bit of good news for fans everywhere yesterday, The Great Mariano announced that he will be back to pitch again in 2013. But for the rest of 2012, the Yankees will be without Rivera, and are turning to David Robertson to close out ballgames. Robertson threw 1 inning last night, striking out the side, to seal the Yankees 6-2 win. It wasn’t a save situation due to CC Sabathia’s excellent 8 inning start, but it was reassuring to see that Robertson didn’t change his approach in any way. The right-hander has excellent stuff, and gets more extension on his release than any other pitcher in baseball, which allows him to pile up strikeouts. His numbers this year are Mariano-like, maybe better so far. In 12 innings he’s yet to allow a run, piled up 21 strikeouts, while only allowing 7 hits and 3 walks. So far, so good if you’re a Yankee fan.