Now, I ain’t no fancy-pants big city boy like those fellers over at Yanks Go Yard, but I mustered up some courage and reached out to their preview guru Ricky Keeler for a series six-pack about this weekend’s game when the Brewers take a trip to the Big Apple. He was nice enough to take time from his star-studded parties at swanky Manhattan cocktail lounges to talk to me.
(Ed.’s note: I’m not sure if any part of that last sentence is true, that’s just what I picture everyone in New York doing. In truth, Ricky and the boys at Yanks Go Yard were very helpful and awesome.)
The Yankees-Brewers rivalry is one that the current generation (myself largely included) don’t remember too much. We last played in Yankee Stadium in 1997, during our final year of AL play. All time, the Brew Crew is 93-106 against the Bronx Bombers. The Brewers are coming to town off a clean and dominating sweep of the Minnesota Twins – who was one of the hottest teams in the league up to that point. The Yankees have also been on quite a tear, winning their last five series and holding a tenuous half game lead over the Boston Red Sox. It should be a really good series, and make no mistake – we might be talking Yankees and Brewers again in a few month’s time.
Game 1: Tuesday 6:05pm CST
Zack Greinke (7-2, 4.77 ERA) vs. Freddie Garcia (6-6, 3.30 ERA)
Greinke gets the call for the opening night of the series, and he is coming off a fantastic performance where he rung up ten Tampa Bay Rays and surrendered only one run. We need to hope his change up is still working as well, because Cano, A-Rod, and Swisher have all done very well against him in the past. On the flip side, Freddie Garcia is finding his rhythm once more, he’s 2-1 with a 1.74 ERA in his last three starts. He doesn’t have a win against the Brewers in his career, but only four current Brewers have faced him at the plate. This one is going to be a close game if both pitchers can up their rhythm.
Game 2: Wednesday, 6:05pm CST
Shaun Marcum (7-2, 2.95 ERA) vs. AJ Burnett (7-6, 4.15 ERA)
Everything I’m hearing says that Marcum is ready for this start and will take to the mound against New York. He’s been bothered by a minor hip injury that has prevented him from making the most out of his last two starts. If one person on this Brewers roster knows the Yankees, it’s Marcum. The only problem is, he’s 1-4 with a 6.55 ERA against New York when he left Toronto this offseason. On the other hand is AJ Burnett, who is having a lot of trouble locating his pitches this season and is becoming a big concern for Yankee fans. The Righty struck out four batters in a single inning last Friday, but also gave up four runs and walked five. If his command is off, look for Milwaukee to take advantage in a big way.
Game 3: Thursday, 12:05pm CST
Randy Wolf (6-4, 3.20 ERA) vs. CC Sabathia (10-4, 3.25 ERA)
Randy Wolf is taking to the mound for the matinee game against the Bronx Bombers, and the only one of the three I am really worried about. That’s because even though Randy Wolf has been on a hot streak lately, he’s also gotten fairly good run support that has helped lift some his less impressive starts to victories or no decisions. That will not happen Thursdays, when CC takes the mound. There’s something about this Sabathia character I think I recognize…must be from when he played for the Indians. Anyways, Sabathia has won seven of his last eight starts and is a top contender for the AL Cy Young again. The good news? He has very limited knowledge of the Brewers’ ways, and Rickie Weeks is hitting 1.000 against him lifetime.
You know the drill by now. I asked Ricky six questions, and he gave me six great answers.
RtB – Here in Wisconsin, we are looking at this Yankees/Brewers set as a big moment and, dare I say – a possible post-season preview. Be honest, how do you Yankee fans see this series?
YGY – In my mind, this feels like a postseason preview. I think the Brewers have the talent and with Greinke-Gallardo-Marcum as their top 3 pitchers, they can make a run and potentially take over the Phillies in the National League. Ever since the Boston Red Sox debacle, New York has won their last five series to put them in first place heading into Tuesday’s opener. Fortunately, the Yankees don’t have to face Gallardo in this series while the Brewers have to face their former ace from a few seasons ago. These are the two best home run hitting teams in Major Baseball League, so I expect a playoff-like atmosphere at Yankee Stadium this week.
RtB – In your mind, what does New York need to do to take this series?
YGY – For me, its simple, the Yankees have to bring their arms to the party. The Brewers are throwing two of their top three in Greinke and Marcum against the Bombers. New York has two of their question marks on the mound in A.J Burnett. Burnett was awful in his last start against the Rockies. He walked the number nine hitter three times, which overrides his four strikeouts in one inning. However, the Brewers do struggle with strikeout pitchers. Garcia has been surprisingly consistent for the Yankees especially in his last start against the Reds. However, anything that hits the bat of a Garcia pitch could be destined to go deep into the night in the Bronx. If New York’s starters continue to do well like Joe Girardi set it up, they should win another series. I do expect all three games to be close and down to the wire, so that’s where the greatest closer ever, Mariano Rivera, plays a huge role.
RtB – The Yankees have five guys who will probably start in the Midsummer Classic, but who do you think is the 2011 MVP thus far?
YGY – As far as the team goes, my pick for MVP is Curtis Granderson. The Grandy Man has 21 home runs on the season and practically carried this offense during April and May. He has finally figured out to hit left handed pitching with the teachings of hitting coach Kevin Long. He has great defense where practically nothing gets by him out in center field. The interesting thing about Grandy is that he only has three more home runs in the short porch in RF at Yankee Stadium than on the road. New York would not be in first without him and he deserves to be in 2nd place in the All-Star voting behind Jose Bautista. Including the five guys being voted into the game, New York will get at least 2 pitchers with Rivera and CC and maybe their dominant set-up man in David Robertson.
RtB – Do the Yanks have enough to fight off the Boston Red Sox for the rest of the year?
YGY – To be honest, the AL Wild Card is not really as close a race compared to the National League. We saw in 2009 how the Yankees were 0-8 against the Red Sox to start the season, but still found a way to win the World Series. New York has to keep ahead of Tampa to ultimately get to the postseason. Boston has its issues as well though in the rotation as well as their middle relief. New York will get its fair share of wins against the Red Sox when they play again in August. Ultimately, I do think the Yankees will win this division because of the moves they will make at the trade deadline. Brian Cashman has been scrutinized by the New York media for not getting the big guys at the deadline, but he knows how to get the role players to fit into the team (Berkman, Wood, Hairston Jr., Hinske). Both teams will be in the postseason, but I think the Yanks will be the division champions.
RtB - Derek Jeter looks as though he’ll be back in the lineup soon, is he as important to the Yankees’ success as he once was?
YGY – I don’t think Derek Jeter will be back for this series because he just started batting practice and a running program yesterday. As far as his success to the team, I don’t think it has been as much compared to years’ past. I don’t think they could afford to lose Jeter for a long stretch of time because of his defense. Eduardo Nunez is not a good defender at shortstop with his multitude of errors and he is terrible at making the routine play, unlike the Captain. I still think his intangibles mean more than anybody in the game of baseball. Yes, his numbers in the clutch have not been good the past two seasons, but he is just a good calming voice in the clubhouse. Unlike Jorge Posada, he will not throw a tantrum when the Yankees eventually move him down in the order after his 3,000th hit. Yankee fans might not miss Jeter now, but they will miss him down the road. Plus, he was starting to find his hitting stroke before being placed on the disabled list.
RtB - We know the Yankees can afford him, so what do you think the odds are that New York takes a run at Prince in the offseason? Would you want him in pinstripes?
YGY – I don’t think the odds are very good for the Yankees to acquire Prince Fielder. I would give it a 20% chance of happening. We know Fielder’s agent Scott Boras will want to get the Yankees involved in order to get his client more money. New York has more needs than getting a bat when they already have their franchise first baseman in Mark Teixeira and they have so many players in Jeter and Alex Rodriguez that will have to spend time at the designated hitter position in the near future. I would like to see him in pinstripes, but they have too many needs whether it is getting Jose Reyes as some people say or acquiring another pitcher in C.J Wilson of the Texas Rangers. After the 2012 season, Josh Hamilton and Matt Kemp are free agents in the outfield. I expect the Yankees to go hard for them and go for the bat at that point in time.
That’s about half the information you need in order to settle in for the Brewers/Yankees series this week. For the other half, do go back to Yanks Go Yard and check out my answers to Ricky’s questions as well as his awesome Preview Podcasts. Thanks again to the YGY crew for all their help, we look forward to working with you again.
In the meantime, though, you are my sworn enemy. Go Brewers!