Say what you want about the steady bat of Derek Jeter, the power of Curtis Granderson or the clutch walk-off home run hit by Russell Martin last weekend, but they are not the biggest reason for the Yankees recent hot streak. The fact that the starting rotation has been consistently excellent has been the key to the Bronx Bombers‘ recent resurgence.
The rotation has an impressive 7-1 record and a 1.76 ERA in the month of June (through 6/11). In April, the starters had an ERA of 5.80 while in May, it was 4.15.
When the season began, the rotation was a big question mark for the Yankees, at least after C.C. Sabathia. The loss of newcomer Michael Pineda for the season due to injury made for more doubters but the Yankees were able to turn things around and are now again tied for first place in the tight AL East.
The return of Andy Pettitte, who returned after taking 2011 off, has been a big help and a steadying influence. In six starts since rejoining the Yankees, Pettitte has a tiny 2.81 ERA, best among the starters on the staff and has walked only nine hitters in 41.2 innings pitched. Having two pitchers they can definitely count on has definitely helped the Yankees rotation gain confidence.
The continued good play of the back three starters of the rotation, Hiroki Kuroda, Ivan Nova and Phil Hughes, will be a big key to the Yankees success for the rest of the season. These pitchers don’t need to be excellent, just consistent and the Yankees bullpen, now led by closer Rafael Soriano, should be good enough to lead to plenty of wins.
Lately, all three of them have found a way to get it done and the result is a record of 8-2 in their last 10 games. On Monday, Nova didn’t have his best stuff but still pitched seven shutout innings in a win over the Braves. Hughes has won his last three decisions while Kuroda has had three straight quality starts, winning two and garnering one no-decision.
Pitching remains the most important part of baseball, even in this age of six inning starters and specialty relievers. Perhaps the biggest key to the Yankees continued success will be the consistency of their starting pitching.