After CC Sabathia pitched a complete game against the Mariners last night, Felix Hernandez thoroughly dominated the Yankees this afternoon.
King Felix allowed just two hits in a complete game 1-0 victory over the Bombers. He struck out six and walked a pair while throwing just 101 pitches. The Yankees didn’t get a runner in scoring position after the first inning.
Hernandez has been one of the game’s best pitchers for a while now and won the American League Cy Young Award back in 2010, but he has collected three of his seven career shutouts over his past eight starts. He’s now tied with Toronto’s Brandon Morrow for the American League in shutouts. This was the 21st complete game of his career.
While Hiroki Kuroda was outdueled by Hernandez, he was plenty good, allowing just one run on seven hits and a walk over 6 1/3 innings en route to his first loss since June 19. The only run scored on an RBI single by Mike Carp in the top of the second inning. Kuroda’s transition to the American League got off to a bit of a rough start, but the veteran right-hander has proved to be an excellent addition for the Yanks, posting a 3.19 ERA and 111/36 K/BB ratio over 143 2/3 innings.
Hernandez is now 4-1 with a 1.14 ERA in five career starts at the new Yankee Stadium. He has a brilliant 1.41 ERA over his last 10 starts and a 2.63 ERA over 23 starts overall this season. The Mariners are a surprising 15-6 since the All-Star break.
The Rays started Sergio Romo on back-to-back days and if that sounds weird to you, you’re not alone. Romo, of course, was the star closer for the Giants for a while, helping them win the World Series in 2012 and ’14. He’s been a full-time reliever dating back to 2006, when he was at Single-A.
In an effort to prevent lefty Ryan Yarbrough from facing the righty-heavy top of the Angels’ lineup (Zack Cozart, Mike Trout, Justin Upton), Romo started Saturday’s game, pitching the first inning before giving way to Yarbrough in the second. Romo struck out the side, in fact. The Rays went on to win 5-3.
The Rays did it again on Sunday afternoon, starting Romo. This time, he got four outs before giving way to Matt Andriese. Romo walked two without giving up a hit while striking out three. The Angels managed to win 5-2 however.
Despite Sunday’s win, Cozart wasn’t a happy camper with the way the Rays used Romo. Via Fabian Ardaya of The Athletic, Cozart said, “It was weird … It’s bad for baseball, in my opinion … It’s spring training. That’s the best way to explain it.”
It’s difficult to see merit in Cozart’s argument. It’s not like the Rays were making excessive amounts of pitching changes; they used five on Saturday and four on Sunday. The games lasted three hours and three hours, 15 minutes, respectively. The average game time is exactly three hours so far this season. I’m having trouble wondering how else Cozart might mean the strategy is bad for baseball.
It seems like the real issue is that Cozart is afraid of the sport changing around him. The Rays, like most small market teams, have to find their edges in slight ways. The Rays aren’t doing this blindly; the strategy makes sense based on their opponents’ starting lineup. The idea of valuing on-base percentage was scoffed at. Shifting was scoffed at and now every team employs them to some degree. Who knows if starting a reliever for the first three or four outs will become a trend, but it’s shortsighted to write it off at first glance.