Since falling to .500 and tying the Red Sox for last place on May 21, the Yankees have played their best baseball of the season. During that span, the offense has been more productive, scoring over 5.4 runs per game, and the bullpen has maintained its season-long excellence despite having to weather the losses of Mariano Rivera and David Robertson. However, the real impetus for the Yankees’ resurgence in the standings has been the team’s starting pitching.
When the Yankees lost to the Royals on May 21, the team’s starting rotation had only 15 quality starts, which ranked next to last in the major leagues. In the 17 games that followed, Yankees’ starters nearly doubled that total. During the recent stretch in which the team has gone 13-4, the rotation has posted an ERA of 3.03 to go along with an average game score of 59. In the process, the starters have also lowered their walk rate to less than two per nine innings, while also whittling away at what remains a historically high vulnerability to the long ball.
All five Yankees starters have pitched well during the team’s ascent, but Hiroki Kuroda’s last three outing have been particularly dominant. In 22 innings, the veteran right hander has pitched to an ERA of 0.81 with an average game score of 72. Although the other four starters have not been as strong, the overall consistency exhibited through three consecutive turns of the rotation has made it easier for Joe Girardi to manage his depleted bullpen and given the Yankees a chance to win every game during the recent stretch.
Although the Yankees probably can’t expect their starters to sustain the consistency and dominance exhibited over the past three weeks, there’s every reason to believe the rotation will be much better than the first seven weeks indicated. Not only has the return of Andy Pettitte provided a much needed boost, but the improved peripherals of Ivan Nova and Phil Hughes have finally started to translate into better results. So, with CC Sabathia continuing to be a rock at the top of the rotation, and Kuroda settling into his first season in the American League, the Yankees just might wind up with the rotation they were hoping for after all.