During the month of July, the Staten Island Yankees have arguably been the hottest team in the New York-Penn League. Heading into Wednesday night’s game against the Vermont Lake Monsters, they have won 12 of their last 14 games, and they are 13-3 this month after going 4-11 in June.
One of the keys to that success has been a talented starting rotation. If you go back to July 1, only one starter has given up more than two earned runs in an outing (Juan De Paula on July 2).
Over the last 81.2 innings that have been thrown by a starter (two starts by Erik Swanson on a rehab assignment), the starters have a combined ERA of 1.77 and they have 67 strikeouts to 35 walks.
Now, that sample size has a lot of variables because it is the NYPL. In this league, some starters get piggybacked in order to provide innings for other pitchers. So, this stretch of games does not include Frank German and Rodney Hutchison, two of the New York Yankees’ draft picks this past June.
There is a cliché in baseball that momentum is only as good as the next day’s starting pitcher. The Baby Bombers have proven that saying true this year and manager Lino Diaz talked about the impact that the rotation’s success has had on the team:
“Well, that group has been consistent from the very beginning. We knew we had some guys that can pitch and had some good arms. The job that Travis Phelps [pitching coach] being able to do with them has kept them going and actually kept them consistent. It’s been tremendous. They continue to be aggressive, throwing first pitches for strikes. They have held us together for the whole season.”
This rotation does have a good collection of arms that is worth the price of admission to Richmond County Bank Ballpark At St. George.
Roansy Contreras has a 1.26 ERA in five starts (32 strikeouts), Matt Sauer has a 2.05 ERA in five outings, and Nolan Martinez has a 1.96 ERA after four starts. In addition to those guys, Harold Cortijo has given up four earned runs the entire year in 19 innings (four starts).
In addition to getting runners out, both the pitchers and catchers have done a good job this season in controlling the run game and according to Diaz it is about the holds and different looks they are giving on the mound:
“A lot of that has to do with the pitchers. They hold and make it tough. They change their looks. It’s both the catchers and the pitchers. They have done a good job. There’s no doubt about it. The pitchers make it not easy for the baserunners to get a good look,” replied Diaz.
With 9 of the 16 games being decided by two runs or fewer this month, every run has been critical in a lot of these games and the pitchers have been able to keep the offense in the game to get those wins.
The Yankees are now in Vermont as they are taking on the Lake Monsters for the first time this season. In this three-game series, Diaz will be looking for the team to continue to get better. Here’s what he said after the game on Monday:
“Just need to continue to get better. There’s a lot of areas that we still need to continue to be better. Baserunning today, we got picked off a couple of time and we are still making mistakes here and there. Some things we need to iron out. I’m sure that we will. We need to continue to concentrate on getting better. That’s our goal.”
As far as whether or not it is easier to stress those things on a long winning streak instead of a losing streak:
“I don’t think so. I think it’s even easier when you are not playing well. This is something you can control. Getting better is something that you can control. Winning is a result that is not something you can control. It’s obviously much better when you are on the winning end.”