The Yankees’ newest veteran left-hander will have his work cut out for him when he takes the mound against reigning AL Cy Young Award winner Johan Santana in the middle game of their series with the visiting Minnesota Twins.
New York still isn’t sure what it has in Leiter, as his two starts since coming over in a July 16 trade with Florida have been radically different.
The 39-year-old left-hander, who broke into the majors with the Yankees in 1987 and has pitched for three other teams since, started his second career in pinstripes with a bang, holding Boston to a run and three hits over 6 1-3 innings in a 5-3 victory on July 17.
However, Leiter’s momentum was short-lived as he gave up six runs and 10 hits over six innings in a 6-3 loss to the Los Angeles Angels on Friday.
“It looked like the first three innings he stayed in the strike zone too long,” Yankees manager Joe Torre said. “But the competitor he is, he just battled his tail off. He was one hitter away from coming out of the game a couple different times. But as frustrated as he was early on, it didn’t keep him from fixing it. I thought his last three innings were high-quality.”
He’ll look to bounce back—and give the Yankees’ depleted pitching corps a boost—against a Minnesota team that was handcuffed by Johnson in Tuesday’s series opener.
The Big Unit pitched two-hit ball over eight innings and struck out 11, leading the Yankees to a 4-0 win. New York has won 19 of its last 23 regular season games against Minnesota, including 10 straight at Yankees Stadium.
Leiter will not have much margin for error with Santana going for the Twins. The Venezuelan left-hander hasn’t quite been his usual dominant self this season, but he has won his last two starts.
Santana, who leads the league with 149 strikeouts, gave up three runs and nine hits over a season low-tying five innings in a 10-5 victory over Detroit on Thursday.
“I didn’t have a great performance, but it was good enough,” Santana said. “It’s a different game when we score runs like that. We’ve had a lot of one-run games, so this was good to see.”
The Twins are 5-8 with 43 runs scored since the All-Star break.