Tony Gwynn & Jeff Passan: Subway Series?
Hideki Matsui is expected to make his first start in left field in more than four months Tuesday night when the New York Yankees begin a three-game series against the Baltimore Orioles at Yankee Stadium.
Matsui will be back in the outfield for the first time since May 11, when he attempted to make a diving catch on a first-inning fly ball hit by Boston’s Mark Loretta and broke his left wrist.
The slugger returned to action Sept. 12 and has since served as the team’s designated hitter. He was cleared to play in the field last week, but New York chose not to use him on a seven-game road trip to Toronto and Tampa Bay—both parks with artificial turf.
Yankees manager Joe Torre claims he won’t be worried about Matsui suffering another injury.
“I really won’t,” Torre said. “The way it happened, it was a freak thing. I’m not saying he’s not going to bang into a wall, but it’s not going to be what happened to him in May.”
Matsui is hitting .410 (16-for-39) with three homers and nine RBIs since returning. He had a big night Monday, going 3-for-4 with a homer and four RBIs in a 16-1 rout of Tampa Bay.
New York (94-62) earned a split of a four-game series and pulled into a tie with Detroit for the best record in the AL and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.
Cory Lidle (3-3, 5.26 ERA) gets another chance to try to supplant Jaret Wright as New York’s fourth starter in the postseason. Wright appears to have the upper hand, but Torre still has not made up his mind.
“We’ll see how comfortable (Lidle) is and what it looks like,” Torre said. “We haven’t made any commitments to anybody.”
Lidle is pitching for the first time since Sept. 13 due to tendinitis in the index finger on his pitching hand. He is 0-1 with a 15.88 ERA in his last two outings, and believes the finger has been a major reason for his struggles.
“I’m having trouble throwing strikes,” he said. “I can continue to pitch, but so far it’s been ineffective. It’s affecting my command of my fastball. That’s the thing that worries me the most. I can get by without my splitty.”
The right-hander is 0-2 with a 10.13 ERA in two starts against the Orioles this year.
Baltimore (68-88) is finishing its ninth straight losing season and has already matched its loss total from last year.
“Next year, hopefully, we’ll be playing for something at this point in time,” manager Sam Perlozzo said. “We’ll be hoping for late October.”
Hayden Penn (0-3, 15.43) will make his first career start at Yankee Stadium for Baltimore. He’s facing New York for the second time in his career after being tagged for seven runs over three-plus innings in a 9-4 loss on Sept. 10 at Oriole Park.
Penn’s pitched 6 2-3 innings and gave up two runs and five hits in a 4-2 loss at Tampa Bay on Wednesday, the longest of his four outings this season.
“I’ve been confident,” Penn said. “But (it was good) to go out there and show myself you can do it, and you do belong.”
The 21-year-old right-hander is allowing right-handed hitters to bat .471 against him this year.