"The only thing he can really do better is throw a shutout every time," manager Joe Girardi said before Wednesday's game. "And we know that's not going to happen."
Perhaps not every time. But on this night he did -- and did with a flourish -- blanking the Orioles for seven innings and leading his Yankees to an 8-0 victory in the Bronx.
"He's been great," Girardi said. "He's just been outstanding. He's really taken advantage of his situation."
Rasner's given the Yankees a quiet lift for the better part of a month, pitching without the accolades -- and without the scrutiny -- bestowed on so many of his fellow starters. So how fitting that on the night of the greatest success of his career -- he set career highs in innings and strikeouts -- the Yankees pushed Rasner into the background, announcing after the game that Joba Chamberlain is soon to become a member of the rotation.
The news of the future overshadowed the news of the present, and Rasner is just fine with that. Let Joba have the headlines. Rasner will take the wins.
"My whole concern," Rasner said, "was throwing strikes."
He did a fine job of that -- so fine, in fact, that after seven innings, Rasner had thrown only 97 pitches. Feeling strong on 11 days of rest, Rasner said he could have kept going, and perhaps have made a bid at the complete-game shutout. But the Yankees had other plans, or, more precisely, another Plan. The Joba Plan, which required that Chamberlain pitch a full two innings in relief -- the first step toward priming him for the rotation.
So Rasner left after seven innings, well on his way toward his third straight win.
That much, he said, was just fine, too.
"I felt good, but Joba needed to get some innings," Rasner said. "It's the manager's decision, and it's been a while since I've thrown. Maybe that was part of it, too."
|"He's been great. He's just been outstanding. He's really taken advantage of his situation."|
|-- Joe Girardi, on Darrell Rasner|
Part of the offense's problem had been the absence of Alex Rodriguez, who spent three weeks on the disabled list with a strained right quadriceps. Returning on Tuesday to hit a home run, Rodriguez then hit another on Wednesday -- and would have hit two had umpires not ruled his second shot a double.
With one man on in the sixth inning, Rodriguez launched that ball off a staircase behind the right-center-field fence, but umpires, after discussion, ruled it a double.
"I didn't see it," Rodriguez said. "I could just tell by the reaction of all the guys in the dugout, and by the reaction of all the Baltimore guys, that it was a home run."
Rodriguez scored on Shelley Duncan's forceout and collected three hits. Robinson Cano, entering Wednesday's play still mired in a season-long slump, produced two hits and scored twice. Johnny Damon had two hits. Bobby Abreu had two hits. Chad Moeller had two hits. And the Yankees scored eight runs in all, six of them off Orioles starter Garrett Olson.
Not bad for a team that had been averaging two runs per game over the past week.
"It was nice to see everyone get involved," Girardi said.
Yet A-Rod dished off all the credit to the one man who didn't receive his fair share.
"The star of the game tonight was Rasner," he said. "He threw the ball beautiful."
This has happened to Rasner before. Last year, Rasner watched as his 5 2/3 innings of shutout ball against the Mariners became a footnote on an otherwise idle Sunday afternoon, when Roger Clemens showed up at Yankee Stadium and announced that he had signed with the Yankees.
On this night, Rasner pitched even better, allowing five hits and a walk and striking out six. His fastball and cutter were sharp, allowing him to compensate for a shaky curveball. And so he made mistakes, but as Rodriguez said, "he made them with conviction."
That helped him to walk off the mound without a single blemish, though it still couldn't prevent him from being overshadowed by Chamberlain, the man who one day soon might take his job.
Yet enough talk of the future. For now, Rasner is in the rotation, and for now, he's been the Yankees' most consistent starter. They'll take that, and certainly so will he.
"It's a great opportunity for me," Rasner said. "With this team, you get an opportunity to win a lot of games. With the offense putting up runs and everything, there's always that opportunity. It's a great situation."
Anthony DiComo is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.