Yanks' righty staff can shut down lefties

Righty staff can shut down lefties

NEW YORK -- As the thinking goes, right-handed pitchers are supposed to struggle more against left-handed hitters. And in some cases, teams will substitute pitchers based on those matchups.

The Yankees don't because, well, they can't.

New York has no lefty in the bullpen and only one in the starting rotation, Andy Pettitte. But interestingly, the Yankees have a better staff ERA against left-handed hitters (4.21) than right-handers (4.74). And Mike Mussina, who is 9-4 with a 4.01 ERA overall, enters Monday's home series finale against Kansas City with left-handers hitting .250 against him compared to a .305 clip for right-handers.

"[It's right-handed pitchers] being able to throw changeups, off-speed in the count when you have to," manager Joe Girardi said. "Things usually balance out over the course of the season, but sometimes you just have a staff that's maybe a little more comfortable getting lefties out than righties."

This void of left-handed pitchers, especially in the bullpen, isn't common. But New York has gotten through the season without them, and it doesn't look desperate to find some. Righty reliever Dan Giese, recently recalled from Triple-A Scranton, held left-handers to a .149 batting average in the Minors this season (.249 against righties). In his 2 2/3 innings pitched Sunday for the win against the Royals (24-39), left-handers were 0-for-4 and had two strikeouts.

"I guess, being a righty bullpen guy, you're more concerned with getting the right-handers out than the lefties," Giese said. "[The success against right-handers] is a good thing, because usually lefties give righties the most problems."

Giese and Girardi also mentioned right-handed reliever Edwar Ramirez's changeup, effective against any hitter. This season, lefties and righties have batted .167 and .235 off Ramirez, respectively.

And despite his numbers against left-handed hitters, Giese said that his role will likely continue as a long reliever -- sent to the mound to pitch multiple innings -- than a hurler used for a matchup.

Pitching matchup
NYY: RHP Mike Mussina (9-4, 4.01 ERA)
Mussina was terrific once again on Wednesday, increasing his team-leading wins total to nine with six innings of one-run ball to beat the Blue Jays. Mussina retired 15 of the last 17 batters he faced, and is now 8-1 with a 3.26 ERA in his past nine starts dating back to April 23, leading the Major Leagues in wins over that stretch. Mussina last faced the Royals on July 25, recording a win with 5 2/3 innings of one-run ball. He's 17-7 with a 2.98 ERA in 33 career starts vs. Kansas City.

KC: RHP Luke Hochevar (3-5, 5.13 ERA)
Hochevar worked 5 2/3 innings on Wednesday night, giving up four runs to the White Sox -- three of them on homers. One was a 464-foot monster by Jim Thome. But the Royals scored just two runs while Hochevar was in the game, short-changing him again. As of Sunday, Hochevar had the worst run support in the Majors, an average of 2.05 runs per nine innings among pitchers with at least nine starts. Last season he faced the Yankees once, pitching three scoreless innings in relief, his only career appearance against them.

Tidbits
Right-hander Kyle Farnsworth was unavailable Sunday with what Girardi said was a "cranky" right bicep, though the reliever should not miss more time. "Sometimes, that's just a little fatigue," Girardi said. ... Righty Phil Hughes will undergo a test this week to see if his fractured rib has fully healed. If it has, he will begin a throwing program. ... Right-hander Ian Kennedy is tentatively scheduled to throw his first bullpen session this week. ... In the top of the sixth inning, starter Joba Chamberlain's father, Harlan, approached the top of the press box and asked, "Is everybody smiling?" Those who heard probably were after that. Chamberlain threw 78 pitches in 4 1/3 innings. ... It was 95 degrees when the first pitch was thrown, the highest first-pitch temperature at Yankee Stadium this season.

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Up next
• Tuesday: Yankees (Chien-Ming Wang, 6-2, 4.57) at Athletics (Dana Eveland, 4-4, 3.82), 10:05 p.m. ET
• Wednesday: Yankees (Darrell Rasner, 3-3, 2.58) at Athletics (Justin Duchscherer, 5-4, 2.32), 10:05 p.m. ET
• Thursday: Yankees (Andy Pettitte, 5-5, 4.99) at Athletics (Joe Blanton, 3-8, 4.15), 10:05 p.m. ET

Willie Bans is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.