NEW YORK — For the New York Yankees, effective pitching is among the keys for their best home start since 1998.
For the St. Louis Cardinals, it’s a combination of things resulting in their worst start since 1997.
While the Yankees attempt to make it seven straight wins overall and six in a row at home, the Cardinals are attempting to do just enough things correctly to get a win when the teams conclude their interleague series Sunday night at Yankee Stadium.
Heading into the series finale with Baltimore last Sunday, New York was 1-4 and pitching to a 4.61 ERA. Since then, the Yankees are unbeaten and their pitching staff has compiled a sparkling 1.96 ERA.
Each starting pitcher during this streak other than rookie Jordan Montgomery has made it past the sixth inning or beyond. CC Sabathia was the latest when he took a shutout into the eighth inning and allowed one run in 7 1/3 innings in Saturday’s 3-2 win.
“CC pretty much had everything going,” Yankees third baseman Chase Headley said. “He was attacking the strike zone, but getting strikeouts when he needed them and getting early outs.”
While watching Sabathia attack the strike zone and continuing to reinvent himself is intriguing, so is seeing if Michael Pineda (1-1) can follow up his gem from Monday. The frequently inconsistent Pineda retired the first 20 hitters and struck out 11 in 7 2/3 innings during an 8-1 win over the Tampa Bay Rays.
“The biggest thing for me today is my location was very good today,” Pineda said after the game. “I executed my pitches, especially my changeup.”
“It was the most composed that I’ve seen him on the mound in a long time,” New York catcher Austin Romine said. “He was very smooth.”
If Pineda can keep the rotation rolling, the Yankees possess a good chance of moving to 6-0 at home. The last time they won their first six home games occurred in 1998, when the 114-win team won its first seven home contests.
The Yankees are 7-4 and doing just enough offensively in recent games. New York scored 23 runs in the first three games of this streak but has won three straight one-run games by totaling 10 runs and going 1-for-30 with runners in scoring position and striking out 34 times.
The Cardinals are 3-8 for the first time since 1997 when they won 73 games. A loss on Sunday would be their worst 12-game start since 1988, when they won 76 games.
St. Louis is hitting .210 and pitching to a 4.55 ERA. The Cardinals also are up to 10 errors through their first 11 contests.
“A lot of things we have to clean up, that’s all there is to it. We made it very clear about wanting to play cleaner defense,” St. Louis manager Mike Matheny said. “Making a couple errors when you’re not scoring a lot of runs, they stand out. Yeah, it hasn’t been quite what we were hoping to see yet. That doesn’t mean that’s the team we’re destined to be.”
The Cardinals experienced one of the wildest starts in history Saturday when Carlos Martinez walked eight and struck out 11 in 5 1/3 innings.
Now they’ll hope Adam Wainwright (0-2) returns to form in his attempt to rebound from a bad outing Monday in Washington.
Wainwright allowed six runs and four hits while laboring through four-plus innings and throwing 96 pitches during an outing that ended with an RBI single by Stephen Drew.
“Sometimes you get your tail whooped and you’ve got to give some credit to the other side,” Wainwright said. “They hit some good pitches. They hit some not-so-good pitches.”
Wainwright is making his first appearance against the Yankees. If he gets the win, it will be his 135th victory and would move him into sole possession of sixth place in team history, one ahead of Dizzy Dean.
Another milestone Wainwright can attain Sunday is 1,500 strikeouts. Wainwright is four shy of becoming the 20th active pitcher to reach 1,500 strikeouts. He already is second all-time in strikeouts for St. Louis and would join Hall of Famer Bob Gibson as the second pitcher in team history to reach 1,500.
One Yankee who Wainwright might not face is close friend and former teammate Matt Holliday. Holliday was a late scratch Saturday due to lower-back tightness and, although the Yankees don’t think it’s serious, it’s possible the designated hitter might sit out Sunday.