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The Struggle Against The Unknown

By Dustin Racioppi

There's nothing quite so special as watching the New York Yankees lose a series to the worst team in baseball. Not only did they lose, they looked lost against the bottom-dwelling Washington Nationals this week, who are on pace to break the '62 Mets' dubious distinction as having the worst record in baseball history. 

One thing the Nationals — as have other teams — proved this week is that the Yankees cannot hit a pitcher they have never seen before. The Red Sox did it to them earlier in the year with some kids coming out of the bullpen. The Mets just last week sent Fernando Nieve to the mound and he looked like Johan Santana, only giving up a run. 

Then the Nationals come into town, and if you're a true Yankees fan, you know the series is going to be anything but a cake walk, though it should be considering the Nats came in with a 16-45 record. Shairon Martis opened the series and, while he pitched pretty well, the Yankees were able to get into the Nats' bullpen and pull off a win. Then on Wednesday they went up against a lifelong Yankee fan and Long Island native, John Lannan. He may as well have been Sandy Koufax. The Yankees were absolutely stymied by Lannan who gave up two runs over 8 2/3 innings. Though the Yanks have never seen Lannan before, all the credit has to go to him. He pitched a beautiful game and deserved every bit of that win and it would've been sad if his sorry bullpen would've coughed that one up, which it looked like in the ninth. Then the Yankees face Craig Stammen on Thursday. Joba Chamberlain gave up three runs in his sixth inning effort and you could have called the game right there because Stammen didn't budge and neither did the bullpen. Nats won 3-0. 

So in the last week, with the Yanks facing pitchers they've never seen and most people have never even heard of (Nieve, Martis, Lannan and Stammen), they've scored five runs in 27 1/3 innings. Those four pitchers have a combined ERA of 1.64. 

What does that mean if you're playing the Yankees? If I were the manager I wouldn't cart out my ace or hot-handed starter, I'd call up my three Triple-A prospects and let them face that Yankee lineup that, on paper, is a lot more dangerous than it really is against an unknown opponent. 

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