I’ve been very busy all day, so this is the first chance I’ve had to write in some peace. Big day, starting first with the Yankees managing to at least win one game and finally getting some offense, pounding Baltimore 13-3. Joba had a strong start, going 6 and allowing one earned run. The offense, for all its improvement after the break, has come too much in fits and spasms for my tastes, but at least this was a good, productive fit before the big four-game series against the Superfluous Acronyms. Abreu belted two homers as part of his huge day, continuing to make a case for a deal to stay a Yankee after this year, in my opinion. A-Rod creamed his 541st homer, Nady just might be loosening up with his 2 doubles and 2 RBIs, and several Yanks added singles. Edwar got the boot for tossing one over Millar’s head, presumably in retaliation for Cabrera’s beaning A-Rod. Additionally, the Yankees traded my boy Nuke LaFarnsworth to the Tigers for catcher Pudge Rodriguez, a big and I would say excellent move for various reasons I’ll discuss below. So long, Nuke.
The Orioles scored first on Huff’s two-out single after Roberts reached via Cano’s error. But the Yanks responded with three in the bottom half. Jeter and Abreu each walked on four pitches, and A-Rod drove them in with a single that Markakis sailed to the backstop, allowing Abreu to score all the way from first, 2-1 Yanks. With Cano up, a passed ball allowed A-Rod to score, 3-1 Yanks. After Markakis’s single scored Fahey to close it to 3-2 in the top of the third, the Yankees again responded right away, always a good sign. JD walked, Jeter K’d for the first of three times today, but Abreu lined one into the foul-pole screen in right to make it 5-2.
Each side went in order in the fourth and fifth before the Yankees exploded in the sixth and seventh. Abreu led off the sixth with a double and Giambi singled him in after A-Rod lined out to left, 6-2 Yanks. Cano’s single moved Giambi to third, and Nady’s ground-rule double plated Giambi, 7-2. Melky was intentionally walked to load the bases to face Molina, who K’d. JD’s walk scored Cano, 8-2, and a wild pitch during Jeter’s at-bat eventually ending in a K scored Nady, 9-2. The Yanks salted it in the seventh when Abreu and A-Rod led off with back-to-back homers, 11-2, Sexson singled, Cano’s 3-1 moved Sexson to second, and Nady’s second double scored him, 12-2. After Molina was hit by a pitch but Castillo not ejected, Christian’s single scored Nady, 13-2. Castro homered off Robertson in the eighth to cap the scoring.
Abreu was huge, going 3-4 with 4 runs (64), 3 RBIs (71), 2 homers (13) and a double (29th), batting .288 now and on fire lately. He’s 11 for his last 21 (.523) with 8 runs, 7 RBI and 7 XBH. A-Rod has also been on a tear, going 2-4 with 2 runs and 2 RBIs (65 now) with his team-high 23rd homer of the year and 541st of his illustrious career, batting .328. He’s 16 for his last 35 (.457). Nady’s 2-4 with 2 doubles, 2 runs, and 2 RBIs follows nicely on his HR in Monday’s game, and the Yanks need him to roll over the bottom of the lineup, and Pudge will no doubt help that endeavor. Christian, Giambi, Sexson, and Cano each had a single, while Jeter was 0-3 with a walk and 3 K’s, yeeesh. With 11 hits and 6 walks, the Yanks’ offense bounced back well. Now they need to be consistently good with their production. The more I thought about last night’s bothersome loss, the more I hoped that the late-inning rally would at least warm up the bats for today. Maybe that occurred, but they need fewer outbursts and more consistently good games. Granted, they faced three good pitchers in a row, two of whom have been historically bothersome. That said, their schedule the rest of the way will show them lots of good pitching, so no excuses.
Joba was again very good–6 IP, 5 hits, 2 runs 1 earned, no walks (only 2 over his last four starts, 25 2/3 IP), and 6 K’s. The kid is nothing short of vital for the Yanks, really as important as any other starter the Yanks have. He’s just that good, and has had to be at his young age. Good for Edwar sticking up for A-Rod. Robertson allowed his second professional homer, and his second in two appearances. Clearly, his career is over.
Speaking of which, the Yankee phase of Nuke’s career has come to an end with his trade to the Tigers straight-up for Pudge. Again Cashman, very good trade. While Nuke was better this year than the previous two, was he 100% trustworthy? No, certainly no Joba nor Scot Shields. He was more reliable this season and did a heck of a job lately, but was never worth the 3-year, $17 million contract he got to be the set-up guy for Mariano. Again, so long, Nuke, my love-hate whipping boy.
He may help the Tigers, but there’ no question in my mind that Pudge will help the Yankees. He’s batting .295/.338 with 5 HRs and 32 RBIs, fairly even versus righties (.295) and lefties (.293) this year. He’s in the option year of his contract at $13 million, so whether or not the Yanks will want him next year will surely depend a good deal on Posada’s shoulder rehabilitation as well the potential cost, which would not likely be the 4-year, $40 million he signed with the Tigers for in 2004 since he will turn 37 this off-season. Yet he’s a heck of a defensive catcher, throwing out 36% of the base runners trying to steal on him this year. He’s great at handling pitchers, should do wonders with the kids pitching for the Yanks, and his signing allows Molina to be fresher and the excellent back-up he can be. Pudge should also add punch to the bottom of the lineup, probably batting eighth in what is becoming a deep lineup again. No offense to Molina, but Pudge’s bat, while not what it was several years ago, is still a significant upgrade over Molina, hands down. He steers the ball to right, is a good contact guy, and can hopefully make the lineup more threatening.
Let’s face it, the Yankees needed offense to replace Jorge and Matsui. Nady and Pudge should do that, if not with power then certainly with XBH ability and good at-bats. Without Nuke (yet again, so long Nuke), the Yanks can move Veras to the eighth inning spot, can have Marte there, Edwar can certainly pitch the seventh, and Bruney is due back anytime. Perhaps even Melancon gets a shot at some point. But the bullpen was not a big concern; quite the opposite, it’s been a big plus this year, deep and with lots of options. Conversely, catcher has lagged from the get-go both offensively and defensively (with Posada and Moeller, that is) because of Posada’s injury.
Cashman has pulled off two excellent trades that shored up major problem areas–left field, lefty bullpen (less a problem area than an upgrade with options), and catcher. Huge moves for a team that, recent slide notwithstanding, is in the hunt just four games behind Tampa.