Although A.J. Burnett struggled mightily today, the Yanks got loads of offense and some good bullpen work to eke out a 9-8 win.Burnett was a mess from the get-go, getting hit hard and often in his 4 1/3 IP stint today–10 hits, 3 walks, 3 HR, 7 runs 6 earned, and 3 K’s. Just terrible, but one of those games to get out of one’s system and move on. He was laboring a bit but getting through OK until the fifth when, staked to an 8-2 lead, he gave up five runs including back-to-back homers to Doumit (3-run shot) and LaRoche (solo).
The bullpen was awfully good, however. Marte allowed the tying run in the fifth, but Mariano struck out three in the sixth around a hit, Coke worked two innings, allowing just a hit and fanning four, and Veras was his inefficient but ultimately effective self, allowing two hits but escaping the ninth with the win. Today’s game made a good case for a long reliever, but as of now I’m unsure the Yanks will choose Tomko over Albaladejo. I’d like a long reliever as you know, but won’t cry if Alby is chosen. He’s had a very good ST, throws hard, and will contribute if taken up to The Bronx.
What I don’t want is a player like Coke, who was asked to stretch out and prepare to start before ST and before the Yanks signed Pettite, to swing between long and short stints. It did neither Ohlendorf nor the Yanks any good last year, and Coke in a regular middle relief role will probably do very well for the Yanks. He hides the ball well, has increased velocity as a reliever, has a nasty slider and fastball, and has been just lock-down in his brief time up with the Yanks last year and this Spring. I see no reason to mess with that in the slightest. He should not be a guy asked to go 3-4 innings unless there are absolutely no other options. Coke should be a seventh and eighth inning guy. I see no reason why he wouldn’t thrive in that role.
Thankfully the offense bailed him out. JD wa 3-4 with a double, Cano hit a solo homer, Nady was 2-3 with a double, Swisher 1-3 with an RBI ground-rule double, two walks, and two runs, Jeter was 1-3 with a run and a sac fly, Matsui was 1-3 with an RBi and a run, and new center fielder Brett the Jet was 2-3 with a run, beating out a sac bunt attempt for a hit as Mike informed me in a text as I returned from the gym. Big deal–I think we all know how commonplace that pedestrian piece of bunt showmanship is. Seriously, I’m thrilled for Gardner all around today, confirming what some talent and loads of hard work can do for a player committed to maximizing his abilities and focused on success. Gardner has earned the CF job for the greatest sports franchise around, in a position laden with history–DiMaggio, Mantle, Bernie. Gardner now gets his chance to succeed, flash his speed, play good defense and be a distruptive force likely from the nine-hole. Kudos to Melky for having a good, solid camp, but his slow start and lackadaisical attitude last season cost him dearly. It shows that when you get the chance to make a difference, you need to seize it and not snooze. Melky snoozed, now Gardner seized it. Good.
Michigan State locked down Louisville today 64-52, looking especially tough in the second half. Now State returns close to home to Detroit for the Final Four, which should be a raucous affair for them. They’ll join Villanova, which won a classic, tough battle against a game Pitt team 78-76 on a last-second, end-to-end play in the final seconds last night; North Carolina, which overwhelmed an Oklahoma team that had the Griffin boys and little else today; and UConn. That’s one #2 seed, one # 3 seed, and two #1 seeds, and it should be one hell of a Final Four next weekend.
Oh yeah, Tiger Woods won on the 72nd hole today, coming back from five strokes down to beat Sean O’Hair. It was hilarious to hear the announcers say that Woods hadn’t won a tournament in nearly 300 days, mentioning in passing that he had major knee reconstructive surgery in the meantime–as if this were a mere excuse for his appalling dearth of tournament wins in the interim. All the guy did was call his US Open win last year on one leg and in 90 holes, have major surgery on his knee, then win his third tournament after his return. Yeah, what a lout.
[Edit: I saw that Joel Zumaya and Dontrelle Willis have been placed in the DL--Zumaya for a sore shoulder, Willis for anxiety disorder. I can't say that I want the Tigers to thrive, but I'll say this: the game is always better with its best players playing. In addition to not asking for bad karma by rooting for injuries to opponents, something for which I never root, it's exactly why I felt Francisco Liriano's injury was so bad. It wasn't just bad for him and the Twins, it was bad for baseball. The mishandling of Kerry Woods and Mark Prior might well have cost the Cubs and the rest of us a shot at having Koufax and Drysdale for this generation. Regardless of fan affiliation, injuries are not good for the game.
I'm really saddened to hear that about Willis, whose trade to the Tigers I did not feel was a good one for the team. I felt that he would struggle in the tougher, deeper, AL. I did not expect to hear that he would struggle with something as troubling as anxiety disorder. I wish him especially all the best as he recovers as a person, not just as a player, and tries to rectify his life. I've seen such things up close, and they're not good at all.]