Yanks Take Third Straight, Beat Superfluous Acronyms 7-4

The bottom of the order was excellent tonight especially coming through with clutch hits, and the team as a whole hit well with RISP to beat the Superfluous Acronyms of Los Angeles and Anaheim 7-4. Every starter had at least a hit.  Burnett was pretty decent, settling down after a rocky first two innings before handing it off to Coke, who was again excellent in earning his first win of the year.  Mariano worked the ninth for his fifth save of the year and 487th of his incredible career.

Burnett got roughed up right away when Figgins led off with a triple to center and scored on Izturis’s 6-3.  But Burnett stranded Abreu at third to minimize the damage.  A two-out rally in the bottom half tied the game when Teixeira doubled to center and Matsui again delivered, going down and ripping a fastball away and just below the knees to center, with an off-line throw allowing Teixeira to score and sending Matsui to second.  Napoli led off the second with a homer to right–not a bad pitch, at the knees and outer half, but one that Napoli drove out.  That one will fuel the argument that the new Yankee Stadium is a homer park.  Burnett compounded the situation by walking Kendrick, who then stole second and went to third on Rivera’s 1-3 and scored on Aybar’s sac fly, 3-1.  Yet Swish made a great running catch into the right-field corner, one that Abreu would never have made, on the run and without fear of the well to rob Aybar of at least a double to get Burnett a much-needed second out.  Melky singled and stole second with two outs, but was stranded on Pena’s pop out.

After Burnett’s ten-pitch 1-2-3 third, the Yanks got back in it when JD ripped his fourth homer into the second deck in deep right, a no-doubt shot to cut it to 3-2.  With two outs in the fourth, Kendrick singled, stole second and took third on a wild pitch, but Burnett stranded him by getting Rivera on a 5-3.  Swish was in the middle of the Yanks’ fourth-inning rally, starting things off with a single, going to second on Melky’s 4-3 and to third on Pena’s soft infield single.  Jeter then stroked a single to right to score Swish and, after the ball caromed off Abreu, Pena as well to give the Yanks a 4-3 lead.  With that RBI, Jeter’s twelfth this season, he moved into 10th on the Yanks’ all-time RBI list with 1,014, passing outfielder Bob Meusel. [This is based on the announcement at the Stadium tonight, but doesn't seem to jibe with the stats at baseball-reference.com.  I'll look into it.]

The lead was short lived, however, for Aybar promptly doubled and Figgins singled him in to tie the game.  But a well-timed pitch-out nabbed Figgins stealing, and Burnett got Izturis on a 4-3 and caught Abreu looking on a sharp curve.  Napoli singled with two outs in the sixth but was himself caught stealing to end the inning.  Swish’s one-out walk was erased by Melky’s GIDP.  Kendrick led off with a single–of course–but was himself erased on a beautiful 5-4-3 DP.  Pena made a perfect chest-high throw, and Cano, who makes the DP turn as well as anyone in the game, in one smooth motion caught it and fired it crisply to first with nary a step necessary.  It was great glove work all around.  Unfortunately, Teixeira made it three DPs in three half-innings, grounding into a 4-6-3 to a smattering of boos for the slumping first baseman.

But Coke kept things locked down.  Brought in to turn around both Figgins (batting .111 against lefties going into today) and Izturis, and face the lefty Abreu–a good move by Girardi–Coke got Figgins on a weak comebacker, Izturis on a pop-up to Teixeria in foul territory, and fanned Abreu on a terrific slider.  Fine managing by Girardi and excellent work by Coke, who earned the win after the Yanks scored three with clutch hitting in the bottom of the eighth.  Cano lined a single, and Jorge belted a hanging change to deep right for a ground-rule double that temporarily robbed the Yanks of a run, for Cano was nearly at third when the ball went over the wall.  Swish got intentionally walked so Speier could face Melky, a good move since Melky a.) grounded into a DP earlier, and b.) isn’t Nick Swisher.  Yet the outcome was c.) Melky delivering a hard-hit RBI single to right off a change-up, 5-4 Yanks.  Well done, Melky.  Ramiro Pena also abused Speier’s change, smacking a two-run double to right, 7-4 Yanks.  They could have had more, for Jeter walked on four pitches from Bulger to load the bases, but JD popped out and Teixeira looked at strike three to keep it at three.  Mariano worked around Hunter’s lead-off single, fanned Morales and Napoli, and got the nuisance Kendrick out on an easy 1-3 for the save and the Yanks’ third straight win.

Swish (1-2, 2 runs, 2 BB, .312/.430), Melky (2-4, 1 RBI [9th], .327), and Pena (2-4, 2 RBI, .269) combined to go 5-10 with 3 runs and 3 RBI.  It makes a huge difference for the team when the bottom of the order produces and turns over the lineup for the top.  Great work, good to see Pena deliver, and kudos to Melky for earning the CF time back, for the time being.  He needs to be steady.  Jeter’s 2-4 with the RBI milestone boosted his average to .287. JD was 1-4 with his 4th homer, 10th RBI, and a walk, batting .295 and gutting it out with a sore everything. Matsui has hit in ten straight, going 1-4 and batting .292.  Cano has hit in seventeen straight with his 1-4, batting .366.  Posada and Teixeira each doubled, but Teixeira is still tight at the plate, batting an even .200.  He’ll come around, no question in my mind.  When he does, and hopefully soon, the offense will look much different.  He’s capable of carrying a team for weeks.  The team was 5-11 with RISP, stranding a manageable 8.

Burnett was game tonight, handing tough and getting some defensive help after the rough beginning.  Yet he walked only one, threw 66 of 108 pitches for strikes, and went deep in the game to spare most of the pen while keeping it tied.  In all, not a bad start.  Coke has not allowed an earned run in his last seven innings, dropping his ERA to a more respectable 3.72.  Mariano is and always will be The Man, fanning two to get the save, #5 this year and #487 in his amazing career.

Tomorrow, Lefty (2-1, 2.96 ERA) faces Jered Weaver (2-1, 2.45 ERA) as the Yanks look to make it four straight.  With Boston and Toronto both losing, the Yanks are just two back, two games above .500 at 12-10.

String some more wins together, guys.

Meanwhile, my Celtics lost a triple-OT classic 128-127 in Chicago, forcing a Game 7 in Boston Saturday.  Ray Allen was incredible, scoring 51 and hitting big shots down the stretch and in extra time.  Regardless of the outcome of this series, and I certainly want Boston to win, this will go down as one of the greatest series in NBA history, and the best first-round series without a doubt in my mind.  It’s been nothing short of riveting, with the basketball played at an extremely high level.

Published in: on April 30, 2009 at 11:30 pm  Comments (3)  

Yanks Win 8-6, Take Series in Detroit; Joba Great

Quick post tonight, though I’d love to write more.  The Yanks exploded for seven in the fourth, then added another in the fifth to open the game wide open. A brief scare from Albaladejo and Mariano took the game from 8-1 to 8-6, but Mariano closed it down for a big win.  Joba was tremendous in his best start of the year thus far.  He escaped a bases loaded, one-out jam in the third of his own making (three walks) by allowing just one run on a sac fly, and fanned Cabrera on a nasty curve.

Right away, the Yanks came back and put up seven.  Matsui walked, Cano lined out to right, Jorge singled a fast-looking Matsui to third then deftly stole second himself, and Swish ripped a chest-high hanging change-up out to left for his sixth homer, 3-1.  Honestly, Swish looked like Yogi, a notorious bad-ball and high-pitch batter, in crushing that.  Melky and Pena singled, Jeter’s 6-4 forced Pena at second, and JD belted a double to right to score Melky, 4-1 Yanks, ending Porcello’s night.  After getting behind Teixeira 2-0, Rapada intentionally walked him to load the bases, which Matsui promptly cleared with a double high off the wall to left, nearly a grand slam.  Teixeira would have been out had Laird held onto the ball, but he didn’t, 7-1 Yanks.  Swish ripped his seventh homer in the fifth, a solo shot deep to left, 8-1 Yanks.

Meanwhile, Joba put things on cruise control after struggling in the third, working 1-2-3 innings in the fourth, fifth, and sixth with two K’s in the fourth and fifth apiece, and a meager five pitches necessary to get through the sixth.  He allowed a single and hit a batter in the seventh, but then quickly set down Inge, Anderson, and Santiago.  He was tremendous and efficient today, making it not just two terrific starts in a row but two consecutive excellent ones from Hughes and Joba, the kids with so much promise.  The line: 7 IP, 3 hits, 1 run earned, 3 walks (all in the third), 1 HBP and 6 K’s on 88 pitches/50 strikes.  His fastball was repeatedly 94-96, less than the ridiculous gas when he came out of the bullpen but still very good as he continues to build arm strength.  Coke worked an 11-pitch 1-2-3 eighth with a K amidst a false alarm for the stadium, resulting in a message for fans to exit the stadium before being rescinded–bizarre.  Albaladejo was atrocious in the ninth, allowing two runs (four in all) before Mariano entered for the last out and allowed a three-run shot to Granderson, 8-6.  But Mariano got Polanco to pop out to end the game.

At the plate, Swish was the man, going 2-5 with his 6th and 7th homers and driving in 4, giving him 19 in all, batting .307.  He’s been invaluable to the Yanks thus far, no question, and his infectious personality and seemingly boundless energy have invigorated the team with some new blood and passion.  What a steal, obtaining him for Wilson Betemit.  After going 5 for 31, Swish is now 5 for his last 12, with 3 homers, 6 runs, and 6 RBI to raise his average 21 points in the last three games.  Matsui is also hot, going 1-2 with 3 walks and 3 RBIs (8 on the year), batting .295.  He has a nine-game hitting streak in which he’s literally doubled his batting average–from .148 to .295–by going 14-34 with 6 runs, 5 RBI, 4 doubles, a triple, and a homer.  What a difference he makes in the lineup when he’s hot.  JD was 2-4 with an RBI double, his 9th RBI, and a run, batting .297 with everything from his cap down sore.  I tip my cap to him for playing through pain, and playing well, with Nady and A-Rod out and the team needing a jump.  Cano (.371), Jorge (.277), Melky (.311), and Pena (.227) each had a hit, while Jeter (.278) went 0-5, and Teixeira (sub-Mendoza at .197, but with an OBP of .365 due to 16 walks) 0-3, though each scored a run and Teixeira walked twice.

Some other encouraging signs:

  • the Yanks hitting to the opposite field, especially Swish and Matsui on the three-RBI hits;
  • great work by the middle of the order, with the #4-7 batters combining to go 5-16 with 4 runs, 7 RBI, and 4 walks;
  • 3-7 with RISP, stranding 9 but improving on a dismal RISP average that was second-last in the AL at .234 entering tonight’s game;
  • 7 strong innings by Joba for a team that, before tonight’s game stood 10th in the AL in starters’ innings pitched with 112 1/3;
  • Coke has been excellent, and here are his numbers for his last 7 appearances: 6 IP,2 H, 3 runs 0 earned, 3 BB, 2 K.  After his ERA ballooned to 13.50 in the wretched loss on Easter to KC, it has now dropped to a reasonable 4.15.  I have a decent amount of trust in the guy and, right now, that goes a long way in a bullpen long on struggling relievers.

The Yanks are tied with LA with the fewest games played at home thus far–six.  Key hitters such as Teixeira have struggled, A-Rod is out, and the team has struggled badly with RISP.  Wang has been abysmal, other starters have been inconsistent, and parts of the bullpen have ben a train wreck.  Yet the team has a winning record at 11-10, plays 18 of the next 24 games at home, has had Hughes and Melancon step up and perform so far, and they should soon get A-Rod back.  This last one is key, for if A-Rod returns in reasonably good form, it will mean that Teixeira will get a lot more good pitches to hit.  It will also mean that either Swisher or Posada will bat eighth, making the lineup as a whole but especially the bottom of the lineup all the more productive.  If the every-other-year theory of A-Rod works this year (2005 and 2007 MVP) or, as Frank the Sage terms it, “if Odd-Rod shows up,” this team will be in business.  But A-Rod needs to come back healthy and ready, not gimpy and, while he’ll need some time to be at the top of his game, hopefully he won’t be searching two months for his form.  No stupid distractions, either–no tabloid nonsense, no ‘roids, no extraneous garbage, please.

Back to the Bronx with some momentum.  After Toronto loses to KC tonight (down 11-3 in the 9th), the Yanks will be 3 games out.  Burnett (2-0, 5.47 ERA) gets mystery righty Anthony Ortega (0-1, 7.20 ERA) for the Superfluous Acronyms tomorrow night.

Published in: on April 29, 2009 at 10:37 pm  Comments (3)  

Yankees 11 Tigers 0: It’s About Time

Yeah, this deserves a post.

Behind a great start by Phil Hughes, the Yankees broke open a scoreless tie with an enormous, ten-run seventh inning that emptied out the stadium, running away with an 11-0 win to end a four-game losing streak.  After struggling for days with RISP, the Yankees were a very good 4-9 with runners in scoring position, stranding a manageable seven.  Yet without Hughes pitching masterfully in his first start for the Yanks this year, they would have trailed and may well have limped to their fifth straight loss.  What a difference money pitching and hitting makes.

The first six innings gave no indication that eleven runs would be scored.  Everett robbed Jeter of a hit in the top of the first, and Ramiro Pena made a great diving stop to his right and gunned it to first to rob Magglio Ordonez of at least a single.  Pena’s slick play combined with Hughes’s two strikeouts to give the kid and the Yanks a lift.  Hughes fanned Curtis Granderson, one of my very favorite non-Yankees, on a 94-mph heater, and Polanco looking on a great curve.  He worked around a lead-off single in the second, but the Yanks squandered a shot to give him the lead in the third.  Melky had a good at-bat, leading off with a single, and went to third on Jeter’s two-out single.  But though Jeter stole second, JD flew out to left, stranding two.

However, Hughes stayed strong, working around a walk to Granderson in the third and pitching out of a bases-loaded jam in the fourth–to me the first turning point of the game.  With one out he hit Cabrera and allowed a single to Guillen, Laird’s slow comebacker forced Guillen at second and Inge’s walk loaded the bases.  But Hughes induced an easy 4-3 to end the fourth, and he had to be good for Edwin Jackson was matching him goose-egg for goose-egg, each breezing through the fifth 1-2-3.

The second turning point came in the sixth for, although the Yanks stranded Matsui at third, they made Jackson throw 27 pitches, boosting his pitch count to 117 and ending his night after six very good but somewhat inefficient innings.  Matsui cranked a fastball at the knees to deep right center that bounced in and out of Granderson’s glove as he avoided colliding with Ordonez, with the two clearly not effectively communicating. Cano fanned to end the inning and was tagged out when he thought he fouled the ball off, and didn’t run.  But his 10-pitch at-bat had value nonetheless.

The Yanks exploded in the seventh off Detroit’s bullpen.  Swisher singled, Melky worked a four-pitch walk, Molina bunted them over, and Jorge pinch-hit for Pena and got credit for a sac fly even though Anderson flat-out dropped the ball, probably because Swisher may have scored anyway, 2-0 Yanks.  Jeter walked and JD’s single to center plated Berroa running for Jorge, 3-0.  Teixeira popped out, Matsui’s singled scored Jeter and sent JD to third, 4-0, Cano’s single scored JD and moved Matsui to third, 5-0. Swisher walked to load the bases, and Melky worked a very good walk seven-pitch walk, 6-0 Yanks.  Then Molina, who again called a great game for Hughes, belted a first-pitch fastball just above the knees way deep to left to bust it wide open, 10-0.

Mark Melancon entered in the seventh and pitched great, quickly setting Detroit down 1-2-3 on 11 pitches punctuated by a K of Inge–two excellent performances by the youngsters on the mound.  Swisher pounded his fifth homer of the year in the ninth to deep right to cap the scoring, and Edwar and Veras kept the drama to a minimum in the pressure-free eighth and ninth for the win.

Hughes was outstanding–6 IP, 2 hits, no runs, 2 walks, and 6 K’s on 99 pitches/58 strikes.  His curve ball improved as the game went on, and his fastball crackled from 91-94 all night.  Along with Burnett’s flirtation with a no-hitter, this was probably the best start by a Yankee this year, and it could not have come at a better time with the team reeling and the bullpen overworked.  Hughes earned the win in his first start–one more win than he had all of last year.  Kudos to the tremendous work behind the plate by Molina, a true pro.  Big effort from the big kid, and no doubt a huge boost  for his confidence.  Melancon is earning quality time in relief with two good appearances now.  I love it.  Note too that Melancon, and not Veras, Albaladejo, or Edwar, was warming up in the pen when the game got to 4-0.  It’s a testament to both Melancon’s ability and the decrepit performances of some others that he is getting a chance right away.  That’s fine with me.

Some batters deserve particular praise as well.  Cano is positively torrid right now, going 2-5 with a run, his team-high 16th RBI, to bat a scorching .381.  Swisher was clutch, going 2-3 with his 5th homer, 3 runs, 2 walks, and his 15th RBI, batting an even .300 with a terrific .417 OBP.  Melky still hasn’t made a believer out of me, since he still has poor at-bats when the team needs them least, but the guy needs to play simply because he’s a hot hand. He too was 2-3 with 2 runs, his 8th RBI, 2 big walks to show some long overdue patience, and is batting .325 with, yes, a .413 OBP.  Right now, he’s outperforming Gardner and giving the team some good offense.  I love Gardner’s speed, but Melky is on base much more often.  Molina called a great game and had the grand slam, his first homer of the year; great for the big guy.  Matsui is heating up and has been very good since getting his knee drained, going 2-5 with a run and his 5th RBI, batting .288.  Jeter was 1-4 with a run, batting .294.  JD is gutting it out with a sore–everything–and was 1-5 with an RBI single, his 8th of the year.  Jorge’s RBI is his 14th.  Berroa had a hit, and Teixeira (0-4 with a walk) and Pena (0-2, but slick defense) were the only starters without a hit tonight.

Joba (0-0, 3.94 ERA) faces talented young righty Rick Porcello (1-2, 4.50 ERA) in the rubber match tomorrow night before the Yanks head home for 18 of their next 24, starting with four against the Superfluous Acronyms, then two two-game “series” against Boston and Tampa.  I hate two-game “series.” If the Yanks can win tomorrow night, then win 6 of those 8 before hitting the road against Baltimore and Toronto, they’ll be 17-12.  Those will be 8 tough games at home, but fine with me.  The Yanks need a head of steam, get the Angels not playing their best ball early, and get a shot at some payback against Boston in their own back yard.  If that’s not enough motivation, I’m not sure what is.

Time to build some positive momentum, and thanks to Hughes for being a great stopper tonight.

Published in: on April 28, 2009 at 10:48 pm  Comments (3)  

Game 19: Yankees @ Tigers, 4/27/09

The Yanks try to become road warriors during this long, arduous April as they embark on a three-game set in Detroit against the Tigers.  As per Pete Abraham, below are the starting lineups, as well as the statistics of the starters against their opponents.  Gardner sits, not too surprisingly since his average has plummeted and the Yanks need a power infusion in the bottom third.  Melky doesn’t sport a lot of power, but more than Little G.  As Matsui warms, he rises to bat clean-up, while Swish, who is 5 for his last 31, moves to sixth, which honestly is about where he would normally belong without injuries and ineffectiveness.  When the Yanks are hitting right, Swish is a bottom half of the lineup guy, in my esteem and with no disrespect to the guy.  Cano at #5 continues to be the key and catalyst.  He has a 13-game hitting streak and has been the best and steadiest bat for the Yanks in this early part of the season.  Posada rests.  CC obviously needs to be good, a familiar refrain with all starters this month.  New York needs a win, and winning at least 2 of 3 would be a big plus against the Central Division leaders.

Enjoy the game.

YANKEES (9-9)
Jeter SS
Damon LF
Teixeira 1B
Matsui DH
Cano 2B
Swisher RF
Cabrera CF
Molina C
Pena 3B

Pitching: LHP CC Sabathia (1-1, 4.81).

Sabathia vs. the Detroit hitters.

TIGERS (10-8)
Granderson CF
Polanco 2B
Ordonez RF
Cabrera 1B
Guillen DH
Laird C
Inge 3B
Raburn LF
Everett SS

Pitching: RHP Justin Verlander (0-2, 9.00).

Verlander vs. the New York hitters.

Published in: on April 27, 2009 at 5:13 pm  Leave a Comment  

Embarrassing Sweep; Blogging Break

Atrocious series in Boston, with the Yankees getting swept after last night’s 4-1 loss.  Again a joke with RISP, going 0-6 with 8 left on, the Yanks simply have not delivered in the clutch this year.  They were an abysmal 7-43 with 35 stranded in the 3 losses in Fenway.  That’s no way to win games, period.  Pettite was on the whole pretty good, though having Ellsbury steal home (the second time I’ve seen that happen on him, with Hill doing the same in 2007) is an embarrassment, and the four walks hurt. The starters have issued far too many free passes of late, damaging their own causes.

It didn’t help that Berroa’s defense was not too surprisingly weak at third, committing two errors, through Teixeira should have been able to make the scoop on the second error.  Teixeira, Swisher, and Posada combining to go 0-11 last night was a killer.  Gardner needs to show something more, and soon.  He had a nice sac fly for the team’s only run last night, but is 2 for his last 21, sinking his average to .220 and helping render New York’s offense anemic at the top (and bottom) of the order.  With Melky hitting .303, Gardner will soon hit his way out of the lineup.  Yet I’m far from sold on Melky, despite his good average.  He still lacks plate discipline, swinging at the first pitch and weakly grounding out to Pedroia to end the rally in the fourth, and fanning to end the rally in the sixth.

Mark Melancon was good in his debut, pitching two scoreless innings and working out of a bases loaded jam in the eighth.  His strikeout of Varitek was excellent, though Varitek belly-ached back to the dugout that he didn’t swing.  He threw hard, routinely hitting 94 on the gun.  Keep him up and give him a chance.  In turn, two Boston youngsters in Michael Bowden and Hunter Jones shut down the Yanks for 2 2/3 last night.  The lefty Jones threw strikes right away to the two batters he faced, and Bowden got two strikeouts.  See, Veras and Marte? It is possible.

In all, the sweep was a colossal annoyance since the Yanks blew scores of chances in three games, having two in hand before losing them.  Yet this team has hardly played at home, hasn’t had consistent pitching from the starters or relievers and in fact has the highest team ERA in baseball at 6.26, hasn’t hit for beans with RISP and in fact is second-to-last in the AL and 22nd in baseball with a .237 batting average with RISP, has missed A-Rod for the first 18 games, has had little production from the bottom of the order and inconsistencies elsewhere–yet is still 9-9.  They’re playing far from good or consistent baseball and seriously need to shore up some problems, but are far from out of it one-ninth of the way into the season–just in case anyone is panicking.

On an unrelated note, my posting will be sporadic over the next few weeks, with tons of work on my plate and a vacation looming in a few weeks.  Interested folks might want to subscribe to the RSS feed to have my screed e-mailed.

Thanks for reading, everyone.  I honestly do appreciate it, and am continually surprised that people actually do.

Published in: on April 27, 2009 at 5:26 am  Comments (1)  

Game 18: Yanks @ Red Sox, 4/26/09

The Yankees try to avert the sweep in Fenway, with Lefty (2-0, 2.53 ERA) taking the hill against Masterson (1-0, 3.18 ERA).  As per His Abeness, the lineups are below.  According to Abraham, JD is unfortunately out of the lineup:

Johnny Damon is out of the lineup with a sore right shoulder, a sore knee and a sore back. Girardi said he hopes Damon will be available tomorrow.

That’s too bad, since he’s 9 for his last 21 (.429) with 4 runs, 2 HR, and 4 RBI, and in the process raised his average from .256 to .317.  Clearly, after the extra innings on Wednesday and Friday, and yesterday’s pummeling of the pitching, Lefty needs to be good and go deep in the game.

Move back to two above .500, guys.  Let’s Go, Yankees!

YANKEES (9-8)
Gardner CF
Jeter SS
Teixeira 1B
Swisher LF
Cano 2B
Posada C
Matsui DH
Cabrera RF
Berroa 3B

Pitching: LHP Andy Pettitte (2-0, 2.53).

Pettitte vs. the Boston hitters.
RED SOX (11-6)
Ellsbury CF
Pedroia 2B
Ortiz DH
Youkilis 1B
Drew RF
Bay LF
Lowell 3B
Varitek C
Green SS

Pitching: RHP Justin Masterson (1-0, 3.18).

Masterson vs. the New York hitters.

Published in: on April 26, 2009 at 5:52 pm  Comments (26)  

No HDLR Tonight

I’m postponing the Digital Living Room tonight. My wife has been gone working since Wednesday and, while we’ll probably tune into the game, I’d rather not be locked into hosting when my kids and I need the chance to spend some time with my wife.  I’ll arrange one during the week, perhaps for a game against Detroit or the Superfluous Acronyms.

Lineups later.

Published in: on April 26, 2009 at 3:48 pm  Comments (1)  

Burnett, Bullpen Collapse in Atrocious 16-11 Loss

When is a 6-0 lead in the fourth inning not safe? When one is playing Boston in Fenway, as we all know.  After racing out to a 6-0 lead, Burnett went from great to grotesque, yielding eight runs in two innings.  Although the Yanks fought back a couple times, slovenly relief pitching and the lineup’s continued problems with runners in scoring position doomed the Yankees to a 16-11 loss that was nearly as bad as yesterday’s collapse.  Now that the Yanks have lose the series, they have to battle Justin Masterson and a red-hot Sox lineup to stave off a sweep in Fenway.

New York got off to a hot start, scoring two in the first and working over Beckett, who was terrible from the outset.  JD singled, Teixeria walked (one of five passes he got; tell me A-Rod’s absence doesn’t matter to Boston), and Swisher singled in JD, 1-0.  Jorge’s single to left made it 2-0.  Burnett buzzed through the first three innings, allowing just a hit and a walk on 37 pitches as the Yanks piled on Beckett.  Cano creamed a two-run homer to right, banging a hanging curve way up into the netting in Pesky’s Pole, 4-0 Yanks.  But although Posada and Berroa singled, Gardner’s force foiled a chance to add on.  In the fourth, Jeter singled and stole second, Teixeira walked again, Swish fanned, and Cano ripped a double to center, 6-0 Yanks.

Yet Burnett became a different pitcher from the first three innings, and his previous history in Fenway, wilting in the fourth.  Pedroia walked, Youkilis singled, Drew walked, Bay’s single to left made it 6-1, Lowell struck out on a nasty curve, but Varitek clubbed a belt-high first-pitch fastball out to right for a grand slam to cut the lead to 6-5.  The Yanks went 1-2-3 in the fifth to put Burnett right back on the bump, and Ellsbury led off with a homer to tie it at 6.  Pedroia singled, Ortiz doubled, Youkilis was hit by a pitch, and the Yanks had a shot to get out of the inning after Teixeira and Jorge turned a terrific 3-2-3 DP, two outs.  But Bay doubled off the monster, 8-6 Boston.

But the Yanks responded right away when Jeter walked and JD homered to right to tie it at 8, no outs. Swish doubled with one out but was stranded.  Relieving Burnett, Veras reverted to form, inexcusably hitting Green to start trouble again.  Ellsbury doubled and Pedroia walked to load the bases.  Coke entered and got Ortiz to fly out to right.  Green scored but Pedroia had a brain fart and ran to second and into Swish’s throw to Jeter for the third out–a trade I’d make, two outs for a run to end the inning just a run down, in a wild game.

In the seventh, Matsui singled but was forced at second, Gardner’s single to left with Berroa running put runners at the corners, Brett the Jet stole second, but Jeter fanned against Delcarmen for the second out.  Yet the Yanks got a break when JD’s hot shot went under Pedroia to give the Yanks a 10-9 lead.  But after Teixeira was intentionally walked, JD was inexcusably picked off to end the threat.  In the bottom half, Alby coughed it up when Youkilis led off with a double, moved to third on Drew’s 3U and, after Bay was intentionally walked, Lowell killed Alby and the Yanks with a three-run homer over the monster, 12-10 Boston.

Cano’s one-out homer to right off Okajima in the eighth made it 12-11, Posada walked, and Matsui nearly homered to center, doubling instead to make it second and third.  Melky’s comebacker to Ramirez got Jorge in a run-down and, although Matsui and Melky moved to second and third, Melky’s failure to deliver cost the Yanks an out.  Gardner also failed to deliver in the clutch, grounding out to Pedroia.  Edwar came in and Jorge’s catcher’s interference gave Ellsbury first, then second on a stolen base that was awfully close, but wrongly called safe.  It proved costly, for Pedroia singled him in, 13-11.  Marte entered and Jorge’s passed ball gave Pedroia second, Ortiz’s fly ball moved him to third. Youkilis was intentionally walked, Marte fanned Drew for the second out, but Robertson walked Bay and Lowell’s double to left cleared the bases, 16-11.  Though Jeter and Teixeira walked in the ninth, they couldn’t score any runs off Papelbon, 16-11.

Burnett went south in the blink of an eye, getting into trouble with the walks again.  His line–5 IP, 8 H, 8 R earned, 3 BB, 3 K on 91 pitches/55 strikes–pushed his ERA from 3.20 before today to 5.47 now.  It also taxed the bullpen that was already overworked from poor starts and last night’s extra-inning loss.  The pen was no better–3 IP, 5 H, 8 R 7 ER, 4 BB, 3 K.  All around, the pitching was disgraceful, a waste of a tremendous offensive effort against a very good pitcher in Beckett, whom the Yankees abused.

Cano was 3-6 with 2 runs, 5 RBI (15 this year), a double and 2 HR (5 this year), batting .366.  Jeter was 2-4 with 2 runs, 2 walks and a stolen base, batting .301.  JD was 2-6 with 2 runs, 2 RBIs on his 3rd homer, batting .317.  Teixeira was 0-1 with 3 runs and 5 walks, batting .235.  Swish was 2-6 with a double and his 13th RBI.  Jorge was 2-4 with his 13th RBI and a walk, batting .298.  Matsui was 2-5 with a double, batting .261.  Berroa was 1-4 with a run, and Gardner 1-5 with a run and a stolen base.  The offense is producing and certainly did today, getting 15 hits and 8 walks to score 11 runs.  Still, the offense squandered chances.  It sounds as though it’s nitpicking when they scored 11 runs, but it isn’t at all.  The Yanks were at one point early in the game 3-7 with RISP.  Afterward, they went 0-10 with RISP, and stranded a total of 12 runners.  Once Boston closed it to 6-5 and actually started to hit Burnett, all bets were off as to six runs being anything close to enough.

The offense is obviously not reason number one why the team lost; far from it.  That ignominious top ranking rests squarely on the arms.  Yet the Yanks’ offense needed more and left too many aboard at the same time that Boston warmed up and did not miss chances.  A big difference in the game is that, while the Yanks were 3-17 with RISP stranding 12, Boston was 6-13 stranding 4.  The Yanks left runs on base, Boston didn’t and, as the game went on, neither team could afford to squander anything.  Again, the Yanks did.  It should not have taken more than 11 runs to win, no question. Jeez, the Yanks scored in six of the nine innings.  But there’s no avoiding that a difference in the game was one team outhitting the other in the clutch.  Boston did that today, with tremendous assistance from New York’s abysmal pitching.

Lefty (2-0, 2.53 ERA) faces Masterson (1-0, 3.18) in an effort to stave off an embarrassing sweep.  With better pitching (especially today) and hitting with RISP (both games but especially yesterday), the Yanks would be gearing up for a sweep; now they’re trying to avoid being swept.  That’s hardly an appealing scenario when so much was possible the last two games, yet so much was wasted.

Against Boston, the Yanks are 7-36 with RISP, stranding 27 in two games.  That’s atrocious, but not an anomaly.  Against Oakland, New York was 9-23 with RISP, but stranded 23 in two games; against Cleveland, 4-32, 37 stranded in four games.  In the last 8 games, the Yanks are 20-91 with RISP, having left 87 on base–in eight games.  That’s a lot wasted, poor pitching notwithstanding.

[Edit: Before I forget, Veras seems to have reverted to his pre-Wednesday form, getting into trouble right away.  Marte just doesn't inspire much trust; nor does Edwar.  Personally, I think Boston got hot and would have hit just about anybody today once they got rolling.  We'll see what happens, but today is an object lesson in the need for reliable middle relief.  The Yanks don't have that.  Some such as those mentioned above just aren't consistent enough to be reliable, they routinely groove pitches and, should this continue, Veras, Edwar, and Marte in no particular order stand to get shipped off if they don't pitch consistently well.  They're too often brutal.]

Published in: on April 25, 2009 at 8:28 pm  Comments (6)  

Game 17: Yankees @ Red Sox, 4/25/09

The Yanks hope to rebound after last night’s extra-inning, blown-save, blown chances debacle, with A.J. Burnett taking the bump against Josh Beckett in a top-flight match-up of hard-throwing ex-Marlins. [I may have just set the land speed record for the fastest insertion of the most hyphenated words on a Yankees blog.] As per The Great Abe, below are the lineups.  Matsui returns to DH, Brett the Jet is back in CF, Swish is at clean-up, and Cano 5th.  Angel Berroa, called up for the injured Ransom (who is on the 60-day DL, indicating his injury is indeed serious), is playing third–which he’s barely played.

Lots of moves today.  As Nick posted on the previous post and Mike texted me while my son was at tennis, Bruney is on the DL for his injured elbow and Mark Melancon has been called up.   According to Abraham:

Bruney has what they are calling a strained flexor mass. His ligaments are fine, it’s a muscle injury. He will not throw for a week and they’re hoping that takes care of it.

This is clearly bad news that the Yanks eighth-inning guy, and someone who had been so excellent to start the season, is on the DL.  But on the bright side, this could have been worse news, thus far.

Humberto Sanchez, whom the Yanks acquired in the trade for Gary Sheffield, has been released outright.  I’m glad to be rid of that selfish Sheffield, and his best days were behind him anyway but that trade has yet to pay dividends, primarily because of Sanchez’s health problems.  Kevin Whelan and Anthony Claggett remain in the minors and might yet contribute.

Congratulations to Saif, whom I got to know from Bleeding Pinstripes and when I had the blog at MLBlogs, for posting the 10,000th comment this morning.  He won the requisite washer-and-dryer combo, and the all expenses paid free tour around the blog.  Depending on this year’s funding levels for the blog, he might also receive a scholarship to Oxford.  Seriously, though, it’s good to see someone from the ol’ MLBlogs days post. Welcome aboard.

I might be around for chin-wagging.  Enjoy the game.

YANKEES (9-7)
Jeter SS
Damon LF
Teixeira 1B
Swisher RF
Cano 2B
Posada C
Matsui DH
Berroa 3B
Gardner CF

Pitching: RHP A.J. Burnett (2-0, 3.20)

Burnett vs. the Boston hitters.
RED SOX (10-6)
Ellsbury CF
Pedroia 2B
Ortiz DH
Youkilis 1B
Drew RF
Bay LF
Lowell 3B
Varitek C
Green SS

Pitching: RHP Josh Beckett (2-1, 3.79).

Beckett vs. the New York hitters.

Published in: on April 25, 2009 at 2:19 pm  Comments (8)  

Injury Update

According to the eventually omniscent Abe, Wang has a hip issue that is a byproduct of last year’s foot injury.  He’ll continue to throw while on the DL and receive physical therapy for his hip.  A completely fabricated rumor is that none other than Annie Savoy diagnosed Wang’s hip issue.

Ransom has a quad strain that will land him on the DL, perhaps for some time.  Girardi apparently isn’t too worried about Bruney’s elbow, but Girardi’s word on such things tells me to wait for further and often different word.

Published in: on April 24, 2009 at 11:59 pm  Comments (2)  
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