Yanks Prevent PaVoldemort Win, Lose 5-4

A late-inning bullpen implosion tarnished an eighth-inning comeback and some excellent work by Wang in relief of Hughes as the Yanks lost 5-4.  Teixeira drove in all four runs to give him an outstanding 44 for the season thus far, fourth in the AL.  Hughes was decent but not great, allowing four runs earned in five somewhat inefficient innings.  Wang was excellent in relief, allowing three hits and a walk with three K’s in three innings on just 42 pitches/28 strikes.  After today, Wang deserves some consideration for being moved back into the rotation, although he does provide an important relief facet for the young starters in Joba and Hughes, whose pitches and innings the Yanks wish to limit.

I brought the family to see “Up” which was very good, and got back in the sixth, as Wang started to settle in.  Unfortunately, it took a while for the Yanks to start the offense against PaVoldemort.  I saw the play on which Jeter was wrongly called out at first, taking away a run in the sixth from the Yanks, for Teixeira hit a two-run and not a three-run homer.  Jeter then was rightly called safe on a grounder up the middle in the eighth, and  I must say that, with all due humility, I called Teixeira’s game-tying RBI double in the eighth.  I was folding laundry and, as I put away towels during the carousel from the Cleveland bullpen, I thought, what will happen with Teixeira.  I thought for a second and, since I was urging “hit the gap” toward the TV right before Herges entered, I stuck with that.  Sure enough, Teixeira ripped a two-run double off the scoreboard wall in left center to tie the game. Needles to say, I was very psyched. Yet the Yanks could neither score him from second with one out in the eighth, nor with first and third with one out in the ninth, when Brett the Jet didn’t steal second and Jorge hit into a 4-6-3 DP.  Coke couldn’t find the strike zone and allowed a walk to Crowe, the nine-hole hitter, then Robertson walked Francisco and subsequently allowed Peralta’s game-winning walk-off single in the bottom of the ninth–very much a bad product of the count as Robertson also struggled to throw strikes.  That said, I like Girardi’s using Robertson instead of a dung pile like Veras.  It’s about time that other players, especially the kids such as Robertson (and hopefully later Melancon) get the chance to succeed.  Veras should be gone; he’s simply not trustworthy.

The Yanks didn’t generate much off that asshead PaVoldemort.  They also hit 2-8 with RISP, not good.  I’m also displeased that they lost to a Cleveland team without Sizemore and Martinez.  But at least PaVoldemort didn’t get the win.  Nor did the team roll over; instead, they came back and fought, which they often do.  Wang’s excellent relief effort was one of the best developments of the game and, with Hughes decent but not great, it will bear some watching to see if Girardi will move Wang back into the rotation soon.

Jeter’s 2-4 puts him at .306.  Teixeira is killing the ball, going 2-4 with a double, homer, and all four RBIs, batting .281. JD was 2-4 with 2 runs, batting .301.  A-Rod, Matsui, Swish, and Gardner each had a hit.  Cervelli made two great throws, one to nab Valbuena and the other nearly gettign Francisco with both throws in the dirt.  He’s an excellent defensive catcher.

Joba (2-1, 3.97 ERA) faces Jeremy Sowers (1-2, 7.71 ERA) go tomorrow night. The Yanks are up a half-game after 50.  Win the series tomorrow, guys.

[Edit: According to Pete Abraham, Brett the Jet didn't run in the 9th because he got the sign to run, but didn't because he feared getting picked off.  Yeesh.  Memo to Brett the Jet, to paraphrase Ebby Calvin "Nuke Laloosh:" Don't think, just run.]

Published in: on May 31, 2009 at 7:39 pm  Comments (7)  

Yanks Rolling, Beat Cleveland 10-5

I saw none of the game yesterday, but got occasional score updates while having a beer and a burger at a terrific bar, Hackney’s, in Chicago last night after a conference.  I also got late score updates on the phone with Frank the Sage as the game wound down.  The team is rolling in all facets right now, blowing out Cleveland 10-5 and, with Boston losing 5-3 to Toronto, 1 1/2 games up on both in the tough AL East.  Sabathia was good, going seven strong and allowing 7 runs, 5 hits, 3 runs earned, 3 walks, and fanning 8 on 113 pitches/70 strikes.  The big guy has been very good of late, going 4-0 in his last five starts with a 2.08 ERA, 32 K, 9 BB, 2 HR, and a complete game.  Robertson pitched a perfect eighth, but Veras was for some reason allowed in the game in the ninth and, predictably, allowed a solo homer, then another run.  I only have three words for the Yankees on Veras–DESIGNATED FOR ASSIGNMENT.  Let my Veras go…

The offense was hot, making Carmona pay for his mistakes and Cleveland for their defensive miscues.  Matsui was 3-5 with 2 doubles and an RBI, his 19th.  He’s 7 for his last 16 to raise his average 21 points in his last four games.  Jorge hit a solo homer (his 6th) to lead off the sixth, giving him 21 RBIs.  Cano was 2-5 with 3 RBIs, 31 on the year.  He’s hitting .320, hitting consistently well, doing much to shoulder the offensive load, and not to be overlooked had 2 two-out RBIs last night.  Jeter was 2-5 with 2 RBIs, giving him 25 thus far and a .302 average.  What a year Jeter is having thus far–/302/.373, 7 HR, 25 RBI, 10/11 in stolen bases, 11 doubles, and a 13-game hitting streak in which he’s raised his average 32 points by going 23-59 (.390).  Crucially, he has only committed 2 errors and has a .989 average.  Great start for The Captain.

Teixeira was 2-5 with a double and 2 runs, batting .276.  He’s raised his average 45 points with his own 12-game hitting streak in which he’s hit 20-51 (.392), 7 HR, driven in 16, and scored 13 runs.  Clearly, A-Rod’s return has had a positive influence on Teixeira.  Clearly, also, he’s seeing the ball well and just mashing.  His homer against Holland in Texas was absolutely crushed.  A-Rod was 1-3 with 2 walks, batting .260 and looking better every game.  Swish hit his 10th homer with 29 RBIs, scoring twice and, while only hitting .227, has a .368 OBP since he’s worked 34 walks.  Brett the Jet scored twice without a hit, but is hitting a respectable and useful .271.  He and Melky have combined for a productive CF tandem thus far, doing a considerable amount to solidify the bottom of the lineup.

The Yanks are 29-20, 1 1/2 up on Boston and Toronto.  Hughes (3-2, 5.16) faces that asshead PaVoldemort (5-4, 5.50 ERA) as the Yanks look to make it four straight, wrapping up what has been an excellent May (17-10, after starting 3-7).  End May strong with another win, and please, please beat that asshead PaVoldemort.

Some good tidbits from Pete Abraham about the loose but tightly knit Yankees clubhouse.

[Edit: I forgot to mention this earlier, but remembered while running this morning.  Frank the Sage made a good point in last night's chinwag, saying that a sign that the Yanks are on is making teams pay for their mistakes, such as the two errors Cleveland committed last night.

I said last night, what's the point of keeping all those pitchers, including the inherently untrustworthy Veras, while the bench remains precariously thin and Shelley is mashing in SWB?  He now has 18 homers but sits in SWB while Veras and, as Pete Abe rightly mentions, Berroa, barely play and do poorly when they do.

I never root for injuries and cetainly didn't for these, but the Yanks really must take advantage of Sizemore going on the DL and the likely absence of Martinez who was hit on the knee with ball last night.]

Published in: on May 31, 2009 at 9:07 am  Comments (2)  

Yanks in First After Topping Cleveland 3-1

Excellent pitching by Pettite (whose back stiffened up, forcing his somewhat early exit), Aceves who has been outstanding, and the one and only Mariano pushed the Yanks not just to a neat 3-1 win in Cleveland, but into first place by a half-game with Toronto’s win over Boston.  Mariano and Pettite also set a major-league record by teaming up for their 58th combined win-save, a tremendous accomplishment and testament to their shared longevity.  Jeter drove in Swish with an RBI single in the second Teixiera followed with an RBI ground out to plate the resurgent Brett the Jet, and Swish hit a sac fly in the third to score Cano.  Pettite was good but walked five and had to leave in the sixth with no outs, but Aceves surrendered only a sac fly.  He then dominated, allowing just a hit while fanning three in three full innings.  Mariano’s save was his 10th of the year and 492nd of his amazing career, earned by working around a hit and fanning two.

Jeter had two hits and JD one, with both at .299.  Jorge’s return was a good one, going 2-3 with a double and hitting .325.  Cano continues to hit well at .318.  Brett the Jet’s hit put him at .279, filling in well for Melky and showing himself capable and worthy of playing time.  A-Rod’s single put him at .257, Teixeira’s at .273, and Swish is just at .227 but had a single and important sac fly.  Only Matsui, poor guy, didn’t get a hit last night.

I would have liked for this game to have been put out of reach, especially early since the Yanks worked Cliff Lee over, ratcheting his pitch count up to 87 after just four innings.  They had loads of chances from the first inning onward, but stranded 10 in all, hitting just 2-12 with RISP.  Yet with pitching that good, it was enough for they denied Cleveland a single hit with RISP, forcing Cleveland to strand 11.

CC (4-3, 3.42 ERA) squares off against hard-throwing sinker-baller Fausto Carmona (2-4, 6.42 ERA) at 7:05 ET tonight.

Published in: on May 30, 2009 at 7:24 am  Comments (2)  

Yanks Stomp Rangers Again 9-2

First off, sorry for no post last night or about it.  I pulled an all-nighter the night before with work, then taught, then had to tend to the family and make dinner, then helped my daughter study for a while for a final exam.  I listened to a couple innings, but was honestly totally out of gas by 10:30 CT which, with the extended rain delay, put things in about the 3rd inning.  After such a long day-plus, what a sublime pleasure it is to get eight hours of sleep.  Agreed with Mike’s comment in the previous post about Aceves, and what disgusting work with RISP–an area in which the Yankees have dramatically improved of late.  Not last night–2-12, stranding 12 and scoring only three runs despite 13 hits and 4 walks.  Yay-Howza.  Nor was Joba good or economical.  Great, Mauer-like play by A-Rod at third, diving to the bag to nab a somnambulant Kinsler.  Great stuff.

However, the Yanks made up for it tonight with an impressive and dominant 9-2 win, with Burnett very good if inefficient, and the offense electric from the get-go.  Jeter began the game with a hard single laced up the middle off hard-throwing young lefty Derek Holland and, after JD fanned, Teixeira got a fastball down and in and absolutely crushed it past the last row in the lower section in left, 2-0 in a blink.  Back-to-back two-out doubles from the juggernaut that is Kevin Cash (who reads The Heartland daily and sent several irate e-mails to the author swearing he’d rub it in my face when he starts to hit, and now is hitting) and The Captain in the top of the second made it 3-0.

Matsui crushed the first pitch of the top of the sixth, a belt-high fastball grooved over the plate, for a homer to very deep right, 4-0.  Swish walked, and Brett the Jet bunted his way on for a single and went to second, and Swish third, on Holland’s throwing error.  I’m so glad this was rightly called a hit and error, for The Jet was a step past the bag before the ball sailed past, a clear hit, and a stark reminder that the dude can fly.  The force that is Kevin Cash singled to left to score them both, 6-0 Yanks, although a tremendous throw from Murphy may have had the speedy Gardner at home had Saltalamacchia been able to grab it.  That says a lot about Murphy’s arm, for when The Jet rounded third, I thought it was a sure run despite being in somewhat shallow left.  Murphy’s throw was on the fly and just a couple feet off.  Cano doubled to lead off the eighth, and Matsui smashed his second homer of the night to right center, 8-0 Yanks.  I really feel for Matsui, for especially on the second homer, he was trotting around the bases–and not in slow, watch-my-backside, Dave Parker style.  I remarked before that I believe his knees have been bothering him.  There’s no question about it in my mind, he’s not right physically.  If Matsui doesn’t have to run, he isn’t running at all.  Pity, a terrific Yankee and a guy who seems genuinely decent, someone about whom no one, ever has an untoward word.  He’s laboring now, no question in my mind.  Cano led off the ninth with a homer off Kent/Robby/Kris Benson, a no-doubt laser to deep right, 9-2 to cap the Yanks’ scoring.

Burnett was quite good, pitching six solid shutout innings, but requiring too many pitches to do so–118.  He threw first-pitch strikes to 14 of the 25 batters he faced, and 70 of his 118 pitches he threw were for strikes.  But he battled, came back from 3-0 counts to retire Hamilton in the first and Cruz in the fourth, and simply refused to allow runners to score.  His line is on the whole good except for the walks–6 IP, 3 H, no runs, 4 BB, 7 K.  Again, he got behind some batters, I think to a good degree he was up in the zone way too much, a sign that he, I believe, is too upright in his delivery.  But Burnett was better than he has bene in some time and, with kind of offensive support, Burnett was more than good enough tonight.

Veras is someone for whom I am having increasing difficulty justifying any use. The guy allowed a double to Saltalamacchia and a homer to Kinsler, after which he walked Young before being lifted for the more effective and accurate Robertson.  It’s about time Veras got the DFA slip, seriously.  Seriously.  Let him go; let someone else try to make sense of a guy with an arm that can hurl 95+, but continually ends up wretching. Wang, who should have pitched sometime before tonight since he’s had a few days off, threw 2 perfect innings (albeit with a couple hard-hit balls) and, among 26 pitches, threw 18 strikes.  He looked good and, to me, deserves a start sometime soon.  If the guy was truly hurt, and this truly led to his early-season struggles, then why not give the guy–who has twice been a 19-game winner–a shot to get back in the rotation?  I don’t see him as a long reliever and, given their passing on him in such a role yesterday, apparently the Yanks don’t either.

Offensively, I could start with a lot of guys, but I’ll begin with Teixeira, who was 2-5 with his 15th homer, and has 39 RBIs, batting .275.  How much has he improved in May, especially after A-Rod returned?  Let’s discuss:

  • April: 3 HR, 10 RBI, .200/.367; 17 BB
  • May: 12 HR, 29 RBI (11 HR/24 RBI post A-Rod), /327/.395; 10 BB.

It’s worth pointing out not just Teixeira’s significantly improved numbers, but also the fact that his OBP hasn’t sky-rocketed because teams don’t want to walk him with A-Rod immediately behind him. The ball he hit tonight was positively crushed.  Jeter was 3-4 with his 22nd RBI, batting .298.  Cano was 2-5 with his 28th RBI, batting .320.  Matsui was 2-5 with his 6th and 7th homers and, with his 3 RBIs, has driven in 18 and is hitting .257.  Despite his bad knees, Matsui is key to the Yanks as an effective DH–as long as he can be.  Every starter in the lineup had a hit, and a tip of the cap to Kevin Cash, who is actually hitting .,231 after his 2-4 night.  Good for him, after I questioned his right to wear a major-league uniform.  I’ll gladly gulp down a little crow on that one, though he, Berroa, and Veras should still go as soon as possible.  Brett the Jet’s 2-5 puts him at .277.  Melky and Gardner together as a CF tandem are batting .303 (71-234) with 39 runs scored, 10 doubles, 2 triples, 7 HR, 28 RBI, and 13 SB.  Through 47 games (not 30% yet), those are actually terrific combined numbers for the position.  A little competition has probably done some good and, while Melky has earned his job back, Brett the Jet has done sufficiently well to earn his place on the team as far more than a pinch-runner, but an OF with some real disruptive potential.  Today he looked good at the plate, taking the ball the other way and, yesterday, stealing 3 bases with ease.

The Yanks are now tied for first with Boston at 27-20, with tomorrow off and four upcoming against Cleveland, which is playing better ball lately.  Still, I like the Yanks’ chances to take 3 before returning home to face Texas and Tampa.  The Yanks are one of only five teams to have winning records both at home and away (the others are Texas, St. Louis, Milwaukee, and LA).  I like the balance and poise the Yanks bring on the road.

Published in: on May 28, 2009 at 12:40 am  Leave a Comment  

Yanks Stomp Rangers 11-1

Swamped with work, I’ll make this relatively brief.  A-Rod and Hughes were nothing short of phenomenal, the offense was relentless, and the Yanks put the hurt on the Rangers 11-1.  The Yanks scored twice in the first on four hits by the first four batters, plated four more in the third, and controlled the Rangers throughout.  A-Rod went 5-5 with 2 doubles, 2 runs and 4 RBIs (19 on the brief year for him thus far), upping his average to .259.  He hit everything hard and to all fields, a tremendous display of hitting by A-Rod.  Teixeira was 2-3 with 2 RBIs (36 this year) and a double, batting .275.  Cano was 2-5 with a triple, driving in 2 (27 this year) and batting .315.  Jeter was 1-5 with a double to start the game, scoring twice.  JD was 2-4 with 3 runs, batting .312.  Swish drove in 3, giving him 27 this year.  My boy Cash (!) went 3-5, upping his average to .182.  Really, the whole team mashed today, with rarely a bloop or accidental hit as the team belted 19 base hits and was a stellar 9-20 with RISP–with some of those RISP outs late after the game was no longer in doubt.

But Hughes was every bit as important to this blowout as the offense, completely shutting down the potent Texas lineup.  After allowing a lead-off double to Cruz and hitting Blalock, Hughes fanned the next three in a row, went 1-2-3 in the 3rd, worked around a lead-off double by Hamilton in the fourth and threw only 9 pitches that frame then, after allowing a one-out double to Teagarden in the fifth and a lead-off walk to Blalock in the sixth, didn’t let anyone else reach base.  He was dominant, fanning six, using a terrific curve and fastball that was in the low 90s, and throwing lots of strikes–65 of 101.  Aceves surrendered a solo shot to Cruz in the bottom of the ninth to break the shutout, but this was a laugher early, 11-1 Yanks.

The Yanks are now 26-19, seven above .500 and, with Toronto losing again, the Yanks are in sole possession of second, two ahead of Toronto in the loss column, while the Yanks await the outcome of Boston-Minnesota, with Boston ahead 6-3 in the 9th.  Great to see the bats show up en masse, especially A-Rod’s.  Just as terrific, Hughes deserves another look in the rotation after hand-cuffing the Rangers.  Great performance all around.

Happy Memorial Day, everyone.

Published in: on May 25, 2009 at 3:52 pm  Comments (3)  

Phillies 4 Yanks 3: No Magic in Extras

Despite Melky the Once-Again Clutch’s ninth-inning dramatics to tie the game, the Yankees fell to the Phillies in 11, 4-3.  Tomko struggled to find the strike zone before walking Utley with two outs and surrendering a double to Ruiz for the lead.  Sabathia pitched well over eight, allowing nine hits, no walks, three runs earned, and fanning four.  Veras was actually good for the ninth, working around a walk and fanning two, and Mariano worked the 10th for what could have been a win but, after The Captain and JD led off with singles, Teixeira grounded into a DP on a 3-2 pitch, and after the Phillies naturally worked around the dangerous A-Rod (despite going 0-4 with 3 K’s), Pena flew out to center to end what was a tough threat to win the game.

To me, a couple plays made big differences–and I say this with the caveat that I took my twrrific daughter to the pool for some sun and fun during the top of the sixth.  She asks and receives as often as possible.  She’s a great kid, brilliant, funny, nice, sweet as a peach, and works her butt off in school.  She should get such modest requests.  That said, Werth pegging out JD at the plate, and especially Ruiz’s stellar block of the plate, kept the Yanks from tying the game at 2 after the Phillies scored 2 in the top of the 3rd, and JD drove in Cervelli with a double.  I don’t disagree with the send, but it was a risk with a good arm in Werth in short-to-medium left.  Still, I like Thomson and his aggressiveness–make the left fielder, any fielder, make that play against a guy with good speed.  The key to me wasn’t the throw as much as Ruiz’s play, nabbing the throw on one hop, blocking the plate, and tagging out JD at once.  One could make a strong case for Ruiz being the player of the series, which the Yanks lost by the way.  Ruiz was excellent throughout.

Not scoring in the bottom of the 10th hurt a lot and was, to me, a bad omen.

There is still weakness at the bottom of the order, and I hate to name names, but Gardner is still too spotty for me.  So is Swish of late, and the both of them failed to deliver Melky in the bottom of the 9th.

The top of the order (Jeter 3-5, JD 2-5 with an RBI, Teixeira 2-5 with a run and RBI on his solo shot in the sixth) was excellent today–7-15 combined, but the rest of the lineup was atrocious, going 6-28 (.214).  That ways a lot, considering that Melky the Once-Again Clutch was 3-5 with the game-tying RBI, his 20th.  That means that aside from the top 3 and Melky, the team was 3-23–horrible. It’s not the first time that I’ve said this, but I’m officially concerned about Matsui and his knees.  He was 0-5, and is down to .241.  He’s 6 for his last 42 going back to May 9 and, the last that I could tell, it’s been some time since he’s had his knees drained.  I’d be shocked not to hear some similar news in the next week.  The tough situation is, without Posada and Nady, there are precious few DH options. A-Rod can, but Pena’s heretofore weak bat then is inserted in a pretty weak bottom three.  The Yanks, as constituted with lots of big-salary players and others filling in injured, are unusually top-heavy.  They need some depth back.

One of three against the Phillies stinks, but it could have been worse especially since the Yankees came back and won yesterday.  They need more offensive consistency, especially in the early innings, to avoid the need for the late-game dramatics.  With Toronto’s loss and Boston’s eventual win (up 7 as I write this), the Yanks will be close to but behind the lead in the tough AL East.  Still, one heck of a home stand, going 8-2 to regain some confidence and momentum before hitting the road in Texas and the Land of Cleve.  Yet it also shows that there are only so many times that a team can get down to its last outs and pull wins out.  Despite the value of hanging in and winning tight games, which the Yankees have shown admirably this year, that’s no way to live.

On to Texas, which is playing good ball, leading the West, and getting some decent pitching to complement their hitting.  2 of 3 in Arlington would be great.

Published in: on May 24, 2009 at 4:35 pm  Comments (5)  

Game 44: Phillies @ Yankees, 5/24/09

As per the returning Pete Abraham Sam Borden (that interloper! Just kidding, for I think Borden is a terrific writer), below is the Yanks’ starting lineup.  Note the placement of Matsui seventh, about right considering how he’s (not) hitting compared to Cano and even Melky the Once-Again Clutch.  This should be a heck of a match-up, ace against ace with Sabathia facing Hamels for the series win.  The Yanks are just a half-game behind Toronto in first and are in fact a half-game ahead in the loss column, and tied with Boston with identical 25-18 records for second, with their dramatic win yesterday and Boston’s dramatic loss to the Mets on a two-run homer in the ninth off Papelbon.  Holy Omir Santos!  Hopefully Jurrjens can shut down Toronto for the Yanks (and Atlanta), and Redding can match Wakefield.

I love baseball.

Nice piece below excerpted from Tyler Kepner’s “Bats” blog at The New York Times on Friday discussing why Melky has had such a good start to the 2009 season:

[Kevin] Long admitted that Cabrera can be streaky, but he said he really did seem to be better this season. Specifically, Long said, he is using his lower half more effectively and getting better pitches to hit.

“He’s hitting the ball hard and seeing a lot of pitches, taking great at-bats,” Long said.

Long said he based that on both personal observation and statistics not quantified in box scores. After every game, Long evaluates each at-bat, like a hitting-coach version of Roger Ebert: thumbs up or thumbs down.

Cabrera, he said, has had 61 percent “good at-bats” this season, the highest percentage of any player on the Yankees. To Long, a good at-bat is defined as any hit, walk or hit-by-pitch, or any at-bat that consumes a lot of pitches or ends in an especially hard-hit ball.

As for those hard-hit balls, Long keeps track of those, too. He said Cabrera has hit the ball hard in 51 percent of his at-bats, also tops on the team. Fifty-one percent is an extremely high figure, he said. By Long’s calculations, a very good hitter will hit the ball on the sweet spot only about 40 percent of the time.

So is Cabrera for real? Only time will tell, but it’s pretty clear that for now, he could not be doing much better.

It is true that Melky is having fewer of “those” kinds of at-bats like he did last year, characterized by weak ground outs and pop-ups.  Good to see he’s done what was urged of Gardner as well–using the lower half to generate better power.  This means not necessarily hitting home runs but flat-out hitting the ball hard.  I like this excerpt too for it also shows that the Yankees have done a good job generating alternative statistical models for evaluation, player achievement, and success.

YANKEES (25-18)
Derek Jeter SS
Johnny Damon LF
Mark Teixeira 1B
Alex Rodriguez 3B
Robinson Cano 2B
Melky Cabrera RF
Hideki Matsui DH
Francisco Cervelli C
Brett Gardner CF

Pitching: CC Sabathia (4-3, 3.43 ERA)

Published in: on May 24, 2009 at 9:34 am  Leave a Comment  

Game 43: Phillies @ Yankees, 5/23/09

As per Joe Erwin at LoHud, below are the lineups.  Cervelli is thankfully back in, Pena is playing third, A-Rod is the DH, and Matsui sits against the lefty.

YANKEES (24-18)
Derek Jeter SS
Johnny Damon LF
Mark Teixeira 1B
Alex Rodriguez DH
Robinson Cano 2B
Melky Cabrera CF
Nick Swisher RF
Francisco Cervelli C
Ramiro Pena 3B

Pitching: LHP Andy Pettitte (4-1, 4.18).

Top 1: After seeing “Star Trek,” which was pretty good, I got back in and turned on the TV.  To my surprise, this is the FAUX game in the Midwest and, to my pleasure, the first pitch and play I saw was Pettite getting an inning-ending DP.

Bottom 1: Not a strike to Jeter, both because it was low and because the first pitch to him was in the same location and was called a ball.  JD also down looking, but on a nice pitch at the knees.  Teixeira hit a single past short, with Rollins playing way over on a hard pull.  A-Rod ends the inning on a 6-3, but at least Happ was forced to throw 19 pitches.

Top 2: Tremendous K of Howard on a perfectly located cutter away, one down, but Ibanez ripped a homer to center left belt high, missing Cervelli’s spot away, 1-0 Phillies.  Ibanez is on some kind of tear.  F9 for Victorino, two down.  Pettite walked Feliz on four straight.  Um, nothing wrong with these first two pitches to Mayberry, especially the first.  Barksdale is squeezing him, 2-1 with a fastball at the knees, 3-1 with one barely off the plate if at all.  The 3-1 strike was honestly not as good as the 2-1 ball, Barksdale is terrible already.  6-3 on a tough hop retires Mayberry, Jr, nicely done Jeter.  Get runs now guys and don’t stay behind, like last night.

Bottom 2: I think Werth lost that in the sun, getting turned around and having Cano’s hard-hit liner glance off the top of the webbing of his glove.  Melky sac bunts, Mike should be thrilled with that.  Swisher needs to at least drive the ball, though the infield is back.  Heck of a throw from deep in the hole by Rollins, three steps on the grass, to gun down Swisher, but Swish did his job and scored the run, tie game.  Nice job, Swish.  Why on earth did Cervelli bunt with no one on and two outs?  That’s beyond me, but the game is tied.

Top 3: Pettite painted the black with a first-pitch fastball, this time a strike from Barksdale.  Questionable third strike called on Coste, very nicely framed by Cervelli.  It was actually a pretty good pitch that tailed back over the plate, but Cervelli helped it out.  Rollins ahead 3-1, then swung and missed on a terrific sinking fastball, out on a 6-3, nice throw by Pena on an easy play.  Nice 2-0 bender to Utley, who eventually made out on a weak 4-3.  Pettite is already at 51 pitches, but hopefully more of the bullpen will be available today than for last night.

Bottom 3: Pena whiffed.  Jeter swung at a sure ball low, out on a 6-3.  Happ at 34 pitches.  The Yanks need to make him work more.  JD out on a five-foot tapper, 2-3.  Happ is at 37 only 37 pitches through 3.  This reminds me a bit of the first game against Bergesen and the O’s the last series, when the Yanks generated nothing with power off him until the wore him down.  My understanding is that, since this is first start, Happ will go about 90 pitches.  At this rate, that can get him and the Phils through 7.

Top 4: First-pitch change to Werth looked good but was called a ball, pop-up behind first, what a great over-the-shoulder sliding catch by Teixeira.  Watching him play first is a tremendous privilege. Howard out on a shallow F8, first pitch, two down.  Perfect location down to Ibanez on a 2-0 slider, and Ibanez popped out to Cano.  Pettite had a terrific, eight-pitch fourth.  Time to work over Happ with the heart of the order.

Bottom 4: Incredible effort from the hole by Rollins, who nearly threw out Teixeira from his knees at first.  Amazing.  Teixeira now at .267 after a 2-2 start today.  A-Rod ripped a 1-0 pitch way out but foul by about 10 feet, then A-Rod grounded into a 5-4-3 DP, nice scoop by Feliz to start that.  Nice patience Cano, swinging at the first pitch off Happ’s left hand, out at first.  When will this team learn some patience?  A seven-pitch fourth after an eleven-pitch third?  Goodness!

That’s a fast first four innings–one hour.

Top 5: Andy left that chest-high to Victorino, who singled.  Pettite walked Feliz, first and second no outs.  Pettite left that up for Mayberry Jr., who parked it to left 4-1, first homer.  Sure is nice to see the Yankees provide career and season firsts for various Phillies the last couple games.  Two down now and Pettite is at 86 pitches, 0-2 to Utley.  K of Utley, but it’s 4-1, and Pettite is at 88 pitches.  A very efficient two innings can get Pettite and the Yanks through seven, but it’s really up to the Yanks’ offense to get them back in the game before asking Pettite to hold it.  Wake up, guys.

Bottom 5: Melky is actually making Happ work, 2-2 before a weak pop to right, one down for Swisher, who just swung through a fastball right down Broadway, 0-2, eventually grounding out to third, two down and Happ at 56 pitches.  Shattered bat pop-up behind first, three down, Happ at 60 pitches and cruising.

Pettite hasn’t been bad but has made a couple costly mistakes, a generous strike call low gets Werth looking, one down.  He needs to hold it at four and give them a shot to defibrillate themselves and come back.  Pena playing short in a shift gets Howard on the first pitch, two down.  6-3 gets Ibanez, three down and Pettite at 99.  I’d be surprised if he didn’t at least start the seventh.

Bottom 6: Pena, Jeter, JD up.  Pena fans, and Jeter whacked the first pitch out to left, 4-2, seventh homer of the year for The Captain, and 213 for his great career.  JD hit a foul homer just past the pole on 3-2, then roped a liner to right, two down.  No patience from Teixeira, swinging at the first pitch, breaking his bat, and popping out, but it’s 4-2.  Hold it here.

Top 7: Andy K’s Victorino, one down on a sharp slider.  Nice running catch by JD in left center, two down and Mayberry Jr. up, bloop hit over first for a double.  Coke is warming up, nice catch on a foul pop, and Andy gave the Yanks seven pretty good innings, homers aside–5 hits, 2 BB, 5 K’s, but all four runs on the two homers.

Bottom 7: A-Rod, Cano, and Melky up against righty Chad Durbin, with Happ thankfully out.  A-Rod out on a 5-3, and really needs to get it going, down to .188.  That was not a first-pitch strike to Cano, Barksdale!  Weak 4-3 and is Cano lapsing back into bad habits?  That was a fastball outside, and he tried to pull it.  Why not take that the other way, Cano?  Melky chased a ball high, fouling it off 2-2, then looked at strike three.  I expect Coke to enter and face the top of the Phillies’ order.

Top 8: Nice job by Melky to track down a deep fly in left center off Rollins’s bat.  Utley singled on a belt-high pitch with Werth up, Coke could use a DP here.  Ask and ye shall receive!  Nice job by Coke especially pitching down in the zone to Werth.  Need runs now.

Bottom 8: Swisher K’d by Madsen, who clearly had his home-run swing on there.  No apparent thought of steering it to left.  Gardner is pinch-hitting for Cervelli, and Matsui is on deck for Pena.  Brett the Jet weakly hacked at a nasty change low and away; he was fooled.  But he did the right thing and slapped it just inside the line to left, easily getting a double as Werth misplayed the carom off the wall.  Matsui is up for the biggest at-bat of the game to this point, but K’d on a change, way out in front of that, two down for Jeter.  97-mph fastball for strike one, weak hack at the change that is devastating the Yanks this inning 0-2, and the change got him on 1-2.  That’s a tough change-up Madsen sports.

Top 9: Howard ripped a liner right at Swish in right, one down.  Now Coke is getting squeezed by Barksdale, especially on 2-1, but a weak tapper 1-3, two outs for Ibanez.  Jeez, now the match-up for Victorino?  Why?  He’s .260 versus righties, .265 versus lefties.  Veras for one-third of an inning?  I don’t trust him even for that.  Victorino lines out.

Bottom 9: Lidge is in versus JD, Teixeira, and A-Rod.  Hopefully Lidge’s starting off the 2009 season badly can serve the Yanks well, with hitters batting .312, 5 HR, 11 BB.  JD ahead 3-0, now 3-1 and a very low strike 2 call by the awful Barksdale–rendered academic with a fastball high and outside. Teixeira steps in as the tying run. Teixeira missed two changes in a row, JD took second on the second one.  Missed three in a row, one down for A-Rod, and this is a good time for him to get going.  Looks at a change low, good recognition, 1-0, high change 1-1, weak hack at a change low 1-2, lays off the change low 2-2 and another 3-2, then cranks a homer to deep right to tie the game!! 4-4, great work by A-Rod!! That was one heck of an at-bat, working the count, laying off low change-ups, then belting a pitch up out to tie the game. Cano singled up the middle and Lidge is up to 20 pitches, still one out.  Melky up, Cano just stole second!  Nicely done, putting the winning run at second and taking away the DP.  2-1 now and Melky the Clutch splits the gap in right center to win the game!! Great come-from-behind, walk-off fashion!! Huge win, stealing one from the Phillies and Happ but really working over Lidge for the win.  Outstanding!!

Great call by Girardi to have Cano steal second, making Melky the Clutch’s dramatics possible.  Pie in the face for Melky the Once-Again Clutch.  Great work also by Pettite and the bullpen to hold it at four, and shut down the Phillies in the last few innings.  Jeter’s homer was big to cut the lead to two, and A-Rod had a tremendous at-bat.  Nice patience by JD for the walk.  Huge win to even the series.

Published in: on May 23, 2009 at 3:28 pm  Comments (6)  

Game 42: Phillies @ Yankees, 5/22/09: Yanks Lose 7-3, Ending Winning streak at Nine

YANKEES (24-17)
Derek Jeter SS
Johnny Damon LF
Mark Teixeira 1B
Alex Rodriguez 3B
Hideki Matsui DH
Nick Swisher RF
Robinson Cano 2B
Melky Cabrera CF
Kevin Cash C

Pitching: RHP A.J. Burnett 2-1, 5.02.

Top 1: Not exactly the start I envisioned, with Jimmy Rollins parking the first pitch Burnett threw out for a homer, one pitch, 1-0 Philly.  Burnett then plunked Utley and allowed a single to the red-hot Ibanez, first and third no outs.  WTF/  No problem, says Mr. Burnett, who promptly fans Howard and Werth on his nasty slider, then gets a lot of help from his friend, Mr. Teixeira, who flat-out stole an RBI hot from Victorino with a great diving stop.  Right now, 1-0 Philly doesn’t look too bad.

Bottom 1: Jeter singled, JD forced him, Teixeira fanned, and A-Rod’d double didn’t score JD, who got thrown out on a terrific relay from left, still 1-0.

Top 2: Burnett coughs up enother homer, a two-run shot to Ruiz, 3-0 Phillies, with the surprise being who hit it, not necessarily that one was hit.  Now Rollins walked but is tranded by Utley.  Need runs now, guys.

1-2-3 for the wife-abusing Myers ends the second.  1-2-3 in return from Burnett, who is at 48 pitches through 3 and needs to go deep in this game.  Time to work the pitch count on that slob Myers, recognize his off-speed stuff busting lefties in, and work this clown over.

Good thing Melky swung at the first pitch, weakly tapping back to Myers one out.  Meanwhile, word is that Jorge may be back for the series in Cleveland later next week.  Come on, Jeter!  Swing or don’t; a check-swing weakly meandering to Howard gives Mr. Domestic-in-Public another easy 1-2-3 o eight pitches.  No way to work the count, no way to approach this reprobate.

I’d be lying if I said that Cash impresses me as a catcher.  Granted, he isn’t playing much, but he’s hitting all of .071, and the catcher Ruiz just stole second off him.  Thankfully, Burnett K’d Rollins.  Um, runs please, with patience too.  Burnett is at 65 pitches through 4, needs a blow, and Myers just isn’t this good, honestly.

JD worked the count but hit a comebacker to Mr. Wife Abuser, one down.  Teixeira singled to left, nice piece of hitting.  Time to string ‘em together now.  Keep it rolling, A-Rod, but he got totally fooled on a moderate fastball down Broadway, two down.  Jeez, when A-Rod gets fooled, he leaves no doubt.  I know I’m just some guy and not a professional hitter but, with Myers’s off-speed based approach, why not look fastball, as I mentioned a couple days ago?  It isn’t as though they can’t react then to the slower stuff.  Matsui worked the count to 3-1, but Myers threw a change for a strike, 3-2.  I have to hand it to the loser, he’s throwing off-speed stuff for strikes.  Matsui with an infield single to short for Swish, who really needs to deliver as he did early in the season.  Myers gave Swish nothing but junk, and Swish made out with a 4-3.  Myers is at 53 pitches/20 in the 4th, but without runs, it’s just throwing.

Hold it here, Burnett.  Nice K of Utley on a nasty curve.  Ibanez walked on four pitches, but Teixeira flat-out robber Howard of a hit, forcing Ibanez at second, two down.  What a pleasure it is to watch Teixeira play first, an underrated position.  But it’s for naught, with Werth creaming a fastball up and over the inner half into the second deck in left, a huge homer, 5-0 Phillies.  Burnett knew that was gone as soon as it was hit, turning away from the carnage and looking away as Werth parked it.  Victorino now tripled and the Yanks are in deep trouble, not hitting and not getting good work from Burnett when the team, and bullpen especially, really need it.  Burnett fanned Stairs, but the Yanks are down five halfway through the game, and Burnett is at 86 pitches through five.

Seriously, guys, now’s the time.

Bottom 5: Cano appears by this neo-junkball loser, but his grounder to Utley should have been made, E4 gives the Yanks a base runner for Melky, who fanned on three pitches.   The Yanks are being worked over by off-speed pitches, Cash up with one out, but he too fanned on off-speed, two down.  I know Cervelli needs a blow now and then, but I must say that I eagerly await Cash’s eventual demotion.  Jeter meekly grounded out, leaving that slime Myers at a mere 66 pitches through 5.  This isn’t shaping up well at all–no patience, not working the count, no success off a jerk like Myers.

Top 6: Felix down on an easy 6-3, one down, yet this game has an eerie feeling of settling in to a loss.  I sure hope I’m wrong and that the team can awaken in the last few innings.  But this has a familiar sense of the Yanks limping to a loss, and the opponent grinding them down.  Clearly, I’d like to see that change.  Now Ruiz, who entered the game 13-55, hit his first homer of the year earlier and now just singled after stealing his first base.

Great play by JD in left-center! He caught a deep fly off Rollins, then doubled that cocky Ruiz off first.  That was a heck of a throw by JD.  Now there’s the momentum the Yankees need.

Bottom 6: Howard belly-flopped to first with the 3U to get JD, one down.  The modified shift ensnared Teixeira again, two hard-hit balls but two outs.  A-Rod positively crushed one to deep left-center, 5-1.  Just as when A-Rod is fooled there is no doubt, when A-Rod is on one, he leaves no doubt.  He tattooed a knee-high fastball far out.  Matsui gave one a ride to deep left, but for naught, 5-1 Phillies, but the Yankees are at least on the board.

Wang is in now, with Burnett at 5.28 ERA after surrendering 8 hits and five runs earned, though he fanned 7.  Not a quality start.  Wang has it tough, facing Utley, Ibanez, and Howard–no easy test.  Wang is 2-0 to Utley, now 2-1, throwing 93, and he got Utley on a 94-mph ground ball–a good sign.  Yet Ibanez hit his 16th, crushing one off Wang, 6-1 Phillies.  Yikes.  As of now, the Phillies have 4 homers and are blowing out the Yanks with power, and in turn the Yankees are now hitting chump like Myers at all.  Wang got Howard looking, two down.  Werth singled on a one-hop to center.  Victorino singled Werth to third then stole second.  A 3U ended the seventh, and the Yankees are right back where they were the inning before–down five, but now with 2 1/2 to play.

Brutal, Swish, just brutal–one pitch, one out on a weak pop-up to the catcher in foul territory.  Cano with a weak pop, two down.  Jeez, does this team have slithering to a loss written all over it tonight, or what?  Melky with nice hitting, ripping a single off the facade of the right field stands.  melky went down and got that pitch low and in, well done kid.  But Yikes, Cash up.  I know, I should stay optimistic regardless, but it’s Cash.  I’m trying to remind myself of the power of positive thinking for various reasons.  F9 for Cash, three down.  Myers is at 93 pitches through seven and could certainly get through the eighth at this rate, if not more.  Poor outing for the Yanks and, while not all games can be grand, this would be a weak way to let a winning streak end should it happen–not giving up yet.  They’re just weak as a team tonight, and I feared that they’d struggle after the missed opportunity in the first, as in years past.  As of now, that’s just what’s occurring.

Wang allowed a lead-off single to Feliz and, with one out, Rollins also singles.  I hate to say it, certainly in good part because I want the Yankees to win, but it’s a good thing that Wang is up and pitching tonight to save the pen, Utley singled, 7-1 Phillies.  I worried about just this–not the lack of Yankees runs, but rather the Phillies’ offense.  Right around the start of the game, as I made fajitas for dinner, I approached the dinner table thinking of the Phillies scoring lots of runs–not that I wanted to, but perhaps some fear of it instilled the image in my head.  Not without reason, for that’s a good offensive club.

Six runs down in the eighth?  Time for some 9:30 Lightning.  The Captain delivers! Over the so-called 385-foot sign, Jeter homers, his 6th of the year and 212th of his great career, 7-2.  Teixeira then ripped one into the upper deck in right!  Incredible, one of the deepest homers at the new digs, 7-3 Phillies.  After A-Rod’s ground out, home plate ump Mike Winter just gave Myers the wife puncher two gift strikes with Matsui up, and he tapped back to the spouse abuser, three down, but 7-3.

In all, Wang wasn’t awful but not sharp, either, giving up two runs but six hits on 51 pitches/29 strikes.  Yanks need a huge ninth-inning comeback.

Doesn’t happen in the 9th.  Yankees lose 7-3.  Why?  Burnett served up 3 home run balls, really groowing ‘em up and in.  The bottom of the Yanks’ order went 1-15.  Additionally, all runs came off solo shots–no sustained rallies off a miscreant like Myers.  Burnett and Wang spared the pen but lost the game, allowing 14 hits, 3 BBs, and 4 homers.

Get ‘em tomorrow, with Pettite on the bump and hopefully shutting down the lefty-heavy Phillies’ lineup.

Published in: on May 22, 2009 at 6:21 pm  Comments (8)  

Make That Nine Straight; Crazy Stein Laid on the O-Birds

The Yankees are must-watch TV right now, winning their ninth straight to Crazy Stein the Orioles, 7-4.  It started out badly for the Yankees, for Joba took a liner off the side of the knee from Adam Jones, tried to pitch on, but was eventually removed for precautionary examination.  Thankfully X-Rays were negative, and he has a bruised knee–no bone or structural damage.  As I commented at The Sommer Frieze, is it me, or are Yankee pitchers getting hit on a daily basis?

Thankfully also, the Yankees have a long man (AHEM!) in Alfredo Aceves to fill in.  Although Aceves pitched 2 innings the night before, he went 3 1/3 of excellent scoreless relief, allowing just three hits and a walk while fanning one.  Aceves has been nothing short of tremendous and, in swinging between short and long stints, Mendoza-like in his rubber-armed efficiency, with an impressive ERA of 1.32.  Albaladejo was poor, forced to go longer than he should have and getting touched up for four runs, including a pair of solo shots from Roberts and Markakis.  Veras allowed two hits in 1 2/3 scoreless relief, and Mariano notched his ninth save of the year and 491st of his incredible career with a 1-2-3 ninth inning.

An important commonality in all three wins against Baltimore was scoring runs early, something the Yankees were hard-pressed to do in the first three games against Minnesota.  Including the last game against the Twins, the Yanks have scored 19 runs in the first three innings of the last four games, outscoring the opposition 19-3 in those frames.  Scoring early provides a huge advantage, forcing the other team to play from behind, play with pressure, ensure that every play, every pitch is true or risk falling farther behind.  Yesterday, four doubles from Jeter, JD, Teixeira, and Melky the Once-Again Clutch with a walk from Swish made it 4-0 before you could say Chris Ray.  The Yanks made it 6-0 in the second when Robinson Cano uncorked a laser over the wall in right, scoring Brett the Jet who had walked.  Matsui capped the scoring with a rocket of his own into the second deck in right.  Both were fastballs on the inner half, belt-high from Adam Eaton, who did not have good stuff last night and paid dearly for it.

As an aside, while many things about the new Stadium have really irked me, I must say how much I like the proximity of the second decks in the outfield, especially in right.  They’re very reminiscent of the original Stadium in location, how low they hang.  Fans there will get loads of action and fly balls.  Among some things the organization utterly botched and need rectifying this off-season about the new joint, that’s not one of them.

Damon sat with a sore neck from the night before, and Cano tore it up in the two-hole, going 3-4 with a single, double, and homer, driving in 3 to amass a .317 average and 25 RBIs in the first quarter-season.  His resurgence has been vital to the Yanks’ compiling (with this win streak) a pretty good start of 24-17.  Teixeira has worked his way up to .250 with a 2-3 game, with his 32nd RBI.  He has a four-game hit streak, and his average has jumped 52 points with A-Rod in the lineup behind him.  After hitting just .200 in April with 3 homers and 10 RBIs, he’s hit .297 in May with 8 homers and 22 RBIs, with more than a week remaining; great to see.  Melky the Once-Again Clutch has been tremendous, one of the Comeback Players of the Year in the majors honestly, going 1-4 with 2 RBIs, his 18th, batting .319.  He’s done so much to solidify the bottom of the lineup. Matsui’s fifth homer and 14th RBI put him at .252, and hopefully Matsui can bump his average up a bit.  The Yanks could use a hot Matsui and, going 5 for his last 32 over the last 10 games he’s played, I can’t help but wonder if he’s gone cold or if his knees are acting up.  Jeter had the double, his 9th, batting .273, and Swish had a single and two walks, batting .238 but with a robust .383 as a result of his team-high 29 walks.  I love that the Yankees went 4-7 with RISP, stranding but six.  Although much of that was in the first with the carousel of doubles, who cares?  When runners were on, the Yanks plated them more often than not; great work.

As a result of New York’s nine-game streak and Boston’s sweep of the Jays, things have tightened considerably in the East, with the Yanks but 1 1/2 behind Toronto, and Boston sandwiched in between a half-game back.  Of equal importance to me is the fact that the Yankees are tied with Toronto in the loss column or, as John Sterling would joke, the A.I.L.C.–the all-important loss column.  Don’t ignore the Rays, who are still a game under .500 but have played better ball lately.  Baltimore, meanwhile, has the third-worst winning percentage in baseball at 16-25 which, at that rate, would mean yet another losing season is already in the works.  Wouldn’t that actually be a losing percentage?  I mean, let’s give credit where due.  To a good degree a product of their poor pitching, the Orioles’ organization flat-out sucks.

Things will get considerably tougher for the Yanks with the Phillies in town for three.  Leading the NL East, Philadelphia has scored the second-most runs in the NL, leads the senior circuit in homers with 56, and is tied for first in the NL with RISP at .292.  As I suspected but certainly not to this degree, Ibanez has been a great acquisition, hitting .349 with 15 homers, 40 RBIs.  Sandwiched between the excellent Utley and Howard and batting third, Ibanez gives the Phillies a tough top four, with Jimmy Rollins leading off and due to come around.  Werth and Victorino are no slouches, either.  Their pitching can be had with a five-plus ERA, but the Phillies will provide the Yankees with a stiff test and, while I always want the Yankees to win every game, I’d settle for 2 out of 3 should it occur against Philly.

Speaking of stats, especially since I haven’t done this in some time, here are some worth considering for the Yanks.  They are third in the AL in runs scored with 232, seventh with a .271 batting average, lead the league and majors with 66 taters, fourth in OBP at .352, are twelfth but much improved of late with RISP at .263, are seventh with RISP two outs at .265 and seventh with the bases loaded at .342 after all those early-season struggles in so many of these categories.

The pitchers still need to be a bit more consistent, but things there have improved as well of late.  Pitching has had everything to do with why the Yankees have won nine straight, with the staff having allowed just 34 runs in the last 10 games and 29 during the winning streak.  While the bullpen has logged the fourth-most innings in the AL, they have the sixth-best BAA at .252, despite all the injuries.  Crucially, while the Yanks’ starters have had their travails, their 5.12 ERA stands ninth in the AL–and is better than Boston’s starters’ by the way.  Mind you, that’s with Wang’s 800-pound ERA of 34.50 lurking menacingly in the statistical room.  In sum, while there are some areas for continued improvement, and the team could use some more consistent bullpen work (and a couple different relievers in my esteem), they’re on the right track.

Published in: on May 22, 2009 at 4:18 am  Comments (9)  
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