Red Sox 7 Yankees 5; Mussina Ramirezed; Ramirez Buzzed; Earthquake

Forgive me for not posting last night, but I missed a good portion of the game so I was hoping to wait for the archived game to appear. But I was beat, and conked out, sleeping through an earthquake–literally. At about 4:30 a.m., a 5.4 magnitude earthquake struck centered near Evansville, IN, shaking buildings in Indianapolis and sending tremors as far north as Milwaukee and west as Kansas. It awoke my wife and daughter, and my son said he felt his bed shake. Yet I slept right through it. Usually I awaken at the faintest sound from one of the kids having a nightmare, but I was whipped. “Did you feel that?” my wife asked me. “Was it thunder?” was all I could mumble back. “No, it felt like an earthquake.” It was. There was no damage anywhere around here that I know of. Interesting morning [yawn].

Mussina just didn’t have it, and honestly is ill-equipped at this point in his career to go heads-up against a top-flight pitcher like Beckett. These match-ups happen early in a season, and certainly occurred because of Pettite’s tight back resulting in Mussina’s being moved up in the rotation. But Mussina got pounded, especially by Ramirez who pasted two long homers in the first three innings. He cranked a solo shot to deep center to lead off the second, and another to deep left as part of a four-run Boston third. Each time, Mussina left the pitch in a bad spot. In the second at-bat, he was locating his fastball on the outside corner well, but mysteriously tried to throw his 85-mph fastball low and inside–to Ramirez not, say, the author of this post. Mussina was pulled after three, allowing five runs earned on seven hits and 77 pitches/48 strikes. I’m fairly resigned to this being what to expect from Mussina–a couple decent starts, some rocky ones. When the Yankees signed him to the two-year deal, they did so in all likelihood hoping to get someone close to the 2006 Mussina–still touching 90 now and then, able to throw inside, 15-7, 3.51 ERA, over 8 Ks per 9 IP. Instead they got a pitcher at his age–38 and now 39–whose skills have shown that 2004 and 2005 indicated a gradual slide that 2006 interrupted. The Yankees chose experience and rolled the dice on an aging pitcher, and it’s fair to say that in more than a season, the Yankees have come up short on this. He’s game, and won’t always struggle like this, but he won’t justify his two-year, $23 million contract.

Boston added two more in the fifth, when Ramirez and Youkilis hit consecutive singles off Albaladejo, and Drew’s double scored them both. Other than the fifth, Albaladejo looked good, striking out three, walking only one, and allowing only one other hit in his three innings. The kid might deserve a longer shot at some point, though it’s hard to envision the Yankees getting rid of Nuke. More about him soon enough.

The Yankees struggled offensively through three innings, getting only a single from Melky in the third. They started to threaten in the fourth, with Abreu and A-Rod hitting back-to-back singles, but Giambi and Posada struck out to end that. A two-out Yankee rally in the fifth made a game of it. Melky worked a one-out walk, Damon doubled with two down, and Jeter’s single scored them, 7-2. Abreu’s double then scored Jeter to make it 7-3 with A-Rod coming up, but he popped out to Varitek in foul territory, squandering the opportunity for a really big inning. Beckett settled down quickly after that, working a 1-2-3 sixth, seventh, and eighth. Except for struggling in the fifth, Beckett dominated.

On the other side, Nuke entered for Albaladejo in the seventh and buzzed a fastball behind Ramirez’s head, prompting a warning to both sides. Mussina had hit Ellsbury twice early in the game on 1-2 pitches, trying to come in and probably doing no real damage. Of course, Jeter and A-Rod got hit Wednesday night, with only A-Rod’s plunking suspicious to me. Like it or not, Nuke sent a clear message to Ramirez–don’t get so comfortable in there. I saw it very late on the ESPN highlights, another reason for the next-day post. My take is that Nuke may or may not have thrown intentionally at his head. If he did, that’s a big no-no in my book especially with Nuke’s fastball. But as far as trying to buzz Ramirez in, I don’t have a problem with that at all. In fact, if Mussina had more nerve, he should have backed Ramirez off the plate himself. So should Albaladejo. Establish the inside, especially against the one guy who has been creaming you. Also, and whether or not this does so is in question, it sends the message that the Yanks don’t approve of Ramirez’s shameless preening after homers. He got out of the box quickly enough after the first home-run swing. Not so the second, posing for a time to admire his shot. That’s ridiculous and always has been. Guys like Drysdale, Gibson, Koufax, Feller, Reynolds, Raschi and on would not only have planted one behind his ear, but done it again if they felt the need. This is a different era. But Nuke’s nervy act got results–a ground out.

The Yankees touched up Papelbon a bit in the ninth to make it close. Cano’s ground out scored Posada to make it 7-4, and Melky the Clutch homered to right, turning beautifully on an inside fastball to make it 7-5, but Matsui struck out looking to end the game and the brief threat.

Jeter continues to produce, going 1-4 (.317) with the 2 RBIs (8 now), Abreu’s two-hit night bumped him back to .302, Melky’s 2-3 night pushed him to an impressive .319, and Damon, Posada, and A-Rod each had a hit. Cano is flailing in free-fall mode, going 0-4 and continuing to take very few pitches. Leiter said something in the ninth that I really disagreed with, asserting that this is Cano’s style and you don’t want to mess with it. Nonsense. The see-the-ball, hit-the-ball approach works when you see and hit the ball well. Cano isn’t, and it starts with recognition, or lack thereof. He’s not recognizing breaking pitches, putting him way out in front and off balance, resulting in continual strings of weak ground outs to the right side. Sure, he’s had some hard-hit balls now and then, but too infrequently to justify swinging at the first pitch all the time. He’s not working at-bats into his favor to get better pitches to hit. Any schlub can get to the plate and be aggressive. This is exactly why I have said that Cano is not a three-hole hitter yet, or for that matter one who belongs in the top six spots–and it’s not the poor results. It’s the lack of a refined approach.

I really hope that the Yankees can reset the rotation after the day off next week to move Pettite back behind Wang, and put Mussina down either behind Hughes or Kennedy. I’m concerned about having Mussina and Kennedy–two similar pitchers–throwing consecutively, so perhaps another option would be to put Kennedy third, Hughes fourth and Mussina fifth. That would give a different look in consecutive games with Hughes sandwiched by the others. Either way, on to Baltimore for three, and a much-needed day off Monday.

Published in: on April 18, 2008 at 9:14 am  Comments (2)  

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2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Hi Jason, better late than never. Glad to hear you are all okay.
    IMO, Mussina should never pitch to Manny again. “You can’t just go out and walk him every time he steps in the box”, Mussina said. I beg to differ.
    I may be a tad cranky today, as this Hab fan would have been picked up by a Yankee’s win.
    BTW, I loved seeing Melky get the homerun off Micheal Flatley.
    Have a great day.

  2. Very funny, Dianna. I did not know the result of the Habs game until I saw the highlights this morning. 5-1, tough break. Hopefully they can wrap it up in Boston for your sake.

    I agree about his not pitching to Ramirez. I think on the second homer, he got carried away with the 0-2 count on fastballs away. Going inside with a weak fastball was a big mistake, again.

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