Yankees 5 Indians 2: Death By a Thousand Nubbers; Bullpen Dominates

The Yankees culminated the long road trip with a big 5-2 win to split the four-game series in Cleveland. Mike Mussina was good, hanging tough through a difficult fifth to minimize the damage to two runs on a night when he was otherwise in control. After five innings of futility against lefty call-up Aaron Laffey, the Yankees “exploded” for four in the top of the sixth, responding right after the Indians took the 2-0 lead. Matsui added a big RBI double in the eighth to salt it, and the bullpen shut things down, making it look easy. Big win, big split after losing the first two, and the pitching was quite good to keep it tight until the Yankees could cobble together runs in their improbable way in the sixth.  Mussina earned his 253rd career victory and his second straight.

Laffey was baffling the Yankees with his brand of junk, keeping the Yanks off the board. In the first, Melky worked a walk, Jeter reached on an E4, and Abreu’s deep fly move Melky to third with one out. But A-Rod popped out and Giambi flew out to end the threat. Until Cano was hit by a pitch with two outs in the fifth, Laffey had retired thirteen straight. Thankfully, Mussina was about as good, working out of some trouble. In the second, Peralta was erased on Garko’s 6-4-3 DP. The third was tight, but Mussina came through. Blake reached on Jeter’s second error of the year, Gutierrez singled, Michaels bunted them over, but Mussina fanned Dellucci and got Carroll on a 3-1 in a nine-pitch at-bat to escape trouble.

Tough, clutch work from Mussina, especially in the fifth. Blake, Gutierrez, and Michales hit consecutive singles to make it 1-0, and Dellucci’s single loaded the bases with no outs. But Mussina worked out of it, getting Carroll to pop out, Project Donkey’s sac fly made it 2-0, but was careful in walking Martinez before getting Peralta on a soft liner to Jeter. This could have been far worse, but Mussina’s tough pitching kept it close.

This paid dividends in the improbable sixth. Melky broke up the no-hitter with an infield single to short, Jeter’s weak grounder to third made it first and second, Abreu singled to left to load the bases, A-Rod was hit on the leg to score Melky, 2-1, Giambi’s and Matsui’s chopping ground outs to first made it 3-2 Yankees, and Jensen Lewis couldn’t handle Ensberg’s tapper, scoring A-Rod 4-2. Hardly a hard-hit ball in the mix, but the Yankees cobbled together four runs in highly unlikely fashion. In an odd way, there was some decent situational hitting. One can argue that Giambi and certainly Matsui did the right thing, chopping the ball to Garko playing fairly deep at first. One could see Matsui turn over his wrists to put top spin on the ball on his grounder.

Albaladejo came in and allowed a single and a walk, but fanned Dellucci on a nasty curve to end the sixth. Nuke looked like Cool Hand Nuke during his hot stretch in 2007, working a dominant 1-2-3 seventh that included fanning Project Donkey looking on a 96-mph heater on the outside corner. If the Yankees could get something close to that on a fairly consistent basis from Nuke, that would go far to replacing Bruney in the pen. I’ve discussed how the offense needs to step up to replace Posada’s gaping absence, but to a somewhat lesser but still significant degree, that holds for Bruney. Nuke and Albaladejo can do wonders for the pen with good relief work. This pen, despite some early-season struggles, has been fairly good on the whole and still has some good depth.

Damon batted for A-Rod in the eighth, working a walk, and scoring on Matsui’s roped double to the wall in right center. Michaels’s bobble ensured that Damon, who was showing very good wheels, would score on Meacham’s nice call. Joba then entered and tightened the vice, working an eleven-pitch eighth (after a ten-pitch eighth yesterday). Mariano earned his 451st save (and a very hearty congratulations to Mariano for his 450th save that I missed yesterday), blowing away Gutierrez, getting Michaels on a deep F9, and ending it on a 4-3.

Matsui was 1-4 with 2 RBIs (13 now), batting .317. Melky, Jeter, Abreu, and Ensberg were all 1-4. A-Rod was 0-2 with a walk and the RBI HBP, his 11th RBI, but sat in the eighth probably because of the sore quad. He’s clearly not himself at the plate. Not a good night for the bats, but good enough to win, and that’s what counts. Mussina was good, going five and allowing seven hits, two runs earned, a walk and fanning two on 92 pitches/60 strikes. He hung tough to even his record at 3-3. Again, the bullpen dominated, with the single and walk that Albaladejo allowed in the sixth the only base runners the bullpen allowed in four excellent innigns of efficient work.

Now the Yankees return home 14-13, playing 18 of their next 25 games in The Bronx. It couldn’t come at a better time, as the Yankees face the Tigers in a three-game set starting tomorrow. I’d love to see nothing more than the offense come alive, the good pitching continue, and the team get several games above .500 in the next week. They avoid Verlander this series. Time to put it together, guys.

Published in: on April 28, 2008 at 10:08 pm  Comments (15)  

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15 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. more bad news: a-rod re-aggravated his quad and won’t be playing for a few days. well we’re facing kenny “pine tar” rogers and will need some right handed bats- i’m hoping to see shelley and gonzo.
    the other guys have to step it up- and we need the real phil hughes to show up tomorrow.

  2. I saw that at Pete Abe and was just about to add it, Mike. More bad news, and the team has done fairly well to be at 14-13 considering the injuries, rain, cold, inconsistent hitting and starts.

    I certainly about seeing both Shelley and Gonzo. Cano needs to sit, as should Giambi. Matsui and Abreu should play, though Matsui should probably DH to let Damon play in left. Plus, Matsui has bene far better at the plate than Giambi. Damon has been better of late. I’d put Shelley at first for Giambi, who looked bad there.

    I think it might be Damon, Melky, Jeter, Abreu, Matsui, Shelley, Ensberg, Molina, and Gonzo. Not exactly Murderers Row, but righties would be in, and the lineup hasn’t exactly been tearing the cover off the ball with Giambi in.

  3. oh hey, i meant to tell you that shelley made three really nice plays at first behind wang.

    you’re absolutely right; i think that ending this tough trip a game above .500 and only one game back in the division is great. we have to keep the tigers back on their heels.

  4. I don’t know exactly why, Mike, but something STILL tells me that the Yankees can make a run while at home despite the injuries to A-Rod and Posada. Without in any way denigrating them, the Yankees on the whole weren’t hitting around them. They’re getting decent pitching, the bullpen–and more than Joba/Mariano–has shown signs of being dominant lately, and this team is showing some grit through early-season tests. It’s far too early to call this make-or-break, but there is an opportunity for this next 25-game run to be a positive defining moment for the team. With the same pitching and better offense, they can STILL go 15-10 if others step up. I still say it, even without A-Rod and Posada, look out when this team starts to hit. They’re still due.

  5. if we get the pitching, we’ll win the games. i think the young guys are going to be getting better and better. i agree with you- they’ll have a good month at home. lets hope a-rod is back within a week

  6. Very funny Jason, “Death By a Thousand Nubbers,” and “exploded” in the sixth inning. Hilarious stuff, and just what I needed this morning. Your right, and it wasn’t pretty, but we’ll take it.
    It would have been nice to see Moose go another inning, but the bullpen did it’s job. If Farnsworth could pitch like that most of the time, I would’nt have to work myself into a panic attack, when they show him warming in the pen.
    I agree that the team can win without Posada, and A-Rod. The team have got to get hot at the same time, and NOW would be great. With Granderson back in the Tiger’s lineup, they have that spark back leading off.

  7. Saw the game on ESPN last night– no HDLR? Moose did a good job getting himself out of trouble. Middle relief was exceptional.

  8. how about this little nugget:

    some guy commenting at LoHud suggests a fix to our “pitching problems”

    give the giants matsui and offer to take barry zito and pay half his salary—get this—we can figure out a way to get his velocity back.

    it takes all kinds i guess…

  9. Mike, you’re certainly right. In addition to improved hitting, good pitching must be at the core. I have faith too. I’m not sure exactly what it is that’s telling me this right now, but I have a good feeling in my gut despite all that has happened to the team lately. I’m going to ride that.

    Thanks Dianna. Yesterday’s sixth inning was almost funny, watching it unfold. I think Girardi made a good call on Mussina when he did, and not post facto because of the great job the bullpen did. At those points in games, once Mussina starts to get touched up as the start proceeds, he usually doesn’t regain it, Girardi may have sensed that Mussina was starting to get hit–though not exactly roughed up. I definitely agree about Granderson. I think he’s tremendous. He’s a multi-tool player, speed, some power, fairly good average, steals bases, can wreak havoc from the opening pitch. The Tigers are definitely better with him in the lineup.

    No HDLR, Steve, I’m afraid. I knew I would be in and out for the first part of the game, and figured that having one later in the week would be easier for me to park it with a couple cold ones. No doubt about Mussina and the middle relief. The starters still need to go deeper on average into games to spare the pen now and then. But unlike in past years, I have a fair amount of faith in the bullpen this season. It’s deeper, harder throwing, and I think just more talented. If only the bats would come around.

  10. That’s absolutely brilliant, Mike. Trade one of the few consistent hitters this season for the Yankees, a consistently solid producer, for YET ANOTHER OVERPAID PLAYER, in this case a pitcher WHO WASN’T WORTH HALF THAT BLOATED SALARY, who is 0-6 this year, and who throws about as hard as Mussina while being A DECADE YOUNGER. How Pete Abraham handles some of the creatures who come around LoHud, I’ll never know. A comment like that here at The Heartland would get pan seared.

  11. I totally agree that, Girardi made the right call about not bringing Moose back in for another inning. It just would be nice to see him go a bit longer. I am not complaining though, if we can get this kind of a start from him, and have the bullpen pitch as it did last night, I am happy with that.
    I was wondering what you thought of Girardi setting Matsui for 2 games against the lefties. If I missed you comment on this earlier, I apologize. I thought he should have been in the lineup, lefties or not.

  12. Hey Jason, great to see you over here. Just wanted to let you know that I’ll be making the move to Blogspot in a few days, I need to cut/paste all my posts from my old site before I finalize the move. I’ll update my blog with my new address as soon as I can. Look forward to seeing you there. 😀

  13. Hey Beth! Sorry I’ve been out of touch lately, but I’ve been jammed up with both the switch (still a ton of work to do on that front), and especially school–both dissertation writing and teaching. I don’t blame you one bit for flying the MLBlogs coop. I strongly considered Blogspot, and J-Boogie switched there. It’s a good, strong, smooth setup at Blogspot. I have nothing but good things to say about WordPress. It’s smooth, functions well, has great built-in features, and is easy to use. Definitely count on me being over there soon, and I’ll be better about dropping by Yankees Chick, which I’d recommend to all readers here.

    How was the Springsteen show? You must have had a blast. I bet he put on a great show. What songs did he do?

    I went to the Yankees-White Sox game last week in Chicago with the family, the 6-4 win with Posada’s three doubles, Mussina’s gem, and Mariano’s five-out manhandling. What a blast. We were in the upper deck behind home (Section 530), but the seats were very good. It was terrific to bring back the W, and I was hoarse in the last few innings as the Yankees scored 2 in the 5th and 3 in the 6th, as Mariano slammed the door, as “Hip-Hip, Jorge!” and “Let’s Go, Yankees!” chants rung out, and as the Yankees won. Great, great time.

  14. //How was the Springsteen show? You must have had a blast. I bet he put on a great show. What songs did he do?//

    Springsteen was absolutely amazing. Just amazing. But what else would you expect? You can check out his set-list for that night here: http://brucespringsteen.net/live/2008setlists.html#20080425

    You can view the PDF file of his handwriting of the set-list too, which is pretty neat. Reason To Believe got a radical rearrangement. Point Blank was chilling and Born To Run had every single warm body screaming. He even did Blinded By The Light, which the yahoo in front of me didn’t know he originally did. Word for word, this is what she said: “I didn’t know he was covering Manfred Mann.” I wanted to smack her.

  15. I love checking out set lists, Beth. Having frequented Blues Traveler and DMB shows, I love checking how their set lists vary. It sounds like you enjoyed it immensely. I recently went to Ebertfest and saw some very good and different movies. I think that music, film, for that matter baseball (when played right)–various forms of art and entertainment–can be very enriching and downright spiritual. There is nothing like the moments where performers and audience are one, and everyone knows it. It’s sublime.

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