Yankees 6 Mariners 5: First Late-Inning Comeback of 2008

HUGE win for the Yankees this afternoon, coming from behind in the eighth inning for the first time this year to make up for Wang’s subpar start. Trailing 5-2, the Yankees scored 4 in the eighth, then Mariano cinched it to give the Yanks the series sweep, their fifth straight win, and an even .500 record before hitting the road to face Baltimore and Minnesota. Way to bring back the W, Mike Sommer. With Boston’s loss, the Yankees have moved back to within 4 1/2 games, and five behind Tampa Bay, despite injury woes and offensive inconsistencies.

Wang struggled and the Yanks struggled to hit Washburn, but the game was tight through six.
Wang escaped a two-out spot in the first when Vidro singled and Ibanez walked. He also issued a two-out walk in the second. Seattle finally scored a run in the third when Ichiro led off the inning with a homer, ripping a 2-0 hanging slider that was letter-high to deep right. Jeter then made a terrific snag of Lopez’s liner to settle things for Wang. The Yankees responded right away, a very good sign for the offense, as JD and Jeter hit back-to-back two-out doubles to tie it at 1. Wang got into a mess in the fourth that cost him a couple runs, and was hurt and helped defensively by Shelley. Beltre walked, Johjima singled, Sexson walked to load the bases with no outs, Balentien’s 5-2 force was the first out, but Betancourt’s single to left gave Seattle a 2-1 lead, and Duncan misplayed Ichiro’s grounder, making it 3-1. But Shelley atoned right away, knocking down a Lopez liner for an unorthodox but effective 3-2-6 DP, gunning the ball home and Molina firing the ball to short since the runners had to hold on the line drive.

The Yankees cut it to 3-2 in the fifth when Cano came back from 0-2 for a big lead-off walk, Molina singled, Melky the Clutch bunted them to second and third, and JD’s 3-1 made it 3-2. They could have tied it in the sixth with A-Rod on second with two outs, but Beltre snared Shelley’s scalded liner for the third out. Then Wang coughed up two more in the seventh. I can understand why the ace came out for the seventh at 97 pitches, if Wang had gone batter-to-batter. But he was left in too long and, after getting Betancourt on an F7, allowed a single to Ichiro and a double to Lopez before Vidro’s single to center scored them both. Yet Edwar came in and got Ibanez to pop to short and Beltre on an F9. Edwar then worked out of a two-on, two out jam in the eighth, getting Ichiro to ground to first; clutch relief pitching from the kid.

Then the Yanks stormed back. Jeter worked a good walk after being behind 1-2. Perennial Yankee punching bag Arthur Rhodes then entered, raising everyone’s hopes for a comeback as he faced lefty Abreu. BA fouled off four pitches and, with the count 3-2, hammered the ninth pitch of the at-bat to center to score Jeter, 5-3. Rhodes then exited stage left and off a cliff and Putz the tough closer entered. A-Rod immediately walked, Giambi struck out without getting the bat off his shoulder (figuratively), Matsui pinch-hit for Shelley and hit a slow grounder in no-man’s land, sidling its way past the mound. Putz dove for it and stopped it, landing face first in the grass, then lobbed a throw to first away for an error, allowing Abreu to score, 5-4. Putz probably wouldn’t have had Matsui anyway. Cano then cranked a deep sac fly to tie the game, and, crucially, Matsui advanced to second. Molina then slugged a double deep to right-center, a ball on which Ichiro seemed to misread in the sun and take a bad angle on, scoring Matsui from second, 6-5 Yankees. It’s questionable that Matsui would have scored had he not taken second on Cano’s sac fly; great heads-up running from Matsui, helping to win the game. Mariano then entered and manhandled the Mariners, getting Lopez on a pop to short and fanning Vidro and Ibanez in succession for his 12th save of the year and 455th of his illustrious career–as if there was any doubt.

Molina was 2-4 with the game-winning RBI double to raise his average to .216. A-Rod was 1-2 with 2 walks, batting .295. Cano was 0-2 but deserves credit for working the walk leading to a run, and tying the game on his sac fly, his 19th RBI. JD (.266) and Abreu (.294) were each 1-4 with a run and an RBI, JD’s 20th and Abreu’s team-leading 32nd. Jeter and Melky were 1-3 apiece, with Jeter scoring one and driving in his 23rd, batting .287. Matsui’s pinch-hit infield single upped his average to .321. The team left six on base, four in scoring position, but had two two-out RBIs, and stole two bases, an encouraging sign. Wang struggled, allowing five runs earned on seven hits, four walks and fanning two on 112 pitches/70 strikes. His day probably should have ended after six, and he was left in surely for two batters too long. Edwar was clutch today, pitching 1 2/3 scoreless innings to hold the line late, fanning two and keeping his ERA at zero. The guy has done much to round out the bullpen. His first win of the year was well-earned and deserved. Mariano was, well, Mariano and that is not said or taken lightly.

On to Baltimore tomorrow for the start of a three-game set, and tomorrow’s 1:35 EDT start is an HDLR game for anyone not tied up with Memorial Day plans. I’m back from vacation and fired up about the five-game winning streak. The Yankees have won in myriad ways, a very good sign–three blowouts with lots of offense and two very good starts, a pitcher’s duel with the first walk-off ninth-inning win, and a big comeback to cinch the sweep with the first time all year that the Yanks have won a game when trailing in the eighth. I’m doubtful that today’s win would have occurred a week ago. With the recent offensive outbursts, the team efforts, the recent dramatic win in the ninth, and the quality starts, the Yankees have been in games and shown the ability to hang in there for a change. Today was huge, and should be another spark for a club that is finally playing like we–and they–certainly expected all along.

Published in: on May 25, 2008 at 8:24 pm  Comments (2)  

Yankees 12 Mariners 6: What We’ve Waited For Part II

Traveling back from the Outer Banks, I tried in vain to catch some of the game on radio north of Washington DC. Working our way through southwestern Pennsylvania, I was equally unable to catch any scores announced on various AM and FM radio stations. So when we stopped for a brief layover tonight before completing the 16-hour drive tomorrow morning, I was more than thrilled to see not just that the Yankees won their fourth straight, but did so again in lopsided fashion, battering Carlos Silva for the second time and doubling up the Mariners 12-6. Giambi and Cano are officially hot, Abreu has been big, the offense ripped out sixteen hits, and Joba continued to successfully stretch out while patching up Mussina’s somewhat shaky start by tossing two shutout, one-hit innings. The Yankees again scored a lot early and added on later to put it away. Plus, I got to watch the game via archive on the hotel’s free wireless. Sweet.

A-Rod singled to lead off the second, Matsui followed with a ground-rule double, and Giambi blasted a 1-2 change deep to left-center, 3-0 Yankees. Cano doubled to left again, Molina’s 4-3 moved him to third, and Melky’s single to left scored him, 4-0 Yankees. But the Mariners tied it right away in the third when Betancourt led off with a double, Ichiro lined out to left, Lopez singled, and Vidro homered to right, 4-3 Yanks. After Ibanez’s 3U, Beltre tied it with a homer to right. The Yankees took the lead back in the bottom half of the third. Matsui singled, Giambi doubled, Cano got an intentional pass, Molina flew out to center, but Melky the Clutch scored Matsui with a single to center, 5-4 Yanks.

With two outs in the sixth Jeter reached on an error, and Abreu ripped what looked like a hanging slider to deep left, 7-4 Yankees, making the Mariners pay for a defensive miscue, which they did again in the seventh after Joba’s second inning. Matsui walked off perennial Yankees punching bag Arthur Rhodes, Giambi singled, Cano doubled to left, 8-4 Yanks, second and third with no outs, and there went Rhodes. Molina’s single off Morrow scored Giambi, 9-4, Melky’s FC retired Cano at home for the first out, Beltre’s error on JD’s ground ball loaded the bases and, after Jeter’s out, Abreu’s ground-rule double to left-center scored two, 11-4. A-Rod and Matsui worked back-to-back walks to make it 12-4. Cool Hand Nuke is gone again, surrendering a two-run homer to Sexson, 12-6. But Veras mopped it up, ending it as the Yanks pulled within one game of .500.

Giambi was 3-4 with a double and his 9th homer, 2 runs and 3 RBIs, giving him 24 now and a much more respectable .234 average. Cano was 4-4 with 3 doubles and a walk, a run and his 8th RBI, batting .232 in a hot month. I’m very impressed with how he’s keeping his hands back and steering inside pitches to left. Right now, he has pitchers playing his game, making that key adjustment to take away what had been a poor hitting zone for him this year. Now pitchers need to adjust to him and, with his renewed confidence and vastly improved approach, he’s in a position to hit inside and outside pitches. Matsui was 2-3 with 3 runs, a double, his 23rd RBI, 2 walks, and is now sporting a .317 average. He’s been the steadiest Yankee hitter this year, and must continue to play. Abreu was 2-5 with a run, 4 two-out RBIs to give him a team-high 31 RBIs on the year, a double and his 6th homer, and a .295 average. Melky the Clutch was 2-5 with a run, 2 RBIs to give him 21, JD and Molina were 1-5 and A-Rod 1-4, but Jeter’s 0-5 makes him 0 for his last 15, leading one to suspect the hand is bothering him more than he’d admit. Though the Yankees stranded 9 and 6 in scoring position, they plated six runs with 2 outs, 4 by Abreu–an excellent sign. After the last two blowout wins, the Yankees are batting a ridiculous 29-79 (.367) this series.

Mussina wasn’t great, struggling in the third and working out of trouble early in the game. He allowed 7 hits and a walk with 4 runs earned in 5 innings, fanning 4 on 74 pitches/54 strikes. Joba was solid, allowing only a hit and a walk while striking out 2 in 2 stretch-out innings. Nuke was bad in the eighth, making me nervous about the eighth-inning setup role that has been awarded him as Joba stretches out while confirming in my mind that at least a call-up among Cox, Patterson, Robertson, and/or Melancon will get a crack at late-inning relief work.

Tomorrow, Mike Sommer will attend the game at Yankee Stadium looking to bring back the W and Crazy Stein as lefty Jarrod Washburn (2-6, 6.99 ERA) faces Yankees ace Wang (6-2, 3.51 ERA). Though the Yanks have struggled badly against lefties this year, they’re facing the normally tough Washburn at the right time. He’s struggling, and the team is hitting very well, taking apart the lefty Bedard last night. Two straight series wins is a good sign; so is winning four straight. A sweep would be huge, as would be getting back to .500 to end a bizarre home stand. Keep up the good work and hot hitting, guys. No time to let up. With Boston’s loss last night, the Yankees are now six back. Should Boston lose tonight, and they’re down 3-0, they’d be 5 1/2 back. Keep gaining ground. [Edit: Boston lost after getting one-hit by the law firm of Duchscherer and Street.  The Yankees are 5 1/2 back.]

Also, don’t forget to tune into Yankee Fan Club Radio tomorrow evening at 6 p.m. EDT. It’s always a very good show.

Published in: on May 24, 2008 at 9:20 pm  Comments (2)  

Yankees 13 Mariners 2: What We’ve Waited For

Now that’s an ass kicking. We as fans have been waiting for a game such as this, where the team gets good pitching and the offense lets it rip all over an opponent. Great team contribution tonight supplemented a good, overdue start from Pettite as the Yanks positively exploded, scoring eight in the fifth to salt it, 13-2.

Although Pettite surrendered a run in the top of the second, striking out the side in the process, the offense responded right away. Matsui singled, Giambi walked, and Duncan went down and got a curve low–really a pretty good pitch–and ripped it deep to left for his first homer, 3-1 Yankees. Beltre’s RBI double in the third closed it to 3-2, but the Yankees scored two in the fourth. Matsui singled, Giambi doubled, Duncan flew out, and Cano fisted an inside fastball to left for the second straight game to score two, 5-2.

The Yankees chased the normally difficult Bedard in the fifth. Jeter was hit with a 1-2 fastball, Abreu’s single moved the Captain to third, A-Rod reached second on an FC with Jeter out at home, Matsui singled to make it 7-2, Giambi singled to end Bedard’s night, Duncan fanned looking, Cano singled through the hole to score Matsui on a great slide to beat a good throw from Ibanez, 8-2. Moeller’s single to center made it 10-2, Melky’s infield single made it first and second, Jeter walked to load the bases, Abreu singled to left to make it 12-2, and A-Rod’s single plated Jeter with Abreu making the third out at third. But 13-2 ended the game for all intents and purposes.

Hawkins pitched two innings of one-hit, scoreless ball and, after Edwar walked two in a row, he settled in to fan two to end the game. Pettite was as sharp as he’s been in weeks, allowing two runs on eight hits while walking none and fanning an outstanding nine on 105 pitches/75 strikes. The offense was monstrous for a change, banging out thirteen hits and runs and working five walks. Abreu was 2-5 with a run and two RBIs, giving him 27 thus far and raising his average to .292. A-Rod had a hit, run, and RBI, his 16th as he’s also batting .292. Matsui was huge, going 3-5 with three runs and two RBIs, giving him 22 and a crisp .311 average. Cano is picking it up, going 2-4 with a run and three RBIs, giving him 17 and a .214 average that is still low but much improved after going 11 for his last 31. Duncan hit his first homer with three driven in. Giambi was 2-3 with two walks and three runs, upping his average to .217 having gone 14 for his last 40, and Moeller had two RBIs as well. Crucially, the team had six two-out RBIs compared to seven left on, four in scoring position. That’s a great ratio.

Now the key is sustaining it, especially against a good, talented pitcher in Felix Hernandez. Winning the first game, especially in such convincing fashion, was big. But winning the series is just as important. It would be great if this blowout signaled a turnaround for the offense. Right now, I’d settle for continuing to get quality starts, timely hitting, and most importantly wins.  Three straight wins is good; stringing together seven, or winning twelve out of fourteen, would be even better.  I’ll miss tomorrow’s game but will do my best to be back Sunday for an HDLR. If not, count on a Monday afternoon HDLR.

Published in: on May 23, 2008 at 9:47 pm  Comments (5)  

Yankees 2 Orioles 1: Cano’s Late-Inning Heroics; Kennedy Strong

Finally! At long last, the Yankees win a tight late-inning game. With two on and two out in the ninth, Cano delivered a clutch hit, slicing a line drive to left to score Matsui. Impressively, Cano steered an inside pitch to left, keeping his hands back to control the ball and stroke it to left. His single won a tight pitchers’ duel in which Kennedy finally pitched very well and the bullpen held things tight. It wasn’t pretty and at times it was frustrating, but it was effective. The Yanks have won two straight to keep their deficit at 7 1/2 games back. Nothing to do but win games in bunches now, but winning the series was nonetheless big.

Kennedy was excellent despite struggling in the third. With one out, Adam Jones singled and Bynum tripled to left-center, 1-0 Orioles. Kennedy then walked two straight to load the bases, but fanned Markakis despite falling behind 2-0, and bot Huff to fly out to Damon in left to escape allowing only one run. The Yankees tied it in the fourth when Duncan’s sac fly scored Matsui. The game was nip-and-tuck throughout. Molina made a great peg to nab the speedy Bynum at second in the fifth. Kennedy and Burres breezed through most of the night. Though Burres was smoother and didn’t walk anyone, Kennedy worked well out of trouble. He only allowed four hits and four walks through six, fanning four on 97 pitches/57 strikes.

The Yankees managed little off Burres, but chased him in the eighth. Interestingly, the Orioles stayed with hard-throwing righty Jim Johnson in the ninth against two lefties. Matsui singled, A-Rod and Giambi fanned–the latter on a tip that prompted a colossal tantrum from what Sterling described, complete with hat-tossing and kicking. Abreu then pinch-hit for Duncan and walked, and Cano steered his 1-1 pitch to left to win it.

JD went 2-4, raising his average to .268. Matsui was 2-4 with both runs to now hit .302. Cano was 1-4 to raise his average to .207 with his 14th RBI. Credit the bullpen for clamping down on the Orioles, throwing 3 innings of one-hit, scoreless ball with Veras, Nuke, and Mariano each with a strikeout to make Kennedy’s big start count. The Yankees have three more at home against Seattle before embarking on a seven-game road trip.

Before I forget, big-time respect to Jon le3ster for his no-hitter a few days ago. Two years ago,, the guy was battling cancer. Now he’s pitching a no-hitter. Pretty impressive stuff.

Published in: on May 22, 2008 at 10:13 pm  Comments (7)  

Touching Base

Sorry for being out of contact for a few days, and missing a scheduled HDLR. It was not due to the shellackings at the hands of the Mets and Orioles, though coincidentally it occurred as it was 10-0 O’s Tuesday night. Rather, the Internet connection at the rental house fizzled out, rendering us sans Internet for a couple days until the tech guy could stop by and fix things, which he did in about 30 minutes today. Good thing, for I had a couple important e-mails to send, and also wanted to touch base with everyone, especially after the big win last night.

I wish everyone could have been with us this afternoon–sunny skies, 75 degrees, lots of time in the pool and the hot tub and, to top it off, I made Alaskan King Crab legs. At $5.99/lb., it was an incredible steal, and we had about 9 pounds worth–four rounds in the steamer pot. That, with melted butter and a very cold bottle of Ommegang, made this one of the truly great lunches in the history of lunch. Frank the Sage, my wife, my sister-in-law, nephew, niece, and I positively destroyed the legs in no time. Since it was my first time cooking them, I was pleasantly relieved that they were positively reviewed.

I was equally pleased to see on the ESPN ticker that the Yanks blasted the Orioles 8-0 last night, and it’s about time. Surely, A-Rod’s presence makes a big difference in the lineup, all the more so when he’s tattooing the ball as he did. Good to see JD and Melky warming back up a bit, though they have a ways to go to make up for their May swoons. Rasner was outstanding, reaching 3-0 by working seven smooth innings allowing only five hits, a walks, and fanning six in only 95 pitches.

I see that the Yanks are stretching out Joba to move into the rotation. Although I haven’t seen a timetable, I’d imagine that he could be ready to start with some long bullpen stints in about a month. Although in favor of moving Joba into the rotation on the whole, I’ve been leery about moving Joba into the rotation now simply because it forces the Yanks to find a good replacement (and not just a replacement) for him as set-up man, with none currently in the majors. But let’s be honest–the Yankees simply cannot continue to waste at least one out of every five starts, regardless of whether or not it’s a youngster or veteran wasting it. The need for patience notwithstanding, Kennedy has done the Yankees no favors this year. For the most part, neither has Pettite, though I love the guy. The formula is to shorten games and rely on a still-strong bullpen. The flipside of that is to have starters get fairly deep into games–at least six innings. That the Yankees have promoted players such as McCutchen, J. Brent Cox and David Robertson to SWB is a good sign that they will quite likely supplement the bullpen from the minors, regardless of whether or not the pitcher(s) there currently starts. That’s what the Yanks did with Joba, and it worked very well. I said back in March that this would be a team to replace bullpen parts, especially poorly performing parts, from within on a rotation basis if necessary given the plethora of arms available. The competition is strong and, while the bullpen has been a legitimate strong suit of the Yanks, if there is an opening, the team should look within for answers. That should happen before any consideration of a trade.

Boy, did Frank The Sage and I let it rip on the Yankees Tuesday night, justifiably so. Not only were they losing 10-0 at one point, and not only did they lose 12-2. They also did so in contra-distinction to how they’ve played. To wit, the Orioles scored a lot of unearned runs, but scored their first nine runs with two outs. How contrary to what the Yankees have done lately–allowing the two-out rallies they themselves fail to muster. It’s too bad that Mussina struggled so badly, but he’s been dynamite lately. What window has there been for starters lately? What must they be thinking when they surrender a few? Probably what the fans have thought–good luck finding support. That needs to end now, and hopefully A-Rod’s presence and his ripple effect on the rest of the team can help rectify that. I heard that the fans were lustily booing the team in the early innings Tuesday night. Good. They deserved it. Despite the absence of A-Rod and Posada, a lineup with JD, Jeter, Abreu, Matsui, Giambi, Cano and Melky could be followed by me and still be a very good lineup. The Sage and I covered familiar but important ground–showing fire, the ability to come back, boxing in pitchers with the lack of offense, plating runners and scoring with two outs, and more. It also wasn’t nicely put, probably making the radio silence a good thing.

Thanks for everyone checking in the last few days, and I wish I could have interacted with you. I appreciated all the commentary and found it excellent as usual. I hope I didn’t give the impression that because I ripped the team, I lacked faith in them. Not so, and those of you who mentioned keeping faith and remembering great Yankee turnarounds were right to do so. I’ve not lost sight of the fact that the Yankees have 116 games remaining. This is no time to panic by any stretch. My point was just that bad baseball is bad baseball, and the Yankees have done little to show that this was just a bad stretch. Instead, they showed that they were bad, period. But this team has plenty of time and talent to turn things around. They need to score more, hit and score in the clutch, stop stranding runners, stop wasting good starts, and find a way to come back when trailing instead of sinking like a stone in a river. I hang with my guys–always have, always will. They’ve shown great ability to come back in years past and can do so now. But as a historian, I’m not a believer in history neatly repeating itself. It never does so in the same way. There may be historical similarities, or the same results from myriad conditions, but history doesn’t simply repeat itself. There is too much variation, too much contingency, too much agency from extremely varied sources, for current events and historical conditions to work as such. The 2008 Yankees have begun not unlike the 2007 Yankees, but for quite different reasons. History, in sum, is one word to describe an enormously complex amalgam of events, thoughts, sequences, and factors. That the Yankees came back in 2007 does not necessarily mean the same will happen in 2008, though that would be great. Like last year, the team needs to do many right things, but with different players and different team strengths–heck, with a different manager and leaders in ownership.

I may pop in later. Enjoy the game, everyone. As per Pete Abraham, below is the starting lineup:

Damon LF
Jeter SS
Matsui DH
Rodriguez 3B
Giambi 1B
Duncan RF
Cano 2B
Molina C
Cabrera CF

Tonight, Kennedy (0-3, 8.48 ERA) faces lefty Burres (4-4, 3.47 ERA) as the Yankees try for the series win. Get some momentum here, guys

Published in: on May 22, 2008 at 3:30 pm  Comments (3)  

Right Now, the Yankees Stink Out Loud

I hate to say that because I love this team, have followed it assiduously for about thirty years, have stuck with the team through plenty of downs as well as the ultimate highs, know and appreciate a good deal of its history, and never fail to pull for them–all of this like so many of you. But lets’ face it, people–this is not a good team we’re watching right now, not even close. While we were rooting for a comeback Sunday night–certainly while the game was within reach–were any of us genuinely convinced that it would actually occur? Not I, though I watched as I returned from the store for aloe for my little guy’s sunburn. Not The Sage, who shut it off after a Mets homer made it 5-2. Not the dutiful HDLR attendees. People who know this team know that they haven’t mustered a single late-inning comeback regardless of the deficit. They know that the offense is languishing like a fractured ship on a reef. They know that the pitchers are working within an extremely narrow margin for error. They know this team isn’t a good team right now, and quite frankly might not be this year. It’s still early, and there’s still plenty of time and opportunities to turn it around. Yet right now, that’s not happening. Worse, the Yankees show no signs of rising out of the woeful slump, borrowed slimy golden thong or no.

The floundering Yanks are tied for 11th in the AL in runs, are 8th in batting average and 9th in OBP, they’re dead last in batting against lefties at .225, 11th in batting average with RISP and RISP two outs, second-last in stolen bases, 12th in team ERA, dead last in starters innings pitched, 13th in starters’ ERA and 11th in starters BAA. They haven’t won a single game in which they’ve trailed entering the eighth and ninth innings. They are 3-8 in their last 11 games, having been outscored 52 to 31. Johnny Damon is 6 for his last 44. Jason Giambi is 4 for his last 17 but that has actually raised his average 14 points. Melky Cabrera is 7 for his last 43. Andy Pettite has lost his last five starts, allowing 19 earned runs and five homers in his last 27 1/3 innings.

All this and more has yet again sunk the Yankees into last place, 6 1/2 games behind Boston. Again, the Yankees have floundered to start the year. Again the aging team must play catch-up. Again the team looks listless and unimaginative, despite a new manager with a reputation for aggressiveness. Again this team is in a sizable early-season hole. I’ll touch base later. I’m blogging outside and, fittingly, it’s starting to rain.

A-Rod returns today against Baltimore, not a moment too soon. The Yanks lack righty power and any sort of punch right now.

Published in: on May 20, 2008 at 10:48 am  Comments (14)  

HDLR 5/17/08: Mets @ Yankees

Hi everyone and welcome to the Heartland Digital Living Room where the hot dogs and chicken wings are always fresh, the beverages are always cold, the chin-wagging is always brisk, and the beach poses as the beautiful backdrop to the HDLR tonight.   Frank The Sage joins the HDLR this evening as the Yankees try to break even this series against the crosstown rival Mets, with CMW (6-1,  2.90) facing lefty Oliver Perez (3-3, 4.61 ERA) at 8:05 on ESPN.  The Yankees really need to start generating more offense than 1-4 runs per game, and have a challenge on their hands against a lefty who often gives them trouble.  As per Pete Abraham, the lineup is below.  Come on in, grab a digital leather recliner and a cold one, and enjoy the game.  Let’s Go, Yankees!

Damon LF
Abreu RF
Jeter SS
Matsui DH
Giambi 1B
Cano 2B
Cabrera CF
Gonzalez 3B
Molina C

Published in: on May 18, 2008 at 5:56 pm  Comments (214)  

Beach Front HDLR Warm-Up: YFCR, WTF, and Other Assorted Acronyms

Hi everyone. Great to re-establish radio contact with everyone after a couple long but ultimately fruitful days in the vehicle, as well as straightening out some screw-ups with the beach-front house that, while very nice, was positively trashed when we arrived yesterday afternoon. It’s 77 degrees at the beach, sunny, brezzy and positively delightful. We’ve already had a busy day. I was up at 7 a.m. after a night of walking the beach with my son and Frank The Sage looking for crab, playing pool with GLG and Frank The Sage’s daughter Zoomps, and a solid half-hour in the 101-degree hot tub. I know, tough gig. Today I started with a long run, came back for breakfast, threw the pill with GLG and The Sage for about 45 minutes in the street, swam for 30 minutes with the kids, had my son bury me in the sand, came back to the pool, made lunch, and sampled some good cold coldies. Clearly, the beach has made me soft and I need some good turgid life-affirming activity to straighten me out.

Like discussing the Yankees. I saw that the Friday game was rained out, which was probably for the best given how poorly the offense has performed. Yesterday proved little exception, dropping a 7-4 game in which Pettite’s struggles continued, Cool Hand Nuke reverted to Nuke LaFarnsworthian form, and the offense showed little ability to generate runs without the big blast.  Tonight, the Yankees get yet another lefty in Oliver Perez (3-3, 4.61 ERA) facing CMW (6-1. 2.90 ERA) in which I would call an early-season must-win.  The Yankees are three games under .500, are floundering at the plate, and are 3-7 in their last 10 games.  They are dead last in the AL against lefties at .229, 11th in average with RISP at .244 and the same slot with RISP two outs at .223, and 12th in runs.  Horrible.

Frank the Sage says: The changes this off-season and recently were in the wrong place, in management, and bringing in these players in the last few seasons are reaping the benefit from all that, and it’s not good.  When have you see them like hit that?  The batting average is usually higher.  We’re floundering big-time, but at least last year there were glimmers of hope.  Is it too early in the season to throw the baby out with the bath water? No, but what do we need to question as fans?  What are the biggest changes we’ve seen–ownership and the manager.  Is that the right place for change?  How will the upper changes pan out?  Nobody ever wants to use the “R” word with this team, but it’s there.  They’re “retooling.”  Santana could have been had yesterday, too.

Plus, look at the injuries we’ve had.  You lose the AL MVP and the best catcher in the game bar none–and there isn’t a baseball person in the game who wouldn’t extol the virtues of Posada–and of course it’s cost them. My response: I agree, especially on the last point with the injuries and what in productivity was lost.  However, should this team still be performing better with a lineup that still consists of JD, Jeter, Abreu, Giambi, Matsui, Cano, and Melky the Clutch?  FTS: I agree, absolutely.  As we discussed earlier, for what they’re paying–and it isn’t just the pay–this isn’t their first rodeo at the plate.  They’re the first guys to admit that injuries are a part of the game.  This is a lineup that at the very least should be putting up five or six runs a game.  How has Yankee management helped to change this?  Even last year when they were floundering, they were scoring runs. My response: Indeed, as some like Mike Sommer and I, and other regular readers like Mike and Vanessa have discussed.  How do you change that?  Should the Yankees play more “small-ball,” or, is the problem the lack of runners on base in order to do anything, such as playing small-ball or scoring more runs?  That is, is the problem not the style of play, but the lack of substance regardless of the style? Or both? FTS gets the final say today: Given their anemia with RISP, I don’t think it matters as much as a general lack of productivity–lack of driving in runs, RISP.  We talked a couple weeks ago about this being a .500 team, and right now they’re not even that.  They’re playing that way.  Are the Rays a better lineup than the Yankees?  And the answer is yes because they’re doing the things right now to win games.  Is the Rays’ bullpen better? Absolutely not, the Yankees just need the hitters to hit.  Two of the three are missing–A-Rod and Posada. But also, you can’t wait on the “we’ll get healthy” attitude. The Sage is searching for answers like everyone else.  You just don’t get that feeling at any given point in time that they’ll heat up and win games.

So there you have it.  In a somewhat co-authored post, The Sage and I are both frustrated, but searching for how it is that this team, filled with talent, can flounder yet again.  Maybe it’s accumulated age.  Maybe it’s the assembling of a flawed, one-dimensional team, maybe it’s allowing a somewhat flawed team to become too one-dimensional.  Maybe we wouldn’t even question this if the bats were performing close to their standards.  Regardless, the team needs to right the ship and win.

Tonight, HDLR will open about 7 EDT, and we’ll have a grand time with Frank The Sage watching the game.  Come on by, and enjoy.

Published in: on May 18, 2008 at 2:50 pm  Leave a Comment  

Rays 5 Yankees 2: Kennedy, Bats Poor

I had the misfortune of listening to a good deal of the game while calculating and submitting final grades for my students this semester, and there just wasn’t much to hear as the Yankees dropped the series finale, 5-2, losing the series 3 games to 1. The Yankees scored six measly runs in the four games. I know the Rays’ pitching has improved, but six stinking runs in four games?!? Horrible. Ian Kennedy wasn’t good, but wasn’t shelled nearly as badly as Igawa. But he sure still has a lot of learning to do. Where that will be is a good question if he continues to struggle, for although Kennedy needs experience to grow, the Yankees need to stay in and win games. Quite a conundrum the Yankees face, the Catch-22 of inexperienced youth combined with a languishing offense.

The Yankees got behind early and, as is usually their wont, stayed right there, threatened later yet still lost. Iwamura led off the first with a homer and, after a 1-2-3 second from Kennedy, the Rays added another in the third when Riggans singled, Kennedy hit weak hitting Zobrist, Iwamura worked an eight-pitch walk, and Crawford hit a sac fly to left, 2-0 Rays. But Kennedy held it there, briefly enticing Yankees fans that they could stay in the game and that he could be quite effective. Kennedy got Upton on a 4-3, and fanned Pena after being behind 2-0 in the count. As I made my final calculations, I felt this wasn’t insurmountable despite their recent offensive woes. Two runs is two runs.

Except when it’s four. In the fourth, Kennedy surrendered a two-out double to Hinske, and Riggans walloped the first pitch from Kennedy deep to left, 4-0. But wait, there’s more. I’m not sure if it was at that moment, when I tabulated and recorded grades on Excel, when Suzyn Waldman said that the Yankees really have to consider David Wells. Suzyn, please! The guy is going to be 45 May 20, struggled badly his last few years, never stayed in shape, refused to listen to Stottlemyre of all people about having a regular throwing routine between starts, loved the sauce, and got into some off-field trouble. Yes, bring in Wells, the role model. Why, so he too can have a high ERA but for a bloated salary? Forget it. I’d rather see Kennedy struggle but learn from the experiences and possibly grow than watch a puffed-out has-been whose best days with the Yankees were ten years ago. The Rays added another in the fifth when Iwamura doubled, moved to third on Crawford’s F8, and scored on Upton’s sac fly.

Meanwhile back in Snoozeville, the offense mustered little off Kazmir despite working the count fairly well. I was briefly hopeful when it was 4-0 in the top of the fifth that the Yankees could chip away, but that didn’t happen. I know, I too was shocked. Ensberg and Gonzo reached via walk, but Molina flew out to move Ensberg to third, and Damon’s 4-3 ended the fifth-inning threat. In the sixth, Jeter singled with one out and Shelley with two outs, but Ensberg’s F8 stranded two more. They scored two in the seventh when Cano led off with a single, Abreu “hit” for Gonzo and popped to third-base foul territory, Molina at long last singled, JD flew out to left, Melky the Clutch singled to center to score Cano, 5-1. Jeter did the same to score Molina, 5-2 with Giambi stepping up as the tying run. But his liner to center ended the rally and in effect the game. The Yankees limped into the clubhouse with 1-2-3 eighth and ninth innings, giving the Rays the series win.

Melky and Jeter were each 2-4 with an RBI, the 19th for each. Melky is up to .268, Jeter .302. Shelley was 1-3, Molina 1-4 with a walk, and Cano is still in the territory where going 1-4 will raise his average, moving him up to .207 as he slowly but surely improves. But JD was a big 0-5 at the top, and is now 2 for his last 23 and 5 for his last 37, plummeting his average to .255. Giambi was 0-4, hitting .181. Abreu was 0-2 after hitting for Gonzo. The Yankees left eight on, four in scoring position, though their two runs did come with two outs. Still, too little too late, yet again. Welcome to last place, Yankees.

Kudos to the bullpen for throwing three perfect innings, with Hawkins striking out the side in the sixth, and Veras and Edwar helping hold it at 5. But Kennedy again struggled. He only allowed five hits and a walk, but made a mess in the third that he narrowly escaped, and his two-out struggles cost him dearly in the fourth. He absolutely grooved that pitch to Riggans, leaving a hanging slider belly-high and over the plate and Riggans creamed it ten rows deep in left, no doubt about that shot.

Thankfully the Yankees sent Igawa back to the minors. Hopefully his next move is being shipped out in a crate to the NL. But the problems in the fifth starting spot remain. Sterling was probably right in suspecting that Kennedy will get another shot, since there was some improvement in efficiency if not runs allowed. I imagine they don’t want to smash his confidence. Yet the Yankees have gotten nothing from Kennedy and Igawa. While the latter’s gone, the former can’t be on a very long leash. Don’t be surprised to see Kennedy get one more start and, if the results don’t change, watch the Yankees try someone else such as Dan Giese from SWB or Daniel McCutchen from Trenton. I feel for Kennedy and want to see him develop, but losing is losing and the Yanks have had more than their fair share of that this year. They need to win ball games.

It’s made all the worse that the offense simply cannot score. I know A-Rod and Posada are out, but I’ll say it again–the team still has loads of talent in the lineup. JD, Jeter, Abreu, Matsui (who sat today against the lefty Kazmir, and is only 4-20 off Kazmir in his career), Giambi, Cano, Melky the Clutch–those seven should be enough to score seven a game. A-Rod is due back Tuesday after three extended Spring Training rehab games, and none too soon. But this team has more than enough to get it done and hasn’t for beans in his and Posada’s absence. This team completely lacks the ability to come back in games. Once they’re down a few, they’re dead. They have not won a single game when trailing entering the eighth and ninth innings–not one late-inning comeback regardless of the score. Not one big swing, not one manufactured rally, not one late-game charge to put a long-awaited charge into fans. Nothing. Disgraceful.

The Yankees stagger home to face the Mets for three, with Santana (4-2, 3.10 ERA) facing Rasner (2-0, 3.00 ERA) tomorrow night as the Yankees hope to climb out of the cellar. Great. Facing Santana is never a picnic, but the Yanks are hitting .229 against lefties. Rasner might need to allow nothing. I’ll be en route to the beach tomorrow and Saturday, so I’ll probably not be in touch between Noon tomorrow and Saturday night. Don’t forget about the beach-front HDLR Sunday and Wednesday nights. Keep smiling, people. Let’s Go, Yankees!

Published in: on May 15, 2008 at 10:10 pm  Comments (5)  

Yankees 2 Rays 1: Not Much, But Enough

Mike Mussina was yet again excellent, the bullpen was very good especially Joba and Mariano, and the bats still did little but enough to eke out a 2-1 win. Cano looked the best he has all year, the Yankees rightly had Molina bunt, Girardi at long last called a team meeting, both runs were scored via two-out RBIs, and the team got some clutch plays in the field to creep back to within one game of .500.

After Mussina and Shields worked 1-2-3 in the first, each faced down threats in the second. With two out, the Yankees threatened in the top of the second when Cano singled, Melky reached second on Pena’s error, but Ensberg’s ground out ended the rally. In the bottom of the inning, Pena led off with a single that was erased on Longoria’s grounding into a 6-4-3 DP. Floyd singled and Navarro’s single to center enticed Floyd to try Melky’s arm going to third, and Melky made him pay for two of the cardinal sins–don’t test Melky’s arm on a play to a base, and don’t make either the first or the third outs trying for third.

The Yankees worked a successful two-out rally in the fourth when Matsui doubled and Cano singled him home, 1-0 Yankees. Mussina worked around Pena’s two-out single in the bottom of the fourth to hold it. The Yanks added another in the fifth when Ensberg led off with a single, Molina bunted him over to second [it’s about time!] and, with two down, Abreu hit a bloop double to make it 2-0. Mussina stranded Gross after his two-out double, then worked a ten-pitch 1-2-3 sixth, holding the lead very well. He went batter-to-batter in the seventh, getting Pena looking on a slow curve but walking Longoria, ending his night. Ohlendorf entered and surrendered consecutive singles to Floyd and Navarro to cut the lead in half 2-1, but got help from Jeter. Stationed perfectly closer than usual to second, Jeter snared a hot liner from Gross, then flipped it to Melky to double off Floyd, ending the threat and in effect the game tonight. Joba allowed a walk but fanned the side, and Mariano was The Man yet again, going 1-2-3 in the ninth on a mere nine pitches to cinch the one-run win.

Cano erupted today, going 4-4 to break through the Mendoza glass ceiling, hitting .205 and knocking in his 12th run. Abreu’s double produced his 24th RBI. Two sac bunts from the slumping Molina were a welcome sight given that he’s now 3 for his last 42. Lots of 0-for’s, but a win is a win is a win.

And it was a win thanks to Mussina, who earned his fifth straight win and is now 6-3, going 6 1/3 really strong scattering five hits, allowing the run earned, a walk, and fanning four on 87 pitches/52 strikes to lower his ERA to 3.99–clutch start yet again, Mussina. Who would have thought that he’d be out-performing Pettite, Hughes, and tomorrow’s starter Kennedy? Not I, but I’ll surely take it. Ohlendorf wasn’t at his best but got defensive help from Jeter. Joba was excellent, and I’m not surprised in the slightest that Mariano bounced back after last night’s setback, earning his 11th save this year and 454th of his illustrious career.

Kennedy (0-2, 8.37 ERA) faces tough lefty Scott Kazmir (1-1, 2.70 ERA) tomorrow afternoon at 4:10 EDT as the Yanks try for the series split. I’m far from panicked after one-fourth of the year. I was pissed yesterday to be sure, but this team will bounce upwards, I just know it. They need the bats and, while A-Rod and Posada are big losses, this team has enough talent and experience to get the job done. They’re no slouches. Today wasn’t a great offensive effort, especially when 4 of the 7 hits came from one, long-overdue hitter in Cano. But a win is a win, and it moves them to within two of Boston in the loss column. This team has not yet begun to hit; look out when it does.

Published in: on May 14, 2008 at 11:04 pm  Comments (2)