Pirates 12 Yankees 5; Et Tu, Rasner?

I had work to do–and was tired enough after a very early morning, work, and GLG’s softball game–to make doing the wrap of last night’s wretch not only essential but preferable. In how big of a hurry should I have been to analyze a 12-5 throttling the Pirates laid on the Yanks, pummeling Rasner, Hawkins, and Edwar with 19 hits? Work trumped what could possibly be an untoward discussion and description of a hair ball the offense coughed up in the clutch, failing in key scoring chances and not cashing in on Gorzelanny’s five walks issued. They stranded eight, five in scoring position. The Yankees #1-5 hitters were 2 for 19 with 2 runs and 3 RBIs, while their counterparts on the Pirates went 14 of 25, scoring 9 times and driving in 8.

When Rasner was up he got crushed. LaRoche singled on a belt-high pitch over the plate. The home-run pitches to Bautista and Doumit were over the belt, with Bautista pasting a hanging slider. In fairness to Rasner, I didn’t think his pitch to Bay was all bad–it was knee-high–but it was right out over the plate. He lacks the stuff to widen his margin for error, and when he misses spots he’s in trouble, which has been the case in two of his last three starts. Every other start in his last five has been poor, pushing his ERA up from 1.80 to 4.50 over the last five. As I discussed the game at The Sommer Frieze, there seemed to be consensus between the Mikes and me about Rasner. To be fair, it is still a fairly small sampling this year with nine starts, and this might be a rough patch after which he sharpens things up. But I am also concerned that this may be the start of a slide back to where he normally has been. He may be a decent alternative, or maybe a better long man, we’ll see. But he’s been shelled early and often twice in the last two weeks. It’s asking a lot from a guy like Rasner, or anyone, to continue to post a sub-2.00 ERA. But a 9.88 ERA over the last three, and 7.00 over the last five, raises the eyebrows and is in stark contrast to his first four, excellent, starts. Which Rasner we’ll see in the next several starts, I don’t know. But with Wang out, the starts mean even more than before.  What Rasner ought to do, if possible, is make things slower to create a little distance from his fastball.  The slider he threw to Bautista was 85, which must have looked like a fat, slow meatball.  Throwing more and slower off-speed stuff, as Mussina has, would accentuate and improve the fastball.

I was listening to the game just to catch some Sterling, and he made a solid point later in the broadcast, referring to Joba as “sort of a stopper” tonight. I agree, and it’s a lot of pressure to put on a kid. Yet his first four starts have been excellent–18 1/3 IP, 16 hits, 5 ER (2.55 ERA) 12 walks, 19 Ks. He’s on a normal starter pitch count. He’s been strong and is gaining poise, pitching well in pressure situations in the eighth before and in recent starts–especially against San Diego. He seems mentally tough. Ah, to have a young guy possibly step in and provide stopper wins, like Pettite did in 1996…

The Mikes and I–and also Frank the Sage, with whom I’ve discussed this as well–also seem to agree on trading Melky if the exchange is right. Pitching would be why, and a quality starter or a package with a lefty reliever, would justify moving Melky in my mind, and I wouldn’t lose a lot of sleep over it, either. The Yanks called up Justin Christian, a righty minor-leaguer, and he had a fine start with two hits including an RBI double. But the guy lurking, as discussed most commonly by Mike Sommer, is Brett Gardner. In SWB he’s batting .295 with a .414 OBP, the direct result of leading the team with 55 walks and 55 runs (Hmmm, a correlation?), and 29 stolen bases (in 37 attempts). He has 23 XBH, including a whopping 10 triples to go with his 10 doubles and 3 homers, and has driven in 29. No errors in the field, either, though Melky has the better arm. It would be a gutsy move mid-way through the season and, with Melky’s recent slide and inability to be a lead-off man to replace JD weakens the offense. Does Brett Gardner get a look soon, especially since Matsui’s knee is troubling and JD is still out with the strained left arch?

Tonight, Joba (1-2, 2.36 ERA) faces Zach Duke (4-4, 3.91 ERA), the second of three lefties the Pirates throw at the Yankees. I gotta run.

Published in: on June 25, 2008 at 11:16 am  Leave a Comment  

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