Yankees Take Down Angels 5-3

In a game played with the intensity and strategy of a playoff game, the Yankees beat the Angels 5-3 last night.  Getting good pitching that started with Joba, hot hitting by Teixeira and Swisher, and a well-timed double-steal that forced a throwing error, the Yanks used a winning formula that they would serve well to emulate come October.

Joba was strong, going four good innings and allowing just a long solo blast to Vlad in the second.  Otherwise, he walked none, threw 41 of his 67 pitches for strikes, fanned two, and scattered four hits.  That was as sharp as he has looked in quite some time.

He had to be to match Weaver, who held the Yanks in check for much of the game.  Swish creamed a homer off a hanging curve deep into the second deck in right to tie the game at one in the bottom of the third.  But the Yanks squandered a good chance to take the lead in the fourth when A-Rod walked and Matsui singled to lead off.  But Posada flew out to shallow center, and Cano grounded into an inning-ending DP.  I got into it with a fan at LoHud last week during a game, with this guy going off because I made a tongue-in-cheek comment about holding a telethon at The Heartland to hire a hypnotist for Cano to help solve his RISP issues.  He responded by trotting out all the other good things about Cano, then referring to him as a bum to mock as though I were saying that.  Obviously, for anyone with half a functioning brain, Cano is no slouch.  He’s a tremendous player, and I’ve touted his work at the plate and in the field on numerous occasions, as readers here know.  But regardless of what he has done with runners on in the past, there is no getting around the fact that Cano has been woeful when hitting with runners in scoring position. This year, it is .212 (36-170), 3 HR, 52 RBI.  Now, the RBI totals are good, but look at others’ statistics with RISP, and the number of opportunities:

  • Posada: .308 (33-107), 7 HR, 56 RBI.
  • A-Rod: .277 (36-130), 5 HR, 56 RBI.
  • Matsui: .299 (38-127), 8 HR, 61 RBI.
  • Teixeira: .272 (43-158), 6 HR, 71 RBI.
  • JD: .302 (42-139), 4 HR, 51 RBI.
  • Swish: .248 (27-109), 3 HR, 48 RBI.
  • Jeter: .272 (34-125), 3 HR, 46 RBI.
  • Melky: .296 (34-115), 3 HR, 50 RBI.

Here is plainly why Cano deserves such heat for failing to hit with RISP–not only when he was hitting fifth (and failing miserably doing so, precisely because of his RISP failures then) but also throughout the entire season, Cano has had more chances to plate runners than all his other teammates, and has done considerably less with them.  In fact, he has fewer RBI than A-Rod who missed the first several weeks, than Posada who missed a few weeks, and than Matsui who has sat occasionally because of bad knees and to get righty bats in the lineup.  Worth mentioning also is that he scarcely has more RBI than Swish despite having 61 more at-bats with RISP, Melky who has 55 fewer at-bats with RISP and usually hits eighth or ninth, and Jeter who has 45 fewer at-bats with RISP and, as the lead-off hitter, gets fewer chances because he must drive in somewhat weaker hitters.  If he had just seven more hits with RISP, which would have given him a .253 average, he might have driven in 6-10 more runs, and that would be acceptable.  .212 in 170 at-bats with RISP isn’t, especially when those ahead of him, in the best lineup in the majors, are so often on base.  Teixeira has an OBP of .381, A-Rod .411, Matsui .367, and Posada .357.  It is an utter lack of execution and focus, period.

Back to the game, which really was terrific.  Aceves entered in the fifth and immediately allowed a double to Aybar, who moved to third on Mathis’s sac bunt and scored on Figgins’s 4-3, 2-1 Angels.  But the Yanks responded right away with runs.  Swish led off with a double, Melky walked, Jeter the franchise hits leader inexplicably was bunting (I mean, really Girardi and Jeter, enough already) and moved them over, JD’s grounder to short would have scored Swish but hit Melky, who was out on the play.  Despite the rancor swelling within me about Jeter’s bunt and the possibility of another missed chance against the dreaded Angels, Teixeira crushed a triple off the wall in center, plating Swish and JD, 3-2 Yankees.  A-Rod grounded out to end the fifth, but the Yanks regained the lead.  After Aceves worked the sixth, Cano laced a two-out single that he tried to stretch into a double, but was thrown out at second.

Aceves pitched into the seventh and sandwiched a pop out between two walks.  Coke entered and got Figgins looking for the second out, then Izturis grounded up the middle and Jeter, showing terrific range to his left, bent down, scooped the ball, pulled a 360 and threw a one hop to Teixeira, who made a great back-handed scoop to beat Izturis and his head-first slide; tremendous play on both ends.

Hughes entered in the eighth and got into trouble, loading the bases with no outs by allowing singles to Abreu and Vlad, and walking Hunter.  But he avoided the worst by inducing Morales into a 6-4-3 DP, tying the game, then getting Kendrick to line out to Teixeira.  All in all, allowing just a run to tie it, especially at home, was unfortunate but not nearly as bad as it could have been.

The drama peaked in the bottom of the eighth when Teixeira hit a one-out ground-rule double to right, a good break really for it gave Teixeira second when, had the ball stayed in play, he might have been held to a single.  A-Rod walked to end Weaver’s night, with the lefty Oliver entering to face Matsui.  Girardi then inserted Brett the Jet to pinch run for Teixeira, removing his hot bat and great glove and raising more than a few eyebrows.  But the move proved genius, for Brett the Jet watched video of Oliver holding on or not holding on runners before entering, then stole third in a double steal.  Napoli’s throw skidded past Figgins at third into left, scoring The Jet and giving A-Rod third, 4-3 Yankees.  Honestly, the fault to me lay as much with Figgins as with Napoli, for Napoli’s throw was pretty good but could have been closer to the bag.  To me, Figgins was slow to get into position, seemingly caught off guard by the steal attempt and still moving to hop around the bag as the throw came behind him.  I think the throw was more or less where it should have been, but Figgins was not in position to get the throw.  Regardless, brilliant play and turnabout on the Angels, who have used the running game to pressure the Yanks in the past.  This time, the Yanks pressured the Angels into surrendering runs.  Matsui struck out, Posada got an intentional pass for Oliver to face Cano, but Cano delivered by grounding an 0-1 slider into center, 5-3 Yankees.

Mariano entered and worked around a questionable walk, prompting numerous and somewhat justifiably angry texts from Mike, before earning his 40th save of the year and 522nd of his incomparable career.  Mariano now has a 1.69 ERA; amazing, yet not.

The Yanks return to 41 games above .500, and have reduced their magic number to clinch the East to 12. More importantly, they hold a six-game lead (five in the loss column) over the Angels for home field.  Just as importantly, the Yanks got a measure of revenge against and imposed some psychological advantage over the Angels by winning, winning at home, and winning in the fashion they did.  Teixeira was tremendous, going 3-4 with 2 RBI, his 111th, batting .285. Swish was 2-4 with his 30th double, 27th RBI, and 79th RBI, batting .254.  Cano was 2-4 with his 77th RBI, batting .319 and finally delivering in the clutch with a big insurance run.

The Yanks face Halliday tonight, with Meat Tray going, but with 17 games remaining and the Yanks firmly in command for both the East title and home field, it holds much less significance than it would otherwise, and certainly if the Yanks had lost last night.

That, my friends, was one of the biggest wins of the year.  Enjoy it, Yankees fans.

Published in: on September 15, 2009 at 9:21 am  Comments (5)  

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5 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. great post and breakdown of just how bad cano is with runners on. i wonder what his BABiP is with RISP –maybe he’s victim of bad luck as well as bat at bats..

    and yes the way mariano was squeezed was a disgrace. great W and one of the most important ones.

  2. well his BABiP with RISP is .219 so he has been rather unlucky.

  3. Thanks Mike. Maybe he has had a little bad luck, but there are few of his at-bats in recent memory that have been thefts. He’s grounded into double plays, weak 4-3s, popped out–not unlike last year overall, just confined to RISP this year. I’m still confident that he will deliver next month, and maybe part of that is thinking glass-half-full.

  4. what is also interesting in contrast to crappy numbers with RISP his “late and close BA is over .350. go figure…

  5. It’s true, Mike. And to be fair, he has done a bit better in clutch situations of late. His walk-off was money, and he’s had a few big hits with RISP.

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