Tuesday, June 2, 2009

An Easy Flight Home

A plane ride from Cleveland to New York City takes about an hour and fifteen minutes in the air. Coming off a 5-2 road trip after a confidence-inspiring victory like the one last night will probably make it seem even shorter.

The Yankees hit the ground running in the first inning, as Jeter and Teixeira both extended their hitting streaks, to 15 and 14 games, respectively. With one out and men on first and second, A-Rod flew out to center and Jorge Posada struck out swinging to kick start a frustrating night with men in scoring position. Going 3-16 w/RISP isn't typically a recipe for success, but the Yankees overcame those shortcomings, mostly on the back of Joba Chamberlain.

The eight innings he tossed tonight marked Joba's longest outing as a professional. What he lacked in dominance (only 5Ks) he made up for in efficiency (106 pitches). In addition to inducing 12 groundballs he certainly made the highlight reel in the fifth inning.

Joba allowed a walk and a single to start the frame, and had men on first and second with no one out. Kelly Shoppach came to the plate and popped a bunt in the air down the left foul line. Joba charged the ball and made as spectacular of a catch as you will see made by a pitcher. He laid out with full extension and snatched the ball just before it hit the ground, and at the behest of Jorge Posada, took to his feet and double Ryan Garko off of second base.

It didn't just look good on film. If that ball had fallen in, the Indians would have had the bases loaded with no one out. Instead, they had a runner on first with two outs. Although it's not highlighted on this chart, you can figure out the damage that play did to the Indians' chances at victory (FanGraphs does't mark defensive plays on their WPA charts). With the next batter, Asdrubal Cabrera up, Jamey Carroll tried to steal second but was nabbed after a correct guess on a pitch out and the threat was deterred.

The Yankees mounted their own threat in th top of the 6th on the strength of three walks from Jeremy Sowers. Eric Wedge went to the mound and Sowers' night was over after 85 pitches, as he was replaced in favor of Eric Aquino. Jeter, Swisher, Teixeira packed the bases with no one out as A-Rod stood at the plate. As it seemingly so often does in big spots, Alex got behind 0-2.

In 97 plate appearances entering last night's game A-Rod had been in two strike counts in 41 of them. Four of his home runs have come with two strikes and he is well above league average, with a 213 sOPS+ (OPS in comparison to league average with two strikes), even with a .190 BABIP in those spots. However, this time he was called out looking on a back-up slider up and in. One out. Jorge Posada chopped out to second. Two down. Robby Cano flew out to left. Inning over.

At this point, the score was still tied 1-1 and any coherent observer was left to wonder if the Yankees had squandered their chance to bust the game open.

Joba sat the Indians down in order in the bottom of the inning and the Yanks picked up right where they left off in the seventh. Acquino took his turn walking the bases loaded with one out, which brought up the slumping Nick Swisher. But for all of the confidence he inspired early in the season, he certainly wouldn't be the consensus choice among Yankee fans to be up in a big spot at the moment. Swish stepped up and sliced a near home run into the left field corner, driving in two.

Our old pal Luis Vizciano was brought into face A-Rod. The count quickly fell to 0-2 again, but Alex slipped a single past Asdrubal Cabrera and knocked in two runners of his own. The score would end 5-2 with Cleveland getting one back in the bottom of the 7th on an RBI ground out.
Joba allowed only four hits and two walks before handing the ball to Mo in the ninth. What now, Chris Shearn?


  1. "With the next batter, Asdrubal Cabrera up, Jamey Carroll tried to steal second but was nabbed trying to steal second and the threat was deterred. "
    It probably helped that the yankees guessed correctly with a pitch-out, allowing Posada to make an easy throw. Jeter was waiting for Carroll with the ball at second base.

  2. Thanks A-Train... I updated the post.

  3. Does anyone want a split 6 man rotation?

  4. I'd like to stick with a 5 man and get Wang back in the rotation. He's looked good and I don't want to see him wilt away in the pen. Hughes has been good at times, but he's a lot more likely to have an outing like the did in Cleveland as opposed to the one he had in Texas.

    I don't care if you keep him in the bullpen or send him back to Scranton, but if Wang has it figured out, he's a much better and more consistent pitcher than Hughes.

  5. Jay,

    Two minor points:

    - There was one out in the 7th when Aquino finished loading the bases.
    - The score did not remain 5-1. Final was 5-2, thanks to 2 stolen bases and an RBI-ground out.