Saturday, June 13, 2009

A Win Is A Win

(Castillo picture from NY Daily News, all others via AP)

Well it wasn't pretty. It wasn't even something you're likely to see again. But a win is a win. And coming off three stomach punch losses against the Sox, an ugly loss to the Mets would have been far worse than a cheap win. The lasting memory of this game will be Luis Castillo dropping A-Rod's would-be game ending pop up. But there was far more to the story than that.

Joba Chamberlain turned in a bad start, no two ways about it. He needed just 31 pitches to get through the first two innings, allowing just one base runner. But, only 16 of those pitches were for strikes. It would foreshadow problems to come.

Chamberlain allowed two runs in the third without allowing a hit: BB, FC, BB, HBP, BB, K, HBP. He threw 43 pitches for the inning, just 23 strikes. In the fourth Chamberlain retired the first two batters, walked the next two, then managed to get out of it. But it cost him 26 more pitches, only half of them strikes. He was done.

Chamberlain has had problems getting deep into games this year, and on a night when the team could have used some length from their starter, he burned through 100 pitches in four innings, just 52 of them for strikes. Not quite Burnett-esque, but certainly not acceptable. After seemingly make a leap forward against Cleveland nearly two weeks ago, this marks two mediocre starts in a row. All that, coupled with the poor bullpen performance the last two nights will only provide ammunition to those who want Chamberlain back in the pen. I can't wait for the impending assault on common sense.

What's worse, Joba's early exit made way for Brett Tomko. Despite his craptasic track record, Tomko entered the game having been fairly effective in 2009. His carriage turned back into a pumpkin tonight. Another major fielding miscue by Nick Swisher, which inexplicably wasn't scored an error, didn't help Tomko, but it certainly wasn't the main cause of his demise. His final line: 0.2 IP, 3 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 2 BB, 1 K, highlighted by a mammoth Gary Sheffield home run just inside the left field foul pole. Suddenly Tomko's 2.53 ERA is 5.56. By the time Girardi sent David Robertson in to relieve him, the Yanks were down 6-3.

As often happens at Yankee Stadium, the long ball kept the Yankees in the game. The first four Yankee runs came on a second inning solo shot from Robinson Cano, a two run homer from Mark Teixeira in the third, and a fifth inning solo shot from Derek Jeter. Then in the sixth, Hideki Matsui welcomed just-recalled Jon Switzer back to the Majors by launching his third pitch into the right field mezzanine to give the Yankees a 7-6 lead. Matsui hit a game winning grand slam on his 34th birthday, but the three run shot on his 35th was just as big.

In the seventh, the Yankees conceded the tying run in exchange for a double play. The score was still tied with two outs in the eighth, when Girardi summoned Mariano Rivera to face the formidable duo of Carlos Beltran and David Wright. Rivera issued just his third walk of the season to Beltran, who then scored the go-ahead run on a Wright double.

I don't particularly have a problem with bringing Rivera in here. Given his age and off-season surgery he should be handled carefully, but on principle I have no issue with using him to get one out in the eighth inning when the Mets have their two best hitters coming up. What I do question however is what made Friday's game more important than Thursday's? I can appreciate not wanting to tax Rivera for six outs on Thursday. However, from a leverage standpoint, there was far more on the line Thursday, in a division game, with a one run lead, the bases loaded, no one out, and the number three hitter due. I'd rather use my best reliever in that spot (and have a lesser pitcher go in the ninth if necessary) than in a tied interleague game with the bases empty and two outs. Maybe it's second guessing on my part, but it appears to me to be inconsistent decision making.

Regardless, the score remained tied into the Yankees trailed by one in the bottom of the ninth. Brett Gardner, the number nine hitter led off, leading me to believe that Johnny Damon's assorted ailments would leave him on the bench for the remainder of the night. Gardner popped out, and as Jeter stepped into the box, Damon entered the on-deck circle to hit for Nick Swisher.

This one makes even less sense to me. You're down to three outs and you let the worst hitter in your line-up lead off the inning, then use your pinch hitter on a guy who's OPSing at .930?!?! Look, I know Swisher has made some terrible mistakes both in the field and on the bases the past few days. But if you're going to send him a message, sit him down from the first pitch, don't start when the game is on the line. Michael Kay suggested Swisher's 1 for 11 career numbers against K-Rod, but an 11 at bat sample size shouldn't dictate such a decision. If so, Damon should have been saved for A-Rod, who after the E4 is now 1 for 15 against K-Rod.

In the end, right or wrong, it worked. The Yankees won, and that's a very good thing. Another deflating loss would have been very tough to bear. I certainly didn't want to start my weekend that way. It's nice to be back in the win column. And after getting shut down by MLB's second most obnoxious closer the last two nights, it was nice touch up the reigning champion tonight. Unfortunately for K-Rod, blown saves can't be tagged on a second baseman.


  1. I read your blog all the time, it rules. I was at the game yesterday, and I cannot tell you how many times i repeated (to my gf) the same exact reasoning about using Mo.

    I think it's great that Girardi grew a pair and used him in a situation where the game was 'really" being saved. HOWEVER, having painstakingly gone through Thursday's experience: WHY NOT USE HIM THEN??? It makes no sense.

    I really hope that the win doesn't overshadow the fact that there's inconsistency in the decision making. I didn't see any of the post game, but i hope someone asked Girardi that question.

    Sorry, had to vent. Go YANKS (W is a W edition).

  2. Correct. As I said below, a win is a win. We could have won most Sawx games this year, but haven't due to some bad breaks. Today we finally got a break.

    Could anybody else tell that Castillo was going to miss that catch as soon as the YES cameras showed his angle?

  3. "Regardless, the score remained tied into the bottom of the ninth.

    No it wasn't. Rivera gave up the go-ahead run in the top of the frame. Castillo makes the catch and the game is over. C'mon Matt....


  4. @BW
    Thanks very much. So does your GF have a better grasp on leverage than Girardi?

    I wasn't really paying attention by the time post-game roled around. I would imagine Girardi's reasoning was that he didn't want to use Mo for 6 outs Thursday, which is fine. I wouldn't want him to either. But it's not written in stone that your closer has to pitch the 9th. I would have been OK with Mo getting out of the 8th and then handing the ball to Aceves.

    It's definitely nice to catch those breaks when they come your way.

    I didn't think Castillo was going to drop it, but it did appear to me that the ball was drifting on him. He had to move way towards the line from where he was initially settling under it. Two hands next time Luis, two hands.