Saturday, May 30, 2009

Game 49: Look Out Cleveland

When CC Sabathia was traded to the Brewers early last July he bid his hometown of 10 years goodbye by taking out a full page ad in the Cleveland Plain Dealer thanking the fans for their support. The $12,870 the black and white ad cost was just a drop in the bucket compared to what he had already made in his career, much less what he was about net on the free agent market. Still, lots of guys get traded from a team and don't bother to offer such a thoughtful gesture. Hopefully the fans at Progressive Field tonight will be a little more accommodating than those at Thursday's Cavs game where the crowd actually booed CC. 

Knowing that there was almost no possibility of resigning Sabathia before he reached free agency and wanting to get something in return, the Indians dealt him to Milwaukee for highly touted, power hitting outfield prospect Matt LaPorta along with pitchers Zack Jackson, Rob Bryson and third baseman Taylor Green. The Hardball Times evaluated the trade at the time and called it dead even.

The Brewers probably got more than they expected from their three month and one week rental of Sabathia. He made 15 starts, seven of them complete games, totalling 130 1/3 innings pitched at a 1.65 ERA. His start in the ALDS against the Phillies left much to be desired, but from a Yankee fans' perspective, that was a good thing, as it ultimately limited the abuse points the Brewers were able to put on our future commodity. 

LaPorta made his major league debut this year, but struggled in his 13 games in The Bigs. He's currently down in AAA and hitting well, but hasn't shown the power he was rumored to have when the Indians acquired him. Taylor Green is at AA Huntsville, and Rob Bryson is still with Lake County in A-ball. The last piece of the deal, Zach Jackson, has spent most of the year in AAA, but made two starts and one relief appearance (against the Yankees) for the Tribe.

Sabathia's opponent tonight is Fausto Carmona, who was seemingly less affected by the midges in the 2007 ALDS than Joba Chamberlain. Carmona threw nine innings of one run ball that night using only 113 pitches, but it wasn't enough to net a complete game, as it took a walk off single by Travis Hafner in the 11th to snuff out the Yankees. 

2007 was unquestionably Carmona's finest year in the Major Leagues. Despite operating in CC Sabathia's shadow, he finished 4th in the Cy Young voting behind his teammate on the strength of a 3.06 ERA, but more importantly, a 19-8 record. The year before, the Indians tried to convert him to a reliever, but that experiment failed miserably as he collected 8 losses out of the 'pen. 

Last year, Carmona spent two months on the DL with a left hip strain and was ineffective in the 22 starts he did make, accumulating a 5.44 ERA. This season, he's picked up right where he left off. In 10 starts, his ERA is sitting at a smooth 6.42, and he was lifted from his last outing against the Rays after only 1 1/3 IP. He's walking nearly 6 batters per nine innings (up from 2.6 in 2007) and has a WHIP of 1.665. Many comparisons have been made between he and Chien Ming Wang in the past since both are tall, hard-throwing, right-handed sinkerballers who keep the ball in the park and have low strikeout rates. Allowing too many balls in play makes it tremendously difficult to have extended success against Major League hitting and both of these guys are facing that reality.

The Yankees enter this game winners of their last two against the Indians and 13 of their last 16 overall. Mark Teixeira has hit 12 home runs in May and has an OPS of 1.113. They say momentum is only as good as the next night's pitcher? Sabathia has averaged 8 innings over his past four starts and only given up a total of six runs.

Look out Cleveland, 
The storm is comin' through,
And it's runnin' right up on you. 
[H/T to Emma from Bronx Banter for the idea for the song.]

Saturday Links

There's not going to be anything in the way of content until the game preview tonight, so here are some links from around the Yankesphere to keep you busy:
And if you're really desperate... from the Post: 
  • Mark Teixeira as said that Joe Girardi is the "best manager [he's] had, by far". Interesting how winning casts a warm glow on everything, isn't it? I didn't hear anyone saying that when they were under .500 a few weeks ago. Teix has played for Buck Showalter, Ron Washington (briefly), Bobby Cox and Mike Scioscia. Three of those guys are top notch managers and Ron Washington is only 6 games under .500 in his 2+ seasons in Texas. I think was Mark meant to say was "favorite".
  • Joel Sherman tries to compare Don Mattingly's willingness to be dropped in the order in favor of Paul O'Neill in 1994 to Jeter's reluctance to move off of shortstop, concluding that Jeter is all un-Captainy and stuff. Here's the difference: Moving down in the batting order doesn't necessitate learning an entirely new skill set. Had Mattingly been asked to shift to left field, I imagine his reaction would have been quite different. 

The View From On Top

For the first time since October 1st, 2006, the Yankees are in sole posession of first place in the American League East. It's the only time it has happened in the Joe Girardi Era. Chew on that for a moment.

For the fifth straight game, Derek Jeter led off the game with a hit, setting the tone for another comfortable victory. 

The margin of victory was only two runs, but the Indians never had the tying runner in scoring position. 

Andy Petttitte had held the Indians scoreless when he was lifted with runners on first and second in the fifth inning and had only tossed 84 pitches. The main reason for his early departure was an apparent back problem which surfaced in the fourth inning.

Pettite doubled over after delivering a 3-1 slider to Ben Francisco and was visited on the mound by Joe Girardi and Gene Monahan. He stayed in the game but retreated to the clubhouse for treatment during the top of the 5th. Andy allowed a lead off single to Asdrubal Cabrera to being the bottom half of the fifth inning, but then recorded three straight outs. After taking the hill for the sixth, Pettitte was yanked after giving up a single and a walk.

Alfredo Aceves allowed one of Pettite's baserunners to score on a sac fly by Shin-Soo Choo, but that was all the offense Cleveland could muster. Aceves, who is emerging as a versatile late inning bullpen option for the Yanks, surrendered only a walk and a single in three innings of work.  

In his first game back, Jorge Posada went 2-3 with a walk. He saw 17 of Cliff Lee's 112 pitches, a contribution which certainly helped send the Indians' starter to the showers in the 6th inning for only the second time in his last 8 starts. 

A-Rod picked up a single and a walk at the plate but the most encouraging signs of the night for him won't be found in the box score. 

In the top of the second, Ben Francisco tapped a nubber down the third baseline, and A-Rod made a great effort charging in on the play, although the out wasn't made at first. Then, during top of the fifth, Alex hit a weak grounder to third base and sensing the possibility of an infield hit, he busted ass down the line and made it a closer play than expected, but was out by a nose. Hustle has long been a trademark of A-Rod's game, and regardless of your feelings about him, it's encouraging to see that he is feeling comfortable and healthy enough to go all out. 

Mo gave up a hit to Choo, but otherwise it was an uneventful and non-threatening ninth inning. The save moved Pettitte and Mariano as the starter/closer tandem with the most wins/saves together (58), passing Dennis Eckersley and Bob Welch (57).

The Yanks are in first. I'm not sure if I remember what that was like.