Sunday, June 21, 2009

Another Series Lost

Last year on Father's Day, Yankees ace Chien-Ming Wang suffered a lis franc injury in an interleague game against the Houston Astros. He was lost for the season, and in some ways he is still lost. This year on Father's Day, CC Sabathia struggled through his first inning of work. Two batters into the second inning, Sabathia was removed with tightness in his left bicep. At present, it doesn't appear to be serious and CC says he'll make his next scheduled start on Frday. However, with the Yankees in a two week skid, the last thing they need is an injury to their best starting pitcher. Sabathia's early exit is at least cause for some concern.

The Yankees needed to get six and two thirds innings out of their bullpen today, and did so with mixed results. Easing the pain a bit is that everyone will get a day of rest with tomorrow's off day. But with Wang scheduled to start on Tuesday, the Yankee bullpen may need to be on early stand by again.

Alfredo Aceves relieved Sabathia, and Alf continued his impressive 2009 campaign, turning in 2.2 IP of one hit ball, with 2 Ks. He was relieved by Brett Tomko, who offered no relief at all. Entering the game with a two run lead, Tomko gave up a two out home run in both of his innings pitch, In the fifth, Hanley Ramirez launched a long two run shot to left to tie the game. Then in the sixth, Cody Ross blasted an ever deeper shot to left to give the Fish a lead they wouldn't relinquish.

Phil Coke and David Robertson combined to pitch the seventh. Coke retired the leadoff batter, then gave up a base hit as the top of the order came around. D-Rob came in and promptly recorded the second out. Following a walk to Hanley Ramirez, the Marlins struck for two out runs in the third consecutive inning. Robertson hung a 1-2 curveball that Jorge Cantu laced for base hit to leftfield. A great throw from Melky Cabrera could have ended the inning at the plate. Instead he uncorked a bad one that tailed far enough up the third base line that it eluded both Jorge Posada and David Robertson, allowing the sixth and final Marlin run to score. It would prove to be decisive.

On the offensive side, the Yankees had another listless afternoon. They plated three runs in the third with a two out rally, to take an early 3-1 lead. Derek Jeter beat an infield single that was followed by a Nick Swisher walk. Mark Teixeira drove Jeter in with a double, then A-Rod broke his 0 for 16 slump by driving both Swish and Teix in.

The Yankees managed only one more hit until the ninth. Once again, the action came with two outs. Jorge Posada singled on a liner to rightfield, then moved to third on a seeing-eye single from Melky Cabrera. Brett Gardner then drove a triple deep to right center, cutting the deficit to a single run. Johnny Damon pinch hit for Robertson and worked a walk to put the go-ahead run on base, but Derek Jeter grounded the first pitch he saw to shortstop to end the game.

It was a frustrating loss, which has become a theme over the last two weeks. I'm not about to lose my head over a rough stretch in June. But, I hope the team isn't falling back into the funk they were in for much of the early part of the season. Things happen; sometimes a team will drop a series to a team it should beat. But, losing back-to-back series to the Nats and Marlins is not good. Here's hoping the off day tomorrow will give the team a chance to recharge their batteries and start fresh against the Braves on Tuesday.

Game 69: Your Dad Did

Happy Father's Day. Perhaps more than any other sport, baseball is a game passed down from fathers to sons and shared by them thereafter. Today, the Yankees will post a lineup that features two second generation big leaguers: Robinson Cano, son of Jose Cano, and Nick Swisher, son of Steve Swisher. Jorge Posada is the son a Big League scout, and in the dugout, bench coach Tony Pena, is the father of Big Leaguer Tony Pena Jr. But whether they have a Major League pedigree or not, virtually every man in uniform today owes at least some part of their baseball career to their father's guidance.

I imagine that most of you, like me, learned the game from your father, became interested in the game thanks to your father, and had your father bring you to your first game. I'm very grateful that my dad did these things and more for me. I'm also very lucky that I still have the opportunity to go to a game with my dad, to watch a game with him, or to just talk baseball with him. I know not everyone is fortunate enough to have those luxuries. So to my dad, your dad, and dads everywhere, thanks for all you've done for us and Happy Father's Day to you all.

Big Daddy Sabathia will take the mound today, and I'm sure the Yanks are glad to have their ace on the hill as they try to avoid dropping a second straight series to an inferior team. He'll face another 6'7" hurler, Chris Volstad. Volstad has been knocked around in each of his last two starts; the Yanks hope to make it three in row for him today. A-Rod will return to the lineup today after not starting the first two games of the series.

As they do every year, Major League Baseball will partner with the Prostate Cancer Foundation today in an effort to raise awareness about the disease. As I've mentioned in the past, the company that employs me is dedicated to cancer care, particularly the treatment of prostate cancer. One in six men will be diagnosed with the disease in his lifetime. It's the most commonly diagnosed cancer amongst American males, with close to 200,000 new cases per year, and it's the second leading cause of cancer deaths amongst American males. The good news is that it's a highly treatable disease, particularly if caught early. So dads, make sure you get screened anually. The test isn't the most pleasant thing in the world, but it beats the alternative. We want to have you around for many more years of talking baseball.

The older I get, the more people tell me how much I look like my dad, how much I sound like my dad, how I have the same mannerisms as my dad. If I end up turning into my father, I think I'd be doing alright for myself; he's set a great example for me. I'd be proud to do as my dad did. Once again, Happy Father's Day.

Acting like a kid,
Just like your dad did
And you're a chip off the old block
Why does it come as such a shock
That every road up which you rock
Your dad already did

Yanks Drop Opportunity To Win

My favorite type of game to watch is a good pitchers duel. The game moves quickly, both pitchers are usually dealing, and you might even get a few defensive highlights.

Coming out on the losing end of a pitchers duel isn't quite as entertaining. And the difference for the Yankees last night wasn't a defensive highlight, but rather a lowlight on a blown routine flyball.

A.J. Burnett pitched extremely well: 6.1 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 1 ER, 3 BB, 8 K. He surrendered a solo HR to Dan Uggla in the second, then rebounded by recording 8 of his next 10 outs via Ks, including all three outs in both the third and fourth innings. His second run, an unearned run, came in the sixth, as Johnny Damon lost a Jorge Cantu flyball in the lights, allowing Hanley Ramirez to score from first. It's the second dropped flyball from Damon in less than two weeks and I can't help but wonder if he's still having trouble with his eyes.

As good Burnett was, Josh Johnson was better: 7 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 5 K. The Yankees couldn't touch him early on, as he put down 11 in a row at one point, and 19 of the first 22 he faced. The Yankees finally pushed a run across in the seventh, using an RBI single from Nick Swisher to plate Jorge Posada.

With Johnson out of the game in the eighth, the Yankees threatened again. Hideki Matsui laced a pinch hit, leadoff single. Brett Gardner pinch ran and stole second. A-Rod pinch hit and worked a walk, putting two on with no one out. Derek Jeter was the next batter, and after showing bunt for a few pitches, grounded into his second doubleplay of the night. With the tying run on third, a Johnny Damon strikeout ended the inning.

The Yankees put the tying run on again in the ninth, this time with a Mark Teixeira leadoff single. But Jorge Posada popped to short and Robinson Cano grounded into the Yankees third doubleplay of the night to end the game.

A loss is never fun, but sometimes a team is just going to run into great pitching. The Yankees did last night, and they failed to capitalize on the few opportunities they had. There are a few positives to take out of the game: Burnett turned in a second straight outstanding start. Jorge Posada threw out both would-be base stealers, and worked extremely well with Burnett. Burnett was certain to give credit to Posada, both as he left the mound in the seventh and in his post-game comments. Phil Coke and Phil Hughes continued their stellar pitching out of the bullpen, combining for 1.2 IP of perfect relief, including 3 Ks.

In the end though, it was still a loss. The Yankees will need to take the rubber game today to avoid a second straight series loss to a sub-.500 team.