Thursday, July 30, 2009

Game 102: Chicago

Despite holding a record of 51-51, the White Sox are only three games in back of the Tigers in the AL Central. However, if that doesn't work out, they aren't looking to good in the Wild Card race sitting 8 games back. The Yanks haven't played Chicago yet, but are 19-5 against the Central, including 7-0 against the Twins and 5-1 against the first place Tigers. It's a considerable improvement over last year, when they went 21-19 against that division.

Gavin Floyd goes for the ChiSox tonight. Last year was Floyd's only valuable year as a major league pitcher, throwing 206 1/3 innings at a 3.84 ERA and picking up 17 wins. He's not quite at that level this year, thus far sporting an ERA of 4.24 and a record of 8-6. He's been solid of late, averaging 6 2/3 IP over his last 7 starts with a 3.01.

Andy Pettitte goes tonight for the Bombers. He pitched 6 innings of scoreless ball last Saturday but got shellacked for 4 runs in his final 1/3. As I've tried to prove in the past, there's something to be said for hanging around. He kept the team in a close game, giving them a lot of time to get on the board, which is a whole lot better than doing it the other way around like Brad Penny last night. In his only other start since the break, Pettitte went 7 1/3 against Baltimore so perhaps the time off rejuvenated the 37 year old. Jose Molina will be doing the catching tonight, and that's never a bad thing as far as the pitching staff is concerned.

This game will be the last time the Yankees face a team for the first time this year. In other words, after tonight, they will have faced every team they are going to face in the regular season already. Got that? No? Okay, the Yanks haven't played the White Sox yet this year, or even been to Chicago actually, but... Nevermind.

Game starts at 8:11, we're on Central Time.

Won't you please come to Chicago,
Show your face,
From the bottom to the ocean,
To the mountains of the moon,
Won't you please come to Chicago,
No one else can take your place.

Okay Maybe One More Thing...

Welcome To Club 103, Fellas

Back when the news of Manny's positive test in 2003 came to the forefront, I asked "why couldn't it have been Ortiz?", but I must admit that this isn't nearly as satisfying as I thought it would be.
Manny Ramirez and David Ortiz, the sluggers who propelled the Boston Red Sox to end an 86-year World Series championship drought and to capture another title three years later, were among the roughly 100 Major League Baseball players to test positive for performance-enhancing drugs in 2003, according to lawyers with knowledge of the results.
First of all, thanks to the lawyers (Yankee fans, presumably) who chose two leak these two (and only these two) names out of the 98 or so that were still under wraps. If only the guy who conducted the Mitchell Report had any connections within the Red Sox organization, you might not have had to risk being held in contempt of court!

I think we can cast aside the notion that Manny's most recent test was an isolated incident. In light of this new information, given how steady his career numbers have been, it's hard to imagine when he was clean. With Ortiz on the other hand, his transition from Minnesota to Boston (in 2003) draws a pretty clear line. Whatever. Here's the fun part....

Hey David, are you ready to taste your own medicine and take a voluntary one year suspension?
"I would suggest everybody get tested, not random, everybody," he said. "You go team by team. You test everybody three, four times a year and that's about it."

And if a player tests positive for steroids?

"Ban 'em for the whole year," the slugger said.

Objectively speaking, there is something pretty despicable about the fact that these guys were told the tests would remain anonymous, and now, one or two at a time they are leaking out like death by 1,000 papercuts. It's not fair, but like Omar Minaya would say, you can't put the cat back in the bottle.

The moral of today's news isn't that the Red Sox Championship is tainted, it's that we now understand the entire sport to be slightly more dirty than we previously assumed. It's not a good thing for the sport to have the accomplishments of the best players of an era systematically knocked down one by one. It's not going to be fun to look back in 10 or 15 years, when what timeframe actually defined the "steroids era" begins to crystalize, and realize that very few of the remarkable accomplishments we saw were as they seemed at the time.

Let's move on.

Grandpa Yankee Makes An Appearance

It's kind of sad that's what George Steinbrenner has really been reduced to, isn't it? Once one of baseball's great characters, The Boss is now bound to a wheelchair and wears sunglasses at night, presumably to protect the vacant look on his face betrayed by his wandering eyes, a sign of dementia and old age we've all seen in an older relative at some point in our lives.

As PeteAbe points out this morning, last night was the first time that some of the younger players and recent acquisitions had even met Steinbrenner. Nick Swisher said "It was an honor to meet him", and CC Sabathia thought he was "friendly". If this was ten, twenty or thirty years ago instead, The Boss would have probably been instrumental in trying to bring them to the team, his visit would have been punctuated by a "got get 'em" type of speech and I highly doubt "friendly" would have been on the list of adjectives used to describe the man. Certainly not by his employees or the beat writers:
Now we give Steinbrenner his space, even the tabloids. Hal Steinbrenner runs the team and when the voice of ownership needs to be heard, he steps forward. That’s how it should be, I think. Let the old guy have his dignity.
It's unfortunate that part even needs to be said. If Steinbrenner hadn't spent most of his time owning the Yankees in a frenetic quest to win at all costs and have everything his way, people probably wouldn't need to be reminded of that.

Given how absent he's been from the picture in recent years, it's easy to forget that the guy still exists. At age 79, we'll all be lucky if we still do. It's great that he's feeling well enough to start making clubhouse appearances again and hopefully he's around for long enough to see a bunch more outings like the one last night from Joba.

Matt Garza: Not A Genius

Look Out! (Sorry, still working on my Ken Singleton impression)

This is what Matt Garza had to say after hitting Mark Teixeira on the arm in the top of the 5th inning last night:
Tampa Bay Rays RHP Matt Garza acknowledged it was more than coincidence than he hit Mark Teixeira the inning after Yankees starter Joba Chamberlain threw a pitch at the head of Evan Longoria, and noted the Yankees threw inside to Longoria and hit him Monday too.
If you'll recall, Chamberlain went up and in on Longoria in the 4th inning on the first pitch of the at bat. Longoria then popped out to Robinson Cano on the next one to end the inning, and broke his bat by slamming it on the ground in disgust. He was hit by Jonathan Albaldejo on Monday.
I just kind of got tired of people brushing [Evan Longoria] back. It’s about time someone made a statement. They did it on Monday night and we didn’t do anything, they didn’t do it too much (Tuesday) and (Chamberlain) did it again tonight. I hate to be that guy, but someone had to take a stand and say, “You know, we’re tired of it.” You can go after our best guy, well, we’ll make some noise too, and that’s what happened.
I'm sure you really "hate to be that guy", Matt. Especially when you consider that (A) Longoria didn't even get hit, (B) no one made you throw at Teixeira and (C) no one would have known it was intentional until you started running your mouth. It was a good pitch up and in, which barely got a piece of Teix. I personally didn't think there was any malice behind it because it hitting Teix brought A-Rod up to the plate with two men on. Not exactly optimal strategy there. A-Rod ended up striking out, but only after a 9 pitch battle.

At least now everyone will know how tough you are while you're serving that six game suspension, Matt. Enjoy!

Eight Strong To Win Seven For Joba

From the first batter of the game last night, it was apparent that the Yanks had put the struggles of the previous game behind them. Derek Jeter worked a 2-2 count and proceeded to slice a ball down the right field line that travelled all the way into the corner. In his attempt to wrangle the ball, LF Gabe Gross inadvertently did his best Nick Swisher impression, buying Jeter enough time to get to 3rd base standing up. Two batters later, Mark Teixeira knocked Jete home with a single and the Yanks were off to the races.

After being staked to the early lead, Joba Chamberlain looked confident and dominant. He worked relatively quickly, retiring the first 8 batters of the game in a row before giving up a bloop single to Jason Bartlett who was immediately caught stealing on the next pitch.

The Yanks put runners on second and third with no one out in the 4th via a single by A-Rod and a double by Hideki Matsui. Robinson Cano drove in Alex with a ground out, but one run was all they could manage. Cano struck again in the 6th, but this time more decisively. After taking a ball way up and in, he absolutely rocked a pitch deep into the seats in right field. He paused a for a second to watch it sail and Garza literally gave it a little wave on it's way out.

Joba blazed through the Rays with a perfect fourth, worked around two walks in the fifth, a single in the sixth and sat down the side in order in the seventh. In all, Joba had four 1-2-3 innings last night, a season high.

He received another run in support in the top of the inning after Hideki Matsui singled and was pinch run for by Cody Ransom. Ransom came around to score all the way from first on a single by Jorge Posada. Swisher ended the inning with a double play, the Yanks third of the night in addition to two by A-Rod, but it didn't matter.

Joba entered the 8th inning with only 88 pitches, a number he's surpassed in 5 innings multiple times this year. He allowed another single to Barlett in the frame, but that was all. It was only the second time in his career he's gone 8 innings and the only time he's done so without allowing a run. Furthermore, he finished with 101 pitches and had as many baserunners as strikeouts, five. Garza didn't pitch terribly, allowing 3 runs through 7 innings, but was clearly out-classed.

Melky Cabrera and Mark Teixeira added homers off of Dan Wheeler in the 9th to give the Yanks even more breathing room, bringing the score to 6-0. Brian Bruney, continuing with his "turd in the punchbowl" role of late, was called on to pitch the 9th and could not complete the shutout, or even the inning. He allowed a triple to Carl Crawford and a homer to Evan Longoria before recording an out. He got Ben Zobrist to pop out but after Carlos Pena doubled, Joe Girardi was forced to go to the bullpen. Mariano Rivera came out even though it wasn't a save situation and locked down the victory. Mo did allow his 5th walk of the season, reducing his K/BB ratio to a merely superhuman 9.4, from a Godly 11.75.

It was obviously tremendously encouraging to see Joba deliver such a dominant performance, but the double-edged sword is that the deeper he goes into games, the sooner he will be bumping up against his innings limit. But that's a different issue for another day. The Yanks took the first series of the road trip and extended their lead to 3.5 games as the Sox lost 8-6 to the A's.