Saturday, August 29, 2009

Mitre Finally Delivers

Who would have thought that after two dominant performances by A.J. Burnett and C.C. Sabathia which resulted in a loss and a no-decision that it would be Sergio Mitre who finally followed through and picked up a win? Ten runs in support surely didn't hurt, but the start he turned it was better that what either of the high-priced offseason acquisitions turned in the past two games, at least in terms of runs allowed: 0.

Mitre effortlessly plowed through 4 1/3 perfect innings before allowing his only hit of the game, a double down the line ot Jim Thome. He then induced back to back ground outs to Jermaine Dye and Alex Rios to keep the White Sox off the board. The only other baserunner Mitre gave up was via a walk to Brent Lillibridge to start the 7th inning. The very next batter, A.J. Pierzynski, hit a line drive off of Mitre's right forearm, which Mitre corralled and threw to first for the out, but ended his dream start after only 6 1/3 innings. X-Rays were negative.

The Serg had only thrown 73 pitches, and looked to be ticketed for at least the 8th inning and possibly a complete game. He only struck out two batters but benefited from some excellent defensive plays like the diving stop and throw to first by A-Rod to keep his perfect game alive in the 5th and a ridiculous ranging snag and toss by Robinson Cano behind second base in the 6th. Chad Gaudin came on in relief, finishing the game with 2 2/3 scoreless innings, 4 strikeouts and only one walk.

Oh yeah, the offense was pretty good in this one, too. The Yanks pounded Jose Contreras, tagging him with 7 runs without the use of a homer before chasing him from the game in the 4rd inning. D.J. Carrasco allowed one of his inherited runners to score so in all, 8 runs scored on the big Cuban's watch, 6 earned.

Continuing with the even-numbered inning scoring barrage, the Yanks tacked on individual runs in the 6th and 8th innings, the first on a single by Cano scoring Mark Teixeria and the second on A-Rod's 23rd homer of the year. Derek Jeter continued his impossibly hot streak by going 3-4 while everyone in the starting line up scored a run.

Today probably marks the last time I try to play amateur meteorologist for a while. Not only were there no delays, but it hardly rained at all during the game despite overcast skies. I wasn't alone in my assumptions, though, as the stands were sparsely populated, at least for a Saturday afternoon game.

The win tonight brings the Yankees to a season-high 33 games over .500 and one win away from completing the sweep of the White Sox in the Bronx. The Red Sox get underway shortly over at Fenway, and they'll have to win to stay 6.0 games behind the Yanks. Your move, Boston.

Game 129: Riders On The Storm

Sergio Mitre has the unenviable task today of wandering around the clubhouse and biding his time while Tropical Depression Danny shifts shapes amorphously out in the Atlantic and tosses rain down on Yankee Stadium. Sergio might be used to the suspense by now though, since he's only appeared in two of the last 15 games for the Yanks. He makes Phil Hughes seem taxed by comparison.

Mitre had his best start of the year (still not all that good) in Seattle on the 15th, but since then has only popped up once, in two innings of relief during the Red Sox game the Yanks won by 9 runs. After working a perfect 8th inning, Mitre allowed 4 runs in the 9th including two homers before recording the final out. Who knows which Mitre we are going to get today, but the recent inactivity doesn't bode very well for his success.

Former Yankee Jose Contreras will take the mound for the White Sox today. El Titan de Bronze got off to a rocky start this year, getting sent down to AAA after an 0-5 start with an 8.19 ERA. He reemerged triumphantly, however after being called up for the first game of a double-header a month later. He pitched 8 innings of scoreless ball and then duplicated the feat in his next start out. Since then, his ERA has hovered around 5, mixing some good performances with some terrible ones. Since he varies his arm angle his control is erratic, sometimes allowing too many walks, and other times compiling lots of strikeouts while walking hardly anyone. This is the essence of Contreras, brilliant at times, but consistently inconsistent.

Jose Molina will be doing the catching again today as Jerry Hairston Jr. spells Melky in centerfield. Other than that, it will be the usual suspects, including Hurricane A-Rod at 3rd.

Last night's game went late, but not for the reason I envisioned in the preview. Today however, with Danny slowly meandering his way up the East Coast, it's clear there are going to be some delays involved with riding out this storm.

Riders on the storm,
Into this house were born,
Into this world were thrown,
Like a dog without a bone,
An actor out on loan,
Riders on the storm.

Since there will likely be some time to kill before game time, here's a Snoop Dogg remix of the song that I didn't know existed until I searched for the original on YouTube today. Truth be told, I think it's pretty damn good.

When Is A Plan Not A Plan?

In the car yesterday, I was listening to the radio pregame and heard Joe Girardi tell John Sterling on "The Manager's Show" (since confirmed by others) that Joba Chamberlain will now be starting on his regular 5 days of rest, but as Girardi said "may not always factor into the decision". This obviously means that instead of allowing him fewer starts, they are going to limit his innings per appearance.

Joba only has one start left before September call-ups are made, so hopefully Joe Girardi will utilize the resulting extra arms available to him to cushion the blow on the more valuable members of the bullpen. I have my doubts though, because Girardi, like Joe Torre before him, has real trouble putting any reliever that he doesn't trust into a game that isn't a totally one-sided. Much will depend on the standings, of course.

I wasn't sure why, but listening to Girardi deliver that piece of news, I felt a little miffed. Just like they did with A-Rod and his supposed "one day off per week" plan the Yankees immediately deviated from their stated intentions, which sort of defeats the purpose of, you know, having "a plan". That is their right, but at what point to do we stop listening to what the Yankees claim they are going to do?

Cashman and Girardi use of "plans" as a tool to convey their message to the media with a degree of certainty that stifles the speculation that can sometimes get out of hand in New York. It certainly is an effective tactic, because when they say something, it gets reported in multiple places as fact, only to be redacted and updated at the shortest possible interval in which it could be changed.

So next time we hear the Yankees claim that they have "a plan" for something, let's realize what that is has more to do with PR than it does with baseball.

A Walk (Off) In The Rain

For much of last night's game, it appeared to be frustratingly similar to Thursday afternoon's loss. The Yankees, behind an excellent pitching performance, put runner after runner on base, but could not put a big inning together. Fortunately for them, Friday night's result was better than that of the day before.

As they often do against them, the Yankees hit Mark Buehrle hard. Derek Jeter led off the game by launching a home run just to the left of Monument Park. Johnny Damon followed with a line drive single to right. Mark Teixeira than lifted a moon shot to deep left field, but got under it a bit too much and the wind, blowing in from left most of the night, held it in the ball park. Alex Rodriguez followed with a hard hit fly out to deep left, then Hideki Matsui ripped a single to right. With two on and two out, Nick Swisher grounded out to end the inning.

The Yankees added their second run in the third on another leadoff home run, this time from Johnny Damon. Teixeira followed with a double, then A-Rod walked. But once again, the Yankees would strand the runners on base.

In the fifth, the Yankees would threaten, but come up empty again, leaving the bases loaded. Through five innings, the Yankees had left eight runners on base - five of them in scoring position. They were 0 for 6 with RISP, with Robinson Cano twice ending innings with two runners in scoring position. Thankfully, he would have more opportunity on the night.

Despite the offensive struggles, CC Sabathia was pitching so well that two runs appeared to be enough. He struck out two in a perfect first. He gave up a leadoff "double" in the second when Melky Cabrera lost a fly ball, then proceeded to strike out the side. After a two out single in the third, he set down six in a row. Through six, CC had allowed no runs, five hits, no walks, and had tied his season-high with 10 Ks.

In the seventh, the Big Guy finally hit a bump in the road, giving up a double, a walk, and another double to start the frame, cutting his lead to 2-1. After recording an out, Ramon Castro ripped one down the third baseline, ticketed for the leftfield corner and another double. But Alex Rodriguez had a diving stop and gunned down Carlos Quentin at the plate for the second out of the inning. An infield single loaded the bases, then likely Rookie of the Year Gordon Beckham tied the game with a base hit to right field. Castro attempted to score the go-ahead run from second, but Nick Swisher threw him out at the plate.

From there the game turned into a battle of the bullpens. Matt Thornton worked a perfect seventh and eight for the ChiSox. The Yanks called on long-lost Phil Hughes for the eighth and he struck out the side. Despite throwing just fourteen pitches in the eighth and just 3.1 innings over the last two weeks, Hughes was was lifted for Mariano Rivera with the score tied in the ninth. Mo worked a perfect frame like Hughes before him, and Brian Bruney followed with a perfect tenth.

In the bottom of the tenth, the White Sox turned to Randy Williams. The lefty entered the night having fanned 12 and walked 5 in 9.1 innings of work. He needed just four pitches to strike out leadoff man Mark Teixeira, and made him look bad in doing so. A-Rod then launched the first pitch he saw to deep center field, clearly thinking it was gone off the bat. But once again the wind held it up, and quickly there were two down.

Perhaps unnerved by the scare, Williams uncorked eight consecutive balls to Hideki Matsui and Nick Swisher. Robinson Cano then came to the plate, 0 for 4 on the night, 0 for 2 with RISP, and having left five runners on base in ending the third and fifth innings. With one swing though, Cano made up for it, blasting a 2-2 pitch into the Yankee bullpen to give the Yankees yet another walk off win.