Monday, September 7, 2009

Game 139: Workin' Man Blues

Every team wants a split at worst heading into a double header, so in a sense, the Yankees are playing with house money as they wrap up their first twinbill since the final day of last season. A.J. Burnett goes against Andy Sonnanstine in the night cap of this Labor Day double dip.

Burnett needs to right his ship as the post-season approaches. After getting touched up in Boston on June 9th, Burnett went on a remarkable run of eight consecutive quality starts, during which he went 6-1 with a 1.68 ERA, culminating with seven innings of two hits, two walks, and one unearned run against the Rays on July 27th. Since then though, Burnett has struggled, going 0-4 with a 6.58 ERA is his last seven starts. Technically, he has four quality starts in that stretch, but his only impressive performance was his seven and two thirds of one hit shutout ball against Boston on August 7th. He'll look to right himself today, and thankfully for Burnett, he's 2-0 with a 2.14 ERA and 0.76 WHIP in three starts against the Rays this year.

For the Rays, Andy Sonnanstine is also trying to straighten himself out. After a respectable sophomore campaign in 2008 (13-9, 4.38 ERA), 2009 has been unkind to Sonnanstine (6-8, 6.62), so much so that he spent June 26th through September 1st in AAA. Even with his two month demotion, Sonnanstine has made three starts against the Yankees this year, two of which were pretty good, one of which was pretty bad. For the season, he's 0-1 with a 4.19 ERA and 0.98 WHIP against the Yanks. In his three year career, he's 2-2 with a 5.23 ERA in seven starts against the Yanks, but with a very respectable 1.09 WHIP.

As you likely noticed, Brett Gardner was activated in time for the afternoon game. Shelley Duncan was also recalled pushing the Yankees' roster to 33. For the Rays, Carlos Pena is done for the season after breaking two fingers during his lone at bat in game one.

If the goal for a team in a double header to work a split, the axiom for a player, as Ken Singleton has so often pointed out, is to get three hits. Derek Jeter took an oh-for in the opener, so he'll need his twentieth three hit game of the season to fill his quota. If he can accomplish that, he'll tie Lou Gehrig as the Yankees all-time hits leader.

Baseball's regular season is a six month long daily grind. On a day when most of us get a much-appreciated holiday, the Yanks have to play two for the first time all year. Thanks to big leads in the division and home field races - leads that both grew by a game this afternoon - and one game already under their belts for the day, the Yankees can afford to give a few guys a holiday tonight. Alex Rodriguez, Jorge Posada, Brett Gardner, and Eric Hinske will get the night off. But the Yanks still have to send nine men to the field, so Derek Jeter, Mark Teixeira, Nick Swisher, Robinson Cano and Melky Cabrera get to pull a double shift and put their noses right back to that grindstone. Here's hoping they can help A.J. Burnett solve his recent stretch of the blues.

It's a big job gettin' by with nine kids and a wife
Yeah but I've been a workin' man dang near all my life
And I'll keep on working as long as my two hands are fit to use
I'll drink a little beer that evening
And sing a little bit of these workin' man blues.

Well I keep my nose on the grindstone; work hard everyday
I might get a little tired on the weekend, after I've drawn my pay
But I go back to workin, come Monday morn I'm right back with the crew
I drink a little beer that evening
And sing a little bit of these workin' man blues.

Yanks Take Game One

CC Sabathia and Matt Garza locked horns for seven innings each as game one of today's double header was a pitcher's duel. CC continued his recent run of dominace, going seven innings allowing three hits, one run, four walks and ten strikeouts. His only run allowed came on an opposite field solo shot from Mrs. Tony Parker that just barely cleared the fence in the second inning. Brett Gardner returned from the DL, started in center field, and helped Sabathia out with a diving, run-saving catch in the fifth inning.

Garza was equally as good, going seven innings, five hits, one unearned run, one walk, and seven strikeouts. The only blemish on his record game in the first. With two outs and no one on base, Mark Teixeira grounded into the shift. Tampa shortstop Jason Bartlett, playing on the outfield grass on the second base side of the bag, bobbled the ball, allowing Teix to reach. Alex Rodriguez then worked a full count and Teixeira, taking off with the pitch, came around to score on A-Rod's double.

Phil Hughes worked a scoreless, hitless eighth for the Yanks. The only baserunner he allowed was a leadoff walk to Carl Crawford, who was promptly caught stealing on a first pitch pitchout.

The Yankee bats remained relatively quiet until the bottom of the inning. Nick Swisher drew a leadoff walk. Teixeira followed with a base hit to right field, and while Swish likely would have reached third base anyway, Gabe Kapler's bobble helped and his off line throw allowed Teix to take second. After A-Rod was intentionally walked, Robinson Cano hit a sacrifice fly to deep center, plating pinch runner Jerry Hairston Jr with the go-ahead run. Jorge Posada and Eric Hinske followed with an RBI single and a sacrifice fly respectively, pushing the lead to 4-1.

Mariano Rivera came on for the ninth. In his first appearance since last Tuesday, Mo walked the lead off man then sat down three in a row, two by strikeout, to give the Yankees the game.


Game 138: Working Class Hero

It might be Labor Day but unlike most of you, the Yankees will be putting in extra work today with a day/night double header against the Rays. The Yankees haven't seen the Rays since the end of July and as a result they still have 7 games remaining against them in the season series, the next four at home and a three game set to close out the regular season in Tampa from October 2nd - 4th. The Yankees hold the edge in the season set 6-5 as of now but it could tip pretty heavily either way depending on how these last 7 match ups go.

The Rays are quite unlikely to make the postseason at this point, trailing the Red Sox by 7 in the Wild Card standings with 26 games remaining and only 3 head to head meetings with the Sox. It would seem they are resigned to their fate, given that they shipped Scott Kazmir to the Angels for minor leaguers just before the waiver trade deadline hit. Despite numerous pundits picking the Rays to finished ahead of either the Yanks or the Sox or both this year, they never lead the AL East and currently trail the Yanks by 14.5 games.

Former Twin and consummate asshole Matt Garza takes the hill for the Rays today. He started against Joba Chamberlain in the last game contested between the two teams and was fined after he admitted that he intentionally hit Mark Teixeira in the shoulder with a 94 MPH fastball in retaliation for Evan Longoria being brushed back earlier in the game and hit earlier in the series. Garza is sporting a pretty solid 4.01 ERA but has won only one game in his past 11 starts watching his record fall to 7-9.

CC Sabathia will toe the rubber first for the Yanks today. Over his last 6 starts he's been everything the Yanks could ask for and then some, rocking a 1.83 ERA, striking out 53(!), walking just 7(!!) and averaging over 7 1/3 innings per start. He's picked up 5 decisions during that time and has put himself in position to chase 20 wins as the season winds down. He better get going those because he needs 4 more and probably has six more starts to go. The big man's ERA is about a run and a half higher during daytime starts this year, but September is has been his best month throughout his career.

Making his triumphant return to the Yankees after hitting the DL with a broken thumb and making the line up 11.1111% hustle-y-er in the process, is the one and only, the gritty and gutty, the scrappy and feisty... Brett Gardner, ladies and gentlemen! He'll be making the start in CF for the first game, getting his jersey dirty and doing the little things that help the team win. (Otherwise known as being short and white.)

While most people celebrate Labor Day by not working, the Yanks will be rolling up their sleeves twice as high and their getting hands twice as dirty, in the city where the very first Labor Day in the States was ever celebrated. Heroic, I say.

There's room at the top they are telling you still,
But first you must learn how to smile as you kill,
If you want to be like the folks on the hill.

A working class hero is something to be.