Saturday, September 12, 2009

"One Bad Pitch"

That's what A.J. Burnett chalked his poor outing up to. The pitch he was referring to was a 1-2 fastball low but over the center of the plate to Brian Roberts in the second inning that ended up leaving the yard for a grand slam. The problem is that it wasn't just one pitch and this bad start fits in a little too well with his recent string of poor outings to dismiss so conveniently.

Burnett made another mistake on a fastball to the first batter of the 2nd inning, Nolan Reimold, who redirected it to left-center for a solo shot. That pulled the O's even with the run that Derek Jeter scored after singling in the bottom of the first. The bases didn't load themselves for Roberts either, Burnett did that via a walk and two singles. He let up another single to shortstop Robert Andino, surrendering the lead before Roberts even came to the plate.

The six runs that came across in the 2nd were more that enough for Brain Matusz, who kept the Yanks off balance, allowing only 4 hits and 2 walks in 7 innings of one run ball. He only struck out 3 and induced 6 ground balls to 12 flys, but he got the job done in 106 pitches.

Melky Cabrera and Jorge Posada each added an RBI in the ninth inning but the O's walked away with a 7-3 win.

At any rate, as of 7:15PM, the Yanks lead the Red Sox by 8 games and rain is still falling on Fenway Park, delaying the start of their game with the Rays with a double header already looming on Sunday. The Angels are creeping up in the race for homefield advantage though, as they trail the Yanks by only 3 in the loss column.

Game 143: Hey Ninteen

After a late night, things return to normal for the Yankees. Although he'll be setting a new record with every hit that he collects, hype and hoopla surrounding Derek Jeter's ascent up the Yankees all-time hit list will have subsided. The game today won't take on the added feel of importance that has been palpable since the beginning of the homestand, it's just going to feel like another September game against a team that doesn't have anything left to play for.

A.J. Burnett takes the ball today and looks to build upon his last outing. He went six innings and allowed one run against the Rays and with 99 pitches under his belt at the time, might have been asked to go a little deeper had the Yanks not been leading 11-1 at the time.

That outing sprung Burnett from a stretch of 7 starts that brought his ERA up from 3.53 to 4.29 and gave him his first win since July 27th. That span was Burnett's worst of the season, but it had been immediately preceded by his best. The Yankees don't desperately need the games, but it would be awfully reassuring to have Burnett pitching well heading into the postseason.

The only benefit of being out of the picture for so a long time for Orioles fans is that it has allowed them to get a look at some of their young talent. Today, the O's serve up the Yanks with the 10th pitcher to make a start against them this year, Brian Matusz. Drafted out of the University of San Diego with the 4th pick of the 2008 draft, the tall lefty started at high A-ball this year, striking out 75 in 66 innings with a 2.16 ERA and then made the jump to double-A. Despite a drop in his strikeout rate in AA, Matusz was even better in the Eastern league, posting an ERA of 1.55 and averaging 6 2/3 innings per start. The O's called him straight up to the Big Leagues in the beginning of August and he's made 7 starts to a 5.26 ERA since then.

Like Chris Tillman who the Yanks saw yesterday, Matusz's marginal numbers this season with the Big League club doesn't mean much. He's only 22 years only and this two month stint in the Majors serves to get him some big league experience before he most likely begins next year down in AAA. Both Tillman and Matsuz are scheduled to be shut down for the season after one or two more starts.

With 19 games left in the season, the Yanks magic number is down to 14 while the O's have already been eliminated from Wild Card contention. Hopefully the Yanks can chip away at the latter figure while the O's continue to slide on down.

Hey nineteen,
No we got nothing in common,
No we cant talk at all,
Please take me along,
When you slide on down.

"While The Storm Clouds Gather..."

When Ronan Tynan launched into the forgotten first verse of God Bless America, there couldn't have been more than 500 people left in the stands at Yankee Stadium. It wasn't even September 11th anymore.

Despite a rainy and raw September evening that led to an hour and twenty six minute rain delay, the stands were jammed when the game began. The fans got what they came to see in the third inning when Derek Jeter sliced one down the first base line, which looked like an instant replay of the hit he collected to tie Lou Gehirg atop the Yankees all time hit list. Like he did on Wednesday, he tipped his cap to the stands and pointed towards his parents, but this time he was also greeted by each of his teammates at first base.

At that point, the Yankees were leading 3-1 and Andy Pettitte looked to be on his way to his 5th straight victory. Andy worked escaped a bases loaded jam in the fifth inning with the Yanks still ahead 4-3 thanks in part to a spectcular defensive play in which he deflected a tapper from Nolan Reimold and made a twisting throw to complete the force at home.

The lead didn't last long as Damaso Marte was tagged for 4 runs in the 6th inning, sending a large chunk of the crowd towards the exits. The rain delay that started in the top of the 7th inning not only sent essentially all of the fans home but most of the Yankees regulars as well. When play resumed, the Yankees fielded a team that was more likely to have taken the field in Scranton at some point this season than in the Bronx.

The Yanks lost but no one really cared. The things that would have made this game forgettable under ordinary circumstances will make it more memorable in retrospect.