Sunday, October 18, 2009

A Few More Notes From Last Night

Last night's game ran 5 hours and ten minutes and contained 432 pitches spread out over 108 plate appearances. There's still more to be said about it.

Mariano Rivera was obviously excellent last night but much credit goes to the defense played behind him. Johnny Damon made a nice sliding catch on a looper by Chone Figgins. Mo and A-Rod combined to put 4 hands on a popped up bunt by Jeff Mathis (right) and Cano made a ranging snag for the last out in the 10th inning. Mo doesn't usually need good defense behind him, but when he gets it, say goodnight. He's like Phil Ivey hitting a run of good cards. Ya ain't got a shot.

The Baseball-Reference blog puts Rivera's performance as an "Old man on no rest" in perspective. Mo's the man but he's got nothing on Pete Alexander!

Tango from The Book breaks down the final play of the game mathematically. You probably already knew this, but there was essentially nothing to be gained by trying to get the runner at second (if you assume there was no chance they could have turned a double play).

Craig Calcaterra has some thoughts on the game, with some typical Shyster snark, "It takes longer to give up irrational A-Rod hate than it does to learn to be clutch."

Our pals at Halos Haven were not too happy with Joe Buck or the umps last night. The thing is that the biggest call that went against the Angels was questionable but ultimately correct, unlike the double play that Derek Jeter actually beat out in the sixth inning.

Will Weiss doesn't usually do game recaps for Bronx Banter, but he's got a duesy up over there.

The obligatory wrap up from LoHud.

And pick which quote doesn't fit into this collection.

Enjoy your football Sunday.

The 2009 Postseason: Where The Correct Calls Are Controversial Too!

One of the most questionable plays in last night's game (the most questionable according to Joe Buck) came in the 10th inning when Melky Cabrera was bearing down on second base after Jorge Posada chopped one to the right side. It appeared to be a tailor-made double play ball and Eric Aybar turned what looked to be the Yankees' 4th twin killing of the night. Except Jerry Layne called Melky safe.

The throw was clearly there in time, but upon further review, it appeared that Aybar had not touched the bag. As 'Duk at Big League Stew pointed out, the "neighborhood play" is commonly accepted in lieu of actually tagging the bag. His take:
From my viewpoint, I can see where Aybar and manager Mike Scioscia were coming from. That's an awfully gutsy call to make in that position. How can umpires look the other way nearly every other time, but enforce it the one time it actually matters? Considering the cold and wet conditions at Yankee Stadium, why couldn't Aybar get a free pass that's never debated in any other circumstance?
To say that this was "the one time" it actually mattered is a little misleading. At one point on the FOX Broadcast, Tim McCarver said they reviewed each of the three previous double plays the Yanks hit into and Aybar had touched the bag every time. They'd been consistent throughout the night.

Lane probably thought this was a particularly egregious offense of the unwritten rule. He could have very easily turned a blind eye to the play because even if replays showed that Aybar never touched the bag, he wouldn't have taken any real heat since people accept that the infielder doesn't have to actually make contact with the bag. But they do have to come close and make some sort of a effort or phantom tag.

Melky slid in hard, running into Aybar and doing his best to best to break up the DP. If Aybar actually stepped on the bag, Melky would have got there sooner and possibly broken up the play all together. That split second mattered.

Joe Buck brought up the play at least 75 more times in the broadcast, saying at one point that it was a good thing that no runs scored in the inning before it would have been terrible for baseball fans to see a call like that factor into the outcome of the game. A technically correct call. How awful!

In a postseason of blown calls, during a came with several wrong calls by the first base umpire, this should be a non-issue. But the fact that it was the 10th inning brings it under intense scrutiny. Props to Jerry Layne for having the balls to make the right call.

Lucky 13: Postseason Pie Part Deux

When Chone Figgins singled home the go-ahead run in the top of the 11th inning, I was pretty sure the Yankees would be heading to Anaheim tied 1-1. You'd figure the walk-off magic had to wear off at some point. The invincibility could only last so long, right? It had been a long night with little scoring and a cold, steady rain was beginning to fall.

When A-Rod led off the bottom of the 11th and promptly found himself in a 0-2 count against Brian Fuentes, the outlook appeared even more grim. Freddy Guzman and Brett Gardner were the next two Yankees on deck and only one could have been pinch hit for - by Jerry Hairston Jr. or Francisco Cervelli if the Yanks were really desperate.

But Fuentes left a fastball in the middle of the plate and A-Rod served it over the right field wall, just out of the reach of a jumping Bobby Abreu. The game was tied again and hope was restored.

It took two more innings, three more Yankee pitchers and a terrible decision by Macier Izturis before Jerry Hairston crossed the plate and won the game for the Yanks, but the Yanks would not be denied.

Too much went on during this 13 inning marathon to do a blow by blow recap, so let's head for the bullet points:
  • A.J. Burnett was solid, with the exception of the 5th inning. He loaded the bases and via a single, walk and HBP and uncorked a wild pitch, but buckled down and didn't give up the lead. All told, he went 6 1/3, gave up 3 hits, struck out 4, walked 2 and allowed 2 runs.

  • Joe Saunders did give up a home run, but largely stifled the Yanks otherwise, holding them to 2 runs of 7 IP and striking out 5 while walking just 1.

  • The Yankees are now 17-0 this season when tied after 7 innings (including Game 2 of the ALDS). And that's not just at home. The team has continued to defy the odds over and over again, and the snowballing confidence has become a real asset. You could hear it in the post game comments. They've had an uncanny knack for coming away with the win under any circumstances or conditions or against any closer. Call it what you will - luck, magic, mojo, juju, never-say-die attitude, destiny, aura, positivity, good karma, clutchiferousness, God; the stuff that the best teams always have working for them (at least in retrospect) - it's certainly been on their side so far.

  • Both teams fared miserably with runners in scoring position, combining to leave 30 men on base. The Yankees were 0-8 w/RISP, scoring their runs on two solo homers and an error while the Angels were 3-15 and with only 2 RBI. (The other run came on the WP by Burnett.

  • Robinson Cano drove in a run with a triple in the second inning, but made some really big mistake which nearly sank the Yankees' chances from there on out. He rapped into a double play, erasing a lead off single in the 7th inning and made two errors on routine balls but was thankfully bailed out by his pitchers each time. The Yanks had no errors in the previous 4 games this postseason but had 3 tonight.

  • Similarly, Derek Jeter homered in the third inning, but hit into a twin killing of his own and muffed a potential double play ball in the field.

  • Joe Girardi asked Mariano Rivera for 2 1/3 innings, the most in an appearance since Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS. Mo was as brilliant as ever, needing only 25 pitches to sit down 7 batters.

  • Alfredo Aceves was the one who gave up the single to Chone Figgins in the 11th, the only one of the 7 relievers the Angels got to.

  • A-Rod's homer was only the 3rd game-tying extra inning HR in postseason history. That's nearly unbelievable at first blush, but if you consider that only the home team can tie the game in extras, it's merely incredible.

  • After Girardi used three pitchers in the 12th inning of a still-tied game, the only man remaining in the bullpen was Chad Gaudin. With the threat of a postponement still looming, it could have been costly to use four of his pitchers for less than one inning (Coke, Joba, Hughes and Marte). Girardi kept firing bullets and luckily, the offense bailed him out before the chamber was empty. And since Nick Siwsher was lifted for a pinch runner in the 7th, it would have been really empty.

  • The decision by Macier Izturis to go to second base on the last play of the game was real, real bad. You've gotta take the sure out there. The Angels has almost no chance of turning two and getting the force at second would have done them essentially no good with the winning run already on third.

  • Last night's game was only the 5th postseason game ever to end on an error.

  • And lastly, meteorologists get a lot of flak for getting things wrong all the time, and usually I refrain from piling on, but this weekend is an exception. FAIL. We were told over and over again that rain would wreak havoc over one or both of these games but neither was so much as delayed. I understand it's not an exact science, there's gotta be some accountability.
The Yanks now lead the series 2-0 and will head for better weather out in Anaheim. The swing between 1-1 and 2-0 is huge because if the Yanks has lost this game, they would have gave up homefield advantage and shortened the series to 5 games.

It's late and that's all I've got for now. Chances are we will have some more thoughts about this game tomorrow today, so check back before football fires up.

Great win. Goodnight.