Thursday, April 22, 2010

Game 15 Recap

1. After the Yankees went down on 7 pitches in the top of the first inning, CC Sabathia got off to a rocky start in the bottom. He walked Rajai Davis on four pitches to begin his afternoon, got Daric Barton to ground out, then walked Ryan Sweeney in another 4 pitch PA, during which Davis swiped thrid base. Kurt Suzuki, like he did the previous time he faced him last August, took Sabathia deep to left field. It was a 3 run shot that gave the A's an early 3-0 lead.

2. Sabathia's difficulties with Kurt Suzuki continued as he walked him on 4 pitches to begin the bottom of the 4th. Jake Fox grounded a ball to short that Jeter fielded and flipped to Cano, but his throw was somewhat rushed by an incoming Suzuki and he sailed it into the Yankees dugout. Cano's first error of the year put Fox on second with one out. Kevin Kouzmanoff rapped a ball up the middle that Jeter stopped but didn't have time to make a play on. Next up, Adam Rosales swung at the first pitch he saw, lofting a ball to shallow left. Nick Swisher made the catch and a strong throw home but it wasn't quite in time and the A's expanded their lead to 4-0.

3. Marcus Thames got that run back in the top of the 5th with his first home run of the year, a solo shot to left-center field on an 86mph fastball from Dallas Braden to make it 4-1 A's.

4. Mark Teixeira added a solo shot of his own off of Braden in the top of the 6th. The pitch was called a screwball by pitchFX, only the 20th classified as such this year and Braden's second. Singleton and Flaherty both thought it was a changeup and it probably was, but it was so slow that it fooled the system. Either way, Teix hit it a long way to left center, over the 389 sign and almost to the windows suite level. A-Rod followed with a single but Cano rapped into an inning ending double play. 4-2 A's.

5. To begin the bottom half of the inning, Sabathia gave up a single to Daric Barton and a walk to Ryan Sweeney, bringing up his nemesis, Suzuki, to the plate. Sabathia would have the last laugh this time as Suzuki rapped into a 5-4-3 triple play. The ball was hit right at 3rd base, A-Rod stepped on the bag, made a strong throw to Cano, who fired to Johnson in the nick of time (/nudges you with elbow). It was the Yanks first triple play since June 3rd, 1968, at which point I was negative 16 years old.

6. The Yankees went down quietly in the final three frames, their only baserunner coming in the form of a two out single by Cano in the 9th. Nick Swisher followed that with a chopper to first and that was the ballgame, A's win 4-2.

IFs, ANDs & BUTs
  • Suzuki has five hits off of Sabathia and three of them are homers. But now he has a triple play, which like, totally negates all of that. Suck it, Kurt!

  • The Yanks had gone 6,632 regular season games without a triple play. Bobby Cox was playing third base for the Yankees and Mickey Mantle was at first while Harmon Killebrew led off the inning for the Twins when it last happened. It came in the same year the A's moved from Kansas City to Oakland. The A's hadn't hit into one since 1994.

  • Although Sabathia wasn't especially sharp and had 6 walks (tying his career high), he controlled his pitch count (97, 51 for strikes). A lot of that had to do with the fact that four of those walks came on exactly 4 pitches and the other two took only 5 and 6. Also, the double play, triple play and inning-ending pickoff certainly helped.

    His final line was 8IP, 4H, 4R, 3ER, 6BB, 5K and took the complete game loss. It was the second time in a row he got the CG without throwing 9 innings. It was only the 9th time in franchise history that's happened, the first since Melido Perez in 1992. In the process, he also became the first Yankee since David Wells in 1998 to throw back to back CGs of any sort.

  • Jeter swung at the first pitch of the game, flew out to right, and only swung three more times in his next three at bats, making contact each time. While it seems that Jeter has been impatient at times this season, part of the problem is that he is too damn good at making contact and has mostly been hitting it weakly when he does.

  • Somehow, Frankie Cervelli continues to provide more than just defense in his starts (although he made a nice throw to nail Kouzmanoff drifting off of 2nd to end the 4th). Frankie picked up a couple of singles today and is now 5 for 9 on the season with four of those being singles.

  • Dallas Braden apparently yelled at A-Rod after the 6th inning because he ran across the pitcher's mound on the way back to the dugout. Somebody call a wahmbulance.

  • In the 8th inning Rosales gave Jeter a taste of his own medicine as he fielded a grounder up the middle and executed a jump throw back towards first.

  • The game completed in an extremely economical 2:07, far and away the quickest of the Yanks' season.

  • The Yanks' six game winning streak came to an end, but there were still things to be encouraged (Teix and Thames both homering, CC hanging in there and saving a depleted bullpen) and entertained (TRIPLE PLAY!) by.
From here, the Yanks head south to Anaheim for a 3 game set in the Big A, beginning with a 10PM start tomorrow night.

Game 15: Taught To Be Proud

As the Yankees lost their way through the mid-aughts, in as much as you can consider years that result in post-season appearances as disappointments, one of the theories floated as to the root cause of their problems was an unhappy clubhouse. Players like Gary Sheffield, Kevin Brown, and Randy Johnson all had excellent track records between the lines, but weren't exactly considered the nicest people off the field.

Talent will virtually always trump character, but the ideal player is of value both on and off the field. In the past two off-seasons, we've seen the Yankees acquire CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett, Mark Teixeira, Nick Swisher, and Curtis Granderson. All of them are All-Star caliber players, and by all accounts, they are also model teammates and assets in the community.

Born and bred in nearby Vallejo, CC took advantage of the Yankees' trip to Oakland last August to visit his old elementary school, Lorma Vista. There CC and his wife Amber handed out backpacks filled with school supplies to the students, one of several initiatives undertaken by CC's PitCCh In Foundation.

CC Sabathia's philanthropic side has been on display again this week. On Monday's off day, Sabathia traveled to Vallejo. There, he threw out the ceremonial first pitch for the first night game at North Vallejo Little League's Thurmon Field. The field was completely rebuilt this past winter, using funds donated by the PitCCh In Foundation.

Last night, the Vallejo High School baseball team were CC's guests at the Colisseum, spending time on the field before the game and getting to meet CC and other Yankees. Tonight, CC will have a host of friends and family in the stands as he takes the hill against the A's.

Coming off a rain-shortened six inning complete game against the Rangers Friday night, CC is looking for his third straight outstanding start. After a mediocre Opening Night outing in Boston, Sabathia no-hit the Rays for seven in two thirds in his second start, and allowed just three baserunners and single run while striking out nine Rangers Friday. He's issued just four walks on the season, has yet to allow a longball, and leads the AL with a 0.737 WHIP.

Sabathia faced Oakland three times last year, resulting in two wins and a no decision. Over 21.2 IP he posted a 1.15 WHIP and a 4.57 ERA, with most of the damage coming in his 6 inning, 6 ER start against them in April. After some rough goings in his first eight starts in Oakland, Sabathia shined in his only appearance there as a Yankee, allowing just two runs and six base runners while striking out seven in eight innings of work. The current A's roster has not faired well against him.

Opposing CC will be a fellow lefty, Dallas Braden. Now in his fourth Big League season, the Texas Tech product has built on his promising 2009 and is off to a strong start in 2010, with a 2.70 ERA and a 0.75 WHIP through his first 20 innings of work. Braden has faced the Yankees four times in his career, only one of them starts. They have touched him up for eight runs through nine and a third, with seven of those runs coming in his start at the Stadium last July. The Yankee roster has had limited exposure to Braden, but in that small sample they have done quite well.

The Yankees have taken the season's first five series for the first time since 1926. This afternoon they go for their second straight sweep, and beyond the fact that I always want the Yankees to win, I hope they get it. CC Sabathia is a good dude, and he's done some good things during his homecoming this week. Just like fellow Bay Area guys Tea Leaf Green, CC was taught to be proud of where he came from. He showed that pride this week; here's hoping karma rewards him with another strong performance.

I was taught to be proud of where I come from
And I'm so sad that I'm the only one.
Like a cold preacher boy talking only to himself
How did he think that he got to promised lands?

Gone, gone, gone,
Not gone for long,
If you're taught to be proud of where you come from.


Joe Girardi shakes things up a bit today. Mark Teixeira gets a half day off as the DH; Nick Johnson will pick up some leather for the first time this year. With a lefty on the mound Curtis Granderson rides the pine for the first time this year. Brett Gardner gets his first start in center field this season, with Marcus Thames playing in left. It'll be interesting to see how he fares in the spacious pastures there. For the third straight start, Frankie Cervelli will be calling the pitches for CC.
Jeter SS
Johnson 1B
Teixeira DH
Rodriguez 3B
Cano 2B
Swisher RF
Thames LF
Cervelli C
Gardner CF

A late scratch from last night's lineup, Travis Buck has been placed on the 15 day DL. Former Yankee farmhand Matt Carson has been called up to take Buck's roster spot. Carson gets the start in left and will bat eighth.
Rajai Davis CF
Daric Barton 1B
Ryan Sweeney RF
Kurt Suzuki C
Jake Fox DH
Kevin Kouzmanoff 3B
Adam Rosales 2B
Matt Carson LF
Cliff Pennington SS

Last Night à La Mode

On Tuesday, one of our longtime commenters, Mode (who does some writing himself), mentioned that he was going to be attending last night's game. He said:
I got great seats right behind the Yankee dugout for tomorrow night's game (a bargain at $175 a pop). Hopefully the weather doesn't mess things up since I am loooking forward to watching Hughes pitch.

Look for me behind the dugout sporting my vintage (and well worn) Columbus Clippers hat.
Further down in the comments, he and Matt discussed which version of the Clippers' logo his hat had and Matt let him know that we'd be looking for him during the came.

As Hughes mowed down the A's last night in dominating fashion, made a run at a no-hitter and set a career high in strikeouts, Matt and I chatted on GMail and both kept and eye out for a blue hat with a red "C" and a sailboat on it. As the camera pulled away from a shot of Phil Hughes' parents and former Yankee, Angel, Giant & Red Sock J.T. Snow in the top of the 4th, Matt thought he might have caught a glimpse of a Clippers hat behind the visitor's dugout. But upon further review, it was not.

However, after the game concluded, Ken Singleton kicked it down to Kim Jones so she could interview Hughes' parents, and look who was standing right behind Phil's mom, Dori:

The broadcast cut out about three seconds after they switched to his camera angle so this is the best screengrab I could get, but on the live telecast the interview lasted for a couple of minutes and Mode was just kickin' it in the background, prompting this praise from Ben Kabak of River Ave. Blues:

A+, indeed and $175 well spent, sir.

Mode lives about an hour away from the Coliseum and last night is about as good as it gets for an displaced fan of any club: your favorite team stops by, a young pitcher has a an awesome start, your guys hit back-to-back triples and win a close contest in exciting fashion.

If you live within a reasonable commute of Yankee Stadium chances are that you take for granted the option to go to as many games as you can fit into your schedule and afford - I know I did when I lived on the Upper West Side and still do to some extent now that I'm Upstate. But if you live out of town - even if you're lucky enough to live in a city that the Yanks visit - you are at the whim of their schedule and have to hope it works out in one of the few times you have a chance to go. In true California fashion, Mode caught this wave right when it was cresting and rode it for all it was worth. I'm sure he'll have more in the comments at some point.

It's Not Easy Being Green

Good morning Fackers. After spending 4/20 out in hippie-central, the Yankees conclude their visit to the Bay Area with an Earth Day matinee against the Major's greenest team, at least in terms of age and the color of their uniforms. The A's will be looking to avoid a sweep and their fourth consecutive loss overall. Sometimes it's just not easy being green.

In observance of the day, Brett Gardner will sputter around the basepaths on biodiesel rather than his usual jet fuel.

[UPDATE 11:00 AM: For those of you in NYC, the lovely and talented Grace Potter will be performing a 15 minute set around noon in the plaza on Broadway between 45th and 46th as part of Earth Day at Times Square]

Back with baseball in a bit.

Game 14 Recap

1. The Yankees jumped out of the gate as Derek Jeter ripped a single to right-center and Nick Johnson followed with a walk. Ben Sheets went to 3-0 against Mark Teixeira but eventually got back to 3-2. With the count full, the runners went and Teix took a fastball over the outer half of the plate for a called strike three (his 10th backwards K already this year) and Jeter got gunned down at third. The Yanks were one pitch away from loading the bases, a questionable managerial decision from having two on and one out but instead had just a man on second with two out when A-Rod came to the plate. He flew out to center to end the inning.

It doesn't show up as much of a spike in terms of WPA since it's in the first inning, but a run in the first inning is worth the same amount as one in the 8th, technically speaking, and it was a costly turn of events.

2. Robinson Cano singled to lead off the second inning and advanced to second on what was nearly another strike 'em out, throw 'em out DP and got to third on a Curtis Granderson grounder. Randy Winn then tapped one down the third base line that Sheets fielded cleanly and fired to first just in time to keep the Yanks off the board.

3. The Yanks finally broke through in the 4th inning with back-to-back(!!) triples by A-Rod and Cano. Ryan Sweeney misplayed A-Rod's ball and it rolled past him while Cano ripped a shot down the line that rolled around in the corner. It was the first time the Yanks have had consecutive three baggers since Melky and Damon did it in '07. Cano then scored on a ground out by Posada to put the Yanks up 2-0.

4. Through 7 innings, Phil Hughes had pitched masterfully. He took a no-hitter to the top of the 8th and had struck out every batter in the A's lineup except for Mark Sweeny. He'd struck out 9 batters and threw 63 of his 89 pitches for strikes, whiffing 9. Eric Chavez broke up the no hitter leading off the 8th with a liner back up the middle that deflected off Hughes' glove, arm and landed just in front of the mound. He probably still had time to turn the play but lost the ball once it hit him, but he couldn't locate it, and Chavez reached on an infield single. I think it's pretty much official that Phil Hughes has now had two no hitters broken up in the most fucking annoying ways possible, but at least he didn't get hurt this time.

After Chavez's cheapie, Hughes struck out Kevin Kouzmanoff for his 10th K of the night (a new career high) then walked Gabe Gross in a tough 9 pitch at bat. Girardi summoned Joba Chamberlain, who retired Adam Rosales on a fly ball to right field but blew the shutout by allowing an RBI single to Jake Fox. He escaped with the lead by retiring Cliff Pennington on a grounder to first. 2-1 Yankees.

5. The Yankees added an insurance run in the top of the ninth as Curtis Granderson scored on a single to left by Brett Gardner. 3-1 Yankees.

6. Mariano Rivera came in to close out the game but wasn't as effective as usual. Ryan Sweeney knocked a single to center field and Mo hit Kurt Suzuki with a pitch. With Marco Scutaro flashbacks raging, the AB ended in a strangely similar fashion to the ball he threw into the OF in Arizona in 2001 as Chavez chopped it back to Mo, but this time he converted the out. Continuing with the '01 WS theme, the game ended on a broken bat flare to center, but this time it landed in Curtis Granderson's glove.

IFs, ANDs & BUTs
  • It's tough to understate how good Hughes looked tonight. Aside from the wacky hit and hard fought walk in the 8th, he really made it look easy. He commanded both his fastballs and pounded the strikezone relentlessly, throwing 40 of his 55 4-seamers and 22 of his 32 cutters for strikes. He spun off just 14 curves and no change ups and only one of his strike outs came on his hook (7 on the FB and 2 on the Cutter).

  • Derek Jeter swung at the first pitch and put it in play three times tonight. In a related story, he worked his second walk of the year in the top of the ninth inning.

  • Nick Johnson should get an endorsement from Johnnie Walker. Two BB's tonight, adding to his league-leading total.

  • A's reliever Jerry Blevins walked off the mound in the 8th inning after striking out Nick the Stick on three straight fastballs. Tyson Ross, the right hander who replaced him, had an very odd motion, keeping his arm unnaturally close to his body and kinda slinging it in an exaggerated fashion. He could pitch, though, and struck out Mark Teixeira before getting out of the inning unscathed.

  • If you didn't stay up until the end, you missed a really awesome game to watch. Of course, it doesn't hurt that it was the Yanks' sixth game in a row and locked up their 5th series victory as well, but there were a lot of enjoyable aspects of it. It wrapped up in a tidy 2:47 and even that was backloaded (generally speaking, I want the exciting part of the game to take a long time, not the early innings). There were the triples, and the no hitter chase and... well that's about it, but it was plenty. As far as early season tilts go, this one was the tits.
We are getting westcoasted as tomorrow's game will be at 12:30 PM Pacific Time, 3:30 Eastern. CC Sabathia makes a start in his hometown against fellow lefty Dallas Braden.