Monday, May 10, 2010

Game 31 Recap

1. What Alex Rodriguez lacks in range he can often make up for with his arm. However, it was a throw that cost him an error and the Yanks two runs in the first inning. After Magglio Ordonez rapped a two out single to right, Miguel Cabrera hit a sharp grounder to A-Rod at third. Alex managed to knock the ball down, keep it in front of him, hop to his feet, do a full turn and fire to first in what should have been enough to get Cabrera, but he short hopped the throw. The ball bounced over Mark Teixiera and into the stands, leaving the Tigers will runners on second and third, still with two outs.

Rookie outfielder Brennan Boesch made the Yanks pay as he hit a hot shot just past the diving try of Teixeira, scoring both Cabrera and Ordonez and giving the Tigers an early 2-0 lead.

2. The Tigers tacked on another run in the second inning, but Sergio Mitre didn't have his defense to blame this time. Mitre began the frame by walking Scott Sizemore and then allowed a single to Gerald Laird. A sacrifice by Adam Everett moved the runners up and Sizemore scored on a ground out to Derek Jeter at short. 3-0 Tigers.

3. As he did in the first inning, Nick Swisher worked a one out walk in the third. Mark Teixeira took two balls and then turned on a fastball down and in, ripped it down the right field line and just inside the foul pole to make it 3-2. A-Rod followed with a single but was erased when he attempted to steal second on Brad Thomas' first motion but was picked off. Cano then grounded out to end the inning.

4. Johnny Damon hit his second home run of the year off of Sergio Mitre in the fifth. The first pitch he saw was a sinker right down the middle of the plate and Damon put one of his signature wristy swings on the ball, and deposited a few rows back in the right field seats. That was Mitre's 69th and final pitch of the night and he left the game with the Yankees trailing 4-2.

5. Boone Logan started off the seventh inning with a walk to Johnny Damon but got Magglio Ordonez to ground into a 6-4-3 double play. Logan wasn't out of the woods quite yet, however, as he walked Miguel Cabrera and gave up a triple to Broesche that extended the Tigers' lead to 5-2.

6. The Yankees loaded the bases with no one out during the 8th inning on consecutive singles by A-Rod and Cano and a walk by Jorge Posada, all off of Zumaya. Marcus Thames pulled a soft grounder to short stop that allowed A-Rod to score and every to move up one base safely and made the score 5-3.

At that point Jim Leyland called on Phil Coke to face Brett Gardner. Brett drove in Cano on a grounder to second to bring the Yankees within one and Randy Winn to the plate. Winn took a bad swing at a 2-0 pitch, popped it to third and passed the buck to Derek Jeter.

Leyland made another pitching change, this time calling on Ryan Perry to get the Tigers out of the jam. Jeter worked the count full before slicing a ball down the right field line that Magglio Ordonez made a nice sliding catch on, ending the inning and leaving the Yankees down 5-4. Since the count was full and there were two outs, Brett Gardner was going on contact, meaning that he almost certainly would have scored had Ordonez not made the play.

Jose Valverde came on to close out the game for the Tigers and struck out the side in the 9th. Game over as the Yanks dropped their second in a row after winning six straight.

IFs, ANDs & BUTs
  • Sergio Mitre didn't pitch that poorly, all things considered. One of the four runs that he gave up was unearned (could have been two) and at one point he retired eight straight Tigers. On the other hand, he only threw 37 of his 69 pitches for strikes and allowed seven runners to reach base. David Robertson, Boone Logan and Joba Chamberlain combined for 3 2/3 innings of one run ball so almost all of the damage came on Mitre's watch. I guess what I'm trying to say is that it wasn't all that surprising.

  • Brad Thomas did roughly as well Mitre; he lasted three innings and gave up two runs. It was right about what you would expect from two relievers making spot starts. It was a battle of the bullpens from there on out and the Tigers had been spotted two runs.

  • The Yanks went 1 for 10 with runners in scoring position and left nine men on base. In the second inning they put two men on with no one out but failed to drive in either of them. In the sixth, they had A-Rod on third with one out and left the bases loaded without him scoring. In a game that you lose by one run, these are the things that you tend to point to after the fact.

  • Eddie Bonine, who replaced Thomas, struck out Derek Jeter on a knuckleball for the first out of the fifth inning. PitchFX had it as a change up, but the YES cameras clearly showed a knuckleball grip and almost no rotation on the ball. It looked like he threw a few more of them during his 2 1/3 innings of work but that was the only one YES made a point of highlighting.

  • With two outs in the 5th, Brett Gardner lost a high fly ball from Miguel Cabrera in the lights that should have ended the inning but instead went for a double. There was no blood in the inning and no error charged. It just looked like he lost it in the twilight and/or wind.

  • There was a pregame ceremony to honor Ernie Harwell. Over 11,000 people filed by his body inside the gates of the park and several former Tigers including Al Kaline and Willie Horton were on hand to raise a flag sporting his initials that flew below the American flag in center field. The Tigers will wear a patch with a similar design for the rest of the season, much like the Phillies did in honor of Harry Kalas last year.

  • It was brutally cold and windy in Detroit for a game in May. The game time temperature was 54 degrees and got colder as it progressed. The wind was gusting in from center, making the already cavernous dimensions of the park seem even deeper.

  • Either the radar gun at Comerica was hot or the wind was helping out in during the later innings. Joel Zumaya was living in the triple digits with his fastball and Joba Chamberlain was in the upper 90's. Both those guys throw hard, but I doubt they were brining that kind of heat given how chilly it was.

  • According to WPA, the Yanks never had greater than a 50% chance of winning the game but it really felt like they were going to take the lead in the eighth inning. The ball that Jeter hit looked to be ticketed for extra bases but the typically poor-fielding Ordonez made a great play. Thems are da breaks, I suppose.

  • Jose Valverde was doing some odd shit after every strikeout he recorded. He'd walk over to the side of the mound, kneel down and take his hat off. When he got A-Rod swinging for the final out of the game, he did a couple of jumping fist pumps that would make the 2007 version of Joba Chamberlain blush. Not sure if this is par for the course for him, but it was pretty annoying to watch after how close the Yanks came to stealing this one back.

  • Not about this game but conveyed on the broadcast: According to Kim Jones, an uncomfortable bed in Boston forced Alfredo Aceves to sleep on the floor. That likely contributed to the stiff back that forced him from Saturday's game. Fortunately, he's back on the mattress in Detroit. Hey, Alf, why don't you keep it on the bed from now on, okay?
Same time, same place tomorrow night. If the Yanks want to win this series and make it 10 out of their first 11, they are going to have to sweep the final three.

Game 31: Jackson

Hey Fans! Guess which storyline is going to be beaten into your head by a certain large craniumed play-by-play man over the next four games. Did you know that Yankees center fielder Curtis Granderson is currently on the DL? Did you know that Yankees number two hitter Nick Johnson is perpetually injured and will be out for several weeks? Of course you did.

But as the Yankees begin a four game series in Detroit, did you know that Tigers center fielder Austin Jackson is a former Yankee prospect and was the centerpiece of the trade that brought Granderson to New York? And did you further know that Tigers left fielder Johnny Damon was the Yankees number two hitter last year, and that he so desperately wanted to return to New York for a handsome salary?

And did you know that while Granderson and Johnson, both of whom slumped in their limited playing time thus far, languish on the DL, Jackson is hitting .371/.420/.508 and Damon is hitting .294/.409/.431? Well if you didn't know by now, you will by the time this series is over, because it's the single easiest storyline around which to frame this series.

But there's another storyline that will come into play, at least over the first two games, and it's far more important to the Yankees right now. Mother Nature and Father Time have conspired to leave the Yankee pitching staff in a bit of bind. Saturday's rain delay ended CC Sabathia's outing after just four and two thirds. Alfredo Aceves' sitff back and Joe Girardi's match ups forced the Yankees to run through five relievers to finish that contest. Elder statesman Andy Pettitte's stiff elbow leaves the pitching staff a man short. Romulo Sanchez did yeoman's work in his 3.2 IP of shutout relief last night, saving the rest of the pen, and thanks to today's roster move, the Yankees aren't short a long man tonight. But with Sergio Mitre spot starting tonight and limited to about 75 pitches, and Javier Vazquez, who has not yet completed the sixth inning this year, starting tomorrow, the Yankee bullpen may be further taxed over the next two games.

But hey, Austin Jackson has a magical .511 BABIP (despite a 28.0% K rate) and Johnny Damon, according to his agent at least, has magical DNA. So it's much easier to ignore more pressing issues and just declare Brian Cashman's off-season moves a bust a mere five weeks into the season. Because if 2009 taught us anything, it's that the way things are on May 10th, is exactly how they will be at season's end.

This will be Sergio Mitre's first start of 2010 and his first career appearance against the Tigers. Mitre has pitched well enough in limited relief/mop-up duty this year. In nine starts in 2009, he posted a 7.16 ERA and 1.75 WHIP over 44 IP. He'll was slated to oppose his former Florida Marlins teammate, Dontrelle Willis, but Willis is a late scratch with 102 degree fever. If the Tigers were the Royals, Willis would be pitching.

In Willis' stead, long reliever Brad Thomas will get the start. Alright, spot starts all around! Thomas is an Australian southpaw who, despite making his Major League debut just short of nine years ago, has logged only 40.1 IP in his career. Before surfacing with Detroit this season he hadn't pitched in the Majors since a three game cup of coffee with the Twins in 2004. In fact, he's only pitched one season in the states since then, spending 34 games at Seattle's AAA affiliate in 2007. His seven appearances this year have already set a new career high. This will mark the second time this year Thomas makes an emergency spot start for Willis. The results were not pretty the first time.

After a long off-season of negotiating, Johnny got his cash and Austin Jackson is playing hotter than a pepper sprout. As former Yankee products, I wish them both the best of luck over the course of the season, except of course when they're playing the Yankees. Depleted or not, Yankee pitching will spend the next four games looking to put their fire out.

We got married in a fever, hotter than a pepper sprout
We've been talking 'bout Jackson, ever since the fire went out
I'm going to Jackson, I'm gonna mess around
Yeah I'm going to Jackson, look out Jackson town

[Song Notes: Little known fact - Johnny Cash absolutely did not want to wear the shirt he's sporting in this performance. But, the previous night he had gone to dinner with some friends, and his buddy's new girlfriend, a bit of a low-talker, muttered something unintelligible. Trying to be polite, the Man in Black just nodded in agreement. Little did he know he'd agreed to wear a puffy shirt on national TV]

-Lineups-

Yankees:
Jorge Posada is behind the dish for the first time in a week. With a lefty on the mound, Marcus Thames is in the lineup, though after his misadventures in left field last night, he's mercifully the DH.
Derek Jeter SS
Nick Swisher RF
Mark Teixeira 1B
Alex Rodriguez 3B
Robinson Cano 2B
Jorge Posada C
Marcus Thames DH
Brett Gardner CF
Randy Winn LF

Tigers:
Austin Jackson CF
Johnny Damon DH
Magglio Ordonez RF
Miguel Cabrera 1B
Brennan Boesch LF
Brandon Inge 3B
Scott Sizemore 2B
Gerald Laird C
Adam Everett SS

Super Nova

According to Donnie Collins of the Times-Tribune in Scranton, Ivan Nova has been recalled by the Yankees. No official word yet on the corresponding move, but it's about 99.99% certain that Romulo Sanchez is heading back down.

Sanchez pitched well in his 3.2 shutout innings of relief last night. Perhaps of greater value is that he was the lone pitcher to come out of the Yankee bullpen following A.J. Burnett's four and a third inning start. Sanchez' effort saved the bullpen a day after a rain delay, Alfredo Aceves' back, and Joe Girardi's match ups forced the Yankees to burn through five relievers.

Still, the staff is a bit short with Andy Pettitte still out of play, Aceves likely needing another day off, and Sanchez needing two or three days of rest after his 52 pitch outing last night. And with Sergio Mitre limited to about 75 pitches in spot start duty tonight, and Javy Vazquez, who hasn't completed the sixth inning yet this year, starting tomorrow, the Yankees were in need of another long man.

Joe Pawlikowski at RAB astutely pointed out earlier today that this move was likely. Nova was scheduled to start for Scranton yesterday, but was flipped with Zach McAllister, indicating such a move was possible. Nova's recall leaves Scranton without a starter for tonight, the second time in four days the Yankees have left their AAA affiliate in that situation. Dustin Moseley may start on three days rest, or they may just piece this one together as a bullpen game.

An international free agent signing in 2004, Nova was selected by the Padres in the Rule 5 draft following the 2008 season, but was unable to stick on the Big League roster. Returned to the Yankees, he had a breakout 2009, making 24 starts equally split between AA and AAA and posting a 3.68 ERA. It's worth noting that he fared remarkably better in AA, where the competition is poorer and where Trenton's Waterfront Park offers a pitcher's paradise.

He was added to the Yankees' 40 man roster following last season, and is 2-0 with a 2.43 ERA through his first six starts in 2010. Nova is considered a groundball inducing pitcher, and his GB% for this year sits above 50%, just as it has throughout his career. But it's worth noting that his K rate this year is at a career high and his BB rate has dropped back to its career average after taking a jump up last season.

Here are prospect profiles on Nova from RAB and Pending Pinstripes.

Unsolicited Opinions On The Yankees' At Bat Music

On Friday, Mark Feinsand of the Daily News talk to scoreboard operator Mike Bonner and wrote a post about the at bat music that each Yankee comes out to. Given how much we use music to enhance and bring life to our coverage of the team, it's only appropriate that we at least touch on it here.

I'm going to reproduce Feinsand's whole list but to add some value, I've linked up each of the songs to a YouTube video and made some snarky comments.

Position Players

Derek Jeter: “Candy” - Cameo
If you only watch one of these videos, make it this one. It looks like a spoof made by Chappelle's Show.
Nick Johnson: “Party in the U.S.A.” - Miley Cyrus
By now, you know that Johnson picked the song because his daughter likes it (and she has shitty taste in music).
Mark Teixeira: “I Wanna Rock” - Twisted Sister
A solid, straight forward classic rock tune. Fits Teixeira to a "T".
Alex Rodriguez: “On to the Next One” - Jay-Z
We used this one for a preview earlier this year mostly because I was stuck for ideas and the video is in black and white. It's alright, but I really don't enjoy what Jay-Z's style has devolved into. It seems like he now ends every line with a forced inflection. He's more about rhyming sounds as opposed to earlier in his career when he had more masterful wordplay and a steady, even-keeled delivery.
Robinson Cano: “Run this Town” - Jay-Z
This one also features Rhianna, Kanye West and some real distorted electric guitar. Better tune than the one A-Rod uses but not something I'm going to put on by choice.
Curtis Granderson: “Lookin’ for the Perfect Beat” - Africa Bambaataa
An old school rap song with a video almost as unintentionally hilarious as the one Jeter uses.
Nick Swisher: “Beat Street” - Grand Master Flash
It's got that typical, choppy, Grandmaster Flash "flow" to it. I would expect Swish to have picked something like Creed or Three Doors Down based on his brotasticness, so he gets bonus points for this choice.
[Update: It has been brought to my attention by Joe from River Ave. Blues that Gardner comes up to Run Like Hell and not On The Run as Feinsand said in his post.]

Brett Gardner: “Run Like Hell” - Pink Floyd
Easily my favorite choice out of all of these. Completely appropriate given Gardner's skill set and coming out to any Pink Floyd song is good by me, even if it is off of The Wall.
Marcus Thames: “You’re a Jerk” - New Boyz
Yeah, Marcus? Well you're a DH.
*Posada and Francisco Cervelli both supplied songs via CD (that are latin-flavored, if I recall correctly) and neither Bonner nor Feinsand were sure what they were called.

Starting Pitchers

Most obvious choice ever?
Yes you are, sir. And so is Mike Gundy.
Christian rock. Whatever floats your boat, Javy, just pitch better after it plays.
Andy Pettitte: “La Grange” - ZZ Top
Like Teixeira's choice, this one is a staple of classic rock stations nation wide. Can't really go wrong but it's not exactly original.
Phil Hughes: “King Nothing” - Metallica
Because of Metallica's dickish views on copyright law you have to sit through a 30 second commercial to watch this one. Feel like doing that? I didn't think so.

I've often thought about what my at bat or warm up music would be and the decision becomes infinitely more complicated by the fact that, as Morgan Ensberg pointed out a while back, hitters are limited to 8 seconds. That's nothing. So the question becomes not "What song is going to get you fired up?" but "What 8 second snippet from a song are you not going to get totally sick of by the end of the first homestand?". That really cuts down on the options.

To make it slightly less impossible and pointless, let's assume that you are a pitcher and you get to choose a song or portion of a song to warm up to, but it can't be longer than 5 minutes. Here's a short list of ones that I would have to try extremely hard to decide between and truncate to the appropriate length:
  • This Atmopshere tune because I'm a sucker for hip hop with piano and the outro is awesome.

  • Feel It by Sam Cooke from the famous Live at the Harlem Square Club show.
  • Or pretty much any section of this version of Why Does Love Got To Be So Sad that Derek and the Dominoes played at the Filmore East during a two night stand they did there in October of 1970:
video

Yours in the comments if you so choose.

Wrapping Up The Weekend

Good morning, Fackers. I hope your weekend was more exciting than the one that the Yankees and Red Sox had on the field.

It feels like there is almost always at least one tightly contested game between the Yanks and Sox in every series they play. In the first series of the season, each of the games were decided by two runs. Even last year, when every time the two teams met, except for one, the result was a sweep, there was usually at least one game that was engaging. This weekend, the losing team scored three runs each time out while the winners plated nine or more. Games decided by six or more runs are rarely exciting and these were no exception.

Watching your guys pile it on in a blowout win can be enjoyable, but it's not all that interesting to see two teams playing out the string when the game has basically already been decided. There are mop-up guys on the mound and replacements in the field. On Saturday, there was even a replacement fielder doing the mop-up work. Friday's game was over in the 6th inning, Saturday's dragged out by a rain delay and decided by the seventh and you could have turned off last night's in the third and been 95% certain of who was going to win, at least according to WPA.

I don't want this to come across as whiny or anything; that's what we sign up for as baseball fans. You take the exciting along with the boring. One of the many things that makes the sport rewarding to follow is that it's rare that it lives up to its billing. A great game could break out between teams that have no natural rivalry and something unforgettable could go down when you least expect it. And that's exactly what happened yesterday in front of 12,228 fans in Oakland.

There have been 19 perfect games in the history of baseball, and now one of them belongs to Dallas Braden. If it wasn't for Braden's spat with A-Rod, his performance against the Rays would have probably been an even better story. His mother died of melanoma when he was a senior in high school and it would be hard to pick a more symbolically significant day for him to pitch the game of his life. It happened for him in front of his hometown fans not far from where he grew up and his grandmother, who he is very close with, was in attendance (although she, unlike A-Rod, took the low road).

More relevant to the baseball side of the story, as Joe Posnanski pointed out yesterday, Braden was never really a prospect and has the type of velocity and skills that make him seem like an unlikely candidate to be wearing a Major League uniform, let alone go 27 up and 27 down against the team with the best record in baseball. On a certain level, you have to respect that.

Interestingly, as Kevin Kaduk pointed out, the third baseman on the Rays broke an unwritten rule along the way. With no one out in the 5th inning, Evan Longoria attempted to lay a drag bunt down and was lustily booed as a result. At Big League Stew just this week, Jason Turnbow named trying to bunt for a hit when the pitcher has a no hitter of a perfect game going as one of the 10 unwritten rules you might not know about. Being aware of the value Braden places on that kind of stuff, perhaps Longoria and manager Joe Maddon thought they could get under his skin by squaring up and trying to get on base on the cheap. The bunt rolled foul and Longoria ended up striking out, so if Braden did take offense to the attempt, unlike the A-Rod situation, he didn't let it bother him too much.

It was because of that pointless dust up with Rodriguez that my first reaction to hearing that Braden had pulled off a perfecto was one of disgust. Really? That fucking guy? Since then, though, I've come around on it. Good for him. Hopefully people will stop asking him about crossing the pitcher's mound and maybe this will mellow him out enough to not do something stupid the next time the Yankees play the A's. I'm with Craig, if Braden's accomplishment yesterday means that we can leave the drama with A-Rod behind, then we should all be happy about it.