Monday, May 17, 2010

Game 38 Recap

1. After Phil Hughes sat the Sox down in order in the first, the Yankees made it abundantly clear that this start would be nothing like Daisuke Matsuzka's last one. Before Dice-K could blink, the Bombers had loaded the bases with two singles by Derek Jeter and Brett Gardner and a walk to Mark Teixiera. A-Rod battled through a seven pitch at bat consisting of nothing by fastballs and after fouling two off, finally found one he liked. He served it into right center for a single and put the Yankees up 2-0.

Robinson Cano swung at the first pitch he saw and hit a deep, looping line drive to left. Jeremy Hermida went back after it but couldn't make the play and the ball caromed off the wall and back into the field. If nobody was on base, Cano could have easily made it to second, but A-Rod had to hold up to see if the ball was caught and was nearly passed by Cano. It went in the books as a RBI single.

Still with no one out, Francisco Cervelli lined a double into the gap in right center that scored A-Rod. Cano was sent home but a strong throw from Darnell McDonald and a solid block of the plate by Victor Martinez gave the Sox their first out of the inning. However, Cervelli advanced to third base on the play and scored on a sac fly by Marcus Thames. Add all of that up and the Yanks were ahead 5-0 after the first inning.

2. Kevin Youkilis led off the top of the second with a single, advanced to second on a wild pitch and scored on a two out single by Adrian Beltre, cutting the Yanks lead to 5-1.

3. The Yanks got that run back in the third. Brett Gardner worked a two out walk and Mark Teixeira drove him in with a double that looked like a home run off the bat. McDonald was fooled too as he got to the ball in time but overran it slightly and it hit off of his forearm as he neared the wall. 6-1 Yanks.

4. David Ortiz, who has now driven in seven runs in his past four games, lifted a sky high home run to the mezzanine level in right during the fourth inning that made it 6-2.

5. Phil Hughes got two easy outs to begin the fifth inning but the final out was much more elusive. Marco Scutaro fell behind 1-2, but fouled back three straight pitches before punching a single back up the middle. Dustin Pedroia also fell behind 1-2 before fouling off four in a row, taking a ball and serving a double to left. J.D. Drew came to the plate with men on second and third, promptly fell behind 0-2 but fought back and eventually hooked a ball around the right field foul pole to bring the Sox right back in it. 6-5 Yankees.

6. Cervelli flipped a two out single to center in the fifth and was driven in on a double by Thames. 7-5 Yanks.

7. Boone Logan began the sixth inning for the Yanks and the first thing he did was fall behind Victor Martinez 3-0. VMart took one for a strike but then mashed a home run to left field to bring the Sox within one run.

8. After pitching a scoreless seventh, Chan Ho Park came back on for the 8th and allowed the Sox to complete an improbable comeback. Drew led off with a single to right and the Fackin' Youkstah drilled a two run home run to left field to put the Sox ahead 8-7. Victor Martinez followed with another solo shot (this on over the Yanks' bullpen in right) and just like that, the Yankees were trailing by two runs with only six outs left to use up and bottom third of their line up due up.

. Juan Miranda pinch hit in the eighth inning and brought the tying run to the plate when he worked a walk but Daniel Bard struck out Derek Jeter to end the frame.

Gardner led off the ninth inning with a slicing double just out of the reach of McDonald and Teixeira got the crowd going with a long, loud out on the warning track. Jonathan Papelbon didn't get off so easy with A-Rod. Alex was waiting for a fastball on the first pitch and absolutely blasted a homer into the Red Sox bullpen.

Cano flew out to deeeeep center and Papelbon hit Cervelli on the elbow with a pitch. Knowing that he was the only catcher available, Frankie was none too please, but he took his base without much of a scene. Then, like A-Rod, Marcus Thames was ready for a first pitch fastball and smashed it into the right field seats to give the Yankees their first walkoff win of the year. Final score: Yankees 11, Red Sox 9.

IFs, ANDs & BUTs
  • Hughes was just one strike away three different times from escaping the fifth inning with a four run lead with a chance to throw another frame. Instead, he threw a combined 22 pitches to Scutaro, Pedroia and Drew and was chased from the game right then and there. he was still in line for the win until CHoP let the lead slip away in the 8th.

  • Phil just didn't have his best stuff tonight, as only 5 of his 103 pitches were swinging strikes. His cutter was working to some extent but it came back to bite him. He threw 30 of them - 24 for strikes - but two of them left the park off the bats of Ortiz and Drew.

  • PitchFX had Hughes throwing 21 two-seam fastballs, but I think they were actually four-seamers with too much arm-side run that fouled up the classification since Hughes doesn't throw a two-seamer, as far as I know. If so, it's an indication that his mechanics were slightly askew, and as Al Leiter likes to say, he wasn't "getting on top of his fastball" enough.

  • With Victor Martinez due up in the 6th inning, Girardi went to Boone Logan, which was pretty odd considering that Martinez has been great against lefties this year and terrible against righties (and that Boone Logan sucks). Not to put too much stock in small sample size splits, but for switch hitters, since they have two different swings, it seems like they are more significant. That could have been a good enough reason to go to Chan Ho Park in the sixth instead of the seventh, but instead VMart jacked one off of Logan.

  • Neither Joba Chamberlain nor David Robertson were available tonight, and that certainly led Joe Girardi to try to stretch two innings out of Park in his first appearance off of the DL. During his second inning is when the wheels really came off and Youk and Martinez hit back to back homers.

  • Evening out some of the bad luck from his start in Detroit, Javy Vazquez picked up the win for facing one batter in the 9th.

  • The double in the first inning brought Francisco Cervelli up to an unthinkable 11 for 14 with runners in scoring position on the season. That would be incredible for Albert Puljos, let alone a guy who was a below average hitter when he was in AA just a year ago.

  • In the fifth inning, Phil Hughes threw a fastball to Youk inside and at knee level that sent him to the dirt in an effort to dodge it and drew a loud applause from the crowd.

  • A.J. Burnett timed the walkoff pie perfectly. Thames was just beginning his interview with Kim Jones and just as he started to answer her first question, got slammed.

  • I like Thames significantly more than I did before this game started. Funny how those things work.

  • This was your typical Yankees-Red Sox game, checking in at 3:47 with 346 pitches thrown.
This had the potential to be a terribly frustrating loss but instead it was a thrilling victory. Matt was there, in the batter's eye seats and hopefully he'll have a little bit to share about his experience tomorrow. This mini-series should wrap up tomorrow at 7:05, but there is a chance that the weather may not cooperate.

Game 38: Adjust

After the first two Yankees vs. Red Sox series of this year have taken place at Fenway, the Bombers finally welcome the Sawx to the Bronx for a quick two game set. Despite having played all six games in Boston, the Yankees took both series 2-1 and have now won 13 of the 16 times the two teams have met, dating back to last August.

The Red Sox send Daisuke Matsuzaka to the hill tonight. After getting a late start to the season due to a stint on the DL, Dice-K began with two poor starts. However, his most recent outing was an excellent one. Through two games he had given up 18 baserunners and 12 runs in 10 innings, but was downright dominant last Tuesday against the Blue Jays.

Matsuzka worked though seven one-run innings in Fenway and allowed just three hits and struck out nine without walking a single batter. Considering that he has walked more than four batters per nine innings since he's been in the Majors, the lack of a free pass was especially notable; it was only the seventh time in his MLB career he's been able to avoid giving away a base on balls. It's unlikely that he'll be able to duplicate the feat against the Yankees, who are fourth in the MLB in walks, but his last start at least demonstrated what he's capable of when things are going right.

Phil Hughes will toe the rubber for the Yanks this evening. Not only is he off to the best start out of any Yankee pitcher, he has the lowest ERA of any qualifying pitcher in the American League. Hughes won't keep a 1.38 ERA all season - he's going to have some rough outings sooner or later - but so far this year it's been an absolute thrill to watch him excel as a starting pitcher. Hitters just can't seem to square up with either his four-seam or cut fastball and he keeps them off-balance by dropping in a curveball about one in every eight pitches.

Two Fridays ago at Fenway, Hughes held the Sox to two runs over seven innings. He struck out seven, allowed seven hits and walked one en route to picking up his fourth win of the season. The incredible part about that is the fact that it's only Hughes' 5th best start in six times out.

As Mike from RAB pointed out earlier today, facing the Red Sox for the second time will be the true test for Hughes. The first time, he threw fewer and fewer four-seamers each time through the order, instead mixing in more and more cutters and curves as he went along. Perhaps the Red Sox have identified that tendency and will be expecting it. Or perhaps Phil and Frankie Cervelli know that they will be expecting it and will alter the game plan accordingly. It's all about making adjustments and whoever out-thinks the opponent will have a distinct advantage tonight.

Adjustments, they remain, but not just for the purpose of adaption,
Cause that's natural, I'm trying to stay alert to actions,
Surroundings, became more dangerous,
The more familiar I've became with strangers.
[Nick Johnson update: Johnson will undergo surgery on his wrist
(probably tomorrow)
and be out four to six weeks. If that's what it turns out to be, that's not all that bad, but to make a massive over-generalization, the guys who tend to get hurt all the time don't usually heal up very fast. I'd be pleasantly surprised if he was back before the Fourth of July.]


Yankees: Jorge Posada gets the night off after taking a foul tip off of his foot yesterday and Frankie Cervelli pulls catching duty. A-Rod is DHing as Ramiro Pena plays 3rd. Nick Swisher is out of the lineup since Matsuzaka is right handed, so Brett Gardner will be flanked by Marcus Thames and Randy Winn in the outfield corners. One through five in the line up looks pretty good, but it goes downhill fast after that. Good luck Phil, you probably won't have much of a margin for error.
Jeter SS
Gardner CF
Teixeira 1B
Rodriguez DH
Cano 2B
Cervelli C
Thames RF
Winn LF
Pena 3B
Scutaro SS
Pedroia 2B
Drew RF
Youkilis 1B
Martinez C
Ortiz DH
Beltre 3B
Hermida LF
McDonald CF

Monday Afternoon Linkdown

Yesterday would have been Billy Martin's 82nd birthday. Even if he didn't die in a car crash back in '89, you get the feeling he wouldn't have made it this far. Some people just live too hard to see their 80's.
Yankees Magazine is 30 years old and Martin was the first person to grace the cover once it switched from a newspaper to a magazine. Does anyone actually buy these at the Stadium? They sold 250,000 of them last year so I'm guessing some people do.

The Reds signed Cuban outfielder Felix Perez, a player who the Yankees were in discussions with last year. The Yanks eventually found out that he wasn't 20 years old, as he had claimed, and steered clear. The MLB suspended Perez for a year for lying about his age but he's eligible again and headed for a Reds' minor league affiliate somewhere in the near future.

Marc Carig took a look at Brett Gardner's patient and effective approach and shows that he's basically the anti-Vlad Guererro. The article is complete with quotes Carig got from Kevin Long and stats fetched from FanGraphs. Not many writers combine analysis and reporting like that, but Marc does (and does it well).

If you've read our interview with The Yankeeist, you know why Matt and I write, but what about Craig Calcaterra? He does it for the ladies, of course.

Via Tango, ESPN stats guy Mark Simon ranks the most valuable players of the Yankees-Red Sox series since 1995 by WPA. Would it surprise you if the Youkstah came in above David Ortiz? How about Paul O'Neill still being second among Yankee hitters and Derek Jeter coming in at 13th?

According to MLBTR, Javier Vazquez is still a Type-A Free Agent, but just barely.

R.J. Anderson at FanGraphs investigates Mark Teixeira's slow start and fingers the prime suspect: a low BABIP. Same as last year.

Aaron Gleeman celebrates the Twins long-awaited victory over the Yankees and examines just how poorly the Twinkies have faired against the Yanks - as opposed to basically every other team in the AL - in the Ron Gardenhire era.

Justin Sablich of the New York Times finds that you can make a team out of the players the Yankees have parted ways with in the past few years. It would totally suck, but you could do it.
Three of the guys in that bullpen, Edwar Ramirez, Brian Bruney and Chad Gaudin were all released from their teams over the weekend, so if you want to starting putting that squad together, now might be a good time.

Sean from Pending Pinstripes looks at LSU pitcher Anthony Ranaudo, a high risk, high upside arm in this year's draft, as a possible target for the Yanks.

Tyler Kepner revisits the deal that very nearly made George Steinbrenner the owner of the Indians back in December of 1971.

The Trenton Thunder have won 10 straight. Boom!

Yesterday's grand slam means that Mariano Rivera will be forever tied with Eric Gagne for the longest streak without blowing a save at home (unless of course he rips off 52 more before he retires, which isn't totally inconceivable (okay, yeah it is)).

The Yankess just donated a display with seven World Series rings to the Hall of Fame. Also, May 22nd and 23rd is World Series Weekend in Cooperstown. The trophy will be there and they'll be giving a special "Yankee-centric" tour of the museum.

Diane Firstman from Bronx Banter talks triples. now has WAR.

Sawx reliever Ramon Ramirez walked in the winning run against the Tigers. That video never gets old.

Matt Klaassen at FanGraphs teaches the lesson of Pat Burrell. No, it doesn't have anything to do with sleeping with a porn star.

It's that time of year. Over at Deadspin, Drew Magary delivers an unsolicited address to the class of 2010. It's good but, 2008 remains the best. An excerpt:.
"You think you’re gonna make a difference? You got some nerve, asshole. You’re just part of another class going through the same routine as the class before you. You’re no different. You’re just as full of douchebags and shitheads as any other class. In fact, given the rising popularity of lacrosse, your class is probably even worse. The rest of us eventually had our dreams crushed by the cruel realties of the world. I see no reason not to burst your bubble right here and now. Heed these words, then fall in line like the rest of us."
Here's 2009's as well.
Back with the preview in a few.

Interview With The Yankeeist

We'll have a full batch of links coming up in a little while, but we wanted to direct your attention towards an interview that Larry from The Yankeeist conducted with Matt and me.

We've linked to the excellent Q&A's Larry has done with Was Watching, RAB, Bronx Banter, The Replacement Level Yankees Weblog, and TYU and we are extremely pleased that he was interested enough in our blog to ask some really thoughtful and thought-provoking questions of us.

The interview runs over 7,000 words, so it's long enough that you might want to print it out, but we think there is a lot of interesting stuff in there. If you want to know more about the background of the blog or where Matt and I are coming from, please check it out.

Do They Really Need To Shuffle The Rotation?

As we mentioned in this morning's news and notes, the Yankees have opted to skip Javier Vazquez once again, pushing him back to start Friday night's Subway Series opener at Citi Field.

Joel Sherman does an excellent job of laying out the Yankees reasoning for all of this, and it's sound enough. But, there are a number of things I don't like about this:
  • For the all the fuss the Yankees made about limiting the work loads of Sabathia, Burnett, and Pettitte in the wake of last season, and with concerns about Phil Hughes hitting an innings cap late in the year, they're completely punting on an opportunity to give all four pitchers an extra day of rest. Thanks to the doubleheader last week, Vazquez could have taken his regular turn tonight and everyone else could have had an extra day off.

  • The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry. If Sherman's right, the Yankees are trying to line up starters for a series that's taking place two weeks from now. Who the hell knows what will happen between now and then. Remember last week when a new Yankee was getting hurt everyday? If that happens once between now and then, or if there's another rainout, this whole plan goes to pot. Why not try to line up the post-season rotation now while we're at it?

  • Furthermore, as we mentioned in the news and notes this morning, the team seems prepared to use Vazquez as a long reliever over the next few days. If they do, they jeopardize his ability to take the ball Friday, and then we have to go through this whole exercise once again of slotting Vazquez back into the rotation and transitioning Sergio Mitre back into the bullpen.

  • This is the second time Vazquez has been shuffled around (really the third if you count him being pushed a back an extra two days in Detroit - one due to the Pettitte injury, the other due to the rainout), and both times one of the reasons cited has been getting Vazquez a start in an NL park so he can hit. I'm sorry, I'm not buying that. It's just not that important. Ditto for Sabathia. Yes these guys can hit a bit for pitchers, but where does that rank on the scale of importance as far as determining the rotation? Fifth? Tenth?

  • I also think the Yankees are showing the Red Sox way too much respect at this point. I'm not writing them off, not at all. But as this stage in the season, there's no need to shuffle the rotation to play match ups against anyone, let alone a team that's had the Sox' struggles so far. I was ok with the team lining up their three best starters in Fenway late last August when it was officially pennant race time. This, however, seems a little premature.

  • To that end, something's rotten about skipping Vazquez here. He had a very good start in Detroit last week. Now, not only are they risking that momentum by putting him on the shelf for a week, but they're having him avoid the Sox for the second time in ten days, and they're ensuring he doesn't pitch in front of a potentially hostile Yankee Stadium crowd. This doesn't sit right with me. It sounds far too much like the things Ed Whitson said happened late in his Yankee career, and there are already far too many fans already trying to draw as many parallels as they can between Javy and Eddie Lee.

All that said, I'm going to the game tonight (Batter's Eye seats no less), and I'm very excited to watch Hughes pitch. I just hope the plans for the rest of the rotation work out over the next couple weeks.

Weekend News And Notes

Good morning Fackers. How was your weekend? Ours was pretty damn good. Nice victories on Friday night and Saturday afternoon. Word is Jay had a helluva party Saturday, complete with a wide variety of grillable meats and a now empty keg. I, on the other hand, opted for BBQ Saturday night. It was delicious, and then at long last I finally saw Pearl Jam in concert. It was one of the best shows I've ever been to.

Of course, if you were around these parts last year, you may remember that anytime I talk about Pearl Jam, disaster follows. So of course, the Yankees had a meltdown in the eighth inning yesterday. By that time I was out to dinner with the family, celebrating my youngest brother's 20th birthday, so I was only getting updates via phone. Since 2007 Joba is Back Baby!, I'm sure he had nothing to do with things falling apart. It can only be the bad karma brought on by me going to see that band. Sorry about that. On to the news and notes:
Today marks the twelfth anniversary of David Wells' Sunday afternoon perfect game against Twins. As chance would have it, the Twins were at Yankee Stadium yesterday, for a Sunday afternoon game, and Boomer was in the house doing the game for TBS. Unfortunately, things didn't work out quite so well for the home team this time. Oddly enough, the Twins also played a Sunday afternoon game in the Bronx on May 17th last year, and Wells was covering that game for TBS as well.

Speaking of starting pitchers, after Saturday's game Joe Girardi laid out the Yankees' rotation for the remainder of the week. Phil Hughes gets the ball tonight; Javier Vazquez is getting skipped again, this time pushed back to Friday night at Citi Field. We'll have a little more on this in our next post.

As we mentioned in yesterday's preview, Chan Ho Park is ready to return. It still makes no sense to me why he wasn't activated for yesterday's game, and the fact that he wasn't seems to indicate that it'll been Ivan Nova going to Scranton to make room for him, rather than Boone Logan.

That move doesn't add up to me either, as it will leave the Yankees without a longman for the rest of this week, though I suppose we could see Javy in relief tonight or tomorrow. That, in turn, could jeopardize his start for Friday, depending upon how much is needed from him. Which would mean another spot start for Sergio Mitre, who would once again be unable to return the longman role for a few days. All this just to keep Boone Logan around?

In other injury news, Nick Swisher remains day-to-day with a sore left bicep. It bothers him most when batting left-handed. On Saturday, he took a right handed at bat against a right handed pitcher, the first time he'd done that against a non-knuckleballer. He was held out of yesterday's line up against a right handed pitcher, but came on to pinch hit against lefty Brian Duensing in the eighth. When Ron Gardenhire pulled Duensing in favor of righty Matt Guerrier, Swish was immediately lifted for Juan Miranda. This will merit watching as the week unfolds.

Curtis Granderson ran at about 75 to 80 percent on Saturday and took batting practice yesterday, so he appears to be progressing well in recovering from his pulled groin.

In less pleasant injury news, Nick Johnson may need surgery on his injured wrist. If the cortisone shot he received last weekend doesn't do the trick, he'll go under the knife yet again. Best case scenario the shot works and he's back in three weeks. Worst case, we're looking at surgery and maybe an August return. Cue the indignation at signing the injury prone Johnson! Just remember, if you're going to bemoan his fragility keeping him out of the lineup now, you can't complain that he was slumping when he was healthy. Can't have it both ways.

Speaking of shots, Alfredo Aceves had one as well. The reliever with a bulging disc in his back was given an epidural over the weekend. Both mother and baby are said to be doing well.

Brian Cashman traveled to Scranton Friday to watch Chan Ho Park's rehab appearance. He held court with the media there, and sounded surprisingly callous in talking about releasing the oft injured Christian Garcia. I mean, I don't disagree with you Cash, but jeez, have a heart. The guy's had a rough few years.

In the same session, Cashman described Shane Lindsay, the pitcher who took Garcia's spot, as "a lesser version of Brian Bruney" Yeesh. Color me inspired. Hey, accept no imitations. The real deal is available.

Lastly, Cashman also said the Kevin Russo is going to get the Jerry Hairston Jr treatment, and will be playing all over the diamond in an effort to turn him into a super utility player. This is something I advocated for last summer, so I'm happy about it. Beyond tooting my own horn though, there's value in this. Russo profiles as a useful bench bat. He's not about to usurp any of the Yankee infielders, so making him a capable infielder and outfielder is only going to increase his value. With Ramiro Pena struggling, it could even position him to take the Big League utlity infielder job. There would be concerns about Russo's ability to play short though. Either way, if he's capable of playing all over the diamond, Russo would be a very useful bench piece, with or without Pena on the roster.

Meanwhile, down in Trenton, starter Ryan Pope has been shifted into the depleted bullpen. To take his place in the rotation Hector Noesi has been recalled from Tampa. Noesi was a darkhorse addition to the 40 man roster last offseason, and he's been dominating the Florida State League this year to the tune of a 2.72 ERA, 0.95 WHIP, and a 53:6 K:BB over 43 IP.

Tampa can easily absorb the loss of Noesi, since they added starter Graham Stoneburner from Charleston last week. Stoneburner has a 2.08 ERA, 0.95 WHIP, and 44:10 K:BB in 39 IP in the Sallie League prior to his promotion. He made his Tampa debut last Thursday, retired the first 15 batters he faced and allowed two runs, three baserunners and fanned seven over six innings.

Back with more in a bit.