Saturday, May 23, 2009

Home Run Derby

(thanks for the photos)

Perhaps by virtue of their home parks, perhaps by virtue of their potent line-ups, perhaps by a combination of the two, the Yanks and Phils entered interleague play tonight leading their respective leagues in HRs. No matter the cause, neither team broke character tonight, as the Phillies snapped the Yankees nine game winning streak and seven balls left the park.

Jimmy Rollins set the theme for the night, taking the game's first pitch into the right field stands. Burnett plunked Chase Utley high and hard with the very next pitch, though it appeared from Burnett's reaction that there was absolutely zero intent. A single to the en fuego Raul Ibanez followed, leaving Burnett in a first and third, no out jam already trailing by a run. But Burnett bore down and got out of the inning without further damage. That would be as good as it got for Burnett this night.

Two pitches into the the bottom half of the first, Brett Myers got even on behalf of Utley, putting a 92 MPH fastball behind Derek Jeter. Earlier this week we debated the merits of HBPs and knockdowns. I've always felt that throwing behind a batter is a greater transgression than plunking him. From a young age, hitters are taught to "bail out" when a pitch is bearing in on them. Throwing behind a batter exploits this by leading the batter right into the lion's den. Thankfully, Myers pitch was at belt level, Jeter escaped unscathed, and he exacted his revenge by lacing the next pitch for a base hit. It would be for naught, as the Yankees failed to carry a lead into the second inning for the first time since Sunday.

Things were no better for Burnett in the second as Carlos Ruiz took him deep on two run shot. It was the first of several notable events involving Ruiz on the night. He would go on to steal his first base since last July, then later get foolishly doubled off first on a fly ball to noodle-armed Johnny Damon.

In the top of the fifth, the long ball bit Burnett again. This time Jayson Werth blasted a two run shot, becoming the first player to put one into the left field mezzanine.

The Yanks got their licks in as well, but it would be too little, too late. A-Rod deposited one in the Philly bullpen in the 6th and Jeter dropped one in the Yankee bullpen in the eighth. Two batters later, Mark Teixeira just missed the first upper deck shot in the new Stadium's history, launching a home run into the right field club level between the mezzanine and the upper deck. Teix stayed hot at the plate, going 2 for 4 and adding a few defensive highlights for good measure.

The recently activated Chien-Ming Wang relieved Burnett to start the seventh. Wang had been scheduled to start in AAA tonight until last night's comebacker at Joba and recurring injuries left the bullpen in shambles. Wang threw the final three innings, saving the pen from further use, and as with Burnett, that's about the nicest thing that can be said of him tonight.

Wang was not sharp. The second batter he faced, Raul Ibanez, touched him up for the Phillies 4th and final long ball on the night. He needed 51 pitches to get through the final three innings, throwing just 57% for strikes. He lacked command, allowing 7 baserunners over 3 innings. He allowed 2 ER over 3 IP yet his ERA dropped from 34.50 to 25.00. I should be concerned, but given the circumstances of Wang's sudden recall and emergency usage, I'm willing to give him a pass on this one.

The streak is over, but it was bound to happen sooner or later. After staying lucky for a week a plus, all the breaks seemed to fall to the Phils tonight. Given the bullpen turmoil and roster shuffling, this one just felt like an uphill battle from before the first pitch, and Jimmy Rollins made sure it would be.

Tomorrow they try to start the next streak. See you then.

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