Thursday, October 29, 2009

Put To S-Lee-p

Good morning, Fackers. Probably safe to say that last night's game was not the note we were hoping to start the World Series on. If you were nodding off in the ninth inning, don't worry, you weren't alone. For the first time this postseason the Yankees are trailing in a series which, surprisingly, doesn't feel so good. Who knew?

It's one thing to scratch across a couple of runs and lose a tightly contested game. It's quite another to get smothered to death by a guy who, for all intents and purposes, threw a complete game shutout. Sure, the Yanks scratched a run in the ninth inning but it scored on a throwing error. I don't think we have to go too far out on the limb to give him credit for the ol' CG SHO.

The most aggravating thing was that Cliff Lee made it look so damn easy. CC Sabathia didn't pitch poorly last night after his rocky first inning, finishing with 2 runs in 7 frames. He made two mistakes to Chase Utley, but otherwise kept the Phillies in check.

However, up against Lee, Sabathia looked sloppy and inefficient. Anyone would have, really. Before the 9th inning, Lee gave up only four hits (Jeter's double in the third the one for extra bases) while striking out 8 and walking none. As Matt noted earlier, only three batters worked a three ball count against him all night. Sabathia had three in the first inning.

Lee was under control at all times last night, not so much pounding the strike zone as chipping away at the perimeter. It's an overused pitching cliche but I'm not sure there's a better way to describe Lee's performance last night than "sharp". He was locating with ease, snapping off filthy breaking balls and keeping batters off balance with a change up that sat about 11-12-13 MPH below his fastball.

Even with his historically great performance on the mound and the 10 strikeouts and no walks, the two lasting images from last night are going to be plays that he made in the field. In the 7th inning with Derek Jeter standing on first base, he caught a soft pop up from Johnny Damon with a limp wrist and didn't even look it into his glove, as if it had been thrown back to him by the catcher.

Whether that was contrived or not, at that moment, he looked like the most relaxed person in the stadium. I doubt it was designed to look to nonchalant, but it almost came across as smugly showing the Yankees up. Like he was their older brother and decided not to take it easy on them for once. "(Yawn) Are you guys going to start trying anytime soon?" Fine, act like it's a cakewalk, but remember that this is baseball and what looks easy today might look impossible the next time around.

That delicate little fluffy pop up by Damon was the culmination of 7 pitch at bat in which Johnny got ahead 2-0 but never got to that elusive three ball count. He fouled off three tough pitches and even when he was ahead in the count, it looked like he was behind. The Yankees were one swing away from tying the game but the way Lee was dealing, it felt like it would have had to been thrown by someone else.

The other memorable play came when Robinson Cano led off the 8th inning. The Phillies had just tacked on two more runs and led 4-0. Cano smoked the first pitch he saw right back up the middle but it hovered right a belt level for Lee, who nabbed it behind his back.

At that point, I think a lot of people realized it just wasn't the Yankees' night. A little higher or lower and Lee doesn't make that play. A little left or right and that's probably a base hit. But it bounced right into his glove.

With Lee's pitch count where it was, the Yankees were going to have to score at least 4 runs before making 5 outs against a guy that had shut them down all game. It wasn't happening. When a pitcher is throwing the ball like Lee was last night and having plays like that fall into place, there's not much you can do.

Tip your caps and all that. But Phillie fans, this is freaking creepy. And unless you are his mother, please don't refer to him my his full first, middle and last name. The dude's been on your team for like three months. Little weird. Just saying.

At least today isn't an off day.


  1. Lee was ridiculous last night. Also, NY's pen is making me more and more nervous with each passing game.

  2. Can't take away from the Phillies. They came to play, without a doubt. It IS a shame that CC pitched well but did look ridiculous next to Cliff Lee. I can't help but think that Girardi has made a drastic change in how he uses his bullpen. Does it seem to anyone else that he is really just guessing on who to send out? Has he panicked since the outset of the playoffs? One night its Joba, one night its Hughes, one night its Marte, Robertson, Coke. Felt like during the season you knew who was coming in late. Now its like your guess is as good as mine. Seems pretty clear that Robertson should be on the mound more often too. But if I can notice this, the Yankees must have noticed too, right? Haven't they? Of course they have.... I think?

    Sidenote- Cleveland blew up their team thinking they couldn't win a championship with it. With Sabathia, Lee, Sizemore, Martinez amongst others, am I wrong in thinking they were really just a solid starter and a closer away from heavily competing??!!

  3. Upstate - I believe the world is "Lee-diculous". For a second last night, I wished that my team was the one being emasculated so I could have enjoyed that incredible performance. But then I realized that would make me a Red Sox fan.

    The bullpen has certainly been shaky, but Robertson and Hughes both got squeezed last night. DRob had two pitches which were clearly in the strikezone (according to pitch f/x) called balls. The difference between 2-0 and 0-2 is cosmic.

    Joshua - I found myself agreeing with Girardi's moves last night, they just didn't work out. Hughes first, then Marte for the lefties, and back to Robertson for a righty. Bringing Coke in was pretty pointless but he was just desperate to stop the bleeding. Too bad the Yanks were already dead.

  4. I think some of the bullpen changes this month have been a bit unorthodox. But I had no issue with the moves in the 8th last night. That was a failure to execute by Hughes, D-Rob, and Gerry Davis. It was not poor decision making on Girardi's part IMO. Going to Bruney in the ninth on the other hand...

    Cleveland is a funny case. I thought they would win the division in both of the last two years. The guys you mention were a solid core, but the slow start in 08 basically necessitated the Sabathia move, ditto with Lee this year. Fausto Carmona crapping out after 2007 didn't help either. I think Shapiro is a good GM though and Manny Acta is also highly regarded. It'll be interesting to see where they go in 2-3 years.

  5. I have a punching bag in my office (one of those inflattable ones), so today I printed out a picture of Cliff Lee and put it over the face spot and I feel much better after a few punches :) I highly recommend this.

  6. No sense in complaining about the strike zone. Hughes and Robertson got squeezed a little, but the first two strikes Marte got to Utley were off the plate. And somehow I think Swisher was the only Yankee that didn't strike out swinging. Lee was ridiculous, nothing else mattered.