Saturday, June 20, 2009

Game 68: Scene of the Crime

Did you know that Joe Girardi once managed the Florida Marlins? No kidding. The media hasn't played that angle up at all entering this series. All joking aside, Girardi's somewhat tumultous one year tenure with the Marlins has been well documented. No one knows the exact the specifics of what went wrong, but the basics are that the strong-headed Girardi and butt-in-ski owner Jeffrey Loria did not get along, NL Manager of the Year award be damned.

Today, the Yankees will face Josh Johnson, one of the four rookie pitchers that made up Girardi's starting rotation in 2006. Girardi came under fire for his handling of Johnson, running the then 22 year-old rookie back to the mound after a lengthy mid-game rain delay. Johnson would encounter elbow difficulties in 2007, eventually undergoing Tommy John surgery in August of that year. Johnson made an unusually fast recovery, returning to the mound in just eleven months. Thus far in 2009, Johnson has been one of the top starters in the NL: 6-1 with 2.76 ERA, 1.07 WHIP, 7.6 K/9, and a 3.6 K/BB.

When interviewing for the Yankee job following the 2007 season, Girardi assuredly had to address the Johnson situation, as the Yankees were undoubtedly concerned about young starters Joba Chamberlain, Phil Hughes, and Ian Kennedy. While all three have suffered injuries under Girardi's watch, it wouldn't be fair to say that Girardi's handling of those three had any bearing on their injuries.

Where crticism is due however is in Girardi's handling of a still-rehabbing Alex Rodriguez. Until last night, A-Rod had started all 38 games since his return from hip surgery, 35 of those starts coming at 3B. He received the late innings off in blowouts only, completing all but 10 of those games and only twice exiting before the 8th inning. A-Rod will get his second consecutive day off today, suffering from both fatigue and an extended slump.

A.J. Burnett will take the mound for the Yankees. After facing the Mets in his last start, the franchise that originally drafted him, today he will face the Marlins, the team with which he made his Major League debut and spent the first seven seasons of his career. Burnett got out of Florida just before Girardi arrived, so his lengthy injury history, which caused him to miss the 2003 World Series against the Yankees, cannot be pinned on Girardi.

Johnson, Girardi, and Burnett all return to the scene of the crime today as the Yankees try to keep yesterday's momentum going. Here are The Stooges; you may want to turn the volume down if you have the kiddies around.

Can't come back,
A second time,
Gotta get away from the scene of the crime,
Scene of the crime.

Back on Track

The Yankees got back on track last night, momentarily at least. When you get RBI doubles from Angel Berroa and Andy Pettitte it's hard not to win.

More encouraging than his batting though was Pettitte's pitching. Since his back locked up on him in Cleveland on May 29th, Pettitte had turned in three consecutive lackluster starts in which he seemed to battle himself constantly. Last night, Pettitte pitched smooth and easy. While Joe Girardi and trainer Steve Donahue did visit the mound early on, Pettitte showed no ill effects: 7 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 ER ,0 BB, 7K and throwing 66 of his 108 pitches for strikes. Pettitte was followed by perfect innings from both Brian Bruney and Brett Tomko.

The offense also got it going after several listless performances. Every starter registered at least one hit, with the top four hitters in the order. Derek Jeter, Johnny Damon, Mark Teixeira, and Jorge Posada, all collecting two each. Melky Cabrera hit a rare righthanded home run, just the seventh of his career.

Starter Sean West lasted only 4 innings, giving up 5 ER on 10 H. He entered the game with too few K/9, too many BB/9 and unsustainably low BABIP against. The correction for which I thought he was due came to pass, and for once at least, the Yankees were able to touch up a previously unseen rookie starter. For one night everything seemed back the way it should be for the Yanks. They'll look to build on it tonight.