Saturday, July 11, 2009

Pleading The Fifth

For the second day in a row, it looked like the Yankees were going to get the Rally Monkey off their backs. Instead the Angels staged another big comeback and continued their recent dominance against the Bombers, setting then two games back in the AL East.

It didn't take for the Yanks get things going. In the first, with two outs and Johnny Damon standing on first, Alex Rodriguez blasted a homer to left to make it 2-0. In the following inning Eric Hinske added his second roundtripper as a Yankee, a solo shot to center. A-Rod walked to lead of the fourth, advanced to second on an errant pickoff attempt by Jered Weaver and scored on a Robinson Cano double, who has seemingly awoken from his RISP drought.

Andy Pettitte worked through his first three innings allowing two walks but no hits, but needed 46 pitches to do so. He no hit bid was broken up by an Eric Aybar double in the fourth. Bobby Abreu singled in Aybar, which in combination with some hard hit foul balls looked ominous for Pettitte. He settled down though, strikingout Mike Napoli, and then sitting down Kendry Morales and Gary Matthews in order to end the threat.

As was the case last night, the Angels did major damage in the fifth inning, again via the home run. Howie Kendrick singled to begin the frame and top prospect Brandon Wood took one out the opposite way to make it 4-3. Pettitte allowed a single but very nearly got Chone Figgins to ground into a double play, but the speedy Yankee killer barely beat the throw. It got much uglier. Consecutive base hits tied the game and sent Pettitte to the showers. Girardi called on David Robertson but he promptly gave up a two run double to Mike Napoli, which would ultimately cause Pettitte to take the loss.

Robertson struck out the side in the sixth inning, but Reggie Willits reached on a wild pitch and was tripled in by Eric Aybar. Brett Tomko got Bobby Abreu out to finish the inning, but allowed a run of his own in the 7th. The offense kept plugging away, adding two runs in the bottom half of 7th and the 8th on a two run shot by Eric Hinske and solo dingers courtesy of A-Rod and Hideki Matsui.

With the score 10-8 in favor of the Angels entering the bottom of the 8th, Phil Coke was summoned to keep the Yanks within striking distance. He did anything but that. The Angels plated four runs and put the game out of reach.

The 14-8 final score might not even be representative of how brutal this game was. Once again, the offense put up a significant early lead and the pitching staff squandered it away. It's especially frustrating considering the Yankees proximity to the Red Sox and their inepititude against the Angels. They'll try to salvage some dignity heading into the All-Star break this afternoon at 3:35. We'll be back later with the preview.

Game 87: Just Like California

Angels' ace Jered Weaver gets the ball today, and boy do I want to see the Yanks putting a beating on him. Not just because it'd be awfully nice to salvage a series victory and keep the momentum going into the All-Star break, but because Jered's brother Jeff has to be one of my least favorite Yankees of all time. I loathed Jeff Weaver, who then was flipped for Kevin Brown, and that didn't work out too hot either.

Six seasons after Jeff Weaver threw his last pitch as a Yankee, my lasting memory of him is him making excuse after excuse, crappy outing after crappy outing, insisting that he didn't pitch that poorly and that he'd get in straightened out next time. Except he never did. I've been reminded of those post-game interviews every five days of late, and it's not a pleasant recollection. Since Jeff is hiding out in the NL these days, I'll have to settle for the Yanks hanging a crooked number on his brother.

And the Yanks have done just that in the past. Weaver is 3-1 against the Yanks, but he carries at 6.11 ERA and 1.46 WHIP in 28 innings of work. The Yanks touched him up for 4 runs in 6 innings on May 1st this year, but Weaver escaped with a no decision in the Yanks 10-9 victory.

Andy Pettitte takes the mound for the Yankees. Pettitte hasn't been as consistently poor as last night's starter, but he's been consistently inconsistent all season long. He has alternated good starts and bad starts over his last five. The good news is that if that pattern holds today he's due for a good one, after allowing ten baserunners and giving up 6 ER in 6 IP on Monday. Pettitte opposed Weaver in that May 1st game, and he wasn't much better, giving up 5 ER in 5.2 IP. For his career his 12-8 against the Angels with a 4.52 ERA and 1.46 WHIP.

Brett Gardner gets the start in CF; Nick Swisher gets a day off, replaced by Eric Hinske in RF.

After going up four runs at the halfway point last night, it was just like the (former) California Angels to make fools of the Yanks in the second half of the game. Here's hoping the Yanks right the ship today and take a lead all the way tonight.

Just like California to make a fool of me
Steal the sideshow, burn the disco, slide into the sea
I'm a thinking person and I think that it's wrong
To keep on saying true love's waiting, when true love is long gone

Time is on my bad side
Halfway there just wouldn't be fair
So I'm going all the way tonight

Lost Sleep, Lost Game

(Photos from AP/ESPN)

Joba Chamberlain's recent struggles continued last night in Anaheim. Staked to leads of 4-0 and 5-1, Chamberlain still couldn't make it through the fifth inning, and the pitchers who followed him didn't offer much relief either.

The Yankee offense came flying out of the gate. Derek Jeter, DHing last night, laced the first pitch of the game back up the middle, nearly decapitating Joe Saunders. Johnny Damon followed with a walk, then was replaced by Mark Teixeira on a fielder's choice that moved Jeter to third. Alex Rodriguez doubled Jeter home and Teix to third, then a base hit from Nick Swisher cleared the bases to make it 3-0.

After Joba cruised through a perfect first on just nine pitches, the Yanks added a run to their lead in the second, getting back-to-back-to-back singles from Jose Molina, Jeter, and Damon. Evil Joba took the mound for the second, needing 29 pitches to get through the inning, and giving back a run by sandwiching a walk between two singles.

Chamberlain settled down a bit for third and fourth, allowing three hits over the two innings, but needing only 14 and 16 pitches to get through the frames. A-Rod added to the Yankee lead by blasting a solo shot to center, making it 5-1. Chamberlain then hit the wall in the bottom of the inning: single, SB, foul out, single, SB, E-5, 3 run HR, double, showers. A-Rod's error certainly didn't help, but Chamberlain has no one to blame but himself. He needed 26 pitches for that whole mess, running his total for the night to 94, and continually failing to put away hitters. Two of the hits he allowed in his final inning came after he got ahead 0-2 and 1-2.

Mark Melancon, who replaced Jonathan Albaladejo on the roster prior to the game, replaced Chamberlain on the mound. With a runner on second and just one out, Melancon induced two groundouts to end the threat and leave the game tied. That was as good as it got for him on the night. In the sixth he gave up two singles and a triple to give the Angels a two run lead, and they wouldn't look back from there.

The Yankees threatened in the top of the seventh. Teix, Robinson Cano, and Melky Cabrera singled, cutting the lead to one. Jorge Posada and Hideki Matsui then pinch hit for Cody Ransom and Jose Molina, but the Yanks couldn't push the tying run across. The substitutions meant that Derek Jeter had to vacate the DH spot and play SS, leaving the Yankees without a DH and the pitcher batting in the ninth spot. Why Joe Girardi saw fit to sit Matsui against a lefty, when Matsui is destroying southpaws this year, is beyond me. But I digress.

Jeter, who had a 4 for 5 night at the plate, made a costly error in the bottom of the inning, dropping a one out can of corn for his fourth error of the year. After Melancon got the second out, Girardi called on Brian Bruney, one of the two remaining fresh arms in the pen. Bruney, like Chamberlain, continued to struggle. He needed just four pitches to walk the first batter he faced, then surrendered a three run homer to number nine hitter Erick Aybar, he of the .390 slugging percentage. The inning ending when Posada caught a pop up barehanded, after losing his glove while entangled with Chone Figgins.

The loss, coupled with a Red Sox win, dropped the Yanks a game back in the AL East. More concerning however are the on-going issues with Joba Chamberlain and Brian Bruney. Today's game is at a more manageable 4:10. We'll be back with a preview before then.