Wednesday, July 22, 2009

20 Over

For the second game in a row, the score ended up 6-4 in favor of the home team. For the second time this season, the Yankees have completed a sweep of the Orioles at the New Yankee Stadium. They've held their opponents to 2 1/3 runs per game on this homestand and have taken each of the six games by the slim margins of either one or two runs. They're now 1.5 games up on the Sox and 20 games over .500 for the first time since 2007.

The Yanks struck early, jumping out to a comfortable lead in the first inning and never looking back. They scored four times against Jason Berken before it was over, with A-Rod and Cano driving in a run each and Swish adding a two out single for two RBIs of his own. Jorge Posada chipped in a solo home run in the third inning to make the score 5-0, where it would stay until the 7th inning. He added an RBI double in the 8th.

A.J. Burnett kept the Orioles at bay by working around two baserunners in each of the first four innings but then settled down in the 5th and 6th allowing only a walk to the illustrious Greg Zaun in between those 6 outs. The O's did managed to scratch across two runs in the 7th. The first one came on a sac fly and the second crossed the plate when Burnett struck out Aubrey Huff on a nasty curveball for what should have been the third out of the inning. Instead, the ball bounced off the plate and rolled far enough away from Posada for Adam Jones to sprint in from 3rd.

Over his 7 innings, Burnett allowed 6 hits, struck out 6 and walked 3. Although his pitch count started to climb in the early innings, he settled down a bit and ended with 104 (68 for strikes). He was seemingly in control at all times, even though he was constantly pitching from the stretch. A.J. was both helped and hurt by Nick Swisher, who made an E6 to start the 3rd but redeemed himself with a running (and run-saving) catch to end the inning and another against the wall in the 5th.

Phil Hughes pitched a scoreless frame in the 8th, and with a four run lead going into the 9th, Joe Girardi called on Brian Bruney to finish the game. He struck out the first two batters he faced before being stopped in his tracks by back to back solo homers from Adam Jones and Nick Markakis. Mo came on to clean up the spill and stuck out Aubrey Huff looking to end the game and picked up a cheapie save. It was win #9 on the season for Burnett and the fourth straight decision that's gone in his favor.

After the game, Bruney flippantly answered reporters' questions saying, among other things “I just wanted to get Mo a save, that’s what a set-up man does". He also said that he has his best stuff of the year and felt like he did back in April. It's seemingly becoming a trend for Yankees' pitchers to react delusionally to their bad outings and refuse to admit their mistakes. Joe Girardi didn't seem to have a problem with it, but giving up back to back jacks in 2/3 of an inning of work isn't "pitching well" no matter how you cut the cake.

The Sox are on ESPN tonight at 8:00 as they look to avoid a sweep at the hands of the Rangers and keep their deficit in the division at 1 and lead in the Wild Card at 3.5. In case you didn't hear, they made some exciting moves today, ones that will surely have a major impact on the pennant race (not really).

How do you like the view from the top?

Game 94: Don't Look Back

For the first time since June 9th, the Yankees begin a game with sole possession of first place in the AL East, and once again they have the best record in the AL to boot. The last time, the lead was short-lived as they lost to Josh Beckett and the Sox 7-0 that night and were 5 games back within two weeks.

That night at Fenway, A.J. Burnett lasted only 2 2/3 innings and was tagged for 5 ER before taking his frustrations out on the water cooler on the way back to the dugout. Since then, he's made 6 starts and held the Yanks' opponents to a 2.04 ERA over 39 2/3 innings, striking out 36 and picking up 4 wins. His last start was the least impressive of the bunch, allowing three runs over 6 innings and walking 5 to just one strikeout. He took a no-decision but the Yanks went on to win anyway.

Today as the Yanks go for their second consecutive home sweep, they hope to enjoy a much longer reign at the top and leave Boston behind.

Burnett faces Jason Berken who has had limited essentially no success (one quality start (which he lost)) in Baltimore's rotation since being called up in late May. The White Sox just hit him up for 6 runs in 4 1/3 IP coming out of the All-Star Break. Berken is sitting on a portly 6.44 ERA, a bloated WHIP of 1.649 an unsightly 1-7 record (with that win coming in his first outing of the season). In 10 starts he's pitched only 50 1/3 innings and has walked 19 while striking out only 29.

Between him and Rich Hill, the Yanks have been set up to feast on the weakest part of Baltimore's awful rotation. However, he's never faced the Yankees so there's probably still going to be some hand-wringing if he puts together a few scoreless innings to start the game.

Matt will be happy to hear that Brett Gardner will be back in CF for the second time since the All-Star Break, replacing the fading Melky Cabrera. Jorge Posada will (interestingly) be catching a day game after a night game while A-Rod returns to third base. Behind Alex in the lineup will be Hideki Matsui at DH and everything else is as you would expect.

No live chat today, but feel free to stop by the comment section as I'm sure a couple of Fackers will be loitering around.

It's a new horizon and I'm awakin' now,
Oh I see myself in a brand new way,
The sun is shinin',
The clouds are breakin',
Cause I can't lose now, there's no game to play.

Link Lineup

Here are a couple of links to help move you towards gametime in an orderly manner:

Tim Marchman identifies that Joba Chamberlain is actually a better pitcher when he is inducing more flyballs. He wonders if the Yankees could try to teach him to pitch that way, but I don't think that would be the wisest move for a right hander pitching in the New Yankee Stadium.

You probably already knew that Tony Bernarzard was batshit insane, but this really takes the cake...
The Binghamton Mets clubhouse nearly turned into a scene out of WWE Raw recently, when VP for player development Tony Bernazard removed his shirt and challenged the Double-A players to a fight during a postgame tirade, multiples sources told the Daily News.
Cliff from Bronx Banter told you "the Serg might work".

Brett Tomko is upset by his demotion:
"I don't think I got a fair shot," he said. "I pitched great in spring training and didn't make the team. I pitched great in the minors, got called up and didn't get much of a chance. I understand other guys are pitching great. But it could have been different. I can't see the point in coming back."
Obviously, Matt was not.

Ever wonder what the differences between John Dewan's +/- system and UZR are? Get it from (one of) the horse's mouths.

The Shyster wonders about the potential ramifications of DNA testing in the Dominican are, and once you read a couple of them, it might make rethink whether or not it's such a good idea.

"A-Rod"... "Clutch"... in the SAME HEADLINE?!??1!?

"Pro Surf Championship to be held in Hal Streinbrenners hair in 2010"

A Portrait Of The Artist As A Young Mop-Up Man

Good morning Fackers. We have much to be thankful for this AM: another day on planet Earth, the wonder that is Mo, a one game lead in the AL East, a five game winning streak, a victory in a game started by Sergio Mitre, daytime baseball on the horizon to carry you through the afternoon, and a potential second consecutive series sweep.

But here's what I'm most jazzed up about today: to make room for Mitre on both the 40 and 25 man rosters, Brett Tomko was designated for the assignment. Not only am I happy about this because it was best move for the team, but also because it's a progressive move. Though both David Robertson and Mark Melancon have options, the organization rightly decided they both offer a better chance to win than Tomko. That may not seem like such a revelation, but it didn't appear that decisions were being made like that earlier in the year. For the most part, the dead weight that cluttered the roster at the end of May is now gone.

The question remains though, how did Brett Tomko, he of a career ERA+ of 92, manage to last on the New York Yankees roster for two and a half months? Some have suggested a conspiracy theory: does Brett Tomko have compromising pictures of someone in the front office?

Well we at the Fack Youk Action News Investigative Reporting Team have been trying to crack this case for weeks and now, just as Tomko is leaving town, we have a major breakthrough.

Tomko's skills as an artist have been well documented. Earlier this season, Phil Hughes commissioned him to paint an action portrait of him. Last week, loyal reader and commenter A-Train suggested that either Brian Cashman or Joe Girardi may be a fan of Tomko's art work. Turns out the A-Train was on to something.

Fack Youk has learned that a member of the Yankees front office employed Tomko to paint an erotic portrait of him as an anniversary gift for his spouse. The employee ensured that Tomko remained in the Yankees' employ until the work was finished. Now that it is complete, Tomko has been let go, becoming the second artist to be evicted from Yankee Stadium in the last week.

Interestingly enough, this is not the first time that high ranking Yankee front office member has been ensnared in such a scandal.

I can only hope such a photo surfaces of Mrs. Tomko. I'll miss her far more than Brett.

Up Top

Although they have seemingly faced a lot of borderline journeymen or unfamiliar rookie pitchers this season, the Yanks haven't had to send too many to the mound. And when it finally came time to do so, Sergio Mitre did what was necessary for the Bombers to walk away with the victory.

By this time last year, the Yankees had already asked Kei Igawa, Darrell Rasner, Dan Geise, Sindey Ponson, Ian Kennedy, Phil Hughes and even Brian Bruney to start games for them. Last night was only the 9th start they needed from outside their Opening Day rotation this season, with seven of those coming from Hughes. Having only one pitcher nearly incapable of recording a victory in the early going this year (Wang) as opposed to two last year (Hughes and Kennedy) is a big reason that the Yankees just took over sole posession of first place in the AL East.

It wasn't a dominant outing for Mitre, and it got off to a rocky start in the 1st when Brian Roberts doubled to lead off the game, advanced to third on a groundout and scored when Nick Markakis singled to center. Roberts made his way around the bases again in the 3rd, via a single, stolen base, thorwing error (by Mitre) and finally came home on a one out dribbler to Jeter.

The Yanks did their damage in the second through fourth innings, starting with a manufactured run by A-Rod. He walked to lead off the 2nd, stole a base, advanced to third on a fly ball and scored on a sac fly. Alex was the one driving in the runs in the third inning, with a two out, bases loaded single that scored Cody Ransom, and Jeter. Robby Cano added a two run homer to the home bullpen in the fifth inning and Ransom scored again on a single by Johnny Damon later in the frame.

Mitre faced the minimum 6 batters in the fourth and fifth but ran into trouble in the 6th. He gave up back to back singles to Markakis and Aubrey Huff, who both came around to score two batters later on a single by Melvin Mora. The Serg got Nolan Reimold to strike out before Girardi replaced him with Alfredo Aceves.

The Marlins' cast-off and Tommy John rehab case didn't exactly impress with his performance last night, but when he left the game, he could only win, not lose it. He gave up 8 hits but only one was for extra bases - the double in the first to Roberts. The O's worked just one walk off of the sinkerballer and he threw 57 of his 91 pitches for strikes. After Aceves, Phil Coke and Mariano Rivera each pitched a scoreless inning to lock down Mitre's first Major League win since 2007.

It would seem that Mitre has earned himself another go 'round in the rotation and will be enough to keep Phil Hughes and Alfredo Aceves in the bullpen, at least for now. Mitre has already matched Chien Ming Wang's win total for the season and with the news that Wang might not be back for a while, this outing is enough to to cast aside concerns about the thinning rotation for the time being.