Monday, August 10, 2009

Game 112: Don't Let It Bring You Down

The concept of a "letdown game" or a "trap game" is not specific to baseball. If you're skeptical of the conventional wisdom/pop psychology that is so wildly prevalent in sports, then you won't be surprised by the fact that research into this phenomenon has actually shown that in the past 10 years in the NFL at least, there is no such effect.

Anecdotally, you can point to the 2003 World Series and say the Yankees were burned out after going 7 games against the Red Sox, but you could just as easily have said that about the Sox in 2004 except they swept the Cardinals in the Fall Classic and made it look easy. The same was true in 2007 when the ALCS went 7 games and the World Series ended in a sweep as well. Looking back to the "Boston Massacre" of 2006, the Yanks went on to lose 4 of their next 5, so should we be concerned that the Yanks might hit a rough patch coming out of the Sox series this time around? Yes, but it has nothing to do with the concept of a "letdown game".

First and most importantly, the Yanks are trotting out Sergio Mitre to a team that saw him only 5 days ago. Luckily, the Yanks escaped with a victory, but Mitre was shaky at best, allowing 3 runs on 8 hits in 4 1/3 IP while throwing 92 pitches. That outing actually brought his ERA down to 7.50 and he still has yet to have a start this year where he contributed a positive WPA to the team's chances. With Chad Gaudin now waiting in the wings and likely to have a chance to audition in long relief today, Mitre may be on the verge of getting bounced out of the rotation if he can't come up with a decent performance.

The Yanks are going to get another crack at Marc Rzepczynski as well, but the lefty was significantly better against the Yanks than Mitre against the Jays, even if his final pitching line doesn't tell that story. rZep struck out 7 in six innings and allowed only 6 baserunners, although four of them came around to score and only 3 did when he was on the mound. The 23 year old has pitched 33 2/3 innings this year to a 3.74 ERA. He might be a rookie but he's not a pushover, and the Yanks are going to have to have a strong showing at the plate to get to him.

A-Rod is back at 3rd tonight, Posada will be DHing and Jerry Hairston will be spelling Johnny Damon in left, as Hairston has better numbers against lefties than Damon this year, to say nothing of the upgrade in the field. Defense will be a significant factor tonight as Mitre tends to allow a lot of balls to be put in play. The downside of this arrangement is that Nick Swisher moves in to the two hole and the bottom three in the order are Hairston, Melky and Molina.

Another game against the Blue Jays brings another tune by the best Canadian songwriter I can think of. The Yanks are 7-2 against the boys from Toronto this season, 31 of their last 41 overall, have won 7 in a row and are hopefully ready to weather a start by Sergio Mitre and run the winning streak up to 8.

Don't let it bring you down,
It's only castles burning,
Find someone who's turning,
And you will come around.

Monday Afternoon Linkdown

Okay, we're all working our way through a rough Monday, so here are some links just in case you need any more excuses to put off doing work.


I don't care if the Yankees have never blown a 6 game lead in the division in the history of the franchise. The Mets did it in 17 games two years ago and if recent memory serves me correctly, the Red Sox did something else historically unprecedented and terrible to the Yankees a few years before that. You know what they say about chickens and hatching.

Awww, poor Youk. Need a nap, buddy? “The bottom line is that everything is blown out of proportion when we play the Yankees. To be honest with you, it’s very tiresome.”

Check out the questions PeteAbe got Yogi Berra to sit down for. Does anyone not love Yogi?

Lisa Swan from Subway Squawkers spends some time knocking down the myth that A-Rod isn't clutch over at The Faster Times. She also reminds us of when "the MT curse" almost made a modicum of sense.

"...when I have to talk, I’m not good at that. You all know that.” Guess who said it...

Crazy Yankee Chick is auctioning off one of her paintings of Yankee Stadium and donating the proceeds to the American Cancer Society.

No Maas has an update on this year's first round pick and subject of some older posts on our site, Slade Heathcott.

Here are some assorted sources of Soxenfreude.

Craig from Shysterball/Circling the Bases pulls together some thoughts on the fuzzy realm of sports psychology.


Be back a little later with the preview.

Not Going To Lie...

When I saw Chad Gaudin warming up last night, I thought to myself, "That's Chad Gaudin?"

It turns out that everytime someone said something about Gaudin, I was actually picturing Gustavo Chacin. Coincidentally, the two were teammates with the Blue Jays back in 2005 and once appeared in the same game, with Gaudin coming on in relief of Chacin. I probably should have known that Gaudin was the guy with the terrible beard/goatee who looks like Mose Schrute and Chacin was the lefthanded weirdo with the Rec Specs. But if you reverse one of their initals, their last names are pretty similar and... yeah, I'm an idiot.

Out Of Left Field

Thus says our muse:
"You're being a little critical. What do you want me to tell you? You want me to tell you I took a bad route to the ball on the second one? OK, I took a bad route. I don't know what to tell you ... I'm not an outfielder. I'm an infielder." (source)

Yes Youk, you did take a bad route. But hey, at least it wasn't an E7 like the first one.

Kevin Youkilis' UZR/150 for LF in 2009: -81.7

Kevin Youkilis' UZR/150 for LF for his career: -21.9

Saturday might be the last time we see the Youkstah in the OF.

Sweeping Up After The Weekend

I know this is Matt's line, but since he's in New Hampshire this morning... Good morning, Fackers. And it's a good morning, indeed.

Going into this series, we said that Yankees vs. Red Sox games are different, said that all indications were that the Yankees had the advantage and predicted that the Stadium would finally come alive. We were lucky enough to be right on all three counts and anyone, well any Yankees fan, who watched the entire series was treated to a satisfying performance in which the Bombers looked like what their record says they are: The best team in baseball.

Over the long haul, you have to look at numbers like run differential to even out the ups and downs of the season, but over a short series against a heated rival, it's hard not notice that the Yankees seemingly ripped the momentum away from the Red Sox at every juncture possible. When the Sox jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the 3rd inning on Thursday, the Yanks immediately tied it up on a homer by Johnny Damon. When the Sox back back with two more in the 4th, the Bombers responded with 8. They finsihed out the series by allowing two runs over the next 32 innings, both of which were quickly erased by back to back jacks from Damon and Teixeira.

We try not to talk a whole lot about "momentum" and "clutch" and other fluffy intangibles which evade statistical verification of their existence in the long run on this site, but this weekend the Yankees made it impossible not to do so. A-Rod found two incredibly high leverage situations to hit two home runs, as did Johnny Damon. The bullpen allowed only 4 runs in 14 1/3 IP, while the only runs allowed by a Yankees starter were the 5 Joba Chamberlain gave up Thursday night. In short, the Yankees stepped up to the plate and made this a turning point in the season.

Taking four games from the Red Sox all but deletes the memory of the first eight they lost. The Yanks had already overcome those in the overall standings and all that was left was the notion that the Red Sox had their number, which Nick Swisher responded to by saying "but we changed cell-phone providers".

It's been a long time since the Yankees and their fans have had reason to be riding this high. Not since 2006, when they swept the Sox in a 5 game series which also put them 6.5 games ahead, perhaps. Big Papi got one hit all series and Dustin Pedroia unfortunately had to break the news that he is in fact not magical.

The Yanks have won 31 of their last 41 games and are on pace for 100 wins. They are 27 games above .500, which is pretty incredible since they were actually below that mark 33 games into the season. How quickly we forget.

Who knows, maybe they will suffer a let down when they welcome Toronto to the Stadium tonight and Sergio Mitre takes the hill. But let's enjoy this feeling while it lasts.

"You Got No Wins Here, So Better Luck Next Time"

Victor Martinez probably thought he was going to be the hero of last night's game. You could tell by the way he watched his two run homer run off Phil Coke soar into the left field seats in the eighth inning. It was understandable. He was 1-14 in the series to that point, the Red Sox had been trailing 1-0 and were mired in a 31 inning, 116 plate appearance scoreless drought. The difference between 4.5 games back and 6.5 is increasingly significant at this point in the season considering there are only 6 head to head match ups remaining. Instead of saving the Red Sox from a brutal four game sweep, Martinez's shot was more of a last stand; a heroic effort that only temporarily stemmed the tide.

The game started as another pitcher's duel up. Andy Pettitte distributed seven baserunners over 7 innings while striking four without allowing a run. Jon Lester was almost as good, with the only run he allowed in 7 frames coming on a solo shot to A-Rod in the bottom of the seventh inning to break the scoreless tie.

Daniel Bard came on in the bottom of the 8th and looked as if he was about to hand the lead over to Jonathan Papelbon after Hideki Matsui and Derek Jeter both grounded out after a barrage of 97 and 98MPH fastballs. However, Johnny Damon scorched the next one of those he saw into the Yankee bullpen. For the third time in the series, the Red Sox had taken the lead and the Yankees responded by scoring in the next half inning. But they weren't done there.

With Mark Teixeira at the plate, Bard went away from his fastball and instead threw two breaking pitches. In stark contrast to Damon's bullet before, Teix turned on the second one and lofted a sky high shot down the right field line and followed it towards first base with his bat lofted triumphantly in the air. It hung in the air interminably, allowing the crowd noise to swell even louder before landing in the second deck. Teix stole Victor Martinez's thunder and then took a curtain call to top it off. Bard had faced 138 hitters in his major league career to that point and allowed just one home run. Make that that 140 and 3.

Bard allowed the inning to continue by walking A-Rod and was lifted in favor of Hideki Okijima. The lefty allowed three consecutive base hits, a double to Jorge Posada and singles to Robinson Cano and Nick Swisher, which pushed the Yankee lead to 5-2. In all, they sent six runners to plate with two outs in the 8th.

The Sox brought the tying run to plate in the top of the ninth after Mariano Rivera walked David Ortiz, but Jacoby Ellsbury grounded out to first base to end the game.

The Sox are now reeling, having lost 6 straight and fallen into a tie with the Rangers for the Wild Card with the Rays lurking only a game and a half behind them. The Yanks have won seven straight and have the best record in baseball.

I know we don't usually drop songs in our game recaps, but this one is too good to pass up.

Straight like that, straight out the gate,
Cause it's never too late, to set this fuckin' record straight.

But it is too late, for you and your crew, son,
You had the audacity to come against me, the gifted one?
And Primo with the tracks, to inspire my next line,
You've got no wins here, so better luck next time.

You thought you brought your best lines,
But they couldn't touch mine,
I rocked you in your knot,
Hope you have better luck next time.