Friday, August 14, 2009

Game 116: Fire

It's a Friday night west coast game. I suppose as far as west coast games go, that's about the best you could ask for. Watch it from the bar. Or watch at home and stay up for the end of it, knowing you don't have to worry about getting up for work the next morning.

Line ups are not posted as of this time. My guess is that amongst the walking wounded, Jeter will still be in the line up, Posada will return, and A-Rod will be given an additional day off. At least that's what I would do - Hairston's been hot; give A-Rod the extra day to rest up, they'll need him at full strength with at least one of the Sergio Mitre/Chad Gaudin tandem starting this weekend. But knowing Girardi, A-Rod will DH, giving him a half night off to rest his elbow, and sitting Hideki Matsui against the lefty. As we've discussed in the past, this is a poor maneuver. Matsui is hitting lefties to the tune of .266/.346/.638 with 10 HR in just 94 ABs. Plus, he was on fire last night; play the hot hand.

The lefty in question is Ryan Rowland-Smith (sounds like he should have his own childrens' song). The Aussie is 2-1 with a 3.86 ERA and a 1.21 WHIP in 5 starts this year. In 185 career IP over parts of three seasons, he has an impressive ERA+ of 118. However, he's benefited from a low BABIP against and his strikeout, walk, and HR rates are all worse than the league average. Like other Seattle pitchers, he's likely benefited from his pitcher friendly ballpark and outstanding defense. In 5 career appearances (1 start) against the Yankees, RRS has pitched 10 innings to a 7.20 ERA and a 2.10 WHIP. I'll sign up for more of that tonight.

Opposing him will be the Yankees' own southpaw: Andy Pettitte. Pettitte has seen Seattle plenty of times through the years. He's recorded a decision in every one of his starts against them, going 10-11 with a 4.58 ERA and 1.42 WHIP. In three post-season starts between the 2000 and 2001 ALCS though, Pettitte was 3-0 with a 2.57 ERA. Andy picked up a win against the M's on July 1st this year, going seven innings and whiffing five while allowing just seven baserunners and two runs. Since the All-Star break Pettitte has made five starts, covering 33.2 IP. He's posted a 1.87 ERA, a 1.01 WHIP, and a 3.67 K/BB in that stretch while holding opponents to a .210/.264/.269 batting line. He too has been on fire of late.

With an all lefty match up on the mound tonight, we'll go with a lefty guitarist whose mother's maiden name happened to be Jeter. Born in Seattle, James Marshall Hendrix preferred a Fender Stratocaster to the Gibson Les Paul, but he could sure play the hell out of it. Here he is with Gypsy Sun And Rainbows at a certain festival from fourty years ago.

Bruney Back On Track?

Since I touched on it in the recap and loyal commenters Matt, A-Train, and Jason furthered the discussion in the comment section, I thought I'd take a look at Brian Bruney's recent performance.

This month, Bruney has quietly appeared in four games, covering 5.2 IP. Over that stretch he has a 1.59 ERA, a 1.24 WHIP, and a 5:2 K:BB while holding opponents to a .217/.280/.217 batting line. It doesn't quite match the outstanding run he had prior to his first DL stint this year, but it's close.

It's been an interesting year for Bruney. While he does appear to have matured, he also was dishonest about his injury situation - costing him a second DL stint, needlessly started a media-driven feud with K-Rod during the Subway Series, and got snippy with reporters after a couple of his poorer outings.

Still, after being buried as the mop-up man of late, Bruney appears to be earning Joe Girardi's trust again. With Mo, the Phils, and Alf all being somewhere between reliable and automatic, and David Robertson quietly putting together a solid campaign that's seeing him used in more high leverage situations of late, Bruney returning to his April and 2008 form could be the last step towards having a top-to-bottom dynamite bullpen. Who would have thought that possible back in April?

Another Brush With Celebrity

As I alluded to in yesterday's game preview, I've made a few trips to Seattle in the last six years or so. Since the Yanks are in the Emerald City this weekend and yesterday I posted about my meeting with Mickey Mantle, I suppose now's as a good a time as any to tell you about another encounter I had with a member of the 500 home run club. And this one I actually remember.

In April 2003, not yet a year out of college and just a few months into to my first "real" job, I went on my first business trip, accompanying the company owner and vice president to a conference at Seattle's Four Seasons Olympic Hotel (now the Fairmont Olympic).

As with every medical conference I attend, it covers at least one day of a weekend: convenient for physicians with patients to see and professional schedules to keep, inconvenient for a 22 year-old with friends to see and social schedules to keep.

As the conference adjourned for lunch on Saturday afternoon, I was invited by the owner and VP to join them for lunch. Since they signed the checks and knew how to eat and drink well, I jumped at the chance to tag along.

We went down to Shuckers, the oyster bar on the hotel's lower level, and one of Seattle's top seafood joints. It was early in the day, so the place wasn't very busy. The three of us were seated along the back wall, two tables away from a large corner booth.

As we perused the menus, a large group entered from the 4th Avenue entrance. They were seated at the corner booth, just a few feet from us. I glanced up from the menu, and noticed some familiar faces: Freddy Garcia, Einar Diaz, Carlos Guillen, Esteban Yan, maybe Francisco Cordero too. And tucked away in the corner of the booth, shielded from autograph seekers on all sides, was Alex Rodriguez.

The Rangers were in town for a weekend season, and the $250 million dollar man was taking some of his current and former teammates out for lunch apparently - at least I assume he picked up the tab.

We finished our lunch well before they did and had to return to our meetings. I did notice a few autograph and picture seekers managed to weasel their way towards A-Rod; I however was not one of them. Besides, I doubt A-Rod would have held me like The Mick did - it would have been a little weird at 22 years old rather than 22 weeks old. But I will be able to tell my grandkids that I had lunch with Alex Rodriguez - sort of.

Bolstered by his lunch, A-Rod knocked one out of Safeco that night before leaving after an HBP. Carlos Guillen went 3 for 5 with a pair of doubles and a pair of runs scored. Esteban Yan, it would seem, overdid it on the oysters though, surrending three hits, a walk, and two earned runs in two innings of mop-up work.

How High The Moon

Yesterday, on the long drive out to Darien Lake (which is just outside of Buffalo) to see Phish, I was tooling around on my iPhone and came across the unfortunate news of Les Paul's passing on Baseball Musings. I only say "unfortunate" because when someone dies, it's always unfortunate, but Paul lived a fantastic life and died at the ripe old age of 94.

If you're a guitar player or fan of rock music, you probably recognize his name from the famous line of Gibson guitars he endorsed, played by legends such as Duane Allman, Dickey Betts, Warren Haynes, Pete Townshend, Peter Frampton, David Gilmour, Keith Richards, George Harrison, Slash, Jimmy Page, Neil Young and Frank Zappa, to only skim the cream of the crop. Chances are, if fancy yourself a guitar player, you either have a Les Paul or have wanted one badly.

If his only accomplishment was pioneering the solid body electric guitar by crafting it out of a four inch thick piece of a railroad track, he would have had an incredibly successful career in the music business. However, that was only the tip of the iceberg. He also invented multi-track recording, which allowed multiple instruments and vocal arrangements to be stacked on top of each other, which is how virtually every album is recorded in the modern day. A musician in his own right, Paul played his regular gig at the Iridium Jazz Club in New York city until within just months of his death, a performance that we urged you all to experience and one I'm ashamed to say I never did.

To learn more about his long and rich life, head over to the Gibson website for a full scale tribute.
There is also a great PBS special on him, which I'm guessing will be re-aired in the near future. Keep an eye out for that as well.

Last night at the Phish show, they stopped briefly before setbreak to acknowledge Paul's passing, explaining that if he hadn't decided that guitars weren't just for background filler in a band, rock and roll as we know it may never have come to fruition. They played a short version of "How High The Moon", which was perhaps Paul's biggest hit and led into Golgi Appartus, a song replete with lead guitar and a beautiful quiet jazzy solo, a signature of Paul's own music. It was a great moment and I thought of all the other concerts going on simultaneously with similar tributes prompting burts of cheers in outdoor amphitheaters across the country and around the world.

The video below was captured during the advent of multi-tracking at which point it was still a novelty, not the standard industry practice. Most songs don't have 26 tracks (except maybe this one) but this video depicts a man far ahead of his time, bright an vibrant, which is exactly how he should be remembered. Rest in peace, sir.

Somewhere there's music,
It's where you are,
Somewhere there's heaven,
How near, how far.

The darkest night would shine,
If you would come to me soon,
Until you will, how still my heart,
How high the moon.

Woodstock Weekend On Fack Youk

Good morning Fackers. If you haven't heard by now, you assuredly will hear about it over the course of the weekend: this weekend marks the 40th anniversary of the Woodstock Music & Art Fair.

While at least one former hippie isn't looking back so fondly on that weekend, most of the aging Boomers will spend the weekend congratulating themselves about throwing a weekend long campout/party that they claim changed the world. That may be or it may not be; I don't particularly care. But it was one helluva concert.

And since we so like to intertwine music with our Yankee coverage here, we'll use the weekend to take a look back at some of the bands and performances from that weekend. I suppose it'd be appropriate to say good morning with the National Anthem just as Jimi Hendrix did forty years ago, but we've used that one before.

Instead, we'll kick off our Woodstock weekend the same way the original festival started up: with Richie Havens (who by the way, makes a nice guest appearance on the new Assembly of Dust album)

Road Trip Starts With A Win

Despite fielding a line up without both Alex Rodriguez and Jorge Posada, the Yankees certainly didn't lack for offense last night early this morning as they beat Seattle 11-1.

Derek Jeter homered (to deep left center, moments after Ken Singleton and John Flaherty said that Ken Griffey Jr told them that was the worst part of the park for the ball to carry) and Hideki Matsui added two long balls from the clean up spot, going 4 for 5 with 4 runs scored and 5 RBI.

In addition to Matsui and Jeter, Johnny Damon, Mark Teixeira, Robinson Cano, and Jerry Hairston Jr all had multi-hit games with two apiece. Every starter had at least one hit except for Melky Cabrera and Nick Swisher, who walked once and twice respectively. Jeter, Damon, and Teix all scored twice.

Even without all that offense, the Yankees would have been in great shape thanks to another masterful August pitching performance from CC Sabathia. The Big Fella went eight strong on just 105 pitches (74 strikes), allowing just three hits, two walks, and a lone run on a two out solo shot from Josh Wilson in the fifth. CC fanned a season high 10.

Brian Bruney threw a perfect ninth on just eight pitches (six strikes) as he's quietly pitching his way back to reliability.

You couldn't have drawn this one up much better. Down two big bats, the rest of the line up stepped it up, not only making up for their absence, but building a big enough lead to give Johnny Damon and a hobbled Derek Jeter the late innings off. On a night where the bullpen needed a bit of rest as well, Sabathia went eight, and Bruney appears to be righting his ship.

Not a bad way to start the season's longest road trip. The win, coupled with the Tigers victory over the Red Sox, runs the gap in the AL East back to 6.5 games, giving the Yanks a bit of a cushion as they toil out west for a week before heading into to Boston for a big three game set next weekend.