Sunday, August 16, 2009

Seattle Salvages Series Finale

Me and my big mouth... again. After I opened today's preview talking about how well things have gone for the Yankees of late, they went out and turned in a clunker of a game in which seemingly every break went against them.

The afternoon didn't start off that poorly. The Yanks took an early 1-0 lead in the second on a Ramiro Pena bunt single and double by Derek Jeter, giving him the all-time record for hits by a shortstop. On the other side of the ball, Joba Chamberlain needed just 26 pitches to retire the first seven batters he faced.

From there, things started to head south. Chamberlain loaded the bases on two walks and a single, then Jose Lopez ripped a two out double down the left field line, giving Seattle a 2-1 lead. The Yankees retook the lead in the top of the fourth, when Nick Swisher crushed a two run homer to dead center, but that would be the last good news for the Yankees on the day.

In the fifth, Seattle plated two more two out runs, ending Chamberlain's day. He went five innings, gave up seven hits, four earned runs, three walks, and struck out only two. He threw just 57.8% of his pitches for strikes and recorded first pitch strikes to just 13 of 25 batters faced. He'll have a lot of time to think about this performance, as he's not due to take the mound again until August 25th.

Alfredo Aceves followed Chamberlain. Alf worked around a single and double to work a scoreless sixth, but the wheels came off for him and the Yanks in the seventh. He allowed a single and a double to start the inning. After recording a ground out, he hit a batter, then got a K. With the bases loaded and two outs, Alf plunked another one, making it 5-3 and ending his day.

Chad Gaudin, in need of work before his start Wednesday, relieved Alf, but didn't offer much relief. He allowed two singles and a double to the first three batters he faced, ruining Alf's line and letting the game to get to an out-of-hand 9-3. Gaudin would give up a two out homer in the eighth just for good measure. At the very least, Gaudin shouldn't be quite so rusty when he starts Wednesday night.

It's hard to complain about losing this one. The Yanks have still took 3 of 4 in the series, still have won 12 of 14, and still have a 7.5 game lead in the AL East. Things had gone so well for so long, it's almost as if the Yanks were due to miss a few breaks: things like giving up all ten runs with two outs, or Johnny Damon getting thrown out by a hair to end the seventh when an infield single would have tied the game, or Damon just missing a flyball in the seventh that could have prevented a five run inning. Hopefully they got all the bad breaks out of their system today and will start fresh in Oakland tomorrow. We'll see you then.

Game 118: Suite: Judy Blue Eyes

It's getting to the point where this season is really fun. The Yankees are 31 games over .500, have a 7.5 game lead in their division, and have won twelve of thirteen. Everything seems to be going their way.

Joba Chamberalin takes the mound for the Yanks today and will try to keep that roll going. After three consecutive impressive starts following the All-Star break, Joba has regressed to his frustrating ways over his last two starts, allowing 11 hits and 9 walks over 11 IP. Today would be an opportune time to right himself again. This will be his final start until August 25th as the Yankees attempt to control his innings over the remainder of the season.

Chamberlain has made one start against Seattle, coming on June 30th this year. He went five and a third, giving up three runs on nine hits and three walks while stiking out four. The Yankees won, but Joba did not factor in the decision. In four previous relief appearances against the M's, Joba pitched 4.2 innings, giving up just one run and five hits, with a 3:1 K:BB.

Seattle will toss a dreaded rookie starter. Doug Fister, who was drafted by the Yankees in 2005 but went unsigned, is a 6'8" righty who made his Major League debut with an inning of scoreless relief on August 8th. He made his first Big League start Tuesday against the White Sox, throwing six shutout innings of one hit ball, but walking four. While his MLB walk rate is quite high through all of seven innings, he issued just 12 free passes in 112 innings of minor league work this year. What little I can find about him on the internets says he doesn't have overpowering stuff, pounds the zone, pitches to contact, and induces a lot of ground balls.

Hideki Matsui is out of the line up for the second consecutive day, though I've yet to hear any news of an injury. [UPDATE 2:30: According to Pete Abe, Matsui has fluid on his left knee and is day-to-day] Mark Teixeira will DH, with Nick Swisher at first and Eric Hinske in RF. Melky Cabrera gets a much needed day off with Jerry Hairston taking his place in CF. Robinson Cano will not start at second base for the first time since June 25th. He's played every inning of every game since then and has missed only 19 innings all year. Ramiro Pena gets the start in his place. I have a feeling we'll be seeing a pinch hitter or two today, and I'm holding out hope that Chad Gaudin will at least get an inning of work so he doesn't go into his Wendesday start so rusty.

After playing three straight games starting after 10 PM on the east coast, we get the treat of baseball on Sunday in the afternoon. With three wins already to show for this series, what do the Yankees have to lose?

Marte The Missing Man

I apologize for the second straight alliterative post title.

Waaaay back in late May, Jay posted this, a somewhat tongue-in-cheek look a Damaso Marte, who even three months ago, seemed like a forgotten man. Since then, we've had numerous updates on his rehab progress. Just yesterday, I speculated that Sergio Mitre could be making his final appearance with the Yankees, as Marte's rehab assignment was set to expire.

Then, shortly before game time, came the news that Marte is not returning, having been excused from the team indefinitely for "personal reasons". First off, I hope that, aside from the shoulder problem that has shelved him virtually year, everything is alright with Marte and his family. Secondly though, the timing of this is all very dubious, given that none of this was announced until something had to be done with Marte. Funny that personal problems would crop up right at that point in time.

We may have seen the last of Damaso Marte in 2009. Or, the Yankees may be looking to buy some more time until rosters expand on September 1st. That would seem unlikely though, as I imagine Marte's being excused will preclude him from participating in any further minor league games this year, which in turn will prevent him from getting his velocity back to where the Yankees want it.

Marte is under contract for two more years. I have a feeling we'll be seeing some interesting stories about this whole situation during the dog days of spring training next year. Until then though, this will remain a very curious subplot to the 2009 season.

Mediocre Mitre Masters M's

As the first inning unfolded late last night, I was already cursing Sergio Mitre for what appeared would be another lackluster start. Ichiro led off with a tough hopper to Robinson Cano, who despite playing Gold Glove level defense this year, failed to pick the shorthop, placing Ichiro on second base. A groundout and flyball later, the Yanks were already down 1-0.

In the second inning, the Yanks responded. Robinson Cano, partially atoning for his error, led off with a single. With one out, Melky Cabrera lofted an easy fly ball to right center, one that clearly belonged to center fielder Franklin Gutierrez. But Ichiro closed in on it as well, and in the confusion, Gutierrez dropped the ball. A Jose Molina single plated Cano and moved Cabrera to third. Derek Jeter hit fly ball that should have ended the inning, but thanks to the earlier error it became a sacrifice fly, giving the Yankees the lead. Nick Swisher followed with a two run home to make it 4-1 and the Yanks never looked back.

With a three run lead, Mitre had a little more margin for error, and he used it to his advantage. He faced the minimum in the second, erasing a single on a double play, and gave up just another single in the third. The M's cut into the lead in the fourth, using a walk, a base hit, and an infield single to make it 4-2, but Mitre responded by with a scoreless fifth, allowing just another single.

In the sixth, Mitre pitched himself out of the game. After striking out Ken Griffey Jr to start the frame, he surrendered a single, a walk, and another infield single to load the bases. Joe Girardi called upon David Robertson, who continues to ascend the bullpen depth chart. DRob got Jack Wilson swinging and Ryan Langerhans looking on a questionable pitch to end the threat.

It was the start of outstanding night for the Yankee bullpen. DRob started the seventh, working his third K between two singles. With two on and lefties Griffey Jr and Russell Branyan due, Girardi went to Phil Coke. Coke fanned Griffey, giving him the silver sombrero for the night, then Molina gunned down Ichiro on an ill-advised stolen base attempt, ending the threat.

Coke worked a 1-2-3 eighth, whiffing two more. Jeter closed the scoring with a solo shot in the ninth, his 15th of the season and his most since 2005. Mariano Rivera worked around a ninth inning single and walk to record his league leading 35th save, giving the Yanks the first three games of this four game series. With a Texas win over the Red Sox, the lead in the AL East is now 7.5 games.

It wasn't a great start for Mitre, but it was his best thus far. Though he once again failed to make it through six, he allowed only two runs, just one earned. The nine baserunners in five and a third is still too much, but he did limit the damage by not allowing any extra base hits. I'm not sure how much of that is a function of Mitre's skill as opposed to Seattle's anemic offense.

Regardless, the night was a success. The Yankees ensured yet another series victory, widened their lead, and the bullpen looked great, going 3.2 shutout innings, giving up three hits, a walk, and fanning eight. We'll be back in a bit as the Yanks look to bust out the brooms.