Saturday, October 3, 2009

Game 161: Over The Hills And Far Away

Down at Tropicana Field, Andy Pettitte will get his final tune up for the postseason. Jorge Posada is catching today, and since tomorrow is a day game after a night game, Jose Molina will be behind the dish for A.J. Burnett once again. Joe from RAB brought up the possibility eariler today and Steve at The Yankee Universe looked a little deeper into the topic. Surely some people will object to taking Jorge out of the line up but he and Burnett don't seem to be on the same page very often. It's one game, and a potential bad outing out of Burnett is going to do a lot more to hurt the Yanks' chances than a good night for Posada at the plate, not to mention the advantage Molina has in controlling the running game.

Jeff Neimann goes for the Rays tonight. He was dominant against the Yankees last time he faced them, going 7 innings and allowing one run while striking out 8 and walking only one batter. He'll be up against a softer Yankees lineup this time, though. Derek Jeter and A-Rod get the night off while Jerry Hairston and Eric Hinske take their places. Brett Gardner will man CF as Melky will start the night on the bench.

Perhaps more interesting than what goes on with the Yankees, however, are the outcomes of the Twins and Tigers games taking place up around Lake Michgan.

The Twins started at 4 and are currently leading the Royals 4-1. Nick Blackburn to his credit has pitched awfully well against Zack Greinke, who had held the Twins scoreless until Joe Mauer singled across a run with two outs in the 6th. Delmon Young then hit a bases-clearing double to put the Twins up by 4. Mike Jacobs then countered with a HR for the Royals. [Update 6:15: Alex Gordon just hit a 2 run shot to make it 4-3] [6:23: The game is tied at 4 as the Royals score another run on a double play] [6:30: Cuddyer jacks one to put the Twins back on top 5-4] [Update 6:44: Joe Nathan shuts it down, Twins win.]

Freddy Garcia goes for the White Sox against Alfredo Figaro and the Tigers in a 7:00 start in Detriot. If the Twins hang on to win, the AL Central will still be undetermined going into the last day of the season. That would mean that Justin Verlander will have to start tomorrow, pushing his start in the ALDS back to Game 2. Unless of course the Twins come all the way back to tie the division, we could be on our way to the crazy play-in game scenario that Matt brought up on Wednesday.

There are still some pieces of the playoff picture yet to fall into place but they aren't going to be determined down in Tampa Bay.

Many is a word that only leaves you guessin',
Guessin' 'bout a thing you really ought to know.
You really ought to know.
I really ought to know.

19 It Is...

CC Sabathia will have to wait until at least next year to finally get his 20 win season. The big man got shelled in a bad way, allowing 9 runs (5 earned) over 2 2/3 IP, raising his season ERA from 3.21 to 3.37. The fact that 4 of the runs don't count against his ERA is nice, but it's also a little misleading since the Yanks committed a grand total of one error behind him and it came with no one out in the first. And although Mark Teixeira was charged with the gaffe, he recovered in time but Sabathia wasn't covering first base. Unfortunately, the 9 run figure does more justice to the performance that the official 5. It was his worst start of the season.

As brilliant as he has been over his last 11 starts, Sabathia was as terrible last night, allowing 14 men to reach base while recording only 8 outs, expending an average of just over 10 pitches to get each out. The Rays slapped 8 hits, drew 5 walks and were hit by a pitch.

Speaking of being hit by pitches, Mark Teixeira was plunked in the left hand by David Price in the first inning, possible retribution for Sabathia breaking two of Carlos Pena's fingers the last time the two teams squared off. Teixeira is currently tied with Pena for the AL lead in home runs and it wouldn't be too much of a stretch that Tampa, with nothing left to pay for, was seeking their pound of flesh from the Yankees' first baseman. Teix was visibly shaken and it might have contributed to his fielding error in the first.

But back to Sabathia. It would have been worse in a way if the bullpen blew the game for him, but it's not exactly the best note on which to head into the postseason. After the game he talked about not being able to command his fastball but also said: "It's definitely disappointing any time you lose. It's tough to go out there and pitch for individual things, so I just wanted to go out and have a good outing and keep it relevant to the playoffs."

It was relevant to his previous playoff performances, all right. Typically a great control pitcher, Sabathia has walked 22 batters in 25 postseason innings and has given up 22 runs. It's one start, but it came in the game where he was probably putting the most pressure on himself that he had in a while. He also walked 5 batters on Opening Day and 5 more at the opening of the New Stadium, when all eyes were seemed to be on him. I don't want to be concerned, but yeah, I'm a little concerned.

It doesn't at all take away from the type of season he's had for the Yanks, especially the second half, but falling short of 20 wins, especially in the fashion that he did, just killed whatever slim chance that he might steal the AL Cy Young from Zack Greinke. It's probably better that way, since Greinke wholly deserves the honor.

The final tally was 13-4. It was an ugly game on all fronts and one that the Yanks will forget about soon enough.

A few other notes: B.J. Upton hit for the first cycle in Devil Rays/Rays history in his first four at bats, going triple, double, homer single, and drove in 6 runs in the process. He drew a walk later in the game as well, making it an even more cyclic cycle. The Yankees almost used an entire 25 man roster tonight, calling on 16 position players and 8 pitchers. Juan Miranda hit his first Major League homer, a 460 ft blast that was declared the longest at Tropicana Field this season which also tied the Yanks' record for most HRs in a season at 242, set in 2004. Phil Hughes also had a bad night, pitching 1/3 of an inning and giving up three hits and a run. The AL Central race got a little more interesting as the Tigers lost and Twins won. Zack Greinke faces the Twinkies tomorrow, however.