Sunday, October 4, 2009

Yanks Hit Their Numbers, Take Regular Season Finale

You know what time it is. Time for the bullet points, Fackers:
  • A.J. Burnett pitched fairly well today, giving up two runs (one earned) over 5 innings. Evan Longoria homered off Burnett in the first inning and also came around to score on a passed ball in the fifth. Burnett worked into and out of trouble in third and fifth but escaped largely unscathed, getting Willy Aybar to stirke out to end both threats. He threw 84 pitches and allowed 7 hits, but only walked one batter. It was the 100th win of of his career and the 13th of his up and down first season in Pinstripes.

  • After Burnett, David Robertson, Joba Chamberlain, Phil Coke, Phil Hughes and Mariano Rivera all pitched without allowing a single baserunner between them and recorded a strikeout apiece.

  • The Yanks were held scoreless in 8 out of their 9 frames, but the top of the 6th was a duesy. Ten Yanks crossed the plate, and seven of them were driven in by A-Rod, which is a new American League record. In between the blasts, Johnny Damon added an RBI double and Freddy Guzman scored with the bases loaded when Andy Sonnanstine couldn't handle a tapper from Jose Molina.

  • A-Rod's season ended as spectacularly as it began. The first pitch he saw this year turned into a three run homer and the last one ended up as a grand slam. He came into the game with 28 HRs and 93 RBIs and amazingly, incredibly, rounded out a 30HR, 100RBI effort for the 12th straight season in the 6th inning alone. The salami also tied him for 8th place all-time with Mark McGwire at 583.

  • The Yanks hit win number 103, tying their mark from 2002 and broke and set their single season home run total with #'s 243 & 244 off the bat of A-Rod.

  • The only person who didn't get to a dangling milestone was Mark Teixeira, who was stymied at 39 homers and will end the season tied with Carlos Pena for the AL lead. The Rays walked him in front of A-Rod before the grand slam which seems kind of weak but A-Rod made them pay.

  • George Steinbrenner made a visit to the clubhouse before the game and saw the Yanks play in person for the first time since July 29th.

  • And in AL Central News, the Twins and Tigers both won and will square off in a play-in game on Tuesday. That game should be good theater on what would have been an eerily quiet night in sports and helpful for the Yanks as well.

  • Justin Verlander was dominant until the 8th inning for the Tigers. He gave up three runs in the frame but Fernando Rodney bailed him out and then closed the game down as the Tigers won 5-3.

  • With the Tiger's victory already in the books the Twins came fairly close to gagging away the victory in the 6th inning. Pavano gave up three runs in the frame before getting yanked. Ron Gardenhire burned through three more pitchers to get the final two outs and at one point Kansas City brought the tying run at the plate via a HBP. As they are so adept at doing, the Royals blew the chance and the Twins went on to win 13-4.
See y'all tomorrow, there's more football to watch.

Game 162: Ten Years Gone

So here we are folks, at game 162. It's a little hard to believe isn't it? Thankfully, the Yankees don't have anything to worry about today, so their game is probably the least compelling of the 4 relevant early afternoon sporting events in my opinion. But the game has some interesting connections with the last game of the season 10 years ago.

As Marc Carig of the Newark Star-Leger noted this morning, back in 1999, Joe Girardi had his first taste of managing a big league ball club.

It was October 3rd and the Yankees were playing their last game of the season against the then Devil Rays at Tropicana Field with a playoff spot already secured. Per tradition, Joe Torre turned over the managerial reigns to Paul O'Neill, who appointed Girardi to be the bench coach and David Cone coaching the pitchers. Jorge Posada was behind the plate that game, in his second season as the Yankees' primary catcher.

During the fourth inning, the Rays loaded the bases against journeyman Jeff Juden in what would be his last appearance as a Major League pitcher. The bags were juiced thanks in part to current Yankees broadcaster and former backstop John Flaherty's double. Juden then hit a batter and another run scored on an E3, bringing Randy Winn to the plate with the sacks still packed. Winn pulled off the rare feat of an inside the park grand slam on a line drive over the head of Chad Curtis, blowing the game wide open.

With the game pretty much out of hand, during the sixth inning, O'Neill went down to the locker room to get treatment for his bad back, leaving Girardi in charge and in his words today "high and dry".

Ten years have gone by, Cone and Flaherty work for the Yankees and Girardi is the real manager whose team has the luxury of allowing a player to be skipper for the game. Since he's going to be on the bench anyway, Posada will be acting as manager for the game and can chose two other players to be his bench and pitching coaches.

Jorgie will have some responsibilities to tend to, as he needs to decide when to pull the plug on A.J. Burnett and how to get Joba Chamberlain, David Robertson, Mariano Rivera and possibly Phil Hughes some work. He'll also probably shuffle in some bench players as the game wears on as Girardi has done in previous days.

We all know how the 1999 season ended. Let's hope this isn't the last connection this team makes with that one.

Then as it was, then again it will be,
An' though the course may change sometimes,
Rivers always reach the sea.

Flyin' skys of fortune, each have separate ways,
On the wings of maybe, downing birds of prey,
Kind of makes me feel sometimes, didn't have to go,
But as the eagle leaves the nest, it's got so far to go.

The Twins & Tigers Tied, Time To Tango

After catching the better part of the Twins and Royals game yesterday, my time watching baseball last night was evenly divided between the Yankees and the Tigers/White Sox game on the MLB Network. I guess I might be doing some advanced amateur scouting in advance, but I'm really just enjoying the drama of this AL Central race which has, against all odds, come down to the wire. No team has ever failed to make the playoffs after holding a three game lead with four to play. If they aren't careful, the Tigers might be the first.

Clearly in desperation mode, Jim Leyland pulled his starter after surrendering only 2 runs in 1.1 IP last night, but no amount of damage control could make up for the fact that his offense only scored one run off of Freddy Garcia in 7 innings and nothing more off of the bullpen after that. The Tigers looked to be set up, trailing by 3 with men on first and second with no one out in the 8th inning with a run already in, but Magglio Ordonez lined out to short and Miguel Cabrera bounced into a double play to end the inning.

Dead even heading into the last day of the season, the Tigers start at 1:05 while the Twins go an hour later. Carl Pavano starts on three days rest for the Twinkies, which he specifically requested after getting tagged for 7 runs against the Tigers his last time out. Pavano has only started on such short rest of rest once in his career, way back in 2004 for the Marlins against the Expos, the last game he started before signing with the Yankees. I have no idea why this happened because the Marlins were nowhere near the Wild Card race, but he was solid, throwing 7 innings of one run ball. This over-extension in a meaningless outing didn't have any ill effects on him going forward because he was nothing short of a horse for the Yanke... HEY, WAIT A SECOND!

Maybe it's because my judgement on this subject is clouded with bitterness and hatred, but I can't see this ending in any other fashion than a visit to the mound by the Twins trainer and a showering of boos.

Upshot: If the Twins and Tigers don't end the season tied (which would be awesome for the Yankees for reasons previously discussed), it's almost a given that we can blame Carl Pavano. If he throws a gem and the Tigers lose, "Damn you Pavano, you worthless hack! Where was this when you were on the Yankees!". If the gets shelled and the Tigers win, "What the FUCK Pavano? Can't you ever deliver when there is something on the line, you human fucking Ponzi Scheme! You just haaaad to take the ball on three days rest, didn't you?"

Amazingly, if the Twins, Tigers and Yankees lose, the Rays will have the same number of wins (85) that the two teams from the Central do (in an infinitely tougher division), except they will have missed the playoffs by 9 or 10 games.

Whichever way it shakes out, this should make for some furious sports action starting at 1:00, with the Giants and Yankees both in action along with the Twins with the Tigers close on their heels. Gotta love Sundays in the early Fall. Buckle your seatbelts, crack a beer, fire up your fantasy football stat tracker and get ready to hate Carl Pavano.

Go Yanks, G-Men and Twins/Tigers -OR- Royals/White Sox! Woohoo!!!

Stuck On A Hundred and Two

Andy Pettitte didn't pitch as poorly last night as CC Sabathia did the night before, but it certainly wasn't a positive note on which to head into the playoffs either. Andy gave up six hits and an uncharacteristic 4 walks and needed 95 pitches to complete 4 1/3 innings.

Most of the damage came with two outs in the second inning. Pettitte allowed a two run shot to Dioner Navarro which was followed by a double by Akinori Iwamura and an RBI single by Jason Bartlett.

When Pettitte was removed with one out in the fifth inning in favor of Alfredo Aceves, he left men on first and second. With Willy Aybar up, the Rays attempted a double steal and Aceves had Ben Zobrist caught between second and third. For some reason Eric Hinkse went directly towards the base instead of just getting between the runner and the bag since there was no potential for a force out. Aceves threw the ball slightly behind him and it glanced off Hinkse's glove rolling back into the large swath of foul territory northwest of third base, allowing Zobrist to score and B.J. Upton, who had already taken second, to come around as well.

Those were the last runs the Rays would score though, as Aceves pitched 2 1/3 scoreless innings and Chad Gaudin added 1 1/3 of his own. Aceves had obviously already secured his spot on the postseason 25, and Gaudin made it even more difficult to leave him off with the way he pitched last night. He's excelled in every role he's been asked to fill and would be a valuable weapon to be able to deploy in the playoffs.

Not much to report of the offensive front for the Yanks. All of their runs were scored on two out RBI singles in the fifth and sixth innings by Johnny Damon, Mark Teixeira and Jerry Hairston, Jr. The Yanks had 9 hits but no player had more than one, partially due to the fact that Girardi used 5 position players, but mostly because Jeff Neimann and the Rays' pen pitched pretty darn well.

The full line line up, save for Jorge Posada, returns tomorrow as the Yanks close down the regular season and look for the elusive win number 103.