Friday, May 14, 2010

Game 35: Twenty Five Miles

One day short of one year ago, the Minnesota Twins came into New York for a four game wrap-around weekend series. The Yankees swept, winning the first three games via walkoff. The team had already registered two walkoff wins prior to the start of that series, but the triplet against the Twins was what began to make 2009 the year of the walkoff. It was in the second game of that series, won by an eleventh inning Alex Rodriguez home run, that A.J. Burnett delivered his first pie in the face of 2009. He followed that up with another the next day, when Johnny Damon hit a tenth inning homer to win a game that Burnett had started. A tradition was born.

After taking the fourth game of that series (in non-walkoff) fashion, the teams didn't meet again until a three game series in Minnesota in July. The Yankees swept that series as well, with Burnett getting the win in the middle game. But by virtue of being on the road, there were no walkoffs.

And of course the teams met again in the ALDS, and again, the Yankees swept. The final meeting at Yankee Stadium took place in Game Two, started by A.J. Burnett and ended by a Mark Teixeira walkoff home run in the eleventh inning. All told, the clubs met ten times last year and the Yankees won all ten games, four of them via walkoff.

A.J. Burnett gets the ball for the Yankees tonight, as they open a three game weekend series against the Twins. He was stone wild last year, leading the American League in both walks and wild pitches. This year is a different story, as Burnett's 2010 walk rate sits at just 2.8 per nine innings, 1.4 walks per nine lower than it was last year, and just 0.2 walks per nine greater than his career best of 2.6 walks per nine in 2006. Burnett may have a little more difficulty keeping the walks down tonight. Entering play today the Twins rank third in MLB in both walks (147) and walk rate (10.9%), up from being twelfth in both categories last year.

The Yankees are one of the two teams ahead of the Twins in both walks and walk rate, ranking second to Atlanta in both categories. But they're going to have their work cut out for them tonight if they want to get their free passes. Minnesota starter Scott Baker has a walk rate of just 2.1 per nine through his first 696 Major League innings. He ranked seventh in the AL in BB/9 last year, is currently eighth in the AL this year, and would have been amongst the league leaders in each of his first four seasons had he pitched enough innings to qualify. Since his debut in 2005, Baker ranks twelfth in walk rate amongst all pitchers with at least 696 IP.

After registering fifteen walkoff wins in 2009, the Yankees have yet to have one in 2010. But with four walkoffs in six chances against the Twins last year, perhaps this series will offer the Yankees first walkoff of the season. These two clubs are the two most walk happy in the AL this year, but one may lose their stride tonight since the starters have been so stingy with the base on balls. So what's it going to be: Walkoff or walk on?

I got to keep on walkin'
I got to walk on oh ho ho
I, I, I, I, I'm so tired but I just can't lose my stride
Walk on let me tell you ya'll
I, I, I, I, I, I'm so tired
But I just can't lose my stride

[Song notes: The Yankees may have left Motown yesterday, but I'm still in a Motown Records state of mind. Of course, Edwin Starr's most appropriate baseball song might just be "War", but that meme's been used so many times before.]


One roster note: the Yankees have released Christian Garcia. The talented but perpetually injured pitcher left his first start of the year with pain in his elbow, and has since undergone his second career Tommy John Surgery. With the open roster spot, the club has claimed pitcher Shane Lindsay on waivers from Colorado. This might not ever come into play, but the club has forfeited some roster flexibility with this move. Garcia's season ending surgery made him a 60 day DL candidate waiting to happen. Calling Garcia up and placing him on the DL would have opened a 40 man spot in the event the Yankees needed it later in the year. They no longer have that option, but they must see enough in the Australian Lindsay to feel comfortable giving up that flexibility.

Given Garcia's injury history, it's no sure bet that another organization snatches him up. He may end up back in the Yankees system, much like oft-injured Humberto Sanchez did after he was DFA'd following the 2008 season.

Derek Jeter, slump, sore pinky and all, remains in the lineup. Nick Swisher and his sore bicep return after a one day absence. Brett Gardner remains in the two spot; with Jorge Posada getting the night off the club prefers keeping Swisher's power in the middle of the order. With a righty on the mound Juan Miranda gets the nod as the DH, but interestingly Marcus Thames starts in left field.
Derek Jeter SS
Brett Gardner CF
Mark Teixeira 1B
Alex Rodriguez 3B
Robinson Cano 2B
Nick Swisher RF
Marcus Thames LF
Juan Miranda DH
Francisco Cervelli C

Denard Span CF
Orlando Hudson 2B
Joe Mauer C
Justin Morneau 1B
Michael Cuddyer RF
Jason Kubel DH
Delmon Young LF
Alexi Casilla SS
Nick Punto 3B

1 comment:

  1. Jason from The Heartland5/15/10, 9:55 AM

    Classic song, Matt! Love it.