Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Game 27 Recap (With Update On Pettitte)

1. After taking a strike from David Hernandez in the first inning, Nick Johnson lifted a fastball that was down and in up into the second deck in right field to give the Yankees a 1-0 lead.

2. In the second inning, Nick Swisher worked the count to 2-0, then 3-1 and yanked a heater on the outer half of the plate deep into the gap between the bleachers and lower level of seats closer to the foul pole. 2-0 Yanks.

3. The Yankees loaded the bases in the third inning via a single by Derek Jeter and walks by Johnson and Mark Teixeira. A-Rod lined a single up the middle, scoring Jeter but Johnson was called out trying to score at home plate. The strong throw from Luis Montanez beat him but Orioles catcher Craig Tatum appeared to miss the sliding Johnson with a swipe tag. Since there were still no outs, it's pretty terrible for Johnson to get thrown out at home, but I would have been upset if they didn't send him given how long it took for the ball to get to Montanez. The takeaway: Nick Johnson is even slower than I thought.

Nonetheless, the Yanks went up 3-0 on A-Rod's single but got nothing more as Robinson Cano struck out swinging and Nick Swisher flied out to center.

4. Andy Pettitte packed the sacks with one out in the fourth inning on back-to-back singles by Nick Markakis and Miguel Tejada and a walk to Garrett Atkins. Andy struck out Matt Wieters on a high fastball but let the count go full on Nolan Reimold before walking in a run. Tatum grounded out to end the inning but the O's cut the Yanks' lead to 3-1.

5. David Hernandez walked Brett Gardner to begin the bottom of the fourth. Frankie Cervelli bunted past the pitcher's mound and instead of throwing to first, Miguel Tejada looked towards second but ultimately just held onto the ball. It was scored a hit but that was generous considering Tejada had plenty of time to get the out at first.

With runners of first and second still with no one out, Randy Winn bunted the runners over. Jeter then tapped a ball to short, scoring Gardner, but Cervelli got hung up between second and third. It may have been a blunder but it seemed as if Julio Lugo, when he first fielded the ball, was looking towards home and was distracted by Cervelli straying off the bag. At the least, it was a somewhat productive blunder.

Nick Johnson followed with his second walk of the game and Mark Teixeira lofted a double to deep right center just past the try of an oncoming Montanez, scoring Jeter and Johnson. The O's intentionally walked A-Rod to get to Robinson Cano, who struck out to end the inning. 6-1 Yanks.

6. Andy Pettitte left the game after 5 innings (more on that below) and Sergio Mitre took the mound. Mitre pitched scoreless sixth and seventh innings and got one out in the eighth before surrendering a single to Julio Lugo. Ty Wigginton made him pay with an absolute blast into the mezzanine level in right field, making it 6-3 Yanks.

That was the last batter Mitre faced as Joe Girardi called on Damaso Marte and David Robertson to finish out the inning.

7. The Yanks plated a run with two outs in the 8th inning to make it 7-3. Randy Winn knocked a single, stole second and was driven in when Nick Johnson "singled" to second. Wigginton pretty clearly booted the ball but for whatever reason it was ruled a hit.

8. Matt Wieters homered off of David Robertson with one out in the top of the 9th. It was a fastball over the middle and Wieters - like Johnson and Wigginton also did today - mashed it into the mezz. The next batter, Nolan Reimold, worked the count full and took DRob deep, high off the left field foul pole. 7-5 Yankees.

Boone Logan came on to try to get the final two outs and promptly walked Rhyne Hughes. Logan then got Montanez to fly out to shallow center but after getting ahead 0-2 on Julio Lugo, lost him to a base on balls.

And on Cinco De Mayo, Mexico's favorite son, Alfredo Aceves, came into close the game. Ace got Wigginton to fly out to deep right and that was that.

IFs, ANDs & BUTs
  • Andy Pettitte had thrown just 77 pitches when he was pulled in the 5th inning. He wasn't especially sharp during that time, allowing 6 hits and two walks, but had limited the damage, only allowing one run and keeping his pitch count relatively low.

  • When Pettitte loaded the bases in the fourth inning and it was just the first time he's done that all season.

  • Pettitte felt some stiffness in his elbow during warm ups - something that dates back to his start against the White Sox although back then it was the top of his forearm and now it's in the back of his elbow, according to Joe Girardi. Andy took it easy during his bullpen session between the two starts but felt it it pop up during warm ups today. He felt fine during the first four innings but after the fifth, Girardi coaxed out the fact that he was a little stiff. Pettitte's going for an MRI (update: the results are in - just some mild inflammation) but based on what Girardi said during the press conference, it sounded like they removed him for precautionary reasons and hopefully it's not too serious.

  • Posada, Mo and now Pettitte? SI COVER JINX!!!1!11! Encase Jeter in glass immediately!

  • Yankee pitchers induced three inning-ending double plays, two by Pettitte in the second and fifth and one by Sergio Mitre in the seventh.

  • When he took the field today, Derek Jeter tied Lou Gehrig for second place on the Yankees' all-time games played list.

  • Nick Johnson had an excellent day at the plate, reaching base five times in five plate appearances with two walks, a single, a double and a home run. He drove in one run (they took the one in the 8th away) and scored two (can't take those away).

  • Johnson was the only Yankee with more than two hits and Cano was the only batter who didn't get one.

  • Mark Teixeira had a couple of hits and a walk. Amazing what turning the calendar to May has done for him.

  • The picture of Johnson they show on the scoreboard now includes a ridiculously cheesy photoshopped mustache, an homage to his real one.

  • There were four three very generously scored hits today. Cervelli's bunt, Teixeira's double, Johnson's grounder in the 8th and Teix's nubber to first after that (Teix's play was changed to an error).

  • There was an odd play in the sixth. Garrett Atkins dribbled a ball down the third baseline that looked like it was going to go foul. It bounced along the foul line, hopped over the bag and hit the line one more time before A-Rod snatched it up and threw to first to get Atkins, who wasn't hustling. YES cameras showed Dave Trembley and he was not pleased. With Rhyne Hughes nipping at his heels and Atkins struggling, that could be turning point as far as his playing time is concerned.

  • After using two pitchers to get through the first 7 1/3 innings, Girardi started matching up and ran through 4 in his quest to get the last five outs. The only two pitchers left in the 'pen were Joba Chamberlain and Mariano Rivera, both of whom Girardi said were unavailable before the game. Luckily Aceves shut it down, but things got have gotten ugly real quick if the O's tied the game. That's Joe Girardi bullpen management for you, folks.
The win tonight completes a sweep over the O's and gives the Yanks their 8th series win out of 9. They have tomorrow night off and are heading up to Fenway to face the Sox on Friday.

Game 27: Buenas Tardes Amigo

Buenas tardes Fackers, y feliz Cinco de Mayo. Today marks the 148th anniversary of the Battle of Puebla, more popularly known as Cinco de Mayo, during which the Mexican Army improbably defeated the French. The Yankees, who feature two of the eleven Mexican-born players currently in the Major Leagues, will celebrate with a getaway day matinee, saying good afternoon to the Orioles as they wrap up their three game set.

Andy Pettitte looks to continue his strong start to the 2010 season and give the Yankees the sweep. Through five starts, Pettitte stands at 3-0, with a 2.12 ERA and a 1.15 WHIP. He is still outperforming both his FIP (3.07) and xFIP (4.01) by a good margin, thanks in large part to a high strand rate (82.9%) and a low BABIP (.276). The good news is, he's been so successful not just because of those somewhat lucky numbers, but because his walks are low and he's allowed just a single home run in 34 IP. Further, if Pettitte's ERA matched his FIP or even his xFIP, no one would be complaining about it at this point.

Baltimore is an old friend to Pettitte. He's has made 38 starts and 2 relief appearances against the Orioles in his 16 year career. He's 26-6 with a 3.60 ERA against them. Clearly there are several good starts mixed in there, but perhaps none better than Pettitte's second most recent against the O's. Last August 31st, Pettitte was perfect at Camden Yards through six and two thirds, finishing the night with 8 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 0 BB, and 8 K. Pettitte enjoyed great success against Baltimore in three starts last year, posting a 2.21 ERA, a 0.89 WHIP, and striking out 21 against just 5 walks in 20.1 IP.

For the Orioles, David Hernandez will get the ball. Hernandez faced the Yankees twice as a rookie last year. On July 20th, he held them to six baserunners and a single run over six innings of work, but wasn't around for the decision by the time Hideki Matsui's home run gave the Yankees yet another walkoff win. He wasn't quite so lucky on September 1st, as the Yankees touched him up for five runs in as many innings while working six walks. If there was any silver lining, it was that Hernandez held them to just four hits and struck out seven.

After a poor 2009, Hernandez has made modest improvements through the first five starts of his sophomore campaign. Though winless, his ERA is a respectable 4.55, just about in line with his 4.65 FIP. However, he's allowing far too many baserunners, walking an unsightly 4.9 per nine, and yielding a hit per inning. He can't blame the hits on bad luck, as his BABIP of .291 is better than league average, and his xFIP of 5.98 suggests that things could have been worse for him thus far. If he can't keep the walks under control or keeps giving up hits in bunches, he likely won't last long this afternoon. Even in its weakened state, the Yankees lineup will feast upon that.

Stuck at the office today? Yeah, me too. Luckily, thanks to Yankees on YES, I'll be able to follow along on my computer. Of course, most of my attention will be on spreadsheets and emails and the like, but I'm sure I'll check in here and there. Let's commiserate in the comments.

Buenas tardes amigo
Hola my good friend
Cinco de Mayo's on Tuesday
And I hoped we'd see each other again

Jeter's back in the field today, and Nick Johnson returns to the lineup in the two spot as the DH. With Jorge Posada still hobbled and an off day tomorrow, Francisco Cervelli catches the day game after a night game. Randy Winn draws the winning number in today's left field lottery.
Derek Jeter SS
Nick Johnson DH
Mark Teixeira 1B
Alex Rodriguez 3B
Robinson Cano 2B
Nick Swisher RF
Brett Gardner CF
Francisco Cervelli C
Randy Winn LF

Update 12:50 PM: Jones is a late scratch. Lugo moves up to the leadoff spot, Lou Montanez replaces Jones in CF and Lugo in the 9 hole
Julio Lugo SS
Adam Jones CF
Ty Wigginton 2B
Nick Markakis RF
Miguel Tejada 3B
Garrett Atkins 1B
Matt Wieters DH
Nolan Reimold LF
Craig Tatum C
Julio Lugo SS
Lou Montanez CF

Al Leiter's Magic Baseball

Top of the 6th inning in YES broadcast booth:

Leiter: Michael, have you ever said to yourself, "Gee, How do those guys do it? It must be hard to be a Major League pitcher".

Kay: Sure, just look at the torque these put on their arms. It's amazing that they can make it through one pitch without getting injured, let alone a whole season, let alone a 19 year career like you, Al.

Leiter: Well, have you ever wished that you were out there on the mound, throwing high heat and snapping off nasty curveballs?

Kay: I used to when I was a boy growing up as a big Yankee fan in the Bronx, sure.

Leiter: Well now you can, with Al Leiter's Magic Baseball®! Here it comes... Nah-na-na-na-na-na-non-on-no-no-on...

Leiter: Watch, this is how you can throw a blazing 87mph fastball like I did when I was playing! You just go like this.

Leiter: And then it's like 'Whooooohhhhssshhhh'...

Leiter: And 'Ssssssssssfffffffvvvvvrrrrrrrmmmmm'...

Leiter: POP! Steeeeeerikkkee threee! YOU'RE OUTTA THERE!!1!1

Did you catch that?

Kay: I did. You apparently struck that batter out with one pitch.

Leiter: Use your imagination, Michael! Did I mention I used to be a Major League pitcher?

Kay: You did, Al. And the 1-0 from Matusz...

Kay: And Gardner swings and misses at a...

Leiter: (/interrupting) Okay, now look at the curve. It comes in like this... 'Peeeeeeeewwwwwwwwww'

Leiter: Then drops off like this 'Kkkkkkkkksssssssssssttttttttt'...

Leiter: And 'Bbbzzzzoooooooommmmmm.... pffffftt'. Steeeeeeeerrrrikkkkke!

Kay: Al, I don't really see how this baseball is "magic".

Leiter: Okay, it's not actually magic, it just has little wings that pop out and a jet engine in the back!
Kay: That just looks like a regular baseball , Al.

Leiter: It's not, it's not! It's Al Leiter's Magic Baseball® and it's perfect for completely pointless stationary demonstrations done in office chairs on baseball broadcasts.

Kay: But it's not magic, so you probably shouldn't say that it is.

Leiter: I can't say anything I want and I don't have to listen to you! (/plugs ears) Lalalalalalalalalalala!


Kay: There. Now sit still, be quiet and watch the game.

Leiter: (/pouting) I want more candy!

Kay: Give me that.

(/proceeds to eat all of it)

f i n

Remembering Ernie Harwell

Good morning Fackers. Pope Paul VI died on August 6, 1978. Phil Rizzuto was calling the Yankee game that night, and delivered the news as only he could: "Well, that kind of puts a damper on even a Yankee win".

I thought of that story last night for two reasons. First, because Rizzuto's sentiments about the passing of the pope 32 years ago are an apt expression of my feelings in the wake of Ernie Harwell's passing at 92 last night. And secondly, because Rizzuto, who we lost nearly three years ago now, was as beloved by Yankee fans as Harwell was by Tiger fans. Such announcers are literally a dying breed, and so long as the Yankees continue to employ the likes of Michael Kay and John Sterling as the voices of the team, we won't ever again have the luxury of such a beloved announcer.

I touched upon Harwell briefly last September, when he announced that he had inoperable bile duct cancer and just months to live. As a Yankee-centric baseball fan, I'm having a tough time putting my finger on why it is that the passing of Harwell, who had no ties to the Yankees, is registering with me. I have virtually no connection to him. I barely recall listening to him at all during his broadcasting days. I know I read one of his books when I was younger, and I remember liking it a lot, but not enough to remember which one of his works that it was.

But as the reactions to Harwell's passing pour in from around baseball and blogosphere, I suppose I'm not alone in my sentiments. There are several others out there, who like me, have little or no connection to Harwell, but who are nonetheless saddened by his passing. Harwell was as good an ambassador as the game has ever had, a humble and dignified man throughout his career, and over the past several months, in the face of his impending death, spent his time doing more to console those who would mourn him than he did thinking about himself.

As I thought about this last night, with the Yankees post-game show on in the background, Joe Girardi held his post-game session with the media. There, Kim Jones asked Girardi for some thoughts on Harwell. It was only then that Girardi found out the news, and he became somewhat emotional as he shared his limited memories of Harwell. I suppose that's as representative a reaction as any: someone with no specific ties to Harwell, but with ties to the game of baseball, understands that the game has suffered a significant loss.

Here are far more poignant remembrances of Harwell:
An extensive obituary by John Lowe of the Detroit Free Press

A remembrance by our friend Craig Calcaterra of Hardball Talk
, who grew up in Michigan, falling asleep to the sound of Harwell's voice.

Joe Posnanski re-runs his Sports Illustrated piece on Harwell from last September

Rob Neyer met Harwell just once, just over ten years ago
Larry from Wezen-ball digs up an article that Harwell wrote for Baseball Digest about Ty Cobb and the manager who discovered him.

Tyler Kepner of the New York Times excerpts Harwell's famed Cooperstown speech from 1981, when he was given the Ford C. Frick Award.

CYC does Kepner one better, reprinting the speech in its entirety.

'Duk at Big League Stew says it best: Stevie Wonder, Smokey Robinson, Levi Stubbs, and Marvin Gaye can step aside. Harwell had Motown's sweetest voice.

Jason at IIATMS

Bleacher Report's Tim Cary recalls growing up to the voice of Harwell

Sam Walter Foss' "House By The Side of the Road", the poem that helped a young Harwell overcome his stuttering problem. He would later pepper his broadcasts with references to the poem, and the line that closes four of the poem's five stanzas seems to have been a mantra for Ernie:
Let me live in a house by the side of the road,
And be a friend to man.
We'll leave you with this video, from Harwell's night at Comerica Park last September.