Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Game 40 Recap

1. Jason Bartlett launched the second pitch of the game over the left field fence. 1-0 Rays.

2. The Rays loaded the bases in the third with two walks sandwiching a hit by pitch. With one out, Evan Longoria hit a sacrifice fly to right. 2-0 Rays.

3. In the fourth, B.J. Upton and Hank Blalock started the frame with infield singles, then moved up on a double steal. A ground rule double from John Jaso plated them both. Two batters later and two outs later, Carl Crawford doubled Jaso in. After a walk to Ben Zobrist, Longoria singled Crawford home. 6-0 Rays.

4. A leadoff walk to Alex Rodriguez and a single by Robinson Cano set the Yankees up with runners on the corners and no one out in the bottom of the fourth. Francisco Cervelli brought A-Rod home with a sacrifice fly, but Wade Davis shut it down from there. 6-1 Rays.

5. Alex Rodriguez led off the sixth as well. After falling behind 3-0, Wade Davis battled back to a full count. A-Rod then fought off four straight 3-2 offerings before absolutley destroying the tenth pitch of the at bat for a home run that landed in Monument Park. 6-2 Rays.

Robinson Cano followed with a single, but was erased on a double play off the bat of Francisco Cervelli. The Yankees loaded the bases when Marcus Thames singled, a Juan Miranda walked, and Randy Winn reached on an error, but Derek Jeter ended the threat by grounding out to short.

6. The wheels completely came off in the eighth, and as you might expect Boone Logan had something to do with it. It was comically bad. Logan walked Jaso, then surrendered a double to pinch hitter Sean Rodriguez, scoring Jaso. Logan gave way to Mark Melancon who offered little relief. Rodriguez scored on a single from Barlett, who then took second on a somewhat errant throw from emergency right fielder Ramiro Pena. Bartlett moved to third on Crawford's flyout, then scored on Zobrist's basehit. Evan Longoria followed with a single of his own. Brett Gardner made a circus catch on the warning track to retire Carlos Pena, but it allowed Zobrist to tag and score from second base. B.J. Upton followed with a double, but it mercifully bounced into the stands for a ground rule double, keeping Longoria from scoring. 10-2 Rays.

7. Too little, too late for the Yankees in the ninth. After making two quick outs, Brett Gardner doubled, Mark Teixeira walked, and A-Rod reached on an infield single. Robinson Cano laced his fourth hit of the night to score Gardner, and a walked to Francisco Cervelli forced in Tex. Ramiro Pena followed with a sinking liner to center field, that B.J. Upton misplayed, allowing Pena to take second and two runs to score. A Juan Miranda strikeout ended the game. Final score 10-6 Rays.

IFs, ANDs & BUTs
  • Hands down, this was the ugliest game of the year. Bad, just bad in all facets of the game. It happens. It doesn't mean it's time to hit the panic button. But man, it was tough to watch.

  • Worse than the game is the post-game news that Jorge Posada has a hairline fracture in his foot and will miss three to four weeks. More on this tomorrow. The Yankees will need to add a catcher, most likely Chad Moeller, to the 40 man roster and recall him. The 40 man is currently full, so a spot will have to be cleared.

  • Adding injury to insult (and all the other injuries), Marcus Thames worked a seeing eye single in the sixth, then sprained his ankle when he stepped on his own bat while running to first. He's day-to-day.

  • Want to hear me beat a dead horse? Because the Yankees are carrying thirteen pitchers and because Jorge Posada and Nick Swisher are injured enough not to play but not badly enough to be DL'd, they had a one man bench last night. The Thames injury forced Ramiro Pena, he with seven minor league appearances in CF and one Major League inning in RF, to take over in right.

  • The Rays ran at will. They stole six bases and advanced on flyouts four different times.

  • As frustrating as this game was, not to mention the game before, and the bullpen meltdowns on Sunday and Monday, let's keep a little perspective. The bullpen is a little banged up. Four of the Opening Day starters are on the DL or on the bench with injuries. Of the remaining five starters, three of them are slumps of various severity. Every season has it's rough patches. Nothing that's happened this week has derailed the year.

  • Wade Davis went five and two thirds for the Rays, marking just the eighth time this year a Tampa Bay starter didn't complete six.

  • After leading the AL in walks last year, A.J. Burnett entered his start against the Twins last Friday with a walk rate that was nearly a career best. He walked four that night, four more tonight, and now sits at 3.4 BB/9, closer to his career average of 3.8.

The two clubs meet again tomorrow night, closing out the brief two game set before interleague play starts up. It'll be Andy Pettitte against James Shields.

Game 40: Da Two

After splitting a rollercoaster two game series with the Red Sox, the Yankees welcome in the division-leading Rays for another couple of games in the Bronx.

Starting for Tampa Bay is Wade Davis. The right-handed Florida native has already faced the Yankees once this year, starting against CC Sabathia during the game the Big Fella took a no-hitter into the 8th inning. The Yankees got seven hits and worked four walks against Davis, the biggest blow coming on a two run homer by Robinson Cano.

Since then, the twenty four year old has been pretty effective, allowing only 11 runs in 34 innings (2.91 ERA). However, he's walked 17 while striking out only 24 during that span, leading to an FIP and xFIP of almost 5.00. Davis is averaging fewer than six innings per start and given that the Yankees are seeing the fifth most pitches per plate appearance in the Majors, if they are patient enough or potent enough tonight, they should be able to get him out of the game relatively early.

That's the good news. The bad news is that the Rays relievers have allowed the second fewest runs of any team in the MLB this season - fewer than one per game. Perhaps some of their effectiveness will rub off on the Yanks bullpen and help them escape the terrible stretch they've been going through.

It's A.J. Burnett's turn to go for the Yankees and if he's right, the bullpen won't need to do very much. After a scintillating start, Burnett has cooled of considerably, thanks mostly to his dreadful start in Boston. He bounced back from that 9 run shellacking with a much more respectable 6 2/3, 2ER effort against the Twins.

Burnett had talked about pitching to contact and throwing his fastball with movement to both sides of the plate during his run of early success, but ever since he dominated the Orioles and supposedly found his curveball, he's been giving out more free passes; he's walked seven batters in his last two starts, where as he only walked 11 in his first six outings.

One of those first six was against the Rays at Tropicana Field and while he struggled early - giving up two runs in the first inning - Burnett held on to throw six scoreless frames after that en route to his first win of the year.

As of now, the Rays have a three game lead over the Yanks and when this quick meeting wraps up tomorrow, the most likely outcome is that the two teams split and the margin is still three games. However, a mini-sweep in one direction or the other could put the Yanks either one or five games back in the standings. While most of the media attention will be devote to the tilts with the Red Sox and Mets throughout the week, these are the two games the Yankees most need to win.

Don't start what you can't finish,
When you bubble with skills that never diminish,
Your best team against mine is a light scrimmage,
So play like popeye and eat spinach.


Yankees: The same exact lineup as last night, which is not exactly a good thing. Nick Swisher and Jorge Posada are still out, as Swish tried to swing left handed and felt more pain in his biceps and Posada's ailing foot isn't getting any better. Jorge is going for an MRI but no such procedure has been ordered for Swish.
Jeter SS
Gardner CF
Teixeira DH
Rodriguez 3B
Cano 2B
Cervelli C
Thames RF
Miranda 1B
Winn LF
Jason Bartlett SS
Carl Crawford LF
Ben Zobrist RF
Evan Longoria 3B
Carlos Pena 1B
B.J. Upton CF
Hank Blalock DH
John Jaso C
Reid Brignac 2B

Current Roster Construction & Potential Recall Options

The Yankees 25 man roster currently consists of 13 pitchers and 12 position players. Skipping Andy Pettitte two turns of the rotation ago and a rainout in Detroit over a week ago have necessitated some serious shuffling of the deck that is still impacting daily bullpen decisions and roster decisions at large.

These issues, as well as the devotion to concepts like "there must be a longman in the pen at all times" and "Boone Logan is deserving of Major League roster spot" have left the Yankees with the ever popular eight man bullpen. Because apparently if you subtract the longman from that equation, the remaining seven (seven!) pitchers out there aren't enough to get you through a game.

Regardless, I understand why the team feels the need for an extra pitcher right now, but it's coming at a rather inopportune time. With Curtis Granderson and Nick Johnson on the DL, the Yankees are already down two starters. And at the risk of spoiling part of our preview, starters Jorge Posada and Nick Swisher are both out of the lineup again today thanks to nagging injuries.

As such, just as it was last night, the today's Yankee bench consists of a gimpy-footed Posada, a gimpy-armed Nick Swisher, and a gimpy-batted Ramiro Pena. So for the third consecutive night in a row, the Yankees line up drops off pretty significantly after the number five hitter. But more importantly, Joe Girardi's hands are essentially tied when it comes to making late game defensive or pinch hitting changes. As you may recall, this was a problem last night. Still, the Yankees feel having that extra extra pitcher is more important right now.

There will not be a roster move today. Scranton played a late morning game in Indianapolis, and all position players eligible for recall - Chad Huffman, Reegie Corona, and Eduardo Nunez - were in the lineup. Neither Kevin Russo nor Greg Golson have been down long enough yet to be recalled, unless they replace someone who is placed on the DL.

It's worth noting that Huffman, who we profiled when he was claimed on waivers at the start of the season, has started the last two games at first base after playing exclusively in the outfield this year. This could just be coincidental as Scranton shuffles players through the lineup, or it could be indicative of the organization getting him some experience at various positions in advance of a recall. That 13th pitcher won't be sticking around forever and with Russo and Golson still inside of the ten day window there aren't a lot of other options for recall right now.

Will Joe Girardi's Protest From Last Night Be Successful?

Via Marc Carig, in order for the Yankees to win their protest of last night's game, the commissioner's office would have to rule that the Manny Delcarmen getting unlimited time to warm up "adversely affected" the Yankees' chances to win the game:
In all protested games, the decision of the League President shall be final.
Even if it is held that the protested decision violated the rules, no replay of the game will be ordered unless in the opinion of the League President the violation adversely affected the protesting team’s chances of winning the game.
If the league does determine there was a detrimental effect, the game could be restarted from the point of the infraction. Considering that the Yankees were sitting on a five run lead at the time, there's a good chance that they could lock down the victory if given a second chance.

It's pretty clear that Sox pitching coach John Farrell signaled to the bullpen before telling the umpire that Beckett was hurt. Girardi isn't disputing whether the injury was valid, just that the call was made before the umpire was informed of the injury.

There is a ton of subjectivity involved here. How will the league interpret the word "adversely"? Delcarmen getting as much time as he needed to warm up obviously wasn't the reason that the Red Sox were able to come back, but it definitely helped them stop the bleeding to some extent. Getting to face a guy who was only allowed to throw eight warm up pitches would certainly have been an advantage for the Yankees, particularly if Francona chose to temporarily insert a position player instead. So by a strict definition, it did "adversely affect" their chances of winning the game, however infinitesimally.

Although it doesn't say it in the rule book, I'm guessing the commissioner will have the latitude to determine degrees of adversity. In other words, was the advantage the Yankees lost enough to warrant restarting the game from that point? Will Bud Selig take into account that the Yankees were winning by five runs at the time? Will he note that the Sox came all the way back and won by just one run? It's a logistical mess to restart the game and you'd have to assume that the league would lean towards avoiding it if the decision is close.

Bud Selig works in mysterious ways, but unfortunately, I'm pretty sure this one isn't going to get overturned.

Good Thames, Bad Thames

Good morning Fackers. For the second straight morning we're leading off with a bad pun on Marcus Thames' name. Except this time, it isn't quite as pleasant. And I can't take credit for coming up with this one, as Peter Botte of the Daily News tweeted this right after Thames' critical ninth inning error.

That's a pretty big swing in momentum for Thames in just over a day, going from Monday night's hero to Tuesday night's goat. That's the way it goes. Sometimes you end the game with pie on your face, sometimes you end it with egg on your face. For all the people screaming for Marcus Thames' head this morning, remember that 1) he had the biggest hit of the night on Monday and 2) the only reason he was even in last night's game at that point is because Nick Swisher is injured and because the team's undying love for Boone Logan meant that defensive whiz Greg Golson was sent down before the game to make room for Mark Melancon.

No one is ever going to confuse Thames with a Gold Glover. That ball should have been caught easily, and Thames would be the first to tell you that. But the team is banged up right now and they had to roll the dice with Thames out there in the late innings. There were no better options. Sometimes shit happens.

Aside from Thames, there's plenty of blame to go around this morning. The Yankees had the bases loaded with one out in the sixth and Brett Gardner and Mark Teixeira both failed to push what would have been valuable insurance runs across. Joba was definitively not of the 2007 vintage last night, as he had an eighth inning meltdown for his second consecutive outing. A-Rod made a costly error of his own in the ninth. Mo got squeezed on a number of pitches.

By his own admission, Joe Girardi's bullpen is "a mess", and with nothing but assorted spare parts left out there, he still chose to play for the tie in the ninth inning, giving up an out so Francisco Cervelli could sacrifice the potential tying run to third base. In the end, that didn't work out, and we could only wonder what the Yankees could have done with that extra out since the game ended with the tying and winning runs in scoring position. And that same short bench that left Thames in for defense in the ninth, whittled down to just one healthy position player due to injuries and questionable personnel decisions, was the reason it was Randy Winn and not Jorge Posada or Nick Swisher at the plate with the potential winning run in scoring position.

But those are the breaks in a 162 game season. Sometimes they go your way, as they did Monday, sometimes they don't. You gotta take the bad with the good.

Game 39 Recap

1. Alex Rodriguez led off the second inning with a single to center field off of Josh Beckett. Robinson Cano grounded one up the middle that looked to be a double play ball, but Marco Scutaro couldn't get a hold of it and failed to get either of the runners.

Francisco Cervelli hit a soft grounder that made Adrian Beltre come in towards home plate, leaving third base unoccupied, allowing the runners to move over. Marcus Thames then worked a walk, loading the bases for Juan Miranda. The recent AAA call up drove in his first run of the year with a single to right and Randy Winn followed with an RBI ground out, putting the Yankees up 2-0.

2. Miranda struck again in the fourth inning on a 2-0 fastball. The pitch from Beckett was on the outside part of the plate but Miranda yanked in on a line, just clearing the wall in front of the Yankees' bullpen. 3-0 Bombers.

3. Brett Gardner got ahead of Beckett 3-0 with one out in the 5th inning before slicing a ball down the right field line (if that's possible for a lefty) for a double. Teixeira followed with a walk and after A-Rod scalded a liner right to Bill Hall in left field, Robinson Cano smacked a two run double to right center and stretched the Yanks' lead to 5-0.

Immediately after Cano's hit, Beckett was pulled from the game, purportedly with some sort of back problem. Neither the announcers nor I noticed anything in real time, but replays showed that Beckett landed awkwardly on the pitch that A-Rod made an out on. The Yankees played the game under protest, claiming that the Sox signaled to the bullpen before they told the umpire that Beckett was hurt. Therefore, their relief pitcher shouldn't have had eight pitches and not an unlimited amount of time to warm up. It was a shrewd move by Girardi considering the Yanks were up 5-0 at this point and given how the game turned out.

4. The Youkstah got one back for the Sawx in the sixth inning when he took a 1-1 fastball from CC into the left field seats to make it 5-1.

5. The Yankees loaded the bases with one out in the sixth but Brett Gardner grounded out softly, allowing Dustin Pedroia to come home for the out and Mark Teixeira popped out to end the threat.

6. Joba Chamberlain came out to pitch the eighth inning and was put in a hole when A-Rod fielded a grounder by Marco Scutaro but his throw pulled Teix off the bag, resulting in an error. Dustin Pedroia then poked a base hit through the right side and J.D. Drew followed with an RBI double down the left field line to make it 5-2.

A base knock by Youkilis made it 5-4 and he advanced to second on a grounder by Victor Martinez. Still with just one out, David Ortiz hit a deep drive to center and judging by his reaction, I assumed it was a home run. It was not, but it hit off the wall in right center and scored Youk, tying the game at 5. Ortiz, who admired his shot instead of running out of the box was gunned down at second. Adrian Beltre grounded out to end the inning but the Yanks' lead had evaporated.

7. With the game still tied in the top of the 9th, Joe Girardi called on Mariano Rivera. Mo got Mike Lowell to ground out but it was all downhill from there. Darnell McDonald lined a single to center field and Marco Scutaro reached when he popped a ball to shallow right field between Thames and Cano. Both were in the neighborhood and Thames called for it but ended up dropping the ball. Instead of having two outs with a man on first, the Yanks had one out with two men on.

Dustin Pedroia moved the runners over on a grounder to first and Jeremy Hermida hit a two out double over Randy Winn's head in left. Winn was playing extremely shallow and whether it was designed or the result of a miscommunication, it put the Sox up 7-5.

8. Like last night, the Yankees put together a rally in the 9th. A-Rod led off the inning by grounding a ball to short that went just under Marco Scutaro's glove, apparently returning the favor from the top half of the inning. Robinson Cano drove in A-Rod with a slicing double that stayed just fair to put the Yanks within one. Cano was nearly picked off on a snap throw by Victor Martinez but then advanced to third on a sacrifice bunt that Cervelli damn near beat out.

Marcus Thames came to the plate in an easy RBI situation with a chance to atone for his error and tie the came, but worked a walk. With a chance to cap off an already excellent night, Juan Miranda grounded one back up the middle sharply, but Papelbon snared it and checked the runners before getting the out at first. Randy Winn was the Yankees' last hope. He took a weak hack on a 1-0 heater and Papelbon kept the fastballs coming. He fouled a few back and took two more for balls, eventually working he count full. He swung and missed on a 3-2 fastball low and away for the final out of the game and the Yanks lost 7-6.

IFs, ANDs & BUTs
  • CC Sabathia struggled early, burning through 59 pitches in his first three innings and 90 through five. Although he wasn't efficient - throwing only 66 of 112 pitches for strikes (only three of those swinging) - he still got the job done, holding the Sox scoreless until Youkilis' solo homer in the sixth. His final line was 7 IP, 4H, 3BB, 1ER, 5K, but he got the no decision thanks to Joba's awful 8th.

  • Right as Sabathia was delivering that pitch to Youk, Michael Kay was saying how CC hadn't allowed a run yet. Right in mid-sentence. Some will inevitably get their panties in a bunch about the apparent jinx but I thought the timing was somewhat comedic. Before the Sox came all the way back to win. DAMN YOU KAY, WHY DID YOU CURSE THIS GAME!

  • That home run was the 100th of Youk's career.

  • It ended in an out, but Brett Gardner had a great at bat against Beckett in the first inning. He took two strikes, fouled off two more pitches, took two balls, fouled another off, took another ball, and fouled off the 9th pitch before grounding the 10th to first base. He never swung and missed, made Beckett work and showed his teammates a little something. That's about as successful as a groundout with no one on base can be.

  • Francisco Cervelli and Josh Beckett exchanged some words during Cervelli's at bat in the 2nd inning. Apparently Frankie called time and and Beckett was upset (because apparently he can stay in the set for thirty fucking seconds but the batter can't step out of the box to counteract that).

  • CC Sabathia took exception with Dustin Pedroia complaining about the called strike three that ended the fifth inning and let him know it.

  • Marcus Thames gave Jonathan Papelbon some evil eyes when Paps came up and in during the 9th inning.

  • But no batters were hit during the game and those three incidents were as serious as it got.

  • The two heros of the game last night, A-Rod and Thames, both made errors in the field late in the game but both reached base in the 9th inning.

  • None of Rivera's runs were earned because of Thames' error but he still was tagged with the loss. Thee out of four of Joba's were earned.

  • Not counting the 59 minute rain delay, the game clocked in at 4:09.

  • YES chose Jonathan Papelbon as their player of the game. Um, what? The guy who pitched one inning, gave up a run and came dangerously close to blowing his second save in as many games? How about Youkilis, who went 2-3 with 2BB and 3RBI or Hermida, who drove in the decisive two runs?

  • The Yankees surrendered 5-0 leads in both of these two games and entered the ninth inning trailing by two in both. On one hand, they were lucky to escape with one win considering the deficits they faced with just three outs to overcome them, but on the other hand, it never should have come to that.
The division-leading and MLB-best Rays come to town for a two game set starting tomorrow night. There were a lot of things not to like about this series against the Sox, but Yanks have bigger fish to fry. Or members of the Batoid family, as the case may be.