Thursday, October 7, 2010

ALDS Game 2: Positively 4th Street

Good afternoon Fackers.

We're breaking nearly two months of radio silence to come back today. Before we get into it, Jay and I would like to thank all of you who have still been checking back and leaving comments over the past couple months. We're thankful that you're still checking in. We're both still alive and well, but unfortunately neither of us are in a position to keep Fack Youk updated with even semi-regular content. But for today at least, it'll be like old times as we're bringing you one of our signature game previews.

Tonight's pitching match-up is a rematch of Game Three of last year's ALDS: Andy Pettitte against Carl Pavano. The two hurlers are a contrast in reputations. Pettitte is widely considered both a gamer and big game pitcher, a player who learned early in his career the difference between pitching injured and pitching hurt, and who's known to battle through and find a way even when he doesn't have his best stuff. Pettitte has been the winning pitcher in six series clinching games, including all three series enders in the 2009 post-season. Pavano on the other hand, is thought to have a glass jaw, easily injured and quick to hop on the DL at the slightest ache or pain. His four years with the Yankees were filled with a litany of injuries, but just 26 starts (not counting 14 rehab starts), and he has not recorded a win in any of his three career post-season starts.

Yet, this year it was Pettitte who missed two months of the season with a groin injury, while Pavano made 32 starts, finished sixth in the AL in innings pitched, and topped 199 IP for the second straight post-Bronx season. He led the AL in both complete games and shutouts, was second in BB per 9, and seventh in wins. It was the type of high-quality season Pettitte seemed on pace for prior to a pulled groin knocking him out his July 18th start. Instead, Pettitte sat on the shelf for nearly two months, made two Pavano-like rehab starts for AA Trenton, and was knocked around in three September starts back with the big club.

There's also some question as to whether either pitcher is his team's ideal started for Game Two. Many Twins pundits preferred to see Pavano, with his nine career post-season games, get the Game One nod over the inexperienced and often excitable Francisco Liriano. Meanwhile many Yankee observers wanted to see Phil Hughes, who has been markedly better on the road than at home this year, start in homer-suppressing Target Field rather than homer-friendly Yankee Stadium. But in the end, Liriano's superiority earned him the Game One nod, while Minnesota's vulnerability to left-handed pitching and Pettitte's big game experience earned him starts in Game Two and a decisive potential Game Five.

If The Yankee Years is to be believed, Joe Torre and several Yankee players had no problems holding Pavano's feet to the fire over his injury history. The Yankee fanbase has no shortage of blood-lust for Pavano, but in the two years since he's left New York, they've yet to be satisfied. The Yankees did not face him this season and managed just four runs and twelve baserunners over 13.1 innings regular season innings last year. Pavano held them to just five hits and two runs over seven innings in last year's ALDS Game Three. While he was the losing pitcher, he certainly wasn't knocked around in that start as solo home runs by Alex Rodriguez and Jorge Posada were just enough to hand Pettitte and the Yankees a 2-1 victory and a three game sweep.

Revenge aside, today's twilight tilt is big game for both pitchers. Pavano is looking to snap the Twins' ten game post-season losing streak and avoid falling in an 0-2 hole as the series shifts to New York. Pettitte is looking to shake off the rust that plagued him in his three September starts, reward the club's faith in him, and give the Yankees a commanding 2-0 lead to take some pressure off Hughes when he makes his first post-season start Saturday.

Will today be the day Yankee fans finally get to see their team slap Pavano around the yard? The numbers don't favor it. Target Field has suppressed power all year, yielding the fourth fewest home runs of any park. Further, Pavano doesn't put the ball in the air very often, his 51.2% groundball rate ranking fifteenth in the Majors thanks to both his sinker and changeup. He doesn't walk many either, just 1.5 per nine, so if the Yankees are going to put up any crooked numbers they'll likely have to come via a string of hits. Game Three of last year's ALDS showed that a little could go a long way when it comes to getting to Pavano, so perhaps the Yanks can beat him without bludgeoning him. At this point in the year, Yankee fans will take a win however they can get it, but I have a feeling that the vitriol towards Pavano isn't going anywhere regardless of today's result.

You got a lotta nerve
To say you are my friend
When I was down
You just stood there grinning

You got a lotta nerve
To say you got a helping hand to lend
You just want to be on
The side that’s winning

You say I let you down
You know it’s not like that
If you’re so hurt
Why then don’t you show it

You say you lost your faith
But that’s not where it’s at
You had no faith to lose
And you know it

I know the reason
That you talk behind my back
I used to be among the crowd
You’re in with

Do you take me for such a fool
To think I’d make contact
With the one who tries to hide
What he don’t know to begin with

You see me on the street
You always act surprised
You say, “How are you?” “Good luck”
But you don’t mean it

When you know as well as me
You’d rather see me paralyzed
Why don’t you just come out once
And scream it

No, I do not feel that good
When I see the heartbreaks you embrace
If I was a master thief
Perhaps I’d rob them

And now I know you’re dissatisfied
With your position and your place
Don’t you understand
It’s not my problem

I wish that for just one time
You could stand inside my shoes
And just for that one moment
I could be you

Yes, I wish that for just one time
You could stand inside my shoes
You’d know what a drag it is
To see you

[Song Notes: One of my favorite Dylan tunes, his bitterness seethes through the lyrics of this one. Forty-five years after the song's initial release, no one is quite sure what had the man who was born and raised in Minnesota so fired up. Perhaps the most popular theory is that "Positively 4th Street" is Dylan firing back at his Greenwich Village neighbors, specifically the folkies who lambasted his going electric at 1965 Newport Folk Fest (which, incidentally, we touched upon in one of our playoff previews last year). Another theory posits that the song references Dylan's time as a student at the University of Minnesota, where Minneapolis' 4th Street S.E. is the main road through the part of campus where Dylan lived.

Whatever Dylan's motivation, I've spent the past two seasons waiting for a Pavano start against the Yankees so I could use this song for the preview. The lyrics read like an airing of grievances between the fans and Pavano, or alternatively, Pavano lashing out at those who questioned the validity of his injuries.]


With a righty on the mound tonight, the hot-hitting Curtis Granderson slides up to the two spot. Nick Swisher drops down to the middle of the order, replacing Marcus Thames in the six hole, while Lance Berkman takes Thames' spot as the DH and will bat eighth.
Derek Jeter SS
Curtis Granderson CF
Mark Teixeira 1B
Alex Rodriguez 3B
Robinson Cano 2B
Nick Swisher RF
Jorge Posada C
Lance Berkman DH
Brett Gardner LF

No changes for the Twinkies
Denard Span, CF
Orlando Hudson, 2B
Joe Mauer, C
Delmon Young, LF
Jim Thome, DH
Michael Cuddyer, 1B
Jason Kubel, RF
Danny Valencia, 3B
J.J. Hardy, SS