* pLI not available at the time of posting. Work to do tomorrow morning, so I wanted to get this done tonight. I’ll fill it in tomorrow.
Not bad, Chase Wright. Not bad at all. Tonight ended up being an ideal scenario, with the offense striking early and allowing Wright to just throw strikes and let what happens happen. In a close game, who knows what happens. But he was handed ideal circumstances last night, and he took advantage.
Things didn’t look so hit at the beginning, though. After walking both Grady Sizemore and Jason Michaels to open the game, Gator was forced to make his first of what was hopefully not many mound visits. This situation was extra scary, because Travis Hafner was the next man up. He should have been MVP last year, despite his September injury. He’s just a scary, scary man up there, especially with two men on base. And especially when he’s up in the count 2-1. But Wright fooled him with a change, and then induced a grounder that advanced the runners.
Victor Martinez, who would be better off taking a Rascal scooter to first base, hit a run-scoring grounder to Jeter, leaving a runner on third for Ryan Garko, who even Chase Wright could retire. One inning, one run. Not so bad, Chase.
After Damon, Jeter, Alex, Giambi, and Jorge lent him a little hand, Chase went back out for the second. And again, the first two runners reached base, this time via a Casey Blake single and a Jhonny Peralta walk. Three fly balls later, and we’re in the bottom of the frame.
This is where the offense said, “Chase, you’re looking shaky out there. How about we knock this Westbrook character around for a while so you can calm down and finish an inning without letting the first two guys reach base.” We know this was a preconceived plan by the offense, because Doug “Guys hit balls out of the infield?” Mientkiewicz got it started with a tater to right. After an Abreu RBI single, Alex willed himself another home run. Two batters later, Jorge smacked one out, giving Wright an 8-1 lead. Apparently, Melky isn’t one of the cool kids; he made the first and last outs of the inning.
Hafner homered in the next frame, but that’s going to happen. It doesn’t matter if your name is Johan Santana or Chase Wright: Pronk is going to take you deep at some point. The next play, though, killed me. On an 0-1 count, Victor Martinez beat a ball into the ground. It wasn’t hit particularly hard — it skipped over the pitchers mound, whereas it would have re-directed if it was hit really hard. After about 11 hops, it found Jeter’s glove just shy of the second base bag. He spun and fired, retiring Martinez.
Of course, if it’s an issue regarding Jeter’s defense, we’re going to talk about it. Michael Kay, of course, praised Jeter for this play, especially in light of his recent string of errors. I find two faults in this. First, it was a play he should have made. Or, should I say, a shortstop should have made. It’s not like he hit a scorcher up the middle. He hit a groundball to the left side of second, a play a league average shortstop makes virtually every time. Second, it was Martinez running. My 350-pound cousin could have beat that out, but Martinez was out by about five steps (I exaggerate, but you get the point).
And then Ryan Garko struck out, giving Chase the first of his career. By the way, Garko has yet to draw a walk this season. Even Robinson Cano has four of those.
Once again, the fourth didn’t start off well for Wright, as Casey Blake doubled. After a Peralta strikeout and a Barfield groundout to advance Blake to third, Andy Marte took his turn. I’ll always cheer on Marte (when he’s not playing the Yanks), because he was the Indians return for Coco Crisp. Anyway, he worked a 2-2 count from Wright. Paul O’Neill mentioned that Marte would probably be looking for the changeup outside. So what does Wright do? He tries to sneak a fastball by him low and inside. Good move, in theory, but check this out.
Surely, you all read Bronx Banter. Before the game, I was on there, checking out Cliff’s article on Chase Wright, in which he references a scouting report he wrote on the lefty. The report mentions a low 90s fastball. Take it, Cliff:
…I received a note from Kevin Goldstein, Baseball Prospectus’s minor league guru. Kevin said that one thing he felt I got wrong was my estimation of Wright’s velocity (which I got from assimilating various on-line scouting reports). According to Goldstein, Wright’s fastball tops out in the high 80s, adding something to the effect that if Wright did throw in the low 90s, he’d be a world-beater.
Astute observation, Mr. Goldstein. Had that fastball been low and inside at 92 m.p.h. (you know, like, say, Erik Bedard is capable of throwing), it’s an inning-ending strikeout, for sure. But, since he’s tossing it at 88, Marte catches up to it and belts a single to right-center. Hell, even if he’s throwing it 90 he might have missed that bat, or at the very least it would have been fouled off — thus making the changeup even more effective on the next pitch.
The only blemish in Wright’s final inning was a single to Travis Hafner, which we’re once again deeming acceptable. His final line: 5.0 IP, 5 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 3 BB, 3 SO, 1 HR, 4/8 groundouts to flyouts, 104 pitches, 61 strikes. It could have been much worse, but with a little luck and some major help from the offense, Wright came away with a meaningless W (not that this particular W was meaningless; the stat in general is meaningless).
Solid effort behind Wright, as Bruney, Myers, and Britton finished the final four innings. It was nice to see three guys finish the four innings, saving the rest of the bullpen for later in the week. With Igawa and Rasner going, we may need it.
Couple of notes to finish this off (as if it wasn’t too long already):
- Bobby Abreu’s first at bat was probably the worst I’ve ever seen him have. I understand that he can’t lay off every pitch out of the zone, but he swung at three way out of the zone, and ended up with a strikeout. Thankfully, he went 2-4 on the game, and ended up drawing a walk later on.
- I caught a couple of innings in the car. Wait, scratch that. I caught a couple of innings of Sterling talking about anything but the game in the car. Jessie Barfield joined him and Waldman in the booth, which nearly made me scream “I CAN’T BELIEVE WE TRADED AL LEITER FOR TWO AND A HALF YEARS OF YOUR WORTHLESS ASS!” I was seven at the time of the trade, and already had a slew of Jessie Barfield baseball cards. I remember being ecstatic, because I saw that magic No. 40 in his home run column in 1986. He wasn’t bad in 1990, but in 1991, I asked my dad why Jessie Barfield was good on the Blue Jays, but not for us. “Because George Steinbrenner is an idiot,” he told me.
- The night wasn’t very good for the Barfield who plays, as he went 0 for 4, with quite possibly the worst throw in Yankee Stadium since the days of Chuck Knoblauch.
- Sean Henn was tossing in the bullpen during the third and fourth innings, just in case they needed to replace Chase. Makes me wonder if they really do intend to have him pitch Saturday at Fenway. I’m beginning to think that we’ll hear an announcement tomorrow or Thursday that Wang will end up being the guy.
Igawa vs. Jeremy Sowers tomorrow. Note to Kei: if you leave a fastball up to Travis Hafner, he will hit it twice as far as Eric Chavez.