Aren’t we all thankful for Chien-Ming Wang? On a night defined by frustration (which was only exacerbated by the rain delay), he provided some relief. Just imagine how you would have felt last night (or this morning, depending on when you had to pry yourself away from the TV) if the Yanks had dropped the second half of that doubleheader. It would have been devastating. It would have been inexcusable. So you can thank Mr. Wang for the emotional swing.
Here’s the question, though: is it better to savor the victory, or point out the Yankees flaws? On one hand, you have a much-needed boost, both emotionally and statistically, and it feels wrong to undermine that. However, it also feels somewhat irresponsible to not point out what went wrong, and why it’s a signal that things might not have changed all that much. After all, we don’t live in the land of sunshine and lollipops; if the Yankees demonstrated a flaw last night, chances are it’s going to be exposed over the next few days.
Isn’t it fitting, then, that Bobby Abreu led off this game with a strikeout? Talk about poetry: in a game where much went right, yet plenty went wrong, Bobby Abreu embodies both poles. His leadoff strikeout was repeated two more times, leaving little faith left for (what could have been) his final at bat. Of course, the run wasn’t necessary — but with the unpredictability of the bullpen, every run counts. After taking a ball, Abreu looked absolutely silly on a Contreras splitter, whiffing on the pitch well before it got to the plate. The next pitch was a similar speed, and why not? Abreu had been out in front all night. The main difference: the pitch was right down Broadway (as opposed to the first two pitches being right around the corners). It’s a pitch that many hitters would crush, but with Abreu still mired in a slump, he did what he could with it. Base hit and an RBI, and the Yanks got some breathing room.
Another guy who’s been a bit iffy is Matsui. He doesn’t seem to be eyeing the outside part of the plate well, which results in him getting way on top of pitches and grounding out. This is something I’m sure he’ll work out; you don’t suddenly lose the ability to take pitches the opposite way. However, if you leave that pitch over the plate, he’s still going to crush it, as he did on a 3-0 pitch in the third inning. That was a fat pitch. What’s crazy is that the pitch on which he struck out in the sixth inning was in the exact same spot. I can’t speak for the velocity (Enhanced Gameday doesn’t have the pitch data for either at bat, just the locations), but the location was right there. In fact, all three strikes were right over the plate. I’m very surprised that Matsui, following his crush shot in the previous at bat, didn’t whale the first pitch Contreras threw him. If there was ever a time to hack at the first one…
The best inning, however, was clearly the ninth. Melky’s homer was super-sweet. Not just because it’s a rarity, but because he freakin’ whaled a 93 m.p.h. heater on the inside corner. So it’s not like he took advantage of a bad pitch; Sisco put it where he wanted, and Melky said, “I think I can state my case for playing tomorrow by depositing your best effort over the left field wall.” And so he did. The home run to Jorge was in the same exact location. I guess it was a changeup, since it came in at 86 m.ph., and was directly preceded by a 97 m.ph. heater. At this point, you almost have to feel bad for Sisco: he hit the corner with two pitches (though coming inside to a righty with a change is a questionable call), and was taken deep. He threw another good one to GIambi, on the outside corner, but Giambi reacted and punched that baby to left. The Giambi of 2002-2006 tries to pull that and whiffs. It’s good to see that he’s adjusting to his sapped power.
There were other little flaws that cropped up during the game, like Kyle Farnsworth’s imitation of John Wetteland: he can’t get out of an inning without putting a guy on base and making us all clench our teeth. But all in all, especially considering the 9th, it’s a good sign moving forward.
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