What good is a Friday night without some ninth-inning nervous pacing?

Ajax goes deep, Laird keeps mashing
An old friend returns to New York

So for about eight innings, tonight’s 2-1 Yankee victory was a pleasure to watch. The ninth? Well, that was a different story.

While the Yankee offense took the night off against Shawn Chacon and his slow fastball of doom, Joba Chamberlain kept the Astros’ hitters guessing for six innings — and he would have thrown seven had it not been for that pesky DH-less NL.

While Joba didn’t have his strike out pitch going for him tonight — he recorded just two over six innings — his breaking balls were dancing, the fastball was, by and large, stellar and the changeup was on. He gave out a few too many free passes and ran into some trouble in the fourth when he walked the guys in the heart of the Astros’ order. After an 88-pitch outing, shortened because his spot in the batting order was through, Joba had recorded his first Major League quality start.

The Yanks took the lead for good when Derek Jeter hit an opposite-field home run in the 8th. Perhaps Captain Clutch isn’t quite as finished as his paltry offensive numbers suggest this year.

But outside of Joba, the two real stories of the night focused around the Yankee battery. Let’s start with the pitchers. In relief of Joba Chamberlain, Jose Veras looked about as good as he ever has in the Bronx. He threw two scoreless innings, striking out three and pounding the strike zone. Just six of his 24 pitches were called balls.

As good as Veras was, Kyle Farnsworth had Yankee fans the world over on the edge of their seats. Farnsworth came into close in lieu of a Mariano Rivera who has thrown 70 pitches over the past six games, and he started off the 9th in spectacular fashion. After getting ahead 0-2 on Ty Wigginton, Farnsworth fell behind 3-2 and promptly hit the Astros’ third baseman with a pitch.

With the speedy Michael Bourn up next, Farnsworth then proceeded to make something of a bad baseball play. Bourn bunted a pop up back to Farnsworth and stood in the box to watch it. Kyle should have let the ball fall to turn two, but he caught it instead. It’s tough to think that far ahead in the heat of the moment, and getting the sure out is always a better move. Wigginton made the point moot by getting thrown out by Jose Molina, and Geoff Blum struck out on a 2-2 slider to end the game. We all breathed a sigh of relief, and I couldn’t help but think that Jose Veras is much better suited to set up than Farnsworth is right now.

The other story was Jorge Posada. The Yanks’ injured catcher — and, yes, because of his torn labrum, he’s injured — was lifted in the game as part of a double switch in the bottom of the 7th. At first, I was worried Posada had hurt himself on a thrown to third to nail Bourn in the 6th, but Joe Girardi says he pulled the switch for defensive purposes. That in itself is worrying.

The Astros stole four bases off of Chamberlain and Posada. While some of that can be attribute to Joba’s slow delivery, as Ed Price ever so graciously notes in the linked piece, teams are going to run off of Posada, and Girardi now considers him a late-inning liability. The Yanks, however, need his bat.

Meanwhile, the Yanks have finally reached that two games over plateau, tying their high-water mark for 2008. They’re 3-1 on a tough road trip and are looking to move three games over .500 for the first time all season later today when Mike Mussina squares off against Wandy Rodriguez. They’re six out — 4.5 behind Tampa Bay — and I’m wondering if things are finally starting to click. It’s not a moment too soon.

Ajax goes deep, Laird keeps mashing
An old friend returns to New York
  • http://www.workwithpete.com Pete

    Houston was a wee bit too aggressive on the basepaths tonight, luckily for the Yanks. If Andy had gone 9 yesterday, we would had never had to endure this.

  • Rich

    Teams are going to keep testing Posada all season, assuming he can stick it out behind the plate.

    The offense still concerns me. That’s two consecutive games with suboptimal run production against starters will an ERA+ < 100, and in Chacon’s case, < 90.

  • RustyJohn

    Maybe Joe G. can put a cardboard cut-out of Hank in a bikini and tear off a piece for each win the Yankees get from here on out.

    Novel ways to help the kids prepare for the SATs- sample question:

    Veras is to Girardi as Proctor is to _____.

  • Yankees=warriors

    Off topic, but it seems like Kennedy could be the fill-in starter for the doubleheader against the Mets. Good or bad?
    At this point, I would like to see what some of the other SPs down in the farm can do. Or…could Dan Geise start a game on his own?

    • RollingWave

      when the alternative might be the already immortal after 1.5 season Kei Igawa,…. you know ;)

  • BigBlueAL

    Posada didnt look good throwing to 2nd tonight, but that throw to 3b was a laser and was a huge play in the game. Hopefully you can just chalk up tonight to Joba being real slow to the plate and Houston, who does lead the NL in stolen bases i believe, just taking advantage.

  • Rich

    It’s easy to hate Farnsworth but I think it’s up to Molina, Giambi, or Arod to tell him to let the bunt drop. Do you want Farnsworth making that decision? I’d also be leery of Giambi advising Farnsworth on defensive things.

    • Andy in Sunny Daytona Beach

      I could easily see Farnsworth intentionally dropping the ball and then throw the ball to Melky in center. Farnsworth should always make the catch, Mussina turns two, but then again he did go to Stanford.

      • LiveFromNewYork

        Yes taking that turn two class at Stanford is what makes Moose a much better pitcher.

        Farnworth hunts turkeys (for real). Maybe he should find something more difficult to hunt in the off season…maybe find a hobby where you have to think and be good at something. My 97 year old grandmother could hunt turkeys.

        • Andy in Sunny Daytona Beach

          If your 97 year old Grandma can pull back on a compound bow, then she is indeed a bad-ass.

        • Babe’s Ghost

          Actually turkey hunting is quite challenging. While they’re noisy on the ground and slow in flight, but they travel in packs and they’re incredibly wary. Stalking a turkey is very difficult. Calling one in is easier, but requires patience and is a skill in of itself. Using a shotgun requires making a headshot if you’re going to save the meat. Bowhunting ups the difficulty by a factor of 10, since you have to get much closer and you have to move to draw the bow.

          Farny wasn’t great but he delivered… and I’m not going to criticize

    • Steve S

      Yeah, I have to agree it was actually a good outing for Farnsworth. I think its predetermined thing for us to be scared whenever he comes into the game but last night was a big spot and he did his job and he actually looked dominant. Now, his career makes you cringe when he hits Wigginton but in a vacuum, if its not him then I wouldnt get anxiety over a reliever hitting a guy to lead off an inning when the next three hitters are michael bourne, brad ausmus and the pitcher spot. As much as we hate Farnsie he has performed this year like a standard middle reliever, inconsistent with flashes of dominance. He shouldn’t be the only guy for the 8th but I think he can be a piece of the puzzle, its just a matter of Girardi pushing the right button, like Torre used to do with Nelson and Stanton, who were much better but also went through phases of inconsistency.

      • JT

        I can’t really blame farnesworth there. I tihnk Ken singleton was the only person, including the people on the field and dugout, who thought of dropping the ball at that moment. Everyone else was so damn excited that bourn popped that bunt up, that they just wanted that out, and werent able to think fast enough to go for the double play.

  • Felixfella

    Veras predicted two years ago that he would be setting up the table for Mariano.

    http://www.sportsline.com/mlb/story/9052221

    ‘SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic — Relief pitcher Jose Veras said he has signed a one-year contract with the New York Yankees.

    The Dominican right-hander refused to divulge the value of the deal, but said Friday he’s excited to join the bullpen with Yankees closer Mariano Rivera. “I feel proud that the Yankees have signed me to help set the table for Mariano Rivera. That’s something very important to me,” Veras told the Associated Press.”

    Looks like he was right.

  • Felixfella
  • Andy in Sunny Daytona Beach

    Kyle Farnsworth once went hunting with only sunflower seeds. He bagged two bucks, 3 40 pound turkeys and a 600lb boar.

    • Andy in Sunny Daytona Beach

      It worked for Joba yesterday.

  • The Scout

    I credit Girardi with trying to make use of all his bullpen parts, unlike his predecessor. How likely is it that Torre lets guys such as Veras earn his vaunted “trust”? I have questions about some of Girardi’s decisions, but he makes good use of his bullpen tools most of the time. Of course, with his starters often failing to go dep into games, he’s had plenty of time to learn what the relievers can do.

    • LiveFromNewYork

      I have to agree. Torre had his guys and that was it. While Girardi isn’t utilizing it as well as I’d like, he does give a lot of guys a shot.

  • mustang

    I thinking Joba pitched great for the first time I saw him more like a starter then a reliever. He used all his pitches and let the guys behind him do their jobs. Joba didn’t try to strike out the world, which looks nice, but takes a lot out of a pitcher. He really looks great for just having 3 starts.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=594331910 Jamal G.

    I got caught up on the some of the game via MLB.TV and I have two questions. Why was the Houston Astros lone run charged as an Earned Run to Joba Chamberlain? When Hideki Matsui bobbled the Ty Wiggington 1B to LF the second beast Panamanian player in MLB, Carlos Lee, was not even at Third Base at the time. If Matsui cleanly fields that ball he easily hits the cut-off man and there is no way Lee is waved home, and if he is then stupidly so. That should have been an Error but oh wells.

    My second beef is with Jose Molina and the pitch selection to none other than Mr. Wiggington. Leading off the 9th inning with a control challenged Kyle Farnsworth should not lead to a called Slider on a 2-2 pitch. On a 2-2 count a hitter is not automatically looking heater so unless that Slider is perfect then he will recognize the pitch and take it. That’s what happened and Molina foolishly relie on Farnsworth to deliver a 3-2 pitch in the zone at will, I love Farnsworth’s stuff and still feel he currently is and will continue to be a huge factor on this team but through this little slump has been through you can’t put he burden on him to deliver a strike on a 3-2 count, leading off the 9th in a 1-Run game.

  • mustang

    “They’re 3-1 on a tough road trip and are looking…”

    The only thing tough about this road trip is the travel. They should be able to beat up on the teams they are facing for the next two weeks.

    • LiveFromNewYork

      They should have beat up the Royals. They didn’t.

      • mikef

        lets not forget that if the Yanks won just a few of IPK and Hughes starts, they would be fins, as I think while Moose’s revival is an unforseen blessing the damage the kids did to the pen getting KO’d in the 3rd inning everynight somewhat mitigates Moose’s contributions……just a few wins from those guys it would be a different story…..

      • mustang

        Your right, but a good AL team goes 10-2 or 9-3, minumin 8-4 vs. these NL teams before the Mets.

  • mustang

    Jose Veras can pitch the 8th, Ben can pitch the 8th, Jamal G. can pitch the 8th anyone but Farnsworth please.

  • Paul

    I didn’t see postgame interviews, but Farnsworth’s eyes were glued to the ball on that popup bunt — as they should have been. He had to assume that Bourn was running, in which event he made the correct play, since Bourn was alot faster than Wigginton (who got nailed trying to steal second). Someone else should have told him to let it drop, and maybe someone did and there was too much noise for him to hear it.

    The HP was troubling, but I don’t understand why, after getting to 0-2 on Wigginton, Molina went down and away twice instead of going up the ladder. The second strike was a fastball that just blew Wigginton away and was up in the zone and that usually has the batter susceptible to swinging at anything that looks up and close to the zone.

    What really got me was that Molina called low and outside out of the zone TWICE. With Farnsworth, you just don’t want to get to 2-2 and certainly not 3-2, since he often gets swinging strikes on pitches out of the zone, but the risk is that the batter won’t swing.

    So let’s at least be fair to Kyle, he didn’t implode after the HP, he held on and we got a big W.

    • mikef

      I like Molina calling the games, actually – he seems to often call for pitches inside from all pitchers on the staff, and I have to think its the Molina (plus Girardi) influence as to why I think they are pitching a little differently this year…..despite the drama of last night!

      • Andy in Sunny Daytona Beach

        Molina should call the games…..from the bench.
        But I also like someone who can hit.

    • A.D.

      Also you want to insure Bourn doesn’t get on base, say he lets it drop throws to 2nd, then its bobbled or something and Bourn ends up on, its pretty much guarenteed he steals 2nd handily, instead keep Wiggington on who gets gunned down

  • Rich

    NY Post:

    Posada, who threw out the speedy Michael Bourn attempting to swipe third in the sixth and really didn’t have chances on the four bags the Astros did swipe, insisted his right shoulder is fine.

    “I am fine, I don’t know why you keep asking me,” said Posada, who missed 32 games with rotator cuff tendinitis. “There is nothing wrong, I am fine

    • mikef

      reminds me of the ROTC kid during the parade at the end of Animal House screaming “All is Well” before being trampled by the fleeing masses

      • mustang

        LOL

  • r.w.g.

    Good running teams would always try to take advantage of Jorge. Sometimes he made them pay, sometimes he didn’t. That’s what it looked like last night to me. Jorge has always been not fabulous behind the dish. I’m just glad he’s back in the lineup, cause we suck without him.