Rays rally in fifth to spoil Javy’s return

Brackman hit hard in season debut
Step 1: Leave Yankees. Step 2: Grow beard

Tonight’s game felt a bit familiar. Not completely familiar — when the Rays blew out the Yanks in early 2009 they hit Chein-Ming Wang in the early innings. It took until the fourth to rough up Javy Vazquez, though the Rays did a pretty good job of it. David Price was on his game, looking strong until his pitch count crept up to and then over 100.

Biggest Hit: A-Rod‘s long double

Photo credit: Mike Carlson/AP

Through the first three innings David Price looked more like an ace than the Rays’ No. 4 pitcher. His only blemish to that point was a four-pitch walk to Nick Swisher, but he retired the next three with ease. In the fourth, though, he ran into trouble on the very first pitch. Nick Johnson pulled a pitch on the outside corner for his first base hit of the season, setting up a scoring opportunity for Teixeira and A-Rod.

After two curveballs, a ball and a called strike, Price delivered a fastball low and away, which A-Rod fouled off for strike two. He went to the changeup with two strikes, and left it high and away. A-Rod got his arms extended and smoked it over B.J. Upton’s head for what appeared to be a double. Nick Johnson chugged around the bases and scored, drawing a throw that allowed A-Rod to take third. An errant throw sent him home.

A-Rod was credited with .201 WPA for the play, though this is where individual player WPA breaks down somewhat. Should A-Rod get credit only for the double? Or should he get credit for creating pressure, taking third and drawing the throw, thereby provoking the error? I’m of two minds but lean towards the latter.

Biggest Pitch: Carlos Pena ties it

Photo credit: Mike Carlson/AP

Javy didn’t look quite sharp when he came out for the fourth. Ben Zobrist opened the inning with a four-pitch walk. After Evan Longoria flied to to center, Carlos Pena came to the plate. Javy seemed a bit focused on the runner, throwing over before each pitch. Perhaps he thought the chances of Zobrist running were greater with the lefty up.

None of the pitches to Pena was particularly good. The first pitch, a curveball, stayed high for ball one. He got the second pitch, a 90 mph fastball, on the inner half, and Pena fouled it off for strike one. The at-bat’s final pitch, a waist-high 89 mph fastball, went over the right field fence and tied the game. In itself it wasn’t terrible. The game was tied, there was plenty of baseball left. It’s what came net that sunk the Yanks.

Biggest outs: Aybar and Navarro

While Javy’s final line looked a bit ugly, he did impress by working out of a jam in the second. Longoria started things by grounding an outside fastball, the fourth outside pitch of the at-bat, to right for a single. Carlos Pena followed by drawing a seven-pitch walk, coming back from an 0-2 hole. B.J. Upton had an RBI opportunity, but instead grounded one to the right side. He cost the team an out, but set them up with second and third with one out.

After dropping a curve for strike one, Javy came back with two straight changeups to Willy Aybar to record the strikeout. He again worked exclusively with his secondary stuff, two curveballs followed by two changeups, to finish the inning by retiring Dioner Navarro. The Rays’ WE after the Pena walk was .644. Navarro’s ground out brought that back to the mid-inning .500.

The goat: Javy Vazquez

This was not the best way to celebrate a return to pinstripes. At first it looked like Javy might have gem in him. He set down the Rays 1-2-3 in the first, worked out of a jam in the second, and returned for a 1-2-3 inning in the third. Things fell apart in the fourth, and at that point he put a lot of strain on the Yankees’ offense to score runs off David Price, who, again, looked like an ace for most of the night. Even with his 1-2-3 fifth, Jazquez had already claimed the title of goat.

Even if you hadn’t watched this game, Javy’s line tells much of the story. 5.2 IP, 8 H, 8 R, 8ER, 3 BB 5 K, 2HR.

Defense saves runs

With the lefty on the mound, Joe Girardi once again started Marcus Thames over Brett Gardner. Quickly, Thames is showing that he might not be the best candidate to play the field. He did pick up a hit, but his defense cost the Yankees two runs. After Vazquez recorded the second out of the inning, the Rays were up 3-2 with runners on first and second. Jason Bartlett drove a liner to left. Thames tried to dive and catch it but could not. I imagine Gardner would have been there and would have stayed on his feet while making the play.

The question of platooning Gardner really comes down to the value of the player replacing him. Does the potential of Thames’s bat against lefties really outweigh his poor defense? Sometimes he might get a big hit where Gardner would have floundered, but I think it’s more often that he’ll cost the team with his glove. Joe Girardi will hopefully abort this experiment by the time the Yankees face the Angels next week.

Things that annoyed me

Everything after the Pena homer.

Things that made me smile

A-Rod’s double, Johnson’s two hits, the fight the Yanks put up in the eighth.

WPA chart

Which is not so awesome tonight.

Check out FanGraphs for the full box score.

Next up

The game is on FOX tomorrow afternoon. This is me being excited about that.

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Brackman hit hard in season debut
Step 1: Leave Yankees. Step 2: Grow beard
  • http://www.thechuckknoblog.com/ JobaWockeeZ

    I’m sensing a lot of distraught over Javy…
    Sigh.

    • bexarama

      Yankee fans overreact to something by someone they perceive as not a “true Yankee,” news at 12.

  • Tank the Frank

    So you’re saying WPA doesn’t give him credit for a triple? Both MLB.com and ESPN.com give A-Rod a triple.

    • http://www.riveraveblues.com Joseph Pawlikowski

      No, it gave him credit for all four bases. Also, if ESPN and MLB can give him a triple, I can give him a double.

  • Ben

    Tough loss tonight amigos. I definitely agree about Thames/Gardner. Obviously Gardner won’t give you the power Thames (supposedly) brings. But he is massively better in LF, and can’t be that far behind Thames offensively. Its not like Thames is mashing. I feel that Gardner needs to be given 400, 500 at bats. I honestly believe he could hit .260, .270, steal 50 bags, score 80 runs at the bottom of the order, etc. Let Thames exist as our 4th OF, pinch-hitter in certain situations, random-day off for our 3 OFs. He should not be platooning.

    • Salty Buggah

      Agreed with everything, except I’d say Thames is a 5th OF. Randy Winn is the 4th OF since he was pinch run, be a late inning defensive replacement, and if 2009 is an outlier, his bat isn’t all that bad.

      • Salty Buggah

        *can pinch run

    • http://mystiqueandaura.com/ pete

      I dunno about Gardner. I also think he can hit .260 or .270, but I dunno if it’s reasonable to expect better than maybe a .330 OBP at best, so 80 runs and 50 SB might be a stretch. I mean honestly, who is going to walk the guy?

    • http://sec42 Scott

      totally agree on Gardner. If he can keep his OB% around 350 i want gardy out there so we can see if he can do the job as an everyday player

  • AJ

    OK It’s always 2am, last chance to guess the NY Post cover tomorrow. I’m guessing “Yanks pay the Price at the Trop”

    • Spaceman.Spiff

      Price Is Right

      • http://yanksgoyard.com Andy_C_23

        Price Is Wrong

        • Beef Hammerdong

          Javy met before?

          with a picture of last night’s Pena side by side with a picture of 2004 ALCS Damon, both mid-crush

          • trueblue

            HA, not bad.

  • Cecala

    I am so happy I watched the Rangers play tonight instead of the Yankees. I turned it on after the Rangers had won and was immediatly like wtf. Hopefully this platooning nonsense stops and Gardner gets to start against lefties.

    • Cecala

      immediately*

  • Salty Buggah

    Seeing Price dominate tonight reminded of beastly starter Joba. What could have been…

    • Marcos

      WHAT WILL BE!
      Seriously I hope they start him midseason/next season.

      • http://mystiqueandaura.com/ pete

        me too. Call me an optimist if you want, Cashman just doesn’t strike me as all that dumb yet. There’s a plan.

  • Beef Hammerdong

    I had a long post about Gardner and Thames typed and ready to go.

    I opted to summarize:

    Brett Gardner gives you many checks in the positives column compared to the SINGLE check Marcus Thames gives you in the positives column.

    Give the noggin a fair shake.

  • mbonzo

    I don’t know what the Yankees see in Thames. Watching him play the outfield is a joke, and watching him hit in spring training was painful. Meanwhile Gardner has shown a better bat and everyone knows how well he can field. So its obvious the front office thinks he can’t hit lefties or the lineup needs more power. But the Yankees have 5 players capable of having 30+ homerun seasons (Rodriguez, Teixeira, Swisher, Cano, Granderson) so I don’t think that its power. If they are under the impression that Gardner can’t hit lefty starters they are off too.

    Gardner’s BA against Righty starters: .251
    Gardner’s BA against Lefty starters: .290

    His Career OBP for LH starters is .372!
    If Gardner had an OBP of .372 for a season he would be ranked as one of the greatest lead off hitters in the game. I just don’t get wtf the Yankees are thinking, sometimes I wonder how they ever developed players like Jeter and Posada in the first place with such a short leash on their kids.

    • Not The Rays

      It helped that they went from triple-A straight to staring in the dynasty. Jeter for example didn’t have a full shaky season. One mediocre callup, and then BOOM

  • Mike HC

    Worst game of the year. I guess we had to get one of those out of our system at one point.

    I’m trying to look on the bright side. The first Javy go around in 2004, he started great and ended up terrible, culminating in the nail in the coffin Game 7 Damon Grand Slam. This year he may start shaky, but hopefully ends strong. It is early yet.

  • http://www.theyankeeu.com/ Nostra-Artist

    With the lefty on the mound, Joe Girardi once again started Marcus Thames over Brett Gardner. Quickly, Thames is showing that he might not be the best candidate to play the field. He did pick up a hit, but his defense cost the Yankees two runs.

    Repeated for emphasis.

  • jonathan c.

    I think Thames has a place on the team, just not as a platoon guy. He should just take over Hinske’s role from last year.

  • http://None Jake

    Vazquez? Oh yea, sample size. You dumb fucks.

    • Rick in Boston

      I don’t think it’s necessary to call people ‘dumb fucks’ for their reaction to the game. Did it suck? Sure. Are you right to call it just one game? Sure.

      • http://None Jake

        They are a bunch pf asholes for calling me out a month ago when I said that Javy was garbage.
        All I’m saying is that I’m dead on balls right, and yet, gee, mr. Sample size know it all is nowhere to be found.

        Obviously.

        • http://www.riveraveblues.com Joseph Pawlikowski

          Jake, anyone who draws conclusions from the first start of the season does not belong on this site. Please go to another site to gloat.

    • http://mystiqueandaura.com/ pete

      who here is overreacting?

  • Poopy Pants

    Joba could’ve been better than CC or Javy so far.

    • EB

      Sidney Ponson couldve been better too. One game…

  • http://steves steve s

    Agree with all the Thames bashers. He does not belong on a major league roster and neither does mop-up Mitre (especially a Yankee roster). Not worried at all by Javy. I thought he was getting squeezed early on/not getting the corner calls which may have led him to start leaving the ball too much over the plate. A split of the next 2 games leaves the Yanks 3-3 against Sox and Rays on road for opening week which is perfectly fine.

  • http://mystiqueandaura.com/ pete

    Re: Gardner/Thames.

    With platoon/bench players, I think JoeG employs the same strategy he does with his bullpen. If he gives Thames some consistent vs. LHP ABs now, and he gets going, and maintains those consistent at-bats, then that gives us an 8th hitter who can beat up on lefty pitching. Gardner may be able to hold his own, but if Thames can start .270/.350/.450ing against them for 6 innings one or two games a week, then I think he deserves considerable playing time. The problem is, there’s really no way of knowing whether or not he’ll provide that offensive production without giving him a considerable amount of ABs, and letting the defense slide during that time.

    Personally, I’d rather see Winn in that position, just because I feel like there’s really no reason for this team to sacrifice defense when properly managed Gardner + Winn could give you a consistently plus defensive LF along with somewhere around a 100 wRC+, potentially higher if Gardner can get on base anything like he did in the minors (obviously, .370+ is a pipe dream, but he’d hold a lot of value at .340 even).

    But while I might not completely agree with it, I do fully understand JoeG’s position on Thames. And it is quite consistent with his position on all of the team’s role-players, which is to say that all players do need some playing time if they’re going to give you anything. If you bench Thames and only bring him in as a pinch hitter in late-inning situations for one AB every 8 days or something like that, he’s never going to give you anything in that AB. Guys do need to face MLB-caliber pitching with regularity in order to be effective at the plate.

    Using Thames like that would be the equivalent of sitting a reliever who doesn’t figure to be one of your best relievers for two weeks, and calling him up in a blowout expecting him to get outs. It just doesn’t work that way. Sometimes, you have to take a chance on a decision biting you in the ass, since it improves the player, and therefore the team, in the long run.

    I think we’ll see Thames get roughly a start per week, plus a few PH appearances, unless he starts getting hot, in which case he may get two starts per week, or doesn’t pick up at all offensively, in which case he’ll get DFA’d. Either way, judging a guy based off a couple games and some spring training isn’t going to do you any good.

    The Yankees knew what they were getting into when they got Thames. They knew he was a horrible defender. But having a legitimate power threat on your bench is very useful, or at least so think the Yankees, and no player can be a legitimate power threat without getting some at-bats.

    They’ll take their chances that there won’t be too many rangy plays in LF when Thames plays, which, despite last night’s evidence to the contrary, is not a horrible gamble. If Thames plays 6 innings, he’s guaranteed at least two at-bats, but has anyone actually researched the rate at which balls that he won’t get to but Gardner will are hit to left? I’d be willing to bet that the Yankees did before they picked up Thames. If they felt like a no-defense power bat had a role on this team, I’m moderately optimistic that they were right. Either way, though, we have to see it play out a little more before we can come to any conclusions.

    • V

      tl;dr.

      Sorry.

      • http://mystiqueandaura.com/ pete

        not totally sure what that means but apology accepted maybe?

        • radnom

          tl;dr means Too Long; Didn’t Read

          • http://mystiqueandaura.com/ pete

            oh. weird thing to say.

  • larryf

    All that off-season talk about Damon’s defensive liabilities and Joe decides to play Thames who is a poor outfielder. I am with the group that says we have enough power in the lineup and don’t need a guy batting eighth with power. Thames will hit 250 possibly and I am willing to take my chances that Gardner will get on base one out of 4 times somehow against a lefty and play alot better defense. We don’t have alot of power pinch hitters on the bench-that’s where Thames belongs.

    • donttradecano

      theres a difference between damons defensive liabilities everyday and thames liabilities every once and a while.

      • http://mystiqueandaura.com/ pete

        that. plus Thames hitting .250 and Gardner hitting .250 are not the same thing.

  • Mike

    Is it me or is it almost impossible to watch games played in the dump known as the “Trop”? Its like watching baseball in a cave. I almost wish re-alignment would put the Rays in another division so we didn’t have to watch as many games in this dump.

  • http://twitter.com/j_sprouse2213 James

    I think we can all agree that Thames shouldn’t be playing as much as he is/will for Girardi…

    but with that said…it doesn’t mean he doesn’t add value to this team being a RH power bench guy. This bench has little to no power with Winn, Cisco, and Pena. So having Thames adds that power that is sorely lacking.

    as for the play last night…that ball is getting to the well whether Thames dives or not…and the 2 runs are probably scoring whether he dives or not. So don’t have a problem with the dive have a problem with his range.

    • http://twitter.com/j_sprouse2213 James

      wall*

  • Spaceman.Spiff

    Come on Spider-Swish!