A-Rod slams Twins in 8-4 win

Swisher day-to-day with biceps strain
Link Dump: Laziness, Girardi, House For Sale, Salty, and Tebow

Coming home to play in front of their home fans for just the 13th time this season, the Yankees looked to get the bitter taste of the Detroit series out of their mouths by beating up on a familiar foe. The Twins are just 3-23 against the Yanks in the Bronx during the Ron Gardenhire Era, and one very clutch grand slam later, they were 3-24.

Photo Credit: Bill Kostroun, AP

Biggest Hit: A-Rod Makes Them Pay

You know, there was once a time when Alex Rodriguez had a problem coming through in big spots. He’d tense up and take that big hack and invariably get just on top or just underneath the ball and provide a less than desired outcome. Then the first five months of 2009 happened, and Alex hit rock bottom. I can’t imagine what kind of effect that had on him personally, but all I know is that he’s been a big hit machine since then. Regular season, playoffs, whatever, he’s made things happen when the Yankees needed them to happen.

Photo Credit: Bill Kostroun, AP

Gardenhire pulled something out of the 2008 play book on Friday by intentionally walking Mark Teixeira in the 7th inning to load the bases with one out for A-Rod. Tex had a single and a double already to his credit on the night, so he was put on and Matt Guerrier was brought in to try and induce the inning ending double play. Alex fouled off his first pitch, a fastball on the inner half, but didn’t miss the second pitch in the same spot. It was quite literally a big fly, hanging up in the air as it carried out to left. Even if it didn’t reach the seats, the game was tied because the ball was hit far enough back to bring Frankie Cervelli in from third. Cervelli wouldn’t have to do anything more than trot, because the ball landed a few rows back for Alex’s 19th career grand slam, third most all time. It also gave him sole possession of 7th place on the all-time homer list with 587.

The best part of that whole at-bat was the matchup. Gardenhire went to his trusted righty setup man in that spot and completely ignored the numbers; A-Rod had been 4-for-6 with three (!!!) homers off Guerrier in his career, so you’d think that was the last guy Minnesota would want to have on the mound in that spot. His first pitch was 90 mph and the second 91, so at least he tried to change speeds on Alex.

Biggest Mistake: Pitching To Morneau

The outcome of the game will certainly mask the mistakes, but pitching to Justin Morneau and his AL leading .485 wOBA with the go-ahead run on second and two outs in the 7th inning was quite the blunder. I understand Damaso Marte is the guy that’s getting paid the big bucks to get out big time lefties in spots just like this, but there comes a point when you have to take a look at the reality of the situation and make a judgment based on that. Michael Cuddyer is making outs more than 68% of the time this season, and your righty relief ace is warmed up in the bullpen. You put Morneau on in that spot and call on Joba Chamberlain to get the vastly inferior hitter in Cuddyer.

Alas, Marte hung a slider that Morneau whacked into the gap for a double, but the Twins ahead by one. When you play the Twins, you don’t let Joe Mauer or Morneau beat you. You don’t even give them the chance.

Biggest Out: Span Hits One Back To The Pitcher

Things got ugly early in the Bronx on Friday. A.J. Burnett fell victim to his own wildness and home plate ump Alfonso Marquez’s incredibly shrinking strike zone in the 2nd, loading the bases on a single, a walk, and an error with no outs recorded. Burnett inexplicably walked Nick Punto (Nick Punto!) on four pitches to force in a run, and all of a sudden we were wondering how many innings Ivan Nova could go after throwing two yesterday.

Thankfully, Denard Span bailed A.J. out. After taking three straight pitches for a favorable 2-1 count, Span jumped all over 94 mph heater down in the zone, hitting right back up the box. Burnett fielded it semi-cleanly, and fired home to start the always fun 1-2-3 double play. If that ball gets by the Yanks’ starter, the Twins are up 3-0 and there are still no outs in the frame. It was very early in the game, but given the Yanks’ recent offensive woes, a three run deficit would have felt like thirty.

When Bad Things Go Good

Photo Credit: Bill Kostroun, AP

The night didn’t start out well for Burnett. His 1st inning involved a walk, a single, nine strikes, and seven balls but luckily zero runs. The next frame wasn’t as pretty, as you read above. By the time the inning was over, A.J.’s pitch count was already at 39, just 17 of which were strikes. After that inning, Bad A.J. climbed into the phone booth and out came Good A.J.

Burnett retired 14 of the next 20 batters he faced, with the only significant blemish coming in the 5th inning when last year’s AL MVP took a 93 mph piece of cheese on the outer black and hit it off a railing next to the visitor’s bullpen for a solo homer. It’s impossible to complain about that, it was a high quality pitch that a super-high quality player handled as if he was taking batting practice. It really was an impressive piece of hitting by Mauer.

Despite that high pitch count after two, Burnett pitched into the 7th inning before giving way to Marte, allowing just three runs (two earned) on exactly 100 pitches (just 51 strikes). He was missing his spots early, but he settled himself down and took the ball deep into the game. Burnett’s generally considered to be an unreliable guy, but this was the 35th time in 46 starts as a Yankee (playoffs included) that he completed at least six innings of work (76.1%). That’s getting the job done, people.

Photo Credit: Bill Kostroun, AP

Happinesses

Brett Gardner going deep. Again. Wasn’t even a cheapie either. Even better: he broke into his homerun trot halfway down the first base line. Dude also added a single to bring his season line to .333-.411-.421. Raise your hand if you saw this coming. (Put your hand down you liar)

Robbie Cano getting things back on track. He picked up a pair of hits after a rough start to the month, and he’s still OPS’ing over 1.000 (1.017 to be exact).

Joba Chamberlain continues to look fantastic. He’s faced 23 batters this month, and has struck out 11 of them. Seven of the last ten men he’s faced have gone down on strike three. That’s domination, yo.

Cervelli continues to dunk cheap little bloop hits all over the field, but hey, I’ll take ‘em.

Also, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Punto sliding into first on a foul ball to the third base side. What the frig was that? Is it possible to overdose on grit? You can’t not laugh at that.

Sadnesses

Not too much, just Nick Swisher aggravating his biceps strain. Hopefully he won’t be out too long. Oh, and Derek Jeter continues to look lost at the plate. Yeah he doubled, but he also saw just 14 pitches in his five plate appearances. He’s down to 3.52 pitches per plate appearance this season (3.84 last year), his lowest mark since ESPN started recording the data in 2002. He’s swinging at lots of junk out of the zone and has noticeably expanded his zone, which is frustrating as hell.

WPA Graph & Box Score

Now that’s a graph. MLB.com has your box score, FanGraphs the individual WPA breakdowns.

Up Next

Same two teams in a Saturday matinee, 1:05pm ET. Andy Pettitte will be making his first start in ten days, and will be opposed by a rejuvenated (and particularly nasty) Francisco Liriano. Should be fun.

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Swisher day-to-day with biceps strain
Link Dump: Laziness, Girardi, House For Sale, Salty, and Tebow
  • ecksodia

    How about that throw by Cano in the ninth? Obligatory disclaimer about never having played second base or anything, but that just looked like a tough play to make – not hit very hard, Span is hustling down the line… and Robbie barehands it and fires to first for the out. Mo was laughing after that, heck the entire infield was impressed with that play.

    • http://i.cdn.turner.com/si/multimedia/photo_gallery/0902/mlb.alex.rodriguez.through.the.years/images/1993.alex-rodriguez.jpg Drew

      Anytime you barehand a ball on the dirt and get a speedy runner, you know it’s a hell of a play.

  • http://i.cdn.turner.com/si/multimedia/photo_gallery/0902/mlb.alex.rodriguez.through.the.years/images/1993.alex-rodriguez.jpg Drew

    I didn’t mind pitching to Morneau. All things considered, at least Marte kept him in the park. Joe’s really giving Marte a shot to get going, so far, it’s been bust. One of these days he’s going to start a hot streak, tonight wasn’t the night.

    Swish worries me a bit. The fact that he thought he was ready, only to realize it’s still f’d up has me thinking more than a few days of rest.

    Finally, hopefully the other 1/3 of our OF keeps it going and stays on the field, otherwise we’re down to a Minor league OF.

    • Wisdom.

      Muscle injuries are funny like that. You can tear something and it will feel fine until you move it in just the right way and then…. crippling pain.

      • http://www.puristbleedspinstripes.com Rebecca-Optimist Prime (Optimovelist Primus)

        Yep.

  • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

    You know, there was once a time when Alex Rodriguez had a problem coming through in big spots. He’d tense up and take that big hack and invariably get just on top or just underneath the ball and provide a less than desired outcome.

    Stage Hand: “You are on right now.”
    Ron Burgundy: “I’m on right now? … I don’t believe you.”

  • Thomas Tu

    I actually foresaw Brett Gardner being good this year. I will take a polygraph to prove it. I’ve always liked the guy and this year, he is making me look good.

    My friend used to call him our (The Yankees) Secret Weapon because of his speed and a ridiculous UZR/150 last season.

    He’s not a secret weapon anymore…

  • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

    The best part of that whole at-bat was the matchup. Gardenhire went to his trusted righty setup man in that spot and completely ignored the numbers; A-Rod had been 4-for-6 with three (!!!) homers off Guerrier in his career, so you’d think that was the last guy Minnesota would want to have on the mound in that spot.

    Girardi’s binder >>>>>>>>>>>>>>> Gardenhire’s gut

    • poster

      I know, right? Girardi never would have pitched Gordon in the 8th inning of game 5. Stats are always >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>hunches.

      Oh, wait, we’re talking about Gardenhire here? Oh yeah, Girardi’s binder is better than his gut too.

    • http://twitter.com/rebexarama bexarama

      I saw it on Twitter but I can’t remember who said it, so apologies if I stole it from whoever is reading this: Girardi may love his book too much, but Gardenhire doesn’t even have a book.

  • Alan Lam

    One complaint I had: the yankees not being able to score with a runner on third and less than two outs. Recurring theme this season

    • http://www.puristbleedspinstripes.com Rebecca-Optimist Prime (Optimovelist Primus)

      When Winn, Golson and Thames are regulars in the lineup, it’s going to happen.

      • Alan Lam

        True, but Derek Jeter was the one who choked in the bottom of the 8th with Cervelli on third.

        can’t wait till we get healthy again though. Thought TYU had a great article when they made up the stat “On-DL%” for Nick Johnson.

        http://www.theyankeeu.com/2010.....n-dl-17685

        • Thomas Tu

          Derek is pissin me off. That ninja is swinging at everything under the sun.

          Cano is more patient than he is this year.

          • mattb29

            Agree, it’s worrisome – to me, he hasn’t looked so evidently lost at the plate since that awful slump to begin 2004. Some of it’s bad luck and I have no doubt a correction is coming, though probably not fast and deep enough to get him to last year’s numbers. Absolutely agree, dude simply has to see more pitches, especially when he’s not going well. I’d be perfectly amenable, btw, to hitting Grit leadoff and DJ second for a few days for no other reason then change for the sake of change and maybe giving DJ the chance to play hit and run more often, opening up the hole between first and second will get him going to right again, which is where he’s made his career, as opposed to just grounding out to short on the first pitch seemingly at least twice per game.

        • http://twitter.com/rebexarama bexarama

          not being able to get a runner home from third with less than two outs =/= choking

          Not that Derek is exempt from criticism but saying it’s choking is harsh and not accurate.

  • pat

    Was it just me, or did it look like Golson got jobbed on that “pickoff”?

    • Thomas Tu

      Concurred. Classic “Throw beat runner so I must be obligated to call runner out”

  • http://www.thechuckknoblog.com/ JobaWockeeZ

    Alright tomorrow will be the first walk off. I’m going with Teix as a candidate for pie. I already guessed A-Rod earlier but he was so unclutch to do it in the 9th.

  • pat

    When asked if the free pass to Teixeira gave him with any extra motivation, Rodriguez was quick to respond.

    “No question,” he said. “That’s why I hit fourth.”

    AKA I’m the King Kong of this bitch.

  • Senor A. Boy

    Is this the eleventh straight time the Yankees have come from behind to beat the Twins? I sort of remember hearing that all ten wins against them last season, including in the playoffs, began with the Yankees down.

    • http://www.puristbleedspinstripes.com Rebecca-Optimist Prime (Optimovelist Primus)

      I don’t think every single one, cos I think there was one they knocked the Twins starter out in the first inning, but I might be wrong

    • http://twitter.com/rebexarama bexarama

      No, every home game against the Twins was a come-from-behind win, including the playoffs. I think they pretty much just dominated in the regular season games at the Metrodome last year.

  • http://twitter.com/rebexarama bexarama

    “Also, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Punto sliding into first on a foul ball to the third base side. What the frig was that? Is it possible to overdose on grit? You can’t not laugh at that.”

    I think that happened when the Yankees were losing so I was cranky but that seriously made me crack up. Also, when the YES booth talked about how Punto was the ideal Twins player and they were like “well, you know, he’s not very good…” What the heck was that about?

    Also, seriously, Gardenhire… what the heck. I know A-Rod isn’t hitting with the power we expect, but it’s not like he’s not hitting period. And he’s still A-Rod! I think that A-Rod blast just landed outside my window, but it could have also been the one he hit off of Nathan.

    Good game. Tomorrow, go Andy!!!!! And be okay, Swisher.

  • stuart

    they should bring up another catcher just in case and play jorge as the DH 4 games a week, he can catch twice… the bottom of the order with thames, winn, and whoever is horrific. what is the over under on when Winn gets waived? Will they be smart or allowing him to suck for 220 AB’s??

    • radnom

      Who is going to take those ABs and not suck?

      • http://twitter.com/rebexarama bexarama

        Well we all know Cashman likes to buy low from the AL Central so he’s obviously going to get us Grady Sizemore for Shane Lindsay and cash. Duhhhhhh

    • http://twitter.com/rebexarama bexarama

      Yo, people are hurt. I know watching Winn’s at-bats is generally not an enjoyable experience, but if we get rid of Winn at this point, we’ll be seriously hobbled, especially if Swisher’s injury is bad.

      Wouldn’t mind seeing Golson get some playing time, though.

  • mattb29

    Fun facts, albeit a long post, re: the emergence of Brett Gardner;

    Without including tonight’s game, which, if anything, ought to only have a positive impact, if for fun you take a look at WAR rankings on Fangraphs and knock the PA requirements down to 10 (to get a broader sample, and since WAR is a cumulative stat, not like some dude with 10 PA is going to find his way into the upper echelon and skew the sample):

    Brett Gardner’s 1.2 WAR ranks Grit as the 37th most valuable player among the 492 who have made plate appearances this year. Perhaps even more fun, he’s actually now surpassed good ole Johnny Damon in the WAR column (both list at 1.2, but you can tell Gardner’s got at least a few decimal points on JD based on the dollar value).

    The question becomes how much of a correction should we expect? Brett’s .BABIP is high at .372, but not insanely so. League average is around .300, figure Brett was projected coming into the year as a .310-.315 guy. Gardner’s .372 has him at 21st in MLB in this category – so again, high, but not insanely so. Obviously not all batters are made equal and speed certainly correlates with higher .BABIPs. There’s also likely a correlation between line drive rate and .BABIP. Grit’s LD rate came into tonight at a not terrific 17.2%, which is actually lower than the 18.5% rate he posted in 2009. But one huge difference this year is the dramatically improved GB/FB rate, which has jumped from 1.49 to 2.35. This isn’t rocket science, it’s Willie Mays Hays – keep the ball on the ground, son and give yourself the opportunities to use those legs to steal hits.

    Not as necessarily directly linked to .BABIP, but generally extremely encouraging in the sense that it suggests that Gardner is actually doing the things he needs to do to succeed with his particular skill set.

    First, would it shock you if I told you that as of tonight Gardner is now the MLB leader in P/PA at 4.60? It’s true. Dude’s wearing pitchers out. Gardner’s also improving his BB%, up to 11.2% this season, which is nicely above league average and that’s coupled with what is really the dramatic change: he’s not striking out. His K% of 12.8% is significantly better than the league average of around 20% and his BB/K ratio was a cool even 1.00 coming into tonight. The BB% at a glance looks to be in line with what he did in the minors, especially when adjusting those numbers for the more advanced skill level.

    The lowered K rate, though, is unexpected – the best K rate of his career prior to ’10 was 15.7% at Double A in .07; in his early minor league years. the K rate was routinely in the 23% area and including both MLB and MiLB numbers, the rate was just about exactly 20% in both of 2008 and 2009. So it’s probably a stretch to think that the strikeouts will remain so low.

    That said, breaking down the plate discipline stats, the numbers do tell a story of a player ought not to be striking out much. First, it should be noted that Gardner doesn’t swing much at all, period. While the league on average offers 45% of the time, Grit’s taken a hack at only a 30% rate this year. Gardner’s swing rate has been below the league’s for the duration of his short MLB career, but the spread between Grit and the league has widened in each of those years. Encouragingly, Gardner has continued where he left off last season in resisting offering outside the strike zone – indeed he’s only swung outside the zone 19% of the time, versus 27% for the league.

    Of course, he also offers at pitches in the zone at a rate dramatically lower than the league’s. That’s beneficial in some ways – it certainly accounts for Gardner leading the league in pitches per plate appearance. And it makes you want to believe that he has an approach up there that he’s confident with and that suits his skills- and indeed, he’s certainly shown the ability, and almost the desire at times, to hit in two strike counts.

    The man doesn’t swing often, but when he does, he’s been putting the ball in play. Gardner’s been making contact on over 93% of the pitches he offers at, significantly above the 80% league average and good for the 8th highest rate in MLB coming into tonight. Similarly, as to contact on swings at pitches outside the zone, Gardner’s 80% rate compares quite favorably to the 65% league average and is good for 14th in MLB. Finally, when offering in the zone, Grit puts the ball in play a pretty fantastic 99.1% of the time, good for third in the league.

    So how much of this is sustainable? I think the IsoD is clearly real – he’s always taken his walks and been selective. My strong suspicion is that the nifty .421 .SLG isn’t sustainable, though even Grit is learning to join the short porch party. In general, I’d be surprised if his LD% can support that high of a slugging percentage – at the same time, he’s shown an ability to go down the line to the opposite field and he’ll take extra bases with those legs. I see no reason why he’s can’t slug in the .390 range and it wouldn’t shock me to death – though it would thrill me beyond belief – if he can stay right at .400. Of course, with a player like Gardner, .OBP is clearly even more critical than .SLG than it would be with most players, given the extraordinary success rate on steal attempts. Since I assume that the .IsoD numbers are for real, the .OBP is going to turn on batting average.

    I don’t think .333 is sustainable based on the components, but it certainly could be with some luck. Brett is guy who should have an awfully high .BABIP on legs alone, but .372 indicates some luck as well. That said, and I know we’ve got to make SSS qualifiers, for the first time I see this guy more as a .300 hitter than I do a .265 one. I think that the four biggest keys moving forward(and this isn’t rocket science) are (1) whether he can eek his LD% up ever so slightly; (2) whether the significantly lowered K rate is real – because if it is and he’s going to put the ball in play so often, the .BABIP may carry him. This isn’t a Robbie Cano who will just start suddenly tearing the cover off the ball for six weeks; putting the ball in play is more critical to a guy like Gritt as it increases the sample of balls hit in the infield that his legs will turn into hits and that’s really a prerequisite if he wants to even think about keeping his .BABIP so high; (3) whether Long’s work on actually getting him to use his legs in his swing suggest that the dramatic increase in GB/FB ratio is real – this may likely be the single biggest determining factor, though it’s just a restatement of the point above, i.e. increasing the pool of potential infield hits; if he can keep the ball on the ground at that rate, he’s beating out enough balls to support a BA above .300; and (4) whether opposing pitchers wake up and start throwing him more first pitch strikes – Gardner sees about an identical percentage of first pitch strikes as the rest of the league, which is flat out absurd for at least three reasons: (a) he’s not going to beat you with power; (b) he’s the last guy you want to walk, which of course all starts with the first pitch and (c) his swing% is so low that he’s very likely to take strike one in any case. I have to believe the rest of the league will catch up on this and challenge him a bit more.

    So yeah, I’d say a small to moderate correction is to be expected – but to me, that doesn’t change the real headline, which is that Brett Gardner’s not a fourth outfielder. And he’s not a starting outfielder on a last place club. He’s a legit starter for a contender, especially once you begin to factor in the defense and stolen base ability.

    And to me, next to Phil Hughes, that’s the most exciting story of the season so far. Honestly, can you imagine this club without Brett Gardner right now? I suppose that despite his usual May swoon, you have to call Robbie the team’s offensive MVP and Alex is starting to get going – otherwise, only Swisher is even in the discussion and based on exceeding expectations, I’d give Gardner the nod there.

    • mike c

      he’s also ranked higher than carl crawford as well

    • http://mystiqueandaura.com/ pete

      /me’d?

    • V

      Awesome post, man – thanks!

    • Will in NJ

      +1 fantastic post

  • Salty Buggah

    This is what Minnesota gets for stealing a Grand Slam from A-Rod last year at the Metrodome. Remember when Gomez jumped at brought it back when A-Rod hit it to dead center? Sucks for them it came at a bad time.

    I loved how the Minny announcers said “Oh my” again. Even though it was more dramatic, that’s what they said after Alex hit that HR off Nathan last year.

    Also, Sterling call for Gardner: “Gardy! Goes yardy! And he plants one in the right field seats.” (Something very close to this if this is not it). Could be worse I guess.

  • http://www.teamnerdrage.com dr mrs the yankee

    Jeter’s double was also the most comical double of all time except for things like a ball bounces off someone’s shoe into the stands for a GRD.

    I just want him to get hitting again :(

  • Eirias

    Brett Gardner never hits cheap home-runs.

    Take that statement however you would like.

  • mko

    http://www.brooksbaseball.net/.....evDate=514

    Wow! Are you kidding? Check out Burnett’s strike zone yesterday. 15 of the balls he threw should have been called strikes. Now that would have made his day a lot easier, wouldn’t it? Umpires like that should be suspended!

    Only 4 of those missed calls for Baker by the way…

    • http://twitter.com/riddering Riddering

      Talking to myself in looking at that chart, “Ugh, look at those balls!”

      Friend: ….what?

  • Frank

    Nice win but Marte was a disappointment. Again. Against the Angels, he gives up a key HR to Morales on a 3-0 count in a 1 run game; he blew a 1 run lead vs. the WS a couple of weeks ago by giving up a 2 out double to Pierzynski(another lefty hitter) and then last night, back to back doubles with 2 outs to Mauer and Mourneau and when ahead in the count.

    • http://www.facebook.com/pages/Bring-Melvin-To-America/193013541601?ref=sgm Andy In Sunny Daytona

      I would have rather seen Boone Logan in that situation. At least he would have walked Mauer and Morneau, then Joba could have come in and recorded the third out.

  • Zack

    Happinesses: Joba is pitching well so I don’t have to read “Joba looks out of shape and fat” comments during game threads

    • http://twitter.com/riddering Riddering

      Isn’t it odd how he’s only out of shape and fat on nights he struggles? His body must fluctuate like crazy!

  • Goodtimes-to-be-a-BJOBBER

    It’s truly remarkable that we are 11 games over .500 considering the schedule and the injuries…..

  • dark side of the goon

    Maybe Derek lost his mojo because his honey is planning a WEDDING.

    Carousing called. It wants its Jeter back.