Yankee bats come alive, force Game Six

Open Thread: Not Dead Yet
Feeling confident about the Yanks' chances

For the first time in two seasons, the Yankees played in a true must win game on Wednesday afternoon. There was no wiggle room, it was win or go home with the Rangers leading the best-of-seven ALCS three games to one. Thankfully they were able to put the season in the hands of ace CC Sabathia, who delivered six classic grind-it-out innings, putting his team in a position to seal the all important win.

(AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

Biggest Hit: Little League

When you’re struggling, sometimes it takes a comedy of errors to help score some runs. The problem was that until Game Five, the Rangers were playing sound if not downright spectacular defense as a team, so the Yanks weren’t getting any breaks at all. That all changed in this game, which is exactly what they needed to get themselves back in the series.

(AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

Jorge Posada had already driven in the first run of the game (more on that in a sec) in the second inning and stood on first base with Lance Berkman parked 90 feet ahead of him. There was just one out in the inning when Curtis Granderson stepped to the plate, the only Yankee other than Robbie Cano to do much of anything offensively in the series. C.J. Wilson went after him with a fastball (called strike) and then a curveball (ball) before going back to the heater, which Grandy flipped into shallow right for a single. Berkman scored and Posada chugged around second towards third.

Jeff Francoeur was in right and handled the ball, firing towards third to get the slow Posada. The throw beat him to the bag easily, by about ten feet, but it was a little high and Michael Young missed the catch. The ball hit the rail in front of the Ranger dugout, and Jorge rounded third and headed home. Wilson grabbed the ball in foul territory and flipped it home, and again the throw had Posada beat by a good ten feet. Except it was too high, clearly over the leaping Matt Treanor. Georgie should have been thrown out at two different bases on the play, but he instead crossed the plate with the team’s third run of the inning and game. The WPA swing on this sucker was +.138, the single biggest play of the game.

Honorable Mention: Jorge Starts The Scoring

It’s no secret that the Yanks have had trouble scoring in the series, pushing just five runs across in Games Two through Four. They had also developed the nasty habit of allowing the other team to score first, so when Posada grounded a 2-0 fastball through the left side of the infield to drive in Alex Rodriguez for the first run of the game, it was a huge relief to everyone watching at home. It was just a measly one run lead in the second inning, and the team scored more on Granderson’s play one batter later, but holy cow was that big. It all started right here.

Biggest Out: Moreland Looks At Strike Three


(AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

I’m taking the subjective route this time, because the WPA scores are stupid. Apparently the most important defensive play of the game for the Yanks was Michael Young’s double play in the first inning (-.074 WPA). Pfft, yeah right.

Instead, I’m going to fast forward a few innings to the sixth, when the Yanks held a big enough but not really all that comfortable 6-2 lead. Sabathia was over the century mark in terms of pitches and starting to labor, and Texas had already scored a run when Matt Treanor hit a weak grounder with the bases loaded and one out. Mitch Moreland, who has proven to be a real pain in the ass at the bottom of the order, had a chance to bring his team to within two with a single.

Moreland had fouled off four of six pitches before singling in the fifth inning, and he went right back to the work in the sixth. CC started him away with a slider for a swing-and-a-miss before missing with a fastball to even the count. That’s when we went heavy with the offspeed stuff. The next three pitches were two sliders and a fastball that Moreland fouled off, then he took a fastball out of the zone for a ball before fouling off yet another slider. Sabathia was at 111 pitches and walking the tight rope, but he broke off yet another slider. This one was inside by design, freezing Moreland as it broke back over the plate for strike three. The threat was over, the lead was intact, and Mariano Rivera was that much closer to becoming a factor.

Honorable Mention: MVP GIDP

(AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

The Rangers had a chance to get back in the game in the fifth inning as well, after Moreland and Michael Young followed up Treanor’s solo homerun with a single. Josh Hamilton came to the plate with an opportunity made a 5-1 deficit a 5-4 deficit with one swing of the bat. Sabathia didn’t just cave and give him a fastball, he instead started him with two straight sliders for a 1-1 count. The third pitch was probably a little bit of a mistake, a 95 mph heater elevated in the zone, but thankfully the likely AL MVP hit on top of the baseball, grounding it to second for the inning ending double play.

CC Grinds It Out

Two runs in six innings of work is a fine end result, but Sabathia certainly had to work for it. He gave up eleven hits, nine of which were singles, but he didn’t walk anyone. Texas fouled off 24 of those 112 pitches, and they put at least one batter on base in each of CC’s innings. To paraphrase Ron Washington after the game, Sabathia bended but did not break. Yep, bended.

It wasn’t a traditional ace-like performance in that it was eight innings of three hit ball or something like that, but this is the kind of game that separates the great from the very good. CC dealt with adversity every single inning, whether it be baserunners or bad command or both, but he found a way to make big pitches when he needed to and preserved the lead his teammates gave him. It was a big game by the big man in a big spot, and it was exactly what the Yankees needed.

(AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

Bombs Away

Robbie Cano had been a one man wrecking crew for the first four games of the series, hitting the team’s only three homers. The problem is that he was the only one doing much of anything at the plate, but obviously that all changed in Game Five. Two of his teammates joined in on the long ball action, with Nick Swisher whacking on a solo shot in the third and Curtis Granderson doing the same in the eighth. Swish’s was traditional big fly down the leftfield line, but Grandy’s was a laser beam, a line drive that couldn’t have been more than 30 or 35 feet off the ground as it zoomed into the rightfield stands.

Not to be outdone, Cano hit his fourth homer of the series immediately after Swish for back-to-back jacks. It was good to see the Bronx Bombers get back to doing what they do.

Leftovers

The Yankee version of the claw/antlers. (Photo Credit: Rebecca, Optimist Prime)

Elvis Andrus is rapidly becoming one of my most hated players. The guy’s luck is unreal, with two more infield singles in this game, including one that stopped rolling literally on the foul line. Needless to say, I certainly enjoyed watching Kerry Wood pick him off second in the seventh inning.

Speaking of Wood, how about the work that guy did? Andrus’ infield single was the only baserunner he allowed in two innings, when he struck out three on 28 pitches (21 strikes). Mo was available for up to seven outs if needed, but Wood made sure he wasn’t by doing a phenomenal job of bridging the gap between CC and Sandman. Can’t say enough for how important that was given the bullpen’s recent struggles.

(AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

Scary moment for Berkman in the fourth inning; he slipped and fell flat on his back on the warning track chasing after an Ian Kinsler pop-up. He somehow didn’t hit his head, but he knocked the wind out of himself and said he was sore from his neck to his butt. Puma stayed in the game (and switched from rubber to metal spikes) and even produced a little with the bat from the right side, drawing a walk and driving in a run with a sac fly.

As for the rest of the offense, Derek Jeter reached base twice (single, walk) in five plate appearances, coaxing 25 pitches out of the Rangers’ staff. Swish walked in addition to the homer while Grandy picked up two more hits besides his big fly. One of those two was a double deep into the leftfield corner off a lefthander, something he never ever would have been able to do three months ago. Even his outs are loud these days. A-Rod doubled (ground rule style) and walked twice, and Posada had a double in addition to the RBI single in the second. All told, everyone except Brett Gardner reached base, and everyone except Gardner and Marcus Thames (who walked intentionally) reached base at least twice. They needed a game like this.

WPA Graph & Box Score

It never feels as easy as the graph makes it look, does it? MLB.com has your box score and video, FanGraphs some other stuff.

Up Next

Day off on Thursday, then Game Six on Friday will feature Phil Hughes against Colby Lewis. The Yankees are playing with house money now. No one expects them to win the series, so the pressure’s all on Texas. Make sure you enjoy the games, it’s nice to be the team no one expects anything out of for once.

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Open Thread: Not Dead Yet
Feeling confident about the Yanks' chances
  • All Star Carl

    Keep it going Yankees.

    • Esteban

      Unless they trail in any game. Then it’s all fatalism

  • chriskeo

    Have to say, that graph does seem fairly accurate to a point, Yankees seemed to be favored score-wise to win after the second inning and on, but there was still a chance Texas could come back, thankfully it stayed up on the Yankee side.

  • http://www.puristbleedspinstripes.com Rebecca-Optimist Prime-Mrs. OBP Jesus Maquinito

    So yeah, not going to lie, that A-Rod shot is never going to stop amusing me.

    • Jon in CUO

      Reason #1 to root for a Game 7: dozens more Andy crotch-grabs. Amirite?

      • http://www.puristbleedspinstripes.com Rebecca-Optimist Prime-Mrs. OBP Jesus Maquinito

        You’d have to ask Bexy, Andy’s great, but not my type.

      • http://youcantpredictbaseball.wordpress.com/ bexarama

        (reading this while drinking orange juice)
        (chokes on orange juice)

        • Esteban

          See now you’ve done and gotten Bexy all riled up.

  • Carlosologist

    I love our version of the antlers/claws. I also love how Joe had the meeting with the team. Maybe we needed a little kick in the ass to drive home the importance of the next two games. If we come all the way back, I will be so happy.

    • Chris

      The impression I got was that the purpose of the meeting was the exact opposite of this. It seemed more like a “relax and have fun – it’s just a game” kind of meeting rather than trying to light a fire.

  • Esteban

    I was wondering if wild Kerry or dominant Kerry would make an appearance today, and it at first looked like wild Kerry might have come in. That changed after the pickoff, and he was nasty after that.

    I think Berkman stayed down a little longer because he was embarrassed. I read on the MLB.com story that he changed into metal spikes after his flop. I had assumed that all players wear metal spikes when playing on natural grass.

    • http://www.twitter.com/deanezag Zack

      Seriously, rubber cleats? Really?

  • Kiko Jones

    As that great baseball philosopher once said, “It ain’t over ’til it’s over”. And today was further proof of how right he was/is.

    • Esteban

      But It’s far from over
      /Drake’d

      • http://twitter.com/stophamm3rtime Dela G

        hahahaha i love drizzy

        Let’s go yankees!

  • vin

    I love It is High! It is Far!

    http://johnsterling.blogspot.c.....-over.html

  • jim p

    Whatever happens, expecting a big season next year for Granderson now that it seems he can really hit lefties. yeah, SSS and all, but his swing is different and that’s a support for the premise.

    • Sean C

      I’m with ya on expectations for Grandy’s sophomore effort as a Yankee. At least anyone who argues against his performance this season cannot use the “postseason choker” argument. .385/.515/.654 through 8 postseason games is more than anyone could reasonably ask for. He has more than held up his end of the deal for the Yanks this postseason.

  • Dream of Electric Sheep/ still haven’t register /too lazy

    a 95 mph heater elevated in the zone, but thankfully the likely AL MVP hit on top of the baseball, grounding it to second for the inning ending double play.
    ———————
    Just stop it Mike, CC got Hamilton out on FB as predicted by moi! Let’s see if Hughes can duplicate that. pitch him low&away and bust him high inside! Hamilton can be tamed!

    • Sean C

      So far Hamilton has done what great hitters do best, punishing mistake pitches. Otherwise, it seems that he hasn’t been the stud that he is. That said, am I the only one sick of Andrus and the bottom of the Texas order? Seriously, I HATE those guys (only because they’ve been killing us this series).

      • Dream of Electric Sheep/ still haven’t register /too lazy

        You have to give credits to where credits are due in this case.
        Judging by this series alone, you have to make quality pitches to their bottom of the order to get them out. Murphy and Moreland looks to be excellent professional 2 strike hitters and are no easy outs. Bengie can hurt you with fastball in the zone or in. Their bottom of order look solid to me. Andrus has been lucky on some of BABIP to me, but the idea is get ahead first and put him away with soft stuff low and away. You can’t be too fine with him because he is an automatic double with his speed sans Pettite.

  • mustang

    “The Yankees are playing with house money now. No one expects them to win the series, so the pressure’s all on Texas”

    Someone needs to explain this one to me.

    • Dream of Electric Sheep/ still haven’t register /too lazy

      Can’t. I think of it as the Yankees are trying to hang on dearly and try to take this series one game at a time. There is no house money when you are low stacked and the house is in Texas.

      • mustang

        Thank you.

        No one call this beat down the Yankees are taking. If they take it to a game 7 and lose I can live with that. Anything less especially how they played until today and after what they did to the Twins is a disappointment.

        • Dream of Electric Sheep/ still haven’t register /too lazy

          Dude, all you can ask in this situation is to have your team leave everything on the field at this point.

          If they lose, life will go on. Time for Cash to reassess, that’s all.

          • mustang

            Then they shouldn’t of put themselves into this situation to begin with.

            • Dream of Electric Sheep/ still haven’t register /too lazy

              would a collective ritual seppeku by Yankee players sate your righteous fury against their suckitude?

              Or
              Option B, grab a chill one , smoke a J and hope for the best.

              • Jimmy McNulty

                I like this guy more and more everyday.

    • mustang

      How is losing 2 out 3 at home and basically having your ass handled you most of series by a team that you have more wins then, more talent then, are still down 2 to 3 to and your the defeating WS Champs “playing with house money” ?

      • Dream of Electric Sheep/ still haven’t register /too lazy

        I don’t think the Yankees have more talent than Texas right now.
        They are twice as expensive, but not more talented.

        • It’sATarp

          Texas has the better pitching staff, the yanks have the better offense. Except the yankees offense never exactly showed up until today and that one inning in game 1

          • Dream of Electric Sheep/ still haven’t register /too lazy

            I am not sure about that Tarp. Even with Tex I might take TX’s lineup at this point.

            • It’sATarp

              well if you do a player to player match up the yanks offense is better. Texas is just firing on all cylinders and getting hits at an extreme rate. I mean i swear they take the most awkward hacks and manage to get singles, infield singles and basically BABIP’d us to death. They look better now because of the small sample size, but over the course of the season, the numbers don’t lie.

              • Dream of Electric Sheep/ still haven’t register /too lazy

                I am talking about small sample size and now. I think Thames and Arod needs to rake some for us to beat them in the next couple games. Well, Arod mostly.

                I have no idea what happened to Gardner, the man lost his ability to drive the ball period. There is literally no leverage in counts that benefits him as far as hitting goes. He can’t hit at this point.

                • It’sATarp

                  ah i see, yea if that’s the case i guess. But things can turn around quick. hopefully the offense continues this, Texas run out of BABIP powersm, and gardner at least learn to draw walks again.

                  • Dream of Electric Sheep/ still haven’t register /too lazy

                    I hoping for some 10 pitches AB by Gardner tom against lewis. Get his pitch count up. He really should the lead off hitter against RH at this point. To utilize his speed and his ability to get on base. But JOe’s biblical binder told him otherwise i suppose.

                    • http://www.secondavenuesagas.com Benjamin Kabak

                      It’d be great if Gardner could get on base at all before we start anointing him the leadoff hitter. He’s been pretty bad for the past three months now and that includes a steep decline in his OBP.

                • dalelama

                  I have explained this one many times. Gardner can’t hurt you when he gets the bat on the ball so all you have to do is throw strikes which is what the better pitchers post season do more often. His value will never be higher that is why I would trade him and sign Carl Crawford. Save some money by not giving Jeter more than $12M per year over 3.

                  • Rob

                    there is 0 chance Jeter signs for $12m per

                    • Dalelama

                      Who is going to pay more? I think based on comparables he is worth $8M per max .

      • mustang

        What did you guys pick the Yankees to win this series in before it started? 5 maybe 6 games?

        I’m sure you didn’t pick this.

    • RSA

      i suspect “playing with house money” was the wrong cliche to use there, but the point he was getting at was that anything they do from here on out “is gravy” (to use another cliche). after going down 3-1 and playing like crap to do it, there are no longer any expectations other than to lose the ALCS. at least that’s what i got out of it.

      • mustang

        How about the expectations that they came in with coming into the series?

        • mustang

          So if the Yankees go out Friday and get kill 11-3 it’s ok because they are “playing with house money”.

          Wow… seriously.

  • It’sATarp

    Remember everyone wanted to platoon Grandy and people called him a bust? A few small adjustments does wonders.

    • Dream of Electric Sheep/ still haven’t register /too lazy

      How about Eiland do some magic with Hughes?

  • a.hinds

    why is cliff lee so good, i expect to see him in game 7, but i really dont understand why he is so good, is it his “stuff”? the unit would just trow it by you, but wtf, hes trowing 92mph fastballs, wtf, know one ever talks about it, can anyone help me, send me a link about him, does he just hit his spots over and over and over again??

    • It’sATarp

      yes..he has pin point control. Think Mariano if he was a starter and left handed and had 4 different pitches. Or simply a lefty Greg Maddux. 18 walks all season, and the best K to BB ratio ever.

    • Dream of Electric Sheep/ still haven’t register /too lazy

      The best weapon a pitch can have is command. Think of Lee as a left handed Maddux, except he may be slightly better in this PS.

    • mbonzo

      If I was a pitcher I would rather have movement on my pitches than really fast ones. When you see half the hitters on the field taking batting practice before the game on 50 mph pitches, the other half is taking 115 MPH straight fastballs from a machine. Cliff Lee has the movement that would make a good pitcher, but beyond that he has impeccable control, some of the best in the league. He could probably throw 85 MPH fastball and still be a top pitcher just because of how much accuracy and control his pitches have. Not to mention it seems he hides the ball very well, but I’ve never hit against him.

      Also he’s got white stuff on his hat. My bet is the white stuff is Ron Washington’s coke.

      • Dream of Electric Sheep/ still haven’t register /too lazy

        I will bet my girlfriend’s Audi that Ron W has done coke more than once in his life.

        He looks like a living tweaking machine in the dug out.

        But that’s neither here or there.

    • Ray the Anti-Handle

      The CC and Hamilton picture is hilarious. CC looks like he wants to eat him.

      • Ray the Anti-Handle

        Was not meant to be a reply.

    • RSA

      as others have pointed out, mostly it’s his control. he lives on the black, which also expands the zone a bit, as umpires can’t help but give the benefit of the doubt.

      also, he can throw any of his 4 pitches (fb, cut, change, curve) for a strike, and often does. he keeps hitters off balance by being so damn unpredictable. he’ll throw curve in a fb count, fb in a offspeed count, etc.

      i think the main reason he has so much success against the yankees is bc he throws strikes and is very aggressive, whereas they like to get deep into counts, work the pitcher, etc. but before you know it, you’re down 0-2, and with his command, you’re done.

      at least, that’s my take on it.

  • Dream of Electric Sheep/ still haven’t register /too lazy

    Also, This just kind of dawn on me. With Javy and Burnett’s poor season and the apparent lack in game adjustments by Hughes at times. Is it fair to raise the question that Eiland’s is simply not that good of pitching coach?

    Disclaimer: I know nothing of pitching mechanism.

  • Dream of Electric Sheep/ still haven’t register /too lazy

    One last thing, If there is a higher being up there somewhere, I pray to you on these hallow ground of RAB. NO MORE FUCKING Mitre next year, please?

    • Mike

      MEAT TRAY

  • http://kierstenschmidt.com Kiersten

    We. Can. Do. This.

    Mission 28!

    • Dream of Electric Sheep/ still haven’t register /too lazy

      Mission Critical!

  • Rey22

    Baby steps…
    One game at a time.

  • China Joe

    I think that if Hughes puts his game 2 disaster behind him and throws a qaulity game, I would be satisfied, win or lose.
    The media will throw out their standard articles burying the Yankees, saying they’re too old. But this year has been a year of transition. The old guard showed signs of decline but they still made it this far because the younger guys stepped up: Cano, Hughes, Swisher, Gardner, not to mention their still-in-his-prime ace CC. Throw in a bounce-back year from Tex and continued improvement from Granderson, maybe a dash of Jesus, and that’s one hell of a core in 2011, even with the older big name players in decline.

    • http://twitter.com/#!/iiKeane JobaWockeeZ

      Agreed except Swisher didn’t step up if he’s producing at the same rate.

      • China Joe

        His numbers ended up much the same as last year, but so many people weren’t sold on him after 2009, and I think he stepped up and silenced the doubters by showing great consistency this year while some of the big-name guys struggled. He and Cano were the most consistent hitters on the team this year, week to week, month to month.

  • Mike

    Guys .. whatever you did last game . >CONTINUE to do it. Eat the same food , do the same exercise , wear the same clothes ! and if for some reason you can’t do or wear the same stuff . .DO Ten pushups !

  • http://twitter.com/riddering Riddering

    The Yankees are undefeated in the postseason when playing an all high-sock-clad outfield. Keep it up, Swisher!

    • Sean C

      High socks are bad-ass. The Centaur wears them on all four of his legs.

  • Yank the Frank

    The Yanks are coming, The Yanks are coming… (with our own version of the antler/claw)

  • Januz

    Going into yesterday, you had to think the odds of a repeat, were about 99-1 against. With the win, I knock those odds down to about 50-1 against. If they get to Game 7, it goes to 25-1 against, Lee is that good. However, this is still sports, not a scripted series so anything can happen. The only way I see a repeat, is if San Francisco beats Philadelphia, this team does not scare me like the Phillies do (Halliday, Utley, Howard etc). Right now, the Lee trade is biting the Phillies in the ass, and I can be pretty certain they would not be down 3-1 with him. However, looking at it from the bright side for Philadelphia, it is not close to being as bad as what the drafting of Tim Beckham over Buster Posey is doing to the Rays (That move could haunt them for a decade) ps. It is funny how the Yankees get hammered over their mistakes, and almost no one brings up that drafting mistake.

    • Hughesus Christo

      Lincecum/Cain/Sanchez/Bumgarner is a big fucking problem. I don’t know if you noticed, but that’s why the Phillies are getting their asses kicked right now.

      • Fair Weather Freddy

        Lets worry about Texas and coming back in this series first ok? We’ll worry about the Giants if we get there.

    • Yank the Frank

      Put all your positive energy into game 6. nothing else matters.

  • CS Yankee

    Hughes lived live with the fastball down the middle to finish off the Twins batters…Texas made him pay dearly after that first inning when he tried to do the same.

    I would like to see him finish the low power boys with the fastball (Andrus, Young, etc) but breakout the hook, splitter and that changeup and throw them for a strike against Josh, Vlad, Ian & Cruz.

    Regardless of what his does on Friday night though, he has exceeded expectatations for his first full year as a (non-injured) starter. The next few years he could certainly move into the #3 role.

    • CubanC

      what splitter?

  • Fair Weather Freddy

    I agree with Mike about Andrus. He is very annoying. One of my favorite moments of the game was seeing Wood pick him off second. Would love tosee him buzzed up and in by Hughes early in game 6.

    • http://twitter.com/cephster Ross in Jersey

      So risk hitting him and putting him on base? No thanks. How bout just making pitches and ensuring his luck runs out. :P