A-Rod & Posada back Nova as Yanks drop Twins

Game Four: Under the lights for the first time
Ivan Nova's approach against the Twins

Is it possible that we’re taking the Yankees’ dominance of the Twins for granted? Like I said earlier, they’re 57-18 against Minnesota (regular season and playoffs) in the Ron Gardenhire era, and only twice (!!!) in that span have the Twins won a game in the Bronx not started by Johan Santana. That’s insane. So when New York jumped out to an early four-run lead on Monday, I think we all just sat back and relaxed. The Twins tried to mount a comeback, and they came close to completing it at times, but Ivan Nova did some fine work for six innings and the bullpen took care of the rest.

Crushed. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

The Old Reliables

The Yankees (and pretty much every other team for that matter) have put on a fireworks display early in the season, clubbing homers left and right like it’s nobody’s business. Alex Rodriguez got the party started in the very first inning, taking Scott Baker deep on a 1-0 fastball inside. It wasn’t a big fly in the literal sense of the term, it was a line drive right into the left field stands, one of those old school Gary Sheffield lasers. Mark Teixeira was hit by a pitch in his right foot one batter earlier (he’s fine), so Alex’s blast gave the Yanks a two-run lead seven total batters into the game. In case you’re wondering, this homer was the biggest WPA swing of the game at +.167.

That wouldn’t be all though. One inning later, Jorge Posada hit his third homer in the last two days, a more traditional fly ball into the right-center field stands. Baker pumped fastball after fastball – in succession of the at-bat, they clocked in at 90, 89, 91, 89, 89, 91 – and eventually Jorge locked in. The homer put two more runs on the board (Nick Swisher walked one batter earlier), giving the Yankees a comfortable four-zip lead. Posada and A-Rod have done a lot of great things during their time in pinstripes, and they came through once again on Monday. Jorge’s blast swung the WPA +.125 in the Yankees’ favor.

Strikeouts & Grounders

(AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

Those are the two best results a pitcher can coax out of any given at-bat, and tonight Ivan Nova supplied plenty of them. The young right-hander completed six innings of work for just the second time in eight career starts, generating all but four of his 18 outs on the ground or on strike three. That includes two double plays, one by Denard Span to end the third, and another by Delmon Young to kill a potential rally in the sixth.

That last double play was probably the biggest out(s) Nova got all game (WPA says it was at +.123), since the Twinkies had just crept to within one the inning before and were again threatening when Justin Morneau singled to open up the sixth. Nova’s pitch count was a very manageable 75 at the time, but he was again struggling the second and third time through the order. He started Young off with a fastball in on the hands, the same pitched he used to retire him in the second (routine fly ball to right) and generate a ground ball in the fourth (single through the right side), but Delmon fouled this one off for strike one. The next pitch was a changeup down, the pitch that got the double play. After failing to put away Jim Thome two innings prior (resulting in a two-run double),  Nova got him to swing through a fastball for the strike to end the inning and his night of work.

We’ll have more on Nova’s night in the morning, but the rookie gave the Yankees the kind of start they’ll take from him every time out. Six innings and three runs, a quality start by the definition of the stat (but the same 4.50 ERA he had last season), the kind of game New York will win with their offense and bullpen more often than not. He still has to work on doing a better job once the lineup turns over, but that’s something that will come in experience. You can’t work on that in the bullpen.

MFIFKY. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

The Bullpen From Hell

The late-game trio of Joba Chamberlain, Rafael Soriano, and Mariano Rivera were perfect in three innings of work on Opening Day, and they again did the job tonight. Joba set down the three men he faced in order while Rivera pitched around a two-out Jason Kubel single for his third save, but Soriano was the real star out of the pen. Why? Because he’s the guy that was handed the ball against the heart of the order.

Denard Span led off the eighth, he of the .538 OBP (yes, SSS) coming into the game, but Soriano sat him down on a perfect strike three on the outside corner. Japanese import Tsuyoshi Nishioka dunked a single in front of Curtis Granderson reached on an infield single after a comebacker deflected off Soriano’s glove and away from Derek Jeter, bringing the go-ahead run to the plate in the form of Joe Mauer and then Justin Morneau. Rafi fed the 2009 AL MVP a steady diet of cutters and sliders, getting him to lift a fly ball to Brett Gardner in left on a full count for the second out. Soriano went after the 2006 AL MVP the same way, cutters and sliders, getting him to pop up harmlessly to third in a 1-2 count. Yes, Rivera ended the night with the highest WPA of the trio (+.183), but Soriano was the most important reliever in my book just because he retired Mauer and Morneau with the tying run on base in a one run game. Hooray for deep bullpens.

Leftovers

(AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

Although they combined to go 0-for-7, I thought Gardner and Derek Jeter looked much better tonight than they did against the Tigers. Gardner drew a walk in the second, had a surefire extra base hit taken away when Young made a sliding catch in the fourth, and then laced a line drive right at Morneau in the seventh. No hits, but he hit the ball hard twice and saw 21 pitches in four trips to the plate. That’s more like it. Jeter, meanwhile, actually looked mobile in the field, and hit a few balls hard that either landed foul or in the glove of a defender. Some of them were actually in the air too. The results sucked, the process looked much better.

Teixeira remains en fuego, shaking off that first inning hit-by-pitch to go 1-for-2 with a walk, narrowly missing his fourth homer of the year when the ball hooked foul. A-Rod grounded into a pair of double plays in his last two at-bats, but I’m not complaining after the first inning homer. The five through nine hitters combined to reach base seven times, highlighted by a pair of Robbie Cano singles.

How nice is it to have a catcher that actually frames pitches? We haven’t seen much of that in recent years. I don’t want to say that Russell Martin stole some strikes with the way he framed some offerings, but he definitely … helped make sure the ump got the call right. Yeah, that works. He singled once in three trips to the plate and stole second on a delayed steal in the fourth. He’s on a 0.1 fWAR per game pace in the early goings.

David Robertson has warmed up in all four games this year, but he’s only pitched in one. Joe Girardi needs to chill with that, the guy’s going to be burnt out by June with like, 15 IP to his credit. Robertson and Joba should be interchangeable in my opinion, but Girardi said after the game that Chamberlain is his set seventh inning guy. I don’t see the need to announce it to the world, but whatever.

The two RBI tied A-Rod with his former teammate Rafael Palmeiro for 15th place on the all-time career list at 1,835 steaks. That’s the good news. The bad news is that for the third straight game, we have a new record-low attendance at Yankee Stadium. Just 40,331 fans showed up tonight.

WPA Graph & Box Score

MLB.com brings you the box score and video highlights, but FanGraphs has everything else.

Up Next

Same two teams mañana, when CC Sabathia takes on fellow lefty Brian Duensing. That one will start at 7:05pm ET.

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Game Four: Under the lights for the first time
Ivan Nova's approach against the Twins
  • mbonzo

    Just want to point out that that Joba, AJ, and Nova have the first 3 wins. :)

    • FachoinaNYY

      Joba to the rotation!!!

      • The Big City of Dreams

        that only works with the state farm slogan in front of it

  • http://twitter.com/steveh_mandaura Steve H

    Agree on Martin framing pitches. I don’t know how many strikes you can actually steal, but I think you can turn strikes into balls as a catcher with too much movement, or holding the glove the wrong way. Martin receives the ball very well without much “noise” in the way he catches the ball. If the glove is flying all over the place, the ump is more likely to call a borderline pitch a ball.

    • Mister Delaware

      Surprised no one has ever expanded on the Scorecasting pitch f/x study to see which catchers were best and worst at stealing the corners. I bet Ruiz is near the top, everything he catches looks good, his wrists are always in the zone.

      • http://twitter.com/Paddock9652 Stratman9652

        Honestly I was annoyed watching V Mart get as many called strikes as he did last year. The man would drag back a pitch in the batters box and get it called a strike and it wasn’t like he was subtle about it. Maybe its just perception but it really stood out to me at the time.

    • Jonathan

      Ya there are two ways to frame a pitch. You either stick it, or funnel it. Jose Molina funnels pitches and brings them back into his chest making it appear to be a better pitch. Russell Martin sticks it. He’s not jerking the ball back into the zone and insulting the umpire’s intelligence. If you’ve noticed he does a very good job of this on outside pitches to left handers and inside to righties. He catches the ball with a stiff wrist and his wrist turned upwards. By catching these pitches with this technique you can buy a couple of inches by having the heel of your glove just off the plate so when the ball rolls into the pocket it appears to be more over the plate. Mauer (who quite honestly is a below average defensive catcher despite the media’s opinion) does the opposite of this and catches these balls on his glove side with his wrist loose and turned down. It give the effect of knocking the pitch down. Like the pitch where Tex thought he walked and was taking his gear off or where Martin struck out and did that jump hop out of surprise and anger.

      It’s so nice to have a real catcher behind the plate and it appears Jorge is in line for a big year at DH as well. If you extrapolate his average numbers out over a 550-600 AB instead of the sub 400 ABs he’s had recently, you’re getting 30+HR and 100RBI. If you add in a boost from being healthy and getting to stay in a rhythm who knows. How much better is this than Cervelli and no real DH?

  • IE

    I was at the game tonight and there were nowhere near 40,331 people in the stadium at any time. The Yanks may have sold that amount of tickets, but the place was more than half empty for most of the game and entire sections were just about vacant.

    • Tank the Frank

      It was the same way yesterday on a beautiful Sunday. Entire sections were empty. No excuse for that.

      • Jenny

        there is a reasonable excuse — ticket prices.

        • ZZ

          Tickets on stubhub were dirt cheap. Price is not the reason.

          • Jenny

            From what I saw on Sunday, the $15 bleacher seats were packed but the $95 field section sears were 50% empty.

            http://www.flickr.com/photos/a.....otostream/

            • ZZ

              You can get bleacher seats for as cheap as $1 and field section seats for as cheap as $15 on stubhub.

              Unless the intense fans don’t know how to use stubhub, price is not the driving factor here.

              • Jenny

                there are only 26 tickets listed on stubhub for the Tuesday’s game out of 240 possible seats in field section 103 (the above photo). The average listed price is $73.

                Yes, I know a lot of intense fans who hold back at the price point — including this very blog. As I was told last year the reason RAB hasn’t had a “blog day” at the stadium was not logistics or even interest, but rather the high group ticket price point.

              • Slugger27

                not sure what you’re looking at, but the avg price in those sections is listed in the $70s, and from what i can see is about only 20 seats. the seats that were empty were at least 150, if not several hundred.

              • pollo

                sorry, i had to think twice about purchasing my dollar last night, because the markup with the eticket+service charge brought my ost all the way to 12 bucks. which was just bullshit.

          • Esteban

            I think that NYers are not in a baseball state of mind yet. The winter sports teams are actually decent for once, and are stealing some of the attention. Get back to me in mid-May if it’s still empty.

            • Stan the Man

              At the end of the day if the Yankees are selling 40,000 tickets then I think they will be ok financially. It isn’t cool to see a game with empty seats but at the end of the day Yankee Stadium has more seats than the majority of stadiums in MLB, 15,000 empty seats still means they have more ticket sales than most teams.

    • MannyGeee

      this would never happen at Fenway. even their fans are gritty.

  • Jenny

    “Just 40,331 fans showed up tonight.”
    =======================================

    I watched the game on ESPN and they did a lot of crowd shots and it looked far less 40,000 in attendance. The 40,000 number is probably the amount of tickets sold, as opposed to people who actually walked into the stadium.

    I’m actually shocked. I didn’t think a new stadium would lose it’s fashionability/novelty in only 2 short years.

    The good news, the front office will eventually have to lower ticket prices, bringing back the more intense fans. The bad news, it will lead to a lower player payroll.

    • AndrewYF

      “…the front office will eventually have to lower ticket prices, bringing back the more intense fans”

      They’ve already sold the tickets. 3 million in fact. No, it’s not a sellout of every single game, and that probably has everything to do with the high ticket prices. But the truth of the matter is that no one wants to sit around in 40-degree temperatures. The stadium is quite spacious, and probably much warmer when you’re walking around rather than sitting. That’s definitely what I would have done, I don’t want to freeze sitting in some faraway seat when I can see the action standing up-close. The real number we should be looking for is the gate numbers. It would be interesting to see if that’s what they’re referencing.

      “it will lead to a lower player payroll”

      Yeah, no. The Yankee revenue streams go so far beyond ticket sales it’s not even funny. Well, it’s kind of funny.

      • http://twitter.com/steveh_mandaura Steve H

        Agree. The NFL could never sell a ticket and still make billions. The Yankees aren’t far behind. Ticket sales are icing on the icing for them.

      • Sayid J.

        I agree nobody wants to sit around in 40 degree temperatures… so then what was the excuse tonight? Low 60s when the game started.

        • http://www.riveraveblues.com Mike Axisa

          Well, there were a ton of people walking the concourses during the weekend games, I assume a lot of those empty seats belonged to people that were there but just walking around.

          • The Big City of Dreams

            There is no incentive to staying in your seat

            • YanksFan in MA

              Sitting down is decent incentive to me.

            • MannyGeee

              “not standing” is pretty much all the incentive I need.

      • Slugger27

        the city has been home to shitty april weather for over a century. the crowds were just fine at the old stadium. personally, i have a hard time believing its anything but ticket prices, but the weather is probably the weakest and lamest excuse of the bunch.

        legends and champions are empty cuz of the sports bar thing behind there, but that doesnt explain 3 full sections being empty right behind left field. the $15 bleacher seats were packed to the gills. the $90 seats right behind the wall were empty, rightfully so in my opinion (because of the price).

        • steve (different one)

          Well, you are starting with a premise here that you assume to be true, but may or may not be, that the crowds at the old stadium in April were “just fine”.

          Through the magic of bb-ref.com, we can check that. I’ll pick a random “old stadium” year, say 2006. I see plenty of early week games in April and May with attendance numbers that look similar to or lower than last night. 35K fans at some points in a stadium that held 10K more than the new one…

          I am sure all of the things that people listed (price, weather, maybe parking) are PART of the story, but the facts say attendance has always been lighter at these types of games. It’s only news because everything is a “new record low”…

          • http://twitter.com/joero23 The Honorable Congressman Mondesi

            Agreed. I happen to be one of the people who thinks the move to the new Stadium and all the changes that have taken place have caused the Yanks to shed some of the old regulars (game-attending regulars, I mean), but people go way overboard in thinking that their overall attendance is suffering, especially in comparison to attendance at YS2.

            It does appear the Yanks are filling a bit of a smaller percentage of the stadium than they used to, but we really don’t have enough of a sample size to get a good comparison since we only have 2 seasons in the books in YS3. I’d also note that it appears to be ok with their business plan to fill a smaller percentage of the stadium, since they’re charging such high prices that the loss in total number of consumers appears to be more than compensated for by the increased revenues per consumer (and that’s before we even get to the non-ticket revenue streams generated by YS3).

            • http://twitter.com/joero23 The Honorable Congressman Mondesi

              One more interesting little note… I noted in a comment over at NYYStadiumInsider that we canceled our season-ticket plan after ’09 and have received many more calls this year than last from NYY account reps asking us to buy a package. So maybe they really are concerned about attendance trends and losing former regulars.

              • Slugger27

                What was the reason for cancelling? Price?

    • CP

      Wouldn’t raising prices be a better solution? People bought tickets but weren’t in their seats. If tickets were more expensive then people might value them once they’re purchased and actually show up.

  • ZZ

    “He still has to work on doing a better job once the lineup turns over, but that’s something that will come in experience.”

    Did you even watch the game? He made a very good pitch to Young. Too good actually because it was hit so weakly. Then he made a great pitch to Thome, but sometimes hitters beat you and Thome demonstrated why he is an all time great.

    • http://twitter.com/steveh_mandaura Steve H

      He had all of 5 swinging strikes and just 3k’s. He still has plenty of work to do once the lineup turns over. And yes, I watched.

      • Zack

        And yes, I watched.

        That’s nullified if you were within 10 feet of a spreadsheet

        • Esteban

          I watched the boxscore!

          • http://www.twitter.com/tomzig Tom Zig

            I just read the NY Post.

    • http://www.riveraveblues.com Mike Axisa

      I did watch. He allowed one baserunner to the first nine hitters (one walk, though another reached on an error), then he allowed six hits (four extra base hits) to the next 15 batters.

      • Henry

        Not picking sides or anything, and I DIDN’T watch the game, I only got updates about twice every half inning or so, but to say a certain number of hits given up the next 15 hitters compared to the first 8 might not be the best comp., maybe he had adrenaline through the first time as it was the first start of the season for him, thus running outof gas. Also, it would be more effective (imho) to break it down further (which i know, will come tomorrow). Perhaps first 9, second 9, and last 6? Or maybe even more effective, first 8, secons 8, last 8? Or first 6, second 6, next 6, last 6 hitters?
        Because maybe it could have been just 9 up, 9 down, then maybe he gives up those 6 hits in bunches but then settling down before being taken out. Just saying.

        • Henry

          First 9*

        • Sayid J.

          Regardless of the reasoning behind it, he cruised through the lineup the first time and did not the 2nd time. I don’t see what the debate is about here. Whether it’s because of adrenaline, a rough patch before settling down, or any other reason, Mike’s point still stands.

          • Henry

            You might have misunderstood what O was trying to say, maybe I wasn’t being clear enough, and if that’s the case then I’m sorry. But I all I was implying was that the way Mike stated his side of the arguement imo was perhaps not the best way of going about it.

      • MannyGeee

        this scares the hell out of me against a really good hitting team. Either of the Sox, Jays or Angels could absolutely tee up if he does not figure out his pitches on the second go round

  • Drew

    Nova pitched great tonight, he had me a little worried in the 5th but as long as he is showing improvement there isn’t much more you can ask of your 24 year old #4 starter. I will take 6IP 3ER every time from Nova.

    No need to worry about the record low attendance, I’ll be in the building tomorrow. First Yankee game of the year, deep fried Twinkies here i come!

    • Henry

      Literally and figureatively

    • Henry

      Ahhh. Figuratively*

  • Corporate Scum

    Obviously it’s very early, but Soriano is starting to make it difficult for me to care at all that his contract is retarded.

    • Pat D

      Why, just because he’s hit a couple of home runs?

      Oh, wait…wrong guy.

      • Corporate Scum

        That other guy must be worth the money. Did you know he was once traded for Arod?

        • Pat D

          I think I might have heard that once.

    • It’sATarp

      The guy’s control is scary good….TO TEH ROTATION!

  • Pat D

    Not exactly relevant to the game, but interesting read:
    http://sports.espn.go.com/new-.....id=6293296

    So he disagrees with Cash that he was abused, but he wants to show up the Mets even so. Get healthy, Pedro.

    • It’sATarp

      I think he’s just being nice to his former club about it…like he how always volunteers to pitch. When in reality, he pretty much was overused.

      • MannyGeee

        Pedro just doesn’t want to say no to anyone. great trait for a candy srtiper or a travel agent, not so much when your arm is about to fall off.

  • Dale Mohorcic

    So what’s the Yankees magic number?

    • http://www.twitter.com/jordansmed JGS

      Elimination number = 163 – (1st place team’s wins – team you are doing the calculation for’s losses)

    • John Napoli

      “54” That’s a pretty magical number … Goose Gosage / Dale Mohoricic ….

      • John Napoli

        Oops … Gossage / Mohorcic (not drunk – just bad at typing)

  • jim p

    The guy on the radio called out “JoSoMo.” A suitable name for the fierce three-headed creature which guards our wins.

    • boogie down

      Cerberus!

  • Naved

    I was at the game. It gets cold in the stands. The wind is a huge factor. I would wait till it gets warmer to go to a game.

  • Monteroisdinero

    “JoSoMo” also was used by Kay who claimed it as original even though we have used that here for weeks. Let’s sue Kay for plagiarism. BTW, it was a quartet of righties that should be nicknamed:

    NoJoSoMo. Sounds like Yanks signed a new Japanese pitcher.

    Nova has great stuff. He has more quality pitches than Hughes or Burnett. I know he is the new kid on the block but I see and judge with my own eyes. I like what he can throw in hitter’s counts.

    • I am not the droids you’re looking for

      Add D Rob into the mix and you get RoJoSoMo, the four headed mythical beast.

  • @TheDog_man

    You had to mention the 2006 MVP? Still makes me mad!

  • Rey22

    Wow, this year 1 run leads when we get to the bullpen feel so…..safe.

  • Matt :: Sec110

    JoSoMo at it again…and I don’t care what Michael Kay thinks, you heard it here first.

    Other than Nova looking good and ARod & Big Texy staying hot…hotta love Russell Martin’s start…all aspects of it.

  • Wil Nieves Number 1 Fan

    I thought Nova looked excellent. I’m very optimistic about Nova’s growth this year, and will gladly take a 6 IP, 3 run outing every time. Nova finished the 6th with just 83 pitches, so had Nova gone back out there and pitched another scoreless inning, his line would have looked much sexier: 7.0 IP, 6 H, 3 R.

    I’m also loving Russell the Muscle behind the plate. Super refreshing.

    So with Duensing starting tonight, does this mean we’ll see Jeter lead off with Swisher in the two-hole?

  • theyankeewarrior

    Who sits tonight for Jones?

    Gardner of Granderson?

    My money is on Gardner.

    Jeter
    Swisher
    Tex
    Alex
    Cano
    Posada
    Jones
    Granderson
    Martin

    • theyankeewarrior

      Maybe switch Grandy and Martin so Joe can pinch hit Gardy for Jones vs. a lefty and not have to stack him next to Grand.

      /mouthful’d

      • MannyGeee

        I wonder if Jones will bring the big lumber. Andruw Jones hitting the snot out of the ball is a thing of beauty.

  • Jonathan

    I can’t believe these so called die hard fans aren’t going because it’s 40 degrees and early in the season. Watching the Yankees in person isn’t worth a couple of hours of not being in perfect weather? That’s just ridiculous. Show up and support your team. There is NOTHING like live baseball. Buy a sweatshirt and a stocking cap and go. Oh ya, and a pair of testicles.

    • gc

      Did you know that the 1998 Yankees, arguably the greatest baseball team in the history of the sport, didn’t even draw 3 million fans to the great Cathedral of Baseball? Man, those fans SUCKED!

      Just sayin, it hasn’t even been a full week yet. Can we relax on the attendance thing?