Yankees drop Twins to end homestand

Sanchez goes deep on Opening Day
Mailbag: Angelini, Brackman, Insurance, CC

With a disappointing loss and a rain out in the rear view mirror, the Yankees needed something to make them feel better in the final game of their season opening homestand. Francisco Liriano is a tough assignment more often than not, and he lived up that reputation in the first few innings of this one. But the Yankees eventually got to him by doing something they haven’t done a whole lot of so far in 2011: they scored runs without the help of a homerun.

Biggest Hit: Andruw Jones, True Yankee™

Andruw made a nice sliding catch too. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

The Yankees imported Andruw Jones for one reason: to hit lefties. He marked his territory by homering off Brian Duensing in his first plate appearance on Tuesday night, but that was a measly tack-on run in a game his team eventually lost. On Thursday though, Jones’ efforts were much more important.

The Twins jumped out to a 2-1 lead in the top of the fourth inning thanks to a trio of doubles, but Liriano started the bottom half by walking Alex Rodriguez with a series of breaking balls. A-Rod swung and missed at a 1-1 slider down-and-in, but he settled in and took the same pitch when Liriano threw it again on 1-2, 2-2, and 3-2. Robbie Cano jumped all over a first pitch fastball and grounded it through the right side to put men on first and second with none out. After Jorge Posada got caught looking at a backdoor slider for strike three, Andruw came to the dish after Joe predicted he’d go 0-for-4 in yesterday’s podcast.

Liriano was offspeed heavy all game, and he certainly was in this particular at-bat against Jones. A first pitch slider was fouled off for strike one, then a changeup dropped in at the knees for a quick strike two. Jones fouled off another slider to stay alive then took the only fastball he’d see for a ball. The fifth pitch of the encounter was a total mistake pitch, a slider that hung up in the zone and about thigh high. Andruw yanked the pitched into the left field corner to score A-Rod and set the Yankees up with men at second and third with just one out. Although it only tied the game, the double improved the Yankees chances of winning by 16.9%, the biggest WPA swing of the game.

Honorable Mention: Gardner gets some BABIP luck

It’s no secret that Brett Gardner is off to a slow start this year, as he came into this game hitting just .125/.176/.125 in 19 plate appearances. He’s definitely hit a few balls hard that found gloves, namely the extra base hit Delmon Young robbed earlier in the series. Batting ninth against the lefty, Gardner finally had things break his way for once. Two batters after Jones’ double tied the game, the Yankees’ left fielder blooped a 2-1 fastball into shallow right field for a single, driving in the team’s fourth run, the eventual game-winner. It was perfectly placed, a nice little correction for his .182 season BABIP.

(AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

A.J. grinds it out

We’ve written more words than we care to count about how important A.J. Burnett is to the success of the 2011 Yankees, and two starts into the season, things are going okay. A.J.’s biggest jam came of the game in the second inning, when he looked to be headed for one of his patented meltdowns. Justin Morneau led the inning off with a four-pitch walk, and before you knew it, Jim Thome was ahead in the count 2-0. Russell Martin came out to the mound for a quick talk, but Burnett eventually walked Thome to put men on first and second with no outs. This was it, here comes the A.J. meltdown.

Except it didn’t come. Burnett fell behind Michael Cuddyer two balls to no strikes but retired him on a routine fly ball two pitches later. He then went after Jason Kubel with a variety of fastballs and offspeed pitches, striking him out with a curveball down in the zone. Sophomore third baseman Danny Valencia got no respect; he saw five straight fastballs clocked between 93 and 94 and eventually popped out on the infield. Credit A.J. for keeping it together and to Martin for helping him battled through it after the early inning struggles. The three outs recorded that inning were the three biggest of Burnett’ day according to WPA.

Of the 99 pitches the Yankees’ right-hander threw, 64 were fastballs, which isn’t all that unusual for Burnett. What was unusual was the dozen changeups he threw, since he’ll typically throw maybe three in a given start. Eight of the 12 were strikes, including two swings and misses, one of which was by Joe Mauer, arguably the best pure hitter on the planet. The Twins swung and missed just four times against Burnett, who struck out five, but it can only help if he starts incorporating that change more often. It’s only been two starts, but Burnett’s performance has been encouraging so far. That’s better than the alternative.

(AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

Leftovers

Unfortunate play in the seventh inning, when Nick Swisher took out second baseman Tsuyoshi Nishioka with a slide trying to break up the double play. It was a clean slide – you can see in the photo that Swish was close enough to touch the bag, less than an arm’s length away – but hard, and Nishioka ended up on the ground in obvious pain. He had to be helped off the field, and after the game we learned that he suffered a fractured fibula. Swisher said afterwards that he was expected him to jump, and Nishioka told him it wasn’t his fault. Ron Gardenhire declared it a clean play as well. Swisher was obviously concerned in the dugout and I’m sure he feels bad. It sucks, you don’t want to see anyone get hurt, but it happens. It’s part of the game. You have to figure Nick will get one in the ribs the next time these two teams meet. It’s only fair.

(AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

The Yankees scored their first run the old fashioned way, by manufacturing it. Gardner drew a walk  and stole second, then Jeter moved him over to third with a ground out. Swisher completed the rally with a sacrifice fly, the old school way. The offense didn’t do much outside of this run and the fourth inning rally; Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez combined to go 0-for-6 with a walk (A-Rod) and a hit-by-pitch (Tex on the right quad, he’s fine). Posada’s day was particularly awful, 0-for-4 with three strikeouts. He couldn’t figure out Liriano if he knew what was coming. Jeter’s new old swing resulted in a first inning double and an infield single.

Another day, another dry hump for David Robertson. It’s an epidemic at this point (note the D-Rob Dry Hump Counter in the sidebar). Joba Chamberlain gave up an unearned run but ultimately he, Rafael Soriano, and Mariano Rivera shut things down over the last three frames. Soriano gave up a hit to Mauer (excusable) then got three fly balls to escape the inning, two of which were long. Those are going to be a problem when the weather warms up.

That was straight up bad defense on Thome’s fourth inning double. Not by Gardner, who had the ball get by him on the carom off the wall in center, but where the hell were Jones and Swisher? They’ve got to back him up on that play, someone more mobile that Thome would have been on third and probably thinking about an inside-the-parker. Poor form, fellas.

And what the hell, why in the world are they bringing the infield in with Thome (!!!) at third base in the fourth (!!!) inning?! Good grief, sometimes you have to ignore the book and use your brain a little.

The Twins still don’t have a first inning hit this season; they’re now 0-for-18 with two walks in the first inning after Burnett sat them down in order yesterday. They still haven’t won back-to-back games in the Bronx since 2000. Sucks for them.

The Yankees did not set a new record low attendance today since 41,512 people allegedly showed up. It didn’t look like that many, so I assume they counted the season ticket holders regardless of whether or not they attended.

WPA Graph & Box Score

MLB.com has the box score and video highlights, FanGraphs some other stuff.

Up Next

Time to head up to Fenway Park for the first time in 2011. Phil Hughes will take on John Lackey in Boston’s home opener tomorrow afternoon starting at 2pm ET. Can’t imagine the natives will be happy with the 0-6 start.

email
Sanchez goes deep on Opening Day
Mailbag: Angelini, Brackman, Insurance, CC
  • CMP

    Newsflash: Mo’s still the greatest.

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

    great win

  • Cuso

    2pm start time tomorrow is dumb. especially since they’re gonna do their noon start time for ‘Patriots Day’ pretty soon.

    2pm start time on a Friday? Gimme a break. How lame!

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

      It’s the home opener for Boston, day game is just how things are done. I don’t find it particularly stupid.

      • Cuso

        thank you, Captain Obvious.

        i knew if i checked back that someone couldn’t resist the impulse to point out that its a home opener.

        unless you live under a rock, it’s been force-fed by every media outlet that the ‘Sawx are coming home.’

        TO REITERATE: It’s dumb that a Friday game has a start time of 2pm.

        if that means that the home opener should’ve been on a Monday or Thursday, so be it.

        Excluding the Cubs, go find me another Friday game that had a start time of 2pm within the last 25 years.

        • YankeesJunkie

          Twins at 3 pm CST tomorrow same with the Tigers except EST. I don’t think this very unusual at all. The game is going to be sold out either way for Opening Day so why not play it in the day it is old school and it is fun if you can skip work.

          • MannyGeee

            why 2PM though? why not 4? seems lioke an odd time to me.

        • Sayid J.

          Lol… Yup, you’re right. The Cubs are the only team in the last 25 years to have a Friday afternoon game…

    • YankeesJunkie

      I don’t mind day games too much, but I am also in college so I have more free time. I am sort of saddened though that the Patriot’s day game is starting at noon EST rather than its usual 11 AM EST, it is always fun to have morning baseball here in the middle of America.

  • Jimmy McNulty

    Positives: AJ Burnett was huge, good start from him. Maybe the confidence the Yankees displayed in him was deserved, who knows. Gardner had a good game, and Jeter got started off of a pretty good pitcher. Soriano had a nice rebound too. Jones had a good day and he’s looking like a good acquisition.

    Negatives: Robertson never got used despite getting warmed up. The bullpen management may become a bit of an issue, every year it seems that a good reliever gets wasted in the bullpen, hopefully it won’t be Robertson. The Big bats kinda cooled today, but they’ve been doing work the past few days so it’s hard to get upset about it.

    • Esteban

      All I have to say is that im watching the wire right now.

    • YankeesJunkie

      Robertson is just not in a very good position now. The Yankees have been in mostly close games and Robertson is the fourth reliever in the pen.

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

    MLB attendance numbers are really paid attendance and based on tickets sold. If you buy a ticket and don’t go, you still get counted as a part of it. Makes sense to me, you don’t get a full refund if you decide not to show so the team is getting that money no matter what.

    A few years ago it included a lot of different kinds of freebies and stuff but that was changed and it became more restrictive.

    • YankeesJunkie

      Is it me, or does attendance around baseball seem relatively low this year compared to years past.

      • Brian in NH

        I can’t blame people for not showing up to some games. Its cold out still in a lot of the country. Who wants to sit outside for that?

    • Ed

      Exactly.

      Back in the 90s it used to be that one legal reported paid ticket sales while the other reported the count from the gates. I don’t remember which league did it which way. Eventually they changed to report paid ticket sales. I’m sure sure, but I believe the change happened when the leagues stopped being separate legal entities.

    • http://twitter.com/JoeRo23 The Honorable Congressman Mondesi

      My only issue with it is that they use the word “attendance,” which implies that the numbers they release count the number of people who “attend” the games. I know they’re open about what that number means, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t trying to, or at least allowing people to be misled if not actively trying to, be a little cute with the numbers and inflate the attendance figures.

      They could very easily call it tickets-sold or something else that wouldn’t be misleading. When someone tells me the attendance number for an event, the reasonable reaction is to think they’re telling me how many people attended the event.

      “MLB attendance numbers are really paid attendance and based on tickets sold.”

      Even this is a bit inaccurate, just btw. It’s not really “paid attendance,” it’s “tickets sold.” “Paid attendance” would be a lower number than the number that they announce, because it wouldn’t take paying no-shows into account.

      • Bob Stone

        Good point. I agree it should be called “tickets sold” or “Total Ticket Sales”. Attendance should another stat.

        I’d like to see both stats reported.

    • Yank the Frank

      I don’t know why there is so much being made of the attendence or lack thereof. April has always been a poor month for attendence especially in the northeast.
      Attendence in April may have been up the last 2 years at YS because of the new stadium but that is wearing off as it should.
      Besides as mentioned in another article the new stadium has a lot of walking around space, people are always standing on the main level where it is warmer to watch the game rather than freeze in their seats.

  • Rey22

    Everytime AJ pitches decently/well I have a hard time thinking he’s fixed himself, since last season he started off insanely well till like June.

    • gc

      People simply focus on the negative a bit too much, in my opinion. Since he’s been here, AJ has probably gotten out of more jams then “melted down,” but all we hear about whenever he lets a man on base is…”here comes one of his patented meltdowns.” When he gets out of it, we act surprised, as if he’s never done it before. I realize he had a bad season last year, and some of his starts were horrific, but I’m far more willing than most to give the guy the benefit of the doubt. He’s had a pretty good career so far, and I’ll always love how he came through in the World Series in ’09, so yeah, I think I root a little harder for a guy like him.

  • danimal

    Damn.

    D Rob dry humps so much he might have to switch to first baseman.

    • Esteban

      Oh ICWUDT

  • lordbyron

    Excellent wrap up – thanks.

  • Bob Stone

    I’m looking forward to the series with the Sawx . . . a lot. I’d love a sweep, but Boston is too good a team to keep losing every game.

    The pitching matchups favor the Yankees slightly, but that never seems to work out on the field like it looks on paper . . . especially with BoSox/Yankees series.

    Gotta love playing the Sawx.

    • MannyGeee

      anyone watch the lead-in on Quick Pitch this morning? A bunch of clips of Sawx Fans on WEEI sounding off on how disappointed they are in their team. A couple of my favorite quotes included:

      – This is like a team fulla JD Drew’s, no one seems tah cahre…
      – We shoulda Nevah signed Crawfed, we shoulda signed Mah-Teeen-Iz instead
      – Beckett and Lackey Ahhh Hoahr-abull

      I LOOOOOOVE when the Nation is in peril!

  • Pasqua

    So, the Swisher slide is clean. The guy with the broken leg says so. The manager of the guy with the broken leg says so. Photo and video says so. And, yet, Swisher can still expect to take one in the back next time? You can talk to me about “unwritten rules” and “the way the game is played” all you want…that protocol is absolutely insane (not to mention, pathetic).

    • Monteroisdinero

      I’d rather Swish gets plunked by a pitch than Cano gets injured on a play at 2B.