Yanks end homestand with 5-2 win over Jays

Open Thread: Back to Detroit
Fan Confidence Poll: May 2nd, 2011

The Yankees were 3-3 on the homestand and 1-1 in the weekend series against the Blue Jays, so everyone wanted a win on Sunday to end the week on a high note. Ivan Nova was a little shaky early on, but the Yankees’ bats came alive and they rode their bullpen to their AL East leading 16th win.

(AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

Not quite a Granderslam, but close enough

Although Mark Teixeira put the Yankees on the board with a first inning solo homer, the team basically spun its wheels offensively until the fifth inning and the third time through the order. Toronto starter Jesse Litsch had kept them off balance with a mix of cutters and sliders and curveballs and changeups and sinkers, but his lack of a true put away pitch came back to bite him.

(AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

Jorge Posada led off the fifth inning with his first non-homerun extra base hit of the season, a double into the right field corner that I’m sure took a ton of weight off his shoulders given his slump. The molten hot Brett Gardner (more on that later) singled him over the third, and Frankie Cervelli drovehim in with an RBI ground out in his first game of the season. The Yankees caught a break when Yunel Escobar made a boneheaded decision and tried to cut Gardner down at third on a (surprise surprise) ground ball by Derek Jeter. Brett slid in safe and the Yankees had men on the corners with one out instead of a man on third with two outs. Yunel should know better, just take the out. That brought brought Curtis Granderson, who already had a single to his credit on the afternoon, to the plate.

One thing that caught me off guard when the Yankees acquired Granderson last year is his ability to work the count. I stupidly assumed that he was a hacker given his strikeout totals, but he’s never seen fewer than 3.96 pitches per plate appearance in a single season, and his career mark is a gaudy 4.09 P/PA. This year it’s 4.36 P/PA, the fifth best total in baseball. Litsch started Grandy off with three straight balls before the center fielder swung and misses when he turned it loose on 3-0. A few pickoff throws and a foul ball followed for a full count, then Granderson teed off on a 88 mph fastball over the plate for a three-run homer. It was quite a grand slam, but it gave the Yankees a 5-3 lead they would never give up. At +.208 WPA, it was easily the biggest play of the game.

(AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

Nova settles down, literally

In the first two innings, it looked like it was going to be a long day for starter Ivan Nova. The noted ground baller faced ten batters through the first two frames, walking one, whiffing one, and allowing the other eight to hit the ball in the air. Adam Lind hit an excuse me homerun off the screen on the right field foul pole and another single blooped in, then a second run scored thanks to a pair of singles and some steals in the third.

Nova settled down after that, allowing just five of the final 18 batters he faced to hit the ball in the air, and one of those air balls didn’t even make it out of the infield. Fourteen of his 19 outs came either on the ground or on strike three (one came on a caught stealing), and that’s what Ivan has to do to be successful. His pitches were certainly up in (and often out of) the zone early on, but the right hander settled in and started pounded the bottom of the zone. He brought everything down.

The key for him was again his curveball, which he threw 28 times (18 strikes, two swings-and-misses). Nova threw just one changeup in the game, so he was primarily a two pitch guy all afternoon, throwing a career high 100 pitches. The Yankees don’t need Ivan to be a star, they’ll take starts like this 30 times a year, and it was great to see him make that adjustment and start getting the ball down as the game progressed.

Leftovers

Cool picture, terrible play. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

The sacrifice bunt from hell struck again. The Yankees were down 2-1 early on, in just the third inning, and Gardner worked a leadoff walk of four pitches. Cervelli bunted him to second either on orders from the dugout or on his own accord, but either way it was dumb. Jeter then got hit by a pitch and Granderson singled, loading the bases with one out before Tex bounced into an inning ending double play. Why was the bunt dumb? Well, first of all Gardner walked on four pitches well out of the zone and Cervelli didn’t bother to take a pitch (Jeter getting hit is further evidence that Litsch was wild at that moment in time). Secondly, the team’s fastest runner was on first, so wouldn’t you rather have him to try to steal (in fairness, Gardner got caught stealing later in the game, his fourth in his last five steal attempts, a terrible ratio)? Third, it’s the third inning! They played for one run and got zero, which is usually how the story goes. The Yankees don’t have to fight and claw for every run, so just stop it, a bunt made zero sense for this team at that time of the game.

Gardner reached base three times in his three plate appearances (two walks and a single), and is now 6-for-11 (.545) with six walks in his last six games (five starts). He’s upped his triple-slash line from .136/.190/.254 to a cool .200/.300/.400 in the last seven days. That’s a 22 OPS+ to a 93 OPS+. Not a bad week for the G-man. He also made two very nice running catches in this game, one in the first inning and one in the eighth.

Jeter took yet another 0-fer, putting him at .242/.308/.263 for the season. This is the guy getting more plate appearances than anyone else on the team. Alex Rodriguez went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts and is just 5-for-34 (.147) with five walks and ten strikeouts since coming back from that stiff oblique, but I suppose the good news is that three of those five hits are for extra bases.

David Robertson walked Jose Bautista in the seventh to bring the tying run to the plate, but Boone Logan did a nice job bailing him out with a behind the back grab of an Adam Lind comebacker. Rafael Soriano allowed his contractually mandated baserunner in a scoreless eighth, and Mariano Rivera was flawless in the ninth. Aside from Soriano’s struggles, the Yankees’ bullpen has really come together over the last week.

WPA Graph & Box Score

I don’t want to toot my own horn, but I totally called the Yankees losing the first game of the series to Ricky Romero before winning the next two in last week’s chat. Anyway, MLB.com has your box score and video highlights while FanGraphs has everything else.

Up Next

The homestand is over and the Yankees are heading to Detroit to face the Tigers four times starting on Monday. Bartolo Colon takes on Justin Verlander in the opener.

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Open Thread: Back to Detroit
Fan Confidence Poll: May 2nd, 2011
  • mbonzo

    Curtis Granderson is gonna get some MVP votes this year.

    The top 3 CFers in the AL based on WAR so far are

    Granderson
    Span
    Bourjos

    Austin Jackson is hitting .181

  • Marcus

    Cool picture, awesome caption. You’ve got a knack for great captions, Mike.

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

      The least marketable skill in America!

      • Will (the other one)

        False! It’s still better than whatever Omar Minaya is putting down on his resume these days.

  • Erica

    I was at this game this afternoon and lemme tell ya – that Grandy home run was REALLY, REALLY HIGH.

    That is all.

    Go Yanks

    • Monteroisdinero

      It was high.
      It was far.
      it was gone.

      It was something short of Grandish.

      • Erica

        Hahahahha. I wish they could just let Sterling go at it over the loudspeaker when these kinds of things happen.

  • JobaTheHeat62

    we did to the tiger in the granderson trade what the united states did to osama.

  • Kevin G.

    I don’t want to toot my own horn, but I totally called the Yankees losing the first game of the series to Ricky Romero before winning the next two in last week’s chat.

    For those of you that don’t want to scroll through chat to find it:
    http://prntscr.com/1tfr9

    • Monteroisdinero

      Modesty is always becoming. I predicted Swish would homer before Jeter. I am now predicting Nunez and Chavez will homer before him.

      Still unsure about Cervelli though.

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

    I was really hoping Jeter’s slugging percentage in the recap was just a typo. Uggh.

  • Erica

    Additionally, Nova has to speed up his game. Time was crawling when he was pitching. I’m happy to be able to see Nova early in his career and to see how he develops and all that jazz… but he was pacing it so, so slow.

    • http://www.mystiqueandaura.com/ JMK

      Will send letter by carrier pigeon to Nova.

  • http://twitter.com/stophamm3rtime dela g

    AMERICA, FUCK YEAH!!

    and yankees win!

    • I am not the droids you’re looking for…

      I am so watching this tonight.

  • http://twitter.com/Paddock9652 Stratman9652

    Really cool picture. Amazing how much the ball gives when it hits the bat.

    • Mickey Scheister

      That pic is awesome, I’ve never seen a still shot of a bunt before. Dumb play, nice pic.

  • Wandering Bear

    What a great series win. Soriano didn’t blow any games, Gardner looks better, and now we have the best 1-2 punch in baseball going tomorrow and Tuesday. It’s a great day to be a Yankees fan.

  • http://twitter.com/Carlosological Carlosologist

    FUCK YEAH AMERICA

    The Yanks winning today just made everything so much better today.

  • Tom “the fat guy” Lin

    Does Brett Gardner give up his two-hand swing right now?
    Just ask.

    • Pat D

      He hasn’t been using it for at least a week now as far as I know.

  • Thomas Cassidy

    Jeter just looks so terrible out there this year. I really, really hope he turns it around. I will honestly be surprised if he hits over 5 home runs this year; it seems he can’t get the damn ball off of the ground.

    On the other hand, I can see Grandy putting up a .280/40/110 line. Now, that would be nice.

    • Rey22

      5 homeruns? I’ll be shocked if he makes it to 2.

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

        Not counting the playoffs, Jeter has gone nearly 270 plate appearances since his last home run. Even two might be a little generous.

    • David, Jr.

      Jeter is an absolute disaster. He should be batting 9th for the Kansas City Royals, although they wouldn’t like his fielding enough to start him. If you take away his infield dribbler hits, you have Derek Mendoza with zero power.

      Thankfully, all kinds of unexpected positives make up for Jeter and Posada. This will be a powerhouse by the end of the year if three things happen: Montero at DH, Nunez at SS, one more starter picked up by Cashman.

      • Tim

        Even as terrible as Jeter is right now offensively and defensively (and he is TERRIBLE), he’s still better than Nunez. Replacing Jeter with Nunez in no way helps make the Yankees a “powerhouse”.

        • David, Jr.

          I disagree. Younger, faster, more powerful, far more range. At worst a push, and he has plenty of upside, while Jeter is going over the hill before our eyes.

          • Jim S

            No, at worst not a push. At worst he has better range but continues his history of errors.

            Either way, Tim’s point was Nunez does not make the yankees a Powerhouse. And once Posada starts hitting, which he will, the difference between 2 DH’s who can both hit will be negligible.

            A better way to put it is: if our pitching keeps this up, we’ll continue to be a powerhouse. Our season was always going to come down to our pitching.

            • David, Jr.

              At some point this team is going need to “turn over” and get younger. Why let a 39 year old block Montero? What do they gain by having him tear up AAA again? As for Jeter, it looks to me like is almost done. Would love to be proven wrong, but the last several months don’t show many positive signs.

  • ramez hanna

    that is why he is doing better now
    less power but more walks and better average
    could sombody verify that he has really gave up on the two hand swing

    • Ryan

      you could watch the games

  • Ryan

    “The Yankees don’t need Ivan to be a star, they’ll take starts like this 30 times a year”

    His line today over 30 starts would equal:

    190 IP 2.84 ERA 150 K

    I would DEFINITELY take that from Nova!!!

    • Rey22

      I’d take that from anyone except CC

      • Rey22

        Even if you tack on a full run to that ERA.

  • ramez hanna

    sorry talking about gardener not geter
    jeter is old and toasted ,that is why the gm should keep sentiments away from business

    • http://www.mystiqueandaura.com/ JMK

      Did you type this on an Etch-a-Sketch? What on earth are you saying?

      • The209

        Daily life must be exhausting for you…

        • Jim S

          Because he’d like to be able to read and comprehend things that people write?

  • pete

    Leftovers:

    A-Rod hit a pop-up right behind home plate that was caught six minutes ago.

  • Fairweather Freddy

    Everybody is a winner today! USA! USA! USA! USA!! Hail to our troops!