Good signs abound in blowout win over Orioles

Fan Confidence Poll: September 10th, 2012
Yankees having trouble in two-strike counts
(Rob Carr/Getty)

It’s easy to make too much of one game in baseball, especially when you’re talking about a game like yesterday’s. The Yankees clobbered the Orioles to wrap up an important ten-game stretch in which they went just 4-6, but winning that final game in blowout fashion heading into the off-day sure has a way of making everyone feel like things are going to be okay. The club isn’t out of the woods yet though, far from it.

With 22 games left to play, the Yankees still have a number of issues to sort through. The middle relief remains shaky, Mark Teixeira‘s calf is going to keep him out for at least another few games, a number of other key lineup cogs are slumping, CC Sabathia still isn’t pitching as expected, and both the Orioles and Rays remain hot on the Bombers’ tail. Yesterday’s win was both stress-relieving and encouraging, with signs that maybe a few of those issues are starting to sort themselves out.

Curtis Granderson
Granderson’s extended slump has been well-documented around this parts. He took a 4-for-34 skid into yesterday’s game and was hitting .207/.297/.410 with a 31.7% strikeout rate in his last 300 plate appearances. That’s basically half a season worth of below-average production from the club’s second-best hitter a year ago. Curtis simply wasn’t doing enough, which is why Joe Girardi did not start him either Saturday or Sunday against the Orioles.

“It’s just a matter of continuing to swing the bat,” he said to reporters yesterday. “I feel like I’m getting balls to hit and putting good swings on them, but I wasn’t able to do much with them for whatever reason. It’s just baseball being baseball.”

Granderson came off the bench yesterday and did something he was unable to do the day before: he produced. Three hits in three at-bats, including a solo homer to center and a two-run double to right. The two-run bloop to shallow left off a left-hander was his softest hit of the day but arguably his most impactful. It was just his third three-hit game of the season and they felt like his first three hits in about two months. If he’s able to build off this and strong contributing more to the offense, it’ll be a huge during the final weeks of the schedule. Curtis can do a lot of damage when right.

(Leon Halip/Getty)

Joba Chamberlain
The Yankees have been looking for a reliable non-matchup middle reliever to couple with David Robertson and Rafael Soriano for about three months now, and there was a lot of hope that Joba would be that guy once he came off the DL. He was anything but reliable at first, allowing seven runs on 20 baserunners in 6.2 innings during his first seven appearances. The stuff was there, the mid-to-high-90s fastball and wipeout slider, but he was making way too many location mistakes. That’s not uncommon for guys coming off Tommy John surgery.

Very quietly though, Joba has been rounded back into form. Yesterday’s six-batter, five-out, four-strikeout appearance put an exclamation point on a road trip that featured 4.1 strong innings. He allowed one hit during the trip, a solo homer to Mark Reynolds on Thursday. Reynolds has been clobbering Yankees’ pitching all year, so it’s not like Chamberlain’s alone here. Other than that, he walked one, punched out eight, and generated 14 swings and misses out of 76 total pitches (18.4%). This doesn’t mean he’ll turn into another dominant late-inning arm or anything, but Joba has shown signs of shaking off the rust — he told reporters yesterday that he made a slight mechanical adjustment as well — and has started to assume more responsibility in a bullpen that needs as much help as it can get.

Cory Wade
This one kinda goes hand-in-hand in with the last guy. Wade was dynamite in April and May before completely collapsing in June, to the point where you had to wonder if he was even salvageable. He was that bad. Wade spent a little more than two months in Triple-A and pitched reasonably well (2.27 ERA and 4.12 FIP in 31.2 innings) before returning as a September call-up. In two appearances this month, Wade has retired all eleven men he faced, include six in two innings yesterday. He looked an awful lot like the guy he was last year and earlier this year against the Orioles.

It’s easy to write someone like Wade off because he doesn’t fit the stereotype of an above-average reliever. He doesn’t come out of the bullpen throwing gas with a knockout breaking ball, he relies on changing speeds and locating with a variety of offspeed pitches. He’s the Freddy Garcia of relief pitchers. Expecting Wade to return to his previous level of effectiveness is probably unrealistic, but these two most recent looks are encouraging at the very least. If he can step back up and give the team another reliable right-handed reliever for those middle innings, it’ll be a huge addition down the stretch.

Late-Inning Rallies
This isn’t exclusive to Sunday’s game but is worth mentioning. The Yankees put together late rallies in three of the four games against the Orioles, including the two losses. Five eighth inning runs on Thursday tied the game before the bullpen blew it, then Saturday’s two-run ninth inning rally was cut short at one when first base ump Jerry Meals blew the call on a not so bang-bang play. Two runs in the seventh and five runs in the eighth put yesterday’s game out of reach. Ultimately it doesn’t matter what inning the runs are scored in as long as the Yankees push enough across to win, but stringing together hits and scoring multiple runs in an inning had been an issue up until this weekend.

* * *

As I said, one big win has a way of making you forget about all of the team’s problems for at least a day. Granderson has shown flashes of busting out of his slump before so maybe this is just another tease. Relievers and their performances are fickle, so who knows what Joba and Wade can contribute going forward, if anything. If nothing else, at least we saw some positive signs in the finale against Baltimore, which is a lot more than what we had in previous weeks.

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Fan Confidence Poll: September 10th, 2012
Yankees having trouble in two-strike counts
  • Better off Eddard

    The time off helped Granderson. They might try the same with Swisher once we get to face a righty for a change.

    Joba is back. Yesterday he showed that 96 mph fastball and the nasty slider. We needed a bridge to the 8th and Joba will combine with Logan to pitch the 6th and 7th down the stretch. And if Robertson refuses to throw his curveball we can also insert Joba into the 8th.

    Cory Wade isn’t that significant. He’s an upgrade over Eppley when he’s on but if we make the playoffs 3 of the 4 starters can go 7-9 innings and the middle relief won’t be as significant. It’s only important now because 2/5 starters only pitch 4 innings.

  • http://www.twitter.com/vinnyscafuto Vinny S.

    In the seven games since “Unexpected Star” Alex Rodriguez returned to the lineup the Yankees have scored 42 runs, which is good for 6 runs a game. Obviously that’s skewed by yesterday’s score and an admittedly small sample, but even without yesterday it’s 29 runs in 6 games, or 4.83 runs per game. That’s a lot better than the 40 runs in 12 games (3.33 runs per game) they scored from the White Sox series until A-Rod came back on Monday.

    I’m not saying that his mere presence is magical. But obviously having him in there has been a big help to the lineup.

    • JLC 776

      I’ll go and say it then, “his presence is magical”. It’s purely anecdotal, but it really feels like the ‘idea’ of A-Rod in the lineup is more important than his actual physical presence in it. Regardless of the direct numbers he puts up (which are streaky at best), or how phony or overrated top ten lists rank him, his name just seems to be an anchor point upon which the opposing team focuses on.

      I can’t figure it out, but the much needed extra dimension that the offense was missing for two months is now back. A-Rod may not embody it, but he seems to draw it with him.

    • Laz

      It’s what I expected to happen. Arod’s return to the lineup means more often that Chavez can switch to Dh, thus it means less at bats for Jones/Ibanez/Nix That three are basically easy outs at this point, so as long as arod can get a few occasional hits it is an improvment, because those guys were killing rallies.

  • http://thecarsboneblog.tumblr.com Raul Ibanez AKA Tom Marvolo Riddle

    Mike, at some point, even in the off season I’d love to see an analysis of how the Yankees do the day preceding an off day vs how they do coming back from an off day. I mean this is purely anecdotal but I feel like they always seem to do well, and even crush their opponents, every game before an off day, then come back to struggle in the game following. Like I watch or listen to the game before an off day and the offense and pitching both click and every thing looks glorious for the afternoon, then they have the off day and come back looking a little flat.

    • JLC 776

      For an extremely small sample size from this year going back to the All Star Break (with the most recent game first), here are the pre-break and post-break Win/Loss pairs:

      L/L
      L/W
      W/W
      W/W

      The only one I really remember is the most recent; a terrible 8-5 loss to Toronto in a home rubber game with CC on the mound followed by a terrible 6-1 loss at home to Baltimore with Kuroda on the mound.

    • Pasta Stumbling Sojo

      Here’s the full list starting from the beginning of the season. I quickly did this by hand, so there might be a mistake or two. W2 means they won by 2, L4 means they lost by 4, etc. The first column is the game before the off-day, the second is the game after.

      W2, W5
      W6, W3
      L4, W1
      W6, W2
      W5, W2
      W1, W5
      W4, W7
      W1, W5
      L5, L2
      W1, W2
      W4, W1 (All Star Break)
      W2, W7
      W9, W3
      L1, W2
      L3, L5

      Unless I missed one, they’ve only lost 2 games after an off-day all season, and both times they lost the game before the off-day too. But I might have made a mistake somewhere in there.

      One crazy thing is that they’re 24-6 in games before and after off-days. Probably a fluke, but maybe related to the use of relievers and starting lineups because you know you can rest people the day between.

  • Pat D

    We can build on this!

    /Herm Edwards’d

    • http://thecarsboneblog.tumblr.com Raul Ibanez AKA Tom Marvolo Riddle

      Speaking of good ol’ Herm. I’m amazed that The Jets put 48 on the Bills…even though they’re the Bills.

      • MannyGeee

        from the look of the pre season I was not sure they’d put up 48 all season!

  • Robert

    Are the Yanks calling anyone up from the AAA team now that they are done…

    Go Thunder!!!

  • JohnC

    Lets hope the bad call the other night woke the Yanks up. Could turn out to be a blessing

  • roadrider

    I wouldn’t get too excited about Wade especially WRT yesterday’s performance. I was at the park and the Birds were mailing it in by the time Wade came in the game and they’re a hacktastic bunch to begin with. Wade’s stuff still doesn’t impress and if he doesn’t have real precise location and command he’s toast. More patient (and better) hitters will eat him up.

  • Andy Pettitte’s Fibula (formerly Manny’s BanWagon)

    I guess it better to have the glass half full outlook like Mike in this article and they are after all still in first place with about 20 games to go but to me, the Yankees don’t have the look of a team that’s gonna do damage in the post season.

    No dominating starting pitching, shaky pitching from the pen, below average defense, an offense that has little speed and isn’t able to generate runs other than waiting for the long ball. I’m probably overstating things but if they get into the playoffs, frankly I’d be surprised to see the escape the first round again.

  • Wayne

    I think we could keep Garcia in their for one more start but bring up nik turley. Put Garcia between Hughes and sabathia and put turley between sabathia and kuroda. Turley is not going to do any worse than Garcia plus sabathia get two days extra rest and so does kuroda and Hughes which i don’t think will hurt them, but sabathia more importantly. When petite comes back take Garcia out of rotation but leave turley in. I like at that point having two left handers in rotation for rest of regular season. If we make playoffs turley can go to our bullpen but if Hughes gets knocked out early or any other starter gets knocked out early Nik Turley and Dave phelps can be your long men along with Derek Lowe. Robertson ,soriano,chamberlain, Cody eppley and clay rapada, round out your bullpen in playoffs. If texeira is out for rest of season you can definitely have all those guys in your bullpen. Sabathia kuroda petite and Hughes in rotation. That’s 12 pitchers in playoffs and jeter ,Chavez ,Rodriguez ,cano , swisher, jayson nix, Martin, stewart, Andrew jones, granderson, ibanez , Ichiro Suzuki , and texeira.

    • DC

      Turley. The guy who’s been in exactly 1 game above single A?

      • Laz

        MLB hitters really aren’t that much different than A ball hitters. I’m certain he can make a smooth transition.

  • Greg

    Is there any guess when we will hear about Tex’s MRI? With no game, no real scheduled meeting with the team I guess?

  • MannyGeee

    “Mark Teixeira‘s calf is going to keep him out for at least another few games”

    Soooooooooo, here’s a thought. Tex should be availible off the bench to PH this series. Follow me down this path, if you will:

    Girardi only says “Tex is not in the lineup for this series”. Now picture in your head, ANY of the three games if you get to a point where you are down a couple of runs late in the game and Padilla is coming in relief.

    Tex Vs Padilla (Career): 4/12, .333/.526/1.250/1.776
    3 HR, 8 RBI

    and 2/2 with a homer and 4 ribbies this season.

    I know it plays a little WWE, and its a dangerous little game, but tell him to ‘JUST SWING’, and trot 1B. then put in a runner.

    jus sayin, it could make for a great story.

  • OldYanksFan

    September ARod: .308 / .367 / .615 / .982, 2 HR, 6 RBI

  • beachbum

    and you forgot to mention the Russell Martin resurgence . . .

    • UpstateYanks

      If he continues hitting like this down the stretch, you give him another year? 1 year-8 mill?

      • Rocky Road Redemption

        I’d still say not if we could help it. Of course, we might NOT be able to help it.

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

        NFW $8 million.

  • Frank Messer

    this series is shaping up to be a reverse lock

    • Bill White

      I think Rizzuto might be senile.

  • YanksFanInBeantown

    Do I hear CoJoRoSo?

  • DT

    Arod and Martin needs an honorable mention.

  • RetroRob

    The recent team slump will be quite tolerable if it’s followed up by a nice stretch over the next month and a half where the Yankees play like they did mid-Summer.

    The Yankees will be alright without Tex, just as they were without A-Rod. Being without both at the same time is a challenge, so thankfully A-Rod is back, and being without one or both while Granderson is slumping, Swish is slumping and Robbie “200-Million” Cano is slumping means, means, well we know what it means. We saw it in action. The offense seemed to begin and end with Derek Jeter, who would hit a single or a double, only to never make it home. So maybe we’ll get the flipside of that slump. A whole bunch of hot hitters who will carry the Yankees to #28. It’s a nice thought, if nothing else!

  • FreeAgentSignee

    I agree Mike.
    Go Yankees!