Archive for Game Stories
On Jackie Robinson Day, the Yankees won in a game 4-2 in which the big hit came from a player named after the Hall of Famer and the save was recorded by the last player who will ever wear #42. Baseball can be pretty cool sometimes.
One Too Many Changeups
When the Yankees offense was in its heyday a few years ago, they wore pitchers down and forced them to throw a ton of pitches early in the game. They used the same approach to the extreme on Tuesday, forcing Diamondbacks right-hander Brandon McCarthy to throw 30 pitches in the first, 57 pitches through two innings, 66 pitches through three innings, and 98 pitches through four innings. They were relentless, the poor guy couldn’t get a quick out to save his life.
Of course, McCarthy allowed zero runs through the first three innings, dancing out of a bases loaded situation in both the first and second innings. Things unraveled in the fourth, when Lyle Overbay and Chris Stewart opened the inning with seeing-eye singles through the left side of the infield. I was worried the Yankees would have Brett Gardner bunt in that spot, but they let him swing away and the result was a strikeout. Considering what happened next, the strikeout was actually a good thing.
Robinson Cano came to the plate next, and McCarthy immediately fell behind in the count 3-0. He ran the count full by feeding Robbie changeup after changeup, but the fourth straight changeup and sixth pitch of the at-bat was a total mistake. It hung in the middle of the zone and Cano did what MVP-caliber players are supposed to do with that pitch: he hit into orbit. Three-run homer in the right field bleachers … no Yankee Stadium cheapie, no help from the wind, nothing. It was gone off the bat and the Yankees went from down two to up one just like that. Had Gardner bunted, Robinson almost certainly would have been intentionally walked to set up the double play. Hooray for not bunting.
Ivan No No Nova
I’ll take two runs in five innings out of my fifth starter every day of the week, but my goodness was Ivan Nova a chore to watch on Tuesday. He threw 94 pitches in five innings, including 72 pitches in the first three innings. Seventeen of the 24 batters he faced saw a first pitch strike, but 12 saw at least four pitches in their at-bats. It was basically the same stuff we saw against the Tigers a week ago, just against a much less potent lineup. Then again, not many teams can match the Detroit offense, so perhaps it’s not a big deal.
I do think the Yankees are starting to run out of patience with Nova, whose track record of success in the big leagues is basically the second half of 2011. I also don’t think he’s in imminent danger of losing his rotation spot, not with Andy Pettitte‘s back acting up and Phil Hughes looking like a pitcher who missed basically all of Spring Training due to injury. Nine base-runners in five innings is pretty darn awful regardless of how many runs scored, and we really didn’t see any improvement from Nova’s first start to his second. He’ll get another chance to raise my blood pressure to dangerously high levels in five days.
The Bullpen Formula
The middle relief crew has been very shaky early this season, but the bullpen picked up Nova with four dynamite innings to close things out. Boone Logan retired all four men he faced (including two lefties) before Joba Chamberlain finished off the seventh by retiring both men he faced. David Robertson allowed a single in the eighth but otherwise threw a stress-free scoreless inning. That put the ball in Mariano Rivera‘s hands, and as he’s done a couple hundred times before, he retired the final three batters of the game in order to secure the win.
Four innings of work, one base-runner (the single), three strikeouts. Damn near flawless effort from the bullpen in a close game, can’t really ask for much more. Considering how shaky the non-Robertson and Mo relievers have been so far, this was a very welcome sight. Hopefully it continues, I think we all know these guys are better than what they’ve shown the last two weeks.
The Yankees tacked on a rather big insurance run in the seventh, loading the bases with no outs before Eduardo Nunez lifted a sacrifice fly to left-center. Considering the two blown bases loaded opportunities earlier in the game, it sure was nice to see someone cash in a run there. New York went 1-for-8 with runners in scoring position overall, but the one was Cano’s dinger.
Speaking of Robbie, his homer was part of a 2-for-4 with a walk night, meaning he has now gone 9-for-19 (.474) with four homers on Jackie Robinson Day in is career. Pretty great way to honor to man you were named after, no?
Gardner (double), Kevin Youkilis (two singles), Travis Hafner (two doubles), Ichiro Suzuki (single), Nunez (single), and Stewart (two singles) all had hits as well. Vernon Wells drew an unintentional walk while Cano and Ichiro (!) were given true free passes. They were put on intentionally.
Very nice gesture by the Yankees to play Sweet Caroline after the third inning in support of Boston. Sports rivalries mean nothing in real life.
Same two teams on Wednesday night, when CC Sabathia gets the ball against NL Rookie of the Year runner-up Wade Miley. That starts a stretch of five lefty opposing starters in the next seven games. Check out RAB Tickets for any last-minute deals.
As much as I love homers and lots of offense, there is nothing quite like a dominant pitching performance. The Yankees got an absolute gem from their number two starter in an important early-season game on Sunday, shutting out the division rival Orioles 3-0.
This says all you need to know about Hiroki Kuroda‘s outing: the Orioles didn’t get a man to second base until there were two outs in the ninth, and that was the result of an error. The veteran right-hander showed no lingering effects of the line drive he took to his finger tips two starts ago, keeping the Fightin’ Showalters off balance with a two-seamer that was running all over the place and offspeed pitches that were dotting the edges of the zone. Kuroda threw 54 fastballs and 59 offspeed pitches (32 splits, 23 sliders, four curves), so yeah, good luck figuring out what was coming next.
Twenty-two of the 32 Orioles batters saw a first pitch strike and 24 of 27 outs were recorded on the infield (five strikeouts, 18 ground balls, one pop-up). Five singles, no walks, no hit-batsmen, and because no runners made it as far as second until the game was basically over, Kuroda was never really in much trouble and never once did it feel like Baltimore was on the verge of putting together something big. He was in complete control from start to finish. It was Kuroda at his finest. Just a joy to watch. I wish he was five years younger so they could give him a five-year contract. Seriously.
First The Small Ball, Then The Long Ball
Kuroda and Wei-Yin Chen matched zeroes for the first four and a half innings, but the Yankees finally broke through for three runs in the fifth. Brennan Boesch and Frankie Cervelli opened the inning with singles, and Boesch moved to third on Lyle Overbay‘s sacrifice fly. Backup backup shortstop Jayson Nix has been pretty terrible this year — came into the game 3-for-19 (.158) with eight strikeouts — but he plated the first run of the game with a sac fly to right. A run was sufficiently manufactured.
Of course, the Yankees are the Bronx Bombers are it’s only a matter of time before they get back to hitting the ball out of the park. One pitch after Nix’s sac fly, Brett Gardner (!) muscled up on a high fastball and clubbed a two-run homer high off the right field foul pole. It wasn’t a Yankee Stadium cheapie, that thing was long gone. The only question was fair or foul. Two singles, two sac flies, and one really long homer resulted in a three-run lead. That was all Kuroda needed.
It’s not that easy to win a game when your 3-4-5 hitters combine to go 0-for-11 with one walk and four strikeouts, but that’s exactly what the Yankees did on Sunday. Heck, add in Vernon Wells and it’s still 1-for-15 with a walk from the 2-3-4-5 hitters. The rest of the lineup went a combined 6-for-14 with a walk. The middle of the order has been carrying the offense early on, so it was good to see the rest of the guys pick them up when they had their first real bad game.
It’s not easy to out-bad defense Eduardo Nunez, but Nix has certainly done it thus far this year. He fumbled the exchange on a double play pivot and then muffed a ground ball in this game, but thankfully neither came back to bite the team. Considering the injuries to Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez as well as Nunez’s general shakiness, the Yankees need to find themselves a more reliable utility infielder at some point.
In other offense news, Gardner’s dinger was only his third career homer off a lefty, and his first against a southpaw since taking Ricky Romero deep in July 2010. That one was his only career grand slam, as you surely remember.
Oh by the way, Kuroda has now recorded the last three Yankees complete-game shutouts. He did it on July 18th (seven innings, rain-shortened) and August 14th (two-hit the Rangers) of last year. Remember when everyone was worried how he would transition to the AL East? Good times.
The Yankees are off on Monday, then the Diamondbacks come to town for the three-game series. Ivan Nova will kick that one off against Brandon McCarthy on Tuesday night. In case you’re wondering, no, former Yankee Ian Kennedy is not scheduled to pitch in the series. Check out RAB Tickets if you want to go to any or all of the games.
The first winning streak of the new season has come to an end, as the Orioles beat the Yankees in a mostly forgettable Saturday matinee. Unlike Friday night, there were no catastrophic dropped fly balls by Adam Jones or triple plays turned by all four infielders, it was a rather generic 5-3 loss.
Phooling No One
The Orioles pounded Phil Hughes and there was no silver lining at all. He faced 19 hitters and allowed three doubles, three homers, three singles (one off the wall), and two walks (both on four pitches). Fourteen of the 19 hitters did see a first pitch strike, but only one of his 60 pitches generated a swing and a miss (1.7%). That’s awful. Hughes had nothing working and the Baltimore hitters did a good job of making sure everyone knew. He was throwing batting practice.
At this time last year I was practically begging the Yankees to pull Phil from the rotation and stick him back in the bullpen, but they didn’t listen and were rewarded with the strong final 20-something starts to end the season. I’ve learned my lesson and won’t demand Hughes to be taken out of the rotation, but the team is in a more dire situation and can’t really wait around forever for him to figure it out. The division race figures to be very tight and every game is too important. I know he had the back trouble in camp and everything, but Phil is going to have to show some improvement and soon. These first two starts won’t cut it.
David Phelps did an excellent job of cleaning up Hughes’ mess in the fourth — inherited a runner on second with no outs, then escaped the inning with a grounder and two strikeouts — before throwing three more scoreless innings of his own to keep the Yankees in the game. He allowed two base runners (hit-by-pitch and a single, and the runner was thrown out at second trying to stretch it into a double) and struck out six in the four innings of work. Thirty-seven of his 55 pitches were strikes, including six swings and misses (10.9%). Couldn’t ask for much more from your long reliever.
Joba Chamberlain (one single) and David Robertson (retired all three men he faced) each tossed a scoreless inning to further give the Yankees a chance to mount a comeback. All told, the bullpen allowed just three base runners (hit batsman and two singles) with no walks and seven strikeouts in six innings of work. Rock solid and exactly what the team needed.
Not Enough Offense
The Yankees actually had more opportunities to score than I realized. A Travis Hafner solo homer and a Lyle Overbay bloop single — scoring Frankie Cervelli, who was on second base following an Orioles error — led to two runs in the second before Vernon Wells hit a solo homer in the sixth. That was New York’s three runs right there.
In their other seven innings, the Yankees put seven men on-base and stranded runners in scoring position in the third (runner on second, one out), fourth (first and second, one out), seventh (runner on second, two outs), and eighth (first and second, two outs). Their best opportunity came in the eighth, when pinch-hitter Brennan Boesch struck out against Darren O’Day while representing the go-ahead run with two outs. They had some chances but couldn’t capitalize. So it goes.
It wasn’t nearly as fun as Jorge Posada playing second base a few years ago, but Robinson Cano spent the ninth inning at shortstop after Jayson Nix was lifted for the pinch-hitter one inning earlier. It was the first time he played any position other than second base as a big leaguer and his first time playing short since 2003, when he was in Double-A. Robbie didn’t have to make any defensive plays, nor did Cervelli, who moved from catcher to second base for that one inning. That would have been fun.
Hughes allowed one run in the second inning and escaped further damage thanks to a great relay play from Ichiro Suzuki and Cano, who made a pair of quick throws to get Nate McLouth at the plate by a good ten feet for the third out. I don’t know if the third base coach sent him home of if McLouth blew through the stop sign, but it was an awful decision given how terrible Hughes was pitching.
Cano stayed hot with a single and double, and he’s now 11-for-19 (.579) with four doubles and three homers since the start of the Indians series. He’s en fuego. Wells (homer and single), Cervelli (two singles), and Overbay (two singles) all had multiple hits as well. Brett Gardner had a drag bunt single and for the first time as a Yankee, Kevin Youkilis was held hitless. Took ten games for that to happen.
Rubber game on Sunday night, the ESPN game, when Hiroki Kuroda gets the ball against Wei-Yin Chen. Kuroda had an abbreviated first start due to the line drive off his fingertips and he had the really battle through 5+ innings in his second start, so hopefully he’ll shake off any lingering effects and get back to being the guy we saw for most of last season. Check out RAB Tickets for last-minute ticket deals.
Friday night’s 5-2 win over the Orioles was one of the more interesting Yankees games we’ve seen in a while. Good pitching, timely hitting, catastrophically bad defense, insanely clutch good defense … this one had it all. Let’s recap…
- Big Time: PitchFX says CC Sabathia averaged 90.3 and topped out at 92.3 with his fastball in the blistering cold on Friday, but the radar gun readings didn’t really matter. The big man held the Orioles to two runs (one earned) in eight innings in the series opener, striking out nine and walking zero. The unearned run scored when Kevin Youkilis bobbled a ground ball, the runner was balked to second, and a ten-hop ground ball squeezed through the infield. Of course, Sabathia needed some help to escape a first-and-second, no outs situation in the eighth, but we’ll get to that in a bit. Otherwise, he was awesome.
- Smallball: With the game knotted at one in the fifth, the Yankees employed some good ol’ fashioned smallball to take the lead. Frankie Cervelli worked a ten-pitch walk to leadoff the inning before Brett Gardner bunted him over to second. Robinson Cano got a mistake first pitch fastball — Matt Wieters set up outside but Miguel Gonzalez caught too much of the plate — that he laced into left to score the run. The epitome of a manufactured run.
- Errorball: This was too good. After the O’s tied the game in the top of the seventh, the Yankees answered right back thanks again to Cervelli, who worked another walk (six-pitch) to leadoff the inning. Gardner bunted him over to second again, but this time Cano grounded out to short. Southpaw Troy Patton was ordered to intentionally walk Youkilis to setup the left-on-left matchup with Travis Hafner with two-outs, but Pronk worked a full count before taking a pitch to the left thigh. The bases were loaded with two outs when Vernon Wells lifted a hard-hit but certainly playable fly ball to center. Rather than the final out being recorded, this happened…
He just muffed it. All three runners came around to score and the Yankees took a decisive three-run lead. (GIF via DERP)
- 4-6-5-6-5-3-4: A half-inning after the Jones error, Alexi Casilla (infield single) and Nick Markakis (single to left) started a comeback rally by reaching base to leadoff the eighth inning. Sabathia’s pitch count was getting up there and David Robertson was warming in the bullpen, but then this happened in the blink of an eye…
Yep, a 4-6-5-6-5-3-4 triple play to end the inning. It’s the first of its kind in MLB history and the second triple play the Yankees have turned in the last three seasons. You might remember the around-the-horn job in Oakland back in April 2010. Sabathia was on the mound for that one as well. This was the team’s first triple play at home in over 40 years. Very heads up play by Jayson Nix at second base to go to third there. That was a smart play even if they only turn a boring double play. (GIF via @GoldAndOrSmith)
- Leftovers: Mariano Rivera allowed a single in an otherwise uneventful ninth inning for his second save of the season … the Yankees only had six hits (all singles) on the night, and Cano (two) and Youkilis (three) accounted for five of ‘em. Lyle Overbay had the other … Gardner drew two walks in addition to the two sac bunts while Hafner walked in addition to the hit-by-pitch … Ichiro Suzuki went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts and continues to look just awful. I wonder how long his rope will be … Eduardo Nunez left the game after taking a pitch to the right wrist, and he is day-to-day with a contusion. Wrist injuries can be very scary, he and the Yankees got lucky the x-rays came back clean.
MLB.com has the box score and video highlights, FanGraphs has the nerd score, and ESPN has the updated standings. Hooray for being over .500 and tied for first place in the division. Yes, it’s only April, but still. These same two teams will meet Saturday afternoon, when Phil Hughes gets the ball against Jason Hammel. Check out RAB Tickets if you want to catch the game in person.
Despite back-to-back rain outs in Cleveland these last two days, the Yankees will not alter their rotation heading into this weekend’s series against the Orioles. CC Sabathia, Hiroki Kuroda, and Andy Pettitte will start the next three games in that order, meaning Phil Hughes is having his start skipped just like Ivan Nova. Hughes told Meredith Marakovits he’ll be available out of the bullpen this weekend, which is pretty awesome actually. He’s always been very effective in relief. Monday’s off-day affords the team some extra pitching flexibility as well. Hughes is currently scheduled to start Tuesday against the Diamondbacks pending his usage this weekend.
Meanwhile, the Yankees will have to trek back to Ohio to make up not one, but two games at some point this summer. They share only four common off-days with the Indians, not counting the Thursday following the All-Star Game and the day between the end of the regular season and the start of the postseason…
- Monday, April 15th
- Thursday, May 2nd
- Monday, May 13th
- Monday, September 23rd
April 15th is this coming Monday, right smack in the middle of a six-game homestand. May 2nd and September 23rd are also right in the middle of homestands while the Yankees will be traveling from Kansas City back to New York on May 13th. I think there’s a pretty good chance they’ll schedule a doubleheader for one of those dates and bang out both games at once. September 23rd is probably the most preferably makeup date in terms of reducing the number of consecutive days with a game (from the Yankees’ perspective) since they have both the prior and following Monday off.
Now here’s where things get really messy: it’s supposed to rain all day in New York tomorrow. The heaviest stuff is expected in the morning, but the forecast right now says the showers will continue through the night. Three consecutive rain outs (in two different cities) would be pretty crummy. Not only would the bombers have three postponed games to make up just two weeks into the new season, but you also have to worry about the hitters losing their rhythm and what not. The Yankees’ bats did some major damage on Monday and Tuesday and I really would like that to continue. Nothing they can do though, the weather is the weather. Unfortunate timing.
For the first time in 2013, it looks like the weather may interfere with a Yankees game. The forecast in Cleveland calls for rain tonight, though it appears there might be just enough of a window to squeeze nine innings in. I’ll settle for a rain-shortened five-inning win if I have to.
The Yankees do not come back to Cleveland at all this year, so if tonight’s game is indeed postponed due to weather, they’ll either have to play a doubleheader tomorrow or lose an off-day at some point later in the summer. Since it’s so early in the season, I’d rather just play the two games tomorrow if it comes to that. Call up the 26th man (Cody Eppley?) and get it over with. Hopefully they can play tonight and all of this is moot. Here’s the lineup…
- CF Brett Gardner
- 2B Robinson Cano
- 3B Kevin Youkilis
- DH Travis Hafner
- LF Vernon Wells
- RF Brennan Boesch
- SS Eduardo Nunez
- 1B Lyle Overbay
- C Chris Stewart
And on the mound is the most frustrating pitcher in the rotation, Ivan Nova.
Tonight’s game is scheduled to start at 7:05pm ET and can be seen on YES locally and ESPN2 nationally, but again, the weather may throw a wrench into that. Enjoy the game if they do play.
Update (6:43pm): The game will not start on time and we are in a “holding pattern.” Not sure what that means, but okay.
Update (7:55pm): The game has been postponed. No word on the makeup date yet, but there will not be a doubleheader tomorrow. That means both teams will lose an off-day at since point and the Yankees will have to trek back to Cleveland. Sucks. Use this as an open thread instead.
Offensive problems? What offensive problems? The Yankees pounded a subpar Cleveland pitching staff for the second straight day on Tuesday, walloping the Tribe by the score of 14-1. For the first time in 2013, the Bombers have won three straight games.
After going 13 games without scoring more than four runs, the Yankees have now scored at least seven runs in each of the last three games. They pounded Indians starter Carlos Carrasco for seven runs in 3.2 innings thanks to two homers, two doubles, three singles, and two walks. Ichiro Suzuki (solo shot pulled to right) and Robinson Cano (two-run shot other way to left-center) hit the dingers while Brett Gardner (off the wall to left) and Cano (over the center fielder’s head) had the doubles. Those plays accounted for five of the 14 runs, but they were the first five and gave the team a comfortable lead.
Although the Yankees were banging the ball all over the yard against Carrasco, the best part was that the four-run rally in the second all happened with two outs. Vernon Wells led off the inning with a single but was quickly erased by Ichiro‘s double play. Then, with two outs, the Yankees went single to left-center (Eduardo Nunez), single to center (Lyle Overbay), walk (Frankie Cervelli), two-run single (Gardner), then two-run double (Cano) before Kevin Youkilis struck out. Gardner’s single came with two strikes and two outs, and 12 of the 14 runs overall were scored with two outs. Love it. Those two-out runs are real backbreakers.
Slightly Less Dandy Andy
Andy Pettitte pitched well in his second start of the year, but he wasn’t as sharp as he was the first time around. The game had already gotten out of hand by the time Asdrubal Cabrera tagged him for a solo homer in the sixth, but Andy also walked three and allowed five hits, including three for extra bases (two doubles in addition to homer). Yeah, seven innings of one-run ball is pretty awesome, but he was seemed to be behind in the count more than usual and pitching from the stretch a little more often. Not a problem or anything, just one of those nights.
The rotation as a whole has been better the second time around, though it would have been tough for them to be any worse. CC Sabathia and Hiroki Kuroda worked their way through effective starts despite being less than at their best, and Pettitte continued the trend on Tuesday. The bullpen got some much needed time off — Adam Warren mopped up the mess with two scoreless innings — and it seems like every part of the team is starting to move in the right direction. The offense is obviously clicking and now the rotation is coming together. Just need it to keep going, they’re not all the way there yet.
Carrasco, who was making his first start after serving a six-game suspension for throwing at Billy Butler’s head (and having Tommy John surgery), was ejected for throwing at Youkilis after Cano homered to make it seven-zip in the fourth. Not sure if it was suspension worthy, but it was obviously out of frustration following the homer. Stupid kids. Youkilis got even by hitting a two-run dinger his next time up.
Overbay (solo) and Brennan Boesch (two-run) chipped in garbage time homers to really make this one a laugher. Gardner had four hits including two doubles, so he’s starting to get it going from the leadoff spot. That is really big, the table-setters had not been doing their job for the last week or so. Cano went 4-for-6 with two doubles and the homer to raise his season line to .303/.381/.667. He had a sub-.400 OPS less than 48 hours ago. Hooray early season stats.
The Yankees and Indians will play game three of this four-game set on Wednesday night, but I’m not sure who will be on the mound for the Tribe. Noted jerk Brett Myers was scheduled to start that game, but he instead came out of the bullpen and threw 5.1 innings in this game. I guess former Yankees farmhand Zach McAllister will get bumped up a day — he would be on regular rest — and start tomorrow instead. Either way, Ivan Nova will be on the mound for New York.
It took a week, but the Yankees finally have their first set of back-to-back wins this season. A double-digit offensive outburst helped them overcome a starting pitcher who really labored and a middle relief corps that is as shaky as it gets.
Guess Who’s Back
Robinson Cano‘s back. After a rough 3-for-23 start to the season, Cano hit two homers (one to left-center, one to right-center) and a double off the top of the left field wall on Monday afternoon. He also worked a six-pitch walk in the first inning and scored four runs on the afternoon. After waking up with a .130/.200/.130 batting line, Robbie will go to bed with a much more respectable .222/.300/.481 line to his credit. Still got some work to do there though.
More than anything else, the most important thing about Cano’s big day is that he started to adjust and drive those outside pitches the other way. Teams have been feeding him offspeed stuff away since the playoffs last year, but he was rolling over on everything and grounding out softly to the right side. On Monday, he drove two outside pitches the other way for extra-base hits and pulled an inside pitch down the line. Perfect. The Yankees needed their second baseman to start hitting in the big way.
A Battle For #HIROK
Five days after taking a line drive off the tip of his right middle finger, Hiroki Kuroda was back out on the mound making his regularly scheduled start. Early on, it sure looked like the digit was bothering him — he said on Sunday he still wasn’t 100% but would try to work through any lingering pain and soreness — as he was missing his spots and leaving a lot of pitches up in the zone. Add in some bad luck (a ground ball hit the second base bag and bounced away from Eduardo Nunez) and bad luck defense (Lyle Overbay ranged to his right and deflected a ball away from Cano), and you’ve got a recipe for a three-run, 34-pitch first inning.
Kuroda continued to struggle with his location the rest of the game — first pitch strikes to 16 of 25 batters faced — yet he still held the Indians to just a single, a double, two walks, and zero runs over the next 4.1 innings on 77 pitches. It wasn’t the most efficient or aesthetically pleasing outing, that’s for sure, but it was effective nonetheless. How he managed to do it, I’ll never know. Kuroda really struggled in that first inning but he battled and gave the team a real nice lift on an afternoon when it looked like the bullpen would wind up throwing seven or eight innings.
In a way, that ability to grind through a start is a common trait for the Yankees’ top three starters. We saw CC Sabathia do it against the Tigers on Sunday and we’ve seen Andy Pettitte do it countless times over the last 17 years or so. It’s not quite the whole “he knows how to win idea,” but there’s definitely something to knowing how to pitch on days when things aren’t going right. Mike Mussina used to talk about it all the time. Pitches were up in the zone, ground balls were bouncing off bases, all sorts of unfortunate stuff was happening, yet Kuroda worked through it and gave the team some length and a chance to win.
Guess Who’s Back, Part Deux
The afternoon started with the Cleveland faithful giving Travis Hafner a standing ovation during the pre-game introductions, but by the end of the game they were probably cursing his name. The former Indian hit a three-run homer in the very first inning — his 100th dinger at Progressive Field — to give the Yankees a three-zip lead, and later on he added a single and a pair of walks. Hafner even went first-to-third on a single and slide head-first into third base. I didn’t think we’d see that at all this year. Well, I didn’t think we’d see him do it and actually get up, anyway. Hafner is up to .391/.481/.652 on the young season and has been an anchor in the middle of the lineup. Just awesome to see.
The Yankees started to break things open against the Tribe bullpen, scoring six runs in the fifth through seventh innings. Ichiro Suzuki plated two runs with a pair of singles (one an infield single) while Nunez had a sacrifice fly. Another run came around to score on a wild pitch. Brett Gardner had a single while Overbay contributed nothing on offense. Eleven runs on 13 hits and four walks is a pretty great day for the bats, who have strung together two excellent performances.
The non-David Robertson/Mariano Rivera portion of the bullpen continues to be a total nightmare, as a trio of relievers combined to allow three runs on four hits and four walks in 3.2 innings. Boone Logan at least retired two of the three left-handed hitters he faced, coaxing a double play ball from Lonnie Chisenhall and a strikeout from Jason Kipnis. Michael Bourn beat out an infield single. Shawn Kelley allowed three runs in 1.1 innings while Joba Chamberlain nibbled his way to two walks in a scoreless ninth.
According to the YES Network broadcast, Hafner invited the team to his Cleveland-area home to watch the NCAA Championship Game between Louisville and Michigan after the game. Pretty awesome.
The Yankees will look for their (gasp!) third consecutive win on Tuesday night, when Pettitte gets the ball against
noted jerk Brett Myers Carlos Carrasco. Pretty good opportunity to get back to .500.
The Yankees had lost six straight against the Tigers (including postseason) coming into Sunday’s game, but more than anything they just needed a win to start feeling good about things after the rough opening week to the season. They had the right man on the mound in the series finale against Detroit — they don’t make another regular season trip to Comerica Park this year, and I don’t think I’m alone in saying “thank goodness” — and walked away with a much-needed 7-0 win.
Sabathia Not Sharp, But Effective
After watching their bullpen get torn to shreds the last two games, the Yankees desperately needed a quality outing from CC Sabathia on Sunday. He delivered in a big way despite being something less than sharp, holding the Tigers to four singles and zero runs in seven innings. His strikeout (three) and walk (three) totals tell you he off a bit, but Sabathia made pitches when he had to and never once allowed a runner to reach third base. Only one made it as far as second.
Sabathia, who had to really grind through the 114-pitch outing, averaged 90.9 mph with his fastball and topped out at 92.5 according to PitchFX. That’s up a bit from Opening Day last week (89.9 and 91.7, respectively), so at least he’s heading in the right direction. This is still something work monitoring, of course. Detroit’s batters swung and missed ten times total against the southpaw, including six times against the 20 changeups he threw. That was the pitch he leaned on last time out as well.
Opponents have scored against Sabathia in only one of his 12 innings this year, and on Sunday he limited the top five hitters in Detroit’s lineup to one single and two walks in 16 plate appearances. The powerful three-four-five combination of Miguel Cabrera, Prince Fielder, and Victor Martinez went a combined 0-for-9 with a strikeout against the Yankees’ ace. That’s pretty much the recipe for beating the Tigers, keeping those guys in check. It wasn’t his most effortless outing, but big ups to CC for coming up big when his team really needed it.
Bottom Of The Order Does Some Damage
The Yankees have had some run-scoring issues so far this year, but the bottom of the order did some damage against Justin Verlander in the second inning. The rally started a hard-fought, seven-pitch walk from Vernon Wells — already has four walks as a Yankee after drawing 16 in 77 games last year — who moved to second on Ichiro Suzuki‘s ground out. Frankie Cervelli got the Bombers on the board with a double into the left-center field gap, though left fielder Matt Tuiasosopo deserves an honorable mention for a horrendous route.
Lyle Overbay followed with a fly out, but Jayson Nix came through with the big two-out, two-run homer to left. He came into the season with five strikeouts (at least three looking) in seven plate appearances and didn’t inspire much confidence in that spot. With Eduardo Nunez‘s recent biceps injury and Derek Jeter‘s slow recovery from his ankle surgery, the Yankees need Nix to be somewhat productive as the utility infielder. Hitting a two-run dinger off Verlander to give the club a three-run lead is about as good as it gets there.
For the first time since Game One of the ALDS, the Yankees managed to put more than four runs on the board. They broke things open against the suspect Tigers bullpen, pounding former Yankees Phil Coke and Octavio Dotel for four runs on six hits and one walk in 1.2 innings. They combined to throw 47 pitches and got one swing and miss.
There really wasn’t a big blow in those last two innings, it was two steady rallies. Ichiro (sacrifice fly) and Cervelli (single) each plated one run in the eighth while Kevin Youkilis (single) drove in a pair in the ninth. It had been a while (13 games in fact) since the Yankees last blew one open like that, so it was a welcome sight. After all of Sabathia’s hard work it was nice to know the bullpen had some breathing room.
Prior to the game, the Tigers gave Mariano Rivera some framed photos with dirt from Tiger Stadium and Comerica Park as part of his farewell tour. This is one of those things that is definitely cooler than it sounds. Later on, Mo threw a scoreless ninth with two bloop singles mixed it. David Robertson pulled a Houdini act in the eight with two strikeouts.
Nix led the offense with three hits, but Youkilis, Cervelli, and Travis Hafner all had two apiece as well. Overbay was the only player in the lineup not to reach base as even the struggling Brett Gardner and Robinson Cano picked up a hit (one single apiece). Gardner also made a great running catch in the right-center field gap in the late innings to help stifle a rally. Wells, who doubled and had a pair of walks, also made a nice lunging (more like flopping, really) catch early on.
Youkilis and Verlander were jawing at each other after the former’s first inning double, and I think it had to do with something earlier in the at-bat. Youkilis hit a deep fly ball that hooked foul a few pitches earlier, but he stared it down like a no-doubt homer. Verlander might not have liked that. No idea what the conversation was about though, just speculating.
In case you’re wondering, Joba Chamberlain shaved off that atrocious mustache citing superstitious reasons. “It wasn’t doing us any good,” he said before the game. You can say that again.
Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings
MLB.com has the box score and video highlights, FanGraphs the other stats, and ESPN the updated standings. Hooray for no longer having the worst run differential in baseball.
The Yankees are heading to Cleveland for a four-game series with the Indians that begins Monday afternoon. Hiroki Kuroda, who still has some soreness in his right middle finger after being hit a line drive on Wednesday — “I would be lying if I said it wasn’t bothering me …. At the same time I have to deal with it,” said Kuroda to George King prior to Sunday’s game — will get the ball against Ubaldo Jimenez.
You guys aren’t going to believe this, but the Yankees lost to Tigers on Saturday because the pitching stunk yet again. The offense wasn’t all that great either, but the pitching really stole the crap show on Saturday. Let’s recap…
- Mediocre Return: In what looked like a Major League rehab start, Phil Hughes allowed four runs (three earned) on eight hits (three for extra bases) in four innings. I guess the good news is that he didn’t walk anyone, but that’s a small consolation prize. Andy Pettitte and Adam Warren are the only pitchers on the team to throw more than five innings in an appearance this year.
- Bullpen of Doom: It’s stunning how awful the middle of this bullpen is. Boone Logan, David Phelps, and Joba Chamberlain combined to put 12 men on-base in four innings, resulting in four runs (three earned). They walked as many as they struck out (three). The relief corps own an 8.10 ERA as a whole. Bravo.
- Bad Send: The Yankees managed a double, a triple, and a homer in the second inning yet only scored one run because a) sequencing!, and b) for whatever reason Brennan Boesch was sent home on Frankie Cervelli‘s shallow fly ball to left. He was thrown out by a good ten feet. When you’re struggling to score runs, you can’t be giving away runners like that. There were no outs in the inning and Max Scherzer was giving up rockets all over the field.
- Some More Offense: The Yankees pushed across three runs in the sixth, two on Lyle Overbay‘s two-out, two-strike single to right. Overbay was the only player on the team with multiple hits, though Kevin Youkilis, Travis Hafner, and Vernon Wells all had a hit and walk. Those guys are the only ones capable of creating runs for the team right now.
- Leftovers: Brett Gardner saved Hughes’ bacon with a sliding catch to end the third. The Tigers had men on second and third at the time … Jayson Nix bobbled the most routine of routine grounds in the first, resulting in an unearned run. He also went 0-for-3 at the plate with two strikeouts … Robinson Cano went 0-for-3 with a walk and two strikeouts, so anytime he wants to get back from the World Baseball Classic would be cool … the Yankees haven’t scored more than four runs in a game since Game One of the ALDS, 13 games ago.
MLB.com has the box score and video highlights, FanGraphs has some additional stats, and ESPN has the updated standings. The Yankees will look to avoid the sweep on Sunday afternoon when CC Sabathia squares off against Justin Verlander. In addition to a win, New York really needs some length out of Sabathia. The bullpen has thrown 17 innings in the last four days.