Perhaps the most telling point of today’s game was when I glanced up at the big scoreboard in center in the top of the sixth and saw that the Yankees had just one hit. Against a guy making just his sixth career appearance at age 30. The team led thanks to a Hideki Matsui single in the first, but other than that it was typical Yankees: making a replacement level pitcher look like a Cy Young winner. Unfortunately for them, the pitching wouldn’t hold up all game.
CC Sabathia again didn’t look like the ace the Yakees signed over the off-season. He held the Angels scoreless through five, but his pitch count had built up by the sixth. A leadoff single by Howie Kendrick kicked off a series of events which would conclude with Torii Hunter scoring on a Kendry Morales ground out. It wasn’t all bad at that point, with the game tied at one. Matt Palmer was still on the mound, and it’s not like he’s actually good. The Yanks were bound to break through, right?
It looked like they would in the bottom of the sixth, as Derek Jeter led off with a ground rule double to center. Johnny Damon got him to third, but Mark Teixeira popped one straight up, as he is wont to do this season. Hideki couldn’t get the hit the Yanks needed, and they sent out CC Sabathia for the seventh. He had thrown 99 pitches to this point. For a guy like Sabathia, that seems like the smart move. It did not turn out that way.
After two straight singles and a sacrifice, the Angels had second and third with one out. Thankfully, Gary Matthews was at bat. He promptly struck out swinging, putting CC in a position to finish out the frame with the game still tied. On a 1-1 count Howie Kendrick hit one up the middle, and it looked like two runs would score. Robinson Cano ranged, though, and picked it, saving one run. That would prove for naught, as Torii Hunter doubled in the next at bat and plated the two runners. That would be CC’s day, though Jon Albaladejo allowed a single which scored the inherited runner. His final line: 6.2 IP, 8 H, 5 R, 4 ER, 1 BB, 5 K, and a big L.
Perhaps if the bullpen had held the Angels in the final two frames the Yanks cold have made a game of it. Despite hordes of fans departing before the ninth the Yanks mustered a mini rally, plating three runs before Johnny Damon struck out in a pitch in the dirt. Once Matthews dropped a Derek Jeter fly ball it started to feel like April 19, 2007 — hell, or even last night — but it didn’t last long.
Still, if the Yankees can come back and win tomorrow’s game — where the O’Neill Theory will be put to another test — they’ll have taken three of four from the Angels, which is what everyone was hoping for coming in. If they can follow that up with three of four from Boston and Tampa, well, then they’ll be rolling. The starting pitching will have to hit a groove at some point, but I have full faith in that. But for now we can just hope that Hughes can build off his last start.
Personal note: Sadly, this was my first trip to the new Stadium. Got to take a lap around the whole place. The view from the bleachers was excellent. The higher vantage point makes it better than at the old Stadium, despite being pushed a bit further back. I also got a chance to meet up with Rebecca, who is as cool in real life as she is in our comments on her blog.
That is Damaso Marte, the second highest paid player in the Yankees’ bullpen. In his ten big league seasons he has put up a 1.26 WHIP, 132 ERA+ and 9.70 Kper9. He last pitched in a game on April 25th, 2009, seven full days ago.
Amazingly, we’ve seen Joe Girardi manage his bullpen eerily similar to his predecessor Joe Torre: using the same two or three relievers day after day while the rest of the bullpen corps rot. The team is currently carrying eight relievers. Eight. Yet it seems like we’re always having Jose Veras (awful) or Jon Albaladejo (he’s had his moments) shoved down our throats.
Come on Girardi, you’re better than this.
Photo Credit: Julie Jacobson, AP
Joe Tor … Girardi sucks at bullpen management.
Can they get another hit, please?
So, what can the team do to improve upon it’s best game of the season? Well, for starters, CC Sabathia could pitch like he did in his last start in Detroit, when he was saddled with one of those yucky complete game losses. Sabathia was outstanding despite the L, allowing just three hits and one run outside of the three run sixth inning. Hopefully we get more of the same this afternoon.
Sabathia will be opposed by 30-year rookie Matt Palmer, a righty journeyman that go this first taste of the big leagues last year with the Giants. He’ll be making his second start of the season. That usually spells disaster for the Yanks, but it hasn’t so far this year.
Nick Swisher out of today’s lineup after being plunked in the back of the elbow yesterday, but thankfully he says he’s okay and is just a little sore. Jorge Posada is also out of the lineup because he’s caught the last three games and it’s a day game after a night game. No need to burn him out this early in the year. Here’s the lineup:
And on the mound, the Nightmare from Norcal, CC Sabathia.
Photo Credit: Getty Images
The WPA graph from last night’s game, via FanGraphs, is one roller coaster of a baseball game. It certainly mirrors my up-and-down emotions from the day, but there’s more to this story than just exciting baseball.
In fact, this story starts last weekend in Boston. In back-to-back games last weekend, the Yankees had nearly wrapped up their games, according to WPA, only to see everything fall apart. On Friday, in the top of the 9th with a threat brewing, the Yanks’ win probability hit 96.8 percent. In the bottom of the inning with a two outs a runner on, the Yanks win the game 94.7 percent of the time. Those hopes ended with a Jason Bay home run in the 9th, and a Kevin Youkilis blast two innings later.
On Saturday, the Yanks suffered through a similar experience, albeit earlier in the game. Up 6-0 in the 4th, the Yanks’ win expectancy stood at 94.1 percent. After A.J. Burnett and the bullpen imploded, though, the time found itself on the wrong end of an ugly 16-11 game.
Friday’s story was a bit different. While the Yanks jumped out to a quick start, by the time the Angels took a 9-4 lead in the 7th, the Yanks’ hopes had all but dimmed. Their win expectancy after the Angels plated their ninth run was just 3.3 percent. The Yanks fought back with four in the 8th and two in the 9th to win. They stole victory from the precipice of defeat.
This is, then, the perfect example of the way things even out over a 162-game season. Last weekend, Yankee fans were collectively despondent over the two lost opportunities. Last night, the Yanks got one of those back. It may seem less urgent because the Yanks and Red Sox weren’t locked in battle, but as the Sox did last Friday, the Yanks won a game last night that, in my cases, they just don’t win.
With Boston’s loss in Tampa, the Yanks and Sox are separated by just one game. Considering the Sox’s 11-game winning streak and the Yanks’ uneven play so far, I’ll gladly take it.
For the last few weeks, we’ve heard numerous rumblings of an earlier-than-expected return to the lineup by A-Rod, and earlier this week, even A-Rod’s doctor admitted that the Yanks’ May 15th date seemed far too conservative. A-Rod, he said, could return by next weekend. Now, though, it appears as though the club is tempering those lofty expectations.
Joe Girardi told the Daily News’ Roger Rubin that the team doesn’t want to rush back its rehabbing superstar. While it would be great to get A-Rod back for the Baltimore series, the team sounds very hesitant about playing A-Rod in Toronto on artificial turf. So we may wait until the Twins arrive in tow for A-Rod.
And so here’s where my conspiracy theory comes into play. Because of a leak, Selena Roberts’ publishers are releasing her book on Monday. If A-Rod comes back on Friday, he will arrive amidst a storm over the gossip-filled tome. If the Yanks wait until May 15th, the 11 days should be long enough for everyone to forget about the book. A-Rod, while not in the clear, wouldn’t be the main detraction. Don’t believe me? Just ask Joe Torre. After two weeks, his book was old news. · (17) ·
“I know where I want to be next year,” Damon told 1050 ESPN New York. “I want to be here in New York. I also know New York has a lot of young outfielders coming back. Austin Jackson is in the wings. At least, in this situation, I know my chances of coming back could be slim because of the young talent the Yankees do have.”
First off all, kudos to Damon for knowing Austin Jackson’s name. I’d guess that 90% of all big leaguers couldn’t name their club’s top prospect. Secondly, the Yankees have a very unsettled outfield situation next year. Melky Cabrera and Brett Gardner will presumably be around, but beyond them the only established big leaguer under contract is Nick Swisher. Brian Cashman has made it very well known that he would like the team to get younger and more athletic, however it’s hard to imagine the $200M Yankees trotting any two of Melky, Gardner and Jackson into the outfield everyday, especially since all three should be expected to provide below average production given their track record, skill set, and inexperience, respectively.
Damon has been very productive during his three-plus seasons with the Yankees, hitting .287-.363-.450 while playing acceptable defense in center and damn near Gold Glove caliber defense in left. Despite his seemingly fragile nature, Damon has played in at least 140 games for thirteen consecutive seasons. He’s a known commodity that’s familiar with New York and by all accounts will come on a short deal, which has tremendous value for a team transitioning towards younger players. There’s just no need to further handcuff the team’s future flexibility by forking over too many dollars over too many years for the decline phases of Matt Holliday or Jason Bay. Damon’s low risk and fits the club’s needs.
Given how the market played out last offseason, the Yanks should obviously decline to offer Johnny arbitration regardless of Type-A or B status because he would garner a raise from his $13M salary this year if/when he accepted. The one year, $5M deal Bobby Abreu signed with the Angels would be an ideal model for a new Damon contract. However we don’t know how the free agent landscape will shape up next year.
The other interesting bit from Marchand’s article concerned Damon’s statement that he considered retiring at one point while with the Yankees. This incident came about during the 2007 when a banged and bruised Damon didn’t know if he still had the drive to play the game. Jon Heyman first discussed this last spring, and Joe Torre Tom Verducci wrote about it in their book. If Damon is already looking forward to 2010, it’s safe to say he has put those doubts long behind him.
Andy Pettitte, Friday’s starting pitcher, had the best line of the night. “I was in a pretty bad mood before and now I’m in a good mood,” Pettitte said to the gaggle of Yankee reporters after the game.
Perhaps without realizing it, Pettitte spoke for all of us as the Yankees scored four in the 8th and two in the 9th to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. The 10-9 win was the Yanks’ fourth victory in a row, and the Bombers suddenly find themselves just a game behind Boston and two behind the Blue Jays.
The game didn’t start out with that bad mood though. While Pettitte put two runners on in top of the first — a common theme throughout the evening — the Yanks plated four in the bottom of the first. Two walks, a sac fly, a Robinson Cano single and a Jorge Posada home run would give the Yanks a lead that would hold up for four more innings.
As the game progressed, though, the Yanks seemed to be playing with fire. Pettitte put a runner on in the second, three in the third, one in the fourth and one in the fifth. Somehow, none of these Angels came around to score, but in the sixth, Pettitte would not be so lucky.
Torii Hunter and Mike Napoli both singled to start the inning, and I figured Joe Girardi would go to the bullpen. He did not. While Andy got two quick outs on a ground ball and a strike out, he gave up hits to Jeff Mathis and Erick Aybar and then walked Chone Figgins. With two outs, the bases loaded and the Yanks’ lead down to two, Joe Girardi summoned a pitcher making just his third Major League appearance. Even Joba had to earn his way into high-leverage situations.
Mark Melancon quickly surrendered the lead. He gave up a bases clearing triple to Gary Matthews and allowed Matthews to score on a wild pitch. In the span of two batters, the Yanks found themselves down 6-4, and Pettitte’s final line — 5.2 IP, 9H, 5 ER, 4 BB and 2 K — was hardly impressive.
The game continued to slip away in the 7th. Jose Veras retired but one batter and gave up three runs. The Yanks, down 9-4, would have to come back against the only bullpen in the Majors worse than theirs.
Well, comeback they did. The Yanks scored four in the 8th, and after a crisp 1-2-3 inning from Jonathan Albaladejo, the eventually winner, they went to work against Brian Fuentes in the 9th. Mark Teixeira walked, Hideki Matsui singled, and Robinson Cano singled. With the bases loaded, Jorge Posada lined a 3-2 pitch into the left-center field gap for a walk-off, two-run single. All was right with the world.
Of course, the Yanks had a few scares tonight. Nick Swisher is a day-to-day with a bruised right elbow after taking a first-inning Jered Weaver offering off his arm. The bullpen went 3.2 innings and gave up four runs, and I will maintain that sticking Melancon into a situation like tonight’s so soon into his career may not have been Joe Girardi’s most prudent move. But the Yanks won, and that’s what counts. They’ll aim for five in a row at 1:05 p.m. when CC Sabathia takes the hill.
Above: Jorge ends the game. (Photo via Yahoo! Sports)
Scroll down for tonight’s game thread.
Triple-A Scranton (14-7 loss to Norfolk)
Luis Nunez: 0 for 5, 1 K
John Rodriguez & Eric Duncan: both 0 for 4 – J-Rod drew a walk & K’ed twice … E-Dunc K’ed & committed a fielding error
Todd Linden & Austin Jackson: both 1 for 4, 2 R – Linden drew a walk & K’ed twice … Ajax drove in a run
Shelley Duncan: 2 for 4, 2 R, 2 2B, 1 RBI, 1 BB, 1 K – dude is en fuego … he’s 16 for his last 45 (.356) with 4 doubles & 5 homers
Juan Miranda: 0 for 1, 1 E (fielding) – was lifted from the game for an unknown reason in the 4th … he’s probably on his way up to give the Yanks an extra position player in case Swisher needs to take a few days off with the bum elbow
Carlos Mendoza: 1 for 4, 1 2B, 1 RBI, 1 K
Chris Malec: 2 for 4, 1 R, 1 2B, 3 RBI, 1 E (throwing)
PJ Pilittere: 2 for 3, 1 RBI, 1 BB
Jason Stephens: 3.2 IP, 4 H, 8 R, 4 ER, 4 BB, 4 K, 6-1 GB/FB – 42 of 80 pitches were strikes (52.5%) … called up from Tampa to fill one of the stops vacated by Phil Hughes & Ian Kennedy … allowed the best prospect in baseball to reach base all 3 times he faced him
Zach Kroenke: 2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 3 BB, 2 K, 3-1 GB/FB – 28 of 45 pitches were strikes (62.2%)
JB Cox: 2.1 IP, 6 H, 4 ER, 0 BB, 1 K, 5-1 GB/FB – 26 of 42 pitches were strikes (61.9%) … well, at least the ground balls are there
Eric Wordekemper: 1 IP, 2 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 0 BB, 1 K, 1-1 GB/FB – 9 of 15 pitches were strikes (60%)