By the time Mark Teixeira came to bat leading off the ninth inning, the Yankees already knew that Boston had plated six in the 9th to beat the Texas Rangers. (They probably didn’t know that five of the runs came with two outs after Clay Buchholz got himself thrown out at the plate as a pinch runner, but I digress.)
So as the 2-2 game headed into its final regulation frame, Mark Teixeira did what he does best: He ended it. He took the offering from Mark Lowe and slammed it into the right field seats. While the Yankees would tack on an insurance run later in the inning on a Nick Swisher single, that third run would be all the Yanks would need as they defeated the Seattle Mariners 4-2.
Tonight, the spotlight belonged to Andy Pettitte. After Yankee ace CC Sabathia went eight strong and struck out ten on Thursday night, Pettitte nearly out-dueled him. At 44 pitches through two innings and after surrendering two first-inning runs, Andy was, well, dandy. He nailed down ten of his 18 outs via the K and allowed just six hits and a walk. It was the first time since July 19 and 20, 2000, that Yankee pitchers struck out ten on consecutive days. Andy Pettitte and Roger Clemens were the last two Yankee hurlers to accomplish that feat.
For Pettitte, the key tonight was the free-swinging Seattle Mariners who took too many strikes. Of his 67 strikes, 21 of them were called and another 19 were on swings-and-misses. By taking a lot of strikes and swinging through many others, the Mariners’ offense basically dug its own grave.
Pettitte would leave the game with 111 pitches through six innings and did not stick around to factor into the decision. He has been spectacular since the All Star break. In six starts, he has thrown 39.2 innings to the tune of a 2.04 ERA with 43 strike outs. Yet, he has just one win to show for it and tonight saw him nail another no decision.
After Pettitte left, Brian Bruney threw a scoreless 7th; Phil Hughes survived two walks with two strike outs of his own in the 8th; and Mariano Rivera, unavailable with a sore shoulder a few days ago, needed just nine pitches to record his AL-leading 34th save of the year.
Offensively, the Yanks were stymied by Ryan Rowland-Smith. The Australian lefty limited the Yanks to a few scratched runs. They scored on a Jerry Hairston ground-out in the second and a Derek Jeter single in the fifth. He was nearly as good as Pettitte but could not and did not go the distance. As the Red Sox did to Texas’ bullpen in the 9th, so too did the Yankees to Seattle’s.
And win 73 is in the books.
Tie game baby.
Baseball America posted a handy list updating us on the statuses of all the unsigned picks in the top ten rounds. Slade Heathcott is “seeking a multimillion dollar bonus,” JR Murphy and Tyler Lyons “may get an over-slot bonus,” and Caleb Cotham is “expected to get an over-slot bonus.” The signing deadline is Monday at midnight.
Make sure you scroll down for tonight’s game thread.
Triple-A Scranton (9-5 win over Durham)
Kevin Russo: 3 for 4, 2 R, 1 2B, 1 BB – dude is an on-base machine
Colin Curtis & Austin Jackson: both 2 for 5, 1 K - Curtis drove in a run & scored twice … Jackson doubled, tripled, drove in three & stole a base
Cody Ransom: 3 for 5, 2 R, 1 RBI – 7 for 15 (.467) since being DFA’d
Juan Miranda: 4 for 5, 1 R, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 1 K – 13 for his last 33 (.394) with six doubles & a homer
Yurendell DeCaster & John Rodriguez: both 1 for 5, 1 RBI – DeCaster doubled, scored a run & K’ed … J-Rod K’ed twice
Eric Duncan: 0 for 5
Chris Stewart: 0 for 3, 1 BB
Ivan Nova: 4.1 IP, 9 H, 5 R, 5 ER, 3 BB, 4 K, 2-6 GB/FB – 48 of 79 pitches were strikes (60.8%) … AAA hasn’t been so kind to him
Zach Kroenke: 2.2 IP, zeroes, 4 K, 1-3 GB/FB – 22 of 28 pitches were strikes (78.6%) … if anyone has earned themselves a Sept. callup, it’s him
Damaso Marte: 1 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 1 K, 1-1 GB/FB – 10 of 12 pitches were strikes (83.3%)
Jon Albaladejo: 1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 1 K, 1-1 GB/FB – 9 of 12 pitches were strikes (75%)
The team’s on some kind of roll of late, and last night only emphasized that point. A-Rod‘s out with back spasms, but the lineup is still redic. Here’s the starting nine:
And on the mound, the en fuego Andy Pettitte.
At 72-43, the Yankees have the best record in baseball and a 99.1118% chance of making the playoffs. With a few more hours to go before first pitch in Seattle, let’s kill the time by having some fun with the Yanks’ win-loss record.
- With 645 runs scored and 539 runs allowed, the team’s expected win-loss record is 68-47, so they’ve actually overachieved a bit this year. Lots of walk-off wins with small margins of victory will do that.
- If the team maintains its .626 winning percentage the rest of the season, they’ll finish 101-61. The Red Sox would have to go 37-11 to win the division.
- If the team plays .550 ball the rest of the year, they’ll finish 98-64. The Sox would have to go 33-15.
- If the team goes 23-24 the rest of the year, they’ll finish with a 95-67 record. That would be their best record since 2006. Boston would need to go 30-18 to win the division. The Rays would need to go 34-14.
- The Yanks are an amazing 34-11 since Brian Cashman‘s visit in Atlanta. If they were to maintain that pace the rest of the way, they’d finish 108-54. The Sawx would have to go 42-6, Tampa 48-0.
- If Boston keeps winning at the same .570 clip they’re at now, the Yanks would need to go just 21-26 the rest of the year to win the division.
- To win an even 100 games, they’ll need to go 28-19 the rest of the way. To match last year’s record, just a 17-30 record is required. To finish at exactly .500, they’d have to collapse and go 9-38 over the next seven-plus weeks.
- Through 115 games in 1998, the Yankees were 86-29 and 17.5 games up in the division. This year’s club would need to go 42-5 the rest of the year to match the ’98 team’s record. They were good at baseball.
So, while you wait for the game to start, feel free to use this as an open thread. The Mets and taking on the Giants at home, and the Little League World Series is on ESPN. So basically you’ve got same brand of baseball on two different channels. Anything goes here, just be nice.
Just because I feel bad about writing 750 words on Aaron Harang, here’s some actual Yanks news. Carig notes that Joba Chamberlain will start on Sunday, then take an eight day break and start again the following Tuesday. Well, Carig says 10 days later, but also says Tuesday, so I’m assuming he’s counting both Sunday and Tuesday. So it’s Seattle and then Texas at home.
Considering this, it would seem like the Yankees would start Pettitte, Mitre, and Joba this weekend. Then, to optimally lay out the rotation, they’d have to go Burnett, CC, Gaudin on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday against the A’s. That would set up Pettitte to pitch the opener at Fenway, followed by Burnett and CC.
Update: Carig has confirmed Gaudin on Wednesday. It’s all set up. · (24) ·
I’ve always been an unabashed fan of Aaron Harang and his ability to post excellent ERA numbers despite pitching his home games at The Great American Ballpark. Something’s happened over the last two years, though, and he’s just not the pitcher he was from 2005 through 2007. Jon Heyman notes that the Reds righty has cleared waivers, but that even “the Yankees think Bronson Arroyo and Aaron Harang are overpriced.” At $18.5 million for Harang’s current level of production, that’s not surprising. So what changed Harang around?
The narrative points to May of 2008. Harang had just come off a poor start against the Padres, raising his ERA to 3.50. He had been his usual excellent self to that point in the season, and there was nothing that would indicate a change in performance. Then, on two days’ rest, or in other words his throw day, Dusty Baker inserted Harang into the 13th inning of a game. On a day he was just supposed to throw in the bullpen, Harang threw 63 pitches over four innings, allowing two hits and one walk while striking out nine. It was stellar, but it was also risky.
Harang then went out on three days’ rest to face the Pirates next time out, and got hammered for six runs over four innings. From the extra inning stint through the rest of the season, Harang allowed 69 runs over 105.2 innings, a 5.88 ERA. We know that correlation does not imply causation, but this looked like one strong correlation. What else could explain a pitcher who had an excellent three-year track record and a solid opening to the season falling off a cliff?
A 4.43 ERA this year might indicate that Harang hasn’t refound what made him so good from 2005 through 2007, but there are some indicators that he could turn it around. His strikeout rate is back up to his career normal after dipping a half a strikeout per nine last season. His walks are low as per usual. The difference, really, is that he’s still allowing more hits than in the past this season. In fact, he leads the NL in hits allowed. That’s obviously not a good thing, but considering his other peripherals, it might be a sign that Harang could come out of this funk.
For some reason, road woes are destroying Harang’s stats. He’s pitched 75.1 innings in the hitter’s haven that is the GAB, and has pitched to a 3.70 ERA and 1.235 WHIP. In his other 73 innings he’s had a 5.18 ERA and a 1.630 WHIP. That seems rather odd, that he’d pitch worse on the road than in a pitcher’s park. He does have a .368 BABIP on the road, vs. a .312 mark at home, so bad luck could be a factor.
Also, according to FanGraphs’s Pitch Type Values, Harang’s slider isn’t what it was in his three-year stretch. The linear weights indicate that it took a dive in 2008 and hasn’t recovered in 2009. He’s throwing it at about the same rate, but there is a noticeable difference: it’s lost about one to 1.5 mph over its peak velocity in 2006. Is that’s what causing the pitch to be ineffective? The linear weights also suggest that his fastball has been significantly worse over the past two years. That could go a long way in explaining his ineffectiveness. (And also why righties are feasting on him this year.)
(It must also be noted that these Pitch Type Value stats are experimental and not necessarily totally accurate. Still, the dip in velocity correlating with the dip in productivity does raise a red flag.)
Why is this up on a Yankees blog? Because Aaron Harang could make an excellent addition to this pitching staff. Problem is, his contract makes him a huge gamble. Perhaps he could refind the stuff that defined him from 2005 through 2007 in a new environment. Maybe he’d thrive at the New Yankee Stadium like he has at the GAB this season. If everything went right, he’d not only help the Yanks down the stretch, but also help fill in for Chien-Ming Wang next season while the latter recovers from shoulder surgery.
Of course, there aren’t many, if any, instances where everything goes right. A change of scenery might do him good, or it might not do anything at all. Acquiring him would be a rather large risk, to the tune of $18 million. That’s quite a gamble for a guy who would probably be, at best, a No. 3 starter in the AL. Still, the idea is intriguing enough for me to do this write-up. It’s so enticing, to see a pitcher at the bottom of his value who you know can pitch so much better. There’s little to no chance that the Yanks act on it, though.
With his 4 for 5 performance last night that featured two home runs and five RBIs, Hideki Matsui improved to a very respectable .269/.365/.516 on the season. His .881 OPS places him in the upper echelon of both American League designated hitters and all AL hitters as a whole.
As Joe detailed earlier today, Matsui’s bounce-back season is one of the driving forces behind the Yanks’ offensive resurgence this year. In fact, Matsui has really turned it on of late. Over his last 36 games, dating back to June 30, he is hitting .310/.402/.611 with 9 HR and 30 RBI.
Every Matsui hot streak leads to the same question surrounding his future: What will the Yankees do with their free agent-to-be and long-time veteran? The team, as we all know, loves Hideki Matsui the person, and when he’s hot, they also seem to love Hideki Matsui the hitter. Yet, Matsui’s presence on the team is antithetical to the team’s recent foray into the world of roster construction. With balky knees, he is a full-time DH. In fact, Matsui has played no innings in the outfield this year and seems unlikely to do so during 2009. Because of his limitations, roster flexibility is lacking.
As such, as MLB Trade Rumors notes and as we’ve heard all along this year, the Yankees will probably not bring Matsui back. While bringing back Johnny Damon seems to be an option, they don’t want to clog up the team’s DH spot with Matsui, his bat aside.
I’m not sure how I feel about this move. As David Pinto said today, Matsui is “a designated hitter who can actually hit well.” He’s not just some fill-in has-been who can’t hit and was never good in the field. (David Ortiz, I’m lookin’ at you.) Matsui might not be able to withstand the pounding of the outfield, but he can still hit with the best of ‘em.
So then what do I do if I am in Brian Cashman‘s shoes? Personally, I don’t like the idea of keeping the DH spot open in order to give aging veterans a rest. It’s a nice luxury to spell Derek Jeter or Jorge Posada or Johnny Damon or A-Rod on a rotating DH basis, but that weakens the rest of the team. By necessity, a Ramiro Pena/Jose Molina type would play nearly every day. The presence of Jerry Hairston, Jr., lessens the impact of the rotation DH, but it’s far from ideal.
I’d like the Yanks to keep a hitter of Matsui’s caliber around to fill the DH role. Maybe it’s not going to be 36-year-old Matsui, but maybe it will be. He’s at the age where he can still hit but perhaps could play four out of seven games with the rotating DH used for the other three games. After all, the Yankees have the resources on hand. Otherwise, the team sacrifices too much in the name of roster flexibility.
It’s a beautiful Friday, and I’m sure everyone’s counting down the seconds until the weekend begins. Mike’s chatting, so that will help waste away the final hours at work. If you’re looking for something else, then give this Tyler Kepner article on A-Rod a read. It takes a look at A-Rod’s personal struggles in his first few years playing for the Yankees, and how he created a new persona this season. Apparently it has a lot to do with Alex ditching his army of advisers and listening to the Yanks, especially media relations director Jason Zillo: “Zillo was blunt with Rodriguez, telling him he was probably the only New York athlete to whom reporters wanted less access, not more.” Seriously, read the whole thing. · (28) ·