Is this lead Marte proof?
44 pitches for Bowden.
You’re lucky the Yanks are winning, Joe West.
Tonight kicks off what could be the Yanks toughest series of the second half. They’re playing well, 14-4 in the month of August. The Red Sox are no slouches themselves. After being swept by the Yanks they’ve gone 7-3, taking three of four from the Tigers and sweeping the Blue Jays. They did have a rough go with the Rangers last weekend, but on the whole are hitting and pitching well.
The Yanks will end this series either 3.5, 5.5, 7.5, or 9.5 games up on the Sox, so no matter the outcome they’ll still have the upper hand. This one is important for the Sox not only for the division, but for their Wild Card hopes. They’re just a game up on the Rangers and four up on the Rays. The good news for the Sox is that those two teams square off this weekend. If Tampa takes two of three, the Sox could be in decent shape even if they lose two of three themselves.
On the hill for the Sox is Brad Penny. Since the All-Star Break he’s pitched 34 innings, allowing 26 runs, 25 earned. Opponents are OPSing .891 off him. The Yanks will look to take advantage of that in a way they could not when facing Penny earlier in the season. He lasted six innings that time, throwing 117 pitches, but allowing no runs. That was just before the little funk where the Yanks dropped two of three to the Nats, so hopefully we can chalk that one up to a little team slump. They’re better than that.
The Yanks send Andy Pettitte to the hill on six days’ rest, and from what he’s said that’s a good thing. Pettitte has been lights out since the break, tossing 39.2 innings and allowing just 10 runs, nine earned. Even better, his K/BB ratio has been an enormous 43:10, and opponents are OPSing .543 off him. He’s faced the Sox twice this year, struggling the first time, but pitching seven shutout innings on Sunday Night Baseball last time out. Opening up this series with a quality start would be huge.
Yes, Damaso Marte is back with the team, and as expected the Yanks optioned Ramiro Pena. They have their A-lineup in today, so there’s not much need to pinch hit. If they need a pinch runner, Jerry Hairston will suffice. That’s going to be the way for a bit, with just 12 position players. With off-days surrounding this series, and with tomorrow’s game at 4, we might see the A-lineup for all three.
And on the mound, number forty-six, Andy Pettitte.
I’m sure you remember the Joba Rules from 2007. Heck, you probably still have the shirt. I know I do. Well, it turns out those fun little rules that prevented Joba from throwing on back-to-back days has managed to sink their teeth into another young and promising arm, this time infecting Neftali Felix of the Rangers. I thought Nolan Ryan was against all this pitch count stuff? · (31) ·
The Yankees sure like their scheduled days off. They’ve had eight so far this season, counting the All-Star break as just one, and not counting the break between the first and second game of the season. In those contests they’re 5-3 overall, but have won the past three. The last time they lost a game after a day off was the opener of the Atlanta series all the way back in June. I’m not sure what the Yankees do on these days, but it must be working.
Even more impressive is their record in the five games following a scheduled day off: 32-13. Again, it’s more impressive lately. In the five games following their past three scheduled days off, they are 14-1. In the five games following their past four scheduled days off, they are 18-2. Some rest will do the body good, it would seem. · (16) ·
Earlier this week, the Yanks updated the world with their plans on Brett Gardner, and we overlooked that news. Basically, Gardner is going to be out for longer than originally expected. The doctor told him this week to keep his splint on for another seven days. With this delay, it is unlikely that the Yanks’ speedster will see action prior to September 1 but should be back by Labor Day. In reality, though, as long as Gardner is healthy enough to run for the Yankees in October, he’ll be available to play a big role for the team in the playoffs. · (24) ·
Last night, as the 8th inning rolled around at Citi Field, the oh-so-familiar guitar strains of “Enter Sandman” echoed across the stadium. The crowd around me roared, and for the first time since undergoing Tommy John surgery last year, Billy Wagner jogged out to the mound in a Mets uniform.
In this one inning of work, Wagner dazzled. He hit 96 on the Mets’ gun and 95.4 according to Pitch F/X. He threw his change-up with a velocity separation of around 8-9 miles per hour, and his slider had bite. He also threw all three pitches for strikes and struck out two Braves while facing the heart of the Atlanta lineup.
For the Mets, Wanger puts them in a tough spot. The team still owes him around $2.5 million this year and holds a $10 million club option with a $1 million buyout. Because they have Francisco Rodriguez locked up for the next few years, the team will not pick up that option. Because they are a little tight on cash, the team would love to unload Wagner, and the market for hard-throwing lefty relievers is always robust.
Early rumors indicate that the Rays and Marlins are interested in Wagner. Jayson Stark notes, however, that the price tag — in essence, $2.5 million for one month — is far too high for those two teams on the fringes of playoff contention. If the Mets’ goal is to off-load salary by trading Wagner, the team won’t be inclined to ship money down to Florida.
Meanwhile, according to reports, Wagner has been placed on waivers that are set to expire today at 1 p.m. If the right team claims him, Wagner is willing to waive his no-trade clause. “You want to win a World Series, that’s for sure,” Wagner said. “If I’m fortunate enough to be asked to come and join a team that has a great chance to win the World Series, that is something that definitely I’d think about.”
So which team, searching for a lefty reliever and with cash to spend, may be World Series-bound this year? Well, one would have to look only about 11 miles away from Citi Field to find a trading partner for the Mets. Brian Cashman, pick up the phone.
This is, of course, not a novel idea. Mike Silva suggested a Juan Miranda-for-Billy Wagner swap and Bart Hubbuch has been pushing a trade to the Bronx as well. The Yankees could be, to borrow a phrase, a perfect fit for Billy Wagner. They have the cash, the potential mid-level prospect and the need for him. Let’s make a deal.
On Tuesday, we got the latest word in the Damaso Marte saga: the lefty could rejoin the team in Boston this evening. Yes, Joe Girardi said “might,” but why would he say it at all unless it was the likely move? Marte, if healthy, could even further upgrade a bullpen that’s been among the best in the league over the last few months. In fact, because the bullpen has been so good, and because the Yankees need some extra arms in order to accommodate Joba Chamberlain‘s innings limit, they might have some difficulty shuffling things around in order to make room for Marte.
The only two options for demotion in the pen are David Robertson and Phil Coke. Robertson’s been pitching awful well lately, and it’s doubtful he goes at this point. Coke has had his struggles, but he’s also been an effective option out of the pen. Plus, both Joe Girardi and Brian Cashman have expressed their desire to have two lefty options, something they’ve essentially lacked all season. With Chad Gaudin and Sergio Mitre needed in the rotation, it looks like no one on the pitching staff will get demoted.
That leaves one name: Ramiro Pena. He’s a useful player to have around. He can play all around the infield, and the Yanks think he can handle the outfield. His bat isn’t anything to brag about, but he doesn’t look completely lost up there. He can also pinch run. In other words, he’s a serviceable utility guy. The Yankees have another player like that, Jerry Hairston, and they might opt to use just one utility player for the rest of August rather than deplete their pitching staff.
Thankfully, the month is almost over. The Yanks play three in Fenway, then have a day off before playing the final seven games of the month. After that they can have up to 40 men on the active roster, meaning they can recall Pena if they so desire. It might hurt to have a short bench, but it’s only for 10 games. With the off-days surrounding the Boston series, the starters should be fresh enough to handle it. Even if they’re not, the Yanks can deploy super-sub Hairston.
The most interesting part of the next 10 games will be how the Yankees use Marte. No, they won’t use him in a tight spot over the weekend, but they’ll have to get him some work so they can gauge how useful he’ll be down the stretch. We’ve been saying it since the man went on a rehab assignment: a healthy Marte makes this bullpen perhaps the best in the league.
Nearly two weeks ago, the Red Sox left New York reeling. They had just been swept by the Yankees to fall 6.5 games out of first place in the AL East. It was a good weekend for Yankee fans.
Since then, though, the Red Sox have recovered. While the Yankees have gone 7-3 over their last ten games since facing Boston, the Red Sox have also gone 7-3 since leaving the Bronx. They just wrapped up a three-game sweep of Toronto in which they scored 24 runs and gave up just 11. This weekend’s match-up features two hot teams playing for right now.
The Yankees, as we well know, have not had much luck in Boston this season. They’re 0-6 in Fenway, and barring an October match-up, this weekend’s trip will be the last of the season. Tyler Kepner explored how the Yankees have something to prove in Boston.
This weekend, though, goes well beyond something to prove. This weekend will determine the AL East. We’ll find out if the Yankees have to worry about the Red Sox. We’ll find out if the Red Sox can mount a comeback. We’ll find out if the very hot Yankees can come into Fenway and make a statement.
As things stand right now, the Yankees are 6.5 games up, and they can leave Fenway in one of four positions. They could sweep and be 9.5 games up. September would be a cakewalk for them. They can win two of three and head home with a comfortable 7.5 game lead. They could lose two of three and find themselves 5.5 games up. Or they could find themselves on the wrong end of yet another Fenway sweep and feel the Red Sox breathing down their necks just 3.5 games out of first.
Of course, we’ll hope for the three-game sweep but be satisfied with two of three. Even that outcome would strip four games off the Yanks’ Magic Number, and the pitching match-ups favor the Bombers. How will it end is anyone’s guess, but it’s bound to be a wild weekend no matter what. In Fenway, it always is.