So how about that A.J. Burnett? Three starts ago, he couldn’t escape the third inning in a game against Boston, and Yankee fans weren’t sure the team would it get its money’s worth from a guy with a 4.89 ERA. So much for that.
Over his last three starts, Burnett has thrown 20.1 innings. He has allowed 10 hits and one earned run while walking 10 and striking out 26. His ERA has dropped to 3.93, and last night against the Mets he was nearly flawless. He gave up one hit and three walks while striking out a season high 10. The Yanks dominated the game again and won 5-0.
What else can we say about Burnett? He threw 108 pitches and 64 of them were strikes. The Mets couldn’t touch his breaking pitches, and his fastball was sitting above 94 for much of the game. Only Alex Cora, the leadoff man, managed a hit. It came in the sixth, when the Yanks already had a 5-0 lead.
For the Bombers’ offense, it was another night of efficiency. Nick Swisher hit a home run in the third to give the Yanks a lead, and the team took off in the sixth. Facing a tiring Tim Redding, the bats came alive in an interesting way. Through the first five innings, the Yanks hadn’t mustered much of anything against Redding, but they made him work. In the sixth, clinging to a 1-0 lead, they struck.
To start the inning, Nick Swisher flew out. After that, Mark Teixeira saw five pitches and doubled. Three pitches later, the Yanks saw three hitters go to the plate and four runs had scored. A-Rod singled in Teixeira; Cano doubled; and with runners on second and third, Jorge Posada took the first pitch of his at-bat and the last of Redding’s night over the wall in left center. Three run home run, five-run lead. Game over.
The last four innings for the Mets were simply a formality. Burnett threw scoreless frames before giving way to the bullpen. Brian Bruney twirled a 1-2-3 eighth. He needed just seven pitches to get through the inning, and Dave Robertson closed it out with a scoreless ninth.
In the AL East, Tampa and Boston both won. The Yanks hold their slim Wild Card lead through 74 games. Chien-Ming Wang, winless this year and searching for his first victory since June of 2008, will take the hill in the ESPN game. While the Yanks have already won the season series against the Mets, a sweep would be oh-so-nice.
Mike Ashmore reports that Ivan Nova has been promoted to Triple-A Scranton (as expected) and veteran Jason Johnson has been activated to take his place on the roster and in the rotation. Chad Jennings says Nova’s debut could come Monday.
Triple-A Scranton (6-5 loss to Rochester, walk-off style)
Kevin Russo & John Rodriguez: both 2 for 4 - Russo drew a walk & was caught stealing … J-Rod doubled twice, drove a run in, scored one & K’ed twice
Austin Jackson & Justin Leone: both 1 for 4, 1 R – Jackson drew a walk, swiped a bag & K’ed … Leone drove in a run & K’ed twice
Colin Curtis: 1 for 3, 1 RBI, 2 BB
Shelley Duncan: 0 for 5, 2 K – OPS dips below 1.000
Juan Miranda: 0 for 3, 1 R, 1 BB
Eric Duncan: 3 for 4, 1 2B, 1 R, 1 RBI – first back-to-back three hit games since 2003
Josh Towers: 6 IP, 8 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 1 BB, 2 K, 7-7 GB/FB – 57 of 83 pitches were strikes (68.7%)
Mark Melancon: 2 IP, 2 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 1 K, 2-3 GB/FB – 18 of 32 pitches were strikes (56.3%)
Anthony Claggett: 0.1 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 0 K, 1-0 GB/FB – 8 of 12 pitches were strikes
AJ Burnett, good at pitching.
There’s a nasty little bug going around the Yankee clubhouse, and after claiming Derek Jeter yesterday, Johnny Damon was picked off today. As long as this thing passes quickly and doesn’t wreak too much havoc, I guess it’s cool.
Old buddy Tim Redding, he of the one career inning in pinstripes, is on the mound for the Metsies. Signed for $2.25M in the offseason, Redding has allowed 59 baserunners in 40 innings this year, striking out just 24. Isn’t it amazing how a guy who’s allowed exactly one-and-a-half baserunners for every inning he’s thrown in his career manages to make a living in this game?
Short preview tonight, but whatever. Here’s the starting nine:
He didn’t have quite the game that Brett Gardner had, but backup infielder Ramiro Pena quietly stepped in at short yesterday and did the job while Derek Jeter sat out with the flu. Marc Carig spoke to Pena, who says he takes extra batting practice daily to keep himself sharp. Hitting .268-.310-.341 overall but .344-.382.500 as a shortstop, Pena has shined on defense and has been the club’s best utility infielder since … well … I’m not sure. What do you guys think, when was the last time the Yanks had a backup infielder as good as Pena? · (33) ·
For all the number wonks out there, SG at RLYW has quite the post, in which he compares hitters to pitchers using wOBA. There’s a conversion process which attempts to keep everyone on the same scale, and to some extent it’s a success. Atop the list are names you’d expect: Zack Greinke, Joe Mauer, Edwin Jackson, Roy Halladay, Victor Martinez. However, when you get further down the list things get a bit dicey. Phil Coke is ranked ahead of Jon Papelbon (as is fellow Sick Justin Masterson). There are a few other things which make the list seem skewed, but it’s an interesting take on comparisons. The best part, by far, is that David Ortiz is ranked below Jose Veras. Also, the bottom two slots belong to, surprise surprise, Chien-Ming Wang and Daisuke Matsuzaka. Wang takes that contest by .003. · (12) ·
PeteAbe has the news. Venditte’s struck out 40 batters and allowed just 26 baserunners 30.2 innings with Low-A Charleston this year. It’s an early birthday gift for the ambidextrous Venditte, who turns 24 in three days. It’ll be good to see the kid against some tougher competition. · (20) ·
It’s still early enough in Brett Gardner‘s season for last night’s game to make a big difference in his numbers. By going 5 for 6 with a home run and a triple, he raised his average .022 points to .303, his on-base percentage .016 to .374 and his slugging by a whopping .051 to .441.
For Gardner, last night’s game was the crowning moment in his 2009 renaissance. Handed the starting job out of Spring Training, Gardner faltered. Through April 26, he was hitting just .220/.254/.271, and with Melky’s bat showing signs of life, Gardner was out of a regular job. That would be the low point of the season for Brett. While his average eventually dipped to .214, his OPS and stock has been on the rise since then.
Since his benching, Gardner has played his way back into consideration. From May 1 through last night, he has 111 plate appearance, and he is hitting .355/.444/.548 in that span with 22 runs scored and 12 stolen bases. In a season with 650 plate appearances, that would put him on pace to score over 120 runs and steal 70.
While the power is a welcome bonus, that .444 OBP since the start of May is the key for Brett. He’s a fast guy who can, as the age-old baseball cliché says, make things happen on the base paths. He steals; he moves the defense; he scores runs. He can handle the bat well and has a discerning eye. Right now, he’s crediting a more aggressive approach with his recent success. Whatever it is he’s doing sure is working.
On the other side of the center field battle is Melky Cabrera. After a very poor 2008, Cabrera has rebounded with a solid 2009. He’s hitting .287/.351/.446 with 7 home runs and a few key walk-off hits. After losing the job in Spring Training, Melky played his way into the starting role by hitting .342/.422/.534 through May 8. Since then, though, as Gardner has improved, Melky has not. Over 145 plate appearances since May 9, Melky is hitting .256/.310/.395. While not nearly as bad as he was last year, Melky has hit another post-April cold streak.
Right now, the Yankees are in an envious position. They have two viable candidates for center field who can both field their position well. The solution is to go with the hot hand. For now, Brett Gardner should be playing until he’s no longer performing at above-average production. After the game, Joe Girardi acknowledged that Gardner had earned regular playing time. It’s hard to argue with that.
Yesterday was an inauspicious anniversary for Xavier Nady. As the X Man announced that he would need a second Tommy John surgery and would be out for the season, he and the Yanks celebrated the 11-month anniversary of the trade that brought him and Damaso Marte from the Pirates to the Yankees. It was a bittersweet celebration indeed.
Last year, as the Yankees tried to mount a run on the Red Sox and Rays, they found themselves just a few games out of a playoff spot at the end of July. They need to fill a few holes. The bullpen needed a lefty power pitcher, and with Melky Cabrera mired in a season-long slump, the team needed an outfielder. Unwilling to pay or just not interested in the very steep price for Jason Bay, Brian Cashman killed two birds with one stone as he sent Jose Tabata, Dan McCutchen, Ross Ohlendorf and Jeff Karstens to Pittsburgh for Marte and Nady.
With Nady on the shelf now until he hits free agency and Marte MIA with an ambiguous shoulder injury, the word “bust” has floated around the Yankees. Was this trade — four young guys for two now-injured players — a bust? It’s easy to say yes, but I’m not so sure.
First, we have to consider how the two players the Yankees landed did at the time. That’s really what assessing this trade is about. If they performed to expectations, if they did the job, and if the Yankees didn’t give up all that much at the time, it isn’t a bust. Anything after that would be the proverbial icing on the cake.
Last year, Nady came over and impressed. A late September swoon left his triple slash line at .268/.320/.474, but as the team tride to amount an August attack, Nady hit .308/.351/.523 with 19 RBI. Marte had an ugly 5.40 ERA, inflated due to a 1.1-inning, five-earned run appearance in Texas. Without that appearance, he was a reliable reliever for the Yanks down the stretch.
This year, of course, the story has been anything but that success. Nady hurt himself early on, and Marte has a 15.00 ERA to go with a shoulder problem. While their 2008 numbers were good, the 2009 totals haven’t earned either much praise.
On the other side of the deal were the four players the Yanks gave up. Karstens and Ohlendorf have stuck around in Pittsburgh this year. That’s more a testament to the Pirates’ place at the bottom of the NL than anything else. Karstens is 3-4 with a 4.80 ERA. He has just 26 strike outs in 65.2 innings, a 1:1 K:BB ratio and a 1.45 WHIP. Ohlendorf is 6-6 with a 4.75 ERA. His K/9 IP is hovering around 4.5. These numbers look halfway decent on the Pirates, but in the AL they would amount to nothing.
While Ohlendorf and Karstens are what they are, the deal rests with the two players not in the Majors. Dan McCutchen is 26 at AAA with mediocre numbers (5-5, 4.34 ERA, 60 K in 74.2 IP). At best, he’ll be a swing man who makes a few spot starts for the Pirates. And then there is Tabata. After missing much of the season with an injury, Tabata has come on strong of late. He’s hitting .270/.354/.330 on the season. He is 11 for his last 34 but with no extra-base hits over that time.
To judge a deal, we have to look at it when it was made, and at that point, the deal was not a bust. It was nearly a steal. If Tabata develops the power and ability to be what people think he can be, the deal probably ends up being a wash. Yet, success has eluded Tabata, and his development has seemingly stalled out. It is disappointing to see Marte and Nady on the shelf, but that doesn’t make the deal a bust. If I were to go back in time and were to be unaware of what the future holds for Nady and Marte, I’d do it again. Would you?
As the second inning unfolded, I couldn’t help but laugh at the Mets. The errors simply reminded me of the Mets of my youth, that 1993 team that lost 103 games and featured Anthony Young amidst a record-setting losing streak.
The errors started early. David Wright threw the ball away on the first play of the inning, allowing Melky Cabrera to advance to second. Five batters later and with the Yanks sporting a 2-0 lead, Johnny Damon hit a tailor-made double play ball to Alex Cora who promptly threw it into right field. On the next play. Mark Teixeira hit a roller to first, and Nick Evans just couldn’t field the ball. He flat out dropped it. When the dust settled, the Yanks had a 4-0 lead, and it would be enough as the Yanks downed the Mets 9-1.
After the game, Mike Pelfrey, the Mets’ starter, tried to remain diplomatic about the Amazins’ fielding woes. It was easy to read between the lines. He was frustrated. “You can’t give that team six outs or how many ever outs we gave them,” Pelfrey said.
Despite the Mets’ ineptitude — Bobby Parnell topped it off by dropping the ball while coming set on the mound later in the game — Friday night was all about the Yanks. On the one hand, we had CC Sabathia. Five days ago, Sabathia was yanked from his start against the Marlins with bicep soreness in his throwing arm, and the Yankee Universe sat on edge to find out if Sabathia would emerge from this hiccup unscathed. On Friday, he he settled our nervous stomachs.
Over seven innings, Sabathia was nearly flawless. He gave up three hits and one run — all of them in the 5th inning — and struck out eight. He threw 99 pitches and 67 of them were strikes. He utterly dominated the Mets. With that win, Sabathia improves to 7-4 on the season with a 3.55 ERA. He has been, in other words, as good as advertised.
On the other side of the ball was the Yankee offense, fronted by an unlikely cast of characters. With Jorge Posada and Derek Jeter out with a flu-like virus going around the Yankee clubhouse, the lineup started with Brett Gardner and ended with Frankie Cervelli, Ramiro Peña and CC Sabathia. While Cervelli went hitless, the rest of those four did not. Sabathia went 1 for 4 with an RBI, and Peña went 3 for 5 with 2 runs scored and an RBI.
The story of the night though was the Yanks’ lead off hitter. Brett Gardner went 5 for 6 with two singles, a triple and a Citi Field home run. He scored three runs, drove in two and stole a base. On the season, in 152 at-bats, he is hitting .303/.374/.441 and leads rookies in average, on-base percentage, runs scored and stolen base. Somehow, some way, Joe Girardi has to get Gardner in the lineup on an everyday basis. He’s certainly deserved.
And finally, we get to A-Rod. Left for dead a few days ago, A-Rod went 1 for 2 with a booming home run and three walks. Slowly, surely he is turning everything around. Now the Yankees just have to make sure he rests enough to remain as fresh as he’s looked over the last few days. He is, by the way, 18th in walks in the AL despite missing six weeks of the season.
When the dust settled tonight, the Yanks retired the Mets in order in every inning but the 5th. They’ve won three in a row, scoring eight or more runs in each game. Only two teams in all of baseball have better records. Sounds good to me.