Game 161: Let’s play two!

A.J. has been making this face frequently lately. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press/Nathan Denette)

A long day’s journey into night continues as the Yankees and the Red Sox get to play the second of two. The Yanks defeated the Red Sox 6-5 in 10 innings in the first game, and the Yankees will look to keep their AL East hopes alive. They hold a one-game lead over Tampa Bay with a magic number of two and have to finish in sole possession of first place to secure the division.

After a 4:18 game, the Yanks and Red Sox are sending too slow pitchers who often seem allergic to strikes out there. A.J. Burnett will take his disappointing 10-15 record and his terrible 5.33 ERA into Fenway while Daisuke Matsuzaka, 9-6 with a 4.72 ERA, will face the Yanks for the second time in two starts. Matsuzaka threw a gem against the Bombers in Boston’s loss last Sunday.

The Yanks ran through their A bullpen arms during the first game of the double header, and Joe Girardi has said he isn’t inclined to use pitchers twice in one day. That being said, it seems that the game two pen will consist of Jonathan Albaladejo, Romulo Sanchez, Royce Ring, Andrew Brackman, Dustin Moseley, Ivan Nova Sergio Mitre and, of course, Chad Gaudin. One of those guys will have to start tomorrow.

First pitch is set for 9:15 p.m. The game will air on My9 in the New York area and the MLB Network nationally. Make sure to check Mike’s recap of the first game. The Red Sox are sending out a lineup of bench players, but the Yanks are clearly going for the division here.

Brett Gardner LF
Curtis Granderson CF
Mark Teixeira DH
Alex Rodriguez 3B
Robinson Cano 2B
Lance Berkman 1B
Austin Kearns RF
Francisco Cervelli C
Eduardo Nunez SS

A.J. Burnett P

Pettitte not sharp as Yanks drop Sox in game one of doubleheader

(AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)

It’s hard to believe that the Yankees and Red Sox still have another game to play tonight, but that will be a little easier to do after this afternoon’s Yankee win. This game featured a ton of lead changes and blown opportunities for both sides, but a run manufactured by patience, speed, and a little luck put the Yanks on top in extra innings, a lead they held onto.

The big story was Andy Pettitte, who was making just his third start since coming off the disabled list. He was just okay, running his pitch count high because of eight strikeouts, so he exited after facing just one batter in the fifth. Andy’s stuff looked fine but his command is still a little off, missing just off the corner or catching a little too much of the plate. The biggest problem was that all three runs he allowed came after there were none on and two outs in the inning. Some shaky defense (due to both the sun and poor reads) contributed, but those two outs runs are always frustrating.

Robbie Cano was the star of the game offensively, whacking a pair of doubles and solo homer. Curtis Granderson tripling to drive in the Yanks’ first run and then came around to score the second, plus he also walked twice. Mark Teixeira plated a run with a double off the wall in addition to his single and walk. It wouldn’t be a Yankee game without some RISP FAIL, as they went just 3-for-21 in those spots with a dozen left on base. Runners were stranded in scoring position in the first, second, fifth, sixth, seventh, eighth, and tenth innings. When they did finally break through with a hit with RISP, it was an infield single on a Derek Jeter check swing that scored the hustling Brett Gardner from second. It’s not exactly how they drew it up, but it works.

Andy gave way to David Robertson, who wiggled his way out of some self-induced trouble (2 BB, 3 K after coming in) before combining with Boone Logan for a scoreless sixth. Logan got charged with a run in the seventh when Joba Chamberlain allowed the inherited runner to score, but it was all moot when Kerry Wood had his first major meltdown in the eighth. After striking out Darnell McDonald on a knee-buckling curveball he walked three consecutive batters to load the bases. The tying run scored on a wild pitch, but the second out of the inning came when Josh Reddick got greedy and tried to score as well. Wood applied the tag at the plate for the out, then struck out the next guy to end the frame.

Phil Hughes chipped in a scoreless frame in the ninth, assuredly his last appearance before the ALDS, before giving way to Mariano Rivera in the tenth. Jeter’s infield single scored Gardner in the top of the frame, and Mo made quick work of the bottom of Boston’s lineup, retiring all three men he faced with ease. Hughes picked up his 18th win of the season, and I feel safe calling it his weakest. We’ll have a regular game thread along for the second game shortly, but for now here’s the WPA Graph and a link to the box score.

Up Next

The Yankees and the Red Sox finish up their long day of baseball, and the second game will start at 9:15 p.m. A.J. Burnett will face Daisuke Matsuzaka.

Game 160: Andy’s final tune-up

None of this today, Andy. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

Forget about winning the division and home field advantage and all that, the single most important thing about this afternoon’s game is Andy Pettitte and his back/performance. Winning is secondary. The Yankees need to make sure that their presumed number two playoff starter is healthy and up to the task of getting quality big league hitters out. If Andy does that this afternoon, I’ll feel great. If not, he’ll just be another rotation question mark going into the postseason.

Here’s the lineup…

Jeter, SS
Granderson, CF
Teixeira, 1B
A-Rod, DH
Cano, 2B
Swisher, RF
Posada, C
Gardner, LF
Pena, 3B

And on the bump, it’s Andy Pettitte.

The first game of today’s doubleheader can be seen at 4pm ET on FOX. Enjoy.

Mailbag: AL Award Winners

Mailbag Day is going to spill over into the weekend for just one post, since it was a fun question the three of us wanted to tackle.

Hey guys, just wondering what are your picks for the awards this year. ROY, MVP, CY Young, MOY, and the Comeback POY?

(AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

We’re going to do the AL only, just because. So, without further ado…

MVP

Ben: Josh Hamilton
On emotion alone, I’d love to give this one to Robinson Cano, but Joe made a very compelling statistical argument that the Yanks’ second baseman shouldn’t deserve it. Because the Rangers are playoff-bound and Josh Hamilton has been an utter stud — even while missing a month of the season — he gets the trophy.

Joe: Hamilton
I know that voters will ding Hamilton because he missed September, but they didn’t discount Joe Mauer missing April last year. The reason is obvious: September is viewed as this all-important month during which teams can make miraculous postseason runs — or they can collapse completely. But by demolishing the baseball from April through August, Hamilton made September a non-issue for the Rangers. They had an 8.5-game lead going into September, and if we take WAR literally Hamilton was the difference.

Mike: Hamilton
The best player on one of the best teams in the league, Hamilton hasn’t played in a month and still holds a 0.9 WAR advantage over everyone else in the AL. The late injury hurts his candidacy just a bit, but he’s been so far above and beyond anyone else in the league that it really doesn’t matter. I’d be perfectly fine with Cano or Miguel Cabrera getting the award as well, but my preference is Hamilton. Just be glad he doesn’t play for Tampa anymore.

Cy Young

Ben: Felix Hernandez
The Cy Young is another award that could go to a Yankee on emotion, and CC Sabathia wouldn’t be a terrible choice. Yet, Felix Hernandez has utterly dominated the American League. He picked apart the Yankees with ease in three outings and is leading the league in strike outs. He wins it despite a 13-12 won-loss record that might dissuade those who actually vote for the hardware.

Joe: Hernandez
I want to pick CC. Without him the Yanks would be nowhere. But if Felix Hernandez had taken his place the Yanks might actually have another win or two. He has been flat-out dominant this year. There are only two knocks against him, neither of which I’m buying.

1) How can you give the Cy Young to a guy with 13 wins? When his offense is poor on an historic scale. That not only means that he’s getting no run support, but that he doesn’t have the benefit of ever facing the worst offense in the league.

2) That he didn’t pitch with anything on the line, so there was no pressure. I’ve never pitched a major league game, but anyone who makes this point wears that fact on his sleeve. Do you seriously think that it’s any easier on Felix because his team is in last? I think that’s a generous assumption. In any case, there is not a scintilla of evidence to back it. It’s just armchair psychology.

Mike: F-Her
The award goes to the best pitcher, and Felix was just that in every meaningful way. I’m not going to hold it against him that his team has the worst offense of the DH era, if anything you can argue that that put even more pressure on Hernandez and made his job even more difficult. Sabathia or Francisco Liriano would be a fine winner in most years, but what Felix just did this season doesn’t qualify as most years.

Rookie of the Year

Ben: Neftali Feliz
The American League has a bunch of uninspiring choices for Rookie of the Year this year. The best offensive candidate strikes out more often than once a game and has managed to maintain a BABIP over .400 while showing limited power. I’m going with Feliz simply for the impact of it. He’ll rack up 40 saves this year with an ERA around 2.77, and he gives Texas a very comfortable ninth inning option. Austin Jackson and Brian Matusz would round out my top three.

Joe: Danny Valencia
I made the case for Valencia on FanGraphs last month, but I still thought Jackson should get it. Since then I’ve changed my mind. Jackson gets plenty of credit for going wire-to-wire as a lead-off hitter, but by season’s end his numbers look a bit less inspiring than we imagined in April. Valencia, on the other hand, came on strong after being recalled in June, and has produced 2.9 WAR in just 311 PA. I have a hard time not putting Jackson here, but Valencia has been so good in his four months that I think he’s deserving of the nod, even though there’s little chance he gets it.

Mike: Austin Jackson
I’m not married to this pick at all; it was just a down year for AL rookies in every way. Jackson’s posted an above average .338 wOBA with 26 steals and Gold Glove defense while hitting leadoff all season, not easy to do as a 23-year-old in the big leagues. Feliz, Valencia, and Matusz are worthy foes, and frankly I wouldn’t have a problem if any of them won.

Manager of the Year

Ben: Ron Gardenhire
It’s very tempting to give this one to Buck Showalter. In just over 50 games, he’s worked wonders with the Orioles, but he’ll have to earn that next year. Both Ron Gardenhire and Ron Washington have lead good teams to titles in two easy divisions, but I think Gardenhire has had to work through and around more key injuries. He gets my vote but either skippers are deserving.

Joe: Ron Washington
After all his off-season turmoil, Ron Washington managed to keep hold of his team and guide the franchise to its first playoff berth since the 90s. He had to make some tough decisions early in the year when some players weren’t performing, and for the most part they worked out.

Mike: Gardenhire
I hate this award, because who knows what kind of impact a manager really had. Gardenhire dealt with significant injuries to his best players and still guided a team that turned a four-and-a-half game deficit into a twelve game lead and a division title within the span of just 91 games.

Comeback Player of the Year

Ben: Francisco Liriano
After going 5-13 with a 5.80 ERA and 21 home runs allowed in 136.2 innings last year, Liriano has had one hell of a rebound year. He’s 14-10 with a 3.62 ERA, and prior to Thursday night, the hard-throwing southpaw had allowed just six home runs all season. He’s a big reason for the Twins’ success and the key to their October as well.

Joe: Josh Hamilton
Last year Hamilton appeared in just 89 games and produced a .321 wOBA. This year he’s the frontrunner for the MVP award, leading the AL in WAR even after missing a month. His WAR this year, by the way, is greater than his previous years combined.

Mike: Adrian Beltre
Beltre missed a bunch of time with shoulder surgery and a contused testicle in 2009, and when he did play he hit just .265/.304/.379. He came back from that and was arguably the best player in the AL this season, so he gets my vote with all due respect to the two fellas mentioned above.

* * *

So what about you guys, who do you have for the awards? Tell us in the comments.

Tonight’s game to air on MLB Network

The second game of today’s doubleheader against the Red Sox will be broadcast on the MLB Network, according to a release. The game will also be broadcast on My9 in the Tri-State Area, and the first game will of course remain on FOX. I know some of you were afraid that you’d lose out on the chance to see tonight’s contest after the rain out, but don’t worry, it’ll be on.

A.J.’s trade value, or lack thereof

Theodorakis/News

A lot has been written and said about A.J. Burnett recently and many fans are calling for him to be traded.  The obvious answer to that is that A.J. is untradeable.  For the most part that is true, but clearly if the Yankees really wanted to trade him they could, it would just cost them a ton of money.  Without getting too unrealistic and saying the Yankees should eat $40 million (of the $49.5 million remaining on his contract), what could they possibly get for him?  Let’s take a look at some possible candidates in a Burnett trade and decide if shipping him out of town would be worth it.

Derek Lowe- The Braves had interest in Burnett when he was a free agent, reportedly offering him a 5 year/$80 million contract.  When they couldn’t get him, they settled for Lowe at 4 years the $60 million.  Lowe has two years and $30 million left on his deal, so the Yankees would certainly have to eat some of the cash on Burnett’s extra year.  Would you trade Burnett and $10 million for Lowe, essentially paying $40 million for 2 years of Lowe, who hasn’t pitched in the AL East since 2004 and has a 4.37 ERA in the NL East the past two years?  Though it would be tempting to have one less year of expensive mediocrity, A.J. has had success in the AL East much more recently than Lowe and has more upside.

Barry Zito- Zito has 3 years and $64.5 million remaining on his contract (including a buyout).  I don’t think I need to go much further discussing this one do I?  Despite Zito not being a total disaster the past two years (and that’s a compliment), there’s no way he’d have success in the AL East at this point in his career.  As frustrating as A.J. can be, I cannot imagine watching Zito and his 85 MPH fastballs in the Bronx for the next 3 years.

Carlos Zambrano- A few months back I would consider this an absolute no.  Now I think the Cubs would.  Zambrano is owed just under $36 million over the next two years, so while the AAV is similar to A.J.’s, the extra year owed to Burnett is huge.  Burnett has obviously been a disaster lately while Zambrano has been on a tear.  Since being put back in the rotation in August Zambrano is 7-0 with a 1.27 ERA.  Those numbers are a bit fluky, but there’s no doubt he’s looked much better since coming back.  Zambrano of course has had several disciplinary and attitude issues with the Cubs, would they jump at the chance to get him out of their clubhouse and bring in the well-liked Burnett?  I doubt it, and again, because of the extra year, the Yankees would have to chip in some cash.  If the Cubs were interested in the swap, that could tell us a lot more about his relationship with the Cubs and maybe more behind the scenes issues we don’t know about it.  If that’s the case, would you want the Yankees to bring him in?

Other than these three there aren’t many pitchers out there that you could even consider matching up in a trade.  Dig into position players and you can find the untradeable players due to their contracts such as, Vernon Wells (4 years/$86 million), Alfonso Soriano (4 years/$72 million), Alex Rodriguez (oops).  Clearly trading A.J. would not be easy, and no matter what you get back you’re not guaranteed an upgrade.  Like it or not, A.J. is here to stay, so you might as well treat him like everyone’s crazy uncle. We have to deal with him, but he’s family, so just get ready to grind your teeth for the next three years while A.J. takes the mound.

Yanks, Red Sox postponed due to rain

(AP Photo/Steven Senne)

It rained all day in the Tri-State Area on Friday, and it did the same all night up in the Boston. After a three-and-a-half hour or so rain delay, the Yankees-Red Sox game was postponed and will be made up as part of a doubleheader on Saturday. The first game will be played as scheduled at 4pm ET (FOX broadcast), the second will start (ugh) five hours later at 9pm. Andy Pettitte will start the afternoon game with A.J. Burnett being pushed back to the night cap. A doubleheader on the second-to-last day of the season is less than ideal, but what can you do.

In other news, the Yanks took a half-game lead in the AL East when the Rays lost to Royals on Friday night. Bruce Chen, yes that Bruce Chen, tossed a complete game two-hit shutout, striking out seven. It’s the first complete game shutout of his career. The Bombers now control their own destiny; if they sweep the Sox this weekend they’ll win the division outright regardless of what Tampa does. If the Rays split their last two, the Yanks need to win just two of three, and if Tampa drops their last two games, the Yanks only need to win one of three. Suddenly, taking home the AL East crown doesn’t seem all that impossible.