Game 154: Time to take care of business

(AP Photo/Bill Kostroun)

It’s very simple: if the Yankees win one more game against the Rays this year, they’re going to the playoffs. Let’s not drag this out, take care of business this afternoon. Here’s the lineup…

Brett Gardner, CF
Derek Jeter, SS
Robinson Cano, DH
Alex Rodriguez, 3B
Nick Swisher, RF
Jorge Posada, 1B
Andruw Jones, LF
Eduardo Nunez, 2B
Austin Romine, C

Hector Noesi, SP

Game one of the doubleheader starts a little after 1pm ET and can be seen on YES. Enjoy.

Hughes scratched from start today

Phil Hughes, who was scheduled to take the ball in the afternoon half of today’s doubleheader, will not make his start. Back spasms already pushed him back from Monday to Wednesday. There is no word on whether he will make another start this season. In his stead, Hector Noesi will take the mound. Joe Girardi said that Noesi can throw 50 to 60 pitches if all goes well.

Noesi has made just five starts this season, all coming at AAA Scranton. His latest came on August 31st, though he threw only three innings (two hits, four strikeouts, no runs or walks). Since then he has thrown 5.1 innings, all in relief. He hasn’t thrown more than three innings since July 22nd, and hasn’t thrown 60 pitches since his six-inning outing against Boston on June 7th.

CC Sabathia is still on schedule to start the night game.

David Robertson’s Dead-ish Arm

Over the course of the season, I think we’ve come to take David Robertson for granted. Well, maybe that’s not the right way to put it. I guess it would be more accurate to say that he’s one part of the Yankees that we’re not concerned about, like at all. At least that’s how I feel. Aside from Mariano Rivera, there’s no pitcher out in that bullpen that I have more confidence in that D-Rob.

Because of this lack of concern about Robertson and his performance, there’s a chance that you may not have noticed his velocity in recent appearances, which happens to be trending downward ever so slightly. Here, have a look…

It’s nothing major, but there’s a definite arc there. Robertson started the year at his usual 91-92, peaked at 93-95 with a few 96’s (and I remember at least one 97) in the middle of the summer, and now is gradually declining back to the 92-93 range. That’s right in line with what we learned about velocity and the temperature earlier in the year, and again, it’s not a huge spike or decline in velocity either. It’s there, it’s real, but it’s not drastic.

Robertson’s workload this month has been an issue, only because the team has played an inordinate number of close games lately. Monday’s appearance was his first in three days, but before that he pitched in nine of the first 16 days of September. At one point he made six appearances in the span of nine days. Aside from this recent stretch, Joe Girardi‘s always been very good at keeping his top relievers fresh and spreading his workload around.

Overall, Robertson has already eclipsed last year’s total of 61.1 IP by 2.2 IP, however he’s faced ten fewer batters and thrown four more pitches. Furthermore, not all appearances are made equal. Although Robertson has faced 138 batters with men on base this year (146 last year), he’s faced way more with men in scoring position (109 vs. 88) and with the bases loaded (18 vs. 9). I think we call agree that pitches thrown in tight spots are more taxing that pitches with no one on base, which is why that nominal increase in innings pitched can be a little deceiving.

I don’t think this is anything to be worried about, it’s not like he’s suddenly throwing 87-88 or something like that. Robertson has worked quite a bit this month because of all the close games the Yankees have played lately, but the team is in the position to rest him over the final eight days of the season. They don’t need to push him three, or hell, even just two days in a row from here on out. Robertson’s performance hasn’t suffered at all, and right now there’s no reason to expect it too. The kid has proven that he can pitch at 91 in the past, and the velocity hasn’t even dropped off that much yetanyway. This is just something that caught my eye over the last week.

Nova & Grandy lead Yanks to win over Rays

Do you know how long it had been since the Yankees played their last normal, 7pm ET home game before Tuesday night? Eighteen days. Blame day games, blame rain delays, and blame a ten-day road trip for that, so it was nice to get back to that familiar routine. The familiar routine of weekday evenings in the Bronx and wins in the standings.

(Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

Number Two Starter

The Yankees have been searching for a viable number two starter since the day Cliff Lee agreed to return to Philadelphia, but apparently they had one right under their nose the whole time. Ivan Nova was really good in this one, holding the Rays scoreless through 7.2IP on 103 pitches. He didn’t completely shut them down (his only 1-2-3 inning was the first), but he scattered six hits (one double) and three walks while timing his three strikeouts well. Nova also pitched out of a bases loaded, no out situation in the seventh (shallow fly ball, double play).

Wins are dumb, but it’s worth noting that Nova has won his last dozen decisions, the most by a rookie since Larry Jansen in 1947. His season ERA is down to 3.62, his record up to 16-4. If you’d have said that Nova would have this kind of season back in March, I probably would have called you crazy. The kid is probably going to start Game Two of the ALDS next weekend, and he’s certainly earned it.

(Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

OMG RISPFAIL WTF

It had been 18 days since the Yankees last played a 7pm ET game at home, and they celebrated by leaving 18 runners on base. Seriously. It’s the most runners a Rays opponent has ever stranded, and it’s by far the most the Yankees have stranded this year. The previous high was 15 on May 11th, but guess what? That was an eleven inning game. The previous high for a nine inning game was 13, which they did against the Cubs and also against the Red Sox a few weeks ago (Jesus Montero‘s first game, the one with Russell Martin‘s huge go-ahead double off Daniel Bard).  They left one man on base in the second, two men on base in the first, fourth, sixth, and eighth, and the bases loaded in the third, fifth, and seventh. Yikes.

Despite all that RISPFAIL, the Yankees did score five runs, three on Curtis Granderson‘s bases clearing double in the second. Eric Chavez singled in a run earlier that inning, and then Grandy singled in another run in the fifth. That wasn’t really a single though, Casey Kotchman bobbled the grounder and Cesar Ramos flubbed the relay. I’ll take it. Curtis is now 8-for-11 with three doubles, two homers, four walks, and two strikeouts in his last three games, so I think we can consider the slump over.

So smooth. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

Leftovers

Aside from the Grandyman, four others had multiple hits: Derek Jeter (also a walk), Eric Chavez, Martin (also a walk), and Brett Gardner. Mark Teixeira singled and both Robinson Cano and Nick Swisher doubled, plus all three drew a walk as well. Alex Rodriguez was the only Yankee without a hit, but he walked twice.  Everyone got in on the action, solid offensive night aside from all those runners left on base. You know what they say though, I’d rather have ‘em on and strand ‘em than not have ‘em on at all. They say that, right?

Anyway, the bullpen was a two-man show after Nova left. Boone Logan was brought in to face the lefty Matt Joyce, but the righty Brandon Guyer pinch-hit and popped out in foul territory to end the eighth. Luis Ayala worked a scoreless ninth. That’s all she wrote.

The Rays lost, obviously, so the lead on the wildcard spot increased to eight full games. Robert Andino and the Orioles came back against Jonathan Papelbon and the Red Sox, so the lead in the division climbed to six games (seven in the loss column). You’re welcome for keeping you ahead in the wildcard race, Boston.

The magic number to clinch a playoff spot is just two, the magic number to clinch the division is just three, and the magic number to clinch homefield advantage is just five. The first two could happen within the next 24 hours. Seriously.

Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings

MLB.com has the box score and video, FanGraphs some more advanced stats, and ESPN the updated standings.

Up Next

Let’s play two! These same two teams will play a doubleheader on Wednesday, with the scheduled starters being some combination of Phil Hughes, CC Sabathia, Jamie Shields, and Jeremy Hellickson. Game one starts a little after 1pm ET, and you can get there with RAB Tickets.

Triple-A Scranton Yanks still don’t have a home for 2012

Via Josh Leventhal, the deadline for the Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees to submit a proposal indicating where the team would like to play its 2012 home games came and went without a submission today. PNC Field will be undergoing extensive renovations, so the club will have to play at an alternative site next season. International League president Randy Mobley said the “league directors have established a timeline and process that will assure this matter is resolved in a timely manner.” Lehigh Valley and Rochester are said to be under consideration, and a few weeks ago we heard that Staten Island could be a possibility as well.

In other news, Leventhal says the sale of the franchise to the Yankees and Mandalay Sports for $14.6M had yet to be brought before the league, but the sale is expected to be approved. “If there were something in the early phases that would cause the league to blow it up, that would have already occurred,” said Mobley, referring to the sale.