Yanks rally falls short, drop third in a row

After a pair of blow out losses the last two nights, the Yankees looked to be headed down that path again on Friday. Down nine runs at one point, they rallied back on the stretch of many, many homers to bring the tying run to the plate in the bottom of the ninth inning. Alas, it was not meant to be, as Jon Papelbon wiggled his way out of trouble and helped keep his team in the race for another day.

(AP Photo/Bill Kostroun)

Lowrie Starts It Off For The Sox

WPA doesn’t seem to do a real good job with blowout games like this, but tonight my emotions agreed with the biggest hit of the game. That was Jed Lowrie’s three run homer in the second, one batter after Nick Swisher muffed a semi-routine fly ball/line drive/fliner. I think we all felt confident with Andy Pettitte on the mound and a fully rested bullpen, but that shot to rightfield kind of took the wind out of the sails. It increased Boston’s chances of winning by more than 21% despite being so early in the game, and you could feel it when the ball landed too. Oh well.

Honorable Mention: Hall Goes To Zaaaaaales

(AP Photo/Bill Kostroun)

The fifth inning was like the culmination of every Yankee problem ever. The Red Sox scored three runs in the inning on a Bill Hall homer off the Zales sign in the visitor’s bullpen after Jon Albaladejo recorded two quick outs to lead off the frame. We know all about this two out runs thing. Of course, those three runs appeared to be nothing more than meaningless tack-on runs at the time (the score was then 10-1), but the Sox ended up needing every last one of them. The Yanks have learned a thing or two about the consequences of not scoring insurance runs in the last few weeks, haven’t they? So much fail, so little time.

Almost

They call them the Bronx Bombers for a reason, and they showed why in the sixth and seventh innings of this one. Curtis Granderson got the Yanks on board early on with a third inning solo shot, his 12th in the last 40 games or so, but the omgBOOMstix didn’t really come out a little later. Mark Teixeira whacked his first homer of the month off Josh Beckett in the sixth, and one batter later Alex Rodriguez took him deep for the Yanks eighth set of back-to-back jacks this season.

With Beckett still out their next inning, Nick Swisher drove in Derek Jeter with a two out homer, and then A-Rod went deep again with Tex on base two batters later, though this came off Scott Atchison. In the span of ten batters, Red Sox pitchers allowed four homers. Teixeira hit his second of the game with two outs in the ninth, bringing the Yanks to within two. Joe Torre used to always say that homers where only good for catching up quickly or extending the lead (dry humor ftw), and that’s exactly what we saw tonight. It’s too bad they didn’t have one more in their bats.

(AP Photo/Bill Kostroun)

Bad Andy

As good as Andy Pettitte was in his last start against the Orioles, that’s how as bad as he was tonight (/McCarver’d) (no seriously, read that sentence in his voice). It was just hit after hit after hit, some legit line drives, others dinky little bloopers, but they all count the same. Pettitte was falling behind hitters quite a bit which hurt him, obviously, and the end result was ten hits, seven runs, and ten outs. At least he didn’t walk anyone.

Joe Girardi said before the game that the goal was 95 pitches for Andy, but he was lifted after throwing just 75. I wouldn’t be surprised if he went to the indoor batting cage under the stands and threw some more after being taken out, but who knows. He has one more start left this season and needs to get stretched out to over 100 pitches for the postseason.

Leftovers

Beckett has allowed nine homers in 26 IP against the Yankees this year. (AP Photo/Bill Kostroun)

The Yanks became just the fifth team this century to hit six longballs in a game and lose, and just the second Yankee team to do it since 1961. A new low every day, eh? On the bright side, The O’Neill Theory is in full effect for tomorrow, and that’s always a good thing.

Jeter extended his hitting streak to a baker’s dozen, and both Tex and A-Rod each reached base three times (well, four of those were homers, so they weren’t technically “on base”). Grandy also had three hits to push his batting average over the .250 mark. The bad news is that the 4-5-6 hitters (Robbie Cano, Lance Berkman, Jorge Posada) went a combined 0-for-12 with just one walk. Cano, of course, struck out to end the game. Getting something out of them would have helped.

Teixeira has definitely been swinging the bat a little better in the last three games. He hit a homerun ball on Wednesday that went just foul into the second deck, then he doubled and had another two-bagger taken away from him by Rocco Baldelli on Thursday, then tonight there were the two homers, his first two of the month. He’s going to have to produce for them down the stretch and into the playoffs, so it’s good to see him getting back on track.

Sergio Mitre, pitching for the first time in 11 days, kept the Sox off the board for two innings before giving way to filthy dirty Kerry Wood, who got the next four outs. Boone Logan then came in and got two outs on three pitches against lefties David Ortiz and Lars Anderson. Aside from AAAAlbaladejo, very nice work by the bullpen tonight. Wood threw just 18 pitches, so I’m certain he’ll be available tomorrow if needed.

The Rays beat the Mariners, so they took over first place in the AL East and lead by half-a-game. The Sox crept to within six-and-a-half games of the Wild Card with just eight to play. The Yanks have won just 26 of their last 50 games and are now just 6-12 in their last 18 games. Their playoff ticket is very close to being punched, but it hasn’t been just yet, so they really need to start playing better. Start taking it easy when you’ve clinched something.

WPA Graph & Box Score

I guess the rally wasn’t as great as we thought. MLB.com has the box score, FanGraphs some other stuff.

Up Next

You ready for some FOX baseball action? Cause that’s what you’re getting tomorrow when these two clubs meet again at 4:05pm ET. Ivan Nova gets the ball against Jon Lester. Hopefully the kid won’t lose it the third time through the order, but I’m not holding my breath.

Game 154: Hey look, the Red Sox

Getting your offseason goodbyes done early, eh? (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

Oh boy, the Red Sox are in town. These games are always fun (or long and unbearable, to each his own), but there’s very little on the line this weekend. I’m not sure the schedule makers anticipated that. No, the Yankees haven’t clinched a playoff spot just yet, but they’re dangerously close to doing so and could have that wrapped up very soon. In fact, they could clinch a spot as soon as tomorrow and with any luck they will.

What more is there to say? I’m sure Boston wants to come in and figuratively punch the Yanks in the mouth, but they’ve lost 15 of 21 games against New York since starting 0-8 against them last year. It’s been a while since the Sox have punched the Yanks in the mouth, that’s for sure. Anyway, here’s the good ol’ A-lineup…

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

And on the bump, it’s Andrew Pettitte.

You can watch the game in one of two places: regular old YES or the MLB Network. Remember, regardless of what anyone tells you this weekend, the Red Sox are done. D-u-n. They could win every game the rest of the season and still miss the playoffs. So chillax and enjoy the rest before the playoffs.

Yankees name Moseley Sunday’s starter, other rotation changes coming

Via Bryan Hoch, the Yankees have announced that Dustin Moseley, not Phil Hughes, will start Sunday night’s game against the Red Sox. Hughes will instead start on Wednesday, and that will be his final start of the regular season. He’s at 169.1 innings right now, so that last start will get him right around 175, where we all expected he’d finish. Hard to complain about this (unless you have tickets to Sunday’s game), might as well save those bullets for a game that counts.

Update: Ben Shpigel says that the team is planning some more changes to the rotation as well, but nothing will go into effect until after they clinch a playoff spot. CC Sabathia‘s next start would be pushed to Friday (as opposed to Tuesday), lining him up perfectly for Game One of the ALDS. Based on that, it seems clear that Hughes will be the fourth starter in the postseason and not the third.

Despite standings, Red Sox still an expensive draw

Only three more home games separate the Yankees from the end of their regular season slate in the Bronx, and because baseball’s scheduling gods tried to create some dramatic tension late in the year, the Red Sox are in town. Unfortunately for Boston though, they’re on the brink of a postseason spent watching the playoffs on the couch as the Yanks enter Friday’s game with a Magic Number of three.

Still, Yankees/Red Sox tickets, as our partners as TiqIQ report, are in high demand. The chart at the bottom of this post shows that, on average, tickets on the secondary market for this weekend’s set are selling above the Yanks’ season average of $90 per ticket. Saturday’s mid-afternoon Jon Lester/Ivan Nova match-up is pacing the field while tonight’s Andy Pettitte/Josh Beckett showdown is significantly lower and the Sunday night Phil Hughes/Daisuke Matsuzaka game, which threatens to feature way too many pitches thrown, is the cheapeast.

In fact, as the chart at top highlights, tickets for Sunday’s game are the best deal for any Yankees/Red Sox game in the Bronx this season. That’s what happens, after all, when the Red Sox could be mathematically eliminated by then, and the Yanks could toss out a lineup resembling that of Scranton’s. As always, RAB Tickets has your seats, and we’ll have some playoff promotions in the upcoming weeks.

RAB Live Chat

The clock strikes midnight on Vazquez

Yep, you stink. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

You could see it happening. It was that ugly seventh inning of last night’s game, the inning when starter turned mop-up man Javy Vazquez fell completely off the rails. A walk then three consecutive hit batters to force in a run. That from a guy who had hit four batters in his first 149.2 innings of the season and has demonstrated good enough control to unintentionally walk just 2.1 batters per nine innings pitched this century. The game was basically lost by that point anyway, but in the big picture it was the moment that Vazquez lost any chance to ever pitch another meaningful inning in pinstripes. What happened in the last two innings was completely irrelevant, his fate had already been decided.

I wanted to like Javy, and I still do like him actually. He’s an extremely nice and self-deprecating guy, or at least he comes across that way in interviews, but that doesn’t count for anything on the mound. While I certainly appreciate that mid-season stretch when he was arguably the team’s best pitcher, he’s been basically unusable since mid-July. The Yanks tried tinkering with his mechanics, tried giving him extra rest, tried him in the bullpen, but the results just aren’t there any more. The stuff, to put it kindly, has deteriorated to junk, and he hasn’t been able to adjust to it yet.

That’s not to say that Javy is a lost cause forever, remember it took Mike Mussina a year or so to figure out how to pitch with his mid-80’s gas. But for the Yankees, that’s it, any chance Vazquez had at redeeming himself was washed away when that curveball hit Kelly Shoppach in the back to force in a run last night. There’s almost no chance of him making the postseason roster even as the “break glass in case of emergency” 11th reliever, there’s absolutely no chance of the Yanks offering him arbitration after the season even though he projects to be a Type-A free agent (by the skin of his teeth).

Sure, Vazquez will throw some garbage time innings when they’re resting the regulars next week, but if it wasn’t obvious before, it is now. He’s just too unreliable for a team trying to win a World Championship, and he won’t get another opportunity to prove himself. It’s kinda sad when you think about it, especially since the trade was pretty well-received at the time. The Yanks gave up so little for a guy that seemed certain to give them 200 innings of at least average pitching. Arodys Vizcaino had never pitched in a full season league, Mike Dunn is a usable bullpen piece but hardly a shutdown reliever, and Melky Cabrera was about to get super expensive ($3.1M salary this year [!!!], and just think, if the Melkman was still around, he’d have taken at-bats away from Brett Gardner). All three were easily replaceable, and effectively have been already.

Anyway, back to Vazquez. The anti-Javy crowd that maintain that he can’t handle New York will think they’re right when in reality it was just his stuff that betrayed him. The fastball velocity is gone, the breaking ball doesn’t bite anymore, and the changeup isn’t as effective as it used to be because the fastball isn’t there to back it up. It’s gone downhill so quickly that I can’t help but wonder if he’s hiding an injury. And if he is I guess it’s admirable, but he did himself nor his team any good by pitching through it.

If an offseason of rest manages to help him get healthy, some East Coast National League team is going to get a pretty sweet deal when they sign Javy for one year and about $4M this winter (my money’s on the Marlins, nice and close to his home in Puerto Rico) and he gives them bulk innings against lesser competition. Either way,  last night was almost certainly the last time he’ll ever pitch in the Bronx as a member of the Yankees, and ironically enough, there weren’t enough fans left at the park to boo him off the mound.

Mailbag: Lee, Darvish, Granderson, Bats, ALDS

Are you guys digging the mailbag? I thought it would be a good way to interact with readers, but I don’t want it to come off as cheap, lazy content. I want it to actually be informative and interesting and stuff. Let me know what you’ve thought of the RAB Mailbag experience so far in the comments.

This week we’re going to tackle Cliff Lee vs. Yu Darvish, Curtis Granderson‘s surprising power, maple bats, and the best potential ALDS matchup. If you want to send in a question, use the Submit A Tip box in the sidebar.

Kevin asks: This offseason say Cliff Lee hits the market, Yu Darvish is posted, and Andy Pettitte wants to come back, which two do the Yankees chase? Or do they try to find a way to get rid of Burnett and chase all three?

If Pettitte wants to come back, he comes back, guaranteed. That’s not a decision that has to be made, it’s a given.

Between Lee and Darvish, I would think the Yanks prefer Lee. He’s a known commodity in the American League, they’re obviously obsessed with him given how many times they’ve tried to acquire him the last year-and-a-half, and there’s bidding process involved. It’s true free agency. While Darvish is a great young pitcher (younger than Phil Hughes!), he’s a complete unknown when it comes to his ability to succeed in MLB and transition to a new culture and everything. Plus the long-term track record of Japanese starters in MLB isn’t great, though they generally have one or two strong seasons before regressing. That may have something to do with going from a once-a-week schedule to a once every five days schedule. There’s simply much, much more risk.

As much as we might want it to happen, A.J. Burnett‘s not going anywhere. Too much money left on the deal ($49.5M), and they’re not going to eat a chunk of it so he could pitch for someone else. For better or worse, A.J.’s here to stay.

Shai asks: Curtis Granderson is a power hitter. How does he generate so much pop, being a small guy who doesn’t look very muscular/strong?

Don’t be fooled, Grandy’s jacked. Watch some Yankees on Deck or something like that when they show him wearing something other than a uniform and you’ll see it. He’s thin, but I bet if you poked him in the chest with your finger it’d be like poking a rock.

Also, pure muscle doesn’t result in homers. A lot of it has to due with bat speed, and too much muscle mass can actually hinder that. Brute strength isn’t everything when it comes to hitting homers.

Joe asks: I was writing to see if you had an opinion on the use of maple bats. Do you think that MLB should ban them from the game for safety? Damon would shatter tons of those last year.

Maple bats are a problem just because they shatter so much more than ash bats. Obviously there was the Tyler Colvin incident a few days ago, but there was also the less publicized Rick Helling incident a few years ago, when a 15-inch piece of a broken bat lodged three inches into his left arm. Yeah, how about that for an under-reported story?

Broken bats are part of baseball, but that’s not a reason to blindly accept the dangers of maple bats. They don’ crack like ash bats, they shatter and splinter and become dangerous projectiles. It’s only a matter of time before a shard of a bat flies into the stands and does something horrible to a fan. I mean, it’s inevitable. Attendance is too high and there are just too many broken bats. Players use maple because they feel like the ball jumps off he bat better, and in fact they’re more expensive than ash.

You would think that the teams themselves would be interested in getting rid of maple bats because those are their players on the field and I imagine they want to protect their investments. The Yanks go to great lengths to monitor Phil Hughes’ workload, but shouldn’t they also want to do away with maple bats to avoid a possible injury to CC Sabathia? I don’t want to tell baseball how to run their league, but the safety of the players and (especially) the fans should be the first thing on their minds.

I guess I never answered the question. Yeah, get rid of them. Easier said than done, of course.

Drew asks: Long-time reader, first-time emailer. I have a slightly controversial question for you and the readers: do we want our Yanks to actually win the Wild Card instead of the AL East? The reason I ask is that the stars appear to be aligning for us to face the Rangers in the ALDS, and I’m more afraid of their rotation than the Twins’. The way the playoff schedule lines up, teams can realistically go with three starters in each series, meaning we’d be facing this Rangers front three: Lee, C.J. Wilson and Colby Lewis. For the Twins, it’d be Liriano, Pavano and Scott Baker. I’d rather face the Twins’ three than the Rangers’. And if we win the AL East we’d almost certainly face the Rangers – whether the Twins grab homefield advantage or not – while if we get the Wild Card it’s almost a lock we play the Twins.

What do you think? Obviously I never like my teams to stumble into the playoffs, but it wouldn’t be the worst thing if the Rays won this series and held us off the rest of the way, right?

(This was sent in a few days ago, obviously)

I’d prefer a matchup with the Rangers, for many reasons. One, I don’t think the difference in the rotations is all that big. Yes, potentially facing Lee twice in a five game series is scary, but it’s not like facing Liriano instead would be any easier. The Yanks have had their way with Wilson a few times this season, but Lewis is an admittedly tough matchup because he’s got a good changeup and the Yanks have never seem him before. That’s a big double whammy right there, though perhaps the two negatives cancel out into a positive, I dunno. Pavano, despite his past in New York, has pitched well this season and Baker has actually been tough against the Yanks historically. I’d rather face Wilson (who’s thrown more innings this year than he did in 2007, 2008, and 2009 combined) and Lewis (who’s never been in any kind of playoff race in his life) than the duo Minny has backing up their ace.

Two, the Rangers without a healthy Josh Hamilton just aren’t the same. He’s been getting cortisone shots like they’ve been going out of style for his ribs and whatever else, and there’s still no concrete date for his return to the lineup. That dynamic, anything is possible at any time force is missing from their lineup. Yes, the Twins are without Justin Morneau, but their depth makes his loss more tolerable. If Hamilton’s not 100%, I’d much rather take my chances with Vlad Guerrero, Ian Kinsler, David Murphy, and Nelson Cruz than Joe Mauer, Jim Thome, Jason Kubel, and Delmon Young. Of course Hamilton might be healthy and productive by the time the ALDS starts and that would change things, but that’s far from a safe assumption.

Three, for most part the Rangers are playoff virgins. Vlad, Lee, and Darren Oliver have been in playoff games before, but that’s pretty much it. Not their number two or three starters, not their closer or setup men or middle reliever, not most of the lineup. The Twins have all been there, done that before. I don’t want to make a big deal of the experience factor, but I absolutely believe it means something in the postseason. Not as much as I might be making it sound, but I don’t think it’s a negligible factor.

I know they seem completely incapable of beating the Yankees in the Bronx and history is against them, but the Twins scare me more in the short series. They’re playing better right now, have been for the last few months really, and they just seem like a deeper and more dangerous club. This isn’t the NFL where the better team basically always wins, anything can happen in a short series in baseball, but I’d still rather face the team that’s gone 30-27 since mid-July than the one that’s gone 45-17.