Jeter, A-Rod, and Sabathia lead Yankees to win over Rangers

New Yorkers needed one Rangers team to win and another Rangers team to lose on Monday night. They got exactly what they wanted. The New York Rangers won Game Six of their first round playoff series to force a Game Seven while the Texas Rangers lost to the Yankees.

(REUTERS/Mike Stone)

Carsten Charles In Charge

CC Sabathia won’t get a quality start for his performance against the Rangers, which has more to do with the flaws in the stat than his actual performance. Sabathia allowed a first inning run on two singles and a ground ball double play, but he then retired 14* of the next 17 batters he faced before Josh Hamilton hit a solo homer with two outs in the sixth. Texas scored a pair of runs when ground balls hugged the lines for doubles in the seventh, but CC rebounded by retiring the heart of the Rangers’ order on five pitches in the eighth.

* One of the three guys he didn’t retire during that stretch reached bases on a throwing error, so Sabathia did his part. The defense let him down on that one play.

During his first three starts of the season, it was obvious that fastball command was CC’s biggest issue. He was going to his changeup and slider whenever he needed a strike because those pitches were a-okay, but the fastball was all over the place. The fastball command came around in this start, as Sabathia threw his heater to both sides of the plate and up high to change eye lines. Thirty-one of his 51 fastballs were strikes (60.8%), and he threw the pitch anywhere from 91.98 mph to 94.00 mph according to PitchFX. Sabathia threw a first pitch slider to 16 of 32 batters, including 13 for strikes. Twenty-five of 32 sliders were strikes — seven swings and misses — overall, an absurd rate.

The starting rotation has clearly been the Yankees’ weak point this season, but Sabathia stepped up and gave his team eight high-quality innings against the best hitting team in the AL not based in New York. Four runs in eight innings really doesn’t tell the whole story. Sabathia was in control of the game all night.

(AP Photo/LM Otero)

The Captain

We’re running out of things to say about Derek Jeter. The Cap’n has been the Yankees’ best player since Day One and one of the very best in the league. He added to his way-too-early MVP case by going 4-for-5 against the Rangers, starting a rally in the first and extending rallies in the fifth and sixth innings. His first three hits were singles, the fourth an opposite double over Nelson Cruz’s head to plate a run. David Freese-ian, if I do say so myself.

Derek raised his overall season batting line to .411/.436/.644 and his season batting line against left-handers to .630/.607/.926. I’m not kidding, that’s a real triple-slash line. If the Cap’n goes hitless in his next 27 at-bats, he’ll still be a .300 hitter overall. That’s pretty awesome. “It’s like 1999 again,” said Alex Rodriguez after the game. “Three hits every day.”

Damage

(AP Photo/LM Otero)

The Yankees scored two runs in the first on Curtis Granderson‘s two-strike bloop single and another run on Nick Swisher‘s sacrifice fly in the fifth, but the biggest blow came two batters later when A-Rod connected for a three-run homer off the poorly mustachioed Derek Holland. He drew a pair of walks in his first two trips to the plate but also swung through a pair of inside fastballs, and that’s the pitch Holland tried to execute on the homer. He left it a little too far out over the plate and Alex launched a no-doubt shot into the left-center field stands.

Weirdly enough, the homer was A-Rod’s first hit against a left-hander this season, breaking an 0-for-17 streak. The three-run shot turned a 3-1 game into a 6-1 game, giving the Yankees some breathing room. It’s been a sluggish start to the season for the third baseman, but Alex now has five hits in his last 15 at-bats with two homers and and three walks. That dates back to the start of the Red Sox series. It’s worth noting that he also drove another ball right to the wall in this game, so he’s making hard contact.

(AP Photo/LM Otero)

Leftovers

How about Chris Stewart? The rarely seen backup catcher drew a walk and hit a booming double to dead center in four trips to the plate, even taking second base on a poor pickoff throw by Holland. To be fair, he was dead to rights until Elvis Andrus dropped the relay throw at second. It’s not going to last, but give Stewart some credit for putting together tough at-bats — 17 pitches seen in his four plate appearances — and actually contributing offensively in the early going.

The Rangers allowed more than four runs for just the second time all season. Jeter and A-Rod did most of the heavy lifting, but Granderson had the two-run single and Swisher the sacrifice fly. Robinson Cano also had two hits and believe it or not, that’s it. Swisher, Mark Teixeira, Andruw Jones, and Eduardo Nunez went a combined 0-for-16 with three strikeouts. It’s all about timely hitting I suppose, the Yankees went 5-for-9 with runners in scoring position as a team.

After Sabathia’s eight strong innings, Mariano Rivera came in and took care of business in the ninth inning on 13 pitches. The final eight Rangers were retired in order on just 24 pitches. That’s a great way to wrap up a win, with zero late-inning stress.

This probably isn’t worth mentioning, but I thought Andruw make a couple of real nice catches on non-routine balls in play throughout the game. Some were line drives hit to left, others fly balls lifted high and into the Texas sun. I don’t want to think about how many would have fallen in for hits had Raul Ibanez been out there.

Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings

MLB.com has the box score and video highlights, FanGraphs the nerd score, and ESPN the updated standings.


Source: FanGraphs

Up Next

Game two of this three-game series will be played on Tuesday night, when Hiroki Kuroda and Yu Darvish meet in just the seventh matchup between Japanese-born starting pitchers in MLB history. That game starts at 8pm due to the time zone difference, an hour later than usual.

Segedin goes deep again in Tampa loss

Based on his Twitter feed, Slade Heathcott swung a bat today for the first time since having his second left shoulder surgery last year. He’s scheduled to return in June.

High-A Tampa (5-3 loss to Dunedin)
CF Eduardo Sosa: 1-4, 2 K
2B Kelvin Castro, RF Shane Brown & SS Jose Mojica: all 0-4 — Castro struck out once, Mojica twice
3B Rob Segedin: 2-4, 2 R, 1 HR, 1 RBI — six for his last 11 with a double and two homers, his second straight day with a jack
1B Kyle Roller: 2-4, 1 R
C J.R. Murphy & DH Tyson Blaser: both 1-3, 1 BB
LF Ramon Flores: 1-4, 1 RBI, 1 K
RHP Shane Greene: 5 IP, 2 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 5 BB, 5 K, 4/5 GB/FB
LHP Aaron Dott: 1.2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 1 K, 3/0 GB/FB
LHP Kramer Sneed: 0.1 IP, 1 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 2 BB, 0 K, 1/0 GB/FB — dude just made a spot start on Friday, though he didn’t make it out of the second inning
RHP Branden Pinder: 2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 5 K — 17/3 K/BB in 12.1 IP … 55/8 K/BB in 43.1 career innings

Triple-A Empire State was snowed out. Yes, snowed. There’s going to play a doubleheader at some point in the future. Both Double-A Trenton and Low-Charleston has scheduled days off.

Game 16: Messin’ with Texas

No high fives for you. (Leon Halip/Getty Images)

Maybe it’s the 2010 ALCS, maybe it’s terrible articles like this, maybe it’s something else entirely. I just want the Yankees to pound the Rangers this week. Just completely wreck them on offense and dominate them on the mound. It’s unlikely to happen because Texas is really, really good, but I want it to. I want the Yankees to crush them so bad that come Thursday, the Red Sox will look at the Rangers and say “damn, glad we’re not them.” That bad. Here’s the starting nine…

SS Derek Jeter
RF Nick Swisher
2B Robinson Cano
3B Alex Rodriguez
1B Mark Teixeira
CF Curtis Granderson
LF Andruw Jones
DH Eduardo Nunezhe’ll still make an error
C  Chris Stewart

LHP CC Sabathia

Tonight’s game starts a little after 7pm ET and can be seen on My9 locally and ESPN nationally. Enjoy.

All Double-A Trenton home games now streamed online

The Double-A Trenton Thunder have announced that all home games this season will be streamed live on MiLB.tv. The season package is only $40 and includes all levels, so you’ll also be able to see select Triple-A, High-A, and Low-A games as well. In fact, all four games of Low-A Charleston’s series with Lexington this week will be broadcast live, and that’s a team worth watching. The Yankees don’t have a ton of prospects at Double-A right now — Brett Marshall, David Adams, and Zoilo Almonte are the next of the bunch — but you will be able to catch Andy Pettitte‘s rehab start this Wednesday. Hooray for that.

The Importance of Andy Pettitte

(AP Photo/Eddie Michaels)

Things were not supposed to be like this, not after three turns through the rotation. The Yankees brought no fewer than six legitimate starting pitchers to Spring Training two months ago with three big league ready pitching prospects at the Triple-A level. Mid-way through camp they signed Andy Pettitte simply because they could. He had the itch to play and they weren’t going to tell him no. A month later, Pettitte has gone from feel good story to a pretty important piece of the puzzle.

Those first three turns through the rotation have been pretty ugly. Ivan Nova and his 3.79 ERA/4.04 FIP has been the lone bright spot on a starting staff that currently ranks 29th in ERA (5.84), 26th in FIP (4.52), and 29th in HR/9 (1.76) among the 30 clubs. If you’re a believer in xFIP, then I suppose you’ll be comforted by the fact that they rank ninth with a 3.58 mark. Keep your fingers crossed that their homer rate regressing to the mean, I guess. We know quality starts aren’t the best way to evaluate a pitching staff, though I do think it’s telling that the Yankees have the second fewest in baseball (four) through 15 games. Not easy to win like that.

As if the current rotation situation isn’t bad enough, the Yankees are going to be without Michael Pineda for the foreseeable future. He suffered a setback in his rehab over the weekend and will have his his right shoulder re-examined today. Even if they get good news, the Yankees can’t expect him to contribute anytime soon. David Phelps has impressed in long relief and both Adam Warren and D.J. Mitchell continue to bide their time in the minors, but all three remain unproven. Pettitte is the only guy on the horizon with a track record, and even that is compromised by his year-long hiatus.

After throwing five innings in an Extended Spring Training late last week, the plan calls for Pettitte to throw 80-85 pitches for Double-A Trenton on Wednesday. Early reports say he looks like the same old Andy, but this will continue to be a wait-and-see thing. The Yankees have said he will make at least two starts of 100 pitches before considering him for a big league spot just because they have to see how his soon-to-be 40-year-old body reacts. With the Roger Clemens trial set to start in two weeks and Pettitte expected to testify in some capacity, his return could be pushed back to mid-May.

CC Sabathia will right his ship at some point and although I think Hiroki Kuroda will as well, there are reasons to be skeptical about him. Phil Hughes and Freddy Garcia have been trash through their three starts and Pettitte is coming for one of their spots. The Yankees shouldn’t expect to receive the Andy of old, but it won’t take a miracle for him to be an upgrade over Hughes or Garcia. Having a second left-handed starter will be nice as well. Pitching depth has a way of disappearing in a hurry, and now Pettitte might have to play a big role in the team’s success this season if some current members of the rotation don’t straighten themselves out.

4/23-4/25 Series Preview: Texas Rangers

(REUTERS/Mike Stone)

The Yankees and Rangers have quite a bit of history with each other, dating back to the three late-1990s ALDS matchups and more recently the 2010 ALCS. You can even include the race to trade for and then sign Cliff Lee in there. The Yankees won seven of nine games against the two-time defending AL Champs last season, including two of three in Arlington.

What Have They Done Lately?

At 13-3, the Rangers have the best record the best record in baseball. No club is within 15 runs of their +52 run differential, confirming that Texas has been baseball’s best team through at least the first three weeks of the season. They just took two of three from the Tigers in Detroit, losing only to Justin Verlander. They’d won eight straight prior to that loss, including a two-game massacre of the Red Sox in Boston last week.

Offense

(Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

Given the injuries to Jacoby Ellsbury and Carl Crawford, there’s really only one team in baseball that can hang with the Yankees offensively at the moment, and that’s the Rangers. Texas has scored 94 runs through 16 games while the Yankees have scored 90 in 15 games. No other AL team has scored more than 78 runs. At 134 and 128 wRC+, the Yankees and Rangers have the first and third best offenses in baseball, respectively.

Texas has power up and down the lineup, starting in the leadoff spot with Ian Kinsler (156 wRC+). Elvis Andrus (80 wRC+) gives the pitcher a bit of a breather in the two-hole, though he always seems to annoy with bunts and infield hits. Josh Hamilton (223 wRC+) has been the best hitter in baseball not named Matt Kemp this year, and then you’ve still got Mike Napoli (170 wRC+), Nelson Cruz (170 wRC+), and Mike Young (165 wRC+). Napoli recently had a five-game homer streak end thanks to Verlander. Platoon bat David Murphy (135 wRC+) has hit well in limited action, but Craig Gentry (57 wRC+) and Mitch Moreland (28 wRC+) have not.

The Yankees are catching a little bit of a break this series because Adrian Beltre suffered a hamstring injury over the weekend. He’s currently listed as day-to-day but will have an MRI at some point. Beltre hasn’t done much against the Yankees in recent years — just .234/.260/.340 in 28 plate appearances since the start of 2010 — but he’s a great player and having him on the sidelines is a plus for New York. Young or utility infielder/former Yankee Alberto Gonzalez will fill in at third for the time being. Texas is second to the Yankees in homers and third behind the Athletics and Yankees in steals. It’s a great offense and New York is really, really going to need its rotation to settle down.

Pitching Matchups

Monday: LHP CC Sabathia vs. LHP Derek Holland
When you throw a two-hit shutout in the World Series, people will take notice. In reality, Holland’s march to stardom began in the second half of last season as he pitched to a 2.77 ERA with a 3.1 K/BB ratio in his final 15 starts. He’s performed similarly in his first three starts of 2012, including seven innings of two-run ball against the Red Sox in Fenway Park last week. Holland is a fastball heavy southpaw, using his low-90s sinker roughly 70% of the time. His changeup, curveball, and slider make appearances when he’s ahead in the count, allowing him to miss plenty of bats (8.85 K/9 and 25.3 K%). Holland’s allowing some more fly balls (34% grounders) this year but he’s also limiting walks better than ever before (2.66 B/9 and 7.6 BB%). The Yankees hit the eclectic left-hander pretty hard three times last season, but that was before things clicked and he went on that huge second half run.

Coming for Yu. (Leon Halip/Getty Images)

Tuesday: RHP Hiroki Kuroda vs. RHP Yu Darvish
Something tells me this game is going to be a pretty big deal in Japan. Lots of people are going to be late for work on Wednesday morning. Anyway, Darvish has been up and down in his first three MLB starts, allowing five runs to the Mariners in his first start (5.2 IP), two runs to the Twins in his second start (5.2 IP), and one run to the Tigers in his third start (6.1 IP). He’s had the same problem that plagues most Japanese pitchers when they first come over, and that’s nibbling too much and not challenging hitters. Darvish has walked at least four in all three starts and his 13 free passes currently leads the league. His K/BB ratio is nearly 1.0 thanks to his 14 strikeouts. His stuff is as expected, a 90-96 mph fastball with a knockout mid-80s slider and a slower mid-70s curveball. He’ll cut and sink his fastball as well. With all due respect to Detroit, the Yankees will be the best lineup Darvish has ever seen in his life.

Wednesday: RHP Phil Hughes vs. TBA
They haven’t officially announced it yet, but the Rangers are likely to start Scott Feldman in this game after Saturday’s rain out threw a wrench into their rotation schedule. He figures to be on a relatively short leash after throwing no more than 20 pitches in either of his two appearances this season, though he did work as a starter and get stretched out in Spring Training. I can’t imagine he’s good for 100+ pitches, though. Anyway, Feldman has used five different pitcher as a starter in the past, including two fastballs (cutter and sinker), two breaking balls (curveball and slider), and a changeup. He’s more of a low walks/ground ball type, though his strikeout rate has ticked up with more bullpen work in recent years. The Yankees have hit him very hard in the past, but that doesn’t really matter now.

Other candidates to start Wednesday’s game are left-hander Robbie Ross and right-hander Alexi Ogando. The Rangers could always call up a minor leaguer as well, but that seems unlikely. Feldman is the clear favorite for the spot start. For what it’s worth (next to nothing), two of the three best starts of Hughes’ career — based on Game Score — have come in Texas.

(Rick Yeatts/Getty Images)

Bullpen Status
Yesterday’s rain out gave the Yankees’ bullpen an impromptu day off, so they’re pretty well rested. David Phelps needs at least one and probably two more days off after throwing 66 pitches on Saturday, but everyone else is good to go. Mariano Rivera, David Robertson, and Cory Wade have each had two straight days off.

The Rangers played a doubleheader on Saturday and extra innings yesterday, but their bullpen is actually in pretty good shape because Neftali Feliz threw an eight inning, complete game loss in the second game of the double dip. Koji Uehara threw 25 pitches in the first game on Saturday, and yesterday the end-game trio of Ogando, Mike Adams, and Joe Nathan each threw no more than 18 pitches. Ross threw 13 pitches as well. Mark Lowe hasn’t pitched since Tuesday, and I have to think Feldman is off limits for the first two games of the series so he can start the finale.

Overall, the Texas bullpen owns a 2.33 ERA and a 2.39 FIP, both top five marks in baseball and right there with the Yankees. Nathan has absorbed two of the team’s three losses and hasn’t been the old, automatic version of himself since coming back from Tommy John surgery last year. For the latest and greatest on the Rangers, I recommend checking out Baseball Time in Arlington and Lone Star Ball. Both are high-quality reads.