The makeup game between the Yankees and Rays for their August 14th rain out has been scheduled as part of a doubleheader for September 21st, the Yanks announced this morning. The two teams will be playing another makeup game on the 22nd (because of this mess), so instead of playing one game in a 48-hour span as the schedule originally called for, they’ll play three. The rest of the regular season is brutal: The Yankees will make a west coast trip tonight and play 15 games in the final 14 days of the season. Good thing they have such a huge lead on a playoff spot.
The regular season is slowly winding down, and the Yankees are just any combination of 12 wins or Rays losses away from clinching a postseason berth. With 20 games to go, they’re sitting in a pretty great spot, and it’s time to start paying homage to those that helped get them here.
It seems kinda silly to praise Freddy Garcia just three days after his worst outing of the season, but that’s exactly what we’re going to do. The big right-hander has been steady and effective for the Yankees since the first day of the season, with a total of maybe three blips on the radar. Of course it wasn’t supposed to happen this way, Garcia wasn’t even Plan B.
Everyone knew the Yankees were going to go hard after Cliff Lee this past winter, and by the time he agreed to return the Phillies, the free agent starter crop had dried up. All that was left was a collection of cast-offs, has-beens, never-wases, and Freddy Garcia. The Yankees waited, and waited, and waited some more until Garcia accepted their offer of a minor league contract on the final day of January. The team wasn’t thrilled about how their rotation was shaping up, and I’m sure Freddy wasn’t thrilled about getting a non-guaranteed contract.
Spring Training came and went, and Garcia was named the fifth starter to open the season. The Yankees did all they could to avoid him for the first few weeks of the season, as a series of rain outs and off days allowed them to skip his turn a number of times. After a one-inning garbage time relief appearance in Fenway Park, Freddy made his first start of the season on April 16th, the 13th game of the season and the third time through the rotation. He came out and held the Orioles to two hits over six scoreless innings, but the Yankees again skipped his turn thanks to some schedule shenanigans. Eight days later, Garcia held another team to just two hits in six scoreless innings, this time the Rangers.
The Yankees didn’t skip the one they call Sweaty Freddy anymore after that. He limited the Blue Jays to three runs in five innings next time out, and then ran off a stretch in which he completed at least six innings in five of his next six starts. His ERA dropped to 3.34 during that time, then came that ugly four-run, 1.2 IP disaster against the Red Sox. Garcia’s ERA skyrocketed to 3.86, but he rebounded with another stretch in which he completed at least six innings in seven of nine starts. Only once during that time did he allowed more than three runs, only thrice more than two runs. The month of August started with a 3.22 ERA, and three starts later it sits at 3.50.
Garcia’s season is now 22 starts (and one relief appearance) old, well beyond the point of being a pleasant surprise. We’re not quite in “lightning in a bottle” territory since he did pitch last year, so I guess this qualifies as a minor miracle. Freddy’s strikeout rate (5.91 K/9) is almost a full whiff better than what he did last year (5.10), and his unintentional walk rate remained the same (2.34 uIBB/9 this year vs. 2.29 last year). His 0.82 HR/9 is half-a-homer better than last season (1.32), and his FIP (3.84) is nearly a full run better than last year as well (4.77). At 2.2 fWAR, he’s been nearly a full win more valuable than last year in 26 fewer innings.
The Yankees settled for Garcia eight months ago, when he was probably their Plan D or E, but they couldn’t be any happier with how he’s performed for them. Aside from a little cut on his index finger (and injury that didn’t really require a DL stint), Freddy has been completely healthy and taken the ball every time he’s been asked to. He’s done more than just keep the Yankees in the game, he’s taken the ball deep into games to give the bullpen a bit of a break, and frankly he’s been about as reliable as preseason question marks could be. Freddy has been steady, no doubt about it.
Following that all-night affair on Tuesday, Joe Girardi opted to rest his regulars on Wednesday afternoon and started six position players who played with Triple-A Scranton this season. Can’t say I blame him, he’s got bigger things to worry about than this game, but the lineup created this whole “oh who cares” atmosphere, at least for me.
New Mechanics, Same Results
In his second start with his new mechanics, A.J. Burnett pitched a whole lot like he did with his old mechanics. He was pitching out of the stretch all afternoon because the leadoff man reached base in six of the seven innings he started (the second runner reached in the one inning he did get the leadoff guy out), and he also hurt himself with some lackadaisical defense (more on that in a bit). The first scored right in the first inning on a single, stolen base, ground out, ground out, and the second came on a walk, stolen base, wild pitch, error. Burnett also allowed a two-run homer to Nolan Reimold, so there’s the four runs.
Six innings and four runs isn’t the worst outcome in the world, but A.J. walked four and allowed seven hits, hurting himself further with three (!!!) wild pitches. Interestingly enough, PitchFX says he threw 26 changeups and 41 curveballs out of 108 total pitches, getting nine swings and misses on the former and eight on the latter. Burnett was definitely offspeed heavy today, but I didn’t realize he was that offspeed heavy. It wasn’t a disaster start by any means, just more typical A.J., I guess.
The A-Rod & Montero Show
The Yankees answered right back after Burnett put them in a 1-0 hole in the first inning, and the game had all the look of a slugfest. The three everyday players that were actually in the lineup fashioned a rally out of a double (Russell Martin), a walk (Nick Swisher), and another double (Alex Rodriguez) to drive in two. The Yankees took a 2-1 lead in the bottom of the first, but A.J. gave it right back in the second before letting the O’s take a two-run lead on Reimold’s homer.
The score remained 4-2 until the fourth inning, when A-Rod started another rally with a leadoff walk. Andruw Jones followed that up with a double to left, and Jesus Montero tied the game with a long single off the wall, to the opposite field of course. That’s the four runs right there, two thanks to A-Rod in the first, and another two thanks to Montero in the fourth. Some of the regulars, namely Mark Teixeira, Robinson Cano, and Curtis Granderson made pinch-hitting appearances later on, but the offense went pretty silent after the fourth.
Not A Banner Day For The UZR
It’s one thing to trot out a Triple-A-ish lineup a day game after a long night game, but Triple-A-ish defense is a little tougher to swallow. Where do I start with this? I guess I’ll go chronologically. It all started when Brandon Laird literally booted a Kyle Hudson ground ball into foul territory in the second, allowing a run to score, and it seemed to set the tone for the entire defense for the afternoon.
Robert Andino reached on a pop-up single to lead off the third, a ball that dropped on the infield after neither A-Rod nor Eduardo Nunez bothered to catch it. One batter later, Nick Markakis hit a ground ball to first, and after Laird got the force out at second, Burnett failed to step on first on the return throw to complete the double play. One inning later, Burnett hesitated off the mound and got beat to first by Hudson on a rather routine ground ball. Laird took his sweet time getting the ball to A.J., which didn’t help matters. A-Rod and Nunez both misplayed grounders in the fifth, and in a rarely display of defensive futility, Brett Gardner misplayed a fly ball into a two-base error in the top of the ninth.
After stranding leadoff runners in the ninth and tenth, the Yankees let the Orioles take the lead in the eleventh inning. Hector Noesi pitched Tuesday night but was sent back out for a second inning of work on Wednesday afternoon (why?), and the go-ahead rally started with (guess what!) an error. Nunez played a Matt Angle ground ball like he was that guy who dropped his keys in There’s Something About Mary, letting it scoot past him and into the outfield. Angle stole second and Markakis was intentionally walked for the second time (he’s not Barry Bonds, sheesh), setting up Mark Reynolds for the run scoring single.
The Yankees put together a rally in the bottom of the eleventh, but they couldn’t push the tying run across. Montero drew a leadoff walk and pinch-runner Chris Dickerson got as far as third base on Granderson’s single, but alas, it was not meant to be. Pinch-hitter Eric Chavez‘s line drive was knocked down by Andino at short, who shuffled it to second for the game-ending force out. For whatever reason, the offense just went into hibernation after Montero’s game-tying single. Perhaps all the regulars that entered the game late after playing on Tuesday were just pooped. Oh well.
Hey look, another sacrifice bunt that didn’t work. This one came in the seventh inning and was my most favoritest kind of sacrifice bunt. The Yankees already had one of their fastest runners in scoring position (Granderson doubled to start the inning), but they gave up an out to move him to third. Martin struck out, Swisher grounded out, no run. Granderson’s going to score on any single from second (except for an infield single), trading an out for 90 feet isn’t the way to go there, not in the seventh freaking inning. But whatever, they’ll keep bunting until they turn blue in the face because it’s the right way to play the game or something.
Meanwhile, home plate ump Gary Darling warned Orioles reliever Clay Rapada about pitching with his foot off the rubber in the ninth, which should be a balk. Not only are they not supposed to warn a player about something like they (they’re supposed to just call the balk), but Rapada kept doing it and they never bothered to call him on it. Why have rules if the umpires a) aren’t going enforce them, and b) just change them as they go?
Despite losing the game (on an unearned run thanks to Eduardo Scissorhands), the bullpen was pretty awesome. Aaron Laffey, Luis Ayala, David Robertson, and Rafael Soriano combined for three hitless innings with one walk (Soriano) and five strikeouts (Robertson whiffed the side). Yankees pitchers struck out 15 (seven by Burnett) and walked eight (three intentionally).
The six-game winning streak is kaput, but that’s okay. Winning streaks don’t last forever. Desmond Jennings and the Rays walked off against the Rangers, so the lead for the wildcard shrunk to 9.5 games. The Blue Jays came back against Daniel Bard and the Red Sox, so the division lead remains at 2.5 games and three in the loss column. The magic number to clinch a postseason berth remained at 12.
Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings
It’s off to Baltimore for one last game against these Orioles, a makeup of one of the games postponed by Hurricane Irene. That’s another 1:05pm ET start, and it’ll feature Ivan Nova and Alfredo Simon on the mound.
The second attempt to play Game One of the playoff series between the Short Season Staten Island Yankees and the Brooklyn Cyclones was rained out tonight, just like the first attempt last night. Everything gets pushed back a day, so no doubleheader, but the weather isn’t expected to clear up anytime soon. With Instructional League starting up pretty soon, they need to get these games in so the kids don’t miss any at-bats or playing time because of a potential overlap.
Triple-A Scranton, Double-A Trenton, High-A Tampa, and Low-A Charleston all missed the postseason, and the Rookie GCL Yankees have already won the league title. So no minor league action to update tonight, unfortunately.
No, I’m not referring to this afternoon’s loss in the title. This is serious. Earlier today news broke that a charter flight carrying Lokomotiv Yaroslavl of the Kontinental Hockey League (Russia) crashed shortly after takeoff this morning, killing 43 of 45 people on board. Included in those 45 people is the team’s entire roster, the coaching staff, the training staff, and four of the club’s top prospects. Several former and notable NHLers were on the flight, including former NY Rangers and NJ Devils.
Thankfully, we’ve never had a sports tragedy of this caliber happen here in the United States. The Marshall Football Team tragedy happened long before I was born, and stuff like this never really comes into our consciousness. Or at least my consciousness, I don’t want to speak for you. I mean, how many flights a year does a typical MLB club take a year? What happened today is just terrible, and I’m not sure how I’d react if something similar happened here, especially involving a team I follow. Obviously any kind of accident like this is horrible, but sports is such a big part of my life that it almost takes it to an entirely different level. It’s hard to think about. The entire team is just … gone.
Anyway, sorry for the morbid open thread. ESPN is showing two games tonight (Phillies-Braves at 7pm ET, Mariners-Angels at 10pm ET), and the NFL season starts as well. The Saints and Packers will kick off at 8:30pm ET on NBC. You all know what to do, so have at it. Anything goes.
Via Josh Norris, the Yankees will bring Adam Warren, David Phelps, and Manny Banuelos to New York for the upcoming Red Sox series (Sept. 23rd-25th). They won’t be added to the roster though, instead they’ll just workout with the team and observe the series from the stands. The Yankees do this pretty much every year with their top non-40-man roster prospects, giving them a taste of the big league life without actually letting them live the big league life. The fact that Dellin Betances is not included suggests he might be getting a legit call-up soon, but that’s far from confirmed.
Over at FanGraphs today, David Laurila interviewed former Mets, Expos, and Orioles player Ken Singleton, one of the YES Network’s many play-by-play/color commentors. They spoke mostly about Singleton as a player and his brand of plate discipline and on-base percentage (career .388 OBP), something he excelled at in an age when no one had really paid too much attention to it. “I’d rather be underrated than underpaid,” said Singleton. “Over the course of my career, I walked more than I struck out. I take pride in that.”
The interview, which you can read here, gets RAB’s highest level of recommendation. Make sure you check it out, it really is a great read.