Alex Rodriguez is day-to-day with a sore left foot after fouling a ball off the top of the foot in his final at-bat last night. He won’t be available at all today. It’s swollen and right now he’ll just ice it and receive treatment. No tests are planned and it’s unclear when exactly he’ll be able to return to the lineup. It’s probably worth noting that the Yankees are due to play four games on the turf in Toronto this weekend.
Hard to believe it, but the regular season ends one week from today. The schedule seems to pass a little quicker every year. Anyway, the Yankees need some combination of wins and Angels losses totaling five to clinch a playoff berth, but we’re all focusing on the AL East crown. The magic number to win the division is just seven. That’s bigger than it appears.
1. The old saying is that you should beat up on the bad teams and hold your own against the good ones, but the Yankees are now just 3-3 against the Twins this year. They’ve historically owned Minnesota, winning 63 of the 80 games the two clubs have played during the Ron Gardenhire era coming into the season. Four of those 17 losses came against in-his-prime Johan Santana as well. Splitting six games isn’t a disaster, but sheesh, it really would have been nice to pad the win total again.
2. At what point does Clay Rapada start stealing some of the high-leverage matchup work away from Boone Logan? Logan has allowed runs — either his own or inherited — in four his last nine appearances with an overall 5.26 ERA (4.62 FIP) in 25.2 innings since the calendar flipped to July. Lefties are now hitting .235/.285/.361 (130 PA) off him this season while Rapada has held same-side hitters to a .190/.268/.260 line (113 PA). If nothing else, Boone probably just needs a breather. He’s appeared in 77 games (!) and seems to warm up even when he doesn’t get into the game.
3. Building on that point — doesn’t it seem like Joe Girardi is becoming a little Joe Torre-ish with his reliever usage? I get that the games and division race are close and everything, but he has a clear Circle of Trust™ and has leaned on those folks heavily down the stretch. Strong bullpens have been a staple the last few years, but this season the relief corps is quite leaky. Obviously Mariano Rivera’s injury is a big part of that, but was the bullpen so effective from 2009-2011 because of how Girardi used it, or did the relievers just make the skipper look smart? It’s probably a little both, really. Either way, the bullpen has now allowed runs in six of the team’s last eight games. Yikes.
4. Might as well end with a positive: how amazing has Andy Pettitte this year? Obviously the leg injury is really unfortunate, but otherwise he’s pitched to a 2.71 ERA (3.32 FIP) in eleven starts and 69.2 innings. This is a 40-year-old guy who willingly spent a full year away from baseball, and yet he’s returned better than ever. Back in Spring Training I joked a bunch (I think I even said it in the podcast and in the weekly chat a few times) about the year off doing good for his arm and body overall, but I didn’t expect this. Eric wrote about this yesterday but it’s worth repeating: the veteran guys — particularly Pettitte and Derek Jeter — having been coming huge all season.
That loss stings. The way the Yankees lost wasn’t particularly painful, it wasn’t a walk-off or something gut-wrenching like that, but they had a lead as late as the seventh and failed to convert that into a win and increase their division lead. Bah.
Phil Hughes and his terrible mustache didn’t pitch nearly as poorly as his pitching line — 6.2 IP, 6 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 1 BB, 4 K — would lead you believe. He allowed a run in the fourth on a bloop/Raul Ibanez defense combination, but otherwise cruised through the game until things got hairy in the seventh. Ryan Doumit led off the inning with a legit single to center, then Chris Parmalee worked a hard-fought eleven-pitch walk to put men on first and second with no outs. A pop-up and an infield single later, the bases were loaded with one out.
Nine-hole hitter Pedro Florimon whacked his first career homer on Monday night, but he’s not really much of a power thread. Hughes still managed to fall behind him 3-1 with the bases loaded, though two high fastballs for swinging strikes set him down for the second out. Florimon walked 33 times unintentionally in 472 minor league plate appearances this season, and I think that anyone with a modicum of plate discipline would have taken either the 3-1 or 3-2 pitch for ball four to force in a run. Phil got away with it though, and rather than get a chance to escape the jam Joe Girardi pulled the plug with four straight lefties due up and his pitch count at 99.
They’re Not Saying Boone, They’re Saying Boo
Maybe appearing in every other game for the first five months of the season wasn’t such a great idea after all. Boone Logan assumed that bases loaded, two outs jam from Hughes and promptly allowed three straight lefties to reach base, but not before uncorking a wild pitch to allow a run to cross the plate. Denard Span tagged him for a double, Ben Revere drew a walk, then Joe Mauer hit a single. Just like that, the 3-1 lead became a 5-3 deficit.
Now there is no shortage of second-guessing opportunity here. Span hits lefties better than righties and Hughes had retired him all three times (on ground balls) earlier in the game, but at the same time the right-hander was leaving a lot of pitches up in the zone and had already thrown 25+ pitches in the inning. Span isn’t much of a power threat but Phil is certainly capable of giving up a homer to anyone at any time. At the end of the day, not matter which move you think was the correct one — leaving Hughes in or going to the bullpen — the loss falls squarely on the shoulders of Logan. The primary lefty specialist can’t allow the first three lefties he faces to reach base. That’s the ballgame right there.
The Yankees scored all four of their runs on homers, which is entertaining because Target Field is supposed to be a pitcher’s park. Nick Swisher opened the scoring with a two-run homer in the fourth, his third straight day with a dinger. Russell Martin hit a solo shot on the first pitch of the seventh, then Andruw Jones delayed the inevitable with a solo shot with two outs in the ninth. You can’t even blame RISPFAIL for this one, they only had one at-bat in those situations (Swisher fouled out to end the first with men on the corners).
In hindsight, the two strike ’em out, throw ’em out double plays look much bigger considering the final score. Ichiro Suzuki and Martin were thrown out trying to steal second to end the third and fourth innings, respectively. Alex Rodriguez and Raul Ibanez did the strikeout honors. I get sending Ichiro, but Martin? I know he’s fast for a catcher, but you’re pushing it there.
Robinson Cano came into the game in a 3-for-25 skid but singled in each of his first three at-bats. He drew a walk the fourth time up. A-Rod and Curtis Granderson continued their struggles with a pair of 0-for-4s. The 9-1-2-3 stretch of hitters went a combined 2-for-16, so Cano didn’t have much of an opportunity to do damage with men on-base. Being held to two runs in six innings by Esmerling Vasquez is quite annoying.
Derek Jeter waited until his final at-bat to get a hit on Monday, but on Tuesday he took care of business his first time up. The single to right extended his hitting streak to 19 games, the third longest of his career and longest since 2007. Ichiro singled later in the game, and his hitting streak is at a much more modest eight games.
Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings
MLB.com has the box score and video highlights while ESPN has the updated standings. The Orioles lost to the Blue Jays thanks in part to former Yankee Aaron Laffey, so the lead in the AL East remains two in the loss column. Really would have been nice to stretch that to three. The Rays beat the sad, sad Red Sox and are five back. The magic number to clinch the division is down to seven while the magic number for a playoff spot is still just five. So close.
Same two teams in the rubber game on Wednesday afternoon, when CC Sabathia will look to build on his dominant start against the Athletics. He’ll be opposed by right-hander Sam Deduno. The matinee starts at 1pm ET.
We’re down to nine. Just nine games left in the season, a single-digit number that is simultaneously depressing (baseball be will gone soon) and exciting (hooray postseason!). The Yankees still have some work to do before guaranteeing themselves a spot in the playoffs of course, and another win tonight would go a long way towards that goal. The division lead is up to two, which feels enormous after three straight weeks of nothing more than a one-game separation. Here’s the lineup…
SS Derek Jeter
RF Ichiro Suzuki
3B Alex Rodriguez
DH Robinson Cano
1B Nick Swisher
CF Curtis Granderson
C Russell Martin
LF Raul Ibanez
2B Jayson Nix
RHP Phil Hughes
Tonight’s game is scheduled to start a little after 8pm ET and can be seen on My9. Enjoy.
The Yankees have activated both Brett Gardner and David Aardsma off the 60-day DL. Although Gardner has been taking batting practice and whatnot, I assume he will be limited to pinch-running and late-game defense duties from here on out. Aardsma is unlikely to see any meaningful innings.
To clear spots on the 40-man roster, both Steve Pearce and Justin Thomas were designated for assignment. Casey McGehee can hit lefties just as well (probably better, actually) as Pearce, but he offers more versatility and big league/pennant race experience. That last part probably doesn’t matter much. I thought the Yankees would keep Thomas as the third lefty for the final week of the season, but I guess Cory Wade built up enough good will last year and earlier this season to keep his job.
Via Jim Callis, switch-pitcher Pat Venditte will be out until the middle of next season after having surgery to repair a torn labrum in his right shoulder. We first heard about the tear back in late-May, but at the time he was still deciding between rehab and surgery.
Venditte, 27, has always been more of performance guy than an actual prospect. His minor league numbers — 2.30 ERA with 10.3 K/9 and 2.4 BB/9 in 277.2 relief innings — are as good as it gets, but the stuff from both sides is very underwhelming. Callis provides an updated scouting report, though the right-handed half is subject to change following the surgery. Venditte will be eligible for minor league free agency after the 2014 season by my unofficial count.
When the Yankees play the second game of their three-game set against the Twins later tonight, they’ll do so with a new reliever available in the bullpen. Right-hander David Aardsma is set to join the club today after losing more than two calendar years due to injury. An oblique problem sidelined him in September 2010, then a torn labrum in his hip and Tommy John surgery (and a subsequent setback) cost him all of 2011 and all but nine games of 2012. It’s been a long road back, that’s for sure.
Since the Yankees are stuck in a tight division race with only those nine games left to play, there’s very little chance we’ll see the 30-year-old Aardsma in anything more than a low-leverage blowout situation. The eighth inning of last night’s game — the inning Cory Wade was unable to escape — seems like the kind of inning the former Mariners’ closer would be allowed to navigate. Not a particularly close game and with only a handful of outs remaining, not really enough for the other club to mount a legitimate comeback.
“When (Joe Girardi) calls down, or (Larry Rothschild) calls, or whoever does it, and my name is called, I’ll be ready,” said Aardsma yesterday. “And then I go out there and go pitch. I haven’t faced a big-league hitter in two years, but it’s a matter of, I know my stuff’s been good. It’s been playing really well down in Tampa. I know it’s not the same caliber, but I know my stuff is good. Now it’s just a matter of going out there, getting comfortable, and facing hitters. I’m not expecting to go out there in the toughest situation ever — I don’t think they would do that — but they do want me ready.”
Although the AL East crown has yet to be locked up, the Yankees don’t really need Aardsma to be much help this week. Earlier in the season after Mariano Rivera got hurt and Wade imploded? Yeah they needed bullpen help then but opted to wait for Joba Chamberlain. He struggled mightily at first before straightening things out and becoming the fourth wheel in the David Robertson-Rafael Soriano-Boone Logan end-game trio. The Yankees found out the hard way that not everyone coming back from reconstructive elbow surgery can be useful right away, but they got a little lucky with how quickly Joba turned things around.
That same problem — the general ineffectiveness following elbow surgery — could present itself with Aardsma, who really didn’t pitch all that well during his minor league rehab stint. The circumstances are much different though, as he’s just a spare arm for these next nine games and not someone the team is really counting on for an impact. Next year will be a different story, but we have all offseason to worry about that. I’ll be surprised if Aardsma appears in even three of the next nine games, but even if he does, I think we all learned from Joba earlier this season not to count on him for much right away.