Via Erik Boland, Joe Girardi said that Ivan Nova will return to the rotation and start on Saturday. That’s Freddy Garcia’s next turn, and I assume he’ll just be removed from the rotation rather than be pushed back a day to create a six-man rotation situation or something wacky like that. Saturday’s game against the Rays is pretty important, so hopefully Nova’s got himself straightened out.
Andy Pettitte threw four innings and 55 pain-free pitches in his latest simulated game this afternoon, two days after doctors gave him the okay to begin running again. “I’m ready,” said the left-hander to reporters after today’s workout. “Can I give you 100 pitches? No. But I feel my stuff has been crisp … Just let me go out there and compete.”
The Yankees have already indicated a willingness to bring Pettitte back before he’s fully stretched out, and the guess here is that he will start next Tuesday’s game (they’re off on Monday) with David Phelps piggybacking out of the bullpen. That would allow Andy to make four starts between now and the end of the season, including Game 162. My original thought was that they would let him throw in one more simulated game, but if it’s the difference between three regular season starts and four, forget it.
Perhaps the most memorable September in (recent) Yankees history wasn’t even one that was worth remembering. The 2000 squad went 13-17 in September, losing their final seven and 13 of their final 15 games to end the season. That club still managed to win the division — by three games after being nine up as late as Game 143 — and eventually went on to win the World Series, however. I can only imagine what the reaction to that September slump would have been had the internet existed in its current state back then.
Anyway, this September collapse isn’t like that 2000 “collapse” at all. In fact, this isn’t even a September collapse. It started way back in late-July and has dragged on for weeks now. The struggles this month — four wins in ten games — have the Yankees tied atop the AL East for the fourth time in the last week. They haven’t been more than two games up in the division since the first of the month and have won just one (!) of their last six series. This isn’t quite a full blown 2011 Red Sox collapse — they won just seven games total in September — but let’s not kid ourselves, they aren’t doing much better.
Bad Septembers are nothing new for the Bombers, especially of late. The Yankees lost their final four games of last season and eleven of their last 21 games overall, but they were assured a playoff spot either as the division winner or wildcard. Their lead was too big heading into September. The 2010 team lost eight of its final eleven games and 17 of 30 in September (and October since the regular season spilled over), but again they still qualified for the postseason without much of a problem. Over the last three seasons, the Yankees are just 33-35 (and counting) in the final month of the regular season.
The poor finishes are a relatively new phenomenon for the Bombers. They went 20-11 in September (and October) in 2009 despite having little to play for and plenty of reasons to rest their regulars before the playoffs. The 2008 team is the only Yankees squad to miss the postseason in the last 17 years, but they still managed to go 17-9 during the final month of the season. New York had a winning record in September every season from 2001-2009, and I’m not talking one or two games over either. Their worst September record during that nine-year period was 18-12 in 2006.
For whatever reason, the Yankees haven’t had much success in September these last three years. Maybe it’s just the randomness of baseball, but after nine years of one thing and three of the other, I tend to think there’s something else going on. It’s say to say they’re just an old team and their core players get worn out, but their best players this month have been Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez. We could argue all day about the root causes of these bad Septembers, specifically this one right now, but the Yankees have to turn things around and soon. The wildcard situation isn’t as friendly as before and the overall race for playoff spots is too tight to sleepwalk through another September.
After a couple of weeks of minor details leaking out, MLB and the Yankees (and every other team) officially released the 2013 schedule today. As expected, the Bombers open next season with three games at home against the Red Sox. The first game will be played on April 1st, a Monday, then the next two on the 3rd and 4th. They always have the off-day in there just in case the weather stinks. Nineteen of the club’s first 32 games will be at home. You can see the full schedule here.
With interleague play now spread out throughout the entire schedule, the Yankees will welcome the Diamondbacks to the Bronx for three games in mid-April. I’m sure Justin Upton will be happy to see his former teammates so early in the season. Other interleague dates include trips to play the Rockies (May 7th-9th), the Dodgers (July 30th and 31st), and the Padres (August 2nd-4th) on the road. The D’Backs, Dodgers (June 18th-20th), and Giants (September 20th-22nd) are all coming to Yankee Stadium, so brush up on your NL West news.
The Subway Series has been reduced to four games, a home-and-home series from May 27th through the 30th. The first two games will be played in CitiField, the next two in Yankee Stadium. That’s a Monday through Thursday, and I’m kinda surprised they didn’t schedule that on a weekend. Very odd. Either way, I’m happy that they reduced the number of games, six felt like too much. Playing the four games against the Mets in four days will be fun, especially the two-stadium aspect.
The Yankees only have two West Coast trips next year — a nine-game swing through Seattle, Oakland, and Anaheim in mid-June, then the little five-gamer against the Dodgers and Padres in late-July/August. Despite the typical AL East-heavy September schedule, the Bombers actually close next season in Houston against the Astros, who are joining the AL West next year. If the Astros continue to be as bad as expected, that could be a big help for the Yankees if the race for a playoff spot goes right down to the final weekend of the season. The final game of the season will be played on September 29th, a Sunday.
The Yankees are two games under .500 in the second half despite winning five of their first six games after the All-Star break, and it’s been nearly a month since they last won consecutive games. Injuries have played a part in the second half slide, most notably long-ish term problems for Alex Rodriguez (hand) and now Mark Teixeira (calf). That’s two important middle of the order bats missing and a big reason why the Bombers are hitting just .232/.312/.371 as a team since the start of the White Sox series in Chicago.
The good news is that A-Rod is back and has hit the snot out of the ball since coming off the DL (last night notwithstanding), and Teixeira should return before the end of the season. Mariano Rivera isn’t coming back, but Andy Pettitte continues to inch closer to a return. Doctors cleared him to begin running on Monday, and today he’ll throw his third and longest simulated game since Casey Kotchman fractured his leg with a comebacker. The club has hinted at bringing Pettitte back before he’s fully stretched out to 90+ pitches, something Joe Girardi reiterated yesterday.
“It depends on how his leg feels after 60 pitches (today),’’ said the skipper when asked how soon Andy could return to the rotation. “If we feel he can move around and compete enough in a game, it’s conceivable.’’
The “moving around” part is often overlooked but very important. The Yankees don’t want to bring Pettitte back only to have him be unable to field his position when the other team inevitably tests the leg with some bunts. That said, the reason they’re even considering rushing him back before he’s fully stretched out is because the guys currently in the rotation aren’t getting the job done. David Phelps has struggled lately and Freddy Garcia can’t even complete five innings of work these days. Phil Hughes has pitched well and keeps his team in the game more often than not, but he always seems to be on a brink of disaster given his homer problem.
“It’s just a matter of what they want to do,” said Pettitte. “I want to pitch and help, but it’s not up to me … It’s up to them to make the decision. I want to pitch.’’
Ivan Nova is fresh off the DL and it seems all but certain that he’ll make Garcia’s next start, but he hardly inspires confidence given how he was pitching before he got hurt. Still, it’s likely to be an upgrade the same way a not fully stretched out Pettitte will be an upgrade over Phelps. Counting on a 40-year-old to recover from a broken leg to pitch effectively in a race for the division crown is a lot to ask, but at this point the Yankees really don’t have any other choice. As long as the offense continues to underwhelm, upgrading the pitching staff is their best way to improve down the stretch. Even if it’s only 70-80 pitches at a time.
The Yankees keep finding new and imaginative ways to lose these days. Even if they do manage to back into the playoffs, it’s impossible to have faith in them making any noise given how poorly they’ve played in almost every facet of the game in recent weeks. Seriously, what has stood out as a no-doubt positive in the last month? Derek Jeter? That’s pretty much it, nothing else jumps to mind. Things are going so bad right now that the team bus hit a fence and broke a window after the game last night.
1. What in the world could Casey McGehee have done to lose playing time to Steve Pearce? McGehee had gone 7-for-30 with two doubles, a homer — remember he had that other dinger taken away by Rajai Davis in Toronto — and three walks against lefties as a Yankee before they traded for Pearce, who has gone 3-for-15 with a homer and three walks against southpaws since being acquired. We’re splitting hairs here with the super small sample sizes, but McGehee’s track record in the big leagues is so much longer and so much more impressive that I’d much rather have him in the lineup (and batting sixth!) against lefties than Pearce. It’s probably too late now given his ultra-sporadic playing time, but I feel like this was a problem that didn’t need fixin’.
2. An unofficial stat from Moshe, who doesn’t blog anymore but remains near and dear to our hearts (through Twitter)…
Yanks have lost 27 games since start of 4 gamer with Oakland. In 23 of those, they had at least tying run to plate, 7th inning or later.
— Bloggie McBlogger (@yagottagotomo) September 12, 2012
As I said, that’s unofficial. He went back and counted it manually, so right or wrong he deserves props for the effort. Anyway, yeah that’s pretty crazy. The Yankees have played so any tight games this season and especially of late — at least more than we’re used to seeing — and things so rarely seem to go their way. Jerry Meals blows a call at first base, Davis climbs walls and robs homers in Toronto, Pedro Ciriaco slaps a single on a curveball three inches off the ground, so on and so forth. I’m not making excuses here, the Yankees create their own bad luck more often than not, but so many of these recent losses have been imminently winnable games. They just can’t seem to get over that hump.
3. This kinda sorta ties into the last point, but in three of the last four series the Yankees have lost games because David Robertson or Rafael Soriano blew them. Soriano gave up the homer to Colby Rasmus against the Blue Jays, then Robertson allowed the go-ahead single to Chris Gimenez in Tampa, the two homers in the series opener in Baltimore, and then the walk-off rally last night. That was his second inning of work and the first two hits were not hard-hit last night, so I don’t want to get on him too much for that. Still though, that’s three losses in the last four series directly attributed to the team’s two core, late-inning relievers. We created the Death By Bullpen tag back during the “cover your eyes, hide the children” bullpen days of early-2007, but it has certainly applied many times this season. Those losses with Soriano and Robertson (or Mariano Rivera) on the mound are always tough to swallow.
If there’s one thing you can say about Tuesday night’s loss to the Red Sox, it’s that the Yankees definitely earned it. They didn’t cash in on run-scoring opportunities (as usual), made mental mistakes on the field, and let Boston’s best hitters beat them despite a depleted lineup. Once again, the division lead is down to zero.
A Million Cuts Dinky Hits
You know what the worst part of the game-losing ninth inning rally is? It’s that only one of the three hits was hard-hit.
Willie Mays Pedro Ciriano managed to get the bat on a David Robertson curveball that was literally three or four inches off the ground — the third straight curve after two swings and misses — for a ground ball single, and then Mike Aviles fouled off a bunch of fastballs before reaching on an infield single to Derek Jeter’s right. With men on first and second with one out, Jacoby Ellsbury lined Robertson’s 29th and final pitch of the night to right for the walk-off single.
With injuries and trades depleting their lineup, the Sox only have three legitimate MLB caliber hitters these days. Cody Ross is a platoon guy and faced righties all night, so he was rendered moot. Ellsbury and Dustin Pedroia managed to 7-for-9 with a double (Ellsbury) and a homer (Pedroia) though, and they’re the two guys the Yankees couldn’t let beat them. The rest of the Boston offense went 5-for-27 with eight strikeouts. That’s not the sole reason why they lost the game, but letting those two do so much damage was a huge contributor.
It took all of 17 batters for Jon Lester to set a new career-high with six walks, and a little later in the game he tacked on a seventh for good measure. He became the 15th pitcher to walk seven or more hitters in a game this year (16 total instances). Only two of those walks came around to score though, and that happened five innings apart. The Yankees went 0-for-9 with runners in scoring position in-between Robinson Cano’s run-scoring ground out in the first and Jeter’s two-run bloop double in the sixth, and they left men on-base in every inning Lester pitched as well.
All told, New York went 1-for-12 with men on second and/or third, including 0-for-2s for Curtis Granderson, Alex Rodriguez, Nick Swisher, and Steve Pearce. The lone hit was Jeter’s bloop, a well-placed two-strike cue shot that hopped the short fence in right after Nix bunted the runners up, so hooray small ball I guess. That was it though, no one else really came close to getting the proverbial big hit. It’s been a season-long problem and it’s gotten to the point where RISPFAIL has a mind of it’s own.
The Hiro We Deserve, Not The Hiro We Need
It wasn’t a great outing for Hiroki Kuroda but it certainly wasn’t terrible. Three runs in 6.1 innings isn’t the end of the world, especially when several of the eight hits he allowed were dinky little infield knocks. The problem is that he gave back two one-run leads, including the second one in the span of three pitches (Pedroia’s homer in the sixth). I don’t mean to single out Kuroda because he is just the latest offender, but the Yankees have had some major problems holding leads in recent weeks. I mean giving it back in the span of an inning too, not just at some point later in the game.
Robertson ended up taking the loss in his second inning of work, becoming the first full-time Yankees reliever with seven losses in a season since Jeff Nelson in 1997. He was dominant in the eighth through, striking out the side before getting beat in the ninth. Boone Logan forgot to cover first on an Ellsbury ground ball hit in the seventh — Swisher ranged too far off the bag for the ball anyway, plus I doubt Boone was outrunning Ellsbury — but Joba Chamberlain continued his strong pitching by escaping the bases loaded, one-out jam with a ground ball to first (runner forced out at home) and a pop-up to short by Pedroia. Joba’s been coming up big of late, it’s good to see.
I didn’t understand the pinch-running in the eighth and ninth innings. Running for Andruw Jones with one out in the eighth makes sense, but Nix didn’t even give Chris Dickerson a chance to steal. He bounced into an inning-ending double play on the first pitch. In the ninth, Eduardo Nunez ran for Swisher with one out, then he got caught stealing for the second out. With A-Rod and Cano coming up, you gotta let them bat with a man on-base in the ninth inning of a tie game, especially in that ballpark. Running for Swisher is fine, but I don’t like the steal attempt. First base is scoring position for those two hitters.
Andruw actually reached base three times, once on a single and twice on a walk. It was his most productive game in a long time. Jeter and Russell Martin each had a hit and a walk, plus Nick Swisher doubled and singled. Hopefully he’s starting to snap out of his slump. The three-four hitters went a combined 0-for-7 with two walks and four strikeouts, three by A-Rod. Fourteen base-runners and three runs. That’s how the Yankees roll these days.
Box Score, Standings & WPA Graphs
MLB.com has the box score and video highlights while ESPN has the updated standings. The Orioles stomped the Rays in the opener of their series, so they are once again tied with the Bombers for first place in the AL East. Tampa is two games back and they have to win the second game of that series to balance things out now. The magic number still sits at 22.
Same two teams on Tuesday night, when David Phelps matches up against Aaron Cook. If they can’t pound that guy, then I don’t know what it’ll take for the offense to get going.