A-Rod carries Yankees back into first place

We’ve seen this movie before, several times in the past week in fact. The Yankees push a run across early, but otherwise squander a fantastic opportunity or two to blow things open. The starting pitcher does his job, but can’t hold the opposition scoreless forever and the Yanks go into the late innings trying to find some offense. Thankfully, the movie had an alternate ending tonight. Alex Rodriguez pulled his latest Superman act to almost singlehandedly put the Yanks in the win column after eight borderline unwatchable innings.

He's got a big stick, and he carries it all day. (AP Photo/Rob Carr)

Biggest Hit: Just Get It To Alex

Those were my words when Mark Teixeira stepped to the plate with two men on and one out in the top of the ninth inning. Just get it to Alex, he will make everything okay. He already put the Yanks on the board with a solo shot in the second inning, but they needed him more than ever when Orioles’ closer Koji Uehara entered the game.

Jorge Posada led off the ninth with a single after monster at-bat (more on that in just a sec), and two batters later Curtis Granderson dunked a single into right. Tex did as I asked and merely popped out into foul territory to bring A-Rod to the plate as the tying run. Clearly, Uehara’s plan was to bust Alex inside with hard stuff, and he did exactly that with his first four pitches for a 2-2 count. The fifth pitch, a 90 mph fastball, was inside as well, but not as far as in the others. A-Rod jumped all over it, and everyone in the building knew it was gone just by the sound. Why they didn’t throw a changeup there, I’ll never know.

Just like that, the two run deficit became a one run lead, and all of the frustration from the last ten days was seemingly lifted off everyone’s shoulders. With that one swing of the bat, the Yankees went from their ninth loss in 11 games to first place in the AL East. Remember, just get it to Alex, he cures all ills.

(AP Photo/Rob Carr)

Honorable Mention: Jorge Works It

Of course, A-Rod’s ninth inning heroics wouldn’t even have been possible if it wasn’t for Posada’s huge, huge at-bat to start the inning. Uehara jumped ahead 1-2, but just couldn’t seem to find the put-away pitch. Jorge fouled off five of the next seven pitches to work the count full before going down and poking a changeup into shallow left-center for a leadoff single. I’m not convinced the pitch was even a strike, but it doesn’t matter. All Posada had to do was get on base, and he delivered.

Alex’s homer is clearly the most important play of the game, but there isn’t enough we can say about Jorge’s at-bat. Just a brilliant job by a brilliant player.

Oh Yeah, Good A.J. Showed Up

(AP Photo/Rob Carr)

It didn’t really feel like it when the game was going on, but the end result for starter A.J. Burnett was undeniably positive. Seven innings, three runs, six runs, five strikeouts, and 11 grounders against five fly balls. The first run was straight up manufactured by the O’s; hit by pitch, stolen base, grounder to the right side, sac fly. The second was an Adam Jones homer that Ben gets 100% of the blame for given the way he taunted Jones on Twitter all day. The third was Robert Andino’s first homer of a season, the only true WTF moment of A.J.’s outing.

Everyone wants to know how A.J. got his shiny new black eye, but if he keeps giving the Yanks outings like this, I couldn’t care less how he got it. He’s gone at least six innings in six of his last seven starts (ignoring the rain shortened start in Texas last time out), so lately he’s been giving them length, and the last three times out he’s even managed to keep them in the game. Burnett is definitely trending up at the right time, but there’s still more work to be done.

Still Wasting Chances

Ah yes, we can’t ignore those blown chances just because they won the game in dramatic fashion. The Yanks once again stranded double digit baserunners (11 this time), and their lone hit in nine at-bats with men in scoring position was A-Rod’s deciding homer. A bases loaded, one out situation in the second inning yielded zero runs, as did a first and second with two outs spot in the sixth. Hopefully Alex’s homer gets the monkey off everyone’s back and the team can just relax and loosen up a bit and start cashing in these opportunities. Honestly, I don’t know how much more of this I could take.

Leftovers

(AP Photo/Rob Carr)

Brett Gardner was back in the starting lineup for the first time since last Saturday after getting a cortisone shot in his wrist, and he promptly drew a walk in his first plate appearance. He didn’t reach base the rest of the night, though he did see 22 pitches in four trips to the plate. I love ya Colin Curtis, but I’m glad Brett’s back in there. Nick Swisher grounded out in his pinch-hitting appearance; hopefully he’s ready to go before everyone goes back to work on Monday.

Derek Jeter saw 24 pitches in his five plate appearances, but he got caught looking at strike three twice in the late innings to stall rallies. The Captain’s been swinging the bat much better lately, so I’m sure (hopeful) this is just a blip on the radar.

Yawn, Lance Berkman reached base three times in his four trips to the plate. Since coming off the disabled list, Fat Elvis is hitting a cool .455/.550/.515 with more walks (seven) than strikeouts (five). Love it. Meanwhile, Austin Kearns only struck out once in three plate appearances, so that’s progress.

Mark Teixeira had that beastly homestand a two weeks or so ago, but he’s hitting just .152/.298/.152 in his last dozen games. I know offense is down around the league this season, but I think we all expected a little more than .259/.367/.483 (his line after this game) out of Mark this year.

Two more perfect innings for the bullpen; one by David Robertson, one of course by Mariano Rivera. When rested, this relief crew is a force.

Tampa Bay fell to the Angels because of a late Brandon Wood (!!!) homerun, so the Yanks are back on top of the AL East by half-a-game. Boston lost to the Blue Jays, so the lead for the Wild Card is at seven games. Any combination of Yankee wins and Red Sox losses that total nine from here on out will clinch a postseason berth for the Bombers. There’s a very real chance the Yanks could clinch when the Red Sox come to the Bronx next weekend, just like they did last year.

WPA Graph & Box Score

Games like this are why I love baseball. That’s a .709 WPA swing right there. Point seven oh nine. It doesn’t get much bigger than that. MLB.com has the box score and video highlights, FanGraphs the cool stuff like this…

Up Next

Oh yeah, CC Sabathia‘s pitching tomorrow. He gets the ball against Jeremy Guthrie at 7:05pm ET tomorrow night. I despise Saturday evening games, but what can you do.

The A.J. Burnett Black Eye Theory Thread

Both A.J. Burnett and Joe Girardi declined comment after the game about the righty’s new shiner, though A.J. did say it was not baseball related. So here’s your chance to tell us what you think happened. I bet Brian Cashman did it, you don’t think he shows up to games four hours away from home just to talk to the guys, do you?

(h/t James for the screen grab)

Trenton falls to Altoona in Game Three

Manny Banuelos will be going to the Arizona Fall League after all. The Yankees were able to convince the Mexican League club that controls his winter ball rights to let him go to the AzFL, where he’ll throw 35-45 innings before being shut down. Dellin Betances, meanwhile, will go to Instructional League to work exclusively on his fielding, he will not pitch. He really hurt himself with some bad errors in the playoffs.

Double-A Trenton (5-0 loss to Altoona) Altoona now leads the best-of-five series two games to one … the fate of the season lies in Banuelos’ hands tomorrow
Austin Krum, CF & Luis Nunez, 2B: both 0 for 4 – Nunez K’ed
Justin Snyder, 2B: 2 for 4, 1 2B, 1 K, 1 E (fielding)
Dan Brewer, RF: 2 for 3, 1 BB
Austin Romine, C, Marcos Vechionacci, 1B & Damon Sublett, LF: all 1 for 4, 1 K – Romine allowed a passed ball
Rene Rivera, DH: 0 for 3, 1 BB, 1 K
Matt Cusick, 2B: 0 for 3
Adam Warren: 5 IP, 4 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 1 BB, 8 K, 1 HB, 2-4 GB/FB – the heater was sitting 91-94 … the wheels kinda came off in his final inning of work
Wilkins Arias: 1 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 2 K
Adam Olbrychowski: 1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 1 K, 0-2 GB/FB
Pat Venditte: 1 IP, zeroes, 2 K, 0-1 GB/FB
Ryan Pope: 1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 1 K, 2-0 GB/FB

High-A Tampa beat Charlotte on Monday to win the Florida State League Championship, their second consecutive league title.

Low-A Charleston, Short Season Staten Island, and the Rookie GCL Yanks are done. None of the three qualified for the postseason. Triple-A Scranton‘s season ended when they lost to Columbus in the first round of the International League playoffs.

Game 147: Time to turn this sucker around

Hopefully Millwood finds himself on the bench nice and early tonight. (AP Photo/Rob Carr)

Eight of ten. Eight losses in ten games is what the Yankees have in their rearview mirror, but thankfully that’s behind them. The road is wide open in front of them, and they control their own destiny as far as clinching a playoff spot and winning the AL East. Yesterday’s off day gave everyone a chance to regroup, re-gameplay, and wipe that horrible slate clean. Tonight, it’s time to get back on track, and Brian Cashman is there to make sure it happens.

The Orioles are coming in very hot, having just swept the Blue Jays to cap off a stretch in which they’ve won nine of 11 games. Buck Showalter’s got his team playing very well, but they’re not unbeatable. Kevin Millwood, tonight’s starter, has faced the Yankees three times this season, and has a 7.56 ERA and 2.22 WHIP in those starts. How about we make those numbers go up, shall we?

Here’s the lineup…

SS Jeter, Derek
CF Granderson, Curtis
1B Teixeira, Mark
3B Rodriguez, Alex
2B Cano, Robinson
DH Berkman, Lance
RF Kearns, Austin
LF Gardner, Brett – so happy to see him back
C Cervelli, Frankie – oh that silly catcher rotation

And on the mound, it’s Allen Burnett.

First pitch at Yankee Stadium South Camden Yards is set for 7:05pm ET, and this one can be seen on YES. Enjoy.

Indians claim Chad Huffman

Via Bryan Hoch, the Indians have claimed outfielder Chad Huffman off waivers. The Yankees designated Huffman for assignment just two days ago to make room on the roster for Royce Ring. The 25-year-old had a nice season in Triple-A Scranton (.339 wOBA) and a pretty awful showing with the big league team earlier in the year (.229 wOBA in 21 plate appearances), but as a defensively limited corner outfielder/first baseman, he really had no long-term chances in New York. I wish him the best in Cleveland.

Mattingly to take over as Dodgers’ manager in 2011

According to more reports than I care to cite, former Yankees’ manager Joe Torre will step down as Dodgers’ manager after the season and hand the reigns off to former Yankee megastar Don Mattingly. Donnie Baseball has basically zero managerial experience at any level, but he was always considered a candidate to manage the Yanks at some point in the future. In the unlikely scenario that has the team looking for a replacement for Joe Girardi after the season, Mattingly is no longer an option.

Mattingly will get his managerial feet wet this offseason with the Phoenix Desert Dogs of the Arizona Fall League next month. Among the players on his roster: Yankee farmhands Austin Romine, Brandon Laird, Corban Joseph, George Kontos, and Craig Heyer. Please don’t break them.

Yankees recall Romulo Sanchez

Via Marc Carig, the Yankees have recalled Romulo Sanchez from Triple-A Scranton. As you probably remember, Romulo hit the disabled list in late-August with an apparent elbow injury, and we perhaps foolishly assumed he was done for the season. Anyway, I guess the elbow’s fine and Joe Girardi will have another option for low-leverage relief work. Sanchez made one appearance with the Yanks earlier in the year, throwing 3.2 scoreless innings at Fenway Park.