In the 7th inning, Michael Kay and Al Leiter do what they do every night at that time: They read the choices for Chevy Player of the Game. As Darrell Rasner’s name garnered the top slot on their slate of candidates, my thoughts flashed, albeit briefly, on the word “jinx.” With the way the Yanks have been playing lately, how could the YES Network be so presumptuous with three innings left in a 1-0 game to start offering up names for Player of the Game?
As luck — or fate — would have it, the Yanks would not win this game, and they didn’t win in spectacular fashion. When the dust settled — and it literally settled as A-Rod was called out at second for the first out of the ninth — the Yanks were emerge 2-1 losers in a game they desperately needed to win. With that loss, they’re one game out of fourth place, 11 games out of first and, more importantly, 6.5 games behind Boston in the Wild Card with 37 games left to play. No wonder Yahoo! Sports ran this image earlier tonight.
Before we really delve into the negatives from tonight, let’s stop and tip our collective caps to Darrell Rasner. The Yanks’ righty had one of his better starts of the year. He went 6.1 innings and allowed a walk and three hits. He struck out three and kept the Blue Jays off base. His only mistake came on a 3-2 pitch that Adam Lind deposited beyond a leaping Bobby Abreu over the right field wall to tie the game at one.
With that out of the way, it’s really hard to say anything nice about the rest of this game. Again, the Yanks didn’t hit with runners in scoring position. Bobby Abreu lead off the fourth with a double and ended up staying on second as the next three batters — A-Rod, Jason Giambi and Xavier Nady — went down with nary a peep. Jason Giambi had four strike outs; A-Rod three. While A.J. Burnett, in his audition, was masterful, the Yanks couldn’t put anything together at all.
Meanwhile, I hate to say this, but in a way, I was right when I questioned Hideki’s arrival last night. Matsui’s return to the lineup — a smashing 0-for-3 performance — pushed Johnny Damon into center field where he made one error early on and then cost the Yanks the game with one of the worst plays you’ll ever see a center fielder make in the 8th inning. Melky Cabrera would have caught that ball; Brett Gardner would have caught that ball; it’s quite possible I would have caught that ball. But Damon didn’t; the Blue Jays scored a second run, and that was that.
Or, that was that until the ninth inning when Alex Rodriguez led off with a bloop base hit over the first baseman’s head and managed to get himself thrown out at second base for the first out of the inning. On the surface, I have no problem with A-Rod’s play. He was trying to make something — anything — happen for a lackluster team and got himself thrown out.
But after watching the replay, I have a problem with A-Rod’s not really running hard to first. He didn’t have second base in his mind out of the box. Only after he saw Lyle Overbay chasing the ball did he turn it on as he rounded first, and by then, it was too late. Much like this Yankee season so far, A-Rod just fell a little short. He was out; the Yanks lost. And that’s that.
Whatever you do, don’t look at Baseball America‘s front page …
Triple-A Scranton (3-1 loss to Rochester) Jason Lane was released, and he’s since signed with Boston
Melky, Shelley & Nick Green: all 1 for 4 – Melky K’ed twice, Shelley once … Green doubled & K’ed twice
Matt Carson & Chad Moeller: both 0 for 4 – Carson K’ed once, Moeller twice
Juan Miranda: 0 for 1, 1 R, 3 BB
Ben Broussard & Chris Basak: both 0 for 3, 1 BB, 1 K
Eric Duncan: 1 for 3, 1 BB, 2 K, 1 E (fielding) – raised his avg to .232
Al Aceves: 6 IP, 3 H, 3 R, 2 ER, 3 BB, 8 K, 5-5 GB/FB – 70 of 108 pitches were strikes (64.8%) … easily his best outing in AAA
Mark Melancon: 2 IP, zeroes, 1 K, 2-3 GB/FB – 15 of 19 pitches were strikes (79.0%)
Steven Jackson: 1 IP, zeroes, 2 K – 7 of 9 pitches were strikes (77.8%)
In a few minutes, the Yankees and the Blue Jays were square off in a key three-game set north of the border. For the Blue Jays, just two games behind the Yankees, this is their opportunity to make a move or play spoiler. The Yankees, as we know, just need to keep winning.
Tonight, though, the Yankees will have to earn it. They’re tossing Darrell Rasner, 5-9 with a 5.18 ERA, against A.J. Burnett. Now, Burnett’s start tonight is something of an audition. On the season, he’s a very respectable 15-9, but his ERA stands at 4.67, a full 0.79 higher than his career line. But against the Yanks this year, he’s 2-0 with a 1.88 ERA in 14.1 innings.
This start is an audition because A.J. Burnett has one of those opt-out clauses in his contract, and nearly everyone watching thinks he’s going to exercise that clause. When Burnett records the first out of the third inning today, he will have reached a three-year innings pitched high, and potential suitors will look at his health and success against the AL’s perennial contenders as they determine whether or not to offer the flame-throwing right-hander a contract.
Today’s game also marks the return of Hideki Matsui. The injured Yankee has been out since the end of June with knee problems. While Matsui will need knee surgery at some point in the near future, he will attempt to play for as long as he can. Matsui was hitting .323/.404/.458 through 69 games prior to his injury. The Yanks sent Justin Christian down to make move for Matsui.
Darrell Rasner P (5-9, 5.18)
Over the last few weeks, Xavier Nady has been a godsend for the Yankees. Twenty one games into his Yankee tenure, Nady is hitting .312/.391/.649 with 7 HR and 18 RBI. His 9.9 VORP in just 87 plate appearances allowed the Yankees to dispatch Melky Cabrera back to AAA. But for all of this success this year, Nady is far exceeding his career .282/.339/.463. It’s possible that Nady could emerge as a Paul O’Neill-like player who really comes into his own; it’s possible Nady’s season is simply a fluke. But to tell what Nady’s season means for the future, SG at RLYW ran the numbers and determined that Nady’s improved offense could be a good sign of things to come. · (35) ·
The USA Olympic baseball team clinched a berth in the medal round thanks to this morning’s 4-2 win over Chinese Taipei, which pushed their record to 4-2. Korea (6-0), Cuba (5-1) and Japan (4-2) also clinched spots in the medal round. Each team still has one game remaining in the preliminaries before starting the Semifinals on Friday. Stephen Strasburg lines for tomorrow’s start against Japan, meaning Trevor Cahill and Brett Anderson will be on the mound for the semifinals and finals (if they make it), respectively. · (24) ·
Baseball America has just released its ever-popular Best Tools list, and while the entire lists are for subscribers only, we’ve got the Yankees and where they fall:
- As expected, A-Rod pops up the most: He’s been voted the AL’s best hitter and second best power hitter. He’s also got the third best infield arm, according to the folks who participated in the pool.
- Bobby Abreu earned himself the second best strike zone judgment award, sitting just behind Kevin Youkilis.
- Derek Jeter is the AL’s third best hit-and-run artist and the third-best defensive short stop. Make of that what you will.
- Robinson Cano is the league’s third best defensive second baseman.
- Jose Molina was voted the third best defensive catcher, falling one spot behind current Yankee Ivan Rodriguez.
- Joba Chamberlain has the AL’s third best fastball, behind the Mariners’ Brandon Morrow and the Tigers’ Joel Zumaya.
- Mike Mussina’s control is third-best in the junior circuit.
- Andy Pettitte still has the league’s best pick-off move.
- And finally, Mariano Rivera is the league’s best reliever. Bet you never saw that one coming.
The Yankees clearly have the tools, according to those who play and watch the games. Too bad they don’t yet have the wins to go along with it.
Are the Yankees and MetLife running out of people to pull the Yankee Stadium countdown clock lever? Maybe so because now, they’re turning to the fans. The Yankees and Countdown Clock sponsor MetLife have teamed up for a contest in which one lucky fan will win the chance to pull the countdown lever on Saturday, September 13. The winner will also receive four tickets to the game, a chance to meet Joe Girardi and on-field access during batting practice. That day, the clock will go from nine to eight. I guess Yogi Berra, owner of the retired number eight, won’t pull the lever yet again this year.
Who am I kidding? I’m totally entering this contest. · (17) ·
Later tonight, when Darrell Rasner faces off against A.J. Burnett (gulp), Hideki Matsui should return to the lineup for the first time in two months. Hideki hasn’t played June 22, and by all accounts, he’ll need knee surgery this year. With Matsui returning, though, I have to wonder how the Yanks plan on using him.
On the season, Matsui had been quietly having a great season before he hurt his knee. While his power was down a bit — he has just 7 home runs in 69 games — his triple-slash numbers are .323/.404/.458.
But Matsui has excelled in a few situations this year when the rest of the team has not. In 78 plate appearances with runners in scoring position, Matsui is hitting .338/.449/.462. In clutch situations, he’s been stellar as well. If the Yanks are to make a run for October over the last six weeks of the season, they sure could use a bat like Matsui’s in the lineup.
There’s one catch: Where should the Yankees play Matsui? As far as I can tell, the Yanks’ lineup is full, and inserting Matsui into the order could weaken the team.
Right now, the Yanks’ outfield consists of some combination of Xavier Nady, Brett Gardner, Johnny Damon and Bobby Abreu. In the DH slot, they use the odd man out of the outfield — usually Damon or Nady — or Jason Giambi with Wilson Betemit stepping in at first. The Yanks aren’t about to sit Xavier Nady and his +171 OPS. Damon’s been a stellar offense force, and even Jason Giambi has managed to turn in a good season. Bobby Abreu leads the team in RBIs.
Meanwhile, Matsui can only DH. So how will Joe Girardi manage this one? I’m guessing that Jason Giambi will play first and Matsui will DH. Brett Gardner will perhaps be the odd man out, but the Yanks seem committed to playing him. Plus, the defense suffers significantly with Damon in center.
Right now, I’m basically just thinking out loud, but if the Yanks want to insert Matsui in the lineup, the outfield would generally be Nady-Damon-Abreu. That’s not my ideal lineup, but with Matsui returning, it will do.
Of course, we’re being a bit premature. No one knows how Matsui’s knee will hold up, and the Yanks probably won’t push it too much. Damon is better suited to the DH/OF role he’s inhabited for much of the year, and Brett Gardner has, in his most recent call-up, shown the promise and ability we thought he would the first time around.
Considering the way the Yanks have been going, having too much offense would be a welcome problem, and we’ll see, starting tonight, how Girardi and his coaches handle it. As long as Hideki hits, it almost doesn’t matter.
Triple-A Scranton had a scheduled off day.
Double-A Trenton (8-2 win over Reading)
Reegie Corona: 2 for 5, 1 R, 2 K
Frankie Cervelli & Austin Jackson: both 1 for 4, 2 RBI – Cervelli was hit by a pitch … Ajax doubled, drew a walk, scored 2 runs & K’ed
Chris Malec: 3 for 5, 1 2B, 2 RBI, 1 K
Colin Curtis: 1 for 5, 1 K – 7 for his last 39 (.179)
PJ Pilittere: 0 for 4, 1 RBI
Edwar Gonzalez & Kevin Russo: both 2 for 4, 2 R – Edwar hit a solo jack giving him 6 homers in his last 7 games
James Cooper: 1 for 3, 1R, 1 BB
Victor Zambrano: 5 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 5 K, 1 WP, 3-6 GB/FB – can they trade him for Scott Kazmir yet?
Johnny Nunez: 2 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 4 K, 2-0 GB/FB
Jose Valdez: 2 IP, 1 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 1 K, 3-2 GB/FB