Yanks can’t finish sweep, end Mariners’ skid

Wednesday afternoon was the probably the closest the Mariners are going to get to feeling like they won the World Series for a while. Their 17-game losing streak is kaput thanks to ace Felix Hernandez and some late-inning lolpen action and defensive miscues on the Yankees’ part.

Coulda been worse.

More Of The Same From Hughes

The end result – two runs in six innings – is perfectly fine for Phil Hughes, but the process was unchanged. A better offense would have probably hit him pretty hard, and the only reason he escaped a bases loaded, no out situation by allowing just one run in the fifth was because Josh Bard is unfathomable slow and Brett Gardner has a fine outfield arm. Hughes came out of the gate throwing 92-93 in a quick 1-2-3 first inning, but his velocity soon tailed back off into the 90-91 range the rest of the game. Everyone harps on the velocity, but the bigger problem is his command. Phil’s missing his spot consistently, like every single pitch. Sometimes he gets away with it, sometimes the pitch is left over the plate and he doesn’t. That’s how you give up nine hits in six innings against the worst offense in baseball.

Joe Girardi wouldn’t come out and say it after the loss, but Ivan Nova is fully expected to start one of the games in Saturday’s doubleheader. Asked if there could be a chance for Nova to take his rotation spot back from Hughes, Girardi replied “there could be … we want guys to throw the ball well and earn their spots every time.” He did add the standard disclaimer, saying “as far as saying there’s a competition for Phil Hughes’ next start, I’m not saying that.” Hughes will make at least one more start just because of how the schedule shakes out, and if he doesn’t perform better the calls for Nova will only grow louder. That said, he’s allowed two or fewer runs in three of his four starts since coming off the disabled list, and the end results have a way of speaking more than they should at times.

Two Runs Ain’t Enough

Got only one run out of that situation.

It really doesn’t matter who’s pitching for you when you only score two runs like the Yankees did in this game. The first run was umpire-aided to a certain extent; first base ump Brian Knight said that Brendan Ryan‘s throw pulled Justin Smoak off the bag at first on Eduardo Nunez‘s ground ball, setting up a first and third situation with one out. Replay showed that no such thing happened and Nunez should have been called out. Derek Jeter got the run in two batters later with a sacrifice fly, but the Yankees left men on second and third when Curtis Granderson struck out.

Felix was good but not utterly dominant. He allowed five hits in seven innings but did walk four, so that’s nine baserunners the Yankees had to work with. They drew two of those walks in a 24-pitch first inning but couldn’t score, and they couldn’t build on that pitch count because they went down on seven pitches in the second and 13 pitches in the third. There wasn’t much pressure on Hernandez after that. I get the feeling that Felix would have thrown 150 pitches if that’s what it took to end that losing streak through.

The Yankees left two men on base in the first, one on  in the fourth, two in the fifth, one in the sixth, and one in the seventh. The leadoff man reached base in the first, second, fifth, and seventh innings, but only one came around to score. New York’s only other run can in garbage time, when Robinson Cano drove in Granderson with an RBI groundout after a leadoff double. The Yankees had just one hit in ten at-bats with men in scoring position, and they went down on just 20 total pitches in the eighth and ninth inning. The end of the game kinda had a “let’s get this over with and start the off day” feel to it.

Clank.

Meltdown

It was a one-run game when Cory Wade relieved Hughes to open the seventh inning, but it didn’t stay that way for long. Ichiro doubled with one out and Ryan followed up with a single off Cano’s glove, setting up a first and third situation with one out. Boone Logan came on to pitch since three of the next four batters were left-handed (the one exception was a switch-hitter), and he got exactly one of them out. Dustin Ackley hit a ground ball to second that had double play potential, but Cano flubbed the flip to Derek Jeter at the bag and everyone was safe. It wasn’t routine but it looked like they had a chance to turn two. Hard to assume they would have gotten it anyway, Ackley’s not slow. That scored a run to stretch Seattle’s lead to two.

Logan then walked Smoak before striking out Adam Kennedy, so he had a chance to limit the damage with Mike Carp coming up. Carp has had a pretty pronounced platoon split in his career, but he drove Boone’s first pitch slider to dead center. Granderson had trouble with the ball, either he misread it or lost it in the sun or something, but it clanked off his glove for a bases-clearing triple. That was pretty much the game right there, the Mariners went up by five and then by six with Franklin Gutierrez followed with a double. The defense didn’t do the pitching staff any favors that inning, but then again the lefty specialist can’t be giving up balls to the warning track to a guy that was in Triple-A two weeks ago. Ugly inning all around, a classic meltdown.

A perfect strike as HOPE Week continues.

Leftovers

Granderson also misplayed a ball in the ninth inning, and he pretty clearly lost that one in the sun. He overran it by a few steps and was a little too far in. That resulted in one run directly (Ackley scored from second on the play) and another indirectly (Kennedy scored from second on Carp’s single when he shouldn’t have been on base in the first place). Rough day for Curtis in the field, but thankfully that’s not a regular occurrence.

Everyone but Jeter (sac fly) reached base in the game and everyone but Gardner (two walks and a stolen base) and Mark Teixeira (walk) had exactly one hit. Granderson and Jorge Posada had doubles, everyone else singles. Nunez also swiped a bag. The Yankees went down in order just twice, in the third and ninth innings. That’s one thing I’ve noticed and would like to look into a little deeper, the Yanks very rarely seem to have 1-2-3 innings on offense. Of course there’s always going to be one or two or three per game, but I’m willing to bet the percentage of offensive innings in which they have at least one baserunner is substantially higher than the league average.

Take a look at Hunter Wendelstedt’s strike zone, that thing is brutal. For both sides, I don’t want to sound like I’m saying the Yankees got jobbed or anything. No called strikes at the knees and apparently up and away to lefties was the way to go. That call at first was blown in the fifth, and we saw what, two other blown calls at first in this series? I think it’s four if you go back to the final game of the A’s series. I think the umpires’ union has secretly planted some moles to make some blatantly bad calls to help usher in the instant replay/roboumps era. I for one will embrace our new robot overlords.

The loss ends the Mariners’ 17-game losing streak, which must have felt like a huge relief to them. That’s just brutal, I can’t imagine what it’s like dealing with that as a fan. I don’t think RAB would make it past loss seven or eight, we might all have one foot off the ledge by then.

Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings

MLB.com has the box score and video, FanGraphs some other neat stuff, and ESPN the up to date standings.

Up Next

Off day on Thursday, then the Orioles come to town for four games in three days. A.J. Burnett gets the start in the series opener against Jeremy Guthrie, though I suppose it’s not out of the question that Baltimore could trade its ace before then. If you want to catch the game, RAB Tickets can help get you there on the cheap.

Culver goes deep twice as SI wins big

Triple-A Scranton (3-2 win over Buffalo)
Austin Krum, CF & Luis Nunez, 2B: both 1 for 4, 1 2B – Krum struck out twice … Nunez drove in a run and whiffed
Greg Golson, RF: 1 for 4, 1 R, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 3 K – threw a runner out at second
Jesus Montero, DH: 0 for 4 – .000/.000/.000 in his last four at-bats, so he’s slumping again
Mike Lamb, 3B: 0 for 4, 1 K
Jorge Vazquez, 1B: 1 for 4, 1 R, 1 K – 21 K in his last 39 at-bats
Jordan Parraz, LF: 2 for 4, 1 R, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 1 K – ten for his last 28 (.357) with two doubles, a triples, and the homer
Gus Molina, C: 1 for 3, 1 BB, 1 K
Doug Bernier, SS: 0 for 3
Pants Lendleton, RHP: 6 IP, 7 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 3 K, 6-5 GB/FB – 64 of 94 pitches were strikes (68.1%) … just 31 K in 45.2 IP with SWB this year (6.1 K/9)
George Kontos, RHP: 2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 2 K, 2-1 GB/FB – threw just 19 pitches, 13 strikes (68.4%)
Kevin Whelan, RHP: 1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 0 K, 2 WP, 2-0 GB/FB – ten of 15 pitches were strikes

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Rosenthal: Yankees intesifying pursuit of Kuroda

Via Ken Rosenthal, the Yankees have intensified their pursuit of Dodgers’ right-hander Hiroki Kuroda. Several other clubs are involved as well, so the Yankees have competition. Kuroda has a full no-trade clause and will need to be persuaded to waive it, though perhaps former teammate Russell Martin could help do that. I can’t imagine it’ll hurt. Here’s pretty much everything you need to know about the guy, who would be a definite upgrade to the rotation.

Open Thread: A-Rod’s Birthday

(AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

Alex Rodriguez isn’t with the Yankees right now because of his knee surgery, but that’s no reason to skip out on wishing him a happy birthday. He turns 36 today, and is the most productive position player in baseball that age or older in terms of bWAR (3.2). Todd Helton (2.6) is the only other guy that age that has been worth more than two wins to his team this year. Earlier today we heard that Alex will start his baseball related rehab activities with the team in New York rather than Tampa, but he’s still a few weeks from returning. It’ll be nice to have him back, it’s impossible to replace a hitter of his caliber and there’s definitely a different vibe to the offense when he’s out.

Anyway, here is tonight’s open thread. The now Carlos Beltran-less Mets are playing the Reds at 7pm ET (Pelfrey vs. Arroyo), and Beltran’s new team (the Giants) are in Philadelphia (Cain vs. Hamels) on ESPN at the same time. The trade can’t be official for 24 hours because of his no-trade clause per league rules, so Beltran isn’t in the lineup for San Fran tonight. Use this thread to talk about anything your heart desires, so have at it.

2011 Draft: Yankees agree to sign 14th rounder Rookie Davis

Via Jim Callis, the Yankees have agreed to sign 14th round pick Rookie Davis for $550,000, which is obviously well-above MLB’s slot recommendation. It’s the largest bonus given to a player outside of the top three rounds so far this year, by any team. Davis, a right-hander who stands 6-foot-4 and 235 lbs., is said to own “an 89-92 mph fastball and a promising curveball.” Here’s some video.

Cubs trying get Yankees to take Zambrano off their hands

Via Buster Olney, the Cubs are “trying to nudge” the Yankees into taking Carlos Zambrano off their hands, dangling some money to offset his salary as a carrot. Zambrano is under contract for $18M next season with a $19.25M vesting player option for 2013 that won’t be a factor because he won’t meet the Cy Young Award voting criteria to trigger it. Not only is he completely insane, but Zambrano’s performance has been declining. His 4.70 ERA is backed up by a 4.21 xFIP, the sixth straight year is xFIP is over 4.20. Plus the Cubs are trying to give him away, what does that tell you? Pass.

Joe posted some other trade deadline nuggets earlier today. Here’s what I wrote about Zambrano over the winter.

Injury Notes: Soriano, A-Rod, Feliciano, Marte

A few updates from the infirmary…

  • Rafael Soriano was not activated before today’s game, he likely will be before Friday’s game. He threw back-to-back rehab games on Sunday and Monday, so they’re just giving him the extra rest instead of rushing him right back out there. Tomorrow’s off day will give him three days off following the back-to-back.
  • Alex Rodriguez will do his early rehab work with the team in New York rather than in Tampa. The Yankees have a date in mind for when A-Rod will start taking batting practice and such, but his return to the lineup is still a few weeks off.
  • Pedro Feliciano is probably a non-option for the rest of the year. “I would think so, yeah,” said Joe Girardi before today’s game when asked if he’s ready to give up on having the lefty this season. “He’s not doing much.” Girardi said Feliciano is “trying” to play catch.
  • Damaso Marte, however, might be able to contribute something late in the season. He continues to throw bullpens in Tampa and is about nine months out from shoulder surgery. I still wouldn’t count on him returning this year, but it sounds like Marte has a better chance to do so than Feliciano.