Game 111: Going for the kill

Alex and some high school kids. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

The Yankees have already accomplished the bare minimum in this series by not getting swept, and yesterday they guaranteed at least a split, something I think most of us would be cool with this series. Today though, I’m getting greedy and I want the Yanks to take three of four and bury the Red Sox.

It won’t be easy with Jon Lester taking the ball for the Sox, but he’s allowed at least four runs in every start since the All Star break, and opponents are hitting .292/.339/.481 against him during that time. I’m not saying it’s going to be easy, but it makes me feel slightly better. Phil Hughes, meanwhile, hasn’t allowed more than three runs in four of his last five starts, so he’s starting to come out of that little funk from mid-season. The bullpen should be pretty rested for this one, no one really had to over-extend themselves last night.

Remember when the Yankees were 0-8 vs. Boston last year? They’re 16-5 against them since (h/t Kiertsen). Good times, good times. Here’s this afternoon’s lineup…

Jeter, SS
Swisher, RF
Teixeira, 1B
A-Rod, 3B
Cano, 2B
Posada, C – day game after a night game? head explodes
Thames, DH
Kearns, LF
Granderson, CF

And on the bump, it’s St. Philip of Hughes.

This afternoon’s matinee starts a little bit after 2pm ET and can be seen on YES locally and MLB Network nationally. Enjoy the game, y’all.

Moseley’s odd pitch locations

(AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

It is clear from the first pitch you see that Dustin Moseley won’t overpower anyone. His fastball averages around 88 mph, topping out at 90, 91, depending on the night. A pitcher like that requires precision with his pitches. If he leaves one of those over the plate, major leaguers are going to hit it hard. Since the Red Sox didn’t hit him hard last night it might seem like he located balls in favorable spots. But after looking at the data this does not appear to be the case.

This chart, supplied by Brooks Baseball, looks odd for a guy who doesn’t blow pitches by hitters. It looks odder still for a pitcher who got 12 grounders out of 19 balls in play. Normally when we see a flurry of ground balls we also see pitches, particularly two-seamers, low in the zone. Moseley, it appears, worked in the lower half, but generally didn’t hit the bottom quarter of the zone with his groundball-inducing pitch.

Instead, we see a belt of two-seamers that crossed around the middle of the zone. Thankfully only three of them were above the mid-point. The rest were below, though not by a lot — again, in one of the middle quarters. For a guy who requires groundballs to perform his job well this might seem like a hindrance. But the Red Sox hitters seemingly could not connect with the two-seamer no matter its location. When they did, it was mostly on the ground. Of the 26 batters Moseley faced, 15 saw a fastball with the final pitch and they broke down like this:

2 walks
4 strikeouts (3 looking)
2 liners (1 base hit)
7 ground balls

Not bad for an 88 mph fastball that crossed, for the most part, near the middle of the zone. The key, it appears, is the movement he puts on the pitch. In 2003, when he ranked No. 4 on the Reds prospect list, Baseball America noted that, “he has plus movement and manipulates the ball to both sides of the plate with a cutter and a two-seamer.” The cutter, it appears, has been scrapped in favor of a slider, but the movement on the two-seamer remains.

Baseball America also notes the effectiveness of his 12-to-6 curve and his changeup, both of which remain in his arsenal. Last night he threw 18 changeups, 10 of which were strikes. According to PitchFX it traveled about 5 mph slower than his fastball, with about half the horizontal break and obviously a lot less on the vertical axis. He didn’t generate any swings and misses, but he did get five batters to put the ball on the ground weakly, one to pop up, and the other to gently fly out. Otherwise he used it to set up batters, and it was quite effective in that regard. According to linear weights it was by far his most effective pitch of the evening.

What I find most odd about Moseley’s start is that despite the lack of a power fastball he still relied on the pitch. PitchFX separated the pitch into four-seamer and two-seamer, but the movement and speed on both seem identical, so I’m sure he wasn’t doing much different with them. All told he threw 50 fastballs, 18 changeups, 14 curveballs, and five sliders. It was an effective mix, as the results showed. The Sox hardly made quality contact, as even the bulk of their base hits came on ground balls. If Moseley can continue attacking opposing offenses like that he’ll have some kind of role on this team.

Last night the Yanks got all they could have expected out of Dustin Moseley. He took advantage of a slumping offense and pitched six and a third strong innings. It came in a strange way, getting groundballs on pitches that were near the middle of the zone. But it worked. He might not be Andy Pettitte, but in his place Moseley has thrown 24.1 innings to a 2.96 ERA. Not bad for a guy who this past off-season was non-tendered by the pitching-shallow Angels.

Fan Confidence Poll: August 9th, 2010

Record Last Week: 3-3 (28 RS, 27 RA)
Season Record: 69-41 (591 RS, 452 RA, 69-41 Pythag. record), 2.5 games up
Schedule This Week: vs. Red Sox (one game, Mon.), @ Rangers (two games, Tues. and Weds.), @ Royals (four games, Thurs. to Sun.)

Top stories from last week:

Please take a second to answer the poll below and give us an idea of how confident you are in the team. You can view the Fan Confidence Graph anytime via the nav bar above, or by clicking here. Thanks in advance for voting.

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Moseley mows the Sox down as Yanks win 7-2

Even though CC Sabathia gave the Yankees everything they could have asked for and then some in Saturday’s game, the team is still working its way out of the funk that saw them dip into second place for the first time in nearly two months. Scheduled starter A.J. Burnett was a late scratch due to some back spasm, forcing Dustin Moseley into action on short notice. It’s safe to say it didn’t bother him in the least.

Sad David is sad. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

Biggest Hit: Tex Marks The Spot

The Yanks jumped out to an early two-zip lead in this one thanks to some of that vaunted Red Sox run prevention, but Bill Hall kept Boston close with a solo homer in the 5th. Roger Clemens used to say that the biggest inning for a pitcher was the inning after his team scored, because it was his job to keep the opposition down and get his offense back on the field as quickly as possible. Three nondescript outs followed Hall’s homer, so the Yanks came back to plate against the Josh Beckett, still nursing that 2-1 run. Just as ESPN came back from commercial, my phone dinged but I didn’t check the message immediately.

Wasting no time, Mark Teixeira jumped all over a 2-1 fastball out over the plate and hit an ab-SO-lute firecracker (World Cup’d) into the rightfield bleachers to restore the two run lead. In the grand scheme of things it was just another run, but at the time it was huge. Getting that extra insurance run is always appreciated.

(AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

Honorable Mention: The Cap’n Splits The Outfielders

The Yanks didn’t stop after Tex’s homer in the 5th, with the next two batters reaching base on a walk and hit by pitch. A double, walk, strikeout, and a comical throwing error later, Derek Jeter came to the plate with the bases juiced and two outs in the frame. The lead had already been extended to four, but the Cap’n had a chance for the kill shot. And as he so often does, he came through. A two run double into the right-centerfield gap broke things open, giving the Yanks a six run lead. It wasn’t the biggest WPA swing of the game, but it just felt like the biggest hit. It was the one that put the game out of reach.

After the big five run 5th inning, I finally got around to checking the message on my phone. It was from a good buddy of mine who unfortunately happens to be a Red Sox fan. Channeling his inner Clemens, he wrote: “If Beckett shuts them down this inning, then the Sox win.” So much for that.

Biggest Out: The Rook Grounds Out

(AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

For the first three innings, Dustin Moseley cruised right along and faced just one over the minimum. With the Yanks still nursing that 2-0 lead, Moseley again recorded two quick outs in the 4th, but then he lost the plate a little. Victor Martinez singled back up through the box, and both J.D. Drew and Adrian Beltre followed by taking ball four. The bases were loaded for the rookie Ryan Kalish, who took Javy Vazquez deep for his first career homer two days ago and was 9-for-21 on the season coming into this game.

The sinkerballing Moseley started him off with … a curveball, which dipped out of the zone for ball one. The overly anxious rook didn’t wait for a fastball he could drive, instead swinging at the second pitch he saw, a changeup fading down and in on him. Kalish hit the top of the ball, grounding it harmlessly to first for the inning ending force out. Certain doom was avoided.

Honorable Mention: Boone Beats Papi

With the Yanks comfortably ahead by six, Moseley started to fade a bit in the 7th inning, giving the ball over the Joba Chamberlain with one out and men on first and third. Joba allowed a run on an infield single before walking Marco Scutaro to load the up and put the tying run on deck. Joe Girardi then summoned Boone Logan to face David Ortiz with three ducks on the pond, and even though he fell behind in the count 3-1, Logan eventually won the seven pitch battle by getting the noted Yankee killer to ground out harmlessly to Robbie Cano at second. Certain doom was avoided yet again.

The Other Stuff

(AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

Big ups to Moseley, seriously. Pressed into action when Burnett’s back acted up, the guy took the ball into the 7th inning and limited the Sox to just two runs. He recorded 16 of his 19 outs either on the ground or via strike three, and didn’t even run up that high of a pitch count. Just 87 pitches (52 strikes) on the evening. Simply a fantastic job.

Alex Rodriguez stole his third base of the season, giving him 300 in his career. He become the third member of the 600 homer, 300 steal club, joining Barry Bonds and Willie Mays. He was lifted in the 9th inning with what’s being called stiffness, but who knows what body part we’re talking about here. Hopefully it’s not the hip.

(AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

Meanwhile, Derek Jeter picked up career hits number 2,874 and 2,875 tonight, moving him past Babe Ruth for sole possession of 39th place all time. Mel Ott is one hit away for 38th place, Frankie Frisch five away for 37th, and Zack Wheat nine away for 36th.

Lance Berkman, also known as the worst baseball player in the history of the universe, picked up three hits in his first three at-bats, including a pair of doubles that either directly or indirectly led to three runs. It’s almost as if it’s foolish to judge a player based on 24 plate appearances.

I personally didn’t hear it, but apparently Orel Hershiser said during the late innings of the broadcast that the Yankees were on pace for 94 wins this year. At the moment they have a .627 winning percentage, putting them on pace for 102 wins. It literally took me less than 20 seconds to figure that out.

With Tampa Bay getting completely shut down by Brandon Morrow this afternoon, the Yankees are now two-and-a-half games up in the AL East.

WPA Graph & Box Score

Comeback? You so crazy Bill Hall. MLB.com has your box score, FanGraphs your nerd score.

Up Next

The final game of this four game wrap-around set will be played tomorrow afternoon, before the Yanks head down to Texas to take on the first place Rangers in a quick two game series. Phil Hughes matches up with Jon Lester. That should be fun.

Montero pounds the Red Sox in SWB win

Five Staten Island Yankees were named to the NY-Penn League All Star Team: Mikey O’Brien, Preston Claiborne, Chase Whitley, Jose Mojica, and Eduardo Sosa. The linked article incorrect says outfielder Felix Sanchez plays for SI when he in fact is a member of the Lowell Spinners.

Meanwhile, Lance Pendleton has been promoted to Triple-A Scranton, and he’s hella excited. Francisco Arcia is out for the season with a broken finger after taking a foul ball off the digit the other day, though I would be surprised if Gary Sanchez was promoted to take his place. Not saying it’s impossible, but I would be shocked.

Triple-A Scranton (12-3 win over Pawtucket)
Kevin Russo, 2B & Jorge Vazquez, 1B: both 2 for 5 – Russo doubled, drew a walk & scored
Colin Curtis, RF: 3 for 5, 3 R, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 1 BB, 1 K – second homer in his last three games after hitting just one in his first 60 games
Brandon Laird, 3B: 1 for 6, 1 R, 1 RBI, 1 K - one for his last 14 (.071)
Juan Miranda, DH: 2 for 5, 2 R, 1 2B, 1 RBI, 1 K
Jesus Montero, C: 3 for 5, 1 R, 1 2B, 2 RBI – ten for his last 26 (.385) with four doubles and a homer
Eduardo Nunez, SS: 0 for 5 - just four for his last 37 (.108)
Chad Huffman, LF: 1 for 4, 3 R, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 1 K
Greg Golson, CF: 3 for 5, 1 R, 1 2B, 1 HR, 3 RBI – eight for his last 17 (.471) with two doubles, a triple & three homers
Jason Hirsh: 8 IP, 8 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 2 BB, 9 K, 4-8 GB/FB – 76 of 113 pitches were strikes (67.3%) … he’s allowed 17 homers in 115.1 IP this year (1.33 HR/9)
Romulo Sanchez: 1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 2 K, 0-1 GB/FB – just 11 of his 25 pitches were strikes (44%)

[Read more…]

Game 110: A-Rod’s back

(AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

CC Sabathia put a nice stop to the Yankees’ mini-slump yesterday, dominating the Red Sox for eight innings and handing the ball off to Mariano Rivera himself. A.J. Burnett was supposed to start tonight’s game, but back spasms but him on the shelf and Dustin Moseley will instead give it a go. He’ll be on regular rest because of Thursday’s off day, ditto Phil Hughes when he starts tomorrow.

As for who is playing, the big name is Alex Rodriguez. He came through batting practice feeling good following yesterday’s incident involving a line drive, Lance Berkman, and Joe Buck being annoying, so he’s back in the lineup batting cleanup and playing third base. With all due to respect to the fantastic job Ramiro Pena did yesterday, it’s great to have Alex back.

Hopefully Moseley has some of that “didn’t know he was starting until an hour before first pitch” magic that we so often hear about. I’ll settle for lots of ground balls, six innings, and no more than four runs. Here’s the rest of the crew…

Jeter, SS
Swisher, RF
Teixeira, 1B
A-Rod, 3B
Cano, 2B
Posada, C
Berkman, DH
Granderson, CF
Gardner, LF

And on the bump, it’s Mr. Moseley.

Tonight’s game starts a little after 8pm ET and can be seen everywhere as part of ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball. The last time the Yankees played on ESPN on a Sunday Night, things turned out pretty well. Let’s hope for more of the same. Enjoy y’all.

Burnett pushed to Tuesday with back spasms; A-Rod may return

Update (5:13 p.m.): The Yankees have regained their third baseman while losing their starting pitcher. A.J. Burnett will not make his long awaited start against Josh Beckett tonight as he has been scratched with back spasms. Dustin Moseley with start in his stead tonight, and Phil Hughes will go tomorrow. Burnett, who felt the spasms yesterday, is scheduled to pitch Tuesday against the Rangers as long as his back holds up.

In other injury news, Alex Rodriguez is currently penciled into the lineup tonight as the clean-up hitter and third baseman. A-Rod missed yesterday’s game after taking a line drive to the shin during batting practice. He walked off the field under his own power but with a slight limp, and his x-rays were negative. While A-Rod is right now set to play, Girardi told reporters that the final lineup will be a game-time decision. “I can’t tell you that will be our lineup at 8 o clock,” he said.