Yanks offense shut down as Rays take series

The game was all Rays from the beginning. Yanks hitters couldn’t touch James Shields, and while Sabathia didn’t pitch poorly his couple of mistakes were all the Rays needed. That hands the weekend series to the Rays and tips the season series in their favor. The two teams will have to settle this in September.

Biggest Pitch: Shield’s changeup

(AP Photo/Steve Nesius)

In our series preview it was tough to ignore the part about James Sheilds. It highlights just how good he’s become. He had a few rough games early in the first half, but all pitchers go through rough patches. Yesterday he dominated, allowing just four hits and walking one through 7.1 innings. Eleven Yankees, including five straight from the third into the fifth, struck out. They had a couple of chances early on, moving a runner to third in the second and then again in the third. Neither situation worked out.

As expected, Shields attacked Yankees hitters with his changeup. He threw it 31 times out of 116, and got 10 swings and misses. The pitch not only generated a few strikeouts itself, but it also made his fastball tougher, as the Yanks swung and missed at four four-seamers and four cutters. It didn’t look like there was much they could do with what Shields was feeding them.

Biggest Hits: Not that big

(AP Photo/Steve Nesius)

It’s not that the Rays’ big hits today weren’t meaningful. It’s that they weren’t forcibly struck. Instead the Yanks got unlucky results on a few dinks and dunks. It ended up costing them. Not that they would have fared much better if they’d made those outs. Shields wasn’t giving them anything this game.

After a 1-2-3 first Sabathia got ahead of Willy Aybar to start the second. The third pitch, a curveball, didn’t look bad, as it ended up low and away. Aybar got the barrel on it, though, and sent it down the left field line where it bounced into the seats for a ground rule double. A comebacker and a fly out later it looked like the Yanks might strand him. But Kelly Shoppach inside outed an inside fastball just over Lance Berkman’s head. That gave Aybar a chance to score the game’s first run.

The Rays scored their other two runs in the second, and again they seemed preventable. Reid Brignac started things by grounding one towards the middle. Robbie Cano made a slick play, but didn’t get enough on the throw. It bounced and Berkman couldn’t make the scoop. I’m not the only person who wonders if Teixeira would have had that. That set up the Rays well for B.J. Upton’s double, setting them up with runners on first and second with none out.

Sometimes you get the right result and still don’t see a reward. Sabathia delivered a 2-2 fastball low and away to Carl Crawford, and he chopped it slowly towards short. The run was certainly going to score, but because of Crawford’s speed he also reached safely. It also allowed the runner to advance, significant because he then scored on Evan Longoria’s around the horn double play. Sabathia didn’t give them anything after that, but they had all they’d need.

Miscelanny

(AP Photo/Steve Nesius)

Good job by Kerry Wood, striking out three in his Yankees debut. Poor job of loading the bases and leaving it in Chad Gaudin‘s hands.

The Rays had baserunners in every inning except the second and the seventh.

No Yankee reached base to lead off an inning.

Not a great day in the field for Berkman. He wasn’t missing routine plays, but he probably should have made one of the two, the catch over his head or the scoop from Cano. I’m not sure he would have made the play on Jason Bartlett even if he’d have fielded it cleanly.

It’s going to take a while still to get used to him in a Yankees uniform.

Graph and chart

The highlights would be too depressing.

More at FanGraphs. Also, box score.

Up Next

The Yanks head home to face the Blue Jays. Brandon Morrow and A.J. Burnett take the mound.

A loss at every level

I’m two days late on this, but Brandon Laird was named the third hottest prospects in the minors in last week’s Prospect Hot Sheet. As a reward, he was promoted to Triple-A following today’s game. Corban Joseph goes up to Double-A. Congrats to both guys, the promotions were well deserved.

Triple-A Scranton (3-1 loss to Syracuse)
Kevin Russo, 2B: 1 for 5 – Reegie Corona’s still out after the late-game collision the other day
Eric Bruntlett, SS: 0 for 5
Eduardo Nunez, 3B: 0 for 4 – with no trade for a utility infielder, he’ll again audition at the hot corner
Juan Miranda, 1B: 1 for 3, 1 BB, 1 K
Jesus Montero, C: 1 for 4, 1 K – six for his last 30 (.200)
Colin Curtis, RF & Jorge Vazquez, DH: both 0 for 3, 2 K, 1 SB – Curtis scored a run … JoVa walked
Chad Huffman, LF: 2 for 3, 1 2B, 1 RBI, 1 BB, 1 HBP
Greg Golson, CF: 1 for 3, 1 BB, 1 K
Zach McAllister: 7 IP, 7 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 3 BB, 8 K, 7-3 GB/FB – 62 of 102 pitches were strikes (60.8%) … it’s good to see the strikeouts and grounders, but this is the ninth straight start in which he’s allowed a homer
Eric Wordekemper: 1 IP, zeroes, 2 K – 14 of his 20 pitches were strikes
Zach Segovia: 1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 1 K, 0-2 GB/FB – 12 of his 22 pitches were strikes (54.5%)

[Read more…]

Open Thread: One out of three and still in the lead

(AP Photo/Steve Nesius)

Well, it would have been nice to take two of three against the Rays, but at least the Yankees remain in first place. Could be worse, I guess. The Yanks play again tomorrow, so they’ll have a chance to turn things around in short order. Nothing you can do other than shake it off and come ready to play against the Blue Jays.

Anyway, here’s your open thread for the night. The ESPN Sunday Night Game is a good one, the Dodgers at the Giants (Kershaw vs. Cain). Talk about that or whatever else you want here

At the deadline, taking on the dough

Now that the trade deadline dust has settled, we can see how the Yankees used their financial might to their advantage this weekend. By taking on the contracts of Austin Kearns, Lance Berkman and Kerry Wood, the Yanks upped their payroll by approximately $4.8 million, and they gave up only a pair of minor leaguers they won’t miss. For a club in the Yanks’ position, the ability to take on money is a key advantage at the deadline. By agreeing to pick up some of these contracts, the Yanks improved their depth without sacrificing any of their promising prospects. That’s how teams like the Yankees should approach the deadline when sellers are asking too much for their talent.

Game 104: Another one-run affair?

Heading into the series with the Rays the Yanks had played in just 16 one-run games, easily the fewest in the majors. Then they rolled into St. Pete and played two one-run games in two days. With CC Sabathia and James Shields on the mound we could have another low-scoring, close game this afternoon.

Sabathia and Shields faced off in the game following the All-Star break, which the Yanks won in walk-off style. Shields lasted just six and gave up three runs, while Sabathia lasted seven and gave up four runs, three earned. Shields has since pitched 13 innings against the Orioles and Tigers, allowing six runs on 17 hits. Sabathia has allowed eight runs, five earned, in 131 innings against the Royals and Indians, allowing 20 hits and walking seven. It’s going to be a big start for both.

Remember last night when A-rod said that “it’s probably going to take a while” for him to hit No. 600? It’ll be at least one more day, as he’s out of the lineup. That’s not a terrible idea against a righty with a nasty changeup.

Lineup:

1. Derek Jeter, SS
2. Lance Berkman, 1B
3. Mark Teixeira, DH
4. Robinson Cano, 2B
5. Nick Swisher, RF
6. Jorge Posada, C
7. Curtis Granderson, CF
8. Austin Kearns, LF
9. Ramiro Pena, 3B

And on the mound, number fifty-two, CC Sabathia.

Pettitte throws off a half mound

Chad Jennings delivers the good news. Andy Pettitte threw 25 pitches off a half mound today, which puts him one step closer to a return. He says he’ll throw another bullpen before making a rehab start. He’ll need at least one before he joins the rotation.

A trade deadline The Boss would be proud of

Despite already having the best record in baseball and a budget (albeit flexible) at its limit, the Yankees owned the trade deadline in a way that would make George Steinbrenner proud.  They got big names in Lance Berkman and Kerry Wood because they were willing to take on salary and not let money get in the way of improving the team.  They also did this without sacrificing any major pieces for their future.  There was no trading Jay Buhner for Ken Phelps, just signing the checks that other franchises were unwilling to write.

In fact, the Red Sox were in on Wood as well, but wouldn’t take on as much salary.  The Sox wouldn’t take on the $1.5 million the Yankees were willing to pay to get Wood (Beware, that link is for John Tomase who’s not the most credible of writers).  So the Red Sox, who by inquiring on Wood think they are still in the race (and they are) let a few hundred thousand dollars get in the way of obtaining him.  Much like the Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira pursuits, the Red Sox had their chance and came up short when it came time to open the wallet (I guess they should have sold a few more memberships to Red Sox Nation).  Can you imagine how thrilled George would be to know this?

While the Astros did pick up a significant portion of Berkman’s salary, the Yankees still needed to commit to paying Berkman, having a down year, $3.1 million for 2 months of regular season work plus hopefully the playoffs.  Considering they have already committed $5.5 million to the DH position in Nick Johnson and we’re in a recession, this was not a tiny pill to swallow.  While upgrading the DH position in a big way was more of a want than a need, they saw an opportunity to strike with the biggest cost being money.  Again they went for it, and again, the Boss would be proud.

There were concerns after Steinbrenner’s passing that Hal would run the team more as a business and less as a fan leading the Yankees to cut back on spending going forward.  So far so good however, as the decision makers decided the increased payroll was worth the increased chances of winning it all.  Did the Yankees, as constructed on July 29th, have a chance to win the World Series?  Of course they did.  Do the Yankees, on August 1st have a better chance of winning the World Series?  Of course they do. Not only did the Yankees step up to the plate and take their shot, but for the most part their main competitors didn’t as the Red Sox and Rays didn’t wow anyone with their deadline moves.   Give credit to the guys signing the checks this year and know that what they pulled off the past few days would make the old man proud.