Here’s a fantastic story for the afternoon: ESPN’s Jorge Arangure wrote about fill-in closer Rafael Soriano, a quiet man who puts baseball and family above all else. Arangure chronicled Soriano’s climb to the majors, which started as the child of a poor single mother who refused to falsify documents so he could sign with the Hiroshima Carp as a switch-hitting outfielder at age 16. It’s an awesome read and gets RAB’s highest level of recommendation, so make sure you check it out.
There’s only a week left in the regular season, but the magic number to clinch the division still sits at seven. The Yankee control their own destiny but I don’t think anyone wants to see this thing go right down to the wire. Being able to rest some guys, particularly relievers, in that final series against the Red Sox would be nice. That’s why last night’s loss stung so much, it was a chance to inch closer to the division title and make life a little easier. The Yankees have a chance to atone for that loss this afternoon with their ace on the mound against a pitcher a) with a 5.9 BB/9 in nearly 80 innings this year, and b) starting on three days’ rest. Here’s the starting lineup…
RF Ichiro Suzuki
SS Derek Jeter
2B Robinson Cano
1B Nick Swisher
CF Curtis Granderson
3B Eric Chavez
DH Raul Ibanez
C Chris Stewart
LF Chris Dickerson
LHP CC Sabathia
This afternoon’s game is scheduled to start at 1:10pm ET and can be seen on YES. Enjoy.
Alex Rodriguez is day-to-day with a sore left foot after fouling a ball off the top of the foot in his final at-bat last night. He won’t be available at all today. It’s swollen and right now he’ll just ice it and receive treatment. No tests are planned and it’s unclear when exactly he’ll be able to return to the lineup. It’s probably worth noting that the Yankees are due to play four games on the turf in Toronto this weekend.
Hard to believe it, but the regular season ends one week from today. The schedule seems to pass a little quicker every year. Anyway, the Yankees need some combination of wins and Angels losses totaling five to clinch a playoff berth, but we’re all focusing on the AL East crown. The magic number to win the division is just seven. That’s bigger than it appears.
1. The old saying is that you should beat up on the bad teams and hold your own against the good ones, but the Yankees are now just 3-3 against the Twins this year. They’ve historically owned Minnesota, winning 63 of the 80 games the two clubs have played during the Ron Gardenhire era coming into the season. Four of those 17 losses came against in-his-prime Johan Santana as well. Splitting six games isn’t a disaster, but sheesh, it really would have been nice to pad the win total again.
2. At what point does Clay Rapada start stealing some of the high-leverage matchup work away from Boone Logan? Logan has allowed runs — either his own or inherited — in four his last nine appearances with an overall 5.26 ERA (4.62 FIP) in 25.2 innings since the calendar flipped to July. Lefties are now hitting .235/.285/.361 (130 PA) off him this season while Rapada has held same-side hitters to a .190/.268/.260 line (113 PA). If nothing else, Boone probably just needs a breather. He’s appeared in 77 games (!) and seems to warm up even when he doesn’t get into the game.
3. Building on that point — doesn’t it seem like Joe Girardi is becoming a little Joe Torre-ish with his reliever usage? I get that the games and division race are close and everything, but he has a clear Circle of Trust™ and has leaned on those folks heavily down the stretch. Strong bullpens have been a staple the last few years, but this season the relief corps is quite leaky. Obviously Mariano Rivera’s injury is a big part of that, but was the bullpen so effective from 2009-2011 because of how Girardi used it, or did the relievers just make the skipper look smart? It’s probably a little both, really. Either way, the bullpen has now allowed runs in six of the team’s last eight games. Yikes.
4. Might as well end with a positive: how amazing has Andy Pettitte this year? Obviously the leg injury is really unfortunate, but otherwise he’s pitched to a 2.71 ERA (3.32 FIP) in eleven starts and 69.2 innings. This is a 40-year-old guy who willingly spent a full year away from baseball, and yet he’s returned better than ever. Back in Spring Training I joked a bunch (I think I even said it in the podcast and in the weekly chat a few times) about the year off doing good for his arm and body overall, but I didn’t expect this. Eric wrote about this yesterday but it’s worth repeating: the veteran guys — particularly Pettitte and Derek Jeter — having been coming huge all season.
That loss stings. The way the Yankees lost wasn’t particularly painful, it wasn’t a walk-off or something gut-wrenching like that, but they had a lead as late as the seventh and failed to convert that into a win and increase their division lead. Bah.
Phil Hughes and his terrible mustache didn’t pitch nearly as poorly as his pitching line — 6.2 IP, 6 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 1 BB, 4 K — would lead you believe. He allowed a run in the fourth on a bloop/Raul Ibanez defense combination, but otherwise cruised through the game until things got hairy in the seventh. Ryan Doumit led off the inning with a legit single to center, then Chris Parmalee worked a hard-fought eleven-pitch walk to put men on first and second with no outs. A pop-up and an infield single later, the bases were loaded with one out.
Nine-hole hitter Pedro Florimon whacked his first career homer on Monday night, but he’s not really much of a power thread. Hughes still managed to fall behind him 3-1 with the bases loaded, though two high fastballs for swinging strikes set him down for the second out. Florimon walked 33 times unintentionally in 472 minor league plate appearances this season, and I think that anyone with a modicum of plate discipline would have taken either the 3-1 or 3-2 pitch for ball four to force in a run. Phil got away with it though, and rather than get a chance to escape the jam Joe Girardi pulled the plug with four straight lefties due up and his pitch count at 99.
They’re Not Saying Boone, They’re Saying Boo
Maybe appearing in every other game for the first five months of the season wasn’t such a great idea after all. Boone Logan assumed that bases loaded, two outs jam from Hughes and promptly allowed three straight lefties to reach base, but not before uncorking a wild pitch to allow a run to cross the plate. Denard Span tagged him for a double, Ben Revere drew a walk, then Joe Mauer hit a single. Just like that, the 3-1 lead became a 5-3 deficit.
Now there is no shortage of second-guessing opportunity here. Span hits lefties better than righties and Hughes had retired him all three times (on ground balls) earlier in the game, but at the same time the right-hander was leaving a lot of pitches up in the zone and had already thrown 25+ pitches in the inning. Span isn’t much of a power threat but Phil is certainly capable of giving up a homer to anyone at any time. At the end of the day, not matter which move you think was the correct one — leaving Hughes in or going to the bullpen — the loss falls squarely on the shoulders of Logan. The primary lefty specialist can’t allow the first three lefties he faces to reach base. That’s the ballgame right there.
The Yankees scored all four of their runs on homers, which is entertaining because Target Field is supposed to be a pitcher’s park. Nick Swisher opened the scoring with a two-run homer in the fourth, his third straight day with a dinger. Russell Martin hit a solo shot on the first pitch of the seventh, then Andruw Jones delayed the inevitable with a solo shot with two outs in the ninth. You can’t even blame RISPFAIL for this one, they only had one at-bat in those situations (Swisher fouled out to end the first with men on the corners).
In hindsight, the two strike ’em out, throw ’em out double plays look much bigger considering the final score. Ichiro Suzuki and Martin were thrown out trying to steal second to end the third and fourth innings, respectively. Alex Rodriguez and Raul Ibanez did the strikeout honors. I get sending Ichiro, but Martin? I know he’s fast for a catcher, but you’re pushing it there.
Robinson Cano came into the game in a 3-for-25 skid but singled in each of his first three at-bats. He drew a walk the fourth time up. A-Rod and Curtis Granderson continued their struggles with a pair of 0-for-4s. The 9-1-2-3 stretch of hitters went a combined 2-for-16, so Cano didn’t have much of an opportunity to do damage with men on-base. Being held to two runs in six innings by Esmerling Vasquez is quite annoying.
Derek Jeter waited until his final at-bat to get a hit on Monday, but on Tuesday he took care of business his first time up. The single to right extended his hitting streak to 19 games, the third longest of his career and longest since 2007. Ichiro singled later in the game, and his hitting streak is at a much more modest eight games.
Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings
MLB.com has the box score and video highlights while ESPN has the updated standings. The Orioles lost to the Blue Jays thanks in part to former Yankee Aaron Laffey, so the lead in the AL East remains two in the loss column. Really would have been nice to stretch that to three. The Rays beat the sad, sad Red Sox and are five back. The magic number to clinch the division is down to seven while the magic number for a playoff spot is still just five. So close.
Same two teams in the rubber game on Wednesday afternoon, when CC Sabathia will look to build on his dominant start against the Athletics. He’ll be opposed by right-hander Sam Deduno. The matinee starts at 1pm ET.
We’re down to nine. Just nine games left in the season, a single-digit number that is simultaneously depressing (baseball be will gone soon) and exciting (hooray postseason!). The Yankees still have some work to do before guaranteeing themselves a spot in the playoffs of course, and another win tonight would go a long way towards that goal. The division lead is up to two, which feels enormous after three straight weeks of nothing more than a one-game separation. Here’s the lineup…
SS Derek Jeter
RF Ichiro Suzuki
3B Alex Rodriguez
DH Robinson Cano
1B Nick Swisher
CF Curtis Granderson
C Russell Martin
LF Raul Ibanez
2B Jayson Nix
RHP Phil Hughes
Tonight’s game is scheduled to start a little after 8pm ET and can be seen on My9. Enjoy.
The Yankees have activated both Brett Gardner and David Aardsma off the 60-day DL. Although Gardner has been taking batting practice and whatnot, I assume he will be limited to pinch-running and late-game defense duties from here on out. Aardsma is unlikely to see any meaningful innings.
To clear spots on the 40-man roster, both Steve Pearce and Justin Thomas were designated for assignment. Casey McGehee can hit lefties just as well (probably better, actually) as Pearce, but he offers more versatility and big league/pennant race experience. That last part probably doesn’t matter much. I thought the Yankees would keep Thomas as the third lefty for the final week of the season, but I guess Cory Wade built up enough good will last year and earlier this season to keep his job.