Yanks drop season opener in walk-off style

I don’t think any of us were hoping to see this after nearly six baseball-less months, but it is what it is. The Yankees dropped their first game of the season to the Rays on Friday afternoon in the yuckiest of ways, a walk-off loss.

"LOL first inning IBB" (REUTERS/Steve Nesius)

The Grand Slam

I shouldn’t get that annoyed one inning into the season. Second and third with two outs in the first inning, and Joe Girardi orders CC Sabathia to intentionally walk Sean Rodriguez? I get that Rodriguez hits lefties well — career .346 wOBA vs. LHP — but my goodness. It’s the first inning of the first game of the season. You have your ace on the mound. Pitch to the man, who cares if he hits a three-run homer? The odds are very much against it since Rodriguez isn’t a power hitter, even against lefties.

Anyway, Carlos Pena comes up with the bases loaded. CC Sabathia was struggling to throw strikes, and sure enough he fell behind in the count and eventually ran if full with nowhere to put him. He had to throw a fastball to a fastball hitter in a fastball count, and Pena hit it out of the park. Predictable grand slam was predictable. If you can’t let your ace pitch to a Sean Rodriguez in the first inning of the season, you’re really over-thinking things.

The Comeback

The Yankees would not be thwarted by Girardi’s overmanaging, however. Jamie Shields was clearly off his game, and the Yankees touched him up for two runs a half-inning after Pena gave them a four-run lead. Alex Rodriguez (double) and Mark Teixeira (hit-by-pitch) scored on Raul Ibanez‘s ground ball and a Shields wild pitch in the top of the second. One inning later they tacked on four runs thanks to a Nick Swisher ground out and an Ibanez three-run homer. He was mashing the ball at the end of camp, and it carried right over into the season. It was no wall-scraper either, that thing was halfway up the stands in right.

RBI machine. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)

I Can Has Tack-On Runs?

With six runs on the board against Shields in the first three innings, it seemed like the Yankees were good in pretty good shape. However, after Ibanez’s homer with one out in the third, they sent 29 batters to plate and only received three singles. One wasn’t even a single — Brett Gardner‘s line drive to Evan Longoria at third should have been caught and ruled an error, not a single — and another was an infield hit. The Yankees didn’t have a single hit after the fourth inning.

That sounds pretty awful, but the Yankees still had plenty of chances to score because they’re ridiculously patient. They drew seven walks as a team and five after Ibanez’s homer. The bases were left loaded in the second (Curtis Granderson struck out), the fourth (Ibanez ground out), and the seventh (Derek Jeter ground out). I thought Andruw Jones should have pinch-hit for Gardner when the left-handed Jake McGee came in with two on and two outs in seventh, but he didn’t and Gardner instead drew a walk. I wish Girardi was a little more liberal with his pinch-hitting tactics late in the game, Andruw could have done some serious damage right there.

Sabathia Settles Down

There’s no doubt he was off early in the game — four of the first six hitters he faced reached — but Sabathia settled down and allowed just one run from the second through sixth innings. The one came on a Longoria solo homer, and I can’t get upset over that. That guy is ridiculously good. Sabathia gave up a few hits — some bloops, some hard hit — after that but pitched out of every jam. He went to his slider in every big spot and it was effective.

Sabathia struck out seven in his six innings, walked two (one on purpose), and didn’t give up any extra-base hits besides the Pena and Longoria homers. Believe it or not, it was his second best Opening Day performance as a Yankees in terms of Game Score. He had an 18 in 2009, a 38 in 2010, a 55 in 2011, and a 40 on Friday afternoon. To no one’s surprise, he stood at his locker after the game and said putting Rodriguez on base intentionally in the first was the right move even though he was probably fuming inside.

Death By Bullpen

(AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)

Unsurprisingly, Girardi went to his rigid bullpen formula after Sabathia was out of the game. Rafael Soriano threw a scoreless seventh despite unintentionally intentionally walking Longoria, and David Robertson had to bust out his Houdini act to pitch a scoreless eighth. He walked Rodriguez to start the inning, then gave up a ground ball single to Pena to put men on the corners with no outs. Robertson then struck out Stephen Vogt, Jose Molina, and Matt Joyce in order. Sure, only one of those guys qualifies as a big league caliber hitter, but it was fun nonetheless.

A one-run lead with Mariano Rivera on the mound is a situation I would take any day of the week, but it just wasn’t meant to be on Friday. Ben Zobrist tripled in Desmond Jennings to tie the game before an out was recorded, so Girardi intentionally loaded the bases with the winning run on third to create the force at every base. I don’t like the strategy — it creates zero margin for error, a walk or hit-by-pitch ends it — but it is certainly defensible. On went Longoria and on went Luke Scott before Rodriguez struck out, creating some glimmer of hope. Unfortunately, Pena was able to run the count full and end things on a fly ball to the wall.

Mariano goes through two rough patches every year, one in April and one in August. Hopefully he’s just getting the April rough patch out of the way a little early this year. Everything does get magnified on Opening Day though, so you’ll hear a bit about this one for the next 18 hours or so. Mo will be fine though, he always is.

A conversation that never should have happened. (REUTERS/Steve Nesius)

Leftovers

I already said that I don’t like intentionally loading the bases in the ninth, but I do like that Girardi went with the five-man infield after that. Rivera generates a ton of weak contact, especially on the ground, and that was their best chance to cut the runner down at the plate. A fly ball wins the game for Tampa anyway, so two outfielders is no big deal.

It’s one game, but A-Rod does look pretty damn good. He doubled into the gap, laced a single, and drew two walks for a cool .800 OBP one game into the season. He also made a new nice plays at third, though his defense wasn’t really the question. It’s his health.

Robinson Cano had two singles in his first Opening Day start as a three-hole hitter, and he saw a whopping nine pitches in five plate appearances. Every other starter saw at least 17, and seven of the other eight saw at least 20. That’s Robbie though, he’s a hacker and it works for him.

Granderson was the only Yankee not to reach base. Jeter (single and walk), Cano (two singles), A-Rod(single, double, and two walks), Tex (two walks and the hit-by-pitch), and Gardner (two singles and a walk even though the one single should have been an error) all reached base multiple times. Six runs out of 17 baserunners is what happens when you go 2-11 with runners in scoring position. RISPFAIL right on Opening Day.

Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings

MLB.com has the box score and video highlights, FanGraphs the nerdy stuff, and ESPN the updated standings. It’s a little too early to be scoreboard watching, but to each his own.


Source: FanGraphs

Up Next

Game two of the series and season will be played tomorrow night, a dreaded Saturday night game. First pitch is scheduled for 7:10pm ET, and it’ll be Hiroki Kuroda against David Price.

Campos shines in debut with Yankees

The Yankees have signed left-hander Matt Bashore. The 24-year-old was the 46th overall pick in the 2009 draft, but he’s missed a ton of time since then (only 18.2 IP) due to elbow surgeries: one to remove bone chips, and Tommy John. Baseball America ranked him as the Twins’ 26th best prospect prior to the 2010 season, saying he sits anywhere from 89-94 with the fastball and backs it up with a “plus curveball and an average slider.” Whether or not that stuff came back after surgery is another matter entirely.

Triple-A Empire State (6-5 loss to Lehigh Valley)
2B Kevin Russo: 1-5, 1 K
CF Chris Dickerson: 1-4, 1 R, 1 2B, 2 K — threw a runner out at third
1B Steve Pearce: 3-4, 2 R, 1 2B, 1 SB — very nice
DH Jack Cust: 2-4, 2 R, 1 2B, 1 RBI
3B Brandon Laird: 1-4, 1 2B, 1 RBI, 2 E (throwing, fielding)
LF Colin Curtis: 1-4, 1 K
RF Cole Garner: 1-4, 1 2B, 1 RBI, 3 K
C Frankie Cervelli: 0-4, 3 K – that’s not going to work Frankie, you gotta show them they made a mistake
SS Ramiro Pena: 1-4
RHP Dellin Betances: 5 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 6 K, 6/0 GB/FB — 54 of 81 pitches were strikes (66.7%) … very nice, effective and efficient
SwP Pat Venditte: 2 IP, 4 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 2 BB, 1 K, 2/2 GB/FB — 26 of 41 pitches were strikes (63.4%) … can’t imagine this is how he wanted his Triple-A debut to go
RHP Kevin Whelan: 1 IP, zeroes, 3 K — nine of 14 pitches were strikes … now entering his fourth straight year at Triple-A

[Read more…]

Friday Night Open Thread

I’ve had the video bookmarked for weeks, but I completely forgot about it. It’s a little outdated now since the season started, but I guess it’s better late than never. Consider it our last look back at 2011. The recap of today’s game and DotF will be along a little later this evening, but for now use this as your open thread. The Nets are the only local team in action tonight, but talk about whatever you want. Enjoy.

Yankees top FanGraphs’ organization rankings

We’ve been rolling out our organizational rankings at FanGraphs over the last two weeks, and today the Yankees officially topped the list for the third straight year. These aren’t just farm system rankings, it’s the entire organization from the majors through the minors and into the front office. I wrote the post, so you should definitely check it out because it’s really awesome.

Pitching Updates: Pineda, Pettitte, Aardsma

Got a few quick updates on some injured and returning hurlers…

  • Michael Pineda played catch yesterday for the first time since being diagnosed with shoulder tendinitis last week, and the good news is that he played catch again today. Joe Girardi said it’s “safe to say” he won’t be back in the bigs this month, however. [Erik Boland & Bryan Hoch]
  • Andy Pettitte is not injured, and in fact it’s quite the opposite. He threw 45 pitches in a bullpen session today and is still on track to throw two innings in a minor league game on Monday. [Boland]
  • David Aardsma threw a bullpen session today, his first since having Tommy John surgery last July. It doesn’t sound like much, but it is a significant step in the rehab process. [Aardsma]

Game One: Opening Day

This offseason seemed to be a little longer than usual, perhaps because the Yankees got knocked out of the playoffs a little earlier than expected. Or maybe it’s because they didn’t get down to any serious hot stove business until the middle of January. Either way, it’s all in the past now. Baseball’s back.

The Yankees open the 2012 regular season at their home away from home today: Tampa, Florida. They didn’t even have to travel after Spring Training ended two days ago. The lineup is relatively unchanged but the pitching staff certainly is, we’re just not going to get to see it this afternoon. CC Sabathia is on the bump for his seventh consecutive Opening Day start and fourth as a Yankee. Here is your lineup…

SS Derek Jeter
CF Curtis Granderson
2B Robinson Cano
3B Alex Rodriguez
1B Mark Teixeira
RF Nick Swisher
DH Raul Ibanez
C Russell Martin
LF Brett Gardner

LHP CC Sabathia

Today’s game starts at 3:10pm ET and can be seen on YES locally or MLB Network nationally. We’re going to chat for the first few innings, so join in the fun after the jump.

[Read more…]

The RAB Radio Show: April 6th, 2012

Baseball’s back, baby! The Yanks will start shortly, but before they take the field for the first time in 2012 we have a little podcast action for y’all. We’re talking about the 25-man roster, so it goes a little something like this:

  • Pineda’s injury and it’s effects on the rotation and him personally.
  • The rest of the rotation, including some optimism for Phil Hughes.
  • The bench, on which we note one questionable but understandable decision.
  • The bullpen, which underwent a few changes in the last week.
  • And, of course, the odd, odd lineup that Tampa Bay will trot out today.

Podcast run time 39:59

Here’s how you can listen to podcast:

[audio:http://riveraveblues.com/podcasts/TheRABRadioShow040612.mp3]

Intro music: “Die Hard” courtesy of reader Alex Kresovich. Thanks to Tyler Wilkinson for the graphic.