Cano’s slam buries Angels in series finale

This one looked like trouble, at several different points as well. The Yankees had some issues with a rookie pitcher they’d never seen before and things got hairy in the ninth, but ultimately it was another win for New York in what was probably their most important series of the season (to date).

Boom.

Robbie Makes ‘Em Pay

The Angels have long been billed as a fundamentally sound club that plays good defense and runs the bases well and blah blah blah, but they sure didn’t do that in the seventh inning of this one. The Yankees had runners on first and second with two outs following some Fernando Rodney hilarity, but Mark Teixeira chopped the routinest of routine grounders to second. The inning should have been over, but Maicer Izturis got ahead of himself and took his eye off the ball, muffing the grounder and extending the inning. Extra outs are bad news, especially against good teams like the Yankees.

That brought Robinson Cano to the plate with the bases juiced and two outs, though he was just 5-for-25 with zero homers off Scott Downs in his career. The Halos southpaw started him out with a sinker down and in, which Cano ripped down the first base line but just foul. Downs came right back the same pitch, but Robinson made the adjustment and swatted it off the facing of the second deck in right for a tie-breaking grand slam. The inning was supposed to over, but Izturis gave the Yankees an extra out and boy did they pay for it. It’s the first homerun Downs has allowed to a lefty since June 2nd of last year, when Carl Crawford got him.

The funny thing is that Izturis’ error was almost like a thank you gift for Brett Gardner‘s bunt earlier in the inning. Rodney came into the game with a 5.40 BB/9 on the season and he immediately walked the leadoff guy, and that’s not exactly a situation that screams “give away an out!” The Yankees did anyway, but Izturis was nice enough to give them the out back a few batters later.

WWWMW™ Continues

Cano’s grand slam gave the Yankees a comfy 6-2 lead, so Cory Wade came on for the final three outs in the ninth. He got a quick ground ball out, but then Izturis singled kinda sorta back up the middle and Peter Bourjos doubled into the left field corner. That put men at second and third with one out, meaning the tying run was on deck. Technically, that’s a save situation, so in came Mariano Rivera.

New Yankee Stadium aficionado Russell Branyan stepped to the plate in place of Bobby Wilson, and clobbered the first pitch he saw into the right field stands for a three-run shot. It was almost an identical pitch to the one Bobby Abreu hit out on Monday, a cutter on the inner half that didn’t cut. Mo got the next two outs without any stress, though he and Russell Martin changed up the game plan and pitched away from the two lefties to get the last two outs.

It’s the seventh time since becoming the closer that Rivera has allowed runs in three straight games, and it’s the third time since becoming a full-time reliever that he’s allowed homers in back-to-back games. Joe Girardi said after the game that he’ll be worried about Mo “if it happened for a month,” which is my line of thought. We’ve seen him come out of bad weeks before and we’ll see him come out of bad weeks again.

Bomb.

Third Time’s A Charm For Granderson

Curtis Granderson‘s new favorite number must be two. Tuesday he made a boneheaded baserunning play to end the game, a play so stupid you had to facepalm twice after it happened. Then on Wednesday he atoned for his sin by clubbing (wait for it) two homers in a win over the Halos. In this game, he hit into not one, but (yes!) two double plays in his first two at-bats before hitting a (here it comes!) TWO-run homer to tie things up in the sixth. Maybe that means he’ll finish in second place in the MVP voting after the season. Either way, Curtis now leads all of baseball with 93 RBI, jumping past Adrian Gonzalez with the homer. RBI’s aren’t the best stat in the world, but it sure it sure is cool seeing his name atop the leaderboard.

Leftovers

Bartolo Colon made just one mistake in this game, catching too much of the plate with a two-seamer to Alberto Callaspo that he hit out for a two-run homer in the fifth. Erick Aybar ended his 0-for-30 streak (yes, 0-for-30) with an infield single one batter prior. Bart struck out three and walked two, giving up five hits and just the two runs. I liked the decision to lift him after six even though he had only thrown 91 pitches, we’re at the point in the season where Joe Girardi has to consider saving bullets and stuff.

Rafael Soriano replaced Colon in the seventh and allowed his first baserunner since May 13th on a ground ball single through the right side. He’d retired 16 straight since coming off the disabled list. David Robertson fired a perfect eighth before the Wade/Mo fiasco in the ninth. Meanwhile, Hector Noesi has thrown 2.2 IP in the last 15 days. There’s just so much wrong with this Noesi situation. Sigh.

Leadoff man Brett Gardner had a double and a walk, though his streak of 22 consecutive steals came to an end when he was thrown out to end the eighth. For shame. Derek Jeter had three hits and a walk, raising his season line to .276/.340/.362. Since coming off the DL, he’s hitting .312/.371/.408 in the perpetually growing sample size of 140 plate appearances. Mark Teixeira and Nick Swisher both singled, and Swisher, Eric Chavez, and Frankie Cervelli each drew walks. Martin pinch-ran for Cervelli in that seventh inning for some reason unbeknownst to me (is he really that much faster?), and apparently no one bothered to ask Girardi about it after the game. Just seemed weird, like something (injury? trade?) up.

The Yankees have won two in a row and ten of 13. After taking two of three from the team chasing them for the wildcard, the Yankees lead the Angels by eight full games. That’s a mighty comfortable lead in the middle of August.

Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings

MLB.com has the box score and video, FanGraphs some other stuff, and ESPN the updated rankings.

Up Next

It’s a mid-August Yankees-Rays series that doesn’t mean a whole lot, kinda like the old Devil Rays days. CC Sabathia gets the start on Friday night against his ace lefty counterpart, David Price. Word on the street is RAB Tickets can get you into the stadium for cheap if you’re considering a game this weekend.

Williams, Culver, Gamel have big days in SI win

Dan Brewer is headed back to the DL, this time with a knee issue. He had an MRI this morning. Terry Tiffee (hamstring) was activated off the DL to take his place. Meanwhile, Wilkins Arias was promoted to Triple-A Scranton following tonight’s game.

Triple-A Scranton (1-0 loss to Gwinnett) faced on of the game’s better pitching prospects
Kevin Russo, 2B: 0 for 4, 2 K
Chris Dickerson, RF & Jesus Montero, C: both 1 for 4 – Montero struck out
Mike Lamb, 1B, Brandon Laird, 3B & Doug Bernier, SS: all 0 for 3 – Lamb walked … Bernier struck out once, Laird twice
Jorge Vazquez, DH & Greg Golson, CF: both 1 for 3 – JoVa doubled and whiffed
Jordan Parraz, LF: 0 for 2, 1 BB, 1 K
Pants Lendleton, RHP: 5 IP, 6 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 2 K, 5-4 GB/FB – 50 of 73 pitches were strikes (68.5%)
Andrew Brackman, RHP: 3 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 2 K, 4-1 GB/FB – 21 of 28 pitches were strikes (75%) … was mostly 91-92 on the gun … who is this man and what as he done with Andrew Brackman?
Buddy Carlyle, RHP: 1 IP, zeroes, 2 K, 1-0 GB/FB – seven of his eight pitches were strikes

[Read more…]

A-Rod to begin rehab assignment on Friday

Update (Aug. 11th): Just as a quick update, the Yankees have confirmed that A-Rod will begin his rehab assignment with High-A Tampa on Friday. He’ll be the DH in that game before playing a few innings in the field over the weekend.

Original Post (Aug. 10th): Joe Girardi announced during his pregame press conference that Alex Rodriguez is very likely to begin a minor league rehab assignment on Friday. He’ll serve as the designated hitter, then play the field on Saturday, then who knows after that. A-Rod’s not leaving Florida until he’s ready to be activated, so that means he’ll rehab with High-A Tampa or the Rookie Level GCL Yankees. Eduardo Nunez has been pretty good as the fill-in third baseman, but holy cow will it be nice to have Alex back.

Open Thread: The Postseason Schedule

November baseball in 2009 was cool. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

You know it’s getting late in the season when MLB announces its postseason schedule. They did just that yesterday, and the good news is that they’ve cut down on the number of off days. Now teams will only be off for travel, so that miscellaneous off day in the middle of seven-games series has been eliminated. Now there’s a maximum of two off days per series, which is perfect. The postseason starts on Friday, September 30th this year, and the World Series will begin on Wednesday, October 19th. A potential Game Seven would be played on Thursday, October 27th, so the season is going to end pretty early this year, at least compared to the last few.

Anyway, here is the night’s open thread. You can watch the replay of this afternoon’s game on YES, but there will also be a live game broadcast on MLB Network. at 8pm ET. The team’s depend on where you live. Oh, and apparently the NFL preseason starts tonight, but I have no idea if there’s a game actually on television. You all know what to do by now, so have at it. Anything goes.

Three Yankees on BA’s Top Minor League Tools Lists

Yesterday we talked about Baseball America’s lists of the top tools in the big leagues, and today they released their lists for Triple-A, Double-A, and Single-A (subs. req’d). Not too many Yankees farmhand made the cut, only Brandon Laird (best defensive 3B), Ramon Flores (best plate discipline), and Slade Heathcott (best defensive outfielder) took home honors at their respective levels. Jesus Montero got beat out by Ryan Lavarnway (Red Sox) for top power prospect, Dellin Betances by Henderson Alvarez (Blue Jays) for best fastball, Manny Banuelos by Eric Surkamp (Giants) for best changeup, and Gary Sanchez by Bryce Harper for best power prospect. Seems like the Yanks have a lot of guys that would rank second, third, or fourth in the various categories rather than first.

Yankees likely to cut rotation down to five by Monday

Prior to this afternoon’s game, Joe Girardi indicated that the Yankees are likely to get back to a five-man rotation by the time they start their road trip against the Royals on Monday. “We’re going to try to make our decision before we go to Kansas City,” said Girardi. “We’ve been talking about it, that we need to get down to five men. I’ll let you know [who’s out] when I know.” Sounds to me like Phil Hughes is getting Saturday’s start to show he’s worth the rotation spot, otherwise it’s back to the bullpen for him. Sigh.

Heat mapping Mariano’s cutter

“The pitch didn’t get there enough,” said Mariano Rivera after giving up what proved to be the game-winning homerun to Bobby Abreu on Monday. “It was middle in, not in enough. He put good wood on the ball. You have to make sure you get it there. It didn’t get there.” Two poor outings in a row for the greatest closer of all-time always creates an uproar, so Bill Chuck broke out some heat maps.

They show that Rivera’s cutter has been slowly drifting more out over the plate against lefties, but I’m not sure I agree with Bill’s conclusion that it’s a result of the pitch not cutting as much as it once did. The PitchFX data shows that it’s still getting as much horizontal break as the last two years, if not more. Perhaps it’s just a location issue, maybe he’s having a harder time getting the pitch in on the hands of lefties? If so, is that something that could be fixed by moving a little closer to the first base side of the rubber? I have no idea, just kinda spit balling here. Either way, check out Bill’s post, very interesting stuff.