Orioles come back after rare Mo meltdown

(AP Photo/Gail Burton)

There’s nothing like two straight wins and three in four games to help us forget how ugly things were in the last week-and-a-half, but the same problems that doomed the Yankees during their slump reared their ugly heads again on Sunday. Opportunities to tack on runs early weren’t taken advantage of, and another strong pitching performance went to waste.

Scott Ties It Up

Mariano Rivera always has one or two stretches in a season when he suddenly looks human, when he blows a save or two and gives up some homers and can’t seem to hit his spots with his usual precision. That’s what he’s going through right now, and today it manifested itself in the form of a cutter that didn’t cut all the way in on Luke Scott, who did was he was supposed to do and crushed the ball out of the park. The solo homer to lead off the ninth tied the game at three, continuing this recent stretch of unfortunate pitching and tough losses.

Mo now has four blown saves on the season, two of them coming on the road trip. He’ll be fine though, he always is.

Insurance Runs? Like The Yankees Need Those!

Orioles starter Chris Tillman was asking for it. He allowed three hits and walked six batters in just three-and-two-thirds innings of work, but the Yanks just wouldn’t give it to him. They pushed across a first inning run, then two more in the fourth, but that was it. They left a man on first in the first, a man on first in the second, the bases loaded in the fourth, a man on first in the fifth, runners at the corners in the sixth and then again in the ninth, yet none of that represented their biggest blown opportunity.

(AP Photo/Gail Burton)

After Scott tied the game up, Alex Rodriguez pinch hit for Greg Golson (who replaced Austin Kearns earlier in the game) and drew a walk to lead off the 11th. Eduardo Nunez came in to pinch run, and before Ramiro Pena could bunt him into scoring position reliever Mike Gonzalez threw a pickoff attempt into the stands, putting Nunez on third automatically. Joe Girardi then subbed in Marcus Thames for Pena in the middle of the at-bat with a 1-1 count, though Thames couldn’t get Nunez home when he swung and missed at a pitch in the dirt for strike three.

Girardi then sent Mark Teixeira in to pinch hit for Brett Gardner (more on that later), but Buck Showalter got all manager-like and intentionally walked not just Tex, but Derek Jeter after to him to load the bases with one out. The Yanks couldn’t possible screw this up, right? Wrong. Lance Berkman, hitting from his weaker side, bounced into a double play that killed the inning, his second GIDP of the game. At -.361 WPA, it was the most costly play of the game for New York.

Andy Was Dandy

(AP Photo/Gail Burton)

Even though the Yanks dropped this game, it was undeniably positive in the big picture. Andy Pettitte made his first start since July 18th due to a groin injury, and it was like he didn’t miss any time at all. Girardi said he would be thrilled to get six innings out of his starter, but Andy cruised right through those six innings with ease. If he wasn’t limited to 80-85 pitches (he threw 79), he would have been out there for the seventh inning as well, no doubt about it.

Pettitte battled his command early, running three ball counts to four of the first eight men he faced. The O’s tied the game at one on an Adam Jones bunt single with two outs in the first, a play that tested Andy’s groin on the fielding attempt, but after that they had little chance against the southpaw. Pettitte sat down 15 of the final 17 men he faced, including the last 11 consecutively. He was throwing his breaking ball for strikes, his cutter into to righties, and his changeup down and out of the zone for weak grounders. It was vintage Andy, and the Yanks have to be extremely encouraged by what they saw out of him.

Leftovers

Girardi burned through eight players in the span of four plate appearances in that 11th inning, but the only move worth second guessing was pinch hitting Tex for Gardner. Yes, it’s Mark freaking Teixeira, but Gardner had already reached base twice in the game and hasn’t shown enough of a platoon split to worry about the left-on-left matchup. Given Tex’s injured hand (and toe), it’s not hard to make a case that Gardy was a better bet to get the run in right there, especially since Showalter went right to the four-fingers once the first baseman was announced.

(AP Photo/Gail Burton)

Robbie Cano had two hits and walk, and finished the year with a .444/.487/.694 batting line against the O’s. Unfortunately he was the only Yankee with more than one hit, and was on deck when Berkman hit into that rally killing double play in the 11th.

Not the best day for the bullpen, with Boone Logan and Kerry Wood combining to surrender a run in the eight before Mo blew the save. David Robertson pitched a scoreless tenth before taking the loss in the next inning thanks to a bloop double by Scott and legit gap double by Ty Wigginton. It happens, what can you do.

The Rays lost, so the lead in the division remains at half-a-game. The Red Sox won however, so the lead on the Wild Card shrinks to just seven with 13 to play. I thought the Sox were supposed to back in this thing, what happened? Seem kinda foolish looking back on it, no? I told you not to worry about them.

WPA Graph & Box Score

Gross. MLB.com has the box score and video, FanGraphs the nerd score.

Up Next

The Yankees will dedicate a new monument in Monument Park to George Steinbrenner tomorrow evening, then they’ll take on the Rays in their first game in the Bronx in what feels like an eternity. The final homestand of the season (!!!) will start with Ivan Nova and Matt Garza.

Open Thread: Manning Bowl

(AP Photo/Ronen Zilberman)

Thankfully the sports gods have given us plenty of ways to get the frustration of the latest Yankee loss out of our minds. For first time in what, four years?, Peyton Manning and his Colts take on brother Eli and the Giants. Not that I’m qualified to make predictions, by my money’s on Eli. No particular reason why, just an uneducated hunch. The game starts at 8:20pm ET and can be seen on NBC.

If you’re still yearning some baseball, the ESPN Sunday Night Game features a pair of non-contenders in the Tigers and White Sox (Bonderman vs. Danks). That sounds very easy to pass up. Enjoy the game, y’all.

Torre, Mattingly to attend Monday’s Steinbrenner tribute

The Yankees are set to pay tribute to George M. Steinbrenner III prior to their game against the Rays tomorrow evening, and according to Bill Madden, both Joe Torre and Don Mattingly will be in attendance. The Dodgers are off tomorrow, and it will be the first time that either Torre or Mattingly will return to Yankee Stadium (new or old) since leaving after the 2007 season. I expect them both to get roaring ovations, especially Donnie Baseball.

The Yanks will be unveiling a monument honoring Steinbrenner in Monument Park, the first new one since 1999.

Football Open Thread

We’ll have the regular Game Thread along for the Yankees shortly, but use this one to talk about all of today’s football action. The New York sports gods have smiled down upon us today; the Yanks play at 1:35pm ET, the Jets at 4:15pm, the Giants at 8:20pm. Awesome.

Game 149: Andy’s back

(AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

We’ve missed you, Andy. Let’s finish off this sweep and go into the Tampa series on a high note, shall we?

Here’s the lineup…

LF Gardner, Brett
SS Jeter, Derek
1B Berkman, Lance
2B Cano, Robinson
DH Swisher, Nick
C Posada, Jorge
CF Granderson, Curtis
RF Kearns, Austin
3B Pena, Ramiro

And on the bump, it’s Andrew Pettitte.

First pitch is schedule for a little after 1:30pm ET, and the game can be seen on YES locally or TBS nationally. Remember, if you want to talk about the NFL games, we have a thread for that. Enjoy.

Sunday Morning Links

Here’s some Sunday morning links while we wait for Yankees-Orioles followed by Pats-Jets (my pick: Pats 27, Jets 13).

In light of the recent news that Joe Torre is stepping down as Dodgers manager, Chad Finn at the Boston Globe takes a look back at the 1998 Yankees.  Finn takes shots at the Yankees from time to time but it’s all in good fun and he’s one of the Boston writers who I can actually read when it comes to baseball.  He gets a shot in at Joe Morgan and calls Tim Raines a Hall of Famer, so he’s good in my book.

Within a piece at AOL Fanhouse Andrew Johnson has an interesting take on the Jeter situation comparing him to the Dave Matthews Band.  Once you read it, it does make some sense.  The best line of the whole piece however, is this “I’m a sportswriter, not an ethicist.”  If only more people that write or talk about sports for a living understood that.

Carl Crawford was upset for the criticism he took after getting thrown out at third base to end Tuesday nights game.  Personally I’m not buying that the Yankees will be all in on Crawford in the offseason, but if he got upset by this and he ends up in pinstripes, he’ll have quite an adjustment to the New York media.  It’s also interesting that the writer notes Crawford seemed pretty stung by the criticism coming from the Yankees.

Ken Burns is back in the baseball business as his new documentary “The Tenth Inning” is set to air on PBS on September 28th and 29th.  “The Tenth Inning” is a sequel to Burns’ 1994 “Baseball”, and will cover new things that have happened in baseball since the last film.  For many of the readers here the past 15 years or so covers a lot of the time we’ve been avidly following the game, so it is sure to be a very interesting watch.

Yanks offense returns for 11-3 rout

(AP Photo/Nick Wass)

Put the man on and get him in. The Yankees had the first half of this formula all month, but they haven’t executed the second. Last night they took care of business, putting 17 runners on base and leaving just seven of them stranded. That helped CC Sabathia through a shaky first few innings. He settled down as the game went on and ultimately was awarded his 20th victory of the season. He cared so much that he was in the clubhouse when the team recorded the final out.

The Yanks had control of this game from the beginning. They loaded the bases on a hit by pitch, a walk, and a single in the first, and then brought around two runner on a Jorge Posada single. Then in the second they got another on a sac fly. While the Orioles did creep back into it with a run in both the second and third, that’s as close as they’d get the rest of the way. The Yankees answered with another run in the fourth and then two in the fifth before tacking on five the rest of the way to seal the game.

(AP Photo/Nick Wass)

Derek Jeter continued his revival, going 2 for 3 with two runs scored and two RBI. It seems like he’s had a good at-bat every single time up since the day off last weekend in Texas. His OBP has actually dropped a bit, but it seems like he’s ready to rip off a string of excellent games. The two runs scored put him over the century mark for the season. Robinson Cano also crossed the century mark tonight, as his two-run home run gave him 101 RBI on the season. He’s the third Yankee to reach the plateau.

What makes these plateaus so remarkable is that they come from infielders. The outfielders are always knows as the heavy bats, but the Yankees don’t operate that way. All four infielders slot into the first five lineup spots. That’s a pretty remarkable feat. What makes it more insane is that all three of the Yankees’ outfielders are among the top 11 AL outfielders in WAR. The offense might have sputtered lately, but it’s tough to question a group this stacked with top players.

(AP Photo/Nick Wass)

Sabathia added a line to his Cy Young resume by recording his 20th win of the season. This shouldn’t matter, but it does. CC has pitched wonderfully this season and has lived up to all expectations of him. He also happens to pitch for the best team in the league. That alone — the best pitcher on the bet team — certainly should warrant consideration for the award. But after further examination it’s clear that other pitchers are having better years. But for the Yanks, CC has done it all. With the magic number down to just 7, it looks like Sabathia can take it easy in his last couple of starts and gear up for a long playoff run.

After a mean slump followed by last night’s dramatics, a blowout was just what the Yankees needed. Berkman was the only starter without a hit, but he gets a pass for the way he’s laced the ball since he returned from the DL. Other than that it was a relatively stress-free game. We’ll take another one of those any day.