…and we’re just living in it.
Perhaps Mike Mussina, 39, sold his soul to the devil. Perhaps he has been replaced with Bizarro Mike Mussina. Perhaps he’s simply learned to be a better pitcher, proving the exception to the rule stating you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. No matter what, it’s become a pleasure to watch Mike Mussina — the AL leader in wins — work this year.
Now, I’ll be honest with you: Every time Mussina struggles in the first inning, I always think, “Well, that goes that Cinderella story.” When I turned off the game to go out to dinner after the top of the second, I figured we were in for a slugfest. Imagine my surprise to find that Mike Mussina was nearly flawless after that first inning.
The Yanks quickly fell behind tonight, 3-0, on a mammoth home run by Carlos Lee. Mussina looked vulnerable, but the Yanks’ bats quickly plated two to close the gap while the new Mike Mussina went to work. Over the next five innings, Mussina would allow three hits and no runs while walking no one and striking out four. The Yanks would plate eight runs and move three games above .500 for the first time all season. Believe it or not, the Yanks are now third in the Wild Card race.
While the bats went to work — with contributions from Melky Cabrera, Jose Molina and Wilson Betemit, not the most likely cast of characters — the story was Mussina. Moose hasn’t walked a batter in his last 14 innings, and he’s now won 10 games for the 17th time in his 18-year career. That is no small feat.
On the season, Mussina has thrown 81.1 innings, and he’s 10-4 with a 3.87 ERA. He’s struck out 46 while walking just 11, and he’s doing a masterful job of keeping runners off base. Tonight, he struggled in the first inning, a common theme this year. In fact, if you remove his 15 first innings this year — covering 14.2 innings — Mussina has a 3.51 ERA in 66.2 innings. This is vintage Mike Mussina with a different style, and it’s truly great. Enjoy the ride.
Triple-A Scranton (9-0 in over Norfolk)
Brett Gardner: 1 for 5, 1 R, 1 3B, 1 RBI, 2 K - threw a runner out at home from LF
Justin Christian: 3 for 4, 2 R, 1 2B, 1 RBI, 1 SB - 9 hits in his last 6 games
Cody Ransom: 1 for 4, 2 R, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 1 K
Jason Lane: 2 for 4, 1 R, 1 BB
Matt Carson: 2 for 5, 2 R, 2 HR, 4 RBI, 2 K – 17 for his last 39 with 3 homers
Greg Porter: 2 for 5, 1 R, 1 RBI, 1 K
Eric Duncan: 0 for 4, 1 K – 1 for his last 26 with 8 K
Dan McCutchen: 9 IP, 6 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 4 K, 7-14 GB/FB – picked a runner off first … 71 of 102 pitches were strikes (69.6%)
Is three over .500 possible? Seems crazy, don’t it?
Alex Rodriguez is hitting .400-.482-.689 this month, while Johnny Damon has gone .443-.490-.591 since May 21st. On the opposite end of the spectrum, Melky is just 1 for his last 21 (with a .281 OPS), and Jose Molina is hitting just .163-.188-.217 since his three double series in Fenway way back in mid-April. Wandy-Rod is your garden variety underwhelming southpaw, so that means the Yankees have their work cut out for them.
Thaaaaaa Yankees’ lineup:
1. Damon, LF
2. Jeter, SS
3. Abreu, RF
4. A-Rod, 3B
5. Giambi, 1B
6. Melky, CF
7. Molina, C
8. The Former Attorney General, 2B
9. Moose, SP
Sheesh, they basically have four pitchers batting at the bottom of the lineup…
With last night’s six-inning effort from Joba, we can, in essence, start the innings pitched clock. He’s at full strength as a starter now, and each outing he makes will deduct from the overall goal of 150-160 innings he’s slated to pitch this season. Based on my math, Joba is primed to make about 19-20 starts through the end of the year as long as the Yanks don’t skip him. (They probably will get creative when Phil Hughes and Ian Kennedy return.) If he averages six innings a start, he’ll land at that 155-inning mark on the final day of the season which would put him out of commission prior to the playoffs. We’ll have to cross that October bridge as we get closer, but for now, the focus is on ensuring that Joba is on pace to reach his innings limit before the postseason. We just can’t assume a playoff berth this year. · (25) ·
The College World Series (aka the most exciting two weeks in baseball) starts today, and Yankees’ fans get a primo matchup right from the get-go. Sandwich rounder Jeremy Bleich takes to the mound and faces Florida State, where 13th round pick Jack Rye bats cleanup behind 5th overall pick Buster Posey. The game begins at 2pm EST, and can be seen on ESPN. If you can’t watch, you can follow along via CSTV’s ridiculous Game Tracker.
Make sure you check out The College Baseball Blog’s CWS preview to get your head around all the upcoming action, then check out all the box scores and game recaps at NCAA-Baseball’s calender. Baseball America also has a ton of CWS content up on their site, including a 12-page preview, player highlights, and a breakdown of all eight participants. You can find the bracket for the double elimination tournament here.
I can’t recommend the CWS enough, the game is so much more exciting when the goal is to win as a team, not to land a big contract or a postseason award. DotF turned into a game thread the last time a Bleich start was televised, so feel free to comment on the action here.
Over the last few months, we have had plenty of opportunities to discuss instant replay. While it first seemed that instant replay would be tested during the AFL, MLB wants to move up that time table.
According to a report in USA Today, baseball may implement instant replay on or around August 1.
Major League Baseball wants to implement instant replay by Aug. 1, according to two high-ranking officials from the World Umpires Association.
The officials said MLB approached the umpires Wednesday to request that replay be used on “boundary calls,” which include whether a home run clears an outfield wall or if a potential home run is fair or foul…
Not only must the issue be bargained between the two sides, but details would have to be worked out, such as whether replays would be originated by umpires or from a manager’s request or challenge, what video feeds would be available and whether calls would be made by an umpire on site or at a central command center.
This move comes after a few high-profile blown calls that are just recent examples of bad calls through the ages that could have been improved via the use of instant replay. It also follows a 25-5 vote by baseball’s General Manager to recommend the use of video review for plays such as these.
While reaction will always be mixed when it comes to changing the sanctity and purity of baseball, I’ve long been in support of this move. It won’t delay the game as opponents contend, and it will help improve calls. In an age in which every close call is analyzed to death on TV, why shouldn’t the game be striving to make sure that the only outcome is the right one?
MLBTR points to a MetsBlog report that the Not-So-Amazin’s have acquired old Yankee foe Trot Nixon
to replace Billy Wagner as their closer. I’m sure that will solve all of the Mets’ problems. Meanwhile, if you find yourself as Shea this summer, make sure you remind Trot just how much we all loved him during his days on the Sox. And, yes, I’m being sarcastic. · (14) ·
So for about eight innings, tonight’s 2-1 Yankee victory was a pleasure to watch. The ninth? Well, that was a different story.
While the Yankee offense took the night off against Shawn Chacon and his slow fastball of doom, Joba Chamberlain kept the Astros’ hitters guessing for six innings — and he would have thrown seven had it not been for that pesky DH-less NL.
While Joba didn’t have his strike out pitch going for him tonight — he recorded just two over six innings — his breaking balls were dancing, the fastball was, by and large, stellar and the changeup was on. He gave out a few too many free passes and ran into some trouble in the fourth when he walked the guys in the heart of the Astros’ order. After an 88-pitch outing, shortened because his spot in the batting order was through, Joba had recorded his first Major League quality start.
The Yanks took the lead for good when Derek Jeter hit an opposite-field home run in the 8th. Perhaps Captain Clutch isn’t quite as finished as his paltry offensive numbers suggest this year.
But outside of Joba, the two real stories of the night focused around the Yankee battery. Let’s start with the pitchers. In relief of Joba Chamberlain, Jose Veras looked about as good as he ever has in the Bronx. He threw two scoreless innings, striking out three and pounding the strike zone. Just six of his 24 pitches were called balls.
As good as Veras was, Kyle Farnsworth had Yankee fans the world over on the edge of their seats. Farnsworth came into close in lieu of a Mariano Rivera who has thrown 70 pitches over the past six games, and he started off the 9th in spectacular fashion. After getting ahead 0-2 on Ty Wigginton, Farnsworth fell behind 3-2 and promptly hit the Astros’ third baseman with a pitch.
With the speedy Michael Bourn up next, Farnsworth then proceeded to make something of a bad baseball play. Bourn bunted a pop up back to Farnsworth and stood in the box to watch it. Kyle should have let the ball fall to turn two, but he caught it instead. It’s tough to think that far ahead in the heat of the moment, and getting the sure out is always a better move. Wigginton made the point moot by getting thrown out by Jose Molina, and Geoff Blum struck out on a 2-2 slider to end the game. We all breathed a sigh of relief, and I couldn’t help but think that Jose Veras is much better suited to set up than Farnsworth is right now.
The other story was Jorge Posada. The Yanks’ injured catcher — and, yes, because of his torn labrum, he’s injured — was lifted in the game as part of a double switch in the bottom of the 7th. At first, I was worried Posada had hurt himself on a thrown to third to nail Bourn in the 6th, but Joe Girardi says he pulled the switch for defensive purposes. That in itself is worrying.
The Astros stole four bases off of Chamberlain and Posada. While some of that can be attribute to Joba’s slow delivery, as Ed Price ever so graciously notes in the linked piece, teams are going to run off of Posada, and Girardi now considers him a late-inning liability. The Yanks, however, need his bat.
Meanwhile, the Yanks have finally reached that two games over plateau, tying their high-water mark for 2008. They’re 3-1 on a tough road trip and are looking to move three games over .500 for the first time all season later today when Mike Mussina squares off against Wandy Rodriguez. They’re six out — 4.5 behind Tampa Bay — and I’m wondering if things are finally starting to click. It’s not a moment too soon.
Triple-A Scranton (9-3 over Richmond)
Bernie Castro: 2 for 3, 1 2B, 1 RBI – left with an apparent injury after legging out a double
Eric Duncan: 0 for 2, 1 R, 2 K
Brett Gardner & Justin Christian: both 1 for 4 – Christian scored a run, swiped 2 bags (including home) & drove in 2
Cody Ransom: 1 for 5, 1 R, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 1 K
Jason Lane: 0 for 4, 1 R, 1 BB – 6 for his last 40
Matt Carson: 2 for 3, 3 R, 1 2B, 2 BB – all the guy does is hit
Nick Green: 2 for 3, 1 R, 2 RBI, 1 BB
Alan Horne: 6.1 IP, 9 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 3 BB, 3 K, 10-6 GB/FB - 52 of 88 pitches were strikes (59.1%)
Heath Phillips: 2.2 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 2 K, 4-2 GB/FB
The Yanks go for two games over .500 for the umpteenth time this season, and do so against one time great Yankee Shawn Chacon. Joba’s set to throw 85-90 pitches tonight, which means he has a chance of seeing the 6th inning for the first time as a starter.
Thaaaaaa Yankees’ lineup:
1. Jeter, SS
2. Cano, 2B – you really can’t ask to hit in a better spot that between Jeter & Abreu, hopefully this gets him going
3. Abreu, RF
4. A-Rod, 3B
5. Matsui, LF
6. Giambi, 1B
7. Posada, C
8. Melky, CF
9. Joba, SP – how sweet would it be if he hit one into the Crawford Boxes tonight? Think of the headlines … "Joba hits like Owings, except he’s good at pitching"