For a night, at least, the Yankees will be in third place in the AL East. After their 6-3 victory over the Royals on a stifling hot Sunday afternoon in the Bronx, the Bombers are 32-31, tied with the Blue Jays for the third slot in their division.
The story of the day — outside of Joey Gathright’s single-handedly keeping this game closer than it should have been — once again belonged to the starter, Joba Chamberlain. No one else gets a standing ovation in the Bronx before delivering the first pitch. It truly is a sight to see.
After a shaky first inning last time out, Joba came out strong and finished strong. In between, he ran into some trouble. In 78 pitches spanning 4.1 innings, Joba gave up five hits and three runs — two earned — on five strike outs and one walk. He had baserunners in every inning but the fourth.
As progress goes, today’s outing was definitely a step forward. Joba is maintaining a strike out rate of better than one per inning, and he should reach the 90-100 pitch mark later this week. From a pitch-by-pitch perspective, he seems to be having problems burying the curveball. His one mistake of the afternoon was on a 3-2 hanging
curveball slider to Jose Guillen. The walk to DeJesus in the fifth that chased Joba from the game also came on a 3-2 breaking ball that Joba couldn’t spot. As he throws more, I expect these pitches to improve, and overall, this outing was a good second start from Joba as the Yanks stretch him out.
Meanwhile, the Yankee offense did its thing. They scored six runs on two home runs and a booming double by A-Rod. Johnny Damon continued his hot hitting; Jason Giambi, now batting .317 with 12 home runs and 19 walks over his last 148 plate appearances since April 22, crushed another home run; Bobby Abreu belted an upper deck shot in the first.
On the mound, Dan Giese continued to throw strikes, and Jose Veras worked a solid eighth, allowing a hit but striking out two. It was rather notable that Veras pitched instead of Farnsworth late in a three-run game, and I have to believe that Veras is slowly inching ahead of Kyle.
Personally, today was one of those days where I was glad to be sitting along the first base line in the upper deck. The Yanks were giving out water for free, and everyone in the stadium was doused in sweat. It was hot; it was humid; but when Rivera threw his seventh pitched and retired Mike Aviles to end the game, it was well worth it.
We’ll do it again tomorrow at 1:05 p.m. when Mike Mussina goes for win number 10. The Yanks will look to stay in third place and above .500 for longer than 21 hours.
Man, it sure is a scorcher today. The little weather thing on my desktop says it’s currently 104-degrees in the city, meaning it’s about 120 out in the sun glazed tier seats, where Ben finds himself today. Lucky for him, he gets to see a primo pitching matchup.
Zack Greinke is just the kind of pitcher than can shut the Yanks down, a guy that changes speeds like a veteran and can hump it up to 96 if he needs it. Hopefully Joba is over his first start jitters, and can command his fastball enough to economize those 75-80 pitches he’ll be limited to. The Royals come into the game sporting a .312 team OBP, so hopefully they help get themselves out here and there.
Are you ready for some fist pumps?
1. Mr. 6 for 6, DH
2. Derek Jeter, SS
3. Bobby Abreu, RF
4. A-Rod, 3B
5. Matsui, LF
6. Giambi, 1B
7. Posada, C – two consecutive games in this heat coming back from an injury? What is Girardi thinking? What’s the point of carrying three catchers then?
8. Cano, 2B
9. Cabrera, CF
And on the mound, the Winnebago Wonder, Joba Chamberlain.
The back-and-forth over Brian Cashman’s future continued today with Brian Cashman’s stating that Hank Steinbrenner supports him as GM and has already approached him about returning next season and beyond. In an interview with Newday’s Ken Davidoff, Cashman said he’s not looking to leave the Bronx and appreciates the support of the Yankee owners. “I appreciate the fact that is on board with everything we’re doing, 110 percent, to the point where he’s recognized that making the move for Santana would not have been the right move,” Cashman said. · (4) ·
There’s nothing better than waking up late on a Sunday morning, a little while before the game — and Joba’s second start — begins, to some baseball reading. To wit, a dose of recommended reading for you:
- Tyler Kepner profiled Gerrit Cole, the Yanks’ first-round draft pick. The youngster was 11 when the Yankees lost to the Diamondbacks in the 2001 World Series. I feel really old now.
- Peter Meehan, a travel writer for The Times, tells you what to eat and what to avoid at ballparks around the country. The corresponding map is pretty nifty.
- Ed Price profiles the Yankees clubhouse attendants. As fun as it sounds in theory to work in a baseball clubhouse, it sounds very much like a tough, work-intensive job.
- Doug Glanville, in his on-going contributions as a guest columnist for The Times, writes about the infamous game 6 of the 2003 NLCS. As a former member of that Cubs team, Glanville is quick to point the finger at Steve Bartman and omits any mention of Alex Gonzalez’s more costly error a few batters later on a potential inning-ended double play ball. Fun note: Kyle Farnsworth helped seal the Cubs’ doom in that game, giving up 3 earned runs in 0.1 innings of relief work in that 8th inning nearly five years ago.
- Jeff Passan at Yahoo! Sports checks in with the Yankee veterans who are loathe to admit that the Yanks are in a rebuilding mode. I wouldn’t call what they’re doing “rebuilding,” but the Yanks are certainly pursuing something of a different course than the one they’ve charted year in and year out since losing to the Diamondbacks in 2001.
Looks like the first 2008 draftee to sign is 25th rounder Jeff Nutt, a catcher out of Arkansas. I haven’t seen confirmation of the signing yet, but Nutt said he’s reporting to mini-camp next week before joining Short Season Staten Island, so that’s a pretty decent indication he’s in the fold. I doubt he got a big bonus, he was a 25th round pick and a senior after all.
Triple-A Scranton (3-0 in over Syracuse)
Brett Gardner & Matt Carson: both 2 for 3, 1 K, 1 SB – Gardner drove in 2 runs & walked … Carson scored & drove in a run, and was hit by a pitch
Alberto Gonzalez: 1 for 4
Jason Lane, Eric Duncan & Cody Ransom (aka the 3-4-5 hitters): all 0 for 4, 1 K – Lane threw a runner out a second from LF
Greg Porter & Chris Stewart: both 2 for 4, 1 R – Stewart K’ed
The Ghost of Kei Igawa: 7 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 2 K, 1 WP, 1 HB, 8-8 GB/FB – picked a runner off second … 61 of 105 pitches were strikes (58.1%)
Scott Patterson: 1 IP, zeroes, 1 K, 2-0 GB/FB
Billy Traber: 1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 1 K
This Yankee approach to winning is becoming quite the theme. For the second time in three days, the Yanks pulled out a walk-off win to emerge victorious. By winning dramatic fashion, the Yanks’ success allows us to forget, for a few minutes, some of the poor play we saw today.
We start in the ninth inning. Today’s winning pitcher — Mariano Rivera — is on some stretch this year. Yet to blow a save, Rivera has allowed just two earned runs this year, and for a few minutes today, it looked like the second was going to cost the Yanks the game. Having just tied the contest at 10 in the bottom of the 8th, Rivera gave up a first-pitch home run in the 9th to David DeJesus. The cutter just didn’t cut. It happens, and Mo’s ERA is a whopping 0.67 now.
After DeJesus, Rivera pulled out a dominating 1-2-3 performance, and the Yanks could go to work on Joakim Soria in the bottom of the 9th. With one out, Jorge Posada homered to tie the game, and the Yankee Stadium crowd, shocked by a rare display of mortality by Rivera, came back to life. Robinson Cano saw four pitches, swung at all of them and grounded out to short. But then Mystique and Aura, Curt Schilling’s best friends, reared their heads.
Wilson Betemit drew a walk; Melky Cabrera hit an 80-foot single just down the third base line; and Johnny Damon — already five for five on the afternoon — roped a single into the right field corner. Betemit crossed the plate; the Yanks mobbed Damon, an amazing six for six on the day; and all was right in the Bronx.
But until minute 230 of this game tonight, all had not been right in the Bronx. Five days after coughing up three different leads in a game in Minnesota, Andy Pettitte couldn’t keep the Yanks and Royals close. The Yanks kept have to play catch-up, and when all was said and done, Pettitte’s final line was terrible: 6.2 IP, 10 H, 10 ER and two Jose Guillen home runs, including a grand slam.
On the season, Pettitte’s ERA is now 4.99. He’s allowed 97 hits in 79.1 innings and just hasn’t been generally sharp this year. His performance is yet another reason why the Yankees need to see how Joba fares in the rotation. They need good starting pitching, and with Wang and Pettitte struggling lately, they just aren’t getting it.
But Pettitte is to blame only in performance. The other person who, until the bottom of the ninth, carried this game, was Joe Girardi. On Pettitte’s 111th pitch with the bases loaded, Guillen, a significantly better hitter against lefties (.311/.344/.541) than against righties (.233/.258/.390) , launched a ball high and far and gone. Why is Joe Girardi, usually one to the bullpen too quickly, leaving in a scuffling Andy Pettitte to face Guillen? No one in the pen could have done worse than Pettitte.
My other two bones to pick with Girardi today came on strategic moves. In the first inning — the first inning! — with Damon off of second, Derek Jeter, number three on the Yanks’ all-time hit list, bunted. I was stunned. Considering that it was the first inning, bunting is a terrible strategic move, let alone with Jeter at the plate.
Then, in the eighth, with Damon off second and Jeter off first and one out, the Yankees were primed to steal a base. They had their best base-stealers on, and Jimmy Gobble, a lefty slow to the plate, on the hill. At no time did the runners go, and Bobby Abreu hit a very deep fly ball that David DeJesus tracked down near the wall. That out could have been a sac fly. With one out in a tie game, the Yanks have to at least try to start the runners.
Girardi has seemingly been afraid of strategic managing this year. He’s been loathe to start runners; he’s shied away from hit-and-run plays; and he seems generally satisfied to wait for the big blow that hasn’t always come for the Bombers this year. When all is said and done of course, the Yankees won today, and the game was an Instant Classic. But we should take some lessons from the first 8 innings. All was not right until Johnny Damon and Jorge Posada picked things up in the 9th.
When Frankie Cervelli broke his wrist in a Spring Training collision with
Rays’Durham Bulls infielder Elliot Johnson, we expected Cervelli to be out of action for up to three months. As that magically 12-week mark is approaching, word is that Cervelli’s rehab is progressing. The AP reported earlier this week that Cervelli is hitting in a cage and started his throwing program. Good news for the Yanks’ 27th ranked pre-draft prospect. · (6) ·
On Wednesday, April 16, the Yankees had just beaten the Red Sox in a marathon game in the Bronx. They won 15-9, and that victory moved them into a first-place tie, a season-high two games over .500. Since then, the Yanks haven’t reached that peak yet. They’ve gone 21-24 and have spent the last six weeks flirting with .500.
At some point, then, something in the Bronx must give. The Yankees must either shape up or we have to come to terms with the fact that the Yankees are simply some crappy .500 team that’s overpaid and underperforming our expectations.
The Yanks this afternoon face Brian Bannister. The righthander, once on the Mets and later traded for Ambiorix Burgos (oops), has put up some decent numbers this year. In April, he beat the Yanks, allowing just two runs in five innings while giving up five hits and four walks. Hopefully, the Yanks can do a bit better than that this time around. Andy Pettitte goes for the Yanks, and Hideki Matsui sits so that Jason Giambi can get some ABs at DH.
The game starts at 1:05 p.m. on this hot and humid day in the city.
Despite the news earlier this week that the Steinbrenners and Brian Cashman were set to talk contract this week in Tampa, the Yankees and Cashman are now saying that’s not true. According to Hal Steinbrenner, Cashman was in Tampa for draft business, and the GM’s contract status was not on the agenda. The team will wait to address that issue until after the season is over. · (11) ·
Remember the other Hideki to don pinstripes? Hideki Irabu, George Steinbrenner’s favorite whipping boy, had quite the Yankee debut on July 10, 1997, but it was all downhill from there. The pitcher touted as the Japanese Nolan Ryan never lived up to his hype (cough, cough Kei Igawa), and Irabu bounced around the Majors before ending his career back Japan. Earlier this week, Billy Witz checked in with Irabu, in a way. He’s still living in the states and running some SoCal restaurants. · (6) ·