Sunday Morning Links

Here’s some Sunday morning links as we wait to see where the Yankees end up in the AL East and continue to recover from last nights Burnett vs. Dice-K “duel” (this was written Saturday night, if it’s truly a duel I’ll be shocked).

Joe LaPointe suggests increasing the number of playoff teams to an NHL’esque 16.  It’s preposterous to think that more than half the teams in baseball belong in the playoffs, but I wouldn’t be shocked to see the number increase from 4 teams in each league at some point.  I was hesitant about the Wild Card, and while I think it has been a success (other than 2004 and 2007), it would be an extremely slippery slope for MLB to expand further.  They are already having issues getting the bottom feeding team to spend money that is literally given to them, if the odds of making the playoffs doubled, teams could point to their spot in the playoffs as “success”.

Jon Paul Morosi argues that the Yankees are better off winning the Wild Card and makes a pretty compelling case.  I’m not one to root to face one team or another unless there is a specific advantage/disadvantage, but in a vacuum I’d rather face the Twins than the Rangers. The flip side I’d rather have the Yankees have home field, but at the end of the day, I don’t really prefer one team to the other, though homefield in a potential ALCS would be huge.  Either way they are in for a battle and can beat either team, or lose to either team.

Billy Crystal was honored on Friday for directing “61*” and an exhibit for the movie opened.  The exhibit will be on display until the end of 2011.  The article is more generous about the movie than I am (it was okay, not great), but a good quick read and certainly would be worth checking out the exhibit if you’re at the Hall of Fame in the next year.

A couple of links about parity and competitiveness in MLB.  Chris Stankovich points out that several small market teams are competing this year, and more importantly points out that several teams convince their fans that they simply cannot compete.  If I were fan of the Royals, I wouldn’t be pissed about the Yankees, I’d instead be pissed that they can’t model their system like the smaller market teams who can have success.  In that same vein, Jon at WFNY (and Indians blog) goes into the breakdown of how impact players on several teams were acquired.  It’s promising (in a way) to see that more impact Sox players have been signed through free agency than Yankees players.  Get to the Indians part and it has to be pretty disappointing to see how they have drafted.  It’s beyond awful.

Yanks sloppy in nightcap, lose to Red Sox

(AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)

When he was standing on the mound, Burnett did not have his worst game. He got through six innings and allowed four runs, three earned, while striking out five and walking just two. That’s not a $17.5 million performance, but with the way Burnett has pitched this season it was a welcome one. What wasn’t welcome was a sequence that needlessly cost the Yankees a run.

I understand that the ump was indecisive with his call. The first thing they teach you, at the lowest level of umpiring, is to make your calls quickly and decisively. The first base ump delayed a bit, which might have caused some confusion. And yes, the runner very well might have been out. A few replay angles made it look that way. But none of that excuses Burnett losing focus of the still-live play. Not only did Daniel Nava score, but Josh Reddick advanced all the way to third with none out.

Thankfully Burnett did come back to strike out the next two hitters before getting Eric Patterson to line out to short. But even that wasn’t without sloppy play. Francisco Cervelli dropped a pop-up, which would have made for a nice, easy out with the runner on third. That inning had the potential to be quite a bit worse, but the one run ended up being the difference.

One decision that came back to bite Joe Girardi was sticking with Royce Ring. Playing match-up is one thing, but doing it with a AAA lefty is another. He did his job by retiring J.D. Drew to end the seventh, and with four lefties coming up I suppose I understand the desire to leave him in. But after he walked the pinch-hitter Jed Lowrie I’m not sure I’d leave him in. That’s probably second-guessing, though. In any case, Ring just gave up another single, but that set up the Red Sox to score two runs in the inning, tying the game.

The second run was of the most inexcusable kind. With one out and runners on first and second Ivan Nova pitched around pinch hitter David Ortiz and loaded the bases. That brought up No. 9 hitter Kevin Cash. Walking a guy with the bases loaded is already one of the most frustrating outcomes in baseball. This was the No. 9 hitter, a guy who has a .246 OBP this year and a .248 OBP lifetime. Yet Nova walked him. It induces hair-pulling and brick lobbing.

For the second straight game the Yankees had plenty of chances with runners in scoring position, but came up with a hit in just one of 16 chances. To which I say: eh. It happens sometimes. The A lineup wasn’t in, so a poor or slumping hitter was just a couple of batters away at all times. The game would have been much more frustrating, though probably a bit quicker, had they gone, say, 1 for 3 with RISP.

Here’s the WPA stuff and here’s the box score.

It now takes a Tampa Bay loss for the Yankees to win the East. I don’t think it’s a big deal either way. Home field is nice, but not necessary. The Yanks will hand the ball to Dustin Moseley, while the Sox will have John Lackey make one final start in the 2010 season.

Moseley tabbed for Game 162

During the postgame interview, Yankees skipper Joe Girardi announced that Dustin Moseley will get the ball for the Yanks’ final game of the season. The right-hander is 4-3 with a 4.77 ERA in 15 games, eight of which were starts, and he will face John Lackey at 1:35 p.m. The Yankees are in a do-or-die situation for the American League East in that they have to win to stay in contention. They also need the Royals behind Sean O’Sullivan to beat Wade Davis and the Rays. Girardi said though that he won’t risk injury to his regulars to win the division, but for now, Dustin Moseley will get one more crack at it as the 2010 regular season draws to a close.

Game 161 Spillover Thread

I think the Yankees broke that last thread, it wasn’t working properly. Here’s a fresh one.

Game 161: Let’s play two!

A.J. has been making this face frequently lately. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press/Nathan Denette)

A long day’s journey into night continues as the Yankees and the Red Sox get to play the second of two. The Yanks defeated the Red Sox 6-5 in 10 innings in the first game, and the Yankees will look to keep their AL East hopes alive. They hold a one-game lead over Tampa Bay with a magic number of two and have to finish in sole possession of first place to secure the division.

After a 4:18 game, the Yanks and Red Sox are sending too slow pitchers who often seem allergic to strikes out there. A.J. Burnett will take his disappointing 10-15 record and his terrible 5.33 ERA into Fenway while Daisuke Matsuzaka, 9-6 with a 4.72 ERA, will face the Yanks for the second time in two starts. Matsuzaka threw a gem against the Bombers in Boston’s loss last Sunday.

The Yanks ran through their A bullpen arms during the first game of the double header, and Joe Girardi has said he isn’t inclined to use pitchers twice in one day. That being said, it seems that the game two pen will consist of Jonathan Albaladejo, Romulo Sanchez, Royce Ring, Andrew Brackman, Dustin Moseley, Ivan Nova Sergio Mitre and, of course, Chad Gaudin. One of those guys will have to start tomorrow.

First pitch is set for 9:15 p.m. The game will air on My9 in the New York area and the MLB Network nationally. Make sure to check Mike’s recap of the first game. The Red Sox are sending out a lineup of bench players, but the Yanks are clearly going for the division here.

Brett Gardner LF
Curtis Granderson CF
Mark Teixeira DH
Alex Rodriguez 3B
Robinson Cano 2B
Lance Berkman 1B
Austin Kearns RF
Francisco Cervelli C
Eduardo Nunez SS

A.J. Burnett P

Pettitte not sharp as Yanks drop Sox in game one of doubleheader

(AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)

It’s hard to believe that the Yankees and Red Sox still have another game to play tonight, but that will be a little easier to do after this afternoon’s Yankee win. This game featured a ton of lead changes and blown opportunities for both sides, but a run manufactured by patience, speed, and a little luck put the Yanks on top in extra innings, a lead they held onto.

The big story was Andy Pettitte, who was making just his third start since coming off the disabled list. He was just okay, running his pitch count high because of eight strikeouts, so he exited after facing just one batter in the fifth. Andy’s stuff looked fine but his command is still a little off, missing just off the corner or catching a little too much of the plate. The biggest problem was that all three runs he allowed came after there were none on and two outs in the inning. Some shaky defense (due to both the sun and poor reads) contributed, but those two outs runs are always frustrating.

Robbie Cano was the star of the game offensively, whacking a pair of doubles and solo homer. Curtis Granderson tripling to drive in the Yanks’ first run and then came around to score the second, plus he also walked twice. Mark Teixeira plated a run with a double off the wall in addition to his single and walk. It wouldn’t be a Yankee game without some RISP FAIL, as they went just 3-for-21 in those spots with a dozen left on base. Runners were stranded in scoring position in the first, second, fifth, sixth, seventh, eighth, and tenth innings. When they did finally break through with a hit with RISP, it was an infield single on a Derek Jeter check swing that scored the hustling Brett Gardner from second. It’s not exactly how they drew it up, but it works.

Andy gave way to David Robertson, who wiggled his way out of some self-induced trouble (2 BB, 3 K after coming in) before combining with Boone Logan for a scoreless sixth. Logan got charged with a run in the seventh when Joba Chamberlain allowed the inherited runner to score, but it was all moot when Kerry Wood had his first major meltdown in the eighth. After striking out Darnell McDonald on a knee-buckling curveball he walked three consecutive batters to load the bases. The tying run scored on a wild pitch, but the second out of the inning came when Josh Reddick got greedy and tried to score as well. Wood applied the tag at the plate for the out, then struck out the next guy to end the frame.

Phil Hughes chipped in a scoreless frame in the ninth, assuredly his last appearance before the ALDS, before giving way to Mariano Rivera in the tenth. Jeter’s infield single scored Gardner in the top of the frame, and Mo made quick work of the bottom of Boston’s lineup, retiring all three men he faced with ease. Hughes picked up his 18th win of the season, and I feel safe calling it his weakest. We’ll have a regular game thread along for the second game shortly, but for now here’s the WPA Graph and a link to the box score.

Up Next

The Yankees and the Red Sox finish up their long day of baseball, and the second game will start at 9:15 p.m. A.J. Burnett will face Daisuke Matsuzaka.

Game 160: Andy’s final tune-up

None of this today, Andy. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

Forget about winning the division and home field advantage and all that, the single most important thing about this afternoon’s game is Andy Pettitte and his back/performance. Winning is secondary. The Yankees need to make sure that their presumed number two playoff starter is healthy and up to the task of getting quality big league hitters out. If Andy does that this afternoon, I’ll feel great. If not, he’ll just be another rotation question mark going into the postseason.

Here’s the lineup…

Jeter, SS
Granderson, CF
Teixeira, 1B
A-Rod, DH
Cano, 2B
Swisher, RF
Posada, C
Gardner, LF
Pena, 3B

And on the bump, it’s Andy Pettitte.

The first game of today’s doubleheader can be seen at 4pm ET on FOX. Enjoy.