Yanks increase division lead with win over M’s

Nothing gets the bitter taste of a four-game losing streak out of your mouth like a winning streak, and the Yankees are officially on a winning streak after topping the Mariners on Monday. Sure, it’s only a little two-gamer, but a winning streak is a winning streak.

Next time you wonder why a random offseason transaction was made, this is why. Depth matters. (Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)

Getting To The King

Coming into this game, the Yankees had scored a total of eight runs in their last 49 innings against Felix Hernandez. They scored six runs in six innings off him tonight. The driving force behind the offense? How about Chris Dickerson. In his third big league start of the season, Dickerson singled Brett Gardner to third before he came around to score on Derek Jeter‘s groundout, then an inning later he capped killed a five-run rally with a long two-run homer to right. It was no cheapie, there was no doubt it was gone, and it even looked like it had a chance at the second deck. Chris Dickerson, of course.

Before that, the Yankees scored three runs on a Mark Teixeira solo homer, an Eric Chavez sacrifice fly, and a Gardner double. At one point between the third and fourth innings, the Yankees had seven hits in the span of eleven batters (four extra base hits) against Felix. Two of the four outs scored runs as well. We saw some signs of life from the offense on Sunday, and the bats continued to wake up against arguably the best pitcher in the world. Sometimes it takes a bit piece like Dickerson having a huge game off the bench to get things going, baseball’s weird like that. Six runs and nine hits off Hernandez is pretty much the best of best case scenarios.

(AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

Typical Phil

It was a pretty typical start for Phil Hughes, meaning quite a bit of baserunners (eight), a ton of foul balls (25 out of 99 pitches) … and a quality start. Believe it or not, seven of his eleven starts since coming off the DL have qualified for the ol’ quality start, meaning six innings or more and three runs or less. Don’t ask me how, but it’s true. Quality starts aren’t a good predictor of future success, but they are games the Yankees can win, I know that much. Chances are Phil’s line would look quite a bit worse against a better team, but I feel like I say that after each one of his starts.

All the stuff we’ve talked about all season still stands, Hughes needs to get his command right, he needs to be more efficient, and he needs to fully incorporate a third pitch. A show-me changeup won’t cut it. It did tonight, luckily.

Leftovers

The Yankees really blew things open in the seventh, when Robinson Cano shot an opposite field double over the left fielder’s head with the bases loaded. It came on the tenth pitch of the at-bat, after he fouled off balls four, five, six, and seven. You know Robbie though, it just works. The man is hitting .471/.429/1.235* this season with the bases loaded. That’ll work.

* Since I know several of you will ask, his OBP is lower than his AVG because of sacrifice flies. They count as plate appearances (and towards OBP) but not at-bats (and towards AVG). One of baseball’s many weird statistical quirks.

(Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)

In his first career start behind the plate, Austin Romine picked up his first career base hit, a legitimate line drove single to right off Danny Cortes. There’s a pretty decent chance that that will be the last first-hit ball Gene Monahan ever marks up. The longtime trainer is retiring after the season, and every other non-pitcher on the active roster has already picked up their first hit.

As for the rest of the offense … Jeter had one hit, Curtis Granderson had two hits (breaking out of his slump?), Tex had a single to go with the homer (breaking out of his slump?), Cano had three hits, Swisher one hit, Gardner two hits (breaking out of his slump?), Dickerson the two hits, and Romine the one hit. The Yankees did not draw a single walk, only the fourth time they’ve done that in 146 games this season. Boston has done it three times, the only club with fewer no walk games.

After teasing us by warming up both Andrew Brackman and Dellin Betances, Joe Girardi went with Scott Proctor (two runs in two innings) and Luis Ayala (one inning) to run out the clock after Hughes exited. I don’t even know why they bother calling these kids up, Girardi never uses them. Did the same thing last year. They’re better off keeping them in the minors and saving the service time. Seriously. I suppose the good news is that Boone Logan warmed up at one point, so his dead arm must be a thing of the past.

Also, where were the replacements once the score got out of hand? I mean, Swisher’s been battling elbow tendinitis, couldn’t he have gotten a few innings off with an eight (eventually six) run lead? Granderson could use some time off his feet, no? Nothing wrong with giving Jeter a few innings off, right? Oh well, what’s done is done.

The Rays won again, this time beating the Orioles. They picked up half-a-game on the idle Red Sox, and are now just three back of Boston for the wildcard. The Yankees remain seven games up on Tampa for the wildcard, and they moved to four games ahead of the Sox for the AL East lead. That’s the largest lead they’ve had all season. If they go 8-8 in their final 16 games, Boston has to go 12-4 to tie (the Sox would win the division in that scenario by virtue of winning the season series). The magic number to clinch a playoff spot is just ten.

Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings

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

Up Next

Game two of this three-game series will be played on Tuesday night, when A.J. Burnett gives it a go against the lefty Charlie Furbush.

SI blows out Auburn in Game One of NYPL Finals

Short Season Staten Island (9-2 win over Auburn) SI leads the best-of-three Championship Series one game to none … game two is tomorrow in Staten Island
Mason Williams, CF: 1 for 5, 1 R, 1 2B, 1 RBI, 1 BB, 1 K – led the game off with a double, then came around to score on a ground ball and a sac fly
Cito Culver, SS: 1 for 6, 1 R, 1 2B, 1 K
Ben Gamel, RF: 1 for 3, 2 R, 1 RBI, 1 BB
Tyler Austin, 3B: 2 for 5, 1 R, 1 E (fielding)
Reymond Nunez, 1B: 0 for 3, 1 R, 1 RBI, 2 K
Casey Stevenson, DH: 3 for 5, 2 R, 1 RBI, 1 K – broke it open with an RBI single in the ninth
Zach Wilson, LF: 1 for 3, 1 RBI, 1 BB, 1 K
Angelo Gumbs, 2B: 1 for 5, 1 R, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 4 K – gave them a 2-1 lead with a solo homer in the fifth
Nick McCoy, C: 1 for 3, 2 RBI, 2 BB, 1 K
Taylor Morton, RHP: 4.2 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 3 BB, 2 K, 1 HB, 3-6 GB/FB, 1 E (pickoff) – not the best Game One start, but it could have been worse
Wilton Rodriguez, RHP: 1 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 0 K, 3-0 GB/FB – stranded the two runners he inherited from Morton
Zach Arneson, RHP: 0.1 IP, zeroes, 1-0 GB/FB
Phil Wetherell, RHP: 1 IP, zeroes, 1 K, 2-0 GB/FB
Branden Pinder, RHP: 1 IP, zeroes, 1 K, 1-0 GB/FB – came out after they broke it open in the ninth, save some of those bullets for tomorrow
Ben Paullus, RHP: 1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 3 K – nice and FIPy

Triple-A Scranton, Double-A Trenton, High-A Tampa, and Low-A Charleston all failed to qualify to the postseason. The Rookie GCL Yankees have already won their league title.

Game 146: Thrown to the wolves

(AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

A week and a half ago, Jesus Montero made his big league debut. The Yankees didn’t exactly baby him; his first game was in Fenway Park with Jon Lester on the bump. Montero responded by scoring the game-winning run, and he’s gone on to play well in his limited action. Although we saw Austin Romine catch yesterday, he gets his first career start tonight. His assignment? Felix Hernandez, in a park that is unkind to right-handed hitters like himself. Welcome to the big leagues kid, here’s Felix. Fun fun fun. Here’s the starting nine…

Derek Jeter, SS
Curtis Granderson, CF
Mark Teixeira, DH
Robinson Cano, 2B
Nick Swisher, 1B – tested out his elbow before the game
Eric Chavez, 3B
Brett Gardner, LF
Chris Dickerson, RF
Austin Romine

Phil Hughes, RHP

The game is scheduled to start a little after 10pm ET, and can be seen on YES. Enjoy.

IFA: Yankees sign Alvaro Noriega for $175k

Via the Dominican Prospect League, the Yankees have signed 16-year-old Colombia catcher Alvaro Noriega for $175k. He was supposedly the best catching prospect in the league this season, showing “major improvement in blocking, receiving and throwing accuracy behind the dish. ” At the plate, the 6-foot-1, 180 pounder is said to make good contact from gap-to-gap with occasional power. The Yankees have been hoarding catching prospects for years now, which isn’t a bad thing given the position scarcity.

Open Thread: Looking back at 1998

(Photo Credit: SF Weekly)

The Yankees have had a very successful season so far, sporting the second best record in baseball at 88-57. One of my favorite things to do each year is compare the current team’s progress to the 1998 Yankees at the same point of the season. It’s always fun to see that no matter how good you think the Yankees are at any given moment, the 1998 squad will always be better. For example, after 145 games in ’98, the same number they’ve played so far this year, the Yanks were 103-42. If you took that team and stuck them in the AL East right now, the 2011 Yankees would be 15 games out. Fifteen! The 1998 Red Sox went 92-70, a great season, but they finished 22 (!!!) games out of first place. That blows my mind.

Here’s the Baseball-Reference page for the 1998 Yankees. It always neat to see that aside from Bernie Williams, no one really had a monster season. Just about everyone was solidly above-average and they had depth, 1-9 in the order and 1-5 in the rotation. They could play any kind of game too, a slugfest, a pitchers duel, a bullpen battle, that team could do it all, and quite often they did. We’re never going to see another team like that, but I’m glad I got to see them.

Anyway, here is your open thread for the night, as we wait for the game to start a little after 10pm ET. The Mets are playing the Nationals (Dickey vs. Detwiler), and the Monday Night Football doubleheader has the Patriots at the Dolphins (7pm ET) and the Raiders at the Broncos (10pm ET). The game thread will be along in a little while, but talk about whatever you want here.

David Robertson named finalist for Marvin Miller Man of the Year Award

Via the man himself, David Robertson has been named a finalist for the Marvin Miller Man of the Year Award, which is given annually “for outstanding on-field performance and off-field contributions to [the player’s] community and is one of the awards given during the Players Choice Awards banquet annually.” Robertson was elected as one of six finalists (one per division) for his work with High Socks For Hope, helping those effected by tornadoes in his hometown of Tuscaloosa.

The winner will be announced after the season. Curtis Granderson won the award in 2009, when he was with the Tigers.

Lining up Sabathia

(AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

All season long, there have been questions about the pitching staff. It didn’t matter how well Bartolo Colon or Freddy Garcia or Ivan Nova pitched, they were going to be judged on a start-by-start basis. All three have exceeded expectations, no doubt, but they’re still being treated as question marks. One thing has never been in question though, and that’s who would start Game One of the ALDS. That would be CC Sabathia, regardless of how well everyone else pitched. There’s a slight problem though, Sabathia doesn’t line up to start that game, and it’s not even close.

Because of the continued use of the six-man rotation, Sabathia has either two or three starts left. If the Yankees keep the rotation the way it is right now, CC would have to start Game One on just two days rest, which obviously won’t happen. If they move him back a day, he’d have to start Game One on seven days rest. Move him up a day, it would be three days rest. Here, look at the schedule, it just doesn’t work without getting creative. There’s not much schedule left, so the Yankees can’t keep delaying this rotation decision like they have for the last month or so. Sabathia needs to get lined up for September 30th, the date of Game One, and it needs to happen soon. My solution: a simulated game on Thursday.

Sabathia last pitched on Saturday, so Thursday would be his turn with normal rest. The Yankees have to get him back on a regular five-day schedule at some point, the sooner the better. They’re off on Thursday, traveling from Seattle to Toronto, which is why it would have to be a simulated game. Sabathia gets his work in that day, the lines up to start on the 20th (Rays) and then on the 25th (Red Sox) before that Game One comes up. In an absolute disaster scenario in which the Rays catch New York and the two teams are tied for a playoff spot, they Yankees would have the option of pushing CC back to the 26th to have him face Tampa. I doubt it comes to that, though. They’ll be able to use that simulated game to have Sabathia pitch on normal rest for basically three full turns through the rotation, giving him (hopefully) enough time to get back into the routine before the postseason. This would be ideal given where we are right now.

Obviously the long and late night flight from Seattle to Toronto sucks (thanks for the getaway day on Wednesday, Mariners! [/sarcasm]), but the Yankees could simply send Sabathia to Toronto before the rest of the team. Have him fly out on Tuesday, rest on Wednesday, then show up to the park on Thursday afternoon ready to unload 100 pitches. Greg Golson, Chris Dickerson, Brandon Laird … all the September call-ups that might be rusting away on the bench can step in the box for some extra at-bats, and Jesus Montero could catch in order to develop some of that all-important familiarity with the staff ace. Even if he splits the catching duties with Austin Romine, it works.

Are the Yankees going to do this? Most likely not. They absolutely have to do something though, and they should probably do it pretty soon. Figuring out who starts Games Two and Three is enough of a concern right now, they don’t need to make things even more difficult by having Sabathia start Game One on some inordinate amount of rest. The idea of essentially skipping CC sounds crazy, but the team has built up enough of a cushion on the wildcard that they could get away with it. A few wins in Seattle would make the simulated game plan even more palatable.