Gardner gets pie as Yankees finish sweep

Is there a better way to end a ten game homestand than with a walk-off win? I don’t think so. The Yankees got their brains beat in by the Red Sox in the first three games a week ago, but they finished with six wins in the final seven games against a pair of first place teams. Successful homestand? Successful homestand.

Hooray for pie.

Brett Gardner, Not A Platoon Guy

Despite a .364 OBP against lefties this year and a .333/.414/.504 batting line since April 23rd, Joe Girardi decided to sit Brett Gardner in favor of Andruw Jones against Texas’ left-handed starters on Wednesday and Thursday. Jones went 0-for-3 with three strikeouts and a walk before Gardner took over for defense late in a tie game on Thursday, but the regular left fielder did a lot more than play defense. With the score tied at two in the 12th inning, Gardner came to the plate with Curtis Granderson (bloop single) on second and Robinson Cano (phantom hit-by-pitch, I think it just hit the knob of the bat) on first with one out. Lefty Michael Kirkman went to his fastball, and Gardner yanked a ground ball through the 3.5 hole to score Grandy for the walk-off win.

Gardner also singled in his first at-bat, that one also off Kirkman. So he came off the bench for defense and ended up with two hits, including the game winner. It’s pretty obvious that if Girardi wants to platoon Andruw, he has to do it with Jorge Posada as the DH. Gardner has to play every game, period. He’s simply too good (on both offense and defense) to platoon right now.

Brian Gordon’s Big Day

Not bad, Brian.

Three days ago, I had no idea that Brian Gordon even existed. Yet there he was Thursday afternoon, starting for the Yankees against the defending AL Champion Rangers. Five innings into the game, Yankee Stadium was chanting his name as he tried to wiggle out of a bases loaded, one out jam. I can’t imagine how that must have felt for the 32-year-old.

The actual results are mixed. I would have signed up for two runs in 5.1 IP in a heartbeat, but Gordon did put a dozen men on base in that time. He gave up seven hits, walked three (one was intentional), and hit two batters, though he got some help from a pair of double plays and Russell Martin throwing out two would-be basestealers. The Rangers put three men on base against him the first time through the order, then four men the second time through the order, and then five men the third time through the order. Gordon’s fastball sat 88-90 and his go to pitch was a slow, slooooow curveball that he got a little predictable with. If he was ahead in the count, you were getting the curve down and away.

I thought Gordon did a fine job of limiting the damage in the fifth, when he allowed his only two runs but escaped a second and third with no outs situation by allowing just one run. Taylor Teagarden walked to leadoff the inning, and a hit-and-run by Endy Chavez moved him up to second. It would have been a routine ground ball double play if Eduardo Nunez wasn’t going to cover second, but he did a good job to recover and keep the ball on the infield and Teagarden at second. Ian Kinsler blooped in a double to score a run and setup the second and third situation, but Gordon recovered to strike out Elvis Andrus. An intentional walk to Josh Hamilton (more on that later) loaded the bases, then Michael Young popped out for the second out. Gordon was almost out of it, but he lost the handle on a curveball and hit Beltre (in a two strike count) to force in a run. Mitch Moreland ended the inning with a routine fly ball. All things considered, it was a fine job.

The Rangers are a strong offensive team despite their recent struggles, and Gordon handled the start about as well as we could have expected. I think he did enough to earn another look (Girardi confirmed that we will start again in five days), but if nothing else he looks like he could be a serviceable reliever with that fastball-curveball combo. That would solve the problem of having to go through a lineup multiple times, and he certainly has experience in that role (he didn’t start until mid-April). We’ll see.

Blown Chances

The last time the Yankees played a day game after clinching a series win, they blew some early opportunities against Carlos Carrasco before going quietly and taking the loss. This game had a similar feel to it. Two outs on the bases (more on that later) killed a potential first inning rally before it even had a chance to start, then Ramiro Pena stranded two runners on base in the second inning, then Cano and Jones struck out to strand runners at second and third in the third. The ninth inning was the icing on the blown opportunity cake; a single, sac bunt, and two walks loaded the bases with two outs, but Granderson struck out (after being in a 3-1 count) and Mark Teixeira grounded out to send the game to extras. The two best hitters on the team couldn’t get it done. The next inning ended when Adrian Beltre turned a Posada line drive into a double play because Gardner was running on the pitch. Of course. At least they came away with the win.

IBB 4 Life

I’m not a big fan of the intentional walk, except in extreme situations. Something about free baserunners doesn’t sit well with me. Intentionally walking Hamilton to a) loaded the bases with one out, and b) put men on first and second with no outs don’t qualify as extreme situations to me. I mean, Young has killed the Yankees all season, absolutely killed them (came into this game hitting .400/.455/.600 against them this year), why put more runners on base in front of him. Yeah, the (literally) free passes worked in the sense that Hamilton did not come around to score, but the hit-by-pitch to Beltre forced in a run because the reigning AL MVP was put on first. Sometimes bad process leads to good results, like today.

So nice to have a catcher than can throw.

Leftovers

It’s Cory Wade’s world, we’re all just living in it. After just two days on the roster, he already has three times as many 1-2-3 innings as Rafael Soriano. Wade sat down all three men he faced on Wednesday and all six he faced in this game, ending his outing by striking out Hamilton, who swung and missed at three changeups. Gorgeous. All told, the Yankees’ bullpen allowed two hits and a walk in 6.2 IP. Hector Noesi did a great job bridging the gap between Gordon and the regular late-game duo of David Robertson and Mariano Rivera.

Martin looked a million times better today than he did when he started on Sunday. He was moving around and running much more freely it seemed, and he answered the call when the Rangers tested him with some stolen bases attempts. Russ also singled in the first run of the game, and had another single plus a walk, so it was an all-around good return to the lineup for him. Tex took a big fat 0-for-6, which is never fun. Nick Swisher had a hit and a walk from the leadoff spot, Granderson had three hits, Cano two hits and a walk, and Posada a double (his first extra base hit off a lefty this year, and it drove in the tying run in the sixth). Eduamiro Penunez combined to go 0-for-6 with a walk and a sac bunt, though Alex Rodriguez pinch-hit for Ramiro Pena in the ninth only to be intentionally walked. Nunez had both the walk and the bunt.

The Yankees made a pair of outs on the bases in the very first inning, including the first out at third base when Swish over-slid the bag going first-to-third on a Granderson single. Grandy got caught stealing to end the inning shortly thereafter. Sigh.

In nine games against the Yankees this year, the Rangers managed to give up 22 homers, including shots by Pena, Nunez, Frankie Cervelli (a grand slam), and Derek Jeter (two!). Now that’s impressive. Texas is now 2-8 in their last ten games while the Yankees are 18-9 since that ugly six game losing streak no one seems to remember.

WPA Graph & Box Score

So much leverage, so little time. MLB.com has the box score and video highlights, FanGraphs the other stuff.

Up Next

Time to hit the road and visit the Chicago Cubs as the NL park leg of interleague play begins. Freddy Garcia gets the ball against Doug Davis in another afternoon game on Friday, this one at 2:20pm ET. The Cubbies play a lot of home games during the day, in case you’re not familiar with the other side of the baseball world.

Heredia dominant again in Tampa win

The Short Season Staten Island Yankees kick off their season tomorrow, and Robert Pimpser says Bryan Mitchell will be on the mound. It’s unclear if he’s starting or relieving, but for the love of Mo he better start. The kid’s 20 years old with some of the best stuff in the organization, they can’t put him in the bullpen. The Yankees also signed 23-year-old lefty Vidal Nuno out of an independent league and sent him to Staten Island. Just roster filler, but here’s some video from 2009.

Mike Ashmore spoke to Austin Romine, who talked about his concussion. Ha still has not picked up a bat. Grant Duff was also placed on the disabled list with a shoulder issue, and it sounds like Carlos Silva is ready to come off the disabled list after dealing with a shoulder issue of his own. As for the really bad news, Tim Norton has a severely torn labrum and this latest shoulder ailment might be career-threatening. That’s a damn shame, he was maybe a month away from the big leagues given how well he was pitching.

Triple-A Scranton (8-1 loss to Columbus in eight innings) game was completed early due to rain … they faced an old pal, who apparently has a new delivery and more velocity … oh, there were two other old friends in the opposing lineup as well
Kevin Russo, 2B, Jorge Vazquez, 1B & Doug Bernier, SS: all 0 for 3 – JoVa and Bernier each whiffed twice
Greg Golson, CF: 2 for 4
Jesus Montero, C & Austin Krum, LF: both 1 for 3
Brandon Laird, 3B: 1 for 3, 1 R
Jordan Parraz, RF: 1 for 2, 1 BB
Gus Molina, DH: 0 for 2, 1 RBI, 1 CS
David Phelps, RHP: 4 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 5 K, 5-1 GB/FB, 1 E (pickoff) – 50 of 71 pitches were strikes (70.4%) … left because of a lengthy rain delay
Lance Pendleton, RHP: 1.2 IP, 2 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 3 BB, 4 K, 1 WP, 3-1 GB/FB – 29 of 52 pitches were strikes (55.8%) … welcome back to Triple-A
Ryan Pope, RHP: 0.2 IP, 3 H, 5 R, 5 ER, 2 BB, 2 K – just 14 of 29 pitches were strikes (48.2%)
Eric Wordekemper, RHP: 0.2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 0 K, 0-2 GB/FB – nine of 16 pitches were strikes (56.3%) … allowed all three of Pope’s inherited runners to score
Andrew Brackman, RHP: 1 IP, zeroes, 2 K, 1-0 GB/FB – a dozen of his 15 pitches were strikes (80%)

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Cashman: We want Montero to play everyday

Brian Cashman told reporters today that the reason Jesus Montero has not been called up is because he wants him to play everyday rather than serve as Russell Martin‘s backup and get occasional at-bats at DH. “Is Montero better than [Francisco Cervelli]? Yes he is,” said Cashman, continuing his theme of brutal honesty. I can certainly see why they would prefer to do this, but … I mean …  how long are they willing to wait for a full-time spot to open up? What if one doesn’t until next season?

Open Thread: The Old Timers’ Day Roster

(Photo Credit: Flickr user bump via Creative Commons license)

The 2011 edition of Old Timers’ Day will take place ten days from now on Sunday, June 26th. Earlier today we learned that Bernie Williams will be there, and earlier this year we heard that both Joe Torre and Lou Piniella will be there as well. The full roster of attendees was released today and can be seen here. Aside from those three, other first timers include Clay Bellinger, Brian Boehringer, George Frazier, and former first base coach Jose Cardenal. Here’s a fun fact: three Old Timers (Aaron Small, Homer Bush, and Ramiro Mendoza) are younger than Mariano Rivera. Crazy.

Anyway, here is tonight’s open thread. The Mets are playing the Braves (Dickey vs. Minor) and MLB Network will carry a game as well (teams depend on where you live). That’s it, the NBA and NHL seasons are over. Talk about whatever your heart desires, go nuts.

Joba Update: Joba Chamberlain had his Tommy John surgery, and he tweeted afterward that everything went well. Based on his feed over the last few days, he seems to be in pretty good spirits considering how much an injury like that sucks.

Bernie Williams to make first Old Timers’ Day appearance

Via Peter Botte, Bernie Williams will make his first Old Timers’ Day appearance this year on June 26th. Bernie’s been back to the Stadium a few times since unofficially retiring, specifically the final game at the Old Stadium, but this will be his first as an Old Timer. It’s always fun whenever former great makes his first appearance at the event, so I’m excited. Bernie was probably my favorite player during the dynasty years.

Yankees’ starters and the good kind of homers

Interleague play has been in baseball for 15 years now, but no Yankees’ pitcher has ever hit a homerun in an NL park. I didn’t remember one, and B-Ref’s Play Index confirms it. That’s kinda disappointing. In terms of OPS+, the best hitting Yankees’ pitcher in the interleague play era is Kevin Brown (min. two plate appearances), who had a double and a strikeout in his two plate appearances back in the day. That adds up to a 290 OPS+. Javy Vazquez leads the way with a 121 OPS+ among guys with ten or more plate appearances thanks to a double, two walks, and three sac bunts in ten trips to the plate. The Yankees don’t pay their pitchers to hit anyway, no team does.

With the team headed to Chicago and then Cincinnati over the next few days, I’m going to go out on a limb and predict that one of the Yankees’ starting pitchers will in fact hit a homerun at some point on the trip. Which one? I’m not that brave, but I am feeling it this year. Let’s stick some odds on the fellas…

Friday @ Cubs: Freddy Garcia

Sweaty Freddy has never hit a homerun in his career and has just a .190/.212/.222 career line in 80 plate appearances. He hasn’t had a hit since 2007 (in part due to injuries), and his two career extra base hits were a double in 2007 and a double in 2002. Wrigley Field is just about neutral when it comes to right-handed batters, so that doesn’t help his cause either. Garcia will have the platoon advantage against lefty Doug Davis, a ground ball guy (~45% over the last few years) that has surrendered 1.1 homers for every nine innings pitched over the last three years. Doesn’t look good for Freddy. Chances: 0.5%

Saturday @ Cubs: A.J. Burnett

All those years with the Marlins produced a .134/.180/.180 batting line in exactly 300 plate appearances, though A.J. has three career homers. One came off Rick Ankiel, another off Robert Person, and the third off Kevin Correia. The problem is that Burnett has just one hit (a single) in 17 plate appearances since coming over the AL. He will be at a platoon disadvantage against righty Ryan Dempster, who gave up eight homers in his first five starts this year but just five in ten starts since. Not liking his chances, but I do like them better than Garcia’s. Chances: 5%

Sunday @ Cubs: CC Sabathia

Now we’re talking. Sabathia is a .258/.265/.381 career hitter with three homers in 101 plate appearances, and two of those homers came with the Brewers in 2008. He also picked up a hit with the Yankees in both 2009 and 2010, though both were singles. Wrigley Field is very favorable for left-handed batters and CC will have the platoon advantage against Randy Wells. Wells has been an extreme fly ball guy this year (just 35.1% grounders) and has given up three homers in 18 IP since coming off the disabled list a few weeks ago. Chances: 29%

Monday @ Reds: Ivan Nova

Nova has never come to the plate in a professional game, majors or minors, and opposing starter Johnny Cueto has gotten better and better at limiting homers as his career has progressed. It’s also a right-on-right matchup, which never helps. That said, Nova’s young and presumably strong, plus the Great American Ballpark is absurdly favorable towards right-handed batters, so I could see him surprising us and running into one. Chances: 15%

Tuesday @ Reds: Brian Gordon

This is where it gets interesting. Gordon spent the first ten years of his career as an outfielder and is a career .275/.321/.460 career hitter in 4,161 minor league plate appearances. He hit no fewer than ten homers in any season from 2000 through 2006, including a 22 homer year in 2004. He averaged 15.1 homers per year during that stretch. Clearly, he has some power. The GAB also favors lefties, but Gordon will be at a platoon disadvantage against southpaw Travis Wood. Wood is an extreme fly ball guy though (just 31.5% grounders in his career), so if he doesn’t Gordon doesn’t hit one out himself, there’s a chance the Yankees’ offense will knock the Reds’ starter out of the game early and give their starter some swings against a right-handed long man. I like the odds. Chances: 50%

Wednesday @ Reds: Garcia again

The opposing starter is Mike Leake, a ground ball heavy right-hander (48.4% career). Sorry Freddy, it’s probably not going to happen. Odds: 0.5%.

Yankees will look into Kazmir

Via Jon Heyman and Alden Gonzalez, the Yankees will at least kick around the idea of signing Scott Kazmir, though it’s more due diligence than anything. “I know he’s struggled,” said Brian Cashman, who confirmed that he has yet to look into it. The Yankees could use a second lefty in the bullpen, but Kazmir hasn’t exactly shut lefties down throughout his career, even when he was good. There’s also nothing to suggest that he can get big league hitters out right now (15.1 IP, 22 H, 30 R, 29 ER, 20 BB, 14 K, 6 HB, 5 WP during his rehab assignment). I have no problem with giving anyone a minor league deal, but the expected return here is zero.