Yanks open series with 11-5 drubbing of A’s

Heading into last night’s game, Trevor Cahill held the AL’s second lowest ERA, trailing just Clay Buchholz. So when the A’s staked him to a 3-run lead in the first, things didn’t look so good for the Yankees. It took all of five batters to change that outlook. The night continued to get better, and it ended with an 11-5 Yankees victory.

Biggest Hit: Swisher ties it early

(AP Photo/Bill Kostroun)

For the most part Dustin Moseley has done a good job filling in for Andy Pettitte. He’s had some rough outings, but that’s expected. He is, after all, Dustin Moseley. All the Yanks ask is that he keeps them in the game. From the outset last night it looked like he would fail. Two singles and a walk loaded the bases, and the A’s struck for three before heading out to the field. That had to feel good with Cahill on the mound.

The Yanks wasted no time in evening the score. Gardner started with a walk, Teixeira followed two batters later with a single, and then Robinson Cano brought home the first run with a single of his own. That ball was so well struck that even though Mark Ellis was in a position to field it, he just couldn’t make the play. That brought Nick Swisher to the plate, and Swisher delivered.

Cahill delivered five sinkers during the at-bat, but only one of them ended up down in the zone — Swish took that one for ball two. The sequence went ball, foul, ball, ball, foul, double to deep center. Coco Crisp made a valiant effort, but the ball went beyond his outstretched glove. It took him a moment to recover, which gave Cano enough time to score from first and tie the game.

In a span of just five batters the Yanks turned this from a frustrating game into a new game. That’s what happens when you have such a high-powered offense.

Meet Saturday’s starter

(AP Photo/Bill Kostroun)

When Moseley walked Kurt Suzuki in the fifth he accomplished two things. First, he guaranteed that Girardi would take him out of the game. The last pitch hardly had time to cross the plate before Girardi was out of the dugout and on a brisk jog to the mound. Second, he opened the door for Javy Vazquez‘s return to the rotation. For the next 4.2 innings, Vazquez made his case clear.

It took a Jeter jump toss to get out of the fifth, but from there Vazquez had things under control. He started the game by retiring seven straight and allowed just one run on two hits, striking out six. He even hit 90 consistently. Though, for what it’s worth, Moseley’s final pitch was also 90 mph.

Moseley’s next turn in the rotation would come on Saturday, but I’d bet on Vazquez slotting in there. It seems like a good time to see if he can be that guy he was from May into July. That will be a big boost to a rotation going through a rough patch.

Filling in for A-Rod

(AP Photo/Bill Kostroun)

Marcus Thames hit his 10th home run of the season this year, though it certainly feels like he’s hit more than that — probably because he’s hit six in his last six games. The tear comes at a great time. It’s like not losing Alex Rodriguez at all. In fact, since A-Rod’s injury Thames is 11 for 34 (.324) with three walks (.432 OBP) and six home runs (.765 SLG).

Mark Teixeira, too, has been cruising along since A-Rod started missing time. He was 3 for 3 with a walk last night, and is 14 for 41 (.342) with six walks (.429 OBP) and seven extra base hits (.659 SLG). He and Thames have made missing A-Rod not as big a deal as it could have been.

Miscellany

(AP Photo/Bill Kostroun)

Brett Gardner got on base three times and didn’t score. You won’t see that happen often.

How many young pitchers have we see throw 100 mph? How many of those pitchers sustained that speed? How many of them lasted long-term? Sorry, Henry Rodriguez, but you are no Billy Wagner.

Swisher is back up to .298, for those of you who are still holding out hope that he’ll finish the season at .300.

Trevor Cahill has allowed 50 earned runs this season. The Yankees have 14 of those.

Graph and Box

More at FanGraphs. You know, FanGraphs has the box score, too. But just in case you like ‘em simple, here’s the regul’r box score.

Up Next

Phil Hughes attempts to recover from a poor start, while Vin Mazzaro starts for the A’s. Considering the sparse crowd last night, I’m sure Mazzaro will be able to get all of his buddies into the game.

Heathcott walks off in Charleston win

Triple-A Scranton (8-7 loss to Lehigh Valley)
Kevin Russo, SS & Brandon Laird, 3B: both 1 for 5 – Russo scored a run … Laird K’ed twice
Greg Golson, RF: 2 for 4, 2 R, 1 2B, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 1 BB – 14 for his last 37 (.378) with four doubles, a triple, and the homer
Jesus Montero, DH: 0 for 5, 1 RBI, 1 K
Jorge Vazquez, 1B: 1 for 2, 2 R, 1 RBI, 3 BB, 1 K – seven of his 15 walks have comes in the last five games
Chad Huffman, LF: 1 for 2, 1 R, 1 HR, 3 RBI, 3 BB – 11 walks and seven strikeouts in his last nine games
Reid Gorecki, CF: 1 for 4, 1 RBI, 1 K
Robby Hammock, 2B: 0 for 4, 1 BB, 1 K, 1 E (fielding)
Chad Moeller, C: 1 for 3, 1 R, 1 BB, 1 K
Al Aceves: 1.1 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 1 K, 2-1 GB/FB – 21 of 33 pitches were strikes (63.6%) … I have to say, rehab has not been kind to him
Amaury Sanit: 0.2 IP, 2 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 1 BB, 0 K, 1-1 GB/FB – half of his 18 pitches were strikes
David Phelps: 5 IP, 8 H, 2 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 5 K, 5-5 GB/FB – 66 of his 98 pitches were strikes
Royce Ring: 0.2 IP, 2 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 0 BB, 0 K, 2-0 GB/FB – nine of 16 pitches were strikes
Zack Segovia: 0.1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 1 K - half of his ten pitches were strikes

[Read more…]

Game 131: Looking for more Moseley magic

(AP Photo/Ben Margot)

The Yankees kick off a 10-game homestand tonight with the first of four games against the Oakland A’s. This is the seventh time the teams will meet this season, but the first in New York. The Yanks went 5-1 out in Oakland during series in April and July.

Dustin Moseley gets the start for New York. He has put together some nice starts since getting called up in July. Even in the ones where he’s given up some runs I thought he was getting unlucky at points. But with Moseley’s pitching style he’ll have to catch every break in order to be successful. The A’s do have the No. 11 offense in the AL, scoring 4.05 runs per game, so this might be a good matchup.

Where the A’s have the advantage is in pitching. It’s the reason they’re currently one game over .500. This almost feels like the 2009 Seattle Mariners, in that the A’s have the fewest runs per game allowed in the AL (and therefore have the lowest team ERA). They’re just third in FIP, though, so it would seem that their defense gobbles up balls in play. To that end they have the second best team UZR in the league and the best defensive efficiency.

Tonight’s starter, Trevor Cahill, has been a big part of the A’s success. His peripheral numbers make his season seem like a fluke: 4.04 FIP, 4.12 xFIP, .217 BABIP. But there are certainly mitigating factors, like his 56 percent groundball rate, fourth best in the league. With an excellent infield behind him a large percentage of those balls get turned into outs. If he keeps that sinker down in the zone the Yanks will certainly find him troublesome. I’d say he can be beat, but the last time he allowed more tan three runs in a start was on July 17. Then again, that was to the Royals, so you just never know.

(Also, Cahill has allowed two or fewer runs in 16 of his 23 starts.)

Teixeira is back in the lineup tonight, making the group seem a bit more formidable.

Lineup:

1. Brett Gardner, LF
2. Derek Jeter, SS
3. Mark Teixeira, 1B
4. Robinson Cano, 2B
5. Nick Swisher, RF
6. Jorge Posada, C
7. Marcus Thames, DH
8. Curtis Granderson, CF
9. Ramiro Pena, 3B

And on the mound, number forty, Dustin Moseley.

A’s series tickets going for cheap

As the Yanks return home after a six-game road trip, they’ll face off against the Oakland A’s in a four-game set at Yankee Stadium. Time was that the A’s in late August and early September would serve as a playoff preview, but the days of Jason and Jeremy Giambi, of Miguel Tejada, of Eric Chavez and the Big Three are long gone. Today, the A’s are a young team with some solid pitchers playing .500 ball.

And so with many New Yorkers still on vacation and the big September series still a few weeks away, tickets are selling well below average on the secondary market this week. Our partners at TiqIQ provided us with the graphic above, and many choice tickets for this week’s games are still available at RAB Tickets.

For those interested in making it to the Bronx this year, now is a great chance to go. The tickets against the Blue Jays this weekend will go up, but the Orioles won’t command a premium. After the Yanks leave town on the 8th of September, they return home only for seven games against the Rays and Red Sox, and tickets to those contests are sure to cost a fortune.

The advantages of playing at home

As the games melt away from the 2010 baseball season, the Yanks’ grip on a playoff spot grows stronger. The Bombers are 6.5 games ahead of the Boston Red Sox with 32 left to play and share an AL East lead with the Tampa Bay Rays. Unfortunately, one of the two beasts of the east can win the division, and the crown this year carries a steep price. The winner will secure home field advantage in the ALDS and ALCS while the loser will likely end up with the second-best record in the American League and no home field advantage at all.

For the Yankees, the schedule, as I’ve written a few times this month, isn’t on their side. I’ve updated the spreadsheet of remaining games to include the results from the past week, and if anything, the Rays’ schedule has gotten easier after they took two of three from Boston. For the Yankees, they play 32 games against teams with a combined winning percentage of .522. On the season, the Yanks are 36-22 against these teams, and if they duplicate those results in September, they’ll end up with 99 wins and 63 losses. That should be good enough to win the AL East.

Tampa Bay, however, has other plans in mind. The Rays have 32 games left against teams with a combined .480 winning percentage, and the AL upstarts are 42-24 against these competitors this year. If Tampa Bay duplicates those results, they’ll end up with a record of 100 wins and 62 losses. Baseball Prospectus’s Playoff Odds report doesn’t see either team reaching that 100-win plateau, but gives Tampa that one-game edge in the standings. Considering how many woulda, coulda, shoulda games the Yanks have played this year, that final regular season result would be a tough one to take.

Of course, much could change over the next five weeks, and the Yankees and Rays both seemingly control their own AL fates. The two teams meet seven times over the season’s home stretch, and if the Yanks can strike a decisive blow against Tampa, something they’ve struggled in doing this year, the AL East crown could be theirs for the taking. With Boston now on the ropes, I’m not going to root for the Rays any longer this year.

It’s all well and good to look at how the Yanks can get to October, but the division title concerns the elusive home field advantage. Does it matter if the Yanks don’t have the home-field edge this year? Make no mistake about it: The Yankees are better at home than they are on the road. At Yankee Stadium, where CC Sabathia doesn’t lose, the Yanks are 42-22; on the road, the club is a still-impressive 38-28. At Yankee Stadium, the club puts up a .367 wOBA while on the road, that mark falls to .332. The home-road split could be more significant if the Yanks must play four out of seven games in Tampa Bay where they are hitting just .229/.297/.398 this year.

Whereas the Yanks score 6 runs per game at home and just under 5 per game on the road, their pitching exhibits less drastic splits. Yankee hurlers have a higher ERA at home than they do on the road — 4.08 vs. 3.75. Because Bombers pitchers have given up a whopping 39 more home runs at home in 0.1 more innings than they have thrown on the road, we can say that Yankee Stadium giveth and Yankee Stadium taketh away.

Still, we can’t underestimate the CC effect. Despite the weaker pitching at home, CC Sabathia, the Yanks’ presumptive Game One starter, is 10-0 at home with a 2.46 ERA/3.21 FIP and 8-5 with a 3.75 ERA/3.85 FIP on the road. Never mind the pride of a division crown; I want home field advantage for the joy of watching CC Sabathia dominate in the Bronx.

With 32 games left and seven against Tampa Bay, the Yankees just need to win. They’re not yet guaranteed a playoff spot, but their October Magic Number is a cool 26. Even without bragging rights on the line, they need to gain that home field advantage for another run at a World Series trophy. The longer the standings remain knotted at the top, the more of an edge Tampa Bay gains, and so it is time to just keep on winning.

Clemens pleads not guilty to perjury, obstruction charges

Roger Clemens appeared this morning in federal court in the District of Columbia to enter a plea of not guilty to charges of perjury and obstruction of Congress. Clemens is facing a six-count indictment concerning statements he made in February 2008 in front of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. The Department of Justice and Congress believes Clemens lied under oath, and like it or not, the case against Clemens will partially rest on Andy Pettitte’s shoulders. Clemens, who left DC to participate in a golf tournament at Myrtle Beach this afternoon, has already rejected a plea deal and plans to fight the indictment. This case, however, won’t go to trial for a few years, and Clemens will stay in legal limbo until then.

September call-up candidates

The immortal Shane Spencer. (AP Photo/John Dunn)

In just two short days, the calendar will flip to September and teams will be able to add extra players to their roster for a little extra help in the season’s final month. We already know that the Yankees will recall Jon Albaladejo and Juan Miranda on that day, and the same would have happened to Romulo Sanchez if he had not gotten hurt last week. For all intents and purposes, we can consider Lance Berkman a September call-up as well.

Historically, the first wave of September call-ups are just the essentials, no luxuries. Some help for the pitching staff, a third catcher, maybe another bench player. That’s pretty much it.  Last year the Yanks recalled three pitchers (Mark Melancon, Edwar Ramirez, Mike Dunn), an infielder (Ramiro Pena), and a third catcher (Frankie Cervelli) on the 1st, with more trickling in throughout the month. The year before that it was just Chad Moeller and Phil Coke on the 1st. One year before that it was Ian Kennedy and Alberto Gonzalez with Doug Mientkiewicz and Jose Veras coming off the disabled list.

The easiest calls are the guys we’ve already seen this year. The Yanks already have their extra backup infielder on the big league roster in Eduardo Nunez because Alex Rodriguez is on the disabled list. The scorching hot Colin Curtis (14 for his last 39 with seven doubles and a homer) will certainly get the call once the Triple-A playoffs are over, ditto Chad Huffman (would be nice to have another righty bat) and Kevin Russo (yay versatility). Greg Golson’s close to a shoo-in for the Freddy Guzman late season pinch-runner role. Just think, if the Yanks manage to pull ahead in the division, those late-September blow-outs will feature an outfield of Huffman-Golson-Curtis in the late innings.

Those are the easy ones. It’s not a matter of if, just when with those four. The real question marks surround the pitching and the third catcher.

Starting on the mound, the only pitchers on the 40-man roster and not in the big leagues at the moment are Albaladejo, Sanchez, Wilkin DeLaRosa, Hector Noesi, and Andrew Brackman. The first two we’ve already addressed. DeLaRosa isn’t a call-up candidate because frankly he’s holding onto his Double-A Trenton and 40-man roster spots by the skin of his teeth. This season he has 4.83 FIP with a rather atrocious 54/41 K/BB ratio in 69.2 innings, and the southpaw isn’t even doing the job against lefthanded batters (4.56 FIP, 25-15 K/B in 23.1 IP). All of this comes after he posted a 4.58 FIP with Trenton last season, so it’s basically been two years of the now-25-year-old spinning his wheels and making no progress. If the Yanks removed him from the 40-man roster and gave the spot to someone else, chances are they would retain him anyway.

Noesi was just promoted to Scranton and has made all of one start there, so I can’t imagine he’s a realistic call-up option. The kid was pitching in the High-A Florida State League less than four months ago, too much too soon can be counter-productive. Brackman is an interesting call-up candidate, but not to make a start or pitch key innings or anything. Perhaps just to give him a taste of the big leagues and let him see what he’s on the cusp of enjoying if he continues to progress next year. I’m not saying I recommend it, but it would be interesting.

So, the bad news is that of the five pitchers on the 40-man and not in the bigs, three of them aren’t call-up candidates (at the moment) and the fourth is just a question mark. They could cut DeLaRosa and add someone like lefty Royce Ring (holding lefties to a .181 average against) or righty Zack Segovia (3.87 FIP and capable of throwing upwards of 45 pitches per outing). Those two would be far more useful than WDLR, and are easy to let go of in the winter to free up the roster spot. Jason Hirsh might have been a candidate as well, but he’s dealing with more shoulder soreness and his status is uncertain. So from the looks of things, the pitching staff might only be getting help from Albaladejo, Ring/Segovia, and possibly Sanchez if he gets healthy before long. With any luck, Damaso Marte, Andy Pettitte, and Al Aceves will be coming off the DL next month to further fortify the staff down the stretch.

Now, about that third catcher situation. There’s just two candidates for the job, and neither is on the 40-man: Chad Moeller and Jesus Montero. Moeller was up earlier this year and is the obvious candidate because he’s familiar with being a backup and there is no concern about running him out there four days in a row late in the season to help Jorge Posada and Frankie Cervelli rest up for October. Like Ring and Segovia, Moeller’s 40-man roster spot would easily be reclaimed after the season when he’s designated for assignment.

Montero’s a different story all together. He’s clearly a better offensive option (.363 wOBA) than Moeller (.267) right now even though he has yet to see a big league pitch, but adding him to the 40-man roster has some long-term ramifications. First of all, it ties up a spot over the winter, meaning that’s one less player the Yanks will be able to protect from the Rule 5 Draft. Montero himself wouldn’t be Rule 5 eligible until after next season, so you’d be adding him and starting his option clock before it was absolutely necessary. Basically, it limits roster flexibility going forward. Then there’s also the issue of playing time; how much would he really play down the stretch if it’s a tight race with the Rays like we all expect?

The Yanks could also have Montero join the team but not activate him; they’ve done this a few times over the year with guys like Phil Hughes, Jeff Marquez, Tyler Clippard, J.B. Cox, and others. They basically do everything with the team – workout, taking batting practice, throw bullpens, etc. – but watch the game from the stands instead of in the dugout with the uniform on. It gives them a taste of the big league life without compromising the 40-man roster. I think that’s the best thing to do with Montero so Moeller can be the sacrificial lamb down the stretch if needed.

I would like to see Montero in September as much as the next guy, but I don’t think it’s the right time for him. Let him help Scranton in the playoffs, then let him come up and hang out with the big league team without actually being on the roster. Next year is when he gets unleashed on unsuspecting America League pitchers. Regardless of who the Yanks call up to be the third catcher, they’re going to have to clear a 40-man spot, which might mean the end for someone like Huffman, or they could just use WDLR’s spot and not call up Ring or Segovia. They have some options.

Beyond Albaladejo and Miranda (and Berkman), most of the call-ups won’t arrive until the middle of the month when Scranton finishes their playoff run. The third catcher could come up sooner with Rene Rivera and Jose Gil moving up a level to fill the empty spots in Double- and Triple-A, and frankly the sooner the better. It’ll allow Joe Girardi to pinch hit for Cervelli late in a game without having to remove Posada from the designated hitter spot or something like that.

Very rarely do September call-ups come up and have an impact, save for the occasional Shane Spencer or Francisco Rodriguez. Their real value lies in resting the regulars and giving the kids some experience in low-leverage spots. September is where Coke earned himself a big league job for the following season, ditto Ian Kennedy. For a team dealing some injuries and needing to rest some older players after 130+ games, having the extra bodies around is going to be a big help.