David Robertson & Turning The Page

(REUTERS/Ray Stubblebine)

Nothing in baseball is more deflating than grabbing defeat from the jaws of victory, the dreaded blown save/loss combination in the ninth inning. The Yankees flirted with disaster on Tuesday before getting the 27th out but were not as fortunate last night. David Robertson‘s reign as the team’s closer is off the very shaky start, as in seven baserunners in 1.2 innings shaky. Blown saves are bad enough, but blown saves this early in a player’s closing career raise serious questions.

No one asked me, but I think Robertson is very capable of closing not just in the big leagues, but for a big-time contender like the Yankees. The stuff is obviously there and based on the last three years, the competitiveness appears to be there as well. That said, I think David’s getting a little too caught up in the moment and is trying to be too fine right now. He’s trying to be Mariano rather than just being himself, so to speak. As Boone Logan said after the game, Robertson might be “overthinking a little bit instead of just letting it go.”

Bad things usually happen whenever an athlete thinks, and I think Robertson’s just trying to be perfect rather than himself. He’s not Cory Wade (no offense, Cory), he doesn’t need to paint the black and fool hitters to be successful. That 31.8% career strikeout rate isn’t an accident; Robertson can make mistakes over the plate and get away with them because his fastball is lively and his curveball cracks like a whip. Yeah, there is less margin for error in the ninth inning, but one of the absolute biggest mistakes Robertson can make is getting away from what got him in the closer job in the first place.

For what it’s worth, David stood at his locker and answered every question following last night’s game. It doesn’t mean all that much in the grand scheme of things but accountability is always appreciated, especially when the alternative is ducking reporters and making it appear as though he doesn’t care. I don’t think not caring has ever been an issue here.

“Just a sad way to end the game,” said Robertson last night. “It’s going to happen. You’re going to lose games. It’s the worst feeling in the world. Mo does it, he comes back the next day and he’s the same guy. He goes right back out there and does his thing. I’m going to have to do that tomorrow.”

Of course, Robertson almost certainly will not get a chance to redeem himself today. He’s pitched in very stressful situations in each of the last two days and Joe Girardi doesn’t like to run his relievers out there three days in a row, especially this early in the season. I do think it’s important for Robertson to get back out there relatively soon though, even in a non-save situation just so he doesn’t dwell on last night’s disaster. Turning the page is a lot easier to do when you’re not sitting around waiting for your next appearance. Blowing saves is part of life, so Robertson just needs to work through this and be ready to go next time he’s called upon.

Robertson blows save in ugly loss to Rays

Whenever a team has beaten the Yankees with a ninth inning rally over the last 15 years, there was nothing more you could do than tip your cap because you knew they beat the best in Mariano Rivera. Wednesday night’s 4-1 loss to the Rays was a stunning culmination of every Yankees fans’ worst nightmare in the post-Mo era.

(Nick Laham/Getty Images)

Blown Save

It took David Robertson all of six pitches to load the bases in the ninth inning. Sean Rodriguez led off with a first pitch ground ball single through the left side, Brandon Allen followed up with a solid first pitch line drive single to right, then Ben Zobrist drew a four-pitch walk. Six pitches, three base runners, and one of them was a walk. That’s hard to do.

The Houdini Act finally caught up to Robertson on Wednesday night, as his team handed him a one-run lead and he couldn’t convert it to a win. B.J. Upton plated the tying run with a sacrifice fly — Nick Swisher nearly threw the runner out at the plate, surprisingly — and Matt Joyce broke things open with a two-strike, three-run homer one batter later. It was a total Yankee Stadium cheapie off the top of the wall in right-center, but they all count the same. It was the first homer Robertson allowed to a left-handed batter in more than two years, since Matt Wieters got him in Baltimore in May 2010.

Blown saves do not sit well with the natives, and there are going to be a lot of questions about the security of the ninth inning over the next few weeks. It’s the nature of beast. Robertson is as qualified to close as anyone, but he’s going to have to show everyone he can actually do it. This is a results town. “Tomorrow can’t come fast enough,” said David after the game and that’s all anyone can do, turn the page and look forward to the next game. At some point soon, Robertson will have a chance to redeem himself.

He Belongs

(AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

David Phelps is going to lose his rotation spot this weekend through no fault of his own, really. Andy Pettitte is coming back and someone has to go, and it’s very likely the rookie will head back to the bullpen. Other than throw a no-hitter, there was pretty much nothing Phelps could have done to save his job against the Rays, but he took care of business and showed the team that whenever they need another starter — and they inevitably will at some point — he’s the man for the job.

A double and two walks made the first inning a bit of a nightmare, but Phelps escaped unscathed by getting Will Rhymes to ground out weakly to second. That started a string of seven straight and 12 of 13 retired by the Yankees’ right-hander before he ran out of gas with two outs in the fourth. Having spent most of the year in the bullpen, hitting the wall at 75-80 pitches isn’t a surprise. Phelps allowed another double to Ben Zobrist and issued two straight walks before being lifted for Boone Logan, who struck out Matt Joyce to end the threat.

Four walks, three strikeouts, five ground balls, four fly balls, and two doubles allowed in 4.2 innings doesn’t look great in the box score, but Phelps sure looked like he belonged on Wednesday night. The starting pitching has started to sort itself out over the last two weeks or so, and part of that turn around has to do with Phelps’ solid work to bridging the gap between the awful Freddy Garcia and the un-retired Pettitte. Nice job, kiddo.

NOffense

Not to absolve Robertson of anything — bottom line, he’s gotta close the game out — but the Yankees can’t expect to win many games by scoring only one run. Not against an AL East rival and definitely not in Yankee Stadium. The only run they did score came on a two-out opposite field double from Robinson Cano in the very first inning, driving in Derek Jeter all the way from first. The Yankees were a slightly better relay throw away from being shutout.

Unsurprisingly, the team went hitless in eight at-bats with men in scoring position. That’s a pretty good explanation of why they only scored the one run. The worst instance of RISPFAIL came in the sixth, after Alex Rodriguez stole third (!) with one out. Mark Teixeira couldn’t put the ball in play and struck out, then Nick Swisher flew out to end the inning after an 11-pitch at-bat. The Yankees also had runners on first and second in the eighth before Tex grounded into a well-turned inning-ending double play. One run’s not enough, fellas.

(AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

Leftovers

Give Joe Girardi major props for lifting Phelps when he did. It would have been very easy to leave him in to face Joyce in an effort to get him a win, but the quick hook — and Boone’s four sliders — preserved the one-run lead in the middle innings. We all wanted to see Phelps escape the jam and stuff, but the team win is more important and Girardi make a big-time move to help the cause. Too bad they couldn’t finish it off.

It’s pretty easy to forget that before Robertson’s blow save, Rafael Soriano nearly coughed things up in the eighth. A throwing error by Cano put runners at first and second with no outs, but Soriano escaped the inning with a strikeout, a great play on a hot shot ground ball by Teixeira, and a fly ball. Big ups to Cory Wade for retiring all four men he faced between Logan and Soriano.

Jeter became the fastest Yankee ever (ever!) to 50 hits in a season with his first inning excuse-me single. He did it in just 30 games. Coming into Wednesday night, Derek had six more hits than any other player in the majors. That’s not a small margin, folks.

Cano, A-Rod, and Swisher all had two hits while Jeter, Raul Ibanez, and Russell Martin had one each. Robbie’s double was the only extra-base hit and Ibanez was the only batter to draw a walk. The Yankees have only drawn 20 walks in their last nine games, well below their usual rate. It’s not a coincidence that they’ve only scored 3.2 runs per game during that stretch.

Two streaks came to an end on Wednesday night. Robertson’s scoreless streak dating back to September 1st of last year ended at 27 innings, and Curtis Granderson‘s streak of reaching base in 28 consecutive games came to an end as well. Both were bound to end sometime.

Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings

Now that’s an eyesore, yikes. MLB.com has the box score and video highlights, FanGraphs some other stats, and ESPN the updated standings.


Source: FanGraphs

Up Next

It’s a battle of ace left-handers in the rubber match Thursday night, when CC Sabathia gets the ball against David Price. If you want to check that one out, give RAB Tickets a look for the latest and greatest deals.

Betances dominant in Triple-A win

Kevin Goldstein identified Tyler Austin as one of this year’s pop-up guys, meaning someone who has raised their prospect stock considerably since the start of the season. You need a Baseball Prospectus subscription to read the entire article, but the Austin write-up is at the top and not behind the paywall. In other words, go read it.

Meanwhile, Doug Bernier was put on the DL with an oblique strain. With he and Ramiro Pena (groin/quad) on the shelf, the Triple-A squad is down to their third string shortstop, otherwise known as the Double-A utility infielder.

Triple-A Scranton (2-1 win over Columbus)
LF Brett Gardner: 1-2, 1 R, 1 3B, 2 BB, 1 K — played seven innings in the field (replaced by Cole Gardner, who didn’t come to the plate) which is typical rehab stuff … the triple was a double that he hustled into a three-bagger … unless he wakes up with some serious soreness, I have to think we’ll see him in the Bronx tomorrow
2B Kevin Russo: 1-3, 1 RBI, 1 K, 1 SB
1B Steve Pearce: 1-3, 1 R, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 1 BB — only eight hits in his last ten games, but three of them have left the yard
DH Jack Cust, CF Colin Curtis & SS Yadil Mujica: all 0-3 — Cust walked and whiffed … Curtis struck out
RF Ronnie Mustelier: 2-4, 1 2B — six hits in 19 at-bats (.316) since the promotion
3B Brandon Laird: 0-4, 2 K
C Frankie Cervelli: 1-3, 2 K
RHP Dellin Betances: 8 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 7 K, 10/2 GB/FB — 62 of 97 pitches were strikes (63.9%) … first batter of the game hit a solo homer and the walks didn’t come until the seventh and eighth innings, so there were a whole lotta outs in between … easily his best start of the season and his best since early last August
RHP Kevin Whelan: 1 IP, zeroes, 2 K — eight of 11 pitches were strikes (72.8%)

[Read more…]

Game 30: All Wet

Future Yankee David Price signing autographs for his future fans between the rain drops. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

It’s been another overcast and rainy day in New York, with on-and-off showers basically since the game ended last night. The forecast calls for thunderstorms all night, or rather some percent chance of thunderstorms all night. This morning it didn’t look like there was anyway they’d get the game in, but now there appears to be just enough of a window. I’d be okay will calling for the tarp after five innings if the Yankees have the lead, wouldn’t you? Here’s the starting nine…

SS Derek Jeter
CF Curtis Granderson
3B Alex Rodriguez
2B Robinson Cano
1B Mark Teixeira
RF Nick Swisher
DH Raul Ibanez
Russell Martin
LF Dewayne Wise

RHP David Phelps

Tonight’s game is scheduled to start a little after 7pm ET, but again it’s unclear if that will actually happen. The game will air on YES locally and ESPN nationally, however. Enjoy.

Mark Teixeira Update: Apparently Tex has been dealing with a lingering cough, but Chad Jennings and Erik Boland report that he saw a specialist today and was diagnosed with inflamed airways. He doesn’t have a virus and the inflammation should clear up on its own within two weeks. I didn’t even know he was sick.

Eric Chavez Update: Eric Chavez told Jennings that he feels 100% after suffering whiplash diving for a ball last week. He hopes to be activated off the 7-day DL when eligible tomorrow, but he has to wait for MLB to review his concussion test first.

Rivera has blood clot in right calf

We have finally learned the nature of Mariano’s complication, to which his agent cryptically referred yesterday. Via basically every beat writer, he has a blood clot in his right calf. He stayed overnight in the hospital to get it taken care of, and is on blood thinners currently. This doesn’t change much in the long run; it just pushes back his surgery date a bit.

In other news, Mo revealed that he was leaning towards coming back in 2013, even before the injury. So much for all his actions being those of a man set on retirement.

Mattingly on Yanks’ managerial position: “It was a blessing that I didn’t get that job”

(Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

After parting ways with Joe Torre following the 2007 season, the Yankees interviewed just three serious candidates for their managerial opening: Joe Girardi, Tony Pena, and Don Mattingly. Girardi obviously got the job and Pena stayed with the team as his bench coach, but Mattingly left the organization to join Torre with the Dodgers. When Torre announced his retirement from managing at the end of 2010, his job was given to Mattingly.

For years it had been assumed that Donnie Baseball would one day take over as the Yankees’ manager. He was the team’s hitting coach from 2003-2006 and the bench coach in 2007, which was presumed to be his apprenticeship under Torre before taking the reigns himself one day. Instead, Mattingly is out in Los Angeles and calling the shots for a first place team in his second year on the job. As part of an interview for Barfly on FOX, he spoke to Mark Kriegel about not getting the managerial job in New York five years ago…

“It was a blessing that I didn’t get that job,” said Mattingly. “I was going through a rough time … trying to manage for the first time in New York … would have been absolutely miserable.”

A few days before the Yankees officially cut ties with Torre, it was reported that Mattingly told Hal and Hank Steinbrenner — who has just assumed control of the team from their father — that he was uncomfortable replacing his mentor. A few weeks later there was an incident involving Mattingly and his wife, which may or may not be the “rough time” he mentioned to Kriegel. Don and his first wife Kim divorced shortly thereafter and he’s since remarried.

Managing in New York is different than managing anywhere else, and I’m not talking about the on-field stuff. You and I don’t know anything about the clubhouse issues that arise during the course of the season, but we do know that the media scrutiny is intense. Mattingly knows all about that from a player’s perspective but it’s different as a manager. Given where the team was after 2007, I don’t believe a rookie skipper — even someone with as much local star power and support as Mattingly — would have been the best thing for the club.

That said, I can absolutely Donnie back in pinstripes one day. In fact, the idea of Mattingly replacing Girardi was first mentioned here more than three years ago. Girardi does a fine job with the team but I don’t see him as a super-long-term manager like Torre. He’s in the second year of a three-year contract, just like Mattingly with the Dodgers. I think it goes without saying that fans will love the idea of having Donnie back in pinstripes and I like that he’s cutting his managerial teeth elsewhere, especially in a big market with a strong club that boasts superstars, young pitchers, overpaid/underperforming veterans, the whole nine. The situation wasn’t right for either side after 2007, but there may be a time that the Yankees and Mattingly reunite, perhaps even sooner than we may think.