Yanks finish off sweep as Nova dominates ChiSox

This game, much like the entire series, was a good old fashioned ass whoopin’. The Yankees finished off the four-game sweep of the White Sox in Chicago with a 7-2 win on Thursday night, sending them to Boston with a seven-game winning streak.

(AP Photo/Elise Amendola)

Ivan Nova, Stud

If Nova was pitching for his spot in the rotation, he did everything he needed to do to keep his job and then some. He allowed one run in the third on an infield single, stolen base, single and sacrifice fly), but he was practically untouchable the rest of the game. Ten ChiSox hitters went down on strike three, a new career high in strikeouts by three. Nova also generated a career-high 16 swings and misses, which is one fewer than he had in the entire month of May. Chicago had just six hits off him the entire game, two each by Paul Konerko and Brent Morel, and not a single one for extra bases. By Game Score (73), it was the best start of his career (the start against the Red earlier this year was a 72).

PitchFX had Nova’s fastball topping out just north of 96 but mostly sitting around 92, though the key was his slider. That’s the pitch they wanted him to work on in the minors, and a lot of his strikeouts came on that very pitch. Don’t Bring In The Lefty did a PitchFX breakdown of Nova’s arsenal after the game, so check that out. He pounded the zone (70 of 102 pitches were strikes, 68.6%), and nine of his 13 non-strikeout outs came on the infield (eight ground balls). Just five of the 27 batters he faced hit the ball out of the infield. Five! Joe Girardi said after the game that they’ll continue to talk about their rotation situation, but it’s pretty obvious right now that they can’t not start Nova. He’s simply pitching too well.

Oppo.

Robinson Cano, Strong

Much like they did the last few days, the Yankees broke the ice and scored the first run in this game. It came courtesy of a Robinson Cano home run, a first-pitch fastball from Phil Humber that he drove the other way and into the bullpen in the second inning. If you just watched the flight of the ball without knowing who hit it, you’d swear a right-handed batter yanked it down the line. I love opposite-field homers; they show the ability to sit back on a pitch and explode through it late, plus brute strength. Hitting a ball that hard to the opposite field can’t be taught, but then against Robbie does a lot of things with the bat you can’t teach.

Safe.

The Lead

As good as Nova was, Phil Humber was matching him through the first five innings. Brett Gardner led off the sixth with a double into right, then he moved to third on Derek Jeter‘s sacrifice bunt. I know I bitch and moan about bunts quite a bit, but sheesh. One of the fastest runners in the game was already in scoring position with no outs in the inning. Swing the damn bat.

Anyway, Curtis Granderson clanked a curveball along the foul line to first base after Jeter’s bunt, and Gardner broke for home. Adam Dunn fielded the ball and stepped on first for the force out before throwing home. It was a great throw, right on the money and easy for A.J. Pierzynski to handle, but Gardner simply outran it and slid in as the go-ahead run. The small ball act worked in this instance, but let’s not make a habit of it, mmmkay? Especially in a situation like this, Gardner on second with none out. He’s scoring on any single to the outfield; no need to give up an out.

Tacking On

The way Nova was pitching, that one-run lead was enough, but they played it safe and tacked a few more on anyway. Jorge Posada singled in Cano in the seventh, then Martin plated Nick Swisher as the next batter with a sac fly. That made a 2-1 game much more comfortable at 4-1, but they didn’t stop there. Martin jumped all over a Brian Bruney meatball in the top of the ninth, clobbering a three-run homer into left-center field to officially put it out of reach. It was his second homer of the series after going more than a month without one.

In the face.

Leftovers

Nova handed the ball off to David Robertson with two outs in the seventh, and he got Juan Pierre to line out to left. Hector Noesi finished things off in the ninth, though he did give up Dunn’s 11th homer of the season. I really couldn’t care about that. It’s a garbage time shot and Noesi challenged a struggling hitter in a 2-2 count. Fine by me. The Yankee pitching staff did not walk a single batter in the entire four-game series; you have to go back to Nick Markakis’ third inning walk against Freddy Garcia on Sunday for the last time a Yankees’ pitcher but a man on base via ball four. It’s a span of 39 innings, the third longest walk-less streak since 1919. The 2002 Yankees went 54 IP, the 1965 Dodgers 42.1 IP. That’s pretty incredible, especially since A.J. Burnett started once of these games.

Eric Chavez picked up two more hits, including one off the very top of the wall in right field. A little more wind and it would have been his second homer of the season and second in as many days. Cano had two hits while Gardner, Swisher, Posada, and Martin had one apiece. Jeter drew a walk, as did Cano and Swish. Mark Teixeira (0-for-4 with two strikeouts) was the only Yankee not to reach base in the game.

Jeter made a baserunning mistake in the eighth inning, something he never does. He was on second with one out, then froze when Teixeira hit a ground ball to third. Morel looked towards first for the force out, but instead threw to second and the tag was applied before Jeter was able to slide back in. You very rarely see the Cap’n make a mistake on the bases, so I’m glad he got it out of his system in a game the Yankees were leading by three (at the time).

And since we’re talking about baserunning, I have to mention this because it’s driving me nuts: sliding headfirst in first has become an epidemic with this team. Gardner’s been doing it pretty regularly for a few weeks, and Martin tried it in the fifth inning of this game. I guess they’re not going to be happy until someone breaks a few fingers or a wrist. Just run through the base please, it’s not worth the injury, not at this point of the season with the Yankees having such a big lead on a playoff berth.

Anyway, I’m convinced the White Sox won’t win more than 20 games the rest of the season (they have 52 left). They’ve completely checked out as though they’d rather be doing anything other than playing baseball. I’d hate to be a fan of that team given how awful they’ve looked. The Yankees, meanwhile, have won seven straight and eleven of their last 14. The Red Sox lost to the Indians, so the two AL East rivals will start the weekend series with identical 68-42 records, though the Yankees have a substantial edge in run differential (+173 to +138).

Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings

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

Up Next

Off to Boston for three games against the Red Sox, which should be a blast with both clubs sitting atop the division. Bartolo Colon will start the series off against Jon Lester on Friday night. If you want to head to Fenway for any of the three games this weekend, RAB Tickets can get you there.

Phelps returns to mound in GCL loss

Some news and notes…

  • Austin Romine went for an MRI on his strained back, and last night Double-A Trenton manager Tony Franklin described the injury as “a situation where it might take some time.” The Yankees will obviously play it safe, and since the minor league season ends in about a month, there’s a non-zero chance this could end Romine’s season.
  • Ray Kruml (foot) has been placed on the disabled list. Austin Krum and DeAngelo Mack were demoted to Trenton and High-A Tampa, respectively. R.J. Baker was activated off the phantom DL.
  • Eric Wordekemper has been placed on the DL to make room on the roster for Chris Dickerson, who apparently took his sweet time getting to Scranton. I’m guessing this is a phantom DL stint for Wordy.
  • Mark Prior is scheduled to pitch for the Rookie Level GCL Yankees on Friday, so I guess that line drive off his forearm wasn’t too bad.

Triple-A Scranton (3-2 loss to Louisville)
Kevin Russo, 3B & Brandon Laird, 1B: both 1 for 4 – Laird struck out twice
Greg Golson, CF & Jordan Parraz, RF: both 0 for 4 – Golson struck out and threw a runner out at third … Parraz got picked off first
Jesus Montero, C: 1 for 3, 1 R, 1 BB, 1 PB – he’s 13 for his last 38 (.342) with two doubles and three homers
Jorge Vazquez, DH: 2 for 3, 1 R, 1 HR, 2 RBI – fourth homer in his last ten games … the HBP got him in the leg
Dan Brewer, LF: 0 for 3, 2 K
Luis Nunez, 2B: 2 for 3, 1 K
Doug Bernier, SS: 0 for 2
Adam Warren, RHP: 7.1 IP, 8 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 0 BB, 3 K, 1 HB, 3-11 GB/FB – 70 of 102 pitches were strikes (68.6%) … he was right around 92 tonight
J.C. Romero, LHP: 1.1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 1 K, 3-0 GB/FB – 13 of 23 pitches were strikes (56.5%) … I thought maybe they’d call him up for the Red Sox series, but I guess not
Buddy Carlyle, RHP: 0.1 IP, zeroes, 0-1 GB/FB – threw just two pitches, both strikes

[Read more…]

Game 110: For The Sweep

(AP/Charlie Neibergall)

The Yankees have outscored the White Sox 27-9 during the first three games of the series, and it sure would be nice to finish off the four-game sweep (on the road!) to extend the winning streak to seven. Get it done, fellas. Here’s the lineup, same as last night…

Brett Gardner, LF
Derek Jeter, SS
Curtis Granderson, CF
Mark Teixeira, 1B
Robinson Cano, 2B
Nick Swisher, RF
Eric Chavez, 3B
Jorge Posada, DH
Russell Martin, C

Ivan Nova, SP

Little known fact: MLB rules explicitly state that the Yankees are not allowed getaway days, which is why this game starts at 8:10pm ET. I know, totally not fair. Anyway, YES has the broadcast. Enjoy.

CC Sabathia: Packing on the pounds (again)

A whole lot was made of CC Sabathia‘s weight loss earlier this year, as the big left-hander shed 30 lbs. during the offseason and reported to camp at 290 lbs. for the first time in what I imagine is years. He’s gained some of weight back during the season though, something CC readily admitted to George King. “I gained ten back but I feel good, feel strong,” said Sabathia. “This [winter] I will get under 290. It’s easier to work out in the offseason than it is during the season. During the season I have to make sure I stay strong and feel good.” Given how well he’s pitching, I couldn’t care less how much the guy weighs. Whatever he’s doing, it’s working.

Heyman: MLB unlikely to suspend A-Rod

Via Jon Heyman, MLB is unlikely to suspend Alex Rodriguez for all this gambling nonsense, which should surprise no one. Keith Law did a good job of tearing this whole thing to shreds in his chat today, so allow me to copy and paste: “Absolute waste of everyone’s time. Shame on MLB for pandering to the lowest common denominator in both the media (a large segment of which has long had it in for A-Rod) and the fans. They have NO cause to suspend him, and if they try, they will lose the subsequent grievance in embarrassing fashion. And as you pointed out, the inherent message that MLB cares more about whether and with whom you play ‘illegal’ poker than it does about whether you drive drunk and endanger your life and the lives of others is even MORE embarrassing.”

Aside: I present to you this article. Feel free to ridicule, point and laugh, etc.

Granderson getting it done without the homer, too

Can Curtis Granderson hit 40 homers in a season? It was a question that many asked when the Yankees acquired him in the winter of 2009, and rightfully so. He had mashed 30 in 2009, and that came while playing half his games at Comerica Park in Detroit, hardly a lefty’s paradise. Most of his home run production came on the road, which led Yankees fans to wonder if the short porch could increase his home production and perhaps turn him into a true power threat. We didn’t get many good answers in 2010, but in 2011 he has surged, knocking 28 homers through his first 107 games. Getting to 40 is certainly within the realm of possibility.

Lately, though, Granderson has slipped a bit with the power. His two homers against Cleveland on July 5th gave him 25 on the year, or one every 14.68 PA. If he kept up that pace while getting roughly 675 PA on the season, he’d be on pace for about 46 homers. Lately, though, he’s slowed down a bit, hitting just three homers in his last 107 PA. But that hasn’t stopped him from being productive, as he’s hit .278/.358/.500 in that span. That includes seven doubles and two triples, to go along with 10 walks.

Doubles and triples, in fact, have played a big role in Granderson’s 2011 season. He’s not going to reach the 23 triples he hit in the 2007 season, but he could conceivably reach the 13 he hit in 2008. Even if he doesn’t, he’s already hit more than in 2009 and 2010. He’s also going to top both of those years’ doubles totals. In 54 fewer PA he has already topped last year’s doubles total, and is just five away from his 2009 total. At the same time, he’s already topped 2010’s walk total, and if he keeps up this pace he’ll set his single-season record before he gets to 700 PA.

At the start of the season, Granderson provided a welcome surprise with a power outburst. It has mostly held up, but as with most power hitters he goes through plenty of stretches where he’s not hitting the ball over the fence. But for Granderson that hasn’t meant prolonged slumps. When he’s not socking homers he’s still producing by hitting doubles and triples, and taking walks. The combination has vaulted him ahead of all other AL center fielders’ offensive production — his 32.9 runs above average leads No. 2 Jacoby Ellsbury by almost three runs. It’s hard to find a major flaw in Granderson’s game these days. He’s a big part of the reason why the Yankees find themselves in such a comfortable position currently.

A-Rod resumes baseball activities in Tampa

Three weeks after having surgery to repair a slightly torn meniscus in his right knee, Alex Rodriguez resumed baseball activities in Tampa today. Sean Kernan reports that A-Rod did some running, made 25 throws from 125 feet, took some ground balls (27 from his knees, 14 regular), then took 66 swings (32 one-handed off a tee, 34 off soft-toss). There is still no set date for him to begin a minor league rehab assignment, but I figure that’s at least a week away, maybe more.