Thank Mo for Yanks win

Seriously, the AP has no pictures of Mo from last night. Sad. | Photo credit: Ross D. Franklin/AP

Sometimes you have to wait to get to the good part. Sometimes that involves suffering for three hours before something really good happens. Last night the Yankees and the Diamondbacks played some sloppy baseball that covered up for shaky — to be kind in at least Arizona’s case — performances from their starting pitchers. Players were gifting outs to the other team, which killed a number of scoring opportunities. Instead of having an 8-7 game after three innings it was tied at two.

From there we saw a see-sawing of the score. Adam LaRoche put the Diamondbacks up by two. The Yankees came back to score on a groundout and then an infield single off the glove of a drawn-in LaRoche. Damaso Marte couldn’t hold Arizona scoreless in the bottom half of the inning, and it took until the Yankees’ last at-bat to pick up that tying run, a sac fly off the bat of Alex Rodriguez. Thankfully, at that point the Yankees were prepared to do battle in extra innings. The great Mariano was warming up.

Like all managers, Joe Girardi makes some odd in-game decisions. Even last night he pulled a strange substitution in the ninth. I had no idea why he took Swisher out of the game to gain maybe a step advantage with Kevin Russo. The trade-off didn’t make sense to me at the time. Why take out one of the team’s best hitters just to gain a fractional advantage on the bases? But then it became clear: Girardi planned to use Mariano, and he planned to use him for more than one inning.

This decision, too, seemed odd, if only because Girardi has played this situation by the book in every instance I can recall. A tie game on the road usually means that Mariano sits around and waits for the offense to capture a lead. Sometimes, as we saw in Toronto, it never happens. But because Javy Vazquez had pitched only five innings, Girardi had used many of the arms in his bullpen. Marte pitched an inning. Robertson pitched an inning. Chamberlain pitched an inning. Only Park, Gaudin, Logan, and Mo remained. Girardi made the obvious choice.

Part of that choice, it appears, came because Mo was not only the best choice but also the easiest. The Yanks, down by one, put the tying and go-ahead runs on base with none out in the ninth. If Teixeira and Rodriguez came through they’d probably have taken the lead. Girardi obviously wanted Mo ready for that situation. When A-Rod hit the sac fly to bring home Jeter and tie the game, Mo was already going through the motions. At that point it was a no-brainer. He hadn’t pitched since Sunday, and couldn’t pitch until Friday. Girardi not only made the call to bring in Mo, but he called on him for two innings.

Unsurprisingly, Mo pitched brilliantly and kept the game tied in the ninth. It took him 19 cutters, sitting at 92-93 mph, to sit down the Diamondbacks in order. There was a little scare when Kelly Johnson hit a fly ball to right, but it was just a warning track shot. Curtis Granderson wasted no time in showing him how it’s done. That meant Mo could come back in the bottom of the 10th with a chance for the win. The Diamondbacks didn’t go easily. In fact, Mo had loaded the bases with none out. Three pitches to Chris Young resulted in a pop out. Ditto LaRoche. It took five cutters, the last at 93, to finish off Mark Reynolds, but at that point the pitches didn’t matter. The great Mariano had delivered.

There was plenty of bad in the game. Both teams made plenty of mistakes that cost their team runs. The players knew it. Here’s Mo’s take, via Fack Youk:

We pulled this game [out] but we played horrible. It’s unacceptable, the way that we played. We can’t be playing games like that, you know? We are better than that are we are supposed to do what’s right in baseball.

A-Rod, too, knows they need to play better.

“Obviously, we’re not happy with the way we played today,” Rodriguez said. “We know we have to do a lot of things better. We’ll take the win, but we really don’t feel good about it. In order for us to do what we need to do late in October, we’re going to have to clean it up a little bit.”

In a way, this cancels out the terrible loss to the Indians earlier in the season. That’s how I’m going to view it. Mistakes were made, but when the last out was recorded it was the Yankees celebrating. They might have done so reluctantly, but they did nonetheless.

Yanks win a game they had no business winning

Once a Yankee, always a Yankee. (Photo Credit: David Zalubowski, AP)

That game was simply dreadful. Embarrassing, really. It’s not worth my time and it would be too frustrating to put together an in-depth recap, but all you need to know is that the Yankees drew seven walks in the first three innings yet only scored two runs. Overall, there were 23 baserunners, just six runs, five GIDPs, three outs on the bases, wild pitches, a balk, strike outs after being up 3-0 in the count, Brett Gardner getting his hand stepped on after sliding into first, you name it. The Yanks simply had no business winning this game.

Thankfully, the Padres took care of business down in Tampa, and our old pal Jason Giambi made sure the Red Sox went home with a loss as well. The Yanks started the day a game and a half up in the AL East, and by the grace of Mo, they’re going to bed two and half games up. Not that they deserve it after this garbage. They better get their heads out of their asses before they get to LA.

But hey, a win is a win.

Romine’s bat leads Trenton to win

First of all, make sure you scroll down for tonight’s game thread. Secondly, Kevin Goldstein throws some love Dellin Betances‘ way (sub. req’d)…

Just as scary (as Betances’ stats), one of baseball’s most notable high-risk/high-ceiling pitchers is impressing with his stuff as well, sitting comfortably at 93-95 mph with his fastball, throwing his plus curve for strikes, and showcasing a surprisingly solid changeup.

Hooray for having three pitches. Meanwhile, Frankie Piliere gives it up for Hector Noesi

Noesi works in the low 90s with his fastball and reaches 94 mph consistently. But the biggest difference has been the emergence of his now very sharp curveball and command. He’s cruised up the ladder the last two seasons and should put on an impressive showing in Anaheim.

Noesi, along with Austin Romine, was selected to participate in the Futures Game next month.

Triple-A Scranton (7-6 loss to Pawtucket) Marcus Thames took batting practice with the team, so he probably close to a  rehab assignment
Justin Christian, LF: 0 for 5, 1 R, 1 K
Reid Gorecki, RF: 2 for 4, 1 R, 1 2B, 1 RBI, 1 SB - threw a runner out at first
Eduardo Nunez, SS: 2 for 5, 2 RBI, 1 K – 15 for his last 42 (.357)
Jorge Vazquez, 1B & Eric Bruntlett, 3B: both 1 for 4, 1 R – JoVa K’ed once, Bruntlett twice
Rene Rivera, C: 3 for 4, 1 R, 1 HR, 3 RBI
Jesus Montero, C: 0 for 0 – he didn’t come to the plate, just played defense late after Jeff Natale pinch ran for Rivera
P.J. Pilittere, DH: 0 for 3, 1 K
Reegie Corona, 2B: 0 for 4
GReg Golson, CF: 0 for 3, 1 R, 1 BB, 2 K, 1 SB
Dustin Moseley: 5 IP, 6 H, 6 R, 6 ER, 3 BB, 3 K, 9-2 GB/FB – 44 of 81 pitches were strikes (54.3%)
The Ghost of Kei Igawa: 1.2 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 2 K, 0-1 GB/FB – 19 of his 31 pitches were strikes (61.3%)
Eric Wordekemper: 1.2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 2 K, 1-1 GB/FB - 14 of 25 pitches were strikes (56%)
Royce Ring: 0.2 IP, zeroes, 1 K, 1-0 GB/FB – four of his seven pitches were strikes

[Read more…]

Game 72: Crap, another bad pitcher

Earlier this year the Yanks were scheduled to face Dontrelle Willis, but he was a late scratch. The Yanks ended up facing a string of Tigers relievers, demonstrating mostly futility against them. The Yanks lost the game, managing just four runs off the Tigers six relievers. Dontrelle has since been designated for assignment and sent to the Diamondbacks, where he’s allowed seven runs through 15 innings. long the way he’s walked more than he’s struck out, and holds a 1.80 WHIP.

Stephen R. explored the Dontrelle saga today at TYU, so in case you’re not up on tonight’s starter give that a quick read.

Posada gets the night off tonight, which makes sense for a number of reasons. Using him on back-to-back nights and then giving him two nights off is probably physically for the better. Also, it gave him a chance against Haren, while the Yanks might not need their best lineup against Dontrelle. Then again, considering how they’ve hit in the past week-plus against poor pitching, maybe I shouldn’t be making that assumption.

Lineup:

1. Derek Jeter, SS
2. Nick Swisher, RF
3. Mark Teixeira, 1B
4. Alex Rodriguez, 3B
5. Robinson Cano, 2B
6. Francisco Cervelli, C
7. Curtis Granderson, CF
8. Brett Gardner, LF
9. Javy Vazquez, P

Open Thread: It’s hot, baby

Photo Credit: Ross D. Franklin, AP

I checked the weather report this afternoon, and at the time it was 107-degrees in Pheonix. One oh seven. Just look at that, it’s ridiculous. Why in the world would anyone want to live there? You’d have to live in a constant state if indoors and air conditioning. At least there’s not much humidity, that would be unlivable.

Anyway, here’s your open thread while we wait for the game to start a little later this evening. The Mets are taking on the Tigers, which is going to be broadcast on ESPN for you non-Tri-State area-ers. Talk about whatever, just be cool. Unlike Phoenix.

Bronx parks opening, but residents want more

Heritage Field finally has an opening date. With old Yankee Stadium now fully demolished, the New York City Department of Parks & Recreation says the replacement park at the old stadium site will open in the fall of 2011, more than five years after the city shuttered Macombs Dam Park. Meanwhile, other green spaces — a skate park and a track and field area with initial completion dates of 2007 and 2009 respectively — are going to be feted with ribbon-cutting ceremonies in the coming weeks.

While South Bronx residents are thrilled to be getting some of the park land that was lost to the stadium back, many community activists still feel shortchanged. The new stadium shanghaied 25 acres of the old Macombs Dam Park, and the new green areas amount to just 22 acres of replacement parks. “It’s a dog and pony show, and they basically shrug their shoulders and act like everything is okay,” Geoffrey Croft of the NYC Park Advocates said to the Daily News. “The thing is a mess. It’s just a mess.” For more on Heritage Field and the city’s plan for this new park across the street from Yankee Stadium, check out our coverage from February.

The new and improved Jon Albaladejo

When the 2010 season started and the bullpen picture became clear, Jon Albaladejo was on the outside looking in. He had minor league options remaining and his big league performance to date (4.21 xFIP in 62.1 IP) hardly stood out, so he was an easy cut. The Yankees simply had better options, so for the first time in his Yankee career, Albaladejo was not on the team’s Opening Day roster, instead sent back down to Triple-A Scranton to wait until his services were needed.

His chance almost came in Detroit last month. The Yanks had a doubleheader against the Tigers, so Albaladejo was summoned to the Motor City but not activated. The team instead had him sit around in the hotel, and if they burned through the bullpen in the first game, they would have officially added him to the roster for the second game. Javy Vazquez went on to have his best game of the season (to date), so the trip to Detroit resulted in nothing more than a few more airline miles for Albaladejo.

Photo Credit: The Scranton Times-Tribune

Biding his time until his next actual call up, Albie has been simply untouchable as Scranton’s closer this season. He’s struck out 45 batters in 34.1 IP, and just about 44% of the balls put in play off of him have been on the ground. Only 19 hits have fallen in behind him, and that includes the three he gave up in 1.1 innings of work two days ago. Just five of those 19 hits have come off the bats of righthanders, who are hitting (ready for this?) .085/.175/.101 in 63 plate appearances against the husky righthander. That’s a .276 OPS. Two seventy six. Lefties haven’t fared much better at .222/.292/.374 in 65 plate appearances. There’s no other way to put it, Albaladejo has been stunningly good this year.

The funny part is that Albie was simply dreadful in Spring Training, if you remember. He allowed 16 hits and 11 runs in just 2.2 IP after showing up to camp some 30 lbs. lighter, and the joke of spring said he needed to put that weight back on to be effective.

Now in his age-27 season, Albaladejo is starting what should be the prime of his career, but dominance like this goes far beyond just physical maturation. Yankee fans remember him as a mostly pitch-to-contact sinker-slider guy that sat 88-92 and would mix in the occasional curveball, but the scouting report has changed this season. Take it away, Donnie Collins

[Albaladejo] has completely reinvented himself, relying less on the two-seam fastball that he used to pound the zone with during his up-and-down tenure with the Yankees. Now, he’s almost exclusively throwing a four-seamer that touches the mid-90s, changing the eye level with his slider and keeping hitters on their heels with a knee-buckling curveball. He is still mixing in two-seamers, but it’s no longer his bread-and-butter.

Collins also provides a quote from Albaladejo’s teammate and fellow Triple-A bullpener Royce Ring, which backs up the increased usage of the four seamer.

Improvement is always good, but improvement with tangible evidence to back it up is even better. He’s essentially gone from a generic sinker-slider reliever to a guy that can pitch up in the zone with the cheese, making the breaking pitches down in the zone that much more effective. Quite frankly, it’s the same recipe that guys like Joba Chamberlain and Dan Bard and Brad Lidge and Jose Valverde and Joe Nathan and about a million other relievers employ.

So what does this mean for the Yankees? Well, obviously it means they have a cheap and flexible relief option that is pitching with extreme effectiveness and is just a phone call away at pretty much all times. The tricky thing is that Albaladejo will be out of options next season, meaning that the team would not be able to send him to the minors without first passing him through waivers. Spring Training and September are no time to evaluate players (again, just look at what Albie did in camp this year), so if the Yankees want to get a good look at what Albaladejo actually brings to the big league table, they’re best off doing it at some point this summer.

The core of the bullpen (Mariano Rivera, Joba, Damaso Marte, David Robertson) isn’t going anywhere, and you have to figure that Chad Gaudin is safe as the de facto long man for the time being. That leaves Boone Logan and Chan Ho Park, both of whom seem to be on perpetually thin ice. There’s really no sense in cutting Park right now because it’ll compromise depth, plus it’s not like he’s blowing games and being used in high leverage spots anyway. Perhaps the best more for the time being is to swap Albaladejo for Logan.

The Yanks finish off the first half with games against the Diamondbacks (one, tonight), the Dodgers (three, this weekend), the Mariners (seven total), the Blue Jays (three), and the A’s (three). Oakland is only one of those teams that can be classified as lefty heavy, so a second LOOGY is nothing more than a luxury until the All Star break. Why not give Albaladejo a look? Logan has options and can go to Triple-A without incident, so there’s no loss of depth and the Yanks get to see if what Albie’s doing in the minors can be somewhat replicated in the show.

Rumors have the Yankees on the prowl for a relief pitcher prior to the deadline, and if you’re going to go shopping for a volatile relief pitcher, why not give an in-house option the first look? Albaladejo’s certainly earned a shot, that’s for sure.