A-Rod leaves game with sore groin

Alex Rodriguez was lifted from today’s game before the bottom of the 9th inning because of a sore groin, however Joe Girardi said after the game that he felt no pain and they were just playing it safe. Ramiro Pena replaced him at third, and was immediately tested with a hard chopper that took an awkward bounce. Funny how that works.

Hopefully this is nothing long-term, and the day off tomorrow will have A-Rod healed up enough to play in Baltimore on Tuesday.

Game 57: Avoiding the sweep

For the first time this season the Yankees head into the final game of a three-game set with a sweep looming. Normally they’re on the other end of this, but after Burnett’s rough outing on Friday and the offense’s complete inability to hit the Jays’ lefties both days, they now face the threat.

Emotionally, there’s not much to say before the game. Win. That’s it. No one wants to see a sweep. We’ve seen a few teams drop the first two to the Yanks only to come back and avoid the sweep in the third. It would be nice to see the Yanks pull off that.

This game has you can’t predict baseball written all over it. Brandon Morrow walks the farm. Normally the Yankees eat those guys for breakfast and still have leftovers. Yet he leads the league in strikeout rate, so he certainly has the ability to set down the Yanks. If he does that today don’t be surprised.

Javy Vazquez allows tons of home runs. He’s second worst in the AL in home run rate. The Blue Jays lead the league in home runs by a long shot. That seems like a terrible formula, and if Javy doesn’t have his control he’ll be toast by the second. But if he has command like he did against Baltimore, then he can carve up the Jays with his five-pitch repertoire.

Two pitchers who play to their opponents’ strengths. I think we’re going to see a whacky game this afternoon.

Lineup:

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

And on the mound, number thirty-one, Javier Vazquez.

Link Dump: Hyped prospects, Strasburg, Harper, revisiting Girardi’s hiring

Some Sunday morning links for your reading, including a few draft related with the draft upcoming tomorrow.

Here is a good draft piece at ESPN by Jerry Crasnick examining some of the biggest hyped prospects ever.  Even back in 1989 and 1990, when the baseball draft was a blip on the radar, I remember the hype surrounding Ben McDonald and Todd Van Poppel.  If they were coming out today, I’m sure it would be pretty Strasburg-esque.  Also some interesting “what ifs” in there as both Mark Prior and Bo Jackson were drafted by the Yankees but did not sign.  With the careers they ended up having, it’s fun to wonder how much differently things could have turned out.

The Stephen Strasburg hype is hitting new levels as his first start is upon us this week.  A town in Virginia is looking to change its name to Stephen Strasburg.  It’s going to be tough to live up to the hype, yet I have a feeling that he will come as close as possible to meet expectations.

This article on Bryce Harper, while a few weeks old, is a very good read.  I still cannot believe the way his character is being attacked.  He’s 17 years old.  He can’t even legally buy a scratch ticket yet.  Everyone who is saying bad things about him, including calling him “just a bad, bad guy” needs to take a long look in the mirror and remember what they were doing as 17 year olds.  Even though he doesn’t have the underdog status that so many people love, I’m really going to root for this kid.

In the way back machine, it’s interesting to read Keith Law’s piece when the Yankees hired Joe Girardi and how he thought they made a good call.  Of note is the fact that while Joe Torre hadn’t developed much starting pitching in his time with the Yankees, Girardi in his one year with the Marlins got solid seasons out of Anibal Sanchez and Scott Olsen, as well as Josh Johnson.  Johnson clearly has moved into ace status, but Sanchez and Olsen haven’t done much since.  Is that because Girardi was good developing them, or that he overworked them and they’ve battled injuries since?  It’s an interesting question to ask when thinking about the future of Phil Hughes and Joba Chamberlain under Girardi’s watch.  That being said, if overwork was an issue with the Marlins pitchers, I think that Girardi has likely learned from that, and the Yankees have a much better infrastructure in place to handle these young guys.

As Mo sits, Toronto walks off in the 14th

For 13.5 innings covering 81 outs, the Yankees and Blue Jays, with a few hiccups, put on a clinic in pitching. Yet, with the game tied in the bottom of the 14th, Joe Girardi opted to go with Chad Gaudin over Mariano Rivera, and two batters after a lead-off walk to the number nine hitter, the Yanks were heading back to the dugout, 3-2 losers in a contest marred by the ineffectiveness of the team’s heart of the order.

Credit: Adrien Veczan, AP Photo/The Canadian Press

Biggest Hit: Jeter goes yard

In a game marked by a decided lack of Yankee fan, the biggest hit of the game for the Bombers was clearly the captain’s fifth inning blast. Derek Jeter took a 2-0 pitch from Ricky Romero and deposited it 385 feet away into right field. The Yankees had their first lead of the series against the Blue Jays.

For Jeter, it was his sixth dinger of the year, and after hitting just one in all of May, he has matched that total through five games in June. More comforting though have been Derek’s numbers of late. After a strong start to the season that saw him end April with a .330/.354/.521 line, Jeter struggled in May. He hit just .204/.275/.247 over 21 games, and many started worrying that end of Jeter was night.

Yet, this old dog has a few new tricks up his sleeve. Since bottoming out on May 22, Jeter has gone 23 for 55 with five walks over 13 games. The home run today was Jeterian, and the Yanks’ leadoff hitter seems to have escaped the May doldrums. The same, however, cannot be said of other Yankees.

Biggest Non-Hit: Mark Teixeira and the middle of the lineup

Credit: Darren Calabrese, AP Photo/Canadian Press

While Jeter had the Yanks’ only RBIs of the game, the heart of the order was utterly abysmal. Mark Teixeira went 0 for 6 with five strike outs and appears lost at the plate. With one-third of the season behind us, his batting line — .215/.328/.370 — suggests that he needs a new spot in the lineup, a day off or both. I doubt Girardi would let him stew after a diamond-encrusted platinum sombrero performance, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Yanks’ first base take a breather later this week.

Beyond Teixeira, the Yanks’ 2-3-4-5-6-7 hitters combined to go 4 for 33 with 12 strike outs and nine runners left on base. Despite some late-inning choices which we’ll cover in a second, the Yankees lost the game when the bats fell silent. I know Ricky Romero has been a good pitcher of late, but the team’s offense just could not get the job done.

Prior to the 14-inning affair, the Yanks exhibited some shocking home/road splits. While in the cozy confines of Yankee Stadium, the Bombers hit .316/.394/.515. That’s an entire lineup of Alex Rodriguez in a down season. On the road, though, the team ekes out just a .258/.341/.395 line, and that doesn’t include today’s 8-for-47 debacle. The numbers are subject to a small sample size warning, but right now, the Yanks are a team built for their home stadium.

Biggest Out: Jeter lines into a DP

Unfortunately for Jeter, though, on a day in which everyone else struggled, his at-bat in the 7th defined the game for the Yanks. With Francisco Cervelli and Brett Gardner on second and third with one out, the Blue Jays brought the infield in, and Jeter lined the ball hard but right at Aaron Hill. Although Hill dropped the ball, the umpires ruled it a drop on the transfer. Jeter was out, and Cervelli, halfway down the line at third, was easily doubled up.

Had Jeter hit that ball elsewhere, the Yanks would have had a 4-1 lead. Had he hit it on the ground, the Yanks would have had a 3-1 lead. At that point, the Yanks needed Jeter to hit it where they ain’t, and though no fault of his, the rally was quashed. After that double play, Alex Gonzalez led off the 7th with a home run to tie the game, and the Yanks could never reclaim the lead.

Getting to the end of the game

In a certain sense, the early-game struggles were overshadowed by the end game. After coaxing 4.1 scoreless innings from his often-shaky bullpen, Joe Girardi had but three relievers left in the pen: Chad Gaudin, Sergio Mitre and future Hall of Famer Mariano Rivera. If ever the team needed Al Aceves, it was yesterday.

Mitre had just thrown a few innings yesterday and was unvailable, and the game had not yet entered that situation to end all situations: The Save Situation. So Chad Gaudin came into the game. Released a few weeks ago by the Oakland A’s, Gaudin walked Edwin Encarnacion, the Blue Jays’ struggling nine hitter, on four pitchers, got an out on a sacrifice bunt and gave up a walk-off single to end the game.

I was apoplectic even before this disastrous 14th inning unfolded. How could Joe Girardi not use Mariano Rivera, the greatest reliever of all time, before Chad Gaudin, an Oakland reject? Girardi later said he would not use Rivera in a tie game on the road unless Mo can go two innings and that it’s still “too early in the season” to use Mariano for that length. Instead, Gaudin got the ball and the loss.

I understand the counterargument. I understand wanting to use your closer for a save situation. But at some point, it simply becomes necessary to save the game from being a loss. At some point, Rivera has to pitch in extra innings, and if the game is still tied after he’s out of gas, at least the Yanks went down firing their ace. It is a lesson Yankee managers have not learned since Alex Gonzalez took Jeff Weaver deep during the 2003 World Series. The loss ultimately rests with the offense, but the bullpen management in the 14th did not help.

Very Honorable Mention: Andy Pettitte

Credit: Darren Calabrese, AP Photo/The Canadian Press

By the time the 14th inning rolled around, Andy Pettitte was but an afterthought. I’d be remiss, however, if I didn’t give a big tip of the cap to Number 46. Facing a lineup that leads all of baseball in runs scored, Pettitte threw 7.2 masterful innings. He gave up just two solo home runs, struck out 10 and issued just three free passes. While he didn’t get a W, it was not for lack of trying, and Pettitte’s outing today continues his amazing run to start the 2010 season.

The WPA Rollercoaster

Up and down and up and down.

Up Next

Javier Vazquez (4-5, 6.06) will look to stop the bleeding in Toronto. He takes a recent hot streak into the 1:07 game against Brandon Morrow (4-4, 6.00), and after today’s long affair in which everyone but Mo pitched, the team will rely on Javy for some innings.

The Heathcott & Murphy Show is on in Charleston

Make sure you vote for the Triple-A All Star Team. Let’s get Jesus Montero in their despite his substandard season.

Triple-A Scranton (2-1 win over Gwinnett)
Reid Gorecki, CF, Jesus Montero, C & Greg Golson, LF: all 0 for 3, 1 K – Gorecki drew a walk
Reegie Corona, 2B: 1 for 4, 1 K, 1 SB
Eduardo Nunez, SS & Colin Curtis, LF: both 0 for 4, 1 K
Chad Huffman, 1B: 1 for 4, 1 R, 1 2B, 1 K , 1 E (throwing)
David Winfree, DH: 1 for 3, 1 R, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 1 BB
Ivan Nova: 6 IP, 8 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 4 K, 10-3 GB/FB – 64 of 97 pitches were strikes (66%)
Zack Segovia: 1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 0 K, 1-2 GB/FB - just six of his 15 pitches were strikes (40%), but there was an intentional walk mixed in there
Boone Logan: 0.2 IP, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 2 K – six of his 13 pitches were strikes (46.2%)
Jon Albaladejo: 1.1 IP, zeroes, 1 BB, 3 K, 1 HB, 0-1 GB/FB – 14 of his 20 pitches were strikes (70%)

[Read more…]

Open Thread: Losing with your best pitcher still in the bullpen

Mo had plenty of time to sign autographs from the 8th through 14th innings. (Photo Credit: Kathy Willens, AP)

I don’t know what’s more frustrating, losing a game in extra innings when Mariano Rivera didn’t pitch because he was being held back for a stupid statistic, or Mark Teixeira for doing his best Jeff Francoeur impression. Probably the latter, because the former has been happening for years.

Anyway, here’s your open thread for the night. There’s a game on MLB Network for you to watch, but which one apparently depends on where you live. It’s Saturday though, go out and do something you won’t remember.

2010 Draft: Royals close to a deal with Grandal

Via MLBTR, the Royals are close to reaching a deal with Miami catcher Yasmani Grandal, who they would take with the 4th overall pick when the draft begins on Monday. Pre-draft deals are against the rules on many levels, which is why nothing will be officially announced by the team or even confirmed by the media. Given the NCAA’s recent track record of screwing over its athletes, I wouldn’t put ruling Grandal ineligible for the postseason past them. It’s unlikely though.

Coincidentally, the Pirates reached a pre-draft deal with Boston College catcher Tony Sanchez last year before making him the 4th overall pick. Unlike Sanchez, Grandal is a legitimate top-half of the first round talent, even though 4th overall is a bit of a reach. He wasn’t connected to the Yankees in any way, but the pieces are starting to fit in the puzzle.