Chicks dig the specs. (Photo via Getty Images)
I’m not going to blindly praise Phil Hughes for his start tonight. Everyone watching the game saw flashes of Phil’s potential, and they saw him struggle a bit with two strikes. But I’m not going to irrationally slam a 22-year-old who has dominated the minors and can get Major League hitters out. Right now, Phil Hughes is living somewhere in that not-so-happy medium between the two extremes.
After missing most of the season, at the big league level at least, with a rib injury, Hughes made a start on Wednesday in place of Darrell Rasner or Sidney Ponson or whatever crappy fill-in the Yanks would have had penciled in tonight. He threw 89 pitches in four innings, 57 of them (64 percent) for strikes. He allowed one earned run on four hits and two walks and struck out four. Clearly, the K/9 IP is good. Clearly, the walks are a bit too high.
Hughes’ problem tonight was one that a lot of young pitchers have as they break into the Majors: He couldn’t put hitters away with two strikes. This time, instead of falling behind and walking his opponents, as he had been doing in April, he didn’t get too fancy. He kept pounding the zone with his cut fastball but couldn’t drop in the curveball often enough for a strike. He threw too many pitches early on, but after a 33-pitch first inning, he needed just 56 to get through the next three frames.
I’m not going to gloss over Hughes’ outing and proclaim him the best thing since sliced bread. But right now, he had the stuff to get outs, and he’s still one of the youngest starting pitchers in the Majors. If he slots in to the back end of the rotation next season and produces, the Yanks, with Wang, Joba and some other pitcher in front of him, will have no complaints. That is, of course, a big “if,” but no one will ever convince me to give up on a 22-year-old with this much promise.
Meanwhile, the Yanks won again, and I get the distinct feeling that the team is pulling off a “too little, too late” run here at the end of the season. Since returning home from the West Coast, they’ve won four of six against October-bound teams, but in the end, they’ll miss the playoffs anyway.
As the Stadium’s run draws to a close, one night after Derek Jeter broke the record for hits at Yankee Stadium, A-Rod became the second player to hit 35 home runs in 12 seasons, tying some guy named Babe Ruth. While the home run didn’t really count because A-Rod hit it and the Yanks were already up by three runs, the ghosts of Yankee past were out in full force again tonight.
On the pitching side, as the Yanks’ bats didn’t wake up late, the bullpen was again fantastic. Brian Bruney, Phil Coke, Joba Chamberlain and Edwar Ramirez combined for five innings of two-hit ball. Coke again looked stellar. He does a fantastic job hitting the target. Joba looked dominant, striking out one and throwing 10 pitches in an inning of work. With such a low pitch count, he should have thrown the ninth too, but such are the mysterious ways of Joe Girardi. All in all, this was a solid win for a team playing for third place.
The Yankees elimination number is just three, so any combination of three Yanks losses or Red Sox wins, and it’s officially over. Not that we’re holding out hope at this point. For the Yankees to make the playoffs would take a collapse on the level of…nah, I won’t go there.
On the mound tonight is Phil Hughes, in his first major league start since going down with a fractured rib in late April. Phil has been stellar his past few starts in AAA, winning two playoff games, including the clinching game of the International League Governor’s Cup.
It’s not exactly a big night for Phil. With the Yanks basically out of it, there’s no pressure. Yes, it would be wholly disappointing for him to look like he did in April. But if that’s the case, well, it’s no the end of the world. He’ll get another start or two before the season closes, and he’ll get plenty of work in winter ball. All we really care about is him doing well in 2009.
For the skeptics out there, though, it’s best that he gets through at least six innings with two earned runs tonight. And when he gives up those runs, hopefully it’s in the later innings. If he gives up a run in the first, I fear for my text message inbox. I can see the “Fraudchise” messages pouring in.
And on the mound, back to number sixty-five, Phil Hughes.
Thanks to Scott at 3 Kids Tickets, we’ve got a pair of tickets to give away for tonight’s start. Not only would you get to see one of the final games at the stadium, but Phil Hughes is making his first start since the beginning of the season. The seats are in Tier Reserve, Section 27, Row S, and the first person to answer the following question correctly in the comments and leave a valid e-mail address in the e-mail field will win the tickets.
Connect Phil Hughes to the first batter to come to the plate at Yankee Stadium in 1923. The connection should follow the traditional Kevin Bacon game. For example, to connect Don Mattingly to Mickey Mantle, you would say that Mattingly played on the 1983 Yankees with Bobby Murcer who played on the 1965 Yankees with Mantle. Get to it; time’s a-wastin’. · (21) ·
Just a quick tidbit. You can now follow River Ave. Blues on Twitter. Just head to twitter.com/riveraveblues. We’re not going to spam it with all of our posts, but we will have discussions and take questions. It’s actually a great way to get in your off-topic comments.
Update: You can also now get River Ave. Blues updates in your inbox. Mosey on over to this Feedburner link, drop your e-mail address into the appropriate spot, and sit back and wait for those e-mails. Neither us nor Feedburner will use your e-mail address for any other purpose. You can also just use the box at left to subscribe as well. Please note, this service will deliver just new posts to your inbox and not new comments. · (6) ·
Via New York Magazine’s Daily Intel blog comes the lovely news about the bleachers at new Yankee Stadium: A whole bunch of unlucky fans won’t be able to see because the restaurant will be in the way. As you can see from the above screenshot, that pesky restaurant is going to obscure the sight lines.
Now, we’ve heard about this problem in the past, but the existence of that oh-so-fun Stadium seat selector confirms the bad news. Folks sitting in the some bleacher sections won’t be able to see the entire outfield. Fans in left won’t have a view of right, and fans in right won’t have a view in left.
While the impacts only a few of the bleacher denizens — the people sitting in the sections adjacent to these bad sections can still see — a significant number of bleacher seats in a new stadium will have obstructed views. But, hey, at least the people in the center field restaurant will be able to see. Right?
After the jump, the view from right field.
The Associated Press tracked down a Yankee fan who was there for the first game at the stadium and will be there for the final game this Sunday. Joe Mignogna, now 90 and a resident of Delaware, went to Yankee Stadium on April 18, 1923 when the Yanks and Red Sox opened the Stadium. He was five at the time and says that his family got their tickets from then-owner Jacob Rupert. Mignogna’s grandfather was one of the construction foremen who built the original stadium. As we hear the memories and tales of Yankee Stadium, this one’s a great story. · (1) ·
The Yankees have two pitcher spots left to fill for the Arizona Fall League. There’s been some speculation that one of those spots could go to Joba Chamberlain, who could use a few more innings this year after missing a month with shoulder tendinitis. Today, Joel Sherman reports that the Yankees are “strongly weighing” the possibility of not only sending Joba to the AzFL, but also Ian Kennedy, who missed time in May with a back injury.
The Yanks would very much like all three of their young pitchers to get additional work to refine their repertoires and also to build innings so that they could be in position next year to take on expanded roles. But, especially in the case of Chamberlain, the Yanks are worried about putting too much on a pitcher who this year began spring as a starter, switched to the pen, moved to the rotation, went on the DL with shoulder tendinitis and returned to the bullpen. That is why the meetings include not just GM Brian Cashman, minor league head Mark Newman and minor league pitching coordinator Nardi Contreras, but also consultations with trainers and doctors.
It’s good to know the team is being cautious. While the average fan probably thinks Joba should pitch this fall so that he can expand his innings limit for next year, we don’t have all the relevant information. They’ll have to get a real gauge on Joba’s shoulder before making any kind of decision on whether he pitches, ad what his role will be in the future.
Sherman also touches on Ian Kennedy, who was the losing pitcher in last night’s Bricktown Showdown. The Yankees are considering calling him up to make a start before the end of the season, but will only call him up if he’s penciled in. He could take Andy Pettitte‘s final start after he closes down the Stadium, or he could take Pavano’s spot. At this point, there’s no reason to not give Kennedy another start. Why trot out an injured Pettitte or a healthy Carl Pavano (ha!)?
Andy Pettitte‘s next start will be the final game at Yankee Stadium. I’m beginning to think it might be Pettitte’s last start at the stadium as well.
The lefty’s losing ways continued last night as the Yanks dropped a game to the White Sox, 6-2. With 11 games left in the season, they are ten games out of first place and nine out of the Wild Card. In a few days, the Yankees will officially miss the playoffs for the first time since there were no playoffs in 1994. It is a shocking reality.
But back to Pettitte. Since July 31, Pettitte has been nothing short of terrible. In ten starts, he’s 1-7 with a 6.45 ERA. In 60 innings, he’s given up 80 hits while walking 21 and striking out 48. He’s pitching to a Ponsonian WHIP of 1.68, and many of those baserunners are coming around to score.
Through the end of July, Pettitte was 12-7 with a 3.76 ERA. He’s now 13-14. He’s set a career high in losses and is facing the prospects of his first losing season. Even worse than his numbers, though, is he stuff. Watching him toil through six innings today, I could see that Pettitte just didn’t have it. He couldn’t get righties out, and his pitches weren’t confounding left-handed hitters either.
A few months ago, word got around that Pettitte may have been injured. But, as with Derek Jeter, A-Rod, Jorge Posada and Johnny Damon, Pettitte is one of those players who won’t sit out, who won’t take himself out, who won’t give up on his team. It’s an admirable trait, but he hasn’t been able to help the team since July. Something’s going on, and we don’t know what it is.
So as the Yankees gear up for a major off-season in which the Front Office could decide to cut ties with many long-time Yankees, Andy Pettitte is going to have to convince the Yankee brass that he, if hurt, can and wants to come back. He’s going to have to convince himself too that he can come back.
Andy Pettitte made his Major League debut at Yankee Stadium on April 29, 1995. It was the third game of the strike-shortened season, and he threw 0.2 innings in relief, allowing two runs on three hits. Gary Gaetti, Greg Gagne and Phil Hiatt put together a mini-rally that pushed Pettitte from the game. The Yanks would go on to win anyway.
On Sunday night, Pettitte will receive the ultimate honor of throwing the final first pitch at the House that Ruth Built, and as his body wears down on him, as he ages, he could be facing the reality of a life without baseball. Sunday’s game would be a fitting end for Pettitte. I hope he’s up for the task.
Chad Jennings – who else? – has the news. Miranda signed a 4-yr, $2M ML deal prior to the 2007 season, so he’s already on the 40-man and there’s no need for a roster move. The lefty swinging Cuban defector pounded RHP to the tune of .332-.436-.534 this year, but managed only .195-.258-.280 off southpaws. I suspect we’ll be seeing a little less of Giambi the rest of the season. · (14) ·
Triple-A Scranton (4-1 loss to Sacramento) Sacramento wins their second straight Bricktown Showdown
Justin Christian & Eric Duncan: both 0 for 4 – E-Dunc K’ed twice
Chris Basak & Juan Miranda: both 1 for 4, 1 K - Miranda doubled
Shelley Duncan: 0 for 3, 1 BB, 3 K
Ben Broussard & Ramiro Pena: both 1 for 3 – Broussard drew a walk … Pena drove in the only run & committed a fielding error
Matt Carson: 2 for 4, 1 R, 1 K – he’s gonna be a 6-yr MiL FA this winter, so this may have been his last game with the Yanks
Chris Stewart: 1 for 2, 1 2B, 1 BB, 1 K
Ian Kennedy: 5 IP, 7 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 1 BB, 7 K, 1 WP, 5-3 GB/FB – 56 of 96 pitches were strikes (58.3%) … looked rather crappy in the first when he gave up the 3 runs, but he settled down nicely and kept his team in for another 4 frames
Steven Jackson: 1 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 0 K, 3-0 GB/FB – 11 of 17 pitches were strikes (64.7%)
Chase Wright: 0.1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 0 K, 1 HB, 0-1 GB/FB
Mark Melancon: 1.2 IP, zeroes, 1 K, 2-2 GB/FB – 12 of 14 pitches were strikes (85.7%) … he was a beast, no bullshit, here it is, hit it if you can
Double-A Trenton’s season is over; they won the league championship.
High-A Tampa’s season is over; they did not qualify for the playoffs. The Daytona Cubs won the league championship.
Low-A Charleston’s season is over; they did not qualify for the playoffs. The Augusta Green Jackets (Giants) won the league championship.
Short Season Staten Island’s season is over; they were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs. The Batavia Muckdogs (Cards) won the league championship.
The Rookie GCL Yanks’ season is over. The GCL Phils won the league championship.
DotF will be back when the Hawaii Winter Baseball season starts on Sept 27. See you then.