Chavez steps in, buries Rangers in rubber game

The Texas Rangers have proven to be quite a pain in the ass over the last year, but that doesn’t make them unbeatable. Sunday night’s rubber game was a reminder that the Yankees are never quite out of any game because of their power, their bullpen, and their deep bench, all of which they used to secure the series win.

Tex is pointing to the guy that got that game winning hit, who the AP didn't bother to photograph. (AP Photo/Bill Kostroun)

Back From The Dead

Over the last few years, the drop-off from Alex Rodriguez to his replacement has always been massive. It didn’t matter if it was Cody Ransom or Ramiro Pena or Morgan Ensberg or whoever, it’s always been a huge loss of production. The Yankees sought to deepen their bench this past offseason, and although it’s still extremely early, it looks like they hit the nail on the head with Eric Chavez. The former Athletic stepped in for Alex on Sunday night and although he’ll never fully replace him, the Yankees didn’t miss a beat.

When Chavez stepped to the plate in the eighth inning against the Rangers on Sunday, a back-and-forth affair that featured homers and errors and thunder (literally) came down to essentially one at-bat. The Yankees had runners on first and second with two outs against noted Yankees’ whipping boy Arthur Rhodes, someone Chavez had already faced 25 times in his career. He took two straight sliders for a 2-0 count, but then Rhodes went after him with fastballs. The first was fouled back, the second on the outside corner for strike two. Chavez, standing at his locker with his throwing shoulder wrapped in ice after the game, said he was looking for the slider all at-bat, but that 2-2 count brought a fastball, and A-Rod‘s fill-in adjusted to the pitch and took it right back up the box. Mark Teixeira did his puffy faced hustle around third to score the go-ahead run on Chavez’s single, which may have earned him True Yankee™ status. At +.265 WPA, it was the biggest play of the game for New York.

As if the game-winning hit wasn’t enough, Chavez also turned a sweet 5-4-3 double play in the third and assisted on the game-ending ground out. Zombie Eric Chavez, back from the dead and raising hell. Hooray for a deep bench.

(AP Photo/Bill Kostroun)

Too Many Homers!

If you watched and listened to ESPN’s broadcast of the game, then I’m sure you heard their announcing crew bemoaning the fact that the Yankees have hit a lot of homeruns. They acted like it was a bad thing; creating runs with one swing is ruining baseball, apparently. Well the long ball kept New York in this game before Chavez had a chance to do his thing whether ESPN liked it or not.

Robinson Cano got the got the party started right in the second inning, pulling an inside slider deep into the second deck in right for the Yankees’ first run. Russell Martin followed up three innings later with a two-run shot, his fourth of the season. He had five all of last year and seven in 2008. Curtis Granderson went deep an inning later, putting two more runs on board. It was his first homer off a right-handed pitcher this season, believe it or not. Alexi Ogando allowed two dingers all of last year, but he paid dearly for being a pure two-pitch pitcher facing this lineup multiple times.

(AP Photo/Bill Kostroun)


CC Sabathia wasn’t great tonight, but really it was only Michael Young and Adrian Beltre that cost him. Those two combined to go 5-for-6 with two doubles and a homer off the Yankees’ ace while the rest of the Texas lineup went 3-for-19 with two walks with six whiffs. The big guy took the ball into the seventh and although four runs in 6.1 IP won’t win him any Cy Young Awards, it was enough to keep his team in the game. More often than not, they’ll win those contests.

Joba Chamberlain, working for the second day in a row and the third time in four days, relieved CC and immediately walked Ian Kinsler on four pitches. Young drove him in two batters later, which is annoying because that guy really isn’t as good as he looked this weekend. Joba escaped the inning without further damage, and Rafael Soriano did a nice job of redeeming himself for Saturday’s debacle with a scoreless eighth inning in a tie game. Mariano Rivera, of course, was his usual self in the ninth, nailing down the 6-5 win.

Jorge Posada‘s assault on the three true outcomes continued with a pair of walks in four plate appearances, and now 22 of his 50 trips to the plate this year have ended with ball four, strike three, or a slow trot around the bases. Derek Jeter picked up a hit and even hit another ball with authority to the opposite field, his third hard hit ball in the air over the past two days. Progress! Chavez and Martin each had two hits, and Nick Swisher chipped in a single as well. It was a total team effort offensively tonight, the six runs were scored by six different players.

The Yankees sent 108 players to the plate in this series, and just nine struck out. Nine! Nine others walked and six homered. Everyone else had a .226 BABIP. If you’re not missing bats against a lineup like this, well you’re not going to win games. It’s that simple. Texas, if you’re wondering, sent 110 batters to the plate. Eighteen struck out, 12 walked, one homered, and everyone else had a .253 BABIP.

How about that thunder and lightning? It felt like my entire building shook, so yeah, that was pretty intense.

WPA Graph & Box Score has the box score and video highlights, FanGraphs some other neat stuff.

Up Next

The Yankees are off on Monday, then they’ll head to Toronto for a quick two-game series against the Blue Jays. A.J. Burnett squares off against Kyle Drabek on Tuesday.

Chavez, standing at his locker with his throwing shoulder wrapped in ice after the game, said he was looking for the slider all at-bat, so give him credit for adjusting to the fastball with two strikes and taking it right back up the box.

Girardi: A-Rod MRI came back ‘clean’

After leaving yesterday’s game with soreness in his lower back and oblique, A-Rod sat out today’s game. He didn’t come up to pinch hit for Eric Chavez against a lefty in the 8th inning, and while the non-move luckily paid off, I was surprised and worried that A-Rod didn’t come up. After the game, Joe Girardi addressed A-Rod’s condition. He said that the team sent their third baseman for an MRI today, and the results came back “clean.”

That’s great news for the slugger, but the Yanks aren’t out of the woods yet. Girardi said the team will play it by ear going forward, and they can enjoy the luxury of an off-day tomorrow. By the time the Yanks take the turf against the Blue Jays on Tuesday, A-Rod will have enjoyed around 75 hours of rest and treatment. Hopefully, that will be long enough. The Yanks, meanwhile, have the bench to cover for a short-term A-Rod absence.

Game 14: CC FTW

(AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

The Yankees are looking to win their fourth series in five tries today, and for the second straight weekend they’ll try to do that with CC Sabathia on the mound on Sunday night. But that’s not the interesting part, the opposing starter is. You might remember Alexi Ogando from his relief appearances against the Yankees last year, both in the regular season and in the ALCS. Well he’s a starter now, and so far he’s allowed just four hits and no runs in two starts totaling 13 innings. That’s amazing enough, but listen to his back story.

The Athletics first signed Ogando as a 19-year-old out of the Dominican Republic way back in 2002. He was an outfielder back then, and he actually played pretty well in Rookie and Low-A ball: .297/.357/.482 with 14 homers and nine steals in 431 plate appearances. The Rangers then grabbed him in the Double-A phase of the 2005 Rule 5 Draft and turned him into a pitcher despite the hitting performance. However, Ogando never made it to Spring Training in 2006. He got busted as part of a human trafficking ring in the DR, in which players were marrying women to help get them a visa and into the United States. Ogando admitted his involvement and was denied a visa for the season.

So instead of coming to the States, he pitched in the Dominican Summer League and worked on the conversion to pitching. Although he was originally told that he would be granted a visa after a year, he was banned from coming to the United States for the next four years as well. All he could do was pitch in the DSL and international tournaments during that time, his prime development years. Ogando was finally granted a visa last February, so the Rangers sent him right to Double-A and he ended the season in the big leagues. That’s slightly more interesting than your typical “climbing the ladder” story, no?

Anyway, here’s tonight’s lineup…

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

CC Sabathia, SP

Alex Rodriguez is out with that stiff back/oblique, and since they have the day off tomorrow, he’ll get two full days of rest. Like I said yesterday, better one game now than a whole bunch later. ESPN has the broadcast; first pitch will come a little after 8pm ET, so enjoy the game.

Rotation Note: Bartolo Colon will start on Wednesday, so he’s essentially replacing Phil Hughes in the rotation and the Yankees are keeping everyone on turn. They could have skipped some people if they wanted thanks to a pair of off-days next week.

Yankees put Hughes on anti-inflammatory medication

Via Brian Heyman, the Yankees have placed Phil Hughes on anti-inflammatory medication even though all parties involve insist the right-hander is healthy. “I think you can look at every pitcher’s arm and probably see some inflammation, ” said Joe Girardi. While that’s certainly true, this is still a little concerning just because the idea of an arm injury is scary. Something clearly isn’t right with Hughes, and I suppose some inflammation is better the alternative, meaning something more serious.

Millwood superficially strong in Double-A start

Kevin Millwood made his first start outside of Extended Spring Training today, firing seven one-hit innings for Double-A Trenton. He lost the no-hitter with two outs in the sixth, throwing 88 pitches (53 strikes, 60.2%). It’s good that he accomplished his goal of stretching his arm out and building strength, but the performance isn’t as exciting as it appears on the surface.

Millwood walked four batters and struck out just three, generating just three (unofficial) swings-and-misses. Ten ground outs to five air outs is nice, but a guy with all that big league time shouldn’t be walking that many guys or missing so few bats in Double-A. There’s no word on his stuff – radar gun readings or what not – but I’m sure recent scouting reports of “terrible” still apply. Millwood said after the game that he isn’t sure what the next step is, but his opt-out date is exactly two weeks away. He’s got two more starts to show that he’s still got something left in the tank, but right now I remain highly skeptical.

Checking in on Mark Melancon

Twelve months ago, righty reliever Mark Melancon was the sixth best prospect in the Yankees’ farm system (in my opinion, anyway). He had always dominated the minors with a low-90’s fastball and a hammer curveball, but struggled in his various stints with the big league team. In 15 career appearances with the Yankees, he allowed 20 hits and uncharacteristically walked ten in 20.1 IP, allowing 13 runs. Team officials were “always perplexed” by Melancon according to Buster Olney, because his strike-throwing ways never carried over into the big leagues.

The Yankees traded Melancon to Houston at the deadline as part of the Lance Berkman swap last summer, after he’d walked 31 in 56.1 IP at Triple-A. His control issues followed him back to Scranton, but Melancon has thrived in his short time with the Astros though, striking out 28 and walking just nine in 25.1 IP. He’s allowed just four hits and a walk in eight scoreless innings this year, striking out nine with a ground ball rate near 70%. For whatever reason, it just didn’t work in New York, but the Yankees didn’t exactly give Melancon the biggest of leashes either. They had some relief depth and used it to fill another hole. It’s the kind of move you expect a contender to make.