It’s amazing what 502 days of rest will do for a pitcher, eh?

A whopping 502 days after his last start, Carl Pavano made his 20th appearance as a member of the New York Yankees. It wasn’t pretty, and Pavano wasn’t particularly adept at keeping the Orioles off the base paths. But the oft-injured right-hander made the pitched he needed to make when it counted, and the Yanks emerged as 5-3 winners over Baltimore.

For the surging Yankees, last night’s win was their fifth in their last seven. With Boston’s losing 11-0 in Toronto, the Yanks moved to within five of the Wild Card lead, and it looks like this week’s series in New York with the Red Sox will be a key turning point in the race for a playoff spot.

In Baltimore, the Yanks spotted Carl Pavano to an early lead. Johnny Damon singled to lead off the game, and while Derek Jeter and Bobby Abreu both lined out, A-Rod hit a booming double to center field that plated Damon. Jason Giambi drove in his first of three runs with a single, and before Pavano had a chance to step to the mound for the first time since April 9, 2007, he had a 2-0 lead.

He needed every run of that lead and then some. Pavano allowed three hits in the first, and only a lucky double play prevented the Orioles from scoring any runs. An inning later, another three hits and a walk would lead to three Oriole runs, and after two innings, Baltimore had a 3-2 lead. Pavano, meanwhile, had thrown way too many pitches and wasn’t looking sharp. Everything turned after that.

Pavano retired the Orioles in order in the third but got into trouble in the fourth. In an effort to curry favor with the Bronx faithful, Pavano drilled Yankee nemesis Kevin Millar with a fastball. A Jay Payton single put runners on first and second with no outs, and while a Jason Giambi two-run home run had given the Yanks a 4-3 edge, that lead was in danger of evaporating. But Pavano bore down and struck out Juan Castro, Brian Roberts and Nick Markakis to end the Oriole threa.

On the night, Pavano threw five innings and allowed three earned runs on seven hits and a walk. He also struck out five and threw 54 of 91 pitches for strikes. At times, it wasn’t pretty, but it was more than we could have expected from a pitcher everyone doubted. Whether he can do it again in five days is up for debate. That will, of course, be the true test of Carl Pavano.

Right now, we just tip our caps to Pavano — and the Yankee bullpen — and appreciate how the Yankees are still in this thing. While Carl Pavano now has more wins than Kei Igawa, Phil Hughes and Ian Kennedy combined, the Yanks have to make up five games over their last 33. As Carl Pavano — the YES Network’s Chevy Player of the Game — proved last night, anything is possible.

Categories : Game Stories
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Triple-A Scranton (4-0 win over Lehigh Valley)
Justin Christian: 1 for 4, 1 RBI, 1 K
Bernie Castro & Matt Carson: both 2 for 4, 2 K – Castro scored a run … Carson tripled & drove one in
Melky: 2 for 3, 1 BB, 1 CS – Chad Jennings notes that Melk’s run himself into quite a few outs since being sent down
Shelley Duncan: 1 for 3, 1 R, 1 RBI
Eric Duncan & Chris Basak: both 0 or 3, 1 R, 1 BB - E-Dunc K’ed once, Basak twice
Nick Green: 1 for 3, 1 K
Chase Wright: 7 IP, 5 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 3 K, 7-10 GB/FB – 62 of 92 pitches were strikes (67.4%) … he’s pitches very well in AAA, definitely should get a call-up when rosters expand
Phil Coke: 2 IP, zeroes, 2 K, 3-1 GB/FB – 16 of 20 pitches were strikes (80%)

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Categories : Down on the Farm
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How many of you remember this day? I know I sure do, it was awesome. Coming off of two consecutive seasons of at least 201 IP, Pavano was just entering his prime at age 28, and looked every bit the part of the young, workhorse starter the Yanks needed. It was glorious.

Then the injuries came. First it was rotator cuff tendonitis. Then it was the infamous bruised buttocks. Then it was broken ribs in a car accident. Then it was Tommy John surgery. Aside from the bruised hiney, all the injures were serious. But no one cares. Because of Brian Cashman‘s complete and utter inability to predict the future, Pavano’s tenure as a Yankee didn’t go as planned. With a grand total of 5 Yankee wins in 4 years under his belt, Pavano returns tonight right when the Yankees need him most.

Ironically, injuries are what force Pavano to the bump tonight, as Joba and Danny Giese are riding the DL pine. With only 34 games remaining and a 5.5 game deficit in the Wildcard staring the team in the face, Pavano returns at a time in which he can redeem himself the most. All the Yanks are asking of the now 32-year old Pavano is to keep them in games. If he does that, he will surpass everyone expectations.

The Yanks are 4-2 in their last 6 games; let’s keep this little hot streak going.

1. Damon, CF
2. Jeter, SS
3. Abreu, RF
4. A-Rod, 3B
5. Giambi, 1B
6. Nady, LF
7. Matsui, DH
8. Cano, 2B
9. Pudge, C

And on the mound, (I can’t believe I’m actually saying this) Carl Pavano.

Notes: Billy Traber, one of the most useless players the Yanks have had in recent years, was shipped to Triple-A to make room for Pavano … Boston already lost, so the Yanks have a golden opportunity to gain ground in the WC … top prospect Austin Jackson was placed on the DL with a minor back issue …

Categories : Game Threads
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  • Cano missing Bowa’s ‘tough love’
    By

    The Times’ Jack Curry caught up with Larry Bowa in Philadelphia this week, and the New York scribe and Bowa chatted about Robinson Cano and his relationship with the now-Dodger third base coach. Bowa feels that Robinson Cano is missing the tough love and pressure Bowa used to exert upon the Yanks’ second baseman. Even with a huge hot streak over the last 30+ games of the season, Cano’s 2008 will be viewed as a huge step back and one of the bigger reasons why the Yankee offense is on pace to score nearly 200 fewer runs this year than they did last. · (7) ·

Well, this is sure to reignite a debate that ended a few months ago. When Joba Chamberlain is activated from the DL — and that day should be soon — the Yankees plan to bring him back as a reliever first.

Basically, the Yankees are pursuing this path in order to rehab Joba at the Major League level. By the time he’s ready to return to the mound, the Minor League season will be just about over, and the Yanks need to bring his arm up to strength, pitch count-wise, progressively. However, I’m not sure how comfortable I am with this idea.

Now, I know that the Yanks first put Joba into the pen this year and last as a way to limit his innings. As the team is being very conservative with their young phenom’s arm, it makes sense to keep his innings and pitch totals under wraps. But a nagging part of me wonders if moving him to the pen puts too much stress on his arm.

Joba’s an emotional pitcher, and if he’s throwing adrenaline-packed 8th innings, he may very well be putting more stress on himself physically than he would have as a starter. Plus, he spent his entire career, up until last August, as a starter.

Of course, this is just idle and unfounded speculation on my part, and I don’t believe the Yanks would follow a path that risks the long-term health of Joba Chamberlain. I can’t wait for him to return, and I hope his shoulder is back up to 100 percent. The Yanks could use the boost as they face a steep uphill climb to October.

Categories : Pitching
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  • Team USA takes home the Bronze
    By

    The USA Olympic Baseball squad took home the Bronze medal late last night after an 8-4 win over Japan. Starter Brett Anderson allowed only 4 hits and struck out 6 in 7 innings, but gave up all 4 runs thanks to a pair of homers. Taylor Teagarden drove in the go-ahead runs with a 2-run double in the 5th, and Jason Donald padded the lead with a 2-run homer the next at-bat. Yu Darvish came on in relief for the Japanese squad, but by then it was too little, too late.

    You can see every team’s cumulative stats here; Angels’ farmhand Matt Brown is an easy pick for team MVP. Korea beat Cuba for the Gold in dramatic fashion, with Yuliesky Gourriel (the best player in the tourney) grounding into a double play with the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth down by one run.
    · (2) ·

  • ‘Save the Stadium’ movements coming a bit too late
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    Babe Ruth’s granddaughter and the son of New York Sun scribe Andrew Wolf both want to save Yankee Stadium. Wolf writes that the pro-Yankee Stadium crowd recognize the inevitability of the new stadium but would like to see the city preserve Yankee Stadium as a park in the South Bronx open to all. While I love this idea and believe it would attract baseball fans from all over, I fear that these efforts a few years too late and are bound to fall more than a bit short. · (7) ·

By the time the Yanks’ bats came alive last night, Mike Mussina had hit the showers. He missed out on his first crack at 17 wins, and as his quest for that elusive 20-win season continues, he’ll have one more shot next week against the Red Sox in New York. Meanwhile, the Yanks won to keep pace with the victorious Red Sox and Rays.

Tonght’s game started out on a strong note. Three batters into the game, Radhames Liz had yet to retire a batter, and the Yanks had runners on 1st and 2nd and one run in. But A-Rod hit into a double play, and Jason Giambi struck out. While the Yanks were, at that point, 2 for 4 with runners in scoring position, it was an unsatisfying way to start the game.

When the Orioles came up in the first, it was clear that Mike Mussina didn’t have his best stuff and wasn’t getting close calls behind the plate. He allowed runs in the first, third and fourth before settling down, but he stood to be the losing pitcher after allowing a run in the sixth — his final inning of work. On the night, Moose gutted it out through six innings and allowed four earned runs on nine hits. He walked none and struck out three. In other words, he was good but not good enough to earn himself that win.

After Moose hit the showers, though, the Yankee bats took over. They scored two in the eighth and four in the ninth behind five Bobby Abreu hits, a Cody Ransom three-run home run and a Xavier Nady blast. Twice tonight the Yanks went back-to-back with home runs. Robbie Cano and Jose Molina accomplished the feat earlier in the game, pushing Liz out.

Once Mariano Rivera nailed down the final out of the 9th for a four-out save — thank you, Damaso Marte — the Yankees walked away with a comfortable 9-4 win over the last-place Orioles. They’ve maintained a six-game gap between them and the Red Sox in the Wild Card race and stand to return home with at least a .500 record on their AL East road trip.

More importantly, they won a game in which Mussina didn’t have his best start and prior to the first effort by Carl Pavano since April of 2007. Who knows what they’ll get from Carl later today, but the pressure is off, albeit slightly, as the bats delivered a much-needed victory on a Friday in Baltimore.

Categories : Game Stories
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