Welcome Home (Sanatarium)

The Yankees have to be glad to wake up in their own beds this morning. Their mini road trip did not go quite as expected, 3-4 after kicking it off with two wins over the Red Sox. While they did get two particularly poor pitching performances, Burnett on Sunday and Sabathia yesterday, the starters did their jobs in every other outing. That includes Sergio Mitre, who didn’t pitch well by most measures but who stepped in and did what was expected of him.

When an offense can’t get to a starting pitcher, they tend not to score many runs. Most bullpens feature weak middle relief corps, but plenty of teams, especially winning teams like Detroit, have a quality endgame. If a starter can hand the ball straight to the primary setup man, it represents a success. That’s what happened to the Yankees in their four losses from Friday through Thursday. They couldn’t get to the starter, and then the back of the bullpen did its job.

On Sunday night Jon Lester continued to make up for his poor start. He threw 107 pithes in seven innings, striking out seven Yankees and holding them to just two runs. His offense took care of the rest, blasting A.J. Burnett for nine runs and putting the game out of reach pretty early. The only rally they managed came off Manny Delcarmen in the eighth, but it wasn’t nearly enough. Lester had held them, though it didn’t much matter with Burnett’s performance. Still, taking two out of three from the Sox at Fenway for the second time this season felt good.

Monday was essentially a bullpen game for the Tigers, so the Yanks didn’t have the chance to get shut down by a starter. Instead, Eddie Bonine stepped in and held the Yankees to two hits through 2.1 innings, handing the ball to Joel Zumaya in the sixth. Zumaya had some troubles, but pitched well enough to get out of it. It was disappointing to see the Yankees fail to capitalize off two pitchers not good enough to crack the Tigers’ rotation, but everyone has off-days. Plus, the Yanks would get Rick Porcello next, who had gotten off to a horrible start in 2010.

Of course, the game didn’t go as planned. Porcello threw 91 pitches through seven innings, allowing just four hits and walking three. The Yankees got nothing going at all, and stranded six — the last one erased by a Ramiro Pena double play. It was the first time the Yankees had been shut out this season. It wouldn’t be long until it happened for a second time.

In the nightcap the Yankees faced another struggling starter, Jeremy Bonderman, but still couldn’t hit him. He allowed five hits through seven innings, walking just one. They manufacture a couple of runs, which was all they’d need. Phil Hughes took care of that one. The final score, 8-0, looks that way because Phil Coke and Alfredo Figaro let the game get out of hand in the ninth. Before that, though, the Yankees’ offense looked rather tame.

After scoring runs late on Wedneday night I thought they might come back with some offense against Justin Verlander on Thursday. I couldn’t have been any more wrong. Derek Jeter managed a leadoff hit off Justin Verlander, but it was just one of four the Yankees got yesterday. Jorge Posada was responsible for two of them, and Brett Gardner the other. The rest of the lineup pulled a collective 0-for, despite drawing four walks off Verlander.

Thankfully, the team is headed home, where it has hit much better this season. In 873 road plate appearances this year the team is hitting a collective .260/.355/.387. Part of that stems from the absence of Curtis Granderson and Nick Johnson, but it’s also because of poor hitting from the middle of the lineup. At home, though, the Yankees have hit .292/.384/.494, though in just 456 PA. If there’s one saving grace to their poor road numbers it’s that they’ve played an inordinate number of games on the road so far. That means more games at home this summer, when hopefully the team has heated up.

NOTE: I am totally cramping Fack Youk’s style here.

Yanks drop finale to Detroit 6-0

There was little to like about this game. In fact, had it not been for Ivan Nova‘s two scoreless innings I could have removed the word “little” from the above paragraph. The game was all around ugly, from the Yankees’ hitters flailing to the Tigers’ hitters squaring up tons of pitches, especially in the sixth. The Yanks drop just their second series of the year. Too bad that came in a four-game set.

Biggest Hit: Jeter leads off with a single

This photo sums up the game | Paul Sancya/AP

How you know your team played a horrible game: the biggest positive WPA swing came when the first batter of the game singled. That’s the most the Yankees got. It increased their chances of winning by 3.5 percent, a modest little boost but nothing that would last. After Brett Gardner traded places with Jeter and then took second on an errant pickoff throw, Justin Verlander struck out Mark Teixeira looking on a cuveball, and then got A-Rod to pop out to first on a 98 mph fastball.

The second highest WPA swing of the game also involved Jeter. That would be when Verlander hit him with a pitch in the fifth. That came with one out and, with the score just 3-0 at the time, raised the Yankees’ chances of winning by 2.6 percent. Both Brett Gardner and Mark Teixeira made outs behind him, though, so the Yanks couldn’t bring home the run. Story of their day. Of their week, really.

Biggest Pitch: Cabrera crushes CC

Photo credit: Paul Sancya/AP

The Tigers struck first in the second, when Gerald Laird blooped one over Juan Miranda‘s head. That brought home Brennan Boesch. One run, though, usually doesn’t phase the Yankees. They had just been shut out the previous day, and considering it was the first time that happened all season we couldn’t have expected it to happen again. Things just sometimes work out that way…

In any case, the Tigers opened up the game in the fourth when Miguel Cabrera absolutely hammered a 2-1 fastball into the right field stands. It was a solo shot, and Cabrera can do that against any pitcher. That made it 2-0. One batter later Boesch reached out and slammed a slider the same way, just clearing the right field fence. While Cabrera’s homer was a bit more valuable, when Boesch hit his it was the first time in the game where I seriously doubted the Yanks’ ability to win it.

CC in the sixth

Photo credit: Duane Burleson/AP

Heading into the sixth inning CC Sabathia had allowed three runs. It’s not ideal, especially from the ace, but again, an offense like the Yankees’ should be able to stay in a game like this. One more inning and CC would have had the arbitrary quality start, and since he was at just 54 pitches he might have been able to go all eight. A 25-pitch, 3-run sixth ended that.

When we’re watching the game live, any pitch that ends with a bad result is going to look bad. If CC had thrown an on-target changeup low and away to Brandon Laird in the sixth and he hit a double off it, the initial reaction is almost always going to point to a bad pitch. CC didn’t spot the changeup perfectly as it turns out — it was around the knees but caught a bit too much of the plate — but upon further review it didn’t look like a bad pitch. Not a great pitch, no. Maybe not even a good pitch. It was decent at worst, though. Laird just happen to hit it squarely.

Just to extrapolate the point, mostly because there’s not much to talk about in this recap, a well-struck ball is not always the pitcher’s fault. Good hitters, like Miguel Cabrera, can square up pitches that others cannot. Young and vigorous hitters, like Brennan Boesch, can take advantage of the lack of a scouting report on them. Bad hitters, like Laird, get lucky, too.

That’s not to excuse Sabathia’s outing. It just seemed like he pitched better than the results indicated. That’s going to happen from time to time with an ace.

Annoyances

Can I just say “the whole game” and get it out of the way?

The best hitters in the lineup just aren’t hitting, and there’s nothing more frustrating than that. I can’t help but think that if the game was tied heading into the sixth that CC would have finished the game with a much better line. Maybe that’s wishful thinking, but I think that the lack of run scoring has to affect the pitchers, whether consciously or subconsciously.

Hitters like Gerald Laird driving in multiple runs. Guy was hitting .157/.263/.257 heading into the game, and he drove home two of the Tigers’ runs, including their first? You gotta be kidding me. The first was an excuse me hit, which makes it that much more frustrating. It’s right up there with walking the 9 hitter.

Joys

There was no joy in Detroit today…except that Sabathia didn’t walk anyone.

Nor did Ivan Nova, who made his major league debut. Chances of him starting the game Sunday are slim to none, but I think he should get a shot. Might as well keep Mitre around for long relief and let the actual starting prospect get a chance.

WPA Graphs and box score

I’m only posting this graph because we do it every game. If I had my druthers I’d give it the Trey Hillman treatment.

Box score here.

Up Next

Home again! The Yanks start a three-game set with Minnesota tomorrow night at the Stadium. It’ll be a tough one, with A.J. Burnett going against Francisco Liriano.

Stoneburner flirts with perfection in Tampa debut, but Ramirez steals the show

Here’s all the player movement from today. Meanwhile, Mike Ashmore had a great piece on Alan Horne and his rehab from a torn rotator cuff. Don’t miss it.

Triple-A Scranton (7-3 win over Columbus) faced the guy that perfect game’d Double-A Trenton last year
Reegie Corona, 2B & Reid Gorecki, CF: both 1 for 4, 1 RBI, 1 BB, 1 K – Corona hit a solo jack
Eduardo Nunez, SS: 2 for 5, 1 R, 1 SB – up to .323-.377-.402 … Baseball America had a little puff piece on him today (subs. req’d)
David Winfree, 1B: 1 for 5, 1 R, 1 RBI
Jon Weber, RF: 2 for 2, 2 R, 2 BB
Jesus Montero, DH: 1 for 3, 1 R, 1 2B, 1 RBI, 1 BB – he pulled an A-Rod
Chad Huffman, LF: 3 for 4, 1 R, 1 2B, 3 RBI – 10 for his last 17 (.588)
Robby Hammock, C: 0 for 3, 1 BB
Matt Cusick, 3B: 0 for 4, 1 E (fielding)
Jason Hirsh: 6 IP, 5 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 1 BB, 4 K, 6-6 GB/FB – 60 of 99 pitches were strikes (60.6%) … just 26 hits allowed in 43.2 IP
Kevin Whelan: 1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 2 K, 0-1 GB/FB - 11 of his 20 pitches were strikes
Zack Segovia: 2 IP, zeroes, 2 K, 2-2 GB/FB – 23 of his 34 pitches were strikes (67.6%)

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Open Thread: Coming back home

"I hope they're showing Avatar on the flight home." (Photo Credit: Duane Burleson, AP)

Well, I’m glad that little trip is over with. The Yankees have played only 12 of their 34 games at home this season, the fewest in the majors. Hopefully being back in the Boogie Down will get some people healthy and get some bats going. The series in Detroit was ugly, but they only gave up 13 runs in four games. That’s nothing.

Anyway, here’s tonight’s open thread. The Mets and Marlins are on SNY and MLB Network, plus what could potentially be LeBron James’ last game as a Cavalier will be played as well. Also, Game Seven between Bruins-Flyers is on; Boston led that series 3-0 at one point. Nevermind, it’s tomorrow. Anything goes, so have fun.

Yankee Stadium to host Jay-Z/Eminem twin bill

Supposedly, Jay-Z makes a Yankee hat more famous than a Yankee can. Although I don’t believe that claim for a minute, he will be making Yankee history this September as he and Eminem will be the first two artists to play a concert at the new Yankee Stadium. The hip hop duo announced last night their plans to play in Detroit at Comerica Park on September 2 and at Yankee Stadium on September 13. Jay-Z will headline in New York while Eminem will carry top billing in his native town.

Jay-Z, who performed “Empire State of Mind” at Yankee Stadium prior to Game 2 of the 2009 World Series, issued a statement about the date: “These shows are like a dream come true. I’ve always hoped that hip-hop could play any stadium like other genres of music. How perfect is it that Eminem and I get to play our hometowns and show how far the live rap experience has come? Fun and historic — a great combination all around the board.”

Jeter day-to-day after getting hit by pitch

Via Bryan Hoch, Derek Jeter is day-to-day after getting hit in the left pinky by a 95 mph Justin Verlander fastball in the 5th inning of today’s game. Jeter was noticeably in pain, but he stayed in and played the rest of the way. Considering that he’s down to .269-.314-.407 after today, it might not be the worst idea in the world to use this as an excuse to sit the Cap’n for a day or two and give him a bit of a breather. He’s got to hit and get on base if this team’s going to go anywhere.

RAB on The Shore Sports Report

Just a reminder, my weekly appearance on The Shore Sports Report with Mike Krenek and Joe Giglio is coming up at 4:05pm ET today. You can listen in on either FOX Sports 1030 AM or WOBM 1160 AM, and I’m willing to bet that you’ll be able to stream it online via one of those links as well.