Yanks unable to complete sweep, fall to O’s

Hard to believe that it’s only June 10th and yet the Yankees have already clinched the season series against Baltimore, but that’s what happens when you beat a team the last ten times you face them. The Yanks were unable to complete their third straight series sweep of the O’s on Thursday, though their two main AL East competitors also lost, keeping them just two games back of the Rays.

Photo Credit: Rob Carr, AP

It … Just … Kept … Carrying

They say the New Yankee Stadium is a bandbox, but Camden Yards certainly played that part in this game. The Yankees were nursing a one run lead in the 5th inning of this one, and A.J. Burnett had settled down after some first inning jitters to retire the last ten men he faced. The lead quickly evaporated when former eighth overall pick Scott Moore (look it up if you don’t believe me) got a hold of a 92 mph heater that ran back out of the plate, lifting the ball high in the air toward right-center. And up in the air it stayed.

I honestly thought it was a deep fly ball off the bat, deep but certainly playable. Instead the ball just hung up, chasing the outfielders back to the wall before ever so slowly landing in the people for a solo homer. Moore tied the game, which was certainly disappointing but far from a death sentence at that point in the game.

Photo Credit: Rob Carr, AP

The winds from the Inner Harbor came into play again an inning later, or at least what I assume were the Inner Harbor winds. I always figure if it’s windy and there’s a large body of water nearby, blame it on that. Anyway, Luke Scott ripped a hanging curveball into right with one out in the 7th, and again the ball just seemed to hover in the air for eternity. Nick Swisher chased it back to the big scoreboard and made a valiant leaping effort to catch it, but the ball hit off his glove and Scott ended up on third. Again, it looked like a deep but playable fly ball off the bat, but instead it was ten feet up the wall.

Adam Jones drove in what was ultimately the winning run with a double two pitches later, though that one needed no help from the wind. He hit it right on the screws, giving his team the lead. Moore’s homer and Scott’s triple were the Orioles’ two biggest hits of the night, combining for .248 WPA, win(d) probability added.

Cleanup Roulette

It’s unfortunate whenever any player goes down with an injury, but when it’s your most potent righthanded bat and cleanup hitter, well then, that sucks. Alex Rodriguez left Thursday’s game after the bottom of the first inning with a stiff  groin before he even came to the plate, and was replaced by the noodle bat of Ramiro Pena. There was no obvious reason for A-Rod‘s departure at the time, though it appeared he took a short step before stopping himself on a hit hard ball through the 5.5 hole. He’s tentatively listed as day-to-day, and will see a doctor tomorrow.

Pena went 0-for-2 with a sac bunt during his six innings at the hot corner, but was pinch hit for in the top of the 7th with men on first and second and two outs. Backup catcher Frankie Cervelli and his .207-.313-.268 batting line over the last 31 days took Pena’s place in that 7th inning, but struck out after a hard fought eight pitch at-bat that featured one fastball and seven sliders. Cervelli then stayed in the game to catch while Kevin Russo took over at third.

It was just one lineup spot, but it effected 20% of the roster (A-Rod, Pena, Cervelli, Russo, and Chad Moeller) in one way or another.

Kinda Bad A.J.

Photo Credit: Rob Carr, AP

It was a tale of two, really three A.J. Burnetts in this one. Bad A.J. allowed a pair of runs in the first on two singles, two hit batsmen (he really hit three batters in the first, but Nick Markakis struck out swinging when he got hit), and a sac fly. Good A.J. showed up after that to retire the next ten Orioles, but Bad A.J. came back for an encore in the 5th, 6th, and 7th innings. He gave up one homer, two doubles, one triple, and two singles (with an intentional walk mixed in) to the last 15 men he faced.

It was an overall mediocre performance by the Yanks’ supposed number two starter, though four runs in 6.2 innings of work is usually good enough to keep the team in the game, as it was tonight. Believe it or not, this was second time in his last three starts that A.J. did not issue an unintentional walk, something he did exactly zero times in 2009.

For Better Or For Worse

Photo Credit: Rob Carr, AP

The most damaging out made by a Yankee batter in this game was not Cervelli’s in the 7th, but Marcus Thames‘ strikeout in the 6th. Rookie starter Jake Arrieta (left) was on the ropes with the bases loaded and his pitch count over 100, but Thames took a cut at a slider a foot off the plate to end the inning. He’s hitting just .189-.319-.259 since the end of April.

This was the first time in like, forever, that Robbie Cano didn’t have a multi-hit game against the Orioles. I think Michael Kay said during the broadcast that he had a ten game multiple hit streak against them, which is ridiculous. And how about Cano tagging up to go from first to second on Jorge Posada‘s sac fly in the 6th? Super risky, but he pulled it off. The guy can’t do anything wrong these days.

Speaking of Posada, he has just three singles in 34 plate appearances since coming off the disabled list.

I’m not sure if Mark Teixeira‘s bloop shot in the 3rd was fair or foul – it was extremely close – but all that matters is that the ump called it foul. That’s just a microcosm of how the season has gone for Tex.

Damaso Marte retired Luke Scott to end the 7th, and lefties are now hitting just .179-.233-.250 with seven strikeouts in 30 plate appearances off him this year. Chan Ho Park has quietly struck out nine of the last 22 men he’s faced.

The Melkman Delivers

Sorry, but I had to include this clip from earlier today. It makes you kinda miss the little fella…

WPA Graph & Box Score

Traditional box score comes from MLB.com, nontraditional box score comes from FanGraphs.

Up Next

The Yankees are flying home after the game to take on the lowly Astros as interleague play starts back up. Andy Pettitte takes on Brett Myers, who is having himself a nice under-the-radar season.

Betances returns to beat Furbush

Second baseman Casey Stevenson (25th round) and RHP Mike Gipson (31st) have already signed. Meanwhile, the Yankees are going to follow the progress of LHP Kramer Sneed (32nd) and RHP Keenan Kish (34th) during their summer ball seasons before deciding on whether or not to offer them a contract. They did the same thing with David Robertson back in 2006, who went to the Cape Cod League and exponentially increased his stock by learning a curveball.

Triple-A Scranton (5-2 win over Charlotte)
Reid Gorecki, LF: 1 for 3, 2 R, 2 BB, 1 K, 2 SB
Colin Curtis, RF, Reegie Corona, 2B & Greg Golson, CF: all 0 for 4, 1 K – Curtis drew a walk
Eduardo Nunez, SS & Chad Huffman, 1B: both 2 for 3, 1 R, 2 BB – Huffman doubled
Juan Miranda, DH: 2 for 4, 1 R, 1 HR, 4 RBI – he’s just too good for this league
Jesus Montero, C: 1 for 5, 1 2B, 1 K - hard to believe that’s just his 14th XBH of the season
Ivan Nova: 6.2 IP, 7 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 2 BB, 3 K, 11-5 GB/FB – 51 of his 88 pitches were strikes (58%)
Boone Logan: 0.2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 1 K, 1 HB, 0-1 GB/FB – nine of his 14 pitches were strikes (64.3%)
Jon Albaladejo: 1.2 IP, zeroes, 4 K, 1-0 GB/FB – 16 of his 20 pitches were strikes (80%) … why can’t he do this in the bigs?

[Read more…]

A-Rod leaves game with stiff groin

Update (10:09pm): A-Rod has some stiffness in his groin (giggidy) and is day-to-day. He’ll see a doctor tomorrow for a better diagnosis. It’s the same groin that gave him trouble in Toronto.

7:35pm: Alex Rodriguez left today’s game for an unknown reason after the bottom of the first inning. About the only indication of injury we have came on a groundball single through the 5.5 hole, when A-Rod took no more than a step to his left to try and make a play on the ball. He deal with a sore groin last weekend. Hopefully this is nothing serious, because no A-Rod is no good.

Ramiro Pena will play third and bat cleanup (!!!) the rest of the game. We’ll update this post if/when we find out more.

Game 60: Look Out!

With an otherwise uninteresting early-June game against the Orioles on tap for tonight, let’s focus on something else for a chance: It’s Ken Singleton’s 63rd birthday!

A career .282-.388-.436 hitter, the switch-hittin’ Singleton hit .297-.406-.464 with 163 homers and more walks (819) than strikeouts (740) during his peak from 1973-1980. He actually started his playing career with the Mets in 1970 before being traded to the Expos with two others for Rusty Staub in 1972. Montreal then shipped him and Mike Torrez to Baltimore after the 1974 season, where he stayed for the rest of his 15-year career.

A three time All Star with four top ten finishes in the MVP voting, Singy’s 40.6 career WAR is more than Don Mattingly (39.8) and at least 16 Hall of Famers, and less than a full win shy of Jim Rice. So happy birthday to my favorite YES commentator and one helluva ball player.

Meanwhile, here’s the Yankee lineup that’s face Jake Arrieta this evening, who’s making his big league debut…

Jeter, SS
Swisher, RF
Teixeira, 1B
A-Rod, 3B
Cano, 2B
Posada, DH
Granderson, CF
Thames, LF
Moeller, C

And on the mound, A.J. Burnett.

First pitch is scheduled for 7:05pm ET, and can be seen on YES. Enjoy.

Girardi selects Scioscia, Geren as All-Star Game coaches

Via Erik Boland, Joe Girardi has selected Angels’ manager Mike Scioscia and A’s manager Bob Geren to be his coaches for the All Star Game next month in Anaheim. He obviously wants to make sure he has a fourth and fifth catcher available. The announcement we’re all really waiting for is the AL All Star pitching staff, just to see if Andy Pettitte and Phil Hughes make it. My gut says Girardi will do everything in his power to get them both there, but will keep Hughes off the roster if there’s a numbers crunch. No reason in particular, just a hunch.

Welcome to the majors, Jake Arrieta

When I put together the Orioles series preview on Tuesday, tonight’s matchup was listed as A.J. Burnett vs. Jeremy Guthrie. The Yanks have faced Guthrie a few times every year since the Orioles picked him up in 2007, so they have a decent history against him. It’s a mostly favorable one, as Guthrie has allowed 48 runs, 47 earned, in 81.1 innings. That has been largely courtesy of the longball, 15 of them. Many of us were looking forward to more of the same tonight.

(There was also the storyline of Guthrie plunking a few Yankees, but that’s not a huge deal. If he’s doing it, he’s only hurting himself. Well, himself and Jorge Posada…)

Instead, the Orioles decided to push back Guthrie a day and insert Jake Arrieta. A fifth round pick in 2007, Arietta ranked fourth on Baseball America’s 2010 top 10 Orioles prospects list. The move makes enough sense. Again, the Yankees have seen plenty of Guthrie in the past four years. The Orioles, desperate for a win against their division foes, want to muster any possible advantage. Bringing up a highly touted prospect seems like as good an idea as any. That Arrieta is absolutely dominating AAA makes the decision a bit easier.

Photo credit: Kathy Willens/AP

In terms of stuff, Arrieta is all there. He throws a 92-94 mph fastball that “has the action to generate swings and misses.” (Per Baseball America.) He also has a slider that BA says can be a good pitch “at times.” He also has a changeup that is a work in progress, and a curveball that is mostly reserved for lefties. Keith Law notes that Arrieta is ” a four-pitch guy with no plus pitch but nothing below-average.” That puts him in the No. 3 to No. 4 starter range, though as BA notes, his pure stuff probably puts him a bit higher than that.

What holds Arrieta back is his lack of command. All scouting sources I’ve seen make distinct note of that. He can get a bit wild inside the zone, which doesn’t bode well against major league hitters, especially of the caliber the Yankees’ lineup features. He also has a little problem with the walks. He handed out 56 free passes last season, when he pitched at both AA and AAA. That was the most in the Orioles’ system. He has already walked 34 in 73 innings this year, so it doesn’t look like something he’s improved on.

It seems like the Yankees hitters should be comfortable enough with Arrieta on the mound, despite never having seen him. He plays to their strengths, not only with the walks, but also the lack of command of pitches in the strike zone. Then again, the same could have been, and was, said about Brandon Morrow. Yet he shut down the Yanks offense. I can see Arrieta doing the same. If, for this one start, he throws tons of strikes he could give the Yanks fits.

There is little more exciting in baseball than fresh, young pitching. We’ve got to seen plenty of it in the past couple of years. Arrieta is the next on that list. While I’ll hope for the Yanks to put a few of his pitches on Eutaw Street, I am certainly excited to see the next crop of O’s pitchers.

Mark Teixeira and the changeup

Photo Credit: Darren Calabrese, AP

If you’ve watched the Yankees at all this year and last, you’ve surely noticed that first baseman Mark Teixeira has had an exceptionally tough time against changeups in 2010. This was particularly obvious last Saturday, when he looked helpless in striking out five times against changeup specialists Ricky Romero and Casey Janssen. The advanced metrics are picking up on Tex’s weakness against changeups as well, saying he’s been worth 0.58 runs below average against the pitch (for every 100 seen) this season compared to 0.88 runs above average last year and an even 1.00 for his career.

The struggles against changeups carry over to the fastball as well, which is expected given the relationship between the two pitches. It’s called a changeup in the first place because it changes the hitter’s timing off the fastball. Tex has produced 0.43 runs below average against the heater this year (again per 100 seen), compared to +2.20 last year and +1.70 for his career. Clearly, he’s not recognizing changeups and it’s affecting him against fastballs, which a hitter of his caliber should (and traditionally has) murder.

The season isn’t young anymore, we’re 59 games in and Tex is hitting an unacceptable .224-.338-.388. Maybe it’s time to (forgive the pun) change things up and try something not necessarily drastic, but unique. Allow me to quote Jack Moore fromSPN’s TMI blog

Recently, Tampa Bay Rays manager Joe Maddon has employed an unorthodox strategy against pitchers with great change-ups. Ever since Dallas Braden and his nasty change threw a perfect game against the Rays, Maddon has stacked his lineups with players who bat with the same hand as the starting pitcher in order to neutralize that pitch. The change-up is a pitch that is typically used to neutralize opposite-handed hitters, and so Maddon is attempting to take away this advantage from pitchers with great change-ups by reducing the number of opposite-handed hitters in the lineup. So far, the strategy has worked pretty well.

(snip)

However, the Rays sent up switch-hitters Ben Zobrist and Dioner Navarro to bat right handed against Marcum, and even more telling was that they not only used right-handed catcher Kelly Shoppach as the DH, but they hit him clean-up.

Did it work? Marcum’s line — four innings, 10 hits and seven earned runs — certainly suggests it did. Shoppach, Navarro, and Zobrist were a combined 3-for-6 against Marcum, including a home run by Navarro.

Maddon essentially tailored his lineups to take away the opposing pitcher’s greatest strength, and so far it’s worked. It’s unconventional, but it’s hard to argue with the early returns. Maybe this an approach Teixeira should take, batting from the same side as the pitcher if he has a great change, reducing what is his greatest weakness at the moment.

I’m sure it’ll be a tremendously uncomfortable experience for him since he’s never faced a non-knuckleball pitcher throwing from the same side in his big league career, but at this point it might be worth a shot. I already cited his awful stats, and whenever Tex seems to be coming out of it, he sinks right back into the pit of suckiness. It shouldn’t happen with a player of his caliber, and whatever they’re trying now just isn’t working.

Of course, Tex is just 30-years-old and in the prime of his career, so perhaps it’s best to just show confidence in him and hope it works itself out. How much longer can they wait though?