Fan Confidence Poll: June 28th, 2010

Record Last Week: 4-2 (33 RS, 34 RA)
Season Record: 47-28 (409 RS, 309 RA, 48-27 Pythag. record), two games up
Schedule This Week: Monday OFF, vs. Mariners (three games, Tues. to Thurs.), vs. Blue Jays (three games, Fri. to Sun.)

Top stories from last week:

Please take a second to answer the poll below and give us an idea of how confident you are in the team. You can view the Fan Confidence Graph anytime via the nav bar above, or by clicking here. Thanks in advance for voting.

Given the team's current roster construction, farm system, management, etc., how confident are you in the Yankees' overall future?
View Results

Escape from LA

That man on the right is very, very happy. Credit: AP Photo, Jae C. Hong

Down to their final two outs, the Yankees stormed back with four runs in the bottom of the ninth off Dodgers’ closer Jonathan Broxton. A two-run home run in the top of the 10th off the bat of Robinson Cano gave the Yanks an 8-6 lead, and Mariano Rivera didn’t need more. The Yanks’ closer worked two scoreless innings as the Bombers drove a stake through the heart of Joe Torre’s Dodgers in a thrilling and emotional victory. With the win, the Yanks sealed their series victory in Los Angeles and an 11-7 record in interleague games.

Improbable heroes

We start at the end. With their Win Expectancy bottoming out at 0.4 percent after Mark Teixeira‘s 9th inning strikeout, the Yanks had a long road ahead of them and little support for the key batters. With Brett Gardner out of the game after getting struck on the wrist by a pitch and a few double-switches at play, Chad Huffman and Colin Curtis were due up 5th and 6th in the inning. It is a reflection on the current Yanks’ bench that, with Marcus Thames shelved, these two were the best hopes for the Yanks.

They were, of course, the improbable heroes of the game.

After Teixeira’s strikeout, A-Rod singled and Robinson Cano doubled. We saw the stirrings of a comeback, and the Yankees were suddenly tugging on our heartstrings. A Posada single pushed Cano to third, and then Curtis Granderson walked. The Posada and Granderson ABs shouldn’t be overlooked. Jorge fouled off five pitches and singled on the tenth pitch of his plate appearance. Granderson walked on the eighth pitch he saw from Broxton.

Waiting for his chance, Huffman had seen 18 pitches. He came up ready to go and drove a 1-1 pitch to right. Two runs scored, and the lead was down to one. Still, though, it seemed like a tease. Colin Curtis, a minor leaguer with a career .709 OPS, had come in for Nick Swisher in a double switch. The Yanks needed a fly ball; the Dodgers a double play. LA almost got their wish.

Curtis battled Broxton. Foul, foul, ball, ball, ball, foul, foul, foul, foul. On the 10th pitch — Broxton’s 40th of the inning — Curtis hit a ground ball to James Loney at first. With Granderson speeding down the line, Loney could have thrown home for an easy out. Instead, he tried to be too fancy; he wanted both outs. Loney ran over to tag first and then made an off-balance throw to the plate. It was to the first-base side of the plate, and Granderson slid in without a tag. Tie game.

Had Loney thrown home, the game would have been saved. It was a mental error in a game filled with them. Meanwhile, the kids were alright. At some point, the Yankees will look to upgrade their bench, but tonight, Huffman and Curtis made believers out of all of us.

Torre’s bullpen management, in reverse

Credit: AP Photo, Jae C. Hong

For years, Yankee fans bemoaned Joe Torre’s bullpen management. We saw him wear down reliable relievers, using them in unnecessary situations day after day. Scott Proctor, Paul Quantrill, Tanyon Sturtze, Steve Karsay. The early 2000s are littered with the discarded arms of the Torre Era. Tonight, we saw it benefit the Yanks.

In a curious move last night, Torre went with Jonathan Broxton, his stud closer (3-0, 0.83 ERA, 13.2 K/9 IP before tonight), with the Dodgers up by five. He later said he wanted to make sure the Yanks didn’t start to rally. It was, in his mind, a save without actually being a save situation. Tonight, with a four-run lead, Torre did the same thing, and it blew up in his face.

Broxton couldn’t overpower the Yanks tonight. He battled through 10-pitch at-bats against Jorge Posada and Colin Curtis. He walked Curtis Granderson on eight pitches. By the time the Yanks tied the game, he had thrown 40 pitches in a single inning and still Torre left him in. Instead of cutting his losses in a 6-6 game, Torre let Broxton face two more hitters. He threw 48 pitches, and the strain on his arm for that one inning of work is arguably greater than what Edwin Jackson went through en route to his 149-pitch no-hitter. It was vintage Torre at his worst.

An inning later, Torre’s bullpen management struck again. After Ramon Troncoso got an out on an A-Rod fielder’s choice, Torre went with the match-ups, bringing in George Sherrill to face Robinson Cano. The Yanks’ second baseman had been 0-for-11 vs. the lefty Sherrill, but as the announcers on ESPN noted, Sherrill’s fastball isn’t what it once was. Cano took an 88-mph fastball over the fence in left-center. The book isn’t always right.

Joe Girardi, meanwhile, showed us the anti-Torre in him. After getting burned in an extra-inning affair in Toronto when Mariano Rivera never pitched and the Yankees lost, Girardi has shown a willingness to use Rivera for two innings in tie games on the road. Against the Diamondbacks, Rivera threw two innings and nabbed a win. Tonight, Rivera came in to face Andre Ethier, Garrett Anderson and Casey Blake in the ninth. He stayed out for the 10th and earned his second win of the season. As the Dodgers argued the strike zone, Mo’s two-inning, three-strike out performance capped off one of the best games of the season.

A sloppy game early on

Credit: AP Photo, Jae C. Hong

The game, however, didn’t start out on a positive note. Andy Pettitte, pitching to earn his spot on the All Star Game, ran into trouble of his own making. He threw two balls away when the Dodgers started to bunt, and both times, he hesitated to make the right play. After a Reed Johnson double to open the third, Clayton Kershaw bunted, and with A-Rod yelling at him to throw to first, Pettitte made a wild throw to third. The run scored.

Two batters later, it happened again. Ronnie Belliard tried to bunt with two on and no one out, and Pettitte looked to third for a force. A-Rod was charging though and by the time Andy recovered, he had to rush the throw to first. It, too, went wild, for his second error of the inning. Pettitte looked flustered and annoyed. He had to grit it out through five innings tonight, but the Yanks’ bats eventually picked him up.

General Grievances and Observations

Joba Chamberlain continues to have a maddening season. His run allowed loomed large until James Loney’s mental mishap, and he just wasn’t pitching smart. Someone called for an 0-2 pitch-out with two outs, and Joba couldn’t locate his pitches. The only thing consistent about his season is his inconsistency.

After years of enjoying a wide Mariano Rivera strike zone, the tables turned on Joe Torre and his players. The Dodgers argued nearly every strike from Rivera and two of them — Anderson and Russell Martin — were tossed in the 10th. Life is good when Mo lives on the black.

Damaso Marte wins the Unsung Hero award tonight. Last night, the Yanks’ pen couldn’t pick up A.J. Burnett. Tonight, Marte came in with runners on first and third and two out. He struck out the dangerous Andre Ethier and then retired Manny Ramirez, Casey Blake and James Loney in order in the 7th. The game could have gotten away from the Yanks there, but Marte kept his cool.

Grabbin’ a victory from the jaws of defeat

The WPA graph is a beauty tonight:

Up Next: Cliff Lee

The Yanks’ scouts won’t need to travel beyond the Bronx to see Cliff Lee in person this week. After a well-deserved travel day that allows the Yanks to bask in their 4-2 road trip, the team will host the Seattle Mariners on Tuesday night. Cliff Lee will face Phil Hughes in a must-see game.

RAB on MLB Roundtrip

Just a heads up, I’m going to be appearing on MLB Roundtrip on MLB Network Radio tonight (Sirius channel 210). My segment is going to air right around midnight ET, so make sure you listen in. We talk about Andy Pettitte, A.J. Burnett, the bullpen, the usual collection of hot topics.

Montero goes deep again in SWB win

Make sure you scroll down for tonight’s game thread.

Triple-A Scranton (8-4 win over Rochester)
Justin Christian, LF & Greg Golson, RF: both 2 for 4 – Christian drew a walk … Golson scored a run
Reid Gorecki, CF: 0 for 5, 1 K
Eduardo Nunez, SS: 1 for 3, 3 R, 1 2B, 2 BB – four walks in the last three games … what the hell is going on here?
Jesus Montero, DH: 2 for 3, 3 R, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 2 BB - apparently the homer was nothing more than a flick of the bat … eight for his last 14 (.571) with two doubles & two homers … that’s his second homer in as many games & third in his last ten games
P.J. Pilittere, 1B: 3 for 4, 2 R, 2 RBI, 1 BB – 11 for his last 24 (.458)
Reegie Corona, 2B: 0 for 4, 1 BB
Eric Bruntlett, 3B: 3 for 5, 1 2B, 3 RBI, 1 K, 1 E (throwing)
Chad Moeller, C: 0 for 5, 1 K
Zach McAllister: 7 IP, 5 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 1 BB, 5 K, 5-11 GB/FB – 67 of 99 pitches were strikes … gave up a three run homer to a former Yankee prospect
Jason Hirsh: 2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 2 K, 1-1 GB/FB – 21 of his 27 pitches were strikes (77.8%) …he had been getting rocked out of the bullpen, so it’s good to see him have a nice day like this

[Read more…]

Game 75: Turning to Andy again

Photo credit: Ross D. Franklin/AP

For the fifth straight time, the Yankees will turn to Pettitte following a poor start by A.J. Burnett. He has responded well the previous four times, tossing 29 innings and allowing just 10 runs. The Yankees have won only two of them, but that clearly is no fault of Pettitte’s. He’s done his job not only by limiting the runs, but also by eating innings. He has completed seven innings in each of those starts.

The stopper role is nothing new to Pettitte. That was always his story during the late 90s. In games after the Yankees lost, especially after they had lost two in a row, you could count on Pettitte to stop the bleeding. As long as he’s pitching behind A.J. Burnett the team is going to continue calling on him in that capacity. Well, that is, unless Dave Eiland brings a pouch of magic dust that will instantly cure what ails Burnett.

The Yanks go full strength in this one. They’ll need firepower against Clayton Kershaw. It would help, too, if Kershaw is more like his last start against Anaheim, when he gave up five runs in 6.2 innings, than he was his start before, when he held the Reds to one run over 7.1.

Hope you enjoyed interleague 2010. This is the last of those games.

Lineup:

1. Derek Jeter, SS
2. Nick Swisher, RF
3. Mark Teixeira, 1B
4. Alex Rodriguez, 3B
5. Robinson Cano, 2B
6. Jorge Posada, C
7. Curtis Granderson, CF
8. Brett Gardner, LF
9. Andy Pettitte, P

Eiland to return Tuesday

Finally, our long national nightmare is over. Marc Carig reports that pitching coach David Eiland will return from his personal leave of absence on Tuesday when the Yankees begin their series against Seattle. The Yanks are off Monday following tonight’s rubber game against the Dodgers. Hopefully everything worked out well for Eiland, but for selfish reasons I’m glad he’s back.

Jeter named USA WEEKEND’s 2010 Most Caring Athlete

As if Derek Jeter needed any more hardware for his mantle, he was just named USA WEEKEND’s Most Caring Athlete of 2010 for his work with a youth league in Washington Heights. Jeter’s sister Sharlee arranged for the children for participate in the league, except most of them had never played baseball before and the team literally couldn’t score a run. Jeter volunteered to coach a game and help teach baseball to the kids, and then took them all out to eat after they scored the first run. Great guy, that Derek.