Bullpen falters as offense can’t recover in 5-4 loss

After two impressive starts to begin his season, Phil Hughes struggled a bit last night. He struggled with control, often missing high in the zone and way off the plate. This led to not only four walks, but also just two strikeouts. It’s tough to get guys to swing and miss when you’re missing the zone so often. Despite his woes, he still pitched pretty well, allowing just one run in 5.2 innings. Only six Orioles reached base safely during that span. The bullpen, however, could not finish the job, and the Yanks dropped the series opener 5-4.

Biggest Hit: Posada puts the Yanks on top

Photo credit: Nick Wass/AP

After loading the bases in the third inning it looked like the Yanks might finally break open the game. Posada got things started in the fourth. After fouling off an outside fastball for strike one, he got one right down Broadway and hit it out to Eutaw. That gave the Yanks their first lead of the game, and with none out in the fourth it looked like they might start rolling. That, of course, did not happen.

Kevin Millwood got Curtis Granderson to ground out, and then got Nick Swisher and Randy Winn to both pop out on off-speed pitches. After a scoreless fifth inning Millwood again ran into trouble in the sixth, but we’ll get to that in just a moment.

Biggest Pitch: The other Hughes ties it

Through five innings Phil Hughes had thrown 101 pitches. This season Joe Girardi has shown a willingness to let his starters go further, but since Hughes had accumulated those pitches in a pretty short span, I was surprised to see him come out for the sixth. He answered the call, retiring Matt Wieters and Miguel Tejada to start the inning. That fit perfectly with the plan. The next step: bring in the lefty Boone Logan to face the lefty Luke Scott.

In his career Scott has performed worse against lefties than against righties, but he still hits lefties reasonably well (.339 wOBA). With Hughes’s night clearly over, Girardi was certainly going with the lefty, and Logan has been the hot hand in his short stay. The at-bat didn’t start well, as Logan missed with a fastball high and then a fastball away. He battled back, but on the 3-2 pith missed with a slider low. Girardi then went to David Robertson, who hit Ty Wigginton on an 0-2 count, moving the tying run into scoring position.

Robertson worked his first two pitches low and away to Rhyne Hughes, the Orioles recently recalled first baseman, but he got around on the second one, lining it to left for the game-tying single. I’m actually impressed that Hughes did what he did there. The pitch was a 93 mph fastball low and away. To pull it, and pull it on a line, is no small feat. Hughes should get plenty of credit for that one.

One batter later Nolan Reimold smacked a 2-2 curveball down the third base line to give the Orioles a lead they would not relinquish. As on the decisive pitches to Hughes, I didn’t think the ultimate pitch to Reimold was all that bad. The curveball touched the bottom of the zone, but Reimold, a good hitter, just got a good piece of it. Then again, the 0-2 HBP was completely his fault.

Photo credit: Nick Wass/AP

Heartbreaker with the bases loaded

The third inning looked like a triumphant one. Nick Swisher opened the frame by singling on an 0-2 curveball and Randy Winn followed with his first hit of the season. Jeter didn’t do his part, nearly grounding into a double play, but Rhyne Hughes didn’t make the play cleanly and could only get the out at first. The Yanks then caught a break when Miguel Tejada misplayed a sharp grounder by Gardner, which allowed Swisher to score. The game was tied at one.

After a walk to Mark Teixeira the Yankees had bases loaded, one out for their Nos. 4 and 5 hitters. With the way both A-Rod and Cano have been hitting they figured to get at least a run. A-Rod fouled off the first four pitches of the at-bat before smoking an inside fastball that went right into Tejada’s glove. Cano then got a waist-high changeup on a 2-1 count, but he just missed it. Had his bat made contact with the ball a fraction of an inch higher, that ball would have been warehouse-bound. Instead it arced into the mitt of Nick Markakis, thus ending the threat.

It was the Yanks best chance to break open the game. They came close, but I could name you more than one cliche about close not counting.

Baserunning blunders abound

Losses happen. In fact, chances are the Yanks will lose a ton more games this season. That’s why they play so many of them. One loss, even to the Orioles, never strikes me as particularly frustrating. What does frustrate me is when the team plays sloppily. When that sloppiness occurs all in one inning, it’s even more nerve wracking.

Robinson Cano is not a base stealer. He has been caught more times, 22, than he has reached safely, 19. There is just no reason to send him anymore, unless it’s the vaunted Tim Wakefield-Victor Martinez battery. Yet on the first pitch he was off. In his defense, it took a perfect throw to get him. Still, I don’t get the logic in ever sending Cano. Why risk the base runner when he’s made an out in more than half of his attempts.

Posada then drew a six-pitch walk, which drove Millwood from the game with one out in the sixth. With the way the Orioles bullpen has pitched so far this season, that presented an opportunity for the Yanks. The Yankees didn’t exactly take advantage of the opportunity, but they did blow a chance. Nick Swisher hit a ball that got by Tejada, but not far into the outfield. Jorge took a big turn around second, way too far for a player with his speed. Tejada recovered quickly and made a good throw to second, getting the diving Posada.

Posada and Cano are good players. We know, without having to think twice, that Jorge is a poor base runner and that Cano is not a good base stealer. Both had good showings at the plate. Both had their weaknesses exposed. That’s what was most frustrating about this game.

Well, that and the Wigginton HBP.

And the ninth

There’s not much to say about the ninth inning that can’t be told via the game log. Nick Johnson did his job by drawing a one-out walk, bringing the tying run to the plate. Jeter spoiled a good at-bat by swinging at a pitch that was a few inches off the plate. The way the home plate ump was calling the game, that wouldn’t have been close to a strike.

An error kept the Yanks alive, with runners on first and third and two out. Teixeira wasted no time in pulling a low fastball down the line to put the Yankees within a run. That brought up A-Rod, hitless in the game to that point. He saw nearly the exact same pitch as Teixeira, and he too put it sharply on the ground. Julio Lugo had him played perfectly, though, and got Teixeira at second to end the game.

It was a nice ending, with the Yankees rallying a bit. The O’s did help out, but what they gave away with the error they took right back by playing A-Rod right where he hit it.

Photo credit: Nick Wass/AP

Annoyances

Cesar freaking Izturis. I was talking to Jay from Fack Youk as Izturis knocked in his second run of the game and commented that the Yanks weren’t winning this one. “You don’t win a game where Cesar Izturis has two RBI,” I said.

It was only the 47th time he’d produced two or more RBI in a game. His team’s record in those games: 42-4, 43 after last night. He later knocked in a third run, only the 10th time in his career he has accomplished that feat. His teams are now 9-1 in those contests.

Have I mentioned the Wigginton HBP yet? Two outs, 0-2 count. Other than a home run, a HBP is the roughest outcome right there.

I think I’ve aired my other grievances well enough above.

Joys

Granderson did make a nice catch. He also went 0 for 4 with three strikeouts.

Hughes allowing only one run, and lasting 5.2 innings, when he couldn’t put anyone away.

WPA Chart

If only that green line kept moving downward.

Up Next

They’ll play again tomorrow night, this time on YES. The Yanks try for a bit better turn through the rotation this time, as CC Sabathia makes his fifth start of the season. Jeremy Guthrie takes the ball for the Orioles.

Hirsh flirts with a no-hitter in Scranton win

Apparently Dellin Betances has returned to the mound in Extended Spring Training, and was sitting 92-95 with half-decent control. If true, he should back in games by May. Also, Damon Sublett is on the disabled list with a thumb injury.

Triple-A Scranton (2-1 win over Louisville)
Kevin Russo, 3B: 0 for 3, 1 BB, 1 E (fielding)
Colin Curtis, RF & Juan Miranda, 1B: both 2 for 4 – Miranda hit a solo jack & scored another run
Eduardo Nunez, SS: 1 for 4
David Winfree, DH: 1 for 3, 1 BB, 1 K
Jesus Montero, C: 2 for 3, 1 BB – breaks out of a little 2 for 19 (.105) slump … he did allow two stolen bases though
Chad Huffman, LF & Greg Golson, CF: both 0 for 4, 1 K – Golson stole a base
Reegie Corona, 2B: 1 for 3, 1 BB, 1 K
Jason Hirsh: 7.2 IP, 1 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 3 BB, 2 K, 10-10 GB/FB – 62 of 101 pitches were strikes (61.4%) … he lost the no hitter & the shutout on the last batter he faced, the #9 hitter who took him deep …
Jon Albaladejo: 1.1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 2 K, 2-0 GB/FB – half of his 22 pitches were strikes

[Read more…]

Game 19 Spillover Thread

Way to make me look like an ass, David. Now, time for the Yanks to get into Baltimore’s bullpen…

Game 19: And now the fun begins

"All clear, Mr. President." (Photo Credit: Pablo Martinez Monsivais, AP)

Tonight, for the first time all year, the Yankees are going to play a team that isn’t expected to compete in any way this season. The Red Sox, Rays, Angels, Rangers, and A’s have combined for a 54-45 record with a +46 run differential so far, so it’s pretty impressive that the Yankees escaped 18 games against the group six games over .500 with a +29 run differential. Awaiting them tonight are the not so good Orioles, who have the game’s worst record (3-16) and second worst run differential (-36). It’s about time the Yanks got a bit of a breather.

On the mound will be the Phil Hughes, who you surely remember flirted with a no-hitter against the Oakland last time out. Baltimore is the site of his worst career start, but it feels like that was a lifetime ago for the young righthander. It’s certainly possible, but it would be a shock to all of us if Hughes struggled like that again tonight.

Here’s the lineup that’ll get a crack at Kevin Millwood, who is 0-3 but sports some seriously strong peripherals (8.10 K/9, 1.35 BB/9, 3.58 XFIP)…

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

And on the mound, St. Phil.

First pitch is scheduled for 7:05pm ET, and can be seen on My9, not YES. Enjoy the game.

Quick Note: Nick Johnson changed his number today, back to the #36 he wore during his first stint in pinstripes. I guess living in Jose Molina’s shadow was just too much. His back is reportedly doing better, and he should be back in the lineup by tomorrow or Thursday.

Administrative Note: We’ve made some coding changes to the site this week, and as such, some people may not see the comments displaying properly. If you’re not seeing our usual nesting/threaded styles, clear your browser cache and refresh the page. That should clear everything up. If it doesn’t, contact us via the box at right.

Interview at New York State of Sports

Just a heads up, I did a short interview with New York State of Sports, a relatively new site dedicated to all things New York sports. We discussed the outfield situation, Jorge Posada‘s problem with throwing out baserunners, Jesus Montero, and Derek Jeter‘s next contract, among other things. Make sure you check it out, it’s a quick read.

Yankees sign righthander Erik Olivo

Via the Dominican Prospect League’s Twitter feed, the Yankees have signed 19-year-old righthander Erik Olivo for $300,000. He apparently works at 90-94 mph with his fastball and checks in at 6-foot-3 and 185 lbs, meaning there’s plenty of room for growth. In 11 relief appearances for Tainos Del Norte of the DPL, Olivo’s struck out 23 and allowed just ten hits in 22 IP. The bad news? How about 18 walks. So he’s got some stuff to work on. They all do.

Pettitte, Rivera, Jeter and Posada all walk into a bar…

The Core Four pose for the cover of Sports Illustrated this week. Click to enlarge.

We hear a lot about the Yanks’ Core Four these days. Andy Pettitte, Mariano Rivera, Jorge Posada and, of course, Derek Jeter make up the Yanks’ elder statesmen. They’re widely respected by opponents, have played together at the Big League level since 1995 and each own five New York Yankees World Series rings. In this day and age of free agency and player movement, that three of them have played together for so long with only Pettitte’s brief, three-year departure from 2004-2007 to mar the foursome is a testament to their baseball longevity.

As these four Yankees bask in the glow of their fifth championship, Tom Verducci from Sports Illustrated brought them together for an intimate lunch and a resulting magazine cover. The interview covers a wide range of topics from their experiences in the minors to their family plans, and I wanted to highlight some of it.

SI: I want to go back to 1992, when Andy was throwing to Jorge, a converted second baseman, in Class A in Greensboro, N.C. Posada: Go back to 1991. I was catching a bullpen from him [at short-season Class A] Oneonta, and he’s throwing me knuckle- balls. The ball hit me right in the knee. I said, “No more knuckleballs.”
Pettitte: I had a knuckleball when I signed.
Jeter: Yeah, you’re still throwing knuckleballs.
Pettitte: I’d get two strikes on somebody and throw it as hard as I could. Struck everybody out. And then they told me after the first year, “You’ve got to can it.” They said, “After you’ve pitched for 10 years in the big leagues, if you want to break it back out, you can.”
SI: So now you can throw it again.
Pettitte: It’s no good now. I lost it.
SI: How about when Jeter showed up in Greensboro? He joined you guys on August 20, 1992.
Posada: [Laughs.] Good-looking fellow.
Rivera: Where was I?
SI: Fort Lauderdale, High A.
Posada: You were older. Let’s make sure everybody knows that. He’s the oldest.
Rivera: I saw Jeet….Oh, my God. I was with my cousin [former major league outfielder Ruben Rivera] in Tampa. We were playing, if I’m not mistaken, the Cardinals in St. Pete. I looked at Jeet [who was in the Gulf Coast League before Greensboro]. . . . I was skinny.” This boy was dying. I was like, Who is that?
Posada: He comes in the clubhouse, and he’s got high tops, with an ankle brace. And remember that Louisville Slugger bag that you stick your bats in? He had that. I was like, Wow, this is our first-rounder?
Rivera: And throwing the ball away. . . . But I saw the hitting. He hit the ball hard, and far. I said, “Wow.” …
SI: Mariano, I remember you once said you cried a lot in the minor leagues, right?
Rivera: Not that I cried a lot. I did cry, like two, three times. That was my second year, in Greensboro, 1991. Because I couldn’t communicate. But imagine, I came from Panama. My first year, in Tampa, most of the people I played with spoke Spanish. So I was fine. My second year I went to Greensboro. And no Spanish at all. It was hard. I think that was one of the toughest times that I had.

Later on, the four talk about their family lives:

SI: How long are you going to do this? I’m assuming you guys all are in the same boat as far as that goes. Does anybody plan out, “I want to play X number of years?”
Rivera: I don’t think so. I mean, how many times have I retired?
Jeter: He retires every other year.
Rivera: Every contract I think, Well, this is it for me. Jeter: [Points at Pettitte.] Him, too. “This is my last year. One more year.”
Pettitte: What are you talking about? I was [retired]. I was.
Rivera: I was retired every year after my contract was up. [But] I’m still going.
SI: This game keeps pulling you back.
Rivera: I love this game. This is what I know how to do. For me, it’s kind of hard to just leave and be competitive. I’m competitive.
Jeter: It’s tough to leave when you’re having fun…

Rivera: I think it’s easier for [Jeter] because he doesn’t have a family. He can do this until…he’ll be 40 and have no kids still. But to me, and I can talk about Andy and also Sado, you miss your kids. You miss your family. This year it has hit me hard, especially in spring training. My kids were in New York. I was in Tampa. And I was missing them a lot. So that line, where’s your family and where’s your game . . . how do you draw that line? How long are you going to do this? How long are they going to support you? And then flying, and those things that petrify you. I’m petrified by flights. I suffer on those flights.

Verducci’s story highlights how these four players make up a unique core of athletes. For many of us who came of age when Jeter, Rivera, Pettite and Posada arrived in New York, they are the Yankees, and I wonder when we’ll see it again. Rivera isn’t sure it will happen soon. “The beauty about this group of guys is it’s family,” he said. “As a family we all pull for one another. It’s beautiful. I don’t think you will have this, or see this, again, in any other sport. Period.”

The interview isn’t yet available online, but a different part of the discussion is. The four talk about changes to the game since they started player, and that too is illuminating. Players get bigger; the strike zone changes; their teammates retire, get traded or let go. Still, there they are, Derek Jeter, Jorge Posada, Andy Pettitte and Mariano Rivera, Yankees through and through.