Yankees pound ChiSox, win sixth straight

The Yankees are hot hot hot right now, and the White Sox pitching staff felt their wrath on Wednesday night. This one got out of hand early.

The look.

First Inning Fun

You know what my new favorite thing is? Seeing the look on the other team’s manager’s face when the Yankees are pounding away on offense. Especially when you have two unlikable guys like Buck Showalter (last series) and Ozzie Guillen (this series), that makes it even better. After Brett Gardner and Derek Jeter led off the game with bunt singles, Ozzie had that look on his face in the dugout, and it was pure awesome. Following Curtis Granderson‘s bloop single to load the bases with none it, that look turned into thaaat look. You know what I mean.

Mark Teixeira drove a first pitch Gavin Floyd fastball into deep center for a sacrifice fly, and Robinson Cano followed that up with a three-run homer on a cutter that caught too much of the plate. The Yankees had a 4-0 lead with one out in the first, and the one out came on a well struck ball hit to the wrong part of the park. We were all pretty happy with the early lead, but they didn’t stop there.

The Cycle

See ya.

Almost two years ago to the day (August 2nd, 2009), Melky Cabrera hit for the cycle against the White Sox in this same park. No one on the Yankees hit for the cycle in this game, but they combined to do it as a team in the third inning.

The inning started with a single from Cano and then Eric Chavez‘s first homerun as a Yankee. It was 8-1 at that point, but then Jorge Posada doubled, Russell Martin walked, Gardner singled, and Jeter singled. It was now 9-1 with two men on base for Teixeira, who lined what looked like a solid single to center. Alex Rios, who is having a season every bit as bad as Adam Dunn, leaned down to make the catch, but he simply whiffed. The ball got by him and rolled to the wall, scoring both Gardner and Jeter and sending Tex to third. It was his first triple since 2009, and it completed the team cycle in the inning. It also pushed the Yankees lead to 12-1, and by the end of the inning, it was 13-1.

OMG A.J. WTF

You know, I try to write something nice about A.J. Burnett, then he goes and does this. He allowed a run in the first on a sacrifice fly before pitching around two singles in the second and one single in the third, but then he completely collapsed under the weight of that 12 run lead.  The ChiSox scored five runs in the fourth, three on a Carlos Quentin homer, then another run in the fifth before Joe Girardi mercifully pulled his starter from the game.

Eight of the last 12 men Burnett faced reached base, three on extra base hits. All told, the White Sox touched him up for 13 hits in just 4.1 IP, scoring seven runs. This is the same White Sox team that picked up a total of 13 hits in their last two games combined. They got that in less than five innings against Burnett. It’s the first time A.J. failed to complete five innings this season, and he’s now given up 25 runs and 57 baserunners in his last six starts (35.1 IP). It’s too bad he makes so much money, otherwise he’d be the one looking over shoulder in this six-man rotation business.

I guess being down seven runs is a time to shoot some fireworks in Chicago.

Leftovers

Although things got kinda sorta interesting in the middle innings, but the Yankees offense restored order and blew the game open in the seventh inning. Everyone in the starting lineup had at least one hit and one run scored, though most guys had multiples of each. The top three hitters in the lineup combined to go 12-for-17 with eight runs scored and seven driven in. Jeter had his fourth career five-hit game and his second in the last month. He’s hitting .333/.380/.495 in 109 plate appearances since coming off the disabled list, which is pretty damn good.

Gardner (three), Granderson (four), Cano (three), and Chavez (three) all had multiple hits. Grandy hit his league-leading ninth triple, and he’s got an outside chance at being the first player since Jim Rice in 1978 to lead the AL in triples and homers. There’s way, way too much offense to recap, so I suggest clicking the box score link below and reading through it. I do want to mention that Chavez is growing a mustache now, and between that and his swing, he’s totally got a Don Mattingly thing going on. It’s pretty uncanny.

Another nice job by Cory Wade, who cleaned up Burnett’s mess in the fifth without allowing an inherited runner to score before tacking on a scoreless sixth. I liked the move to sign him, but he’s exceeded even my expectations. Luis Ayala chucked two scoreless frames, and Rafael Soriano sat down all three guys he faced in the ninth. Yankees pitchers haven’t walked a batter in 30 innings now, not since Freddy Garcia walked Nick Markakis in the third inning of Sunday’s game. That’s pretty amazing.

Floyd gave up a career-high ten earned runs, and he became just the second White Sox pitcher in the live ball era to give up ten runs in less than three innings. It’s the second time in his last five starts he allowed seven or more runs, and the third time in his last eight starts that he allowed six or more runs. The Yankees have won six games in a row now, outscoring their opponents 56-35. Like I said, hot hot hot.

Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings

MLB.com has the box score and video highlights, FanGraphs some other stuff, and ESPN the updated standings.

Up Next

The Yankees will go for the rare sweep of a four-game series on Thursday night, when Ivan Nova makes his latest case to stay in the rotation against Phil Humber. That’s another night game because apparently every team but the Yankees is entitled to a getaway day. Lame.

Sanchez homers twice in Charleston loss

Got some notes today, so let’s bullet point ’em…

  • Remember Mark Prior? He took a line drive off his forearm while throwing a batting practice session today. Nothing’s broken and it’s just a bruise, but it’s yet another setback. He’s currently coming back from back soreness and groin strain.
  • Austin Romine was a late scratch today because of a back strain. It’s unclear how long he’ll be out, but Jesus Montero just spent a week on the DL with a sore back. They won’t rush him back.
  • The Yankees are shooting for 150 IP out of Dellin Betances this season, which would be his career high by 28.1 IP and 45.2 IP more than last season (counting the playoffs). Betances has thrown 93.1 IP this year and he’s only got another six or seven regular season starts left, so he’ll get pretty close.
  • Meanwhile, the Yankees have also asked Betances to start throwing more fastballs in an effort to improve his command. Makes sense, fastball command is clearly his biggest weakness.
  • Kanekoa Texeira is done rehabbing with the Rookie Level GCL Yankees and will join Double-A Trenton tomorrow.

And finally, congrats to Dante Bichette Jr. for being named the GCL Player of the Month for July. He hit .418/.518/.659 in 23 games last month.

Both Triple-A Scranton and High-A Tampa had a scheduled off day.

Double-A Trenton (3-2 loss to Akron) apparently they played at least part of the game through a heavy rain, which I don’t like to see in the minors because of the injury risk
Jose Pirela, SS, Corban Joseph, 2B, Zoilo Almonte, RF, & Damon Sublett, LF: all 1 for 4 – Sublett and CoJo struck out once, Pirela twice … Sublett also tripled, drove in a run, and came around to score … Almonte stole a base
Rob Lyerly, 3B: 0 for 4, 2 K
Melky Mesa, CF: 2 for 4, 1 R, 1 2B, 2 K – threw a runner out at the plate … third two-hit game in his last six contests
Jose Gil, C & DeAngelo Mack, DH: both 1 for 3
Addison Maruszak, 1B: 0 for 2, 1 RBI, 2 K
Graham Stoneburner, RHP: 7 IP, 6 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 4 K, 9-5 GB/FB – 58 of 86 pitches were strikes (67.4%) … took him more than three months to get back to Trenton after the neck strain
Josh Romanski, LHP: 1.2 IP, 1 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 2 K, 2-0 GB/FB
Ryan Pope, RHP: 0.1 IP, zeroes, 1-0 GB/FB

[Read more…]

Stems cells, a first-hand experience

By now you know all about Bartolo Colon‘s career-saving stem cell procedure, though I don’t think any of us really knows what the procedure is like. Thankfully, we have C.J. Nitkowski to tell us. The former Yankee is currently undergoing stem cell treatment for his damaged pitching shoulder, and he recapped the experience at SI.com. He talked about his consultation with the doctors, the actual visit and procedure, the use of HGH, the whole nine. It’s a relatively short read but incredibly interesting, so check it out.

Game 109: Taking the series

Waa waa waa. (AP Photo/Dino Vournas)

It’s always tough to win a four-game series, but the Yankees have two cracks at winning this one in Chicago. They’ve won their last five games, the last one with some help from the rain, and it’s only the second time this year they’ve won that many games in a row. Kinda hard to believe when they have the third most wins in baseball and the best run differential. Here’s the lineup…

Brett Gardner, LF
Derek Jeter, SS
Curtis Granderson, CF
Mark Teixeira, 1B
Robinson Cano, 2B
Nick Swisher, RF
Eric Chavez, 3B
Jorge Posada, DH
Russell Martin, C

A.J. Burnett, SP

It’s another 8:10pm ET start, and you’ll be able to watch on YES locally or ESPN nationally. Enjoy.

Rotation Note: The Yankees announced that Phil Hughes will start on turn next Tuesday, though what happens beyond that (and specifically with Ivan Nova) remains to be seen.

Report: MLB investigating A-Rod for poker game

Via Wally Matthews, MLB is conducting an investigation into Alex Rodriguez‘s alleged participation in an illegal, high-stakes poker game. “We’re talking to people involved in the investigation and we’re taking this very seriously,” said an MLB exec. “Because he had been warned about this before, I would say a possible suspension would be very much in play.” The commissioner’s office will interview Alex as part of the investigation.

I get that MLB is cracking down because they have warned Alex once before about this stuff, though I’m not sure if they’ll actually be able to suspend him. The union and its many lawyers will have his back, and frankly MLB has set a precedent by ignoring all those DUI’s earlier this year. They won’t suspend a player for potentially killing someone by driving drunk, but they’re considering suspending A-Rod for playing cards? Get real. Fine him and move on.

The Forgotten Starter

(AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

For the last … I dunno, week or two or four we’ve talked ad nauseum about the Yankees’ rotation, about whether Phil Hughes or Ivan Nova should be starting, about if/how Bartolo Colon and Freddy Garcia will hold up down the stretch, and about how totally awesome CC Sabathia is. But then there’s A.J. Burnett, almost a forgotten man in a rotation full of stories much easier to talk about. Burnett has rebounded from his brutal 2010 season but he’s not to being the guy he was in 2009, which is what I expected when I wrote our season preview

Call me (cautiously) optimistic, but I think we’ll see a Burnett that is better than what he was in 2010 this season, but perhaps not as good as he was in 2009. That would put him right around a 4.50-4.60 FIP, so let’s split the middle and call it 4.55. That would be the third worst full season of his career, but spread out over 30 or 31 starts, you’ve got a two, two-and-a-half win pitcher. Would you take that out of A.J. this year? I would, but perhaps my expectations are too low.

A.J. has a 4.66 FIP at the moment, so I’m just a little off, but we still have another eight weeks to go. His 3.93 xFIP looks a lot better and is exactly league average because he has been a little homerun unlucky, with 14.8% of his fly balls allowed leaving the park. Last year that number was 11.6%, the year before 10.8%, and for his career it’s 10.9%. Five of the 20 homers he’s given up in 2011 have been classified as either “lucky” or “just enough” by Hit Tracker, two categories that tend to be volatile from year to year. Burnett’s ground ball rate (49.0%) is his highest since 2007, so it seems odd that he’d be giving up more homers now (1.30 HR/9) than anytime in his career.

Anyway, about two weeks ago I wrote about evaluating Freddy Garcia based on results and not process, and I’m almost at that point with Burnett. He’s completed at least five innings in all 22 starts so far, something he did just 23 times last year. Only seven times has he allowed more than three earned runs and only three times did he exit a game with the Yankees down more than two runs (three runs each time). Twelve times he exited with a lead, so he’s certainly kept the Yankees in the game. Leaving seven games down one or two runs sucks, but those are hardly insurmountable leads given the offense backing him. I guess it’s also worth nothing that the Yankees have lost half of his 22 starts, but in nine of those losses they scored three or fewer runs. In fact, here look at this…

April 25th vs. White Sox: 8 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 2 K
May 11th vs. Royals: 7 IP, 1 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 5 BB, 6 K
June 13th @ Athletics Indians: 7.2 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 8 K

Those are Burnett’s three best starts this year by Game Score, all registering a 72. The Yankees scored a total of three runs in those games and lost all three (all three runs came in the Kansas City game too). A little offensive help and they could have been 14-8 in his starts instead of 11-11. For shame.

Burnett’s strike out rate (7.81 K/9) and swing and miss rate (9.3%) are both up considerably from last season (6.99 and 7.9%, respectively), which might be The Larry Rothschild Effect. His walk rate has also climbed a bit, from 3.66 uIBB/9 to 4.03 uIBB/9, which is a product of throwing just 39.8% of his pitches in the strike zone, his lowest rate since the data started being recorded in 2002 and the third lowest in baseball this season. His ground ball rate is his best in years, but like I said, I’m not caring too much about the process at the moment, after last year I’ll just be happy with positive results regardless of how (un)sustainable they may be.

Sabathia has been the clear number one this year with Colon and Garcia settling in nicely as the two and three, but Burnett’s improvement from last year has gone a little under-the-radar if that’s possible. By no means is he great, but he’s been a solid back of the rotation guy for Joe Girardi and is giving his team a chance a win. Burnett will give it another go against the ChiSox tonight and hopefully do what he’s been doing most of the year: just keep the Yankees in the game.