With Ian Kennedy on the way down, all signs are point to a Kei Igawa start in Detroit next weekend. Considering that Kennedy claims he’s making progress, I’d rather just see Ian make his next start at the Big League level. For what it’s worth, Igawa is 3-3 with a 3.86 ERA in 39.2 AAA innings. He’s walked just 12 and has 40 strike outs, but he’s still getting more outs in the air than on the ground. Igawa’s never had much of a problem getting MiLB hitters out, but his stuff hasn’t translated into Big League success at all yet. · (34) ·
A few hours after I got home from the Bronx, I was talking to my mom about the game. It was, we decided, one of the nicer days at Yankee Stadium. The weather was perfect; the game was fast and crisp; and, of course, the Yankees won. It was, in other words, a day on which I could easily imagine Ernie Banks waking up, stepping outside and saying, “Let’s play two.”
Sadly, for the Yanks, two against the Mariners was not in the cards today. They had to settle for one win and their first three-game sweep of the season. The Yanks now find themselves in second place at 17-16, three games behind the Red Sox for the AL East lead and two back of Oakland for that fourth playoff spot.
The good news for this weekend was the emergence of the Yankee offense. During the three-game set, the Yanks scored 19 runs and banged out 27 hits. With three solid outings from Chien-Ming Wang, Mike Mussina and Darrell Rasner, this weekend’s sweep came easy to the Yankees. It was baseball as it should be in the Bronx, and everything was ok.
The offensive started, as it should, with the top of the order. After racking up 10 hits on Saturday, the Yanks’ one through four hitters dialed it up to 11 on Sunday. Over the last two days, Johnny Damon, Derek Jeter, Bobby Abreu and Hideki Matsui are a combined 21 for 37 with 11 runs scored and nine RBIs. The table-setters are setting the table, and the clean-up crew is cleaning up. While the top of the lineup won’t hit .568 all season, it certainly makes for an easy baseball game when they do.
On the other side of the ball, Darrell Rasner was everything the Yanks expected him to be and more. He got off to a rocky start, giving up a two-run home run in the first, but that would be all the Mariners would muster against the 27-year-old. Rasner threw two-thirds of his pitches for strikes and didn’t walk anyone. He also managed to keep his pitch count low, throwing just 76 pitches through six innings. Ian Kennedy should take a lesson.
And that brings me to my one and only nitpick of the game. Why did Joe Girardi opt to remove Rasner from the game after six innings? Rasner hadn’t thrown a game in a few days, and he’s a 27-year-old. He was rolling, and he could have thrown at least another inning and maybe two. It seemed like knee-jerk management to me: Have your starter throw six good innings, and then turn things over to the bullpen.
In my book, if your starter is rolling through six innings with a six-run lead and his pitch count is at 76, just keep him in. It’s far better to go with the known — Rasner’s command — than the unknown coming out of the Yankee bullpen. (To take this one step further, the Yanks could have used Joba to throw the last two innings today to stretch him out. They have an off-day tomorrow, and he really has to start making some multiple-inning appearances.)
But that complaint is small beans. The Yanks won decisively; they got a good start from someone other than Wang or Mussina; and the bats seem to have woken up from their early-season slumbers. The Cliff Lee 0.96 ERA buzzsaw comes to town on Tuesday, but we’ll worry about then. For now, let’s just enjoy the sweep and hope for more days of solid baseball under the sun this spring.
I’ve got a minor correction to this comment I made the other day about draft eligibility. If a team wants to draft a player than isn’t in the MLB Scouting Bureau database, they have to request a “commisioner number” for that player ahead of time. If no request is made, the player can’t be drafted. Thanks to KLaw for the heads up.
Triple-A Scranton (9-5 win over Durham)
Wilson Betemit: 1 for 2, 1 R, 1 2B, 2 BB
Brett Gardner: 2 for 3, 2 R, 1 RBI, 1 BB – on base 45 times in 28 games
Jason Lane: 1 for 3, 2 R, 1 HR, 5 RBI – 5 RBI total in his last 23 games
Eric Duncan: 2 for 4, 1 RBI, 2 K, 1 CS – batted cleanup for the first time all year
Cody Ransom: 2 for 4, 1 R, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 1 K
JD Closser & Justin Christian: both 1 for 4 – Closser K’ed once … Christian scored a run & K’ed twice
Kei Igawa: 7 IP, 5 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 4 BB, 8 K, 2-11 GB/FB – 66 of 108 pitches were strikes (61.1%) … he bit the bullet and went as deep as possible because there were only two relievers available today
Scott Strickland: 2 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 2 K, 0-4 GB/FB – 25 of 41 pitches were strikes (61.0%) … David Robertson was the only other reliever available
Stop me if you’re heard this one before: Jim Salisbury of The Philadelphia Inquirer opines on Brian Cashman’s future today. With a GM vacancy in Philadelphia probably opening up after the season, Salisbury believes that, if Cashman’s Yanks fail to make the playoffs, he could be out in the Bronx and in in Philadelphia. I think Salisbury is getting too far ahead of himself. As things stand today, the Yanks are 1.5 games out of a playoff spot and 3 games out of first. Meanwhile, the youth movement won’t happen in one month, and the Steinbrenners, despite Hank’s public comments, seem to understand that. I know a good number of Yankee fans don’t think highly of Cashman, but getting rid of him won’t be as easy or as quick as Salisbury seems to think. · (25) ·
Joe and Ben are both at the game today, so I’m your host for the afternoon. They’ll get to see the triumphant return of Darrell Rasner, one of the more underappreciated arms in the organization. He’s not flashy and he doesn’t have the overpowering stuff, but he throws strikes and keeps the ball in the park, which is more than say, Bronson Arroyo is doing these days.
Rasner will face perennial punching bag Carlos Silva as the Yanks shoot for their first sweep of a three game series this year. Hopefully facing Silva allows them to keep distancing themselves from that frustrating “score some runs early then go into hibernation” routine.
To make room for Rasner, Brian Bruney was shifted to the 60-day DL (to clear a 40-man spot) and IPK was demoted to Triple-A Scranton (to clear a 25-man spot). IPK’s elgible to be called back up on May 14th, four days after the next time the Yanks will need a fifth starter. So unless someone gets injured between now and then, it’ll probably be Kei Igawa or Steven White on the 10th in Detroit. The Yanks’ patience lasts only 6 games, I see.
Can you hear all the Dodgers’ fans crying bloody murder over Chad Billingsley’s poor start? I sure can’t.
The team’s leader in slugging percentage, LF
Jessica Alba’s baby daddy, SS
The offensive MVP, RF
Thank goodness there’s only 1 year left on his deal, 1B
The guy who kidnapped Melky Cabrera and is playing his place, CF
He won’t hit .150-.213-.230 all year, right?, 2B
The guy that’s hit exactly 36 HR since hitting 36 HR in 2005, 3B
Chad “is this what we’ve come to” Moeller, C
Notes: Looks like Latrell Spreewell needed that money to feed his family after all.
PeteAbe has more of the details surrounding Jose Tabata’s suspension last week. The year at AA is not going too well for a player once regarded as the Yanks’ top positional prospect. · (31) ·
Sometimes the jokes just write themselves. An acting U.S. Marshal in Boston is under investigation for allegedly having her deputies guard and chauffeur Joe Buck and Tim McCarver around Boston during the World Series last year. These two deputies may also have watched games one and two of the World Series from the broadcast booth. The punch lines are limitless. · (5) ·
A short wrap-up for you because I’m heading off to the new beer garden in Prospect Heights: Mike Mussina is thriving this year not because he’s a better pitcher but because he’s pitching better. It’s a subtle difference, but what we’re seeing this year is a clinic in pitching by an old master who many of us — including me — had written off. Mike Mussina has learned how to use his killer breaking pitches and the “slow, slower, slowest” approach to set up an average fastball. His striking out the side in the sixth was masterful.
So now, over his last three starts, Mussina has given the Yankees 18 innings. He’s allowed 18 hits while walking just two batters and striking out 10. He’s 3-0 over that span, and his ERA is 2.50. I, for one, am enjoying the career resurgence of Mussina, and I’m happy to see that I was wrong in calling him a dead Moose a little under a month ago. · (26) ·
Mike Mussina made his Major League debut on August 4, 1991, losing 1-0 to 43-year-old Charlie Hough. Felix Hernandez, the Mariners’ young stud, was all of five years old at the time.
Today, Mussina and the 253 games he has won since that debut loss will face off against Felix Hernandez, 22, and his 32 career wins. This could be quite the match-up. On one side, we’ve got Hernandez — anointed the King — a power pitcher with 41 strike outs in 44.1 innings this year. His ERA is a measly 2.22. On the other side is Mike Mussina who no longer generates too many swing-and-misses. His 12 strike outs has Moose sitting pretty at 3.34 K/9 IP, a career low. Mussina today relies on guile as he attempts to get hitters to swing weakly at breaking pitches and slow change ups.
For Mussina, this style of pitching has worked lately. Remove the Red Sox from his 2008 equation, and Moose has given up 8 earned runs in 23.2 innings, good for a 3.04 ERA. That’s downright great for a Yankee rotation struggling to prevent runs. Mussina won’t give the Yanks much in the way of distance; he tires around the five-inning mark. But he sure can hold his own against Hernandez.
Meanwhile, the struggling Yankee offense continues to run into brick walls. After facing Eric Bedard, they draw another Seattle ace in King Felix. Opponents are hitting .238/.306/.335, and the Yankees will go with their typical lineup these days.
Mike Mussina P
Shortly before beating the Mariners last night, the Yankees announced that the franchise had set yet another baseball first. The Yankees became the first team in Major League history to sell four million tickets four years in a row. Word is that most of the games throughout the summer are sold out, and the Yanks, averaging over 50,000 fans over their first 12 home games, could see close to 4.5 million people pass through the Yankee Stadium turnstiles. Remind me again why the Yanks absolutely need that new stadium. · (12) ·