Pettitte cruises as C-lineup powers Yanks to 7-1 victory

Photo credit: Chris Carlson/AP

Every time the Yankees head out to Anaheim we can be sure to hear two things. First, that the Yankees, during their decade-plus run of success, haven’t fared very well against the Angels, especially at Angels Ballpark. Second, that Alex Rodriguez has hit a lot of home runs there. To the second, of course he did. He spent the first nine years of his career on two teams in the AL West. Of the two remaining, one plays in a Stadium that has campouts in its foul territory. Of course he hit more homers at Angels Ballpark than any other stadium. To the first, well, it’s true.

A-Rod did not hit a home run yesterday, but the Yankees did score a victory in Anaheim. Andy Pettitte was the real story, going eight strong while striking out eight in a dominant start. The Yankees, owned by Pineiro just last week, apparently learned something and ran up the score in the middle innings. It ended with a decisive victory for the Yanks.

Biggest Hit: The No. 9 hitter comes through

Part of the reason the Yankees’ offense is off to such a hot start lies at the bottom of the order. They’ve gotten some clutch performances from their 7-8-9 hitters, which has helped make up for struggles from Nick Johnson and Mark Teixeira atop the order. Yesterday the Yanks got a big boost from the bottom of their order, as the No. 9 hitter slapped the biggest hit of the game.

I wasn’t a huge fan of how they got there, though. A-Rod and Cano both managed singles off Joel Pineiro to set the Yanks up for a big inning. With runners on first and second and none out up came Nick Swisher, who had doubled home the Yankees first run just two innings earlier. This time, though, he didn’t get a chance for another big hit. Instead he laid down a successful sac bunt, if you consider giving away a run a success.

With Ramiro Pena and Francisco Cervelli due up, Mike Scioscia had a no-brainer of a decision. Walk Granderson and deal with the bottom two hitters in the order — both reserve players. Pena’s ensuing strikeout came as no surprise. It actually represented the biggest negative WPA swing of the game, -.073, because it took off the sac fly. That brought up Francisco Cervelli. While he’s not as bad a hitter as Pena, he’s still not the guy you want up with the bases loaded and two out. Yet he came through, grounding one under Brandon Wood’s glove and into left for a two-run single.

Despite the positive result, I don’t like taking the bat out of Swisher’s hands there. He’s been swinging it well all season, making a lot of outs on well-hit baseballs. He had a homer on Friday and a double already in the game. Why sacrifice him when Scioscia can walk the next hitter and deal with the bottom of the order?

Biggest Pitch: Uh, Napoli’s single

Photo credit: Chris Carlson/AP

When a pitcher is as flat dominant as Andy Pettitte was yesterday, there tend not to be many big dings on his register. From the fourth on the Angels were pretty much out of the game, so their biggest hit clearly came in the early innings. That would be the third, when Mike Napoli singled to lead off the inning. Seriously. In the context of the game, that was the most grievous hit Pettitte allowed. The game was still 1-0 Yanks at that point, so it put the tying run on base, but not much else.

While it was a well-earned hit — Napoli worked a seven-pitch at-bat — he ruined it one batter later. Brandon Wood singled to left, a bit towards center. Napoli, by no means a fast guy, tried to sneak in the extra base, but Brett Gardner was having none of it. He actually took his time and made an accurate throw, giving Ramiro Pena enough time to apply the tag and get Napoli at third.

Pettitte finished the inning, but it was certainly his shakiest. After the Wood single Erick Aybar lined out to Cano and Abreu singled. Pettitte then caught a break on a 2-2 fastball to Torii Hunter, which just caught the inside edge. PitchFX did not like it. Nor did Hunter. But the home plate ump did, and that’s all that matters. It was the last time Pettitte had to worry about anything.

Pettitte again mixes it up

Photo credit: Chris Carlson/AP

Part of Pettitte’s success this season has been his even mixing of pitches. While he clearly goes back to the four-seamer most often, he’s used four secondary pitches, including a two-seam fastball, to retire hitter after hitter. In this game he not only went to his secondary pitches, but also threw them for strikes with consistency. Of his 114 pitches, 75 were strikes. Even more impressive, of his 65 non-four-seamers, 45 were strikes.

He also went to his secondary stuff pretty democratically, using 21 curveballs, 21 cutters, and 16 two-seamers (only seven changeups, but he always uses that less frequently). Here’s something, too. His two-seamer actually looks like an excellent complement to his four-seamer. I’d like to see what happens when he starts working it in more — but only after what he’s doing right now stops working. I like to break down baseball to its core, but never would I suggest someone like Pettitte change what he’s doing right now.

His four-seam fastball averaged 88.19 mph and maxed out at 90.4, breaking horizontally 0.30 inches and vertically 10.07. His two-seamer averaged 88.4 mph and touched 91. It broke horizontally 7.06 inches and vertically 7.39. According to FanGraphs’ pitch type values Andy’s fastball has been a positive for him so far this season, after being negative for the past three. The two-seamer, I think, is a big part of that.

Joys

Cervelli coming through again. It’s impossible to not like the kid, and although I think that some fans are starting to overhype him, he’s still a quality backup catcher. I love his antics behind the plate, and I love his attitude. The Yanks couldn’t ask for much more from a backup catcher.

That Derek Jeter guy just knows how to hit, doesn’t he. Another 2 for 5 day for the Captain. One of these days he’ll slow down, but I don’t think that’s coming soon.

Cano just keeps hitting. It’s still early, and we’ve urged caution when writing off certain players (::cough:: Nick Johnson ::cough::), but Cano has fit perfectly into the five hole.

Swisher was 2 for 4 with an RBI double. I still don’t get why he bunted in the fourth.

Few things make me happier than an excellent Pettitte start.

Brett Gardner’s extended announcement that he wants the left field job full-time.

Annoyances

I wasn’t going to mention the sac bunt again, but what the hell? Just not a move I’d ever favor. I’m glad it worked out, of course, but letting Swisher swing there would have been the preferred move.

That’s about it. Hard to complain about a decisive win.

WPA Graph

Booooooooring.

Full breakdown at FanGraphs.

Up Next

Rubber game tomorrow afternoon. It’ll start a little earlier, 3:35, this time on YES rather than Fox. Javy Vazquez tries for redemption against the Angels, while Scott Kazmir tries for the same. My money is on Vazquez.

Stoneburner conquers Rome

Triple-A Scranton (6-2 loss to Lehigh Valley)
Kevin Russo, 2B & David Winfree, 1B: both 2 for 4, 1 K – Russo scored a run
Colin Curtis, RF: 1 for 4, 1 2B, 1 RBI, 1 K
Eduardo Nunez, 3B: 0 for 3, 1 E (fielding)
Juan Miranda, DH & Jesus Montero, C: both 0 for 4
Chad Huffmann, LF: 1 for 4, 1 R, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 2 K  – threw a runner out at second
Greg Golson, CF & Reegie Corona, SS: both 1 for 3 – Corona missed a catch for an error
Zach McAllister: 6.1 IP, 10 H, 6 R, 6 ER, 1 BB, 3 K, 8-7 GB/FB – 63 of 99 pitches were strikes (63.6%) … only the fourth time in 75 career starts that he’s allowed six or more runs
John Van Benschoten: 1.2 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 1 K, 2-1 GB/FB – 17 of 30 pitches were strikes (56.7%)
Amaury Sanit: 1 IP, zeroes, 3-0 GB/FB – eight of his ten pitches were strikes

[Read more…]

Open Thread: Back on track

Photo Credit: Chris Carlson, AP

Solid win today. Vintage Andy Pettitte, some big two out hits, couple of nice defensive plays … it’s good to get things back to normal.

Here’s the open thread for the night. There’s NBA and NHL playoff action on, but it’s Saturday night, go out and have some fun.

Game 17: Pettitte to stop the bleeding

Photo credit: Kathy Willens/AP

With their loss last night the Yankees have dropped two in a row for the first time in this young season. They’ll get a chance to recover today with Andy Pettitte. It seems fitting that his turn in the rotation happens to fall today. The Yankees announcers usually mention this, noting how good Andy has been during his career in these situations.

The offense could use a bit of a jump start today. Through their first 12 games they scored 66 runs, or 5.5 runs per game. In their past four they’ve managed 16. They’ll have to do it against Joel Pineiro, who held them to three runs last time out. That time they sent out the A lineup and managed just seven hits and two walks. This time they’ll put out a variation of the B lineup. Maybe even C, since not only is Ramiro Pena getting the start at third, but Francisco Cervelli gets the start behind the plate. Maybe their collective scrappiness can rub off on the rest of the lineup.

Lineup:

1. Derek Jeter, SS
2. Brett Gardner, LF
3. Mark Teixeira, 1B
4. Alex Rodriguez, DH
5. Robinson Cano, 2B
6. Nick Swisher, RF
7. Curtis Granderson, CF
8. Ramiro Pena, 3B
9. Francisco Cervelli, C

And on the mound, number forty-six, Andy Pettitte.

Injury Note: Nick Johnson is out of the lineup today because he’s suffering from a stiff back. Joe Girardi told reporters Johnson may have aggravated the injury yesterday when he took too much batting practice. The Yanks’ skipper expects the slumping DH back tomorrow but didn’t commit to keeping him in the two hole going forward.

Yanks to host Pinstripe Bowl for four years

The Yankees announced earlier this week that the New Era Pinstripe Bowl, an NCAA match-up set for December that will feature the third-best Big East team and the sixth-best Big 12 team, has been granted an unprecedented four-year license. The NCAA’s Football Issues Committee’s decision to extend the grant means the Pinstripe Bowl will be an annual tradition through at least 2013.

?We could not be more excited about bringing this premier college football bowl game to Yankee Stadium and the Bronx,? said Yankees President Randy Levine. ?Yankee Stadium was built to be a premier destination not only for baseball but for other exceptional and memorable events. The pageantry and tradition of college football belongs in Yankee Stadium and New York City.?

This year’s Pinstripe Bowl will be played on December 30, but that could change in the future. Under the terms of the license, the game can take place “no earlier than Christmas Day and no later than New Year?s Day.” While fans of college football will be pleased by this development, those wishing to see the NHL’s outdoor Winter Classic come to Yankee Stadium will have to wait. By granting the NCAA this late-December window, the Yanks have seemingly precluded the NHL from being able to set up and host their traditional New Year’s Day game.

The Ho Train heads to Tampa

Via Bryan Hoch, reliever Chan Ho Park is heading to Tampa to continue his road back from a hamstring issue. The hammy is still a little tight, so CHoP requested the move hoping that the warmer weather will help loosen it up. Apparently the same trick worked for him last year.

Park’s been on the disabled list for a little over a week, and it looks like his stint will last longer than the minimum 15 days. It sure would be nice to have him back in the bullpen, though.

Burnett recovers from poor beginning, but Yanks can’t hold off Angels

Photo credit: Chris Carlson/AP (Click for full-size)

At the beginning of the game it was clear that Burnett didn’t have his best stuff. I can remember having written that very line on many occasions last year, so it’s something we’ve grown used to. Bad A.J. some call it, though truly Bad A.J. came out for only one inning. After a 21-pitch, one-run first inning and a 21-pitch, three-run third inning Burnett needed just 33 pitches to get through the next three innings, during which he held the Angels scoreless. With his pitch count at just 90 he was able to start the seventh, but couldn’t finish it.

Biggest Hit: Swisher ties it after Burnett surrenders the lead

Photo credit: Chris Carlson/AP

The Yankees took a 3-1 lead in the third when Robinson Cano singled home Mark Teixeira. That resulted in the nasty collision you see above. A.J. Burnett didn’t seem like he had a lot, but the Yankees offense had done some damage against Ervin Santana. The inning end there, which we’ll get to in a second, but in the bottom of that inning Burnett gave it all back and more. By the end of the inning the Angels had taken the lead.

Curtis Granderson struck out to open the fourth, but two pitches later Nick Swisher tied the game. It wasn’t a very good pitch, and Swish took advantage, hitting it just to the left of the tall wall in right-center. The homer tied the game and it would stay that way for the next four innings.

Biggest Pitch: Joba serves up a meatball

Photo credit: Chris Carlson/AP

With their 2-3-4 hitters due up in the ninth the Yankees needed to keep the score tied in the bottom of the eighth. Joe Girardi turned to his setup man, Joba Chamberlain, but the move backfired. On a 2-1 count he delivered a very hittable fastball to Hideki Matsu, who lined it to right for a single. Kendry Morales followed, and on a 1-1 pitch Joba hung a slider, middle-in, and Morales got all of it. That gave the Angels a two run lead with just three outs to go.

Joba missed on a lot of pitches away to the following hitters. After a Juan Rivera single he managed to retire the next three hitters, though they all hit the ball reasonably well. It’s going to happen sometimes. Some games he’ll throw gas and dominate. Other games he just won’t have it. It’s part and parcel to pitching out of the bullpen, Non-Rivera Division. At least he didn’t blow a lead. Letting the go-ahead runs to score in a tie game is one thing. To have A.J. battle through his final few frames only for Joba to blow it would have been quite another.

A lot of those outside pitches were close, too, and with another ump maybe he gets one or two of them.

Biggest Blunder: Johnson can’t bring home two

Two innings after tying the game it looked like the Yankees were going to take the lead. The sixth started with a walk to Curtis Granderson and a HBP of Nick Swisher. Brett Gardner couldn’t get down a bunt, though, and the Angels got a free out. Derek Jeter nearly drove home the go-ahead run with a liner up the middle, but Ervin Santana got a piece of the ball, slowing it enough for Howie Kendrick to field and make the force at second.

Instead of runners on first and second with one out and a lead, the Yankees had runners on first and third with two outs in a tie game. Nick Johnson, who singled in the fourth, had a chance but did not deliver. He did work a good at-bat, a full-count on eight pitches, but rolled over a low and outside changeup and grounded out to second. That certainly would have changed the tone of the game. The Yanks didn’t get much going after that.

Annoyance

Joba. Not that it was particularly frustrating. As I said before, relievers blow games. It was more frustration at the Yanks offense, really, for blowing that chance in the sixth. Also for blowing a second and third with two outs opportunity in the third.

The bottom of the third. Again, it was Burnett’s only bad inning, and I was pleased with his ability to settle down and maneuver the Angels’ lineup without his A game. Any inning where a pitcher gives back a newly minted lead is going to be frustrating, though.

Joys

Gardner’s first extra base hit of the year was particularly pretty. It’s exactly what a hitter like him is supposed to do. Making the moment further joyous was Jeter’s follow-up double.

Swisher’s homer, not just because it tied the game, but because he’s been hitting the ball so hard lately and has found little luck. This one was a long time coming.

WPA Graph

I like this type of graph. It deviates from the middle, but it often returns. If it were mirrored I would have liked it more.

FanGraphs has the player-by-player breakdown.

Up Next

It’s another FOX affair tomorrow afternoon, a 4:10 p.m. start. Andy Pettitte goes for the Yanks, while Joel Pineiro, who shut down the Yankees last week, goes for the Angels.