Now, that’s a weird headline to write. The concept of the Tampa Bay Rays being in first place on May 14 is causing some cognitive dissonance around here.
Anyway, the Yanks lost a heart-breaker tonight. The Chien-Ming Wang ground-ball machine that we know and love showed up in place of Chien-Ming Wang, the strike out artist. Wang went seven strong, allowing 7 hits and 1 run on 3 walks and 2 strike outs. He lowered his ERA to 2.90, and for the second straight outing, he walked away without a win. Over his last 14 innings, Wang has allowed 4 ER on 12 hits, and the Yanks have scored a grand total of zero runs with their ace on the hill.
Meanwhile, tonight’s loss belonged to Mariano Rivera in the record books, but he doesn’t carry the blame. The run he allowed tonight raised his ERA to 0.56, and it was bound to happen with some dinky hit as it did last night sooner or later. So instead of blaming Rivera, let’s play the Blame Game, Yankees Edition.
Alberto Gonzalez: The Former Attorney General comes up with runners on the corners and one out in the top of the second. He hacks at the very first pitch against a pitcher known for his control problems and hits into an inning-ending rally-killing double play. This set the tone for tonight, and if you don’t think the Yanks miss A-Rod, keep on enjoying those Morgan Ensberg/Alberto Gonzalez outs at the bottom of the lineup.
Bobby Abreu: Abreu put up perhaps the most pathetic 0 for 4 I’ve ever seen (and, yeah, in a week, I’ll look back on this fine piece of hyperbole and smile). The defining at-bat came in the 6th inning after Derek Jeter hit a one-out, Eric Hinske-assisted triple. Abreu came up and did exactly what the Yanks didn’t want by tapping out to short. When Jeter hit the triple, I just knew the Yanks wouldn’t score, and my prophecy sadly came true.
Jason Giambi: After watching a fieldable grounder roll by Giambi in the bottom of the 11th, I yearned for the days of yelling at Joe Torre for taking Giambi out in the late innings of a close game. Defensive replacments, where have ye gone?
Jose Molina: Great throw there in the 11th, buddy. Way to nail a runner.
But of course, the point of this blame game is moot. The Yankees are not going to win by scoring one run a night off of pitchers like Edwin Jackson. While it’s true he had good stuff, it seems like the Yankees have run up against a good number of pitchers who just happened to have good stuff against the Yanks. The American League just isn’t that deep in pitching.
Whenever the offense wants to wake up, I’ll be ecstatic. But this team is just putting too much pressure on their pitchers. Allowing two runs over 11 innings is fantastic, but with the way the Yanks’ bats are going, it’s not enough. No wonder the team is losing.
Sorry folks, had a long and tough one at the ol’ 9-to-5 today, and I’ve got a massive headache that the Yankees only exacerbated. I don’t have it in me to pour over minor league box scores and punch numbers into my laptap for half-an-hour tonight. Here’s the links to the box scores, feel free to sift through them yourselves. Biggest story of the night was Kevin Whelan returning to action with Tampa. The usual updates return tomorrow.
Triple-A Scranton (Marquez pitched like crap again, Andy Phillips batted cleanup for the other team, JB Cox made his Scranton debut)
Double-A Trenton (might be time for everyone to chill out on the whole “call-up Dan McCutchen” kick)
High-A Tampa (the opposing pitcher was Jonah Nickerson, who threw 388 pitches in an 8-day span to help Oregon State win it’s first ever College World Series in 2006)
Low-A Charleston (Montero’s at it again) · (15) ·
If it seems like we’re writing about the Yanks’ quest for .500 every other day, that’s because we are. The Yanks — 5-5 over their last 10 — have been hovering around the .500 mark since the start of May, and they’re at again, hunting for a win to bring them to 20-20. It seems like one should be forthcoming, but you know the old saying about counting chickens before they hatch.
For the Yankees, their ace takes the mound. Chien-Ming Wang is 6-1 this year with a 3.12 ERA. He has struck out 36 in 52 IP and opponents are hitting just .233 off Wang. Last time around in the Bronx against Tampa, Wang threw six scoreless innings, giving up just four hits en route to win.
The Rays counter with Edwin Jackson. The righty, once a highly touted prospect, has shown signs of putting it all together this year. He’s only 2-3 but with a 4.03 ERA. Opponents are hitting just .241 off of Jackson, but he’s walked 20 in 42.1 innings. Last time around against the Yanks in Tampa, he lasted just five innings, giving up five earned runs on four hits and four walks. I’d take that again.
Game Notes: Melky Cabrera is 3 for his last 19 and is hitting just .205/.244/.359 in May…Robinson Cano has hit in seven straight games. He is 9 for 25 during that span and has seen his average climb by .040…Mark Melancon has been promoted to AA, J.B. Cox is now in Scranton and Alan Horne is nearing a return. Chad Jennings has the news and a mea culpa of sorts.
Jim Caple, not usually one of my favorite ESPN.com writers, penned a massively long piece on Yu Darvish that went live on the Worldwide Leader’s site today. It delves into the history of Yu and the role he plays in Japanese baseball. It also, of course, mentions the posting fees that someone of Yu’s pedigree and quality could command. Caple speculates that the Nippon Ham Fighters could draw in upwards of $75 million for the youngster, and the Yankees would be right there atop the list of potential suitors. Make no mistake about it; Darvish is better than Daisuke Matsuzaka and doesn’t even belong in the same sentence as Kei Igawa. But $75 million just for the rights to talk to a pitcher? I’m not sure about that one. · (57) ·
Joba’s fist pump.
All you damn kids on his lawn.
Yet again, someone is foaming at the mouth over something that Joba does that tons of other MLB players do. Heaven forbid Joba gets a little excited. Meanwhile, Ed Valentine does a fantastic job at Bugs and Cranks disputing Gossage’s statements. Let the kids celebrate, he says; the Yankee Way is all about winning. · (29) ·
When Alex Rodriguez went down with a quad injury that will keep him on the shelf for a few weeks this year, he hadn’t been off to the same start he enjoyed last year. Admittedly, that’s not a fair comparison. How often does any player hit 14 home runs in a month while single-handedly carrying a team?
But despite a slower start, he still had a vital role in the lineup. As the cleanup hitter, he was hitting .272./330/.506 with 4 HR and 10 RBI in 81 at-bats. Those are poor numbers by A-Rod‘s standards, but to suggest that the team doesn’t miss him is wishful thinking at best.
In his absence, the Yankees’ replacement third basemen have been downright awful. The three replacements — Wilson Betemit, Alberto Gonzalez and Morgan Ensberg — have now enjoyed 70 plate appearances as third basemen this year. Collectively, they are hitting .239 with a .271 OBP and a .269 slugging percentage. That is utterly woeful.
Things don’t look much better behind the dish either. As a catcher, Jorge Posada hit .321/.345/.429 this year in 29 plate appearances. The other three catchers have put together 114 plate appearances and are hitting .224/.263/.348.
While it’s easy to say that the Yankees were a .500 team without A-Rod and, hey, wouldn’t they still be a .500 team now, that ignores the reality offered by those who have tried to replace Jorge. The Yankees are missing a ton of offense right now, and it’s showing in the product on the field. The middle of their lineup is weak; Shelley Duncan had to hit cleanup against lefties, and even Derek Jeter found himself penciled into the four hole for one game. The bottom of their lineup — drawing well below league-average production from the C and 3B spots — has become a terrible liability. It’s a cascade issue.
The Yankees probably could have withstood an injury to either A-Rod or Jorge. They probably would be two games behind Boston had just one of them gone down. But with both out, this team’s offensive production slides off the table. Get well soon, guys.
PeteAbe has some news on how some young players are doing as they rehab from injury. The Good: Jeff Karstens is close to returning to actual games that count, Humberto Sanchez is throwing all his pitches and is less than a month away from getting into games, and Andrew Brackman’s rehab is coming along just fine. The Bad: Chris Garcia and CJ Henry are still MIA. Pete also notes that Phil Hughes will be rockin’ some new specs the next time he takes the mound. Hopefully he goes with the big old school glasses like current Rice ace Ryan Berry. That’d be sweet. · (22) ·
For the first time in their team history, the Tampa Bay Rays find themselves in uncharted territories: Following a 7-1 drubbing of a lethargic Yankee team, they are six games over .500, a franchise high-water mark.
Following tonight’s loss, Mike and I were talking about this game. We both agreed — and this is hardly breaking news — that the Yankees without Jorge Posada and Alex Rodriguez are a vastly inferior team than they are otherwise. The middle of their lineup lacks punch, and the bottom of the lineup — led by a struggling Jose Molina — is fairly heinous.
I was all set to write about how the Yankees look old and bored and the Rays looked young and exuberant. But then Mark Feindsand beat me to it:
If you’ve ever watched the Rays play, it’s easy to see their enthusiasm and excitement, both on and off the field. They joke around in the dugout, they run around the field like a bunch of kids and they look like they’re having a great time playing the game.
Compared to the Rays, the Yankees look like a bunch of 60-year-olds.
That about sums up the play on the field tonight.
Meanwhile, let’s talk about Andy Pettitte. Over his last four starts spanning 21.1 innings, Pettitte finds himself 0-3 with a 6.75 ERA. He’s given up 28 hits and six walks while striking out a respectable 17. Pettitte just hasn’t had it lately, and the Yanks need him to find it.
Tonight, Pettitte’s problem seemed to be one of pitch selection. He was hitting 89-91 with his fastball, which should be fast enough to get out hitters as he mixes in his curveball and cutter. But Jason Barlett beat him on a curveball — the third straight curveball of the at-bat. Pettitte got a little too cutesy with a player hitting .248 with no power, and Barlett delivered the death blow.
The Yanks find themselves again treading water. They’re yet again one game under that .500 mark, but they haven’t lost ground to the Red Sox, losers of three out of four in Minneapolis this weekend. At some point, something’s gotta give. The Yanks need to turn it on. Can they really afford to wait another week while A-Rod recovers?
Check this out: Florida State’s Buster Posey, a legit candiate for the #1 overall pick in next month’s draft, played all nine positions tonight. From the Game Notes:
Posey plays all nine positions, fourth Seminole in the Mike Martin era to perform the feat and first since Mike Martin, Jr. vs Furman in 1994.
Position order: Catcher(1st); First base(2nd); Second base(3rd); Shortstop(4th); Third base(5th); LF(6th); CF(6th, 2outs); Pitcher(7th); RF(7th 2outs).
Chone Figgins, eat your heart out. Do you think it’s a coincidence that the last player to accomplish that at FSU was the coaches’ son? Posey also hit a grand slam in the game. Afterwards he hunted down Osama Bin Laden, cured cancer, and convinced Steve Lombardi that Brian Cashman is actually a pretty good GM. (h/t Brian at TCBB)
Game 1 (2-1 win over Indianapolis in 10 innings)
Brett Gardner, Jason Lane & Cody Ranson: all 1 for 5 – Gardner K’ed twice & swiped a bag … Lane scored a run & K’ed … Ranson K’ed
Justin Christian & Eric Duncan: both 1 for 4 – Christian doubled, drove in a run, walked & stole a base… Duncan drove in a run & was walked intentionally by an old friend
Nick Green: 2 for 4, 1 BB
Bernie Castro: 2 for 3, 1 R, 1 K, 1 SB
IPK: 1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 0 K – see you on Thursday
Scott Strickland: 3.2 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 3 K, 5-3 GB/FB
Scott Patterson: 1.1 IP, zeroes – second straight outing allowing 0 baserunners
Billy Traber: 1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 0 K
David Robertson: 2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 1 K, 3-2 GB/FB
Steven Jackson: 1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 1 K, 2-0 GB/FB
In tonight’s lineup, Joe Girardi has his short step penciled back into the oh-so-familiar number two spot in the lineup. So I wonder: Did Joe Girardi put Jeter in the cleanup spot yesterday as something of a joke? The weather forecast called for 100 percent rain, and it seemed clear that the game would get delayed. Jeter had just gone through a stretch of homer-less at-bats. So Girardi writes a joke lineup. I wouldn’t put it past him.
As the Yankees gear up to face the Tampa Bay Rays for a four-game set in Tampa, the bad news out of, well, down the road in Tampa is that A-Rod will miss the Subway Series. Alex had another MRI today, and he’s not quite ready to begin his rehab stint. While the Mets are holding back Johan Santana for a day to face the Yanks, the Bombers will be without the cleanup hitter for at least another week.
It’s Andy Pettitte vs. Matt Garza in the Trop tonight.
Game Notes: Ian Kennedy had a solid first inning at Scranton. He threw 12 pitches, 7 for strikes and gave up 1 hit. The baserunner was erased on a caught stealing.