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.
Updated at 6 p.m.: Word on the street right now is that the Kei Igawa Experience 2008 is over, for now. The Yankees plan to call up Ian Kennedy to face the
Mets on FridayRays on Thursday. The Yanks were pleased with the confidence and approach Kennedy showed last week in his AAA, and the plan right now is to have Kennedy toss an inning tonight as a tune-up for Thursday’s start; Darrell Rasner would face the Mets on Friday. These plans could change, and we’ll keep an eye on the 6 p.m. AAA game to see what goes down. · (13) ·
Well, I think it’s about time for me to give up on Kei Igawa. I didn’t see Friday’s game, but the brutal numbers speak for themselves. My faith was based on the faith of people whose opinions I respect. The Padres claimed Igawa on waivers last year, and San Diego GM Kevin Towers routinely makes great pitching acquisitions. And the Red Sox have been hoping that the Yankees give up on Igawa, so that Boston can make an end-around effort to get him (obviously, the Yankees wouldn’t give Igawa directly to the Red Sox).
While we know that the Padres were interested in 2007, Buster Olney feels that the Padres have long since passed the point of caring about Kei Igawa. But enter the Red Sox. Davidof suggests that the Red Sox are now interested in Igawa and I cannot, for the life of me, figure out why. A left-handed fly-ball pitcher throwing in Fenway would get utterly rocked by opposing teams. Plus, the Red Sox are not suffering from a lack of pitching depth.
So what’s the story here? Why would the Red Sox even be remotely interested in Igawa? Unless they wanted to stick to the Yanks by turning Igawa’s waist-high, 88-mph fastballs into something they aren’t and will never be, Igawa’s just not a name that makes sense in Boston.