All it takes is one inning for Yanks to top Jays

For a little more than a full inning, it felt like the Yankees were going to drop yet another game in which their offense did nothing. As John Sterling mentioned, that’s unfair to the Blue Jays pitchers. He also said that intentionally walking the bases loaded was a “sound strategy,” so I’m not sure I should use him as a reference point here. But he does have a point. Cecil, Romero, and Morrow are three talented pitchers who, if they continue developing, could anchor the Jays’ rotation for years to come.

Thankfully they did put together that odd rally in the eighth. Vazquez got the win, the Yanks avoided the sweep, and now they get to chill, perhaps at home, on an off-day before making the short trip to Baltimore.

Biggest Hit: Cano caps the rally

Jason Frasor threw Robinson Cano a hittable fastball. You can complete the story from there. But plenty led up to the moment.

The story of the eighth is actually one long, bizarre tale that you probably wouldn’t believe if there weren’t video evidence. Somehow the Yankees scored four runs while tallying just two hits. Both hits, as you can imagine, resulted in big RBI. That means every other runner reached base in an alternative manner. And it all started with a HBP.

AP Photo/The Canadian Press,Nathan Denette

Brandon Morrow’s ceiling is no lower now than when the Mariners drafted him in 2006. Maybe the chances that he reaches that ceiling are lower, but the same ceiling still exists. Today we got a preview of what that ceiling could look like, and for the top dogs in the AL East, it was not good news. Through seven innings Morrow had allowed just five baserunners, four hits and, more importantly, just one walk. He had used 99 pitches, so odds were he’d be done soon after he started the eighth. After getting ahead of Francisco Cervelli, Morrow let a fastball get away from him, and it nearly hit Cervelli in the helmet. It just missed, nicking off his shoulder, which meant he got to take first base without major incident.

That was it for Morrow, who handed the ball to Cito Gaston, who handed it in turn to the lefty Scott Downs. Brett Gardner stepped in and took a slider well outside for ball one. Downs then came back with a fastball up and in, but it hit Gardner, giving the Yankees the opportunity they needed. The top of the order was due up with the tying run, who potentially could score on a double, standing on first base. Downs set up Jeter with fastballs. Jeter swung at none of the first three, and two crossed inside the zone.

With the count 1-2 Downs threw a slider low and away. It might not have been a terrible pitch to another hitter, for two reasons. First, Derek Jeter does not like to lose baseball games, and he really doesn’t like losing a few in a row. Second, it was in the perfect spot for Jeter to hit it the other way. He did just that, bringing home the Yanks’ first run of the game and putting the tying run on third with none out. Nick Swisher came up and, like Jeter, took the first three pitches, two of which were strikes. On the 1-2 the new pitcher, Jason Frasor, threw a changeup in the dirt. Swish checked, but the ump didn’t see it that way. He punched him out, which led to the next oddity of the inning.

AP Photo/The Canadian Press,Nathan Denette

The punchout drew the ire of Joe Girardi, and rightfully so. The home plate ump had called a terrible game to that point, and I guess that pushed Girardi over the edge. He emerged from the dugout, hatless because he had tossed it in anger, and got himself ejected. No doubt astute observers made the connection to Girardi’s tirade on June 24th of last year, after Brett Gardner got picked off first base. Girardi’s ejection was followed by Francisco Cervelli’s game-tying home run, followed by another mini rally to put the team ahead. What unfolded in the eighth inning yesterday wasn’t all that different.

For some reason, Cito Gaston decided to walk Mark Teixeira to load the bases. Walking Teixeira to get to A-Rod rarely, if ever, makes sense to begin with. But when Teixeira looks as bad as he has in the past few games, it makes zero sense. Funny thing is, if not for a blunder, it might have worked. A-Rod did strike out, but not before the third pitch of the at-bat got away from Jose Molina and allowed Gardner to score the tying run.

AP Photo/The Canadian Press,Nathan Denette

More from the theater of the absurd. With first base open yet again, Gaston opted to face Robinson Cano. After the game he said the first instance was in order to put on the double play, but again that sounds like a weak strategy, especially with a hitter slumping as badly as Teixeira is at the moment. Cano, however, is one of the hottest hitters in the league. He reminded everyone of that on the second pitch, a fastball right in the middle of the plate. He lined it to left and brought home Jeter and Teixeira, giving the Yanks a two-run lead.

AP Photo/The Canadian Press,Nathan Denette

I’ve written entire recaps shorter than that eighth inning description. That’s how bizarre it was. It took a few lucky breaks and a few blunders, and maybe a fired-up manager inspiring his team if you buy that story line, but the Yankees had taken the lead And no one, not Joba Chamberlain, not anyone could take it away from them.

Biggest Pitch: Wells breaks up the no-no

AP Photo/The Canadian Press,Nathan Denette

Plenty of pitchers hold their opponents hitless for the first three frames. Many extend those to four or five. Once a pitcher hits that two-thirds marker is when things start to get exciting. Javy Vazquez was one one out away from that point when he faced Adam Lind for the third time. He’d walked and struck out previously, and in this at-bat it looked like he wasn’t going to swing at crap. He fouled off a 1-0 curveball, but didn’t move the bat from his shoulders for the rest of the appearances. After six pitches he walked to first base.

Still, the no-hitter was in tact when Vazquez faced Vernon Wells. He kept the ball away from him, going slider-curveball for a called strike and a foul. The count 0-2, Javy went back to the slider, but this one hung. Even though it was outside, Wells had enough time to get his arms extended and crush the pitch to left, giving the Blue Jays a 2-0 lead. With the Yanks offense again on the ropes, it must have been a deflating feeling. Vazquez did finish the inning by striking out Jose Bautista.

For Vazquez, the game represented the best-case scenario. As we mentioned before the game, if he brought his command he could slice and dice an offense like the Jays, one that relies on big swings and pulling the crap out of the ball. He used all of his five pitches and prevented the Jays from turning on an inside fastball. His line tells the whole story:

7 IP, 1 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 4 BB, 9 K

Unfortunately, the one hit was a long fly that came immediately after one of the four walks. Those are the breaks. Vazquez had a plan and executed. With a full-strength Yankee offense he wins that game easily. Instead, the Yanks had to catch that lucky series of breaks in the eighth to hand him the nice, but meaningless, point in the win column.

The biggest pitch of the day for Vazquez was the changeup, which he threw 21 times and on which he generated swinging strikes 10 times. He also had some success with the slider, 16 attempts and 13 strikes, including three whiffs. It’s understandable why he went with that pitch against Wells. It was just a bad time to hang one.

Just think, next time Javy gets to face the Astros, not only the worst offense in the league, but also a National League team, which is obviously Javy’s natural habitat.

WPA graph and box score

If this WPA graph were a water slide, Aaron Hill’s GIDP would make it not so much fun.

More at FanGraphs and the traditional box at

Up Next

It’s an off-day but not really, as we have the amateur draft. Mike will be around with the coverage. The Yanks head down to Baltimore on Tuesday, when Phil Hughes goes against Kevin Millwood.

2010 Draft: Yankees targeting high school bat with first round pick

Via Frankie Pilere, the Yankees are said to be targeting one of two high school bats for their first round pick in tomorrow’s draft, #32 overall. The identity of those players is unknown, but the Yanks have been connected to first baseman/outfielder Christian Yelich in recent weeks. They would then follow that up by selecting a high school arm in the second round, #82 overall. That could mean any number of people, but reports this weekend have connected them to Robby Rowland and Jesse Biddle, both of whom fit the bill.

If true, sounds like the Yanks are going to go big and not go home. I approve. Give me upside or give me death.

We play today, we win today, das it

Zach McAllister is on the disabled list with a triceps issue, though it sounds like he’ll only miss one start.

Triple-A Scranton (7-3 win over Gwinnett)
Reid Gorecki, RF: 2 for 5, 2 R, 1 HR, 2 RBI
Reegie Corona, 2B: 1 for 4, 1 2B, 2 RBI, 1 BB – granted, June is six days old, but his OPS has gone up each month
Eduardo Nunez, SS: 3 for 5, 1 2B, 1 RBI – had been eight for his previous 33 (.242)
Chad Huffman, LF & Jesus Montero, DH: both 0 for 4 – Huffman drew a walk & drove in a run
David Winfree, 1B & Rene Rivera, C: both 1 for 4 – Winfree K’ed once, Rivera twice
Greg Golson, CF: 3 for 4, 2 R, 1 K, 1 CS
Matt Cusick, 3B: 2 for 3, 3 R, 1 2B, 1 RBI
Jason Hirsh: 5 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 5 K, 1-8 GB/FB, 1 E (pickoff) – 57 of his 83 pitches were strikes (68.7%)
Mark Melancon: 1.1 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 1 K, 3-0 GB/FB – 17 of 27 pitches were strikes (63%) … something’s not right here, he’s really been scuffling of late
Royce Ring: 0.1 IP, zeroes, 1-0 GB/FB – his lone pitch was a strike, so I’d call this an efficient outing
Zack Segovia: 2.1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 0 K, 1-4 GB/FB – 13 of his 24 pitches were strikes (54.2%)

[Read more…]

Open Thread: Get me away from these hosers

(Photo Credit: Nathan Denette, The Canadian Press/AP)

Good to see the Yankees come from behind to avoid getting swept today, but it’s even better to see them get the hell out of Toronto. I’ve never enjoyed watching games in that dome for some reason, the ugly turf is so off-putting. I’m sure Nick Swisher is glad to get away from Bruce Dreckman as well.

Here’s your open thread for the evening. The ESPN Sunday Night Game features our old buddy Randy Winn and Cardinals at home against the Brewers (Jamie Garcia vs. Manny Parra), plus you’ve also got Game Five of the Stanley Cup Finals (series tied at two) and Game Two of the NBA Finals (Lakers up 1-0). Talk about whatever your heart desires, just be cool.

A-Rod leaves game with sore groin

Alex Rodriguez was lifted from today’s game before the bottom of the 9th inning because of a sore groin, however Joe Girardi said after the game that he felt no pain and they were just playing it safe. Ramiro Pena replaced him at third, and was immediately tested with a hard chopper that took an awkward bounce. Funny how that works.

Hopefully this is nothing long-term, and the day off tomorrow will have A-Rod healed up enough to play in Baltimore on Tuesday.

Game 57: Avoiding the sweep

For the first time this season the Yankees head into the final game of a three-game set with a sweep looming. Normally they’re on the other end of this, but after Burnett’s rough outing on Friday and the offense’s complete inability to hit the Jays’ lefties both days, they now face the threat.

Emotionally, there’s not much to say before the game. Win. That’s it. No one wants to see a sweep. We’ve seen a few teams drop the first two to the Yanks only to come back and avoid the sweep in the third. It would be nice to see the Yanks pull off that.

This game has you can’t predict baseball written all over it. Brandon Morrow walks the farm. Normally the Yankees eat those guys for breakfast and still have leftovers. Yet he leads the league in strikeout rate, so he certainly has the ability to set down the Yanks. If he does that today don’t be surprised.

Javy Vazquez allows tons of home runs. He’s second worst in the AL in home run rate. The Blue Jays lead the league in home runs by a long shot. That seems like a terrible formula, and if Javy doesn’t have his control he’ll be toast by the second. But if he has command like he did against Baltimore, then he can carve up the Jays with his five-pitch repertoire.

Two pitchers who play to their opponents’ strengths. I think we’re going to see a whacky game this afternoon.


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

And on the mound, number thirty-one, Javier Vazquez.

Link Dump: Hyped prospects, Strasburg, Harper, revisiting Girardi’s hiring

Some Sunday morning links for your reading, including a few draft related with the draft upcoming tomorrow.

Here is a good draft piece at ESPN by Jerry Crasnick examining some of the biggest hyped prospects ever.  Even back in 1989 and 1990, when the baseball draft was a blip on the radar, I remember the hype surrounding Ben McDonald and Todd Van Poppel.  If they were coming out today, I’m sure it would be pretty Strasburg-esque.  Also some interesting “what ifs” in there as both Mark Prior and Bo Jackson were drafted by the Yankees but did not sign.  With the careers they ended up having, it’s fun to wonder how much differently things could have turned out.

The Stephen Strasburg hype is hitting new levels as his first start is upon us this week.  A town in Virginia is looking to change its name to Stephen Strasburg.  It’s going to be tough to live up to the hype, yet I have a feeling that he will come as close as possible to meet expectations.

This article on Bryce Harper, while a few weeks old, is a very good read.  I still cannot believe the way his character is being attacked.  He’s 17 years old.  He can’t even legally buy a scratch ticket yet.  Everyone who is saying bad things about him, including calling him “just a bad, bad guy” needs to take a long look in the mirror and remember what they were doing as 17 year olds.  Even though he doesn’t have the underdog status that so many people love, I’m really going to root for this kid.

In the way back machine, it’s interesting to read Keith Law’s piece when the Yankees hired Joe Girardi and how he thought they made a good call.  Of note is the fact that while Joe Torre hadn’t developed much starting pitching in his time with the Yankees, Girardi in his one year with the Marlins got solid seasons out of Anibal Sanchez and Scott Olsen, as well as Josh Johnson.  Johnson clearly has moved into ace status, but Sanchez and Olsen haven’t done much since.  Is that because Girardi was good developing them, or that he overworked them and they’ve battled injuries since?  It’s an interesting question to ask when thinking about the future of Phil Hughes and Joba Chamberlain under Girardi’s watch.  That being said, if overwork was an issue with the Marlins pitchers, I think that Girardi has likely learned from that, and the Yankees have a much better infrastructure in place to handle these young guys.