Bats back shaky Hughes in bird hunt

Facing the Orioles for the third time this year and second in two starts, Phil Hughes couldn’t dominate Baltimore, but the Yankee offense picked up the slack. Thanks to a Nick Swisher two-run home run, the Yanks had a lead before the Orioles could record an out, and the Yanks went to bed tonight 12-7 winners. With Tampa’s 9-0 win over Toronto, the Yankees remain two games out of first in the AL East.

Biggest Hit: Curtis Granderslam

Credit: AP Photo/Gail Burton

With Stephen Strasburg’s taking center stage in the I-95 area between Baltimore and Washington — and throughout baseball, in fact — the Yankee game seemed to be a bit of an afterthought. The Orioles claimed a paid attendance of 23,171, and the crowd seemed to consist mostly of Yankee fans. After the Yanks jumped out to a quick 2-0 lead, the team couldn’t quite bury Kevin Millwood. Curtis Granderson fouled out to end the first, and a Derek Jeter double play ended the second.

In the third, we were on the verge of watching much of the same unfold. After a Nick Swisher strike out, Mark Teixeira beat the shift with a dinky single, and A-Rod struck out as well. Robinson Cano singled, and Jorge Posada walked. Curtis Granderson worked the count to 2-2 and then deposited the Millwood offering 382 feet into right field for a grand slam. The Yanks had a comfortable 6-0 cushion, and Granderson had his fourth dinger of the year.

For Curtis, the home run was one of his two hits on the night, and with his 2-for-5 effort this evening, Granderson found his triple slash up to .256/.333/.444. He’s still not producing at quite the level the Yanks had hoped, but since returning from the DL, he is 12 for 37 (.324) with 2 home runs and 8 RBI. He stole a base as well tonight and seems to have his legs under him.

Credit: AP Photo/Gail Burton

Hughes in trouble

Tonight, we watched Phil Hughes pitch with some grit. He couldn’t quite put the Orioles away today, and I think facing the same team for the second time in a week took a toll on him. He allowed a season-high nine hits, and while many of those were not hard-hit balls, he had trouble getting the third strike and the third out on more than one occasion. He didn’t have the hammer working and didn’t record a K until Luke Scott fanned in the 4th.

Yet, Hughes made it work. He still induced seven swinging strikes and avoided issuing free passes. Even as his ERA crept up ever so slightly to 2.71, Hughes improved to 8-1 on the season, and he showed how keeping runners off base can limit the runs scored even on a night when the hits fall. Hughes will draw the weak-hitting Houston Astros in his next start this weekend at the Stadium, and as he is now pushing 70 innings, he should be hitting his stride.

A slumbering giant lifts an eye

It’s far too early to call Mark Teixeira’s season-long slump over, but after a disastrous weekend in Toronto, the Yanks’ number three hitter showed some signs of life today. He beat the shift twice and powered a late-game home run 417 feet to right-center. He also walked twice. Sometimes, the cure for what ails you consists of a few lucky hits and a blast.

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Derek Jeter walked to lead off the game. If he can get his isolated patience back to its career norm of .070, the Yankees should start scoring even more runs…Nick Swisher is an utter beast in Baltimore, and he’s making a strong All Star case for himself. His 3-for-6 night pushed his triple slash numbers up to .311/.397/.551…Robinson Cano is a hitting machine…David Robertson since May 8: 11 IP, 10 H, 2 ER, 6 BB, 11 K.

A-Rod’s 0-for-5 was a bit of a disappointment. He found himself up in some good hitting situations and couldn’t come through. He seemed perturbed after grounding out to end the 6th with the bases loaded…Brett Gardner left the game in the 7th with soreness in the thumb he broke last year. Although he expects to play on Wednesday, he said doctors had warned him it could take up to a year to feel right again. Apparently, he often feels the pain, but tonight it was particularly troublesome. Gardner appeared to be tagged on the thumb in the sixth when Nick Markakis threw him out at third.

Chad Gaudin was just terrible. Staked to a 12-3 lead, Gaudin allowed seven of the 13 Orioles he faced to reach base, and the Yanks opted to ask Mariano to pretend to stretch before Gaudin got the last few outs of the game. He showed why the A’s were so willing to cut bait a few weeks ago, and I have to believe that either Romulo Sanchez or Ivan Nova could be as effective or better than Gaudin is now.

Boring. Just the way I like my WPA graphs

Up Next: More Orioles

The Yankees will look to extend their winning streak against the Orioles to 10 straight later tonight as CC Sabathia (5-3, 4.14) will take on the birds at 7:05 p.m. He faces Chris Tillman (0-1, 7.71) in a 7:05 p.m. game.

Montero & Heathcott each picks up a hit

Another bullet pointer after a long day of draft action…

Game 58: For the birds

Yes Phil, still two games back of the Rays. (Photo Credit: Kathy Willens, AP)

I don’t know about you guys, but it feels like an eternity since I watched the Yankees last play a game. I guess the draft will do that to ya.

There’s no better way to come back from a rather wretched trip to Toronto with an off day followed by a Phil Hughes start against the last place Orioles. I’m curious to see how Hughes’ approaches the O’s hitters today, because it’s his second time facing them in an as many starts, and third time this season overall. In his first start he went fastball heavy and really had to battle through 5.2 IP of work, but last week he mixed the curveball in more and cruised through seven innings.

He’ll be opposed by Kevin Millwood, who the Yanks worked over last week. He also leads the AL with 14 homers allowed, tied with some guy named Ian Kennedy for the second most in all of baseball. Dan Haren, of all people, has surrendered the most with 16. Expect a big series from Nick Swisher, he rakes in Camden Yards for some reason. Here’s the starting nine:

Derek Jeter SS
Nick Swisher RF
Mark Teixeira 1B
Alex Rodriguez 3B
Robinson Cano 2B
Jorge Posada DH
Curtis Granderson CF
Francisco Cervelli C
Brett Gardner LF

And on the mound, St. Phil with his 7-1 record and his 2.54 ERA.

First pitch is scheduled for 7:05pm ET, and the game is on My9 tonight, not YES. Enjoy.

Series Preview: Yankees (35-22) at Orioles (16-41)

It hasn’t been long since we last previewed a Yankees-Orioles series, so not much has changed since then. But we’ll take a look anyway, if for no other reason than to examine the altered pitching matchups.

There aren’t many differences in terms of numbers, though I’d expect they wouldn’t change drastically during just two series. The Yankees obviously have fallen a bit on offense, and actually saw their FIP rise, almost certainly because of A.J.’s homer-happy Friday. Yet overall their runs per game did decrease.

The Orioles might have a new manager, but that hasn’t changed the team. Some teams go on a run after changing the man at the helm, but those teams are usually better than these Orioles. It’s not like changing one administrative figure — to someone who was already within the organization, at that — will turn around a disappointing team. Some of their guys might come around this year. Adam Jones might start hitting and Brad Bergesen might start pitching well. But changing from Dave Trembley to Juan Samuel isn’t going to accomplish that overnight.

Pitching matchups

Tuesday: Phil Hughes (2.54 ERA, 2.85 FIP) vs. Kevin Millwood (4.29 ERA, 4.71 FIP)

Phil Hughes has faced only one other team two times, the Red Sox, and got hit pretty hard the second time around. By then it looked like the scouting report on him got out, and the Red Sox took advantage by fouling off a ton of pitches. The Mets did the same in Hughes’s next appearance. He did recover in the next, striking out eight Indians in seven innings and then striking out seven Orioles in seven. Will the O’s respond like the Sox?

It’s doubtful, if only because the O’s offense doesn’t hold a flame to the Sox. But it might not be as easy going for Hughes this time around. It’s one thing to face a team for the second time. It’s another to face them six days apart. It’s tough to pick against Phil Hughes against a team like the O’s, but this could be a tough one for him.

On the other end, Millwood has been not so good lately. He did get off to a decent start, giving the Orioles length while keeping the games reasonably close. In three of his last five outings, though, he has allowed five or more runs. His shortest was last time out against the Yanks, in which he lasted 5.2 innings. It’s clear that the Orioles will let him keep going even when he’s getting hit hard. They don’t have many better options in the bullpen.

Wednesday: CC Sabthia (4.14 ERA, 4.53 FIP) vs. Chris Tillman (2 GS, 7 IP, 6 ER)

CC will be the story tomorrow — I’m sure we’ll have something on him in the morning. This season just hasn’t been right for him. He started off strong, but in May he’s faded a bit. This all seems odd, because he’s getting more ground balls and hitters are squaring up pitches poorly (13.1% line drive rate), but when they do hit it in the air the ball has tended to leave the park. This signals a few mistakes, or perhaps less than perfect command. Whatever the problem, it’s left CC off to what looks like a poor start, but what has really been a bad month.

We saw that at work against the Orioles last time out. Sabathia essentially made two mistakes all game, the homers to Jones and Scott. They were costly, though. As I said in the recap, he was absolutely cruising through the first six innings. He was even on pace for a complete game. Yet he appeared to tire in the seventh. Even though he was under 100 pitches, he didn’t come out for the eighth. That does seem a bit concerning.

Tillman, who came to the Orioles in the Erik Bedard trade, is one of the more promising young arms in their system. They demoted David Hernandez to the bullpen in order to clear a rotation spot for Tillman, and he hasn’t yet stepped up to the challenge. While his first start against Toronto went fine enough, the Red Sox absolutely rocked him last time out, scoring four runs and racking up 57 pitches with one out in the second. He’s a talented pitcher, so he surely has a few good games in his arm. It would be a shame to have one of them come this week.

Thursday: A.J. Burnett (3.72 ERA, 4.18 FIP) vs. Jeremy Guthrie (3.71 ERA, 4.40 FIP)

Burnett thought he pitched well on Friday night. Except, of course, for those three homer balls he hung. They do happen, especially when a power pitcher meets a power-hitting team. This time he gets a chance against the Orioles, who likely won’t go as homer happy as the Jays. Burnett continues to show improvements over last year, walking fewer batters while keeping more balls on the ground. His strikeout rate is still far below the standard he’s set, but that will change as his curveball improves.

Jeremy Guthrie has faced the Yanks twice this year, and each time they’ve hammered him. In 11.2 innings he has allowed 11 runs and struck out just six. He put together a nice string of quality starts since then, his worst coming on May 30 against Toronto in which he allowed four in six innings. Before that he went three straight starts with allowing just one run. His last start against Boston was a 7.1-inning affair in which he threw just 95 pitches. That’s very un-Guthrie-like. He normally gets around or above the 100-pitch mark by the sixth.

For Hughes, it’s the third time around

AP Photo/Bill Kostroun

Later tonight, Phil Hughes will make his 11th start of the season, and he is fast approaching a personal milestone. If all goes according to plan, on June 25, one day after his 24th birthday, Hughes will make his 14th start of the season. For the youngster, that start will mark a career high, and Hughes will be in uncharted Major League territories. For the Yankees, it’s time to see what Hughes can do as the league adjusts to him.

Tonight, Hughes draws the Orioles, a familiar opponent. This is the second time in two starts Phil will face the punchless O’s, and it’s his third appearance against them this season. In fact, Hughes has thrown more innings against Baltimore than he has against any other team during his career.

This year, Hughes has enjoyed success against Baltimore. Overall, he is 1-0 with a 1.42 ERA in 12.2 innings. The Orioles have knocked out eight hits while walking five times and striking out nine times. During last week’s outing, Hughes went seven strong and gave up a run on six hits and a walk while K-ing seven. In April against Baltimore, Hughes gritted through 5.2 innings without his best stuff. He walked four and struck out two that day.

For Hughes, then, tonight is a challenge. It is only the second time in his career that he is making a third start against the same team in one season. The last time that happened was in 2007, and Hughes was barely 21 years old. It is also the first time as a starter that he is facing the same team in back-to-back outings. What can we expect then from the Yanks’ emerging ace?

A few weeks ago, Hughes faced a somewhat similar situation. After dominating the Red Sox in Fenway on May 7, he faced them two starts later on May 17, and the outcome was ugly. He allowed two home runs — half of the taters he has surrendered all year — and got a no-decision after allowing five runs on six hits in five innings. He struck out just three and couldn’t locate his cutter effectively enough. Boston had good swings against Hughes, and even the outs were loud.

Tonight, the Orioles, at 16-41, losers of nine of ten and with a Major League-worst 186 runs scored, are the team we would want Hughes facing in his third time through the league, but we shouldn’t write them off quickly either. As always, Hughes will try to establish the fastball early, but the Orioles will have a better sense of his pitch selection. According to Pitch f/x, Hughes has thrown change-ups just 1.6 percent of the time this year, and that figure might be generous. If that change-up is going to be deployed this season at all, tonight would be the ideal time to work it into a game.

If Hughes is going to develop into an ace, tonight then is a test. It’s not a definitive test, but it will start to show us how Hughes adapts to a league that is in the process of adapting to him. It is but another step as the Yanks try to turn their former first-rounder into a front-line starter.

2010 Draft: Day Two LiveBlog

The draft resumes at noon ET today, though there’s no television broadcast or anything. You can listen in to the conference call via, or follow along with Draft Tracker. Rounds two through 30 will go down today, so this is the meat of the event right here. The first rounders get all the recognition, but the other single digit round guys are important as well.

Use this as your open thread to talk about all things draft. We’ll have regular Yankees-related content sprinkled throughout the day for you. Please follow our Ground Rules and keep your conversations in the appropriate places. Thanks in advance.

2010 Draft: Day Two Links

We’ve all had a night to sleep on the Cito Culver pick, and from what I can gather many fans are still miffed about the selection. It’s over and done with people, once he signs he’s a Yankee just like the rest of ’em, and we should all root for him to do well. There’s still 98% of the draft left to go. Look ahead, not back.

Before we get to some draft links, let’s give it up to commenter Meat Loaf, who kinda called the Culver pick six hours before the draft yesterday. Someone buy that (wo)man a lotto ticket. Anyway, here’s some links to check out before we kick off our Day Two coverage when the draft resumes at noon ET…

  • In his day one winners and losers article (sub. req’d), Keith Law says of the Yanks’ pick: “The Yankees see Culver as a shortstop with a chance to hit for average and some power, and he has a plus arm, but there are mixed opinions on whether or not he’s going to stay at short. On the flip side, the Yankees had Culver on their Area Code Games team last summer and probably knew him as a player and as a person better than any other team could have.”
  • Meanwhile, Frankie Piliere had this to say in his Day One analysis piece: “It’s easy to bash, but teams have a solid feel for signability players who will be available further down the line. Culver was evaluated high on their board and got stellar grades from the MLB Scouting Bureau this spring, grades that could have pushed him into the top 25. This is an example of a club not worrying about public perception and taking the guy scouts evaluated as being best for the organization.”
  • With a hat tip to Bryan Hoch, here’s a recent article on Culver and his troubled family life, including a video interview.
  • J.J. Cooper at Baseball America lists the best players still on the board, led by Ohio prep RHP Stetson Allie. I’m not an Allie fan, but there’s plenty of other great players available, including RHP Brandon Workman of Texas, Florida prep RHP A.J. Cole, and (personal fave) former Kentucky LHP James Paxton, who spent the spring in an indy league.
  • The Yanks got their high school hitter in the first round, and are rumored to be targeting a high school pitcher for their second pick. One name to watch is Robby Rowland, a big power arm with a diverse repertoire and lots of room to fill out.
  • No link for this one, but from what I can gather MLB’s recommended slot bonus for the 32nd overall pick is about $954,000. Don’t quote me on that though, it’s just an estimation based on the last few years. Chances are Culver will crack a mil.