As Mo sits, Toronto walks off in the 14th

For 13.5 innings covering 81 outs, the Yankees and Blue Jays, with a few hiccups, put on a clinic in pitching. Yet, with the game tied in the bottom of the 14th, Joe Girardi opted to go with Chad Gaudin over Mariano Rivera, and two batters after a lead-off walk to the number nine hitter, the Yanks were heading back to the dugout, 3-2 losers in a contest marred by the ineffectiveness of the team’s heart of the order.

Credit: Adrien Veczan, AP Photo/The Canadian Press

Biggest Hit: Jeter goes yard

In a game marked by a decided lack of Yankee fan, the biggest hit of the game for the Bombers was clearly the captain’s fifth inning blast. Derek Jeter took a 2-0 pitch from Ricky Romero and deposited it 385 feet away into right field. The Yankees had their first lead of the series against the Blue Jays.

For Jeter, it was his sixth dinger of the year, and after hitting just one in all of May, he has matched that total through five games in June. More comforting though have been Derek’s numbers of late. After a strong start to the season that saw him end April with a .330/.354/.521 line, Jeter struggled in May. He hit just .204/.275/.247 over 21 games, and many started worrying that end of Jeter was night.

Yet, this old dog has a few new tricks up his sleeve. Since bottoming out on May 22, Jeter has gone 23 for 55 with five walks over 13 games. The home run today was Jeterian, and the Yanks’ leadoff hitter seems to have escaped the May doldrums. The same, however, cannot be said of other Yankees.

Biggest Non-Hit: Mark Teixeira and the middle of the lineup

Credit: Darren Calabrese, AP Photo/Canadian Press

While Jeter had the Yanks’ only RBIs of the game, the heart of the order was utterly abysmal. Mark Teixeira went 0 for 6 with five strike outs and appears lost at the plate. With one-third of the season behind us, his batting line — .215/.328/.370 — suggests that he needs a new spot in the lineup, a day off or both. I doubt Girardi would let him stew after a diamond-encrusted platinum sombrero performance, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Yanks’ first base take a breather later this week.

Beyond Teixeira, the Yanks’ 2-3-4-5-6-7 hitters combined to go 4 for 33 with 12 strike outs and nine runners left on base. Despite some late-inning choices which we’ll cover in a second, the Yankees lost the game when the bats fell silent. I know Ricky Romero has been a good pitcher of late, but the team’s offense just could not get the job done.

Prior to the 14-inning affair, the Yanks exhibited some shocking home/road splits. While in the cozy confines of Yankee Stadium, the Bombers hit .316/.394/.515. That’s an entire lineup of Alex Rodriguez in a down season. On the road, though, the team ekes out just a .258/.341/.395 line, and that doesn’t include today’s 8-for-47 debacle. The numbers are subject to a small sample size warning, but right now, the Yanks are a team built for their home stadium.

Biggest Out: Jeter lines into a DP

Unfortunately for Jeter, though, on a day in which everyone else struggled, his at-bat in the 7th defined the game for the Yanks. With Francisco Cervelli and Brett Gardner on second and third with one out, the Blue Jays brought the infield in, and Jeter lined the ball hard but right at Aaron Hill. Although Hill dropped the ball, the umpires ruled it a drop on the transfer. Jeter was out, and Cervelli, halfway down the line at third, was easily doubled up.

Had Jeter hit that ball elsewhere, the Yanks would have had a 4-1 lead. Had he hit it on the ground, the Yanks would have had a 3-1 lead. At that point, the Yanks needed Jeter to hit it where they ain’t, and though no fault of his, the rally was quashed. After that double play, Alex Gonzalez led off the 7th with a home run to tie the game, and the Yanks could never reclaim the lead.

Getting to the end of the game

In a certain sense, the early-game struggles were overshadowed by the end game. After coaxing 4.1 scoreless innings from his often-shaky bullpen, Joe Girardi had but three relievers left in the pen: Chad Gaudin, Sergio Mitre and future Hall of Famer Mariano Rivera. If ever the team needed Al Aceves, it was yesterday.

Mitre had just thrown a few innings yesterday and was unvailable, and the game had not yet entered that situation to end all situations: The Save Situation. So Chad Gaudin came into the game. Released a few weeks ago by the Oakland A’s, Gaudin walked Edwin Encarnacion, the Blue Jays’ struggling nine hitter, on four pitchers, got an out on a sacrifice bunt and gave up a walk-off single to end the game.

I was apoplectic even before this disastrous 14th inning unfolded. How could Joe Girardi not use Mariano Rivera, the greatest reliever of all time, before Chad Gaudin, an Oakland reject? Girardi later said he would not use Rivera in a tie game on the road unless Mo can go two innings and that it’s still “too early in the season” to use Mariano for that length. Instead, Gaudin got the ball and the loss.

I understand the counterargument. I understand wanting to use your closer for a save situation. But at some point, it simply becomes necessary to save the game from being a loss. At some point, Rivera has to pitch in extra innings, and if the game is still tied after he’s out of gas, at least the Yanks went down firing their ace. It is a lesson Yankee managers have not learned since Alex Gonzalez took Jeff Weaver deep during the 2003 World Series. The loss ultimately rests with the offense, but the bullpen management in the 14th did not help.

Very Honorable Mention: Andy Pettitte

Credit: Darren Calabrese, AP Photo/The Canadian Press

By the time the 14th inning rolled around, Andy Pettitte was but an afterthought. I’d be remiss, however, if I didn’t give a big tip of the cap to Number 46. Facing a lineup that leads all of baseball in runs scored, Pettitte threw 7.2 masterful innings. He gave up just two solo home runs, struck out 10 and issued just three free passes. While he didn’t get a W, it was not for lack of trying, and Pettitte’s outing today continues his amazing run to start the 2010 season.

The WPA Rollercoaster

Up and down and up and down.

Up Next

Javier Vazquez (4-5, 6.06) will look to stop the bleeding in Toronto. He takes a recent hot streak into the 1:07 game against Brandon Morrow (4-4, 6.00), and after today’s long affair in which everyone but Mo pitched, the team will rely on Javy for some innings.

The Heathcott & Murphy Show is on in Charleston

Make sure you vote for the Triple-A All Star Team. Let’s get Jesus Montero in their despite his substandard season.

Triple-A Scranton (2-1 win over Gwinnett)
Reid Gorecki, CF, Jesus Montero, C & Greg Golson, LF: all 0 for 3, 1 K – Gorecki drew a walk
Reegie Corona, 2B: 1 for 4, 1 K, 1 SB
Eduardo Nunez, SS & Colin Curtis, LF: both 0 for 4, 1 K
Chad Huffman, 1B: 1 for 4, 1 R, 1 2B, 1 K , 1 E (throwing)
David Winfree, DH: 1 for 3, 1 R, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 1 BB
Ivan Nova: 6 IP, 8 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 4 K, 10-3 GB/FB – 64 of 97 pitches were strikes (66%)
Zack Segovia: 1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 0 K, 1-2 GB/FB – just six of his 15 pitches were strikes (40%), but there was an intentional walk mixed in there
Boone Logan: 0.2 IP, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 2 K – six of his 13 pitches were strikes (46.2%)
Jon Albaladejo: 1.1 IP, zeroes, 1 BB, 3 K, 1 HB, 0-1 GB/FB – 14 of his 20 pitches were strikes (70%)

[Read more…]

Open Thread: Losing with your best pitcher still in the bullpen

Mo had plenty of time to sign autographs from the 8th through 14th innings. (Photo Credit: Kathy Willens, AP)

I don’t know what’s more frustrating, losing a game in extra innings when Mariano Rivera didn’t pitch because he was being held back for a stupid statistic, or Mark Teixeira for doing his best Jeff Francoeur impression. Probably the latter, because the former has been happening for years.

Anyway, here’s your open thread for the night. There’s a game on MLB Network for you to watch, but which one apparently depends on where you live. It’s Saturday though, go out and do something you won’t remember.

2010 Draft: Royals close to a deal with Grandal

Via MLBTR, the Royals are close to reaching a deal with Miami catcher Yasmani Grandal, who they would take with the 4th overall pick when the draft begins on Monday. Pre-draft deals are against the rules on many levels, which is why nothing will be officially announced by the team or even confirmed by the media. Given the NCAA’s recent track record of screwing over its athletes, I wouldn’t put ruling Grandal ineligible for the postseason past them. It’s unlikely though.

Coincidentally, the Pirates reached a pre-draft deal with Boston College catcher Tony Sanchez last year before making him the 4th overall pick. Unlike Sanchez, Grandal is a legitimate top-half of the first round talent, even though 4th overall is a bit of a reach. He wasn’t connected to the Yankees in any way, but the pieces are starting to fit in the puzzle.

2010 Draft: Baseball America’s Mock Draft v4.0

Hope you’re not sick of all the mock drafts yet, because Baseball America dropped another one on us late yesterday (sub. req’d). Thy have the Yankees selected Michigan outfielder Ryan LaMarre, who they’ve been linked to all spring. I wrote him up a few weeks ago, so everything you need to know is in there.

More importantly, they note that the Yanks are “more likely to sign a player for closer to slot than for big money in the first round,” though I’m not sure I believe it. We heard the same stuff last year only to watch them not just over slot with their first two picks, but way over slot. Slade Heathcott‘s $2.2M bonus basically doubled MLB’s recommendation. It just doesn’t make sense for the Yankees (or any team) to adhere to slot. Take the best player and pay him, period.

(Don’t forget to subscribe to our draft only RSS feed!)

Game 56: Andy The Stopper

Photo Credit: Mark J. Terrill, AP

The Yankees really got their ass kicked for the first time in a while last night, but thankfully they can hand the ball off to old reliable today, Andy Pettitte. Toronto is the most aggressive team in the league, with a .313 OBP (fourth worst in the game) that’s due to the fact they swing at more pitches both in the zone (68.4%) and out of the zone (31.5%) than any other club, which matches up perfectly for the crafty Pettitte, who will push the limits of the strike zone and bring everything but the kitchen sink. Of course, if he’s not on his game or makes a few mistake pitches, the ball will wind up in orbit.

The Blue Jays counter with their own lefty ace, Ricky Romero and his 3.12 xFIP. He’s an offspeed heavy guy like Brett Cecil was last night, so the Yanks are going to have to be patient and make sure they stay back on the ball. If they go in looking for fastballs, which he throws just over 40% of the time, there’s going to be some fugly swings.

Here’s the lineup, sans Curtis Granderson who is getting a day off that Joe Girardi scheduled like, a week ago…

Jeter, SS
Swisher, RF
Teixeira, 1B
A-Rod, 3B
Cano, 2B
Posada, DH
Cervelli, C
Gardner, CF
Russo, LF

And on the mound, Andrew Pettitte.

First pitch is scheduled for 1:07pm ET, and can be seen on YES. Enjoy.

The best of the rest

In light of Armando Galarraga’s near perfect game this week, I decided to take a look at the 10 greatest pitched 9 inning games of all time that weren’t perfect games or no-hitters.  It’s a pretty interesting list, and be assured that many of these guys likely pitched better than the perfectos, just didn’t get the bounce or two needed.  I used a variety of metrics, but didn’t base my choices on any one statistic.  While I compiled the list, I came across quite an interesting nugget.  Since 1920 there have been 62 games in the majors with at least 14 k’s, 9 innings (or less) and a WPA of at least .50.  Randy Johnson is responsible for 12(19%) of them, but did he make my list?

#10. Since the theme of this post was based on Galarraga’s performance this week, I snuck him on at #10, though his 3 strikeout performance really doesn’t belong here.  The Indians put a ton of balls in play against him, and the Tigers fielders managed to make a bunch of plays behind him to get him just one blown call away from a perfect game.

#9. In the first of the “who?” pitchers on the list, Stoneman pitched a gem this day. Stoneman managed just 54 wins in his big league career, but was dominating for this game.  For a guy who twice led the league in walks (in only 4 full seasons), Stoneman managed to walk just one guy while striking out 14 in a 2-0 victory.  He also managed a base hit and drove in 1 of just 2 runs for the Expos.  He does get knocked back a little, as like Galarraga, the team he was facing was pretty weak.  Amazingly enough, despite just 170 games started in his career, Stoneman managed 2 no-hitters in addition to this dazzling performance.

#8.  In a 1-0 game, Seaver had to be great and was against a Pirates team that included both Roberto Clemente and Willie Stargell, who went 0-7 with 5k’s.  The only thorn in Seaver’s side was Al Oliver who went 2-3 with two singles.  Seaver walked none and struck out 14 on his way to #8 on my list.

#7. Lefty outdueled Juan Marichal, holding the Giants to just 1 hit and 1 walk while striking out 14.  It was 1-0 until the 8th when the Phillies pushed two runs across to give Carlton a little breathing room that he clearly didn’t need. Of his 14 k’s, Carlton didn’t strike out anyone 3 times, instead getting 5 guys twice each, and 4 more one time, including a pinch hitting Willie Mays.  After giving up a leadoff single to Chris Speier, Carlton allowed just one baserunner the rest of the game with a walk in the 6th. Carlton even managed to chip in with one of only 6 hits off of Marichal, also scoring a run.

#6. Nomo, who like Stoneman also had two no-hitters came close to perfection in this 2001 game against the Jays, giving up just a 4th inning double to Shannon Stewart.  This was a solid Toronto offense in the heart of the steroid era that had 8 guys end up with double digit HR’s. Nomo struck out 14, including tough lefties Carlos Delgado and Brad Fullmer 3 times each.  The final score was 4-0, but it was a pitchers duel up until the 8th when the Sox scored 3 times to provide the final margin of victory.

#5. Santana only went 8 innings on this night, but he was too dominating not to include.  While the Rangers are generally a top offensive team the 2007 version wasn’t great with the bat.  Santana struck out 17 in his 8 innings, including 31 swinging strikes.  A well past his prime Sammy Sosa was the only batter to get a hit off of Johan, managing a single and a double.  Johan didn’t get his shot for 20 strikeouts as Joe Nathan closed out the 1-0 victory in the 9th with 2 k’s of his own.

#4. In another 1-0 game, Maddux was at his best, striking out 14 (with just 109 pitches) against the Brewers.  This was a pretty solid Brewers offense with 8 guys in double digit HR’s and 6 of their 8 regulars with OPS+’s over 100.  The Braves got their run in the 2nd, and Maddux took care of the rest.  Maddux walked the first batter of the game, who was quickly thrown out trying to steal and gave up both of his hits by the 5th inning.  From the 6th inning on, Maddux struck out 8, including 5 swinging.

#3. A month before Johan Santana dominated the Rangers in 2007, another lefty in Bedard took his turn making Texas look foolish.  Bedard gave up 2 hits while striking out 15, and was in the strike zone all day with 79 of his 109 pitches going for strikes. Bedard went to a 3 ball count just twice and got outs both times.  Jerry Hairston was the only Ranger to avoid being K’d by Bedard but was still hitless.  I couldn’t find video of a postgame interview, but I’m sure, even despite his domination, Bedard was his usual pleasant self.

#2. Neither of Clemens’ 20 strikeout games made the list, as he allowed a run in 1986 and gave up a whopping 5 hits in his 151 pitch 1996 performance.  Against Kansas City in 1998, Clemens gave up just 3 hits while striking out 18 in a 3-0 win.  While it was the Royals, they did throw a out a lineup that included Johnny Damon, Jose Offerman, Dean Palmer, Jeff Conine and Jermaine Dye, so they weren’t total pushovers.  11 of Clemens’ strikeouts were swinging and despite 6 3 ball counts, Clemens walked no one.

#1. The gold standard of games pitched in my lifetime and maybe ever.  Wood was just a light single that could have been fielded away from a no-hitter.  Wood had all of his pitches going on that day, dominating a Houston team that won 102 games and had 4 guys in the lineup that day that ended the season with an OPS+  greater than 120.  Houston led the league in scoring in 1998 by 29 runs.  This was a great lineup and they had absolutely no answer for Wood. Wood struck out every batter at least once, and the 3-4-5 hitters went 0-9 against him with 9 strikeouts.  On the other side of the diamond Shane Reynolds gave up just 1 ER while striking out 10 of his own, but the final score might as well have been 20-0.  13 of Wood’s strikeouts were swinging.  Wood went to 5 3 ball counts, and all of them ended in strikeouts.  If Kevin Orie had just a tiny bit more range at 3B, I think this would be widely considered the greatest game ever pitched.  While this game is often cited when discussing Wood’s later breakdown, the 122 pitches he threw weren’t totally unreasonable (he had 6 more of 122+ and another at 121).  In just his 7th career start, Wood made baseball history in pitching a game that I will never forget.

For more of my work, head over to Mystique and Aura.