One bad inning costs the Yankees a sweep

When you’ve already taken the first two games of a series, when your Nos. 4 and 5 starters have limited them to four runs in those contests, and when you have your ace on the mound, you expect to complete the sweep. The Yankees failed in that regard yesterday. Sabathia actually pitched pretty well after Kurt Suzuki took him deep in the first, but that was enough offense for the A’s. Dallas Braden prevented the Yankees’ offense from doing too much damage, and the result was a rare low-scoring game.

Biggest Hit: Tex hits a long fly

Photo credit: Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP

Down 4-1 in the top of the sixth, the Yankees needed to put a dent in the lead. Nick Johnson worked a six-pitch at-bat to lead off the inning, but swung at a changeup outside on a 3-2 count and grounded it to second base. That brought up Mark Teixeira.

As he often does, Braden jumped ahead in the count by getting a slider over for strike one. He came inside with a fastball on the next pitch, which Teixeira fouled away for strike two. Ahead in the count, Braden turned to his odd weapon, the screwball. According to dark overlord David Appelman, Braden had thrown the pitch just one time before yesterday’s game. This one he delivered low and away, but Teixeira launched it to left-center, clearing the wall by plenty.

It was the Yankees second solo home run of the day off Braden, and unfortunately it was all they would get. Still, it’s another encouraging sign from Tex. He slump continues — he was just 2 for 12 with a walk in the series, though both hits went for extra bases — but we know he’s coming around.

Biggest Pitch: Suzuki’s three-run blast

Photo credit: Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP

As mentioned in the opening paragraph, CC Sabathia pitched pretty well yesterday. He went all eight innings, giving the bullpen — specifically Joba Chamberlain and Mariano Rivera — a breather. He also used just 97 pitches, which is even more impressive when you look at his first inning. He threw 18 in that frame, meaning he needed just over 11 pitches per inning the rest of the way. Still, he had trouble settling into a groove during the first.

It started with a pitcher’s nightmare, a four-pitch walk to Rajai Davis. They were all fastballs, and only the third and fourth pitches came close. That puts the pressure on, because Davis presents a perpetual threat to steal. He didn’t during Daric Barton’s at-bat, but his speed allowed him to advance on a groundball to second. He did, however, steal third during Ryan Sweeney’s at-bat, which also resulted in a four-pitch walk.

The next pitch was CC’s only real mistake of the game. After walking two batters on eight pitches, Sabathia needed to start strong against Kurt Suzuki. He delivered a 93 mph fastball that PitchFX classified as a sinker. The problem, though, wasn’t with the pitch. It was the location, middle-in, and Suzuki guessed right. He hit a no-doubter to left, staking his team to a 3-0 lead. Normally the Yankees offense can cover such a deficit, but yesterday they just weren’t feeling it.

Rodriguez to Cano to Johnson

Suzuki was responsible not only for the biggest positive WPA swing in the game, but also the biggest negative. In the sixth inning Sabathia again ran into some control problems. He allowed a single to Daric Barton on a 3-2 count, and then let him advance to second on a wild pitch. Then, for the second time in the game, he walked Sweeney on four pitches. Suzuki came up in a familiar situation, and just like the last time he swung at the first pitch. The result, though, couldn’t have been any more different.


Both photo credits: Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP

This time Sabathia opened with a changeup, a bit below the zone. Suzuki grounded it sharply to A-Rod at third, who ran to tag third, then fired to second. Cano made a quick transfer, whipping the ball to Johnson at first, who stretched and completed the triple play. It was the first Yankees’ triple play since 1968, and the first one I have ever seen while watching a baseball game live.

You can watch the video here. I think I’ve watched it about a dozen times since the game ended.

Annoyances

The whole offense was a bit of a downer. Particularly, though, Gardner grounding into the double play in the fifth, and then Cano grounding into the double play in the sixth, made me want to break my remote.

Mark Teixeira had a chance to put a dent in A’s lead in the third. He came up with men on first and second with two outs, but couldn’t manage a base hit. Johnson got a crack first, and he flied a pretty hittable pitch to left field. Tex actually worked a pretty good at-bat, seven pitches, but couldn’t finish when Braden threw him a belt-high outside changeup. In a couple of weeks, I think, Teixeira parks that one, or at least hits it off the wall. He also only managed to foul off a changeup right down Broadway two pitches earlier.

Joys

The triple play, of course.

Marcus Thames continuing to pound the ball against lefties. This is why the Yankees signed him and kept him on board despite a slow spring. I’m sure many of us thought he’d be the first to be DFA’d this year, but that’s almost certainly going to be Winn. Too bad the Braves would never trade them Hinske.

Dallas Braden. You can file his performance under annoyances, but his post-game interview was great. He basically ripped on A-Rod for jogging across the mound, even touching the rubber, while returning to first base after a Robinson Cano foul ball. A-Rod later said that, “It’s not really a big deal.” I wonder why Braden made it seem like one.

WPA Graph

This one is pretty boring.

The full breakdown at FanGraphs.

Next Up

The Yanks travel down the coast for their second meeting of the year with Anaheim. Thankfully, there’s only one 10 p.m. start. That would be tomorrow night, with A.J. Burnett going for the Yanks against Ervin Santana for the Halos.

A loss at every level

Triple-A Scranton (8-1 loss to Syracuse)
Kevin Russo, 3B, Juan Miranda, 1B & Chad Huffmann, LF: all 1 for 4 – Russo committed a throwing error … Miranda & Huffman each K’ed twice
Reegie Corona, 2B: 0 for 4, 3 K – 3 for his last 23 (.130)

Eduardo Nunez, SS & Jesus Montero, C: both 0 for 3, 1 BB – Montero scored a run & K’ed twice
Colin Curtis, RF, Jon Weber, DH & Greg Golson, CF: all 1 for 3 – Curtis drew a walk & K’ed … Weber drove in the only run with a sac fly … Golson K’ed
Jason Hirsh: 6 IP, 6 H, 5 R, 5 ER, 2 BB, 6 K, 1 HB, 5-5 GB/FB – 62 of 98 pitches were strikes (62.3%)
Kevin Whelan: 0.2 IP, 3 H, 3 R, 2 ER, 0 BB, 1 K, 0-1 GB/FB - 17 of 26 pitches were strikes (65.4%) … his ERA is only 16.62
Zack Segovia: 1.1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 3 K, 1-0 GB/FB – 12 of 20 pitches were strikes (60%) … lowers his ERA to 12.27

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Open Thread: MLB.tv on PS3

My head exploded when I saw this earlier. I’ve been debating about getting MLB.tv for the first time this season, mostly because I’m not sure how watching a game on my computer while doing other stuff would work. Now that I can watch games via my PS3, forget it. I signed up right away. Just amazing. (h/t Marc at BP)

Anyway, here’s tonight’s open thread. Round One of the NFL Draft is on tonight (7:30pm ET, ESPN), and you can check out RAB regular tommiesmithjohncarlos’ mock draft at Mystique and Aura. Other than that, you’ve got NBA and NHL playoff action, plus the Mets and Cubbies. What you choose, talk about it here, Just be cool.

Game 15: Tough act to follow (+ chat!)

That about sums the series up for Oakland. (Photo Credit: Ben Margot, AP)

It would be tough for anyone to top Phil Hughes‘ masterful performance from last night, but if there’s one guy on the Yankees’ staff can do it, it’s CC Sabathia. I’m sure the A’s must love having to go out and face this guy after getting nearly no-hit less than 24 hours ago. The vast majority of Oakland’s hitters are lefthanded (Ryan Sweeney, Eric Chavez, Daric Barton, Travis Buck, Gabe Gross), so hopefully CC holds it down, because Joe Girardi said both Joba Chamberlain and Mariano Rivera are unavailable of heavy workloads of late.

Going to the A’s is lefty Dallas Braden, who sports one of the best changeups you’ll ever see. You can see it in action here, it looks like it stops in mid-air. He doesn’t throw hard at all, but that change is the equalizer. Here’s the lineup Braden will have to deal with…

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

And on the mound, the hometown kid, CC Sabathia.

Also, I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out that Matt Carson is in the lineup for Oaktown. He spent six years as a organizational soldier in the Yanks’ system after being drafted in the 5th round of the 2002 draft, and joined the A’s as a minor league free agent last year. He received my 2008 Lifetime Achievement Award. Great to see him in the show.

It’s a get-away day, so first pitch is scheduled for 3:35pm ET and can be seen on YES. We’re also having our weekly game chat today, so make sure you come back around 3:30ish and join the chat after the jump.

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Do pitchers lose velocity from the stretch?

In recapping Sunday’s win over Texas, I noted that Joba Chamberlain had begun pitching exclusively from the stretch, which I didn’t get. “He’s been a starter and pitching from the windup his entire life,” I boasted, “why change it up now? I see no reason for him to not work from the windup with no one on. No point in sacrificing stuff.” Well, someone much smarter than I (Mike Fast of THT) took a look at the data and showed that if anything, pitchers throw harder from the stretch. Shows what I know.

As far as I’m concerned, Joba can pitch however he wants. If he’s more comfortable and more effective from the stretch, then by all means do it. It just caught me a little off guard. I guess I’m still holding out a tiny bit of hope that he’ll one day return to the rotation, and this was a point to the contrary.

Link Dump: Nady, Munson, Draft, Facker

Some loose ends to tie up…

Cashman hand delivers Nady’s World Series ring

With the Cubs in town to play the Mets, GM Brian Cashman took the opportunity to head over to CitiField to present Xavier Nady with his World Series ring. Nady played in only seven games for the Yankees because of his injury last year, but he was slated to be the every day rightfielder coming out of camp. Hopefully Cashman didn’t hang around Omar Minaya very long, osmosis can be a bitch.

From what I can tell, the only regular members of last year’s team that still need to get their rings are Johnny Damon, Jose Molina, Phil Coke, and Brian Bruney. The Yanks play the Tigers next month and the Blue Jays in June, but they won’t face the Nats at all this year. I don’t suppose they want to keep those guys waiting, so the FedEx man it is.

A little old street named after some catcher

The Yankees are very proud of their history, as they should be. You can’t walk two feet in the New Stadium without being reminded that they’re the greatest sports franchise in the history of universe, whether it’s Babe Ruth Plaza or the placards around the building or the 27 World Championship years proudly displayed beyond the bleachers.

Thurman Munson though, well the former Yanks’ captain just has a little elevated walkway in the Bronx named in his honor. There’s no plaza, no restaurant, just this little passageway build in the 1960’s. “He wasn’t about the big superhighway and mainstream streets,” said Munson’s widow Diana. “It fits his personality so much more that it would be an out-of-the-way street and be something that not a lot of people would embrace.”

Free draft chat at Baseball America

We’re starting to get into draft mode here, and not because the NFL edition starts tonight. Conor Glassey of Baseball America chatted about the draft yesterday, and the transcript is free for all to read. As you can imagine, it’s chock full of great insight into whose stock is climbing, whose is falling, and a whole bunch of other stuff as well. It’s not terribly long, so it won’t take an hour to read. Make sure you check it out.

Just a reminder, we have a draft-only RSS feed you can subscribe too.

A Facker gets some air time

Did you stay up late to watch Kim Jones’ interview with Phil Hughes‘ parents after the game? Remember that dude in the old-school Columbus Clippers’ hat hanging out behind them? Well it turns out that he’s a long-time regular over at Fack Youk, going by the handle Mode. It’s always great when one of the little people gets out from their mother’s basement garden apartment to show their mug in the real world. We’re still waiting for one of you guys to do that.

(I keed, I keed)

Yanks rotation is earnings its pay

If every pass through the rotation went like the last one, the Yankees would win 130 games. Maybe more. Four of the five starters produced incredibly starts, while the exception was a mere decent start. There is no better way to describe this excellence than to lay out the numbers.

Photo credit: Frank Franklin II/AP

Last pass through the rotation

Pitcher IP BF #P R ER H HR BB SO
Sabathia 6.0 22 73 1 1 3 0 0 9
Burnett 7.0 28 111 0 0 6 0 2 7
Pettitte 8.0 30 107 2 2 4 0 3 4
Vazquez 5.1 23 107 3 3 6 2 3 6
Hughes 7.1 25 101 1 1 1 0 2 10

In those five games the Yankees pitched a total of 42 innings, thanks to the rain-shortened affair on Friday evening. Of those 42, the starters have picked up 33.2 innings, leaving little work for the bullpen. (Yet, still, Mariano has gotten into the past three games.) They have been nothing but stellar, allowing just seven runs, which amounts to a minuscule 1.87 ERA and a 2.72 FIP. No, it is no wonder at all that they won all five games.

The bullpen has done quite a job as well. Joe Girardi deployed five relievers in the past five games, leaving Sergio Mitre and David Robertson dormant. Here’s how that crew fared.

Bullpen last five games

Pitcher IP BF #P R ER H HR BB SO
Chamberlain 3.0 10 47 0 0 1 0 0 5
Rivera 3.0 10 50 0 0 1 0 0 3
Marte 0.2 3 13 0 0 0 0 1 1
Logan 1.1 7 32 0 0 2 0 1 1
Aceves 0.1 4 13 3 3 2 1 1 0

The three-run homer Al Aceves surrendered to Nelson Cruz on Saturday makes this line look a bit worse than it actually is, considering the lead the Yankees held at the time. Even still, that’s just three runs in 8.1 innings. That’s a 3.24 ERA and 3.44 FIP. Without Aceves, well, we’re looking at a zero ERA and 1.51 FIP. Even with Aceves, the 10:3 K/BB ratio is just stellar.

Will the rotation perform this well on the next pass? I’m willing to bet not. That’s not to say they’ll pitch poorly. They might post a performance that nets them another four — hell, maybe five — wins in the next five games. But the way they’ve pitched in their past five is nothing short of remarkable. That has lessened the pressure on the bullpen, forcing them to throw just 1.2 innings per game. That, as a side note, is how you build a good bullpen. Just build a rotation that limits their necessity.