Sabathia, Yanks roll in rain shortened contest

For the first time in 2010, the Yankees on Friday night played a team that hasn’t appeared in an American League Championship Series within the last two seasons. The Rangers haven’t made the playoffs in over a decade, but they’re a formidable opponent that features the league’s hottest hitter and some of the best young arms in the game. Luckily for the Yanks, they had their best on the mound to keep the hot start going as the team won a game shortened by rain 5-1.

Photo Credit: Frank Franklin II, AP

Biggest Play: Curtis Granderson reaches on a fielder’s choice

All during the postseason, we saw the supposedly fundamentally sound Twins and Angels shoot themselves in the foot with botched plays game after game, and the same was true on Friday. Granderson stepped to the plate against lefty C.J. Wilson in the 4th inning with the bases juiced and the score tied at one. He fell behind 0-2 on fastballs before a third heater missed the zone for a ball. The fourth pitch was a slider that dove down, but Granderson got enough of it to tap it towards first. Long story short, Chris Davis threw the ball away as he attempted to turn the 3-6-3 double play (photo above), resulting in two runs for the Bombers.

As good as CC Sabathia was in this game (we’ll get to that a little later), Wilson matched him up until the 4th inning, and before the frame was over the Yankees led 4-1. With rain in the forecast and Sabathia on his game, that lead might as well have been 30.

Biggest Out: Nelson Cruz goes down on strikes

I’m going to go against the WPA grain here to say that Cruz’s backwards K to end the first was the biggest out of the night. Texas pushed across a run for a first inning lead when Vlad Guerrero drove in Michael Young on a sac fly, which brought the America League leader in homers (six), RBI (12), SLG (1.063), and OPS (1.510) to the plate with a man on second with two outs.

If Sabathia makes a mistake, there’s a very good chance the Yankees could have been down three runs before even coming to the plate, which changes everything. Instead, he got Cruz to foul off both a fastball and a changeup on the outer half for a quick 0-2 count, but couldn’t get him to commit to a slider and changeup in the dirt for the strikeout, so the count went even at 2-2. Cruz is a free swinger, but Sabathia and Frankie Cervelli didn’t mess around by trying to get him to chase something out of the zone, they went with the old reliable number one, pouring a 92 mph heater on the inside for a called strike three. The early threat was neutralized, the Yankees were down just one, and Sabathia would never look back.

For the record, WPA says that Michael Young’s fielder’s choice that saw Julio Borbon forced out at second with no outs in the 6th was the biggest out recorded by Sabathia on the night.

Photo Credit: Frank Franklin II, AP

Carsten Charles In Charge

The only thing that could stop the Yankees’ ace tonight was Mother Nature. CC Sabathia rolled right through the Rangers’ lineup after the first inning, striking out six in a row from the 2nd through 4th innings, and retiring 12 in a row from the 2nd through 5th. He threw 61 pitches through the first five innings, just 11 of which were balls.

Rain forced Sabathia from the game after just six innings and 73 pitches (58 strikes, 79.5%), which might not have been the worst thing in the world considering his massive workload last season. Every little break helps. Of the 22 batters Sabathia faced, not one saw a three ball count, and just five worked a two ball count. Only two got a first pitch ball. Two! Take a look at this strike zone plot, that’s what pounding the zone looks like.

CC struck out nine or more five times last year, but the first instance didn’t come until August 8th. He beat that by nearly four months this year. His initials stood for cruise control on Friday night, he had it all working and threw everything for strikes. Over his last two starts, Sabathia’s allowed just six baserunners (four hits, two walks) and one run in 13.2 IP with 14 strikeouts. I thought this guy was supposed to struggle in April?

Photo Credit: Frank Franklin II, AP

Happy Moments

It’s so easy to like Cervelli with his big doofy helmet and all out hustle and infectious energy, so it was fun to see him single in a run after Granderson’s fielder’s choice.

Brett Gardner stealing second on a pitch out. Fastest white guy in America. Granderson fouled off six pitches in an 11 pitch at-bat just prior to Gardner’s steal, which qualifies for one hell of an at-bat. Considering it was against a lefty, it’s even more impressive.

This win combined with the Blue Jays’ loss to the Angels gives the Yankees sole possession of first place in the AL East, and they’re tied with the Twins for the best record in the AL.

Annoying moments

There’s not much that could have bothered even the most pessimistic of fans this game. Nick Johnson got thrown out on a straight steal to end the 3rd, but the replay showed he was either safe, or damn close to it. That’s about it.

Oh, wait. What the hell Robbie Cano? Just one measly single tonight? That’s not going to cut it. He obviously needs Melky Cabrera or Larry Bowa or Mike Borzello.

WPA Graph

You can get the full breakdown at FanGraphs’ box score.

Next Up

Quick turn around, as these two teams are back at it tomorrow afternoon at 1:05pm ET. A.J. Burnett goes for the good guys, Scott Feldman for the Rangers.

Higashioka goes deep again in loss

Triple-A Scranton was rained out. Not sure when they’re going to make this one up, but Syracuse doesn’t come back to town until the end of May.

Double-A Trenton was rained out as well. They’ll make this one up as part of a May 22nd doubleheader.

High-A Tampa (8-4 win over Daytona)
Abe Almonte, RF, Corban Joseph, 2B & Myron Leslie, 1B: all 1 for 4 – Almonte scored a run & K’ed … CoJo doubled & drove in a run … Leslie drove in two
Jose Pirela, SS: 0 for 4, 1 K – 1 for his last 13 (.077)
Bradley Suttle, 3B: 0 for 2, 2 R, 2 BB, 1 K – 3 for his last 18 (.167)
Neil Medchill, LF, Melky Mesa, CF & Mitch Abeita, C: all 1 for 3, 1 2B – Medchill drew a walk, scored twice & drove one in … Mesa drove in two, scored once & K’ed … Abeita drew a walk, scored a run, drove one in & allowed a passed ball
Trent Lockwood, DH: 2 for 4, 1 R, 1 2B, 1 RBI
Brandon Braboy: 4 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 1 K, 7-3 GB/FB
Craig Heyer: 2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 3 K
Pat Venditte: 2.1 IP, 2 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 2 BB, 5 K, 2-0 GB/FB – they’ve got him on the multiple innings every three days schedule, which is what the Yanks put all their top relief prospects on
Phil Bartlewski: 0.2 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 1 K, 0-1 GB/FB

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Game Ten: Lefty vs. lefty

Photo Credit: Peter Morgan, AP

ofAs the Angels head out of town with their halos between their legs, the Rangers come on in fresh off being shut down by Indians’ lefty David Huff yesterday. They’ll get another lefty tonight, though CC Sabathia and Huff are on opposite ends of the southpaw spectrum. The Yanks’ ace flirted with a no-hitter last time out, and has pleasantly avoided his typical April slump in the early going. He makes his first home start of the campaign tonight.

Opposing Sabathia tonight is starter turned middle reliever turned setup man turned closer turned setup man turned starter C.J. Wilson, who is one of the few professional athletes worth following on Twitter. He struck out nine in seven shutout innings against the Jays in his first start, but missed his last outing earlier this week with a stomach bug. Hopefully he’s a little off his game tonight. Here’s the starting nine…

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

And on the mound, Carsten Charles Sabathia.

First pitch is scheduled for 7:05pm and can be seen on YES. There’s some rain in the forecast, but it looks like there will be enough of a window to get this sucker in. Enjoy the game.

Update (10:14pm): The game has been called, so the Yankees win. Our regular recap will be along later tonight.

The Ho Train makes a stop on the DL

Who had Chan Ho Park in the “first to hit the disabled list” pool? The veteran reliever was placed on the 15-day DL today after he injured his hamstring while warming up last night. His replacement? Lefty Boone Logan, who has done a bang-up job for Triple-A Scranton so far this year (6.2 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 BB, 9 K). He threw 27 pitches just last night, so he might not be available until tomorrow.

Apparently CHoP could’ve just rested it and been available when the Yanks go out to the west coast next week, but the team didn’t want to risk. No point in doing so this early in the season.

RAB Live Chat

Piliere on Hughes and Joba

AOL FanHouse’s Frankie Piliere has a new post up comparing the Yankees’ two young and hyped righties, Phil Hughes and Joba Chamberlain. The two appear to be going in opposite directions, as Hughes is in the process of cementing his place in the Yanks’ rotation while Joba flounders in the bullpen. “[Hughes] was challenging hitters and rearing back and firing with the fastball last year,” said Piliere, “and as he showed on Thursday, he has carried that over into 2010 … If we see more of what he showed against the Angels, the Yankees’ patience is on the verge of paying off.”

I’ve always said that I expect Hughes to have the longer and more productive career, while Joba will have the greater peak. Is it possible we’ve already seen the best of Joba? I don’t believe so, but it’s foolish to disregard the possibility.

Changing up the chat

Mike chatted during the game last night, so I’m coming in from the bullpen to provide relief. I’ll try to be more like David Robertson yesterday than David Robertson Tuesday. We’ll kick this off at 2:30pm ET and run it until I need to go somewhere, or else we run out of questions.