Hughes rolls over Mariners in 6-1 victory

While the strange saga of the Cliff Lee non-trade dominated the baseball news throughout the afternoon, Phil Hughes and Mark Teixeira made the headlines on Friday night. The Yanks’ young All Star threw seven strong innings to win his 11th game of the season as two Mark Teixeira home runs help power the Yanks to a 6-1 win over the Lee-less Mariners. The Yanks caught half a break as they didn’t have to face the dominant Lee tonight, and with their season-high seventh straight victory, the team improved to 55-31. They are now assured to go into the All Star break in sole possession of first place.

The Good: Phil Hughes

Hughes prep for a dominant outing. Credit: AP Photo, Elaine Thompson

Despite entering the game with a 10-2 record, Phil Hughes had not looked solid of late. He entered the game riding a 24.1-inning stretch of 7.03 ERA pitching, and the Yankees wanted to get him back on track before Tuesday appearance at the All Star Game. Facing the weak-hitting Mariners, Hughes did exactly what the Yankees wanted him to do: He dominated them, throwing 7 innings of one-run ball while striking out five and walking no one. He enters the break 11-2 with a 3.65 ERA.

It’s tough to nitpick this Hughes start. He threw 109 pitches and escaped trouble in the 6th. He fired 79 strikes, 10 of them of the swing-and-miss variety, and threw first-pitch strikes to 20 of 27 batters. With a poor offensive club, he did exactly what he needed to do.

Yet, he didn’t mix his pitches much. All but 17 of his pitches were fastballs, and those 17 were curves. Staked to a comfortable lead, he didn’t try a single change-up, and he seemed hesitant to throw the devastating curve all that often. Against the Mariners, who entered the game hitting .238/.308/.346 as a team, Hughes could get away with it, but to reach the elite levels of his potential, Hughes should begin to find those secondary pitches. All in all, it’s small beans after a great win.

The Good: Mark Teixeira

The first of Mark's two high five sessions of the night. Credit: AP Photo, Elaine Thompson

In the first inning, facing a pitcher Yankee beat writer Marc Carig had termed Not Cliff Lee earlier this evening, Mark Teixeira staked the Yanks to an early lead with a booming solo home run. In the 9th, with the Yanks up 5-1, Teixeira hit a laser into the left field seats for his second dinger of the night. He now has 17 home runs and 59 RBI on the season.

For Teixeira, finishing the first half on a strong note is a positive sign indeed. His spring slump garnered more than a few worried discussions about the Yankee cognoscenti, but Joe Girardi stuck with him through thick and thin. Since June 3 in a span of 150 plate appearances, Teixeira is hitting .289/.393/.578 with 9 home runs and 25 RBI. Over the course of 162 games, that’s MVP-worth. It’s good to have Teixeira back.

For no reason whatsoever, I’d love to see Teixeira get to .250 before the All Star Break. To do that, he’ll have to knock out 4 hits in 9 at-bats or better. It’s not impossible, and it would be a real boost to Teixeira’s lackluster spring to reach that milestone.

The Ugly: Chan Ho Park

Chan Ho's days as a Yankee are probably numbered. Credit: AP Photo, Elaine Thompson

I’m not going to spend too much time ranting about Chan Ho Park because I want to go to bed the Yankees still won, but the 9th inning had the makings of a debacle. Facing the Mariners’ 5-6-7-8-9 hitters, Park almost couldn’t get the job done. It took him 32 pitches to get three outs, and three of the hitters he ended up facing had OBPs under .295. With the game in hand, Park almost pitched his way into a save situation.

I don’t totally get Park at this point. The Yanks loved his stuff last year, and they signed him to a $1.2 million deal with the understanding that, if he wasn’t up to par, they could just eat the contract. He’s allowing 1.5 base runners per inning and has an ERA north of 6.00. He shows flashes of brilliance — such as tonight when he hit 95 and was sitting 94 with his fastballl — and flashes of nothing — such as tonight as well when he went to 3-2 on two guys with awful offensive numbers. The Yanks don’t trust him in a tight spot, and Jonathan Albaladejo can’t be worse.

Anyway, if I’m complaining about the mop-up man, it was a good night.

The State of Things

The 2010 Yankees are now the first team since the 1999 Astros to have three pitchers with 11 or more wins at the All Star Break. They’re also the first Yankee club since the 2004 edition to enter the break with sole possession of first place, and over their last five games, the club’s pitchers have given up six runs. At 55-31, they have the best record in baseball, and Brian Cashman figures to upgrade the bench and bullpen before the trade deadline. Sounds good to me.

Goin’ down

By the end, this game was as close and as boring as the WPA graph indicates. It’s my favorite kind of win.

Up Next

While Cliff Lee may be gone, King Felix is not. The Mariners will send Felix Hernandez to the hill for a rematch with Javier Vazquez. The last time these two faced off, Felix fanned 10 Yankees and threw a two-hitter. The game starts at 10:10 p.m., and it is the final late-night start for the Yankees of 2010.

Sanchez’s slam powers GCL Yanks to big win

Make sure you scroll down for tonight’s game thread.

Baseball America released their midseason top 25 prospects list today, with still-a-Yankee Jesus Montero coming in at number five. “Montero hasn’t improved this year, and for some he hasn’t impressed,” said the BA crew. “After generating positive defensive trends and reports at the end of 2009 at Double-A Trenton, Montero has convinced scouts this year that he won’t be a long-term catcher … He’s experiencing his first adversity offensively, but scouts are confident his bat will still be strong.”

Meanwhile, Dellin Betances got a little love in The Team Photo section of this week’s Prospect Hot Sheet. Bronx Baseball Daily interviewed David Adams following today’s non-trade, so make sure you check that out.

Triple-A Scranton‘s game was postponed. I assume they’ll make this one up when they go back to Buffalo at the very beginning of September.

Double-A Trenton (6-3 loss to Bowie)
Luis Nunez, SS: 2 for 4, 1 2B, 2 K, 1 HBP – five for his last eight
Matt Cusick, 2B: 1 for 5, 1 K, 1 E (fielding)
Austin Romine, C: 1 for 4, 1 R, 1 K, 1 PB – he should be leaving for the Futures Game tomorrow
Brandon Laird, 3B: 2 for 4, 1 R, 2 K – first multi-hit game since June 29th
Dan Brewer, CF, Kevin Smith, 1B & Justin Snyder, 2B: all 0 for 3, 1 BB – Brewer go caught stealing … Smith committed a throwing error … Smith & Snyder each K’ed twice
Marcos Vechionacci, DH: 3 for 4, 1 R, 1 HR, 3 RBI – he’s just two away from his previous career high of ten homers
Hector Noesi: 3 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 4 K, 2-2 GB/FB – just a little tune up before the Futures Game this Sunday … no worries, he’s not hurt
Cory Arbiso: 2 IP, 1 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 1 K, 1-4 GB/FB
Ryan Pope: 3 IP, 4 H, 5 R, 4 ER, 1 BB, 2 K, 1 WP, 1 HB, 1-5 GB/FB – picked a runner off first

[Read more…]

Game 86: We don’t need him anyway

Photo Credit: Elaine Thompson, AP

There was a whole lot of chaos for what ended up being nothing today … well, unless you count that huge Chad Tracy signing. Cliff Lee might not be joining the Yankees, but he’s not pitching against them tonight either, which is the next best thing I suppose. Of course, the Yanks still have two more series left with Texas, so they’re trading tonight’s start for potentially two others in the future.

Taking Lee’s place is David Pauley, a Red Sox cast-off that you may or may not remember. He’s a rather generic Four-A type, with limited strikeouts but also limited walks. Tonight is his first start of the year, but he’s probably good for five or six innings. The Yanks have annihilated him in the past, so I expect more of that tonight. Here’s your lineup…

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

And on the mound, St. Phil.

Yet another 10:10pm ET start tonight, the fifth in a row. The game is on YES, so watch and enjoy.

Open Thread: Big Daddy comes back

Photo Credit: Dave Martin, AP

It’s getting to be that time of year again, Old Timer’s Day. Yeah, it feels like last year’s just ended, but sure enough the 2010 edition is just a week and a day away. The usual cast of characters will be in attendance of course, but there will be at least one rookie Old Timer this year according to Ed Price: Cecil Fielder. Big Daddy spend a season and a half in the Bronx, and is known more for the 13 homers he hit in the second half of 1996 than the 13 he hit during the entire 1997 season. He also hit a stout .308/.390/.519 in 14 postseason games in ’96, playing first regularly over Tino Martinez in the World Series. I’m looking forward to seeing him.

Here’s tonight’s open thread, if you happen to be home on this Friday evening. Talk about whatever you want.

Rangers set to acquire Cliff Lee

Via Joel Sherman, the Rangers are set to acquire Cliff Lee and reliever Mark Lowe from the Rangers for Justin Smoak and three others. Lowe is on the disabled list after having back surgery and isn’t expected back anytime soon. I have to assume that Seattle is paying Lee’s salary given Texas’ financial plight. Either way, it’ll be nice not to have to face the former Cy Young Award winner tonight.

You have to figure that the working relationship between Brian Cashman and Jack Zduriencik is strained at the moment, assuming the rumors of a deal being all but complete were true.

Curry: Yanks not getting Lee

Update by Ben (4:20 p.m.): According to Jack Curry of the YES Network, the Yankees will not be getting Cliff Lee. Despite earlier rumors to the contrary, talks hit a snag this afternoon over the identity of a few prospects involved in the trade, and the Texas Rangers have jumped back in. “Sometimes, these things just don’t get done,” he said.

Sweeny Murti reports that the Yanks thought they had a deal. The team was prepared to deal Jesus Montero, David Adams and Zack McAllister for Lee, but Seattle wanted to shop the lefty ace to other teams as well. If the Yanks are out of the running, I can’t imagine GM Brian Cashman is pleased with this turn of events. Good luck to Jack Zduriencik in his search for a better prospect than Jesus Montero. If the Rangers are willing to part with Justin Smoak, so be it.

To recap the afternoon: A short while ago, we heard via Joel Sherman, the Mariners appear to be backing away from the reportedly imminent Cliff Lee trade, and that the Yankees are no longer in the running for the southpaw. Seattle apparently had concerns about David Adams’ injured ankle while another club jumped into the bidding. Buster Olney says they have concerns about the “identity” of the second player, and it seemed as if the deal would survive without Adams.

A short while later, Olney, who seems to be co-owning this story with Sherman right now, had an update: The Yanks wanted to “strike aggressively, strike quickly, and get a resolution to this,” but the Mariners appear to be shopping for alternatives. The Rangers, hamstrung a bit by their financial troubles, says Sherman, are still “working hard” to land Lee.

We then learned that Bob Kalpisch’s Yankee sources believe the Lee-for-Montero deal to be dead. Meanwhile, Mark Feinsand’s sources said the Yanks are still in it but that no deal is done yet. Either way, it sounds as though the Yanks won’t have to face Lee tonight.

Yankees monitoring Michael Wuertz

While adding Cliff Lee strengthens the rotation, the Yankees still need to address their bullpen. They’re reportedly monitoring A’s righty Michael Wuertz, who had a simply absurd season in relief last year: 2.61 xFIP, 102-23 K/BB ratio in 72.2 IP. Success has been as easy to come by this season, as he’s posted a 5.01 xFIP with just 6.75 K/9 after missing April with shoulder tendinitis.

There’s no indication that Oakland is shopping the 31-year-old, but Billy Beane isn’t shy about making moves. For what it’s worth, the A’s bought out the rest of Wuertz’s team control seasons this winter, so he’s under contract for $2.8M next year with a $3.25M for 2012. Meh.