A-Rod makes history as Yanks top Blue Jays

Losers of their last three games and four of their last five, the Yankees came to park on Wednesday with what felt like a 800 lb. gorilla on their backs. It was even worse for us fans because we couldn’t do anything about it, the players were the only ones capable of turning things around. Thankfully they did just that in this game, all thanks to a historic blast from one of the game’s all-time greats.

(AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

Biggest Hit: No. 600

It felt like an eternity, but in reality it was only a 12 day wait for Alex Rodriguez to become the seventh member of the 600 homerun club. Some felt that Alex’s pursuit of No. 600 was a drain on the team, basically sucking the life out of the club and driving them into this recent tailspin. It’s an excitable narrative for the mainstream media types, but it doesn’t matter now. All that talk can be put to rest and now we can all talk about just baseball.

(AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

The history shot came nice and early, in the 1st inning with Derek Jeter on base following a leadoff single. Jay’s starter Shaun Marcum challenged A-Rod right from the get go, pumping two mid-80’s fastballs inside for balls. Sitting 2-0, the best hitter’s count in the book, Marcum threw another 85 mph fastball to Alex (I’m not exaggerating, PitchFX picked it up at 85), but this one was away on the outer third. The Yanks’ third baseman was out in front of the pitch ever so slightly, be he’s so strong that he managed to hit the ball out anyway. It wasn’t a New Stadium cheapie either, it was a legit blast into Monument Park. Here’s the video if you want to re-live the magic again.

The gorilla was lifted off everyone’s back instantly, the Yankees had the lead, and Alex was in the history books yet again. I don’t know about you, but it was one of my favorite moments of the season so far. The waiting sucked though, don’t get me wrong.

Biggest Pitch: Encarnacion Goes Down Swinging

(AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

Nursing a 3-1 lead in the 4th inning, the Yanks were in danger of blowing an early lead yet again. Toronto already pushed one run across when Lyle Overbay doubled to right-center, scoring Jose Bautista and pushing Adam Lind to third. Overbay stood at second representing the tying run when Edwin Encarnacion stepped in, one day after crushing a crushed a mammoth two run homer off Dustin Moseley.

Knowing that Encarnacion is a Grade-A hacker (he’s swung at over 30% of the pitches he’s seen out of the strike zone), Phil Hughes attacked his weakness and fed him pitches just off the plate. His first offering, an 89 mph cutter, just missed down and away for ball one, but the next cutter just caught the top of the zone for strike one. After another cutter down and away for a ball, Hughes challenged Encarnacion up and in, getting him to swing through a 93 mph fastball for strike two before doing the same one pitch later for strike three. The last pitch was about eye level, definitely not a strike.

The threat the was ended, and the one run Overbay drove in would be all Toronto got in this one.

Honorable Mention: Travis Snider’s Pop Up

An inning prior to EE’s strikeout, the Jays had runners on the corners with one out, so all they needed was a moderately deep fly ball to trim their deficit to one. Instead, Hughes got Travis Snider to pop a high fastball up on the infield for out number two. Seven pitches later Aaron Hill grounded out to third and the inning was over with the two run lead still intact.

Swing And A Miss

It’s no secret that Hughes hit a bit of a rough patch following his tremendous start, posting a 5.51 ERA with a .291/.333/.494 batting line against from mid-May through mid-July. He started to correct that last time out against Tampa, but one bad pitch to Matt Joyce cost him and the team a win. Thankfully his rebound continued today, even though Hughes wasn’t exactly efficient with his pitches.

(AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

Phil started the game off by retiring the first six men he faced, three via strikeouts, before running into the trouble you read about above in the 3rd and 4th innings. Those were his only hiccups, as he retired the side in order in the 5th and gave way to Boone Logan in the 6th after allowing a single and coaxing a fly out out of Vernon Wells.

Hughes threw a total of 99 pitches, not great for five and third innings of work, but being efficient is something that’s learned over time. Sixty of those 99 pitches were strikes, and 18 of those 60 strikes were on swings-and-misses. That’s a ridiculous total. For comparison’s sake, CC Sabathia pitched a game last year in which he generated 25 swings-and-misses, the most by any pitcher all season. Hughes definitely had the good stuff today, which is great to see as he approaches a career high workload.

Oh, You Mean Something Else Happened Besides No. 600?

Once again, great job by the bullpen. Logan, Joba Chamberlain, David Robertson, and Mariano Rivera combined to retire 11 of the 15 men they faced. The only blemishes were a seeing-eye single off Joba (Robbie Cano actually made a play on it, but the runner beat the throw), a D-Rob walk, and a hit batter each by Logan and Mo. They struck out three as a group, and threw a first pitch strike to all but one of those 15 batters. Great job by a relief corps that’s getting stronger and stronger as the season progresses.

Joba didn’t throw a fastball under 95 mph, and he topped out at 98 according to PitchFX. He’s slowly but surely regaining that lost velocity, a great, great sign.

It was turn back the clock day for Jeter, who went 4-for-4 with a pair of doubles (one down each line) and three runs scored. As much as we get on the Cap’n for his subpar season, we have to give him props for hitting .333/.377/.444 over his last 17 games. Let’s hope he keeps it up, it would be a huge help down the stretch.

(AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

Mark Teixeira went 2-for-3 with a double, driving in every run the team scored sans the two that came home on No. 600. Meanwhile, Jorge Posada was on the opposite end of the offensive spectrum, going 0-for-4 and seeing … wait for it … five total pitches. That’s not the Georgie we all know and love, but everyone has days like that.

The box score will show an 0-for-4 for Lance Berkman, but he saw 24 pitches on the day and squared up the final pitch in each of his last two at-bats. Both were hit right on the screws and ticketed for the rightfield corner, but Lyle Overbay had to go and get in the way. Hard contact is a good sign.

Curtis Granderson flared a single to left, just his seventh hit of the season to that side of the field. His 63 other hits either went to right (30) or center (33). I’m surprised more teams don’t play the shift on him.

With the Twins managing to eke out a win in extras against the Rays, the Yanks are once again tied for first in the AL East. Boston is six and a half back in third place.

WPA Graph & Box Score

Wait, you mean the green line is allowed to go on the Yankees’ side? ESPN has the box, FanGraphs all that other cool stuff.

Up Next

The Yankees are off tomorrow, and will come to the park Friday night ready to kick off a four game set against the Red Sox. That game will feature Javy Vazquez vs. Clay Buchholz. The Rays play tomorrow, so the Yanks could conceiveable drop out of first place by half-a-game through no fault of their own. Meh, what can you do.

Only the schedule can contain Montero & Laird

Triple-A Scranton had a scheduled off day.

Double-A Trenton (5-4 win over Reading)
Austin Krum, CF, Marcos Vechionacci, 1B & Dan Brewer, RF: all 1 for 4 – Krum doubled, scored a run, K’ed twice & threw a runner out at third … Vech doubled & K’ed twice … Brewer scored a run & threw runners out at both third and home
Justin Christian, LF: 4 for 5, 1 RBI
Corban Joseph, 2B & Damon Sublett, DH: both 0 for 3 – CoJo drove in two … Sublett drew a walk &  scored
Austin Romine, C: 0 for 4, 1 K
Matt Cusick, 3B: 2 for 4, 1 R, 1 HR, 1 RBI
Luis Nunez, SS: 0 for 2, 1 R, 1 RBI, 1 BB, 1 K
Lance Pendleton: 6.1 IP, 6 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 0 BB, 5 K, 5-7 GB/FB
Josh Schmidt: 0.2 IP, 1 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 0 K – last year: 1.22 GB/FB, 1.96 AVG against … this year: 1.25 & 1.98, respectively … clearly, he’s declining
Wilkin Arias: 0.2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 0 K
Kevin Whelan: 1.1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 1 K, 1 WP, 0-3 GB/FB – shaky, but he closes it out

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Report: Yanks had a deal in place for Mike Lowell

Earlier this week we learned that the Yankees attempted to acquire Mike Lowell from the Red Sox as part of a three team trade with the Rangers, but now Buster Olney reports that the three clubs did in fact have a deal in place. The Yanks backed out because they didn’t like what they saw in Lowell’s medicals, unsurprising considering his recent hip trouble. There’s no word on the other players that would have been involved, but it’s safe to say it would have been fringy prospects, no one any team would miss.

I said on Monday that I wouldn’t be surprised in Lowell ends up in pinstripes at some point this month, but I’m going to retract that statement in the wake of Kevin Youkilis’ thumb injury. Turns out the Red Sox might actually need him now.

Steiner reaches settlement in suit over stadium seats

In October, during the Yanks’ World Champion run, John Lefkus, a 22-year season-ticket holder and disgruntled purchaser of authentic Yankee Stadium memorabilia, filed a class action lawsuit against Steiner Sports. In his suit, he said that he paid $2000 for his season ticket seats only to receive a different set of Yankee Stadium chairs. He alleged deceptive acts and practices and false advertiser, among other charges, and requested both injunctive relief and compensatory damages.

This week, with little fanfare, the State Supreme Court announced a class settlement between Lefkus and Steiner Sports. As first reported yesterday by Ross at NYY Stadium Insider, the settlement covers those who purchased seats between May 1 and August 15, 2009, and those looking for a piece of the action must have retained their sales receipts.

Those in the affected class have two choices: Purchasers can return their seats for a full refund or receive one of two coupons — either one for $65 if the seats were a non-specific pair or one for $95 if the seats were a specific set from the old stadium. “In addition to this relief,” wrote the court, “Steiner has agreed to change its future advertising of Yankee Stadium Seat Pairs and to notify resellers of its advertising changes.”

The settlement, however, isn’t yet finalized. The court will hold a hearing on it on September 22 to determine if it is in the best interests of the class — and not just Lefkus, the named plaintiff. If the settlement is approved, those who wish to secure their part of the package will have until December 21 to do so. This settlement should close an ugly chapter in the recent history of both Steiner Sports and old Yankee Stadium.

After the jump, the claim form as well as a copy of the court’s notice of the proposed settlement. [Read more…]

Open Thread: Back to normal

(AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

Just another day at the office, eh? Alex Rodriguez hit his 600th career homerun, the Yankees won their first game in weeks (and by weeks I mean since Saturday), and all is right in the world again. The Yanks can sit back and relax tomorrow during the off day, and go into this weekend’s series against the Red Sox with confidence and a clear mind. Couldn’t have asked for much more.

Here’s your open thread for the evening. YES is playing the encore of today’s game beginning at 7pm ET, so you watch A-Rod hit #600 again if you want. The Mets are in Atlanta playing the Braves, and you’ve also got the White Sox and Tigers on ESPN. You know what to do, so have at it.

Pirates claim CHoP off waivers

Chan Ho Park has been claimed off of waivers by the Pittsburgh Pirates, the Yankees announced this afternoon. The right-hander had been DFA’d on Saturday to make room on the roster for Kerry Wood. Signed to a $1.2 million deal this winter after a strong season with the Phillies, Park went 2-1 with a 5.60 ERA for the Yanks. In 35.1 innings, he allowed 40 hits — seven of them home runs — while walking 12 and striking out 29. Fans grew to dread his appearances, but he’ll always be remembered for one early-season TMI press conference in Boston. The Pirates are now on the hook for the remaining portion of CHoP’s salary or approximately $400,000. I, for one, am glad to see the Pirates are still willing to take on Yankee has-beens.

Link Dump: No. 600 Edition

As I’m sure you already know, Alex Rodriguez hit his 600th career homerun this afternoon, crushing a 2-0 fastball from Shaun Marcum into Monument Park in the very first inning. It was a long time coming, but that doesn’t cheapen the accomplishment at all. As you can imagine, there’s a whole bunch of stuff about it on the interviewed right now, so let’s round it up…

  • First things first: here’s the video if you haven’t seen it already. A reader sent us this video from the Stadium as well.
  • Here’s what Hal Steinbrenner had to say: “Congratulations to Alex on this great achievement and on adding another highlight to Yankees history. We are especially proud he accomplished this feat as a Yankee and here before the most loyal fans in baseball.” Short and sweet.
  • Courtesy of the Yankees, here’s a look at the ball. Michael Kay said during the broadcast that Alex and the Yanks were prepared to trade a signed ball, bat, and jersey for the historic homerun ball, and if that didn’t work, the next step was offering a private dinner with A-Rod and Cameron Diaz. That woulda been pretty cool.
  • The Associate Press put together this cool little interactive package about Alex’s life and career leading up this afternoon’s homer.
  • Jack Moore took a look at A-Rod’s career going forward compared to some other members of the 600 HR club.

We’ll of course have our regular game recap later tonight, but for now here’s a spot to wax poetic about this historic feat, something everyone should take a second to appreciate. No matter how you feel about the guy, this is one hell of an accomplishment. It takes talent, durability, and a whole lotta luck.

Photo Credit: Kathy Willens, AP