A close game early gives way to a blowout late

For a few hours, tonight’s 11-4 route of the Indians had a tense feel to it. Tampa Bay had downed the Tigers earlier in the afternoon, and for the Yanks to head into their AL East showdown with a comfortable lead, the Bombers had to beat Mitch Talbot and the hapless Indians. Through five innings, the two clubs were locked in a 1-1 tie, but then the Yanks busted out for seven runs in the seventh. Even an adventurous ninth inning meant little for the Indians, and the Yanks walked away winners of three of four in Cleveland and six of eight against the AL Central bottom feeders.

Moseley mows ’em down

AP Photo, Amy Sancetta

Before we delve into tonight’s offensive orgy, we start on the mound with Dustin Moseley. The 28-year-old righthander drew the start in place of Sergio Mitre who pitched poorly five days ago in place of Andy Pettitte. Moseley didn’t start as a direct response to Mitre’s results over the weekend, but he started because the Yanks realized they hadn’t adequately prepared Mitre for a role as a starter. He rehabbed as a short reliever and didn’t have the stamina to start.

So tonight was Moseley’s night, and at first, it appeared as though he would break long before Mitre did. Although he recorded an out on a fielder’s choice, the first four Indians reached base against Moseley, and a sac fly made it 1-0. With runners on 2nd and 3rd, Moseley struck out Matt LaPorta to halt the damage, but he had thrown 30 pitches in that first inning. He was not, it seemed, long for the game.

But then it all clicked for Moseley. Over the next five innings, he allowed no runs on three hits and a walk and struck out three. He used just 53 pitches for the final five frames and would have returned to the mound for the seventh but for the Yanks’ endless top of the inning. It’s true that the Indians are not a strong offensive club, but Moseley shut them down while the Yanks’ bats went to work. If anything, he’ll draw a start against Toronto next week and should be able to hold down the fort until Andy Pettitte returns.

Jeter breaks the dam

As Moseley kept the Indians at bay, the Yankees couldn’t get much of anything going. Through the first five innings, the enjoyed ten baserunners and plated but one solitary run. Up on that scoreboard at Progressive Field, it was the loneliest number until Number 2 knocked in a row. With two outs in the 6th, Jeter ended the Yanks’ 0-for-10 span with runners in scoring position and as the Yanks had their 2-1 lead, the game quickly became a blowout.

In the seventh inning, everyone hit. After two quick outs, the next 10 batters went a combined 4 for 5 with four walks and a hit batter. Cano hit a booming home run to left — his 20th of the year; Francisco Cervelli knocked in a run; Derek Jeter walked to force in a run; Curtis Granderson singled in two; A-Rod, homerless again, singled in two. By the end of the game, the Yanks were 7 for 21 with runners in scoring position, a far cry from that 0-for-10 stretch.

In truth, the big blow always seemed just around the corner. Mitch Talbot had to leave the game in the third with a stiff back, and the Indians had to rely on their bullpen to get 21 outs. It couldn’t, and the Yankees, as good times are wont to do, took advantage of the parade of lesser pitchers who passed through the mound.

They told me to walk this way

Relief ace Andy Marte shut down the Yanks. Credit: AP Photo, Amy Sancetta

Despite the 11 runs, the Yanks could have scored more quite easily. In addition to their early-game struggles with runners in scoring position, the Yanks eked out 12 free passes from Indians’ pitchers. In total, the Yanks had 25 baserunners, and all of the starters except for Francisco Cervelli reached base at least twice. This Cleveland club is a far cry from the near-AL Champion 2007 squad.

Amusingly enough, the only Indians pitcher who didn’t issue a free pass was a position player pressed into service. Andy Marte came on to pitch The Eighth Inning. He induced a grounder from Cano, struck out Nick Swisher and got Marcus Thames to line out to third. It was a job well done by the best hurler on the Cleveland staff.

Adventures in CHoP-land

Chan Ho Park faces his fellow countryman Shin-Soo Choo. Credit: AP Photo, Amy Sancetta

Finally, we arrive at the Chan Ho Park Ninth Inning Debacle. With the game so firmly in the Yanks’ pocket that Joe Girardi thought it clever to put Marcus Thames at third base, Chan Ho Park came unglued. He recorded three quick outs in the 8th and two outs in the 9th before he just lost it. He walked Chris Gimenez and Austin Kearns, and then after running the count full, he allowed an RBI single to Matt LaPorta.

Then, the real fun began. Jayson Nix hit a hot shot to third that Marcus Thames gloved. But when he tried to make the long throw across the diamond, he airmailed it into the stands. It was a toss worthy of Keith Olbermann’s mom, and all of a sudden, Girardi’s cute idea seemed costly. Park gave up another walk before Luis Valbuena sent Nick Swisher back to the warning track as he hauled in the final out of the game.

I can’t fault Park for this performance to the extreme I usually do. He threw over 50 pitches and would have gotten out of the inning if not for Thames’ fielding. Still, at one point, he had thrown 11 straight balls in what was a 10-run game. That’s not pitching to inspire confidence. All’s well that ends well though.

Looking closer than it was

You’ve got your Fangraphs box and your ESPN box.

Up Next

The Yanks take their two-game lead into the Tampa Bay area later tonight. Phil Hughes will face Wade Davis to start a key three-game match-up with the second-place Rays. After a week of the Indians and Royals, the intensity will ratchet up a notch during this weekend’s sold out set.

Montero homers as each affiliate picks up a win

Fifth round pick Tommy Kahnle has agreed to terms and will join the Staten Island Yanks tomorrow. His physical isn’t until Monday, and once he passes that he’ll jump right into the team’s bullpen. Kahnle made 13 total appearances in the Cape Cod League this summer, striking out 14 in nine innings of work. The bad news? Ten walks.

Meanwhile, Baseball America posted a list of ten prospects who have increased their stock since the start of June (sub. req’d). Jesus Montero (“A scout who saw Montero this month didn’t see the outstanding raw power than Montero has shown in the past, but noted that Montero consistently drove the ball into the gaps even if he did bail on the breaking ball on occasion.”) came in at number two, David Phelps (“His secondary stuff is fringy, but he mixes a slurvy curveball, a short slider and a change with solid sink and throws them all for strikes, making him an option for the back of the rotation or middle-relief work.”) at number eight.

Oh, and David Adams? Turns out it was a broken ankle. That explains why he’s been out so long.

Triple-A Scranton (7-1 win over Norfolk)
Kevin Russo, LF: 0 for 4, 1 BB, 2 K
Eric Bruntlett, DH: 2 for 4, 2 R, 1 2B, 1 K
Eduardo Nunez, SS: 2 for 3, 2 R, 1 BB, 1 SB – nine for his last 28 (.321)
Chad Tracy, 3B, Chad Huffman, RF & Greg Golson, CF: all 1 for 4 – Tracy drove in a run & scored another … Golson doubled
Jesus Montero, C: 1 for 3, 1 R, 1 HR, 4 RBI, 2 K – eight of his 11 homers have comes in the last six weeks or so … Conor Foley breaks the long balls down for you
Jorge Vazquez, 1B & Reegie Corona, 2B: both 2 for 4 – JoVa doubled, scored a run & K’ed … Corona plated a run
Jason Hirsh: 6 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 3 BB, 6 K, 3-7 GB/FB – 62 of his 99 pitches were strikes
Romulo Sanchez: 2.2 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 3 K, 4-1 GB/FB – 31 of 53 pitches were strikes (58.5%)
Royce Ring: 0.1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 0 K, 1-0 GB/FB – four of his six pitches went for strikes

[Read more…]

Game 101: One or two?

I love it when the Yankees do this to opposing pitchers. (AP Photo/Amy Sancetta)

The Rays already beat the lowly Tigers today, so tonight’s game will determine if the Yankees go into this weekend’s series in Tampa one game up, or two games up. Of course they’d love to have that extra cushion, but they’re going to have to survive Dustin Moseley’s first start of the season tonight. Joe Girardi indicated that Moseley is good for up to 100 pitches tonight, he was starting in Triple-A Scranton after all, so hopefully they manage to squeeze six innings out of him while working Indians’ starter Mitch Talbot over.

Here’s the lineup, sans a resting Jorge Posada

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

And on the bump, it’s one of the Chad Ho Moseley monster.

No weather issues tonight, thankfully. First pitch is set for 7:05pm ET and can be seen on YES. Enjoy.

Mark Teixeira’s new stance

As I was watching the Yankees pound Fausto Carmona last night, something caught my eye. To make sure I wasn’t crazy, I consulted both Joe and Ben, who confirmed my suspicion: Mark Teixeira has opened his stance. Not from last year either, I’m talking about from just last month. Given his horrible start and recent hot streak, it makes sense that he and Kevin Long tinkered and made some adjustments to help right the ship, but usually the untrained eye can’t pick those adjustments up.

Of course, I had to confirm this first. In order to avoid any issues with camera angle and what not, I screen cap’d at-bats from two home games. The top image comes from the June 2nd game vs. Baltimore (the Phil Hughes-Brad Bergeson matchup), and bottom is the July 16th game vs. the Rays (the first game after the break). Make sure you click for a larger view…

You can see Jamie Shields bending over to fix his pant leg in the bottom image. Tex is at the start of a practice swing in the meantime, which is why his hands are a bit lower, but his feet do not move at all. I just wanted to make sure I got the batter’s box in the shot to use as a reference, and Shields was in the way whenever he was on the rubber. Tex’s hands go back to their usual spot once the Shields gets ready to throw the pitch.

So anyway, you can clearly see that Tex has opened up. His front foot is closer to the edge of the batter’s box, and there’s more real estate between his feet. There are plenty of reasons why a batter would open up his stance, but the first two are obvious. First and foremost, it helps the batter see the ball better simply by providing a better line of sight towards the pitcher. Perhaps it’s helped Tex recognize offspeed pitches earlier in the pitch’s flight, he definitely doesn’t seem to be overwhelmed by them like he was in April and May.

Secondly, opening the stance helps the batter get around better on pitches in the inner half. Tex has been pulling more balls to rightfield with authority lately (spray chart during struggles, and after), hence his increased power performance. Although we know that correlation does not equal causation, it does stand to reason that opening his stance has helped Tex do a better job of getting the fat part of the bat on inside pitches.

I haven’t checked to see if Teixeira has also opened up when batting righthanded, but I’m not too concerned about that. Righthanders were killing him earlier this year, but he was performing well against southpaws. I’m not saying this new stance is why the Yanks’ first baseman has turned his season around over the last month or so, but it’s certainly interesting to see.

Yanks have kicked the tires on Bloomquist, out on Dunn

Update (4:00 p.m.): In what must be a cruel and horrible joke, Jerry Crasnick reports that the Yankees have checked in on Royals’ utility player Willie Bloomquist. I know the Yanks need bench help, but that’s no reason to go out and trade for one of the worst players in baseball. The 32-year-old is a career .298 wOBA hitter, but has managed to underperform that with a .294 wOBA this year. There’s also another $1.05M left on his contract through the end of the season. Bloomquist is definitely versatile, with a ton of experience at every position but pitcher and catcher. Still, the guy stinks (0.0 WAR, woo!). I’d rather see Eduardo Nunez get a shot.

Meanwhile, Ken Rosenthal says the Yanks are now out on Adam Dunn, and Joel Sherman explains why. Basically, the Yanks are worried about how Dunn does not want to DH, would have to adjust to a new league and a pennant race and carries an extremely high asking price. For similar reasons, the Rays are reportedly out of the running as well. Of course, based on how these things have gone so far, I expect the introductory press conference to be no later than Saturday morning.