Royals slap around Mitre to top Yanks

Pitching in place of the injured Andy Pettitte, Sergio Mitre was anything but effective Saturday afternoon. Down 2-0 to the Royals after the first inning, Mitre made it through just 4.1 innings before getting the hook. He allowed seven runs on seven hits, and although the Yanks loaded the bases with two outs in the 9th, they couldn’t top Kansas City. The Royals won 7-4 as A-Rod failed to launch his 600th home run.

Turning Point #1: A first-inning error

From the start Mitre didn’t have his best stuff. He couldn’t command his pitches, and his sinker wasn’t sinking. Scott Podsednik led off the game with a single to center, and then Mitre hit Jason Kendall on the elbow pad with a 3-2 pitch. With Billy Butler up, Podsednik and Kendall put on the double steal, and the Royals were set up. They had two runners in scoring position with the heart of their order up.

The Yankees, though, caught a break. Billy Butler hit a hard ground ball to Alex Rodriguez. Although the speedy Podsednik broke for home, A-Rod had to just check Kendall back to the bag and make an easy throw across the diamond to nab the slow Bulter. Instead, though, A-Rod fired home. Although his throw actually beat Podsednik to the plate, it was up the first base side of the dish. As Posada swiped across to tag the runner, he failed to secure the ball with his throwing hand, and it popped out. Podsednik was safe, and Kendall moved to third on Jorge’s error.

The next batter — Jose Guillen — drove in the second run with a sac fly, and although Mitre got out of the inning with an Alex Gordon double play, the Royals had a 2-0 lead they would never surrender. While Posada got the error, the play was a bad one by A-Rod as well. Facing the Royals’ pitching and with no outs in the top of the first, the Yanks should have just given up that run to get the out. Had the inning unfolded as it did, the Royals would have walked away with just one run there, and the Yanks would have been a swing away from a tie game.

Turning Point #2: A-Rod doesn’t advance

As the game and the 110-degree heat wore on, Mitre fell further behind. By the bottom of the 4th, the Yankees were on the wrong end of a 6-0 score and hadn’t done much of anything against Kyle Davies. But a Mark Teixeira home run seemed to awaken the Yanks, and after A-Rod tapped out an infield single, Robinson Cano looked to keep the rally going. Cano hit a scorching ground ball ticketed for center field, but somehow, Yunieksy Betancourt made a diving play on the ball. He flipped to Chris Getz at second, and Cano was out at first by mile. The next batter, Jorge Posada, blasted a home run to make it 6-2, but it coulda, woulda, shoulda been 6-4.

Betancourt’s dive was the talk of the game, but the key part of the at-bat came a few pitchers earlier. One of the tosses from Kyle Davies wound up in the dirt, and Jason Kendall couldn’t find it. Cano tried to wave on A-Rod, but the Yanks’ third baseman seemed ill-prepared to attempt to advance. So he stayed at second.

With a full nod toward the fallacy of the predetermined outcome, had A-Rod advanced on that potential wild pitch and Cano hit the same ball up the middle, it would have gone through. Betancourt wouldn’t have been playing at double play depth, and he wouldn’t have made the dive. I’m not faulting Alex for it; after all, the ball didn’t get too far away from Kendall. But it’s just one of those little things that are easy to overlook and can cost the team a shot at narrowing a sizable gap.

Sergio Mitre did not have his best stuff this afternoon. Credit: AP Photo/Julie Jacobson

Turning Point #3: A blown call on the final out

Obviously, the final out is a turning point in the game because the losing team has no more chances, but today’s was especially galling. After All Star closer Joakim Soria retired the first two Yankees, Derek Jeter doubled and Curtis Granderson walked. If Mark Teixeira were to reach base, the Yankees would have the winning run at the plate in the persona of Alex Rodriguez. Thoughts of a game-winning, walk-off grand slam as A-Rod’s 600th home run were dancing through our collective minds.

But, thanks to a bad play, it was not meant to be. On a 2-2 pitch, Teixeira hit a slow roller up the middle. Betancourt fielded the ball and fired to first. On the bang-bang play, Chad Fairchild called Teixeira out, and the Yanks’ first baseman looked incredulous. The replay, via YES’ super slow-motion camera, showed that Teixeira’s foot was on the base before the ball was in Billy Butler’s glove, and the Yankees were unfairly denied a shot at winning or extending the game.

I hate to harp on the umps in a game that found the Yanks losing by three with one out left, but the reality is that it took YES all of 30 seconds to show the replay. It wouldn’t have ruined the pace of the game had the umps conferred to get the call right, and it would have given the Yanks another batter. The argument against instant replay remains weak as always.

Odds and Ends

Despite the score, Dustin Moseley gets a tip of the cap for his effort today. In brutal heat, he threw 4.2 very effective innings, giving up no runs on just one hit. He struck out only one, but he also walked only one. As Joe Girardi isn’t sure that Mitre will make the start on Thursday, Moseley is probably under consideration as well.

Derek Jeter, after starting the game 0 for 3, went 2 for 5 with a double. He was visibly frustrated when he tapped out to the pitcher but hit the ball with authority later in the game. Hopefully, he’s coming around.

Nick Swisher entered the game to pinch hit in the 8th and laced what should have been a double into left-center field. Rick Ankiel made a spectacular diving catch to save the out. Swisher and Brett Gardner should be good to go tomorrow.

A Sad WPA Graph

This one went in the wrong direction. (Fangraphs box, ESPN box)

Up Next

The Yankees end their homestand with the series finale against the Royals at 1:05 p.m. on Sunday. Phil Hughes will look to make a strong start after scuffling last week. He’ll face Sean O’Sullivan, who is making his second consecutive start against the Yankees in Yankee Stadium. I wonder if one pitcher has ever made two starts in a week at the same stadium against the same club but while pitching for a different team.

Montero exits game with apparent wrist injury

The big story of the night is Jesus Montero, and for all the wrong reasons. The Yanks’ best prospect was hit by a pitch in the left wrist during his first at-bat tonight, and had to be taken out of the game. I don’t know how serious the injury is or anything really, so let’s just hope he was removed as a precaution. Montero’s season ending injury last year was a finger on his left hand, so this isn’t the same spot or anything like that.

Update: Montero was seen in the dugout with his wrist taped. That’s good news because it means he wasn’t in the hospital.

Update Part Deux: It’s a bruised forearm and Montero’s day-to-day. Good news.

Here’s a quick round up of tonight’s minor league action, it is Saturday night after all…

  • Triple-A Scranton is still playing because of some rain delays. Nothing worth mentioning has happened beyond the Montero news above. Click the link to go to the box score if you so choose. Jason Hirsh was the starter.
  • Double-A Trenton won. Austin Romine picked up a pair of hits (including a double), as did Brandon Laird. Lance Pendleton was strong like bull, giving up just two hits, two walks, and zero runs in seven innings of work while striking out a batter per inning.
  • High-A Tampa lost. Corban Joseph singled and drew a walk, his seventh in the last ten games (just two strikeouts). Bradley Suttle singled and drove in two. Graham Stoneburner struck out six in five innings of work, allowing just a pair of hits, a pair of walks, and one run.
  • Low-A Charleston lost. Slade Heathcott picked up a pair of singles while Neil Medchill and Rob Lyerly each went deep. Lyerly picked up a hit in all for at-bats. Michael Solbach allowed six runs in just under five innings of work.
  • Short Season Staten Island won. Eduardo Sosa walked and singled, Kevin Mahoney had two hits (including a homer) and two walks in four plate appearances, and Jose Mojica doubled twice. Nothing exciting on the mound at all.
  • Rookie GCL Yanks lost. Cito Culver singled and stole a base. Matt Richardson struck out six in just three innings, but he also allowed six runs in the process. All of those runs were unearned. I’m convinced that this team has the worst collection of pitching and defense in professional baseball. You don’t expect much out of the kids at this level, but sheesh, they seem to be extraordinarily bad this year.

Dan Haren Rumors: Asking price vs. selling price

As Saturday evening arrives, Dan Haren remains a member of the Diamondbacks, but Arizona’s asking price and the Yanks’ thinking are coming into view. As Frankie Piliere reported earlier today, the D-backs want Joba and “perhaps a guy like [Manny] Banueloes” while the Yankees would prefer to deal Hector Noesi, Ivan Nova or Zach McAllister. Piliere says he can “see this going down to the wire.” The wire is, of course, 4 p.m. next Saturday.

While Sergio Mitre‘s start underscored the Yanks’ need for some pitching depth, the Yanks are under no pressure to make this trade earlier in the week than necessary. The two sides are clearly negotiated, and each knows what the other wants. Now, it’s up to the general managers to make the best trade possible without giving up too much. The rest of us will just have to play the waiting game.

Open Thread: Hip Hip

(AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)

Remember when Jorge Posada first came off the disabled list last month, and he struggling with the bat aside from those two grand slams against the Astros? Sure you do, he hit .215/.348/.336 in 132 plate appearances between coming off the DL and the All Star break. It was rather ugly. Well, the break certainly seems to have recharged his battery. Including today’s one-for-three effort that included a homer and a walk, Jorge is now hitting .348/.464/.870 with three long balls since the break. His defense is as bad as ever, but until another catcher on the team starts hitting like that, Posada should be behind the plate as much as possible.

Anyway, here’s tonight’s open thread. You guys know what to do, so have at it.

Pettitte eying quick return to the mound

After watching Sergio Mitre get smacked around for seven runs — five earned — in 4.1 innings against the Royals, any news about a better starter is welcome, and progress from the injured Andy Pettitte is even better. Well, consider this good news then: Pettitte says his groin is feeling good, and he could return sooner than expected. The lefty played catch for five minutes at 60 feet today and reported no problems. He’ll fly to Tampa on Monday to continue his rehab. “I feel good. I’m not having any problems at all,” he said. “They told me to take it day-by-day. As soon as I can start long tossing, that’ll be great, because I can keep my arm strength up.”

Pettitte, 11-2 with a 2.88 ERA, is eligible to come off the disabled list on August 2, but the Yankees plan to be cautious with him. The team doesn’t want this problem to linger throughout the stretch drive, and Pettitte will probably make a rehab start before returning to the Bronx. “It’s one thing to walk around, it’s another thing to get off the mound and push. I’m very happy with the progress he’s making and that he feels good. I’ll feel a lot better when he starts throwing off the mound and says he doesn’t feel anything, because that’s where you’re going to exert yourself in that area,” Joe Girardi said. “Whatever it takes, when he comes back, I don’t want this to be a recurring problem.”

Olney: ‘No conversations’ on Haren today

Update (3:15 p.m.): The Dan Haren saga is getting increasingly more intriguing as Buster Olney chimes in with a few of his patented “Heard This” tweets. The Yankees and Diamondbacks, he says, have had “no conversations” today concerning Haren. Furthermore, the Yankees “scoffed at reports that they were in the lead of the Haren negotiations because they have never been close to completing a deal to this point.” Olney speculated this morning that the D-backs are interested in Joba because they are looking for a closer. Arizona has reportedly asked Detroit for Jacob Turner and Andrew Oliver, two of the Tigers’ top pitching prospects. For what it’s worth, Fox News’ Jon Morosi reported yesterday that the Tigers are one of the teams on Haren’s no-trade list.

Earlier today, Jon Heyman added his own two cents as well. The Yanks, he said, won’t give up Joba Chamberlain and pay all of Haren’s salary. He also said that, in the right deal, the club would pay the salary but wouldn’t take Chad Qualls or Chris Snyder too. Right now, the two clubs are playing a game of poker, and the negotiations will continue.

Game 96: You know Sergio?

After a month-long stint on the disabled list due to an oblique strain suffered while taking batting practice, sinkerball specialist Sergio Mitre is making his long awaited return to the starting rotation this afternoon. Well, I’m not sure how true that last part is, we’d all rather have Andy Pettitte out there. But until he comes off the disabled list (or the Yankees swing a trade), Mitre is the team’s best option for that rotation spot.

Joe Girardi said that Mitre will be limited to about 90 pitches today, but he’ll be paying extra attention once he hits the 75 pitch mark. That’s what Mitre threw in his last rehab outing, so if he starts leaving some pitches up after that point, you know why. Sadly, Jonathan Albaladejo was optioned to Triple-A to make room for Mitre. The Chad Ho Moseley monster just will not die.

The other big story of the game is Alex Rodriguez and the pursuit of his 600th career homer. My money is on him hitting it in the first inning today, a three run shot off Kyle Davies. Just like his 500th. Here’s the lineup…

Jeter, SS
Granderson, CF
Teixeira, 1B
A-Rod, 3B
Cano, 2B
Posada, C
Thames, RF – eek
Curtis, LF
Pena, SS

And on the bump, it’s Sergio!

Game Notes: Brett Gardner had some kind of stomach issue but should be available off the bench, no biggie…Nick Swisher expects to be back tomorrow. Game starts at 1:05pm ET and can be seen on YES. Enjoy.