Garcia tames Rangers on rainy Saturday

With the stench of a record-setting six double plays still on their uniforms, the Yankees took the field on Saturday afternoon looking to get back on the winning side of things. The starting pitching has been sketchy at best early in the season, and everyone was understandably skeptical when Freddy Garcia toed the rubber in the first inning. Sweaty Freddy is already operating with a slim margin of error, but add in the fact that he’d thrown one inning in the last two-and-a-half weeks, and well … I was scared.

(AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

Like A Chief

Even without Josh Hamilton, the Rangers have a great offense. The lineup is deep and balanced, capable of beating you with power and/or speed. And they were no match for Garcia’s slow, slower, and slowest approach. Sweaty Freddy threw 84 pitches on the afternoon, and not a single one clocked it at more than 87.5 mph according to PitchFX. He threw “fast”balls, curveballs, changeups, sliders, splitters, you name it. It was a good old fashioned junk festival, yet Texas squared very few pitches up and mustered just two hits off the Yankee starter.

It’s impressive enough that Freddy silenced the Rangers bats like that, but it’s even more impressive that he did it in an almost constant rain and brutal cold. He’s been around, this guy has pitched through everything and it showed today. Garcia changed speeds not only with different pitches, but within the same pitch as well. One changeup would be 83, the next 78. As cliche as it sounds, he straight up “pitched” today, mixing everything up and keeping the Texas batters guessing. Tip your cap to the guy, I think CC Sabathia‘s seven shutout innings against the Twins two weeks ago is the only other game by a Yankees starter that tops this one. Freddy brought the pain on Saturday.


The puffy face means something good happened. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

Of course, Garcia’s fine pitching work was only half the battle, the Yankees had to score some runs as well. They took care of that right in the first inning, when Mark Teixeira clubbed his fifth homer of the season. Nick Swisher was on first after turning an 0-2 count into a 3-2 count and then into a single, so this shot counted for two. The most impressive thing about the homer? Tex was batting right-handed (against the lefty Derek Holland), and he hit it out to the opposite field. It was his first opposite field homerun as a right-handed batter since 2008, his fourth since 2005, and the tenth of his career. We’re talking about a guy with 280 dingers to his credit.

Two innings later, Teixeira helped tack on what proved to be the game-winning run. Derek Jeter led the third inning off with a walk, then moved over to third on Swisher’s double. Tex handled a 0-2 fastball and drove it to center, plenty deep enough for Jeter to jog home on the sacrifice fly. RBI’s are stupid except when someone on your favorite team has a lot of them, and Teixeira now leads the American League with 14.

An Almost-Meltdown

Because he hadn’t started in so long, Garcia was lifted after six innings even though his pitch count was still very manageable. Joba Chamberlain struck out two in a scoreless seventh, but things got out of hand in the eighth. Rafael Soriano, the all-important Eighth Inning Guy™, wasted no time giving the Rangers some life, allowing a leadoff ground-rule double to Mitch Moreland. A Julio Borbon ground ball move Moreland over to third, but then Soriano walked Ian Kinsler on five pitches. Just like that, Texas had the tying run at the plate with the heart of the order due up.

Elvis Andrus, who I still hate after his garbage infield hit barrage in the ALCS, slapped a single to right to plate the Rangers’ first run and again put men on the corners. Michael Young followed that up with a junkie infield single, and all of a sudden the tying run was in scoring position (go-ahead run on first) with the 4-5-6 hitters due up. Soriano threw Adrian Beltre nothing but cutters and sliders, hanging a few but lucking out because they were either a) fouled back, or b) crushed deep into the outfield before being blown just foul by they wind. Serious, Beltre missed a three-run homer by about five feet, tops. The seventh pitch of the encounter resulted in a lead-preserving 4-6-3 double play, ending a 27-pitch outing for Soriano.

I guess the good news is that Rafi’s missing velocity came back; he threw several pitches at 93-94 and averaged a little over 91. Soriano didn’t get one swing-and-miss though, and he’s already allowed six earned runs this year after allowing just a dozen total last year. There was talk after the game that he has trouble pitching in the cold (in fairness, it was ugly out today, cold and wet), but this guy spent the first five years of his career pitching in Seattle. You’d think he’d be used to it by now. If the cold really is that much of an issue, they’re going to have to find someone to take his place on the roster if the Yankees make the postseason, because that kind of performance simply won’t cut it.

(AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)


After Soriano’s near-blowup, Robinson Cano got the runs back with a two-run homer off the right field foul pole in the next half-inning. That was Holland’s 112th pitch of the day, which seems completely ridiculous since a) it’s April, b) they were losing, c) he’s 24, and d) he spent nearly three months of last season on the disabled list with a shoulder issue. I get that Nolan Ryan wants to extend his pitchers and get to work a little deeper into games, but my goodness.

Alex Rodriguez left the game in the sixth inning with what was called “stiffness” in his lower back and oblique. Joe Girardi said after the game that he’ll see how A-Rod feels tomorrow before deciding whether or to put him in the lineup. Given how great he looks at the plate, I wouldn’t have any problem if they played it safe and gave Alex tomorrow off. Better one day now than a whole bunch later.

It’s amazing how much better Jeter looks against left-handed pitching than he does against right-handed pitched. He only reached base once today (on that walk), but he also drove a ball deep to left-center that the wind knocked down. In the middle of the summer, that ball might have been a homerun, which would have been no small feat for the Cap’n.

Swisher and Andruw Jones had two hits apiece, and Curtis Granderson beat out an infield single. Mariano Rivera was himself in the ninth, reminding everyone what a real eight-figure reliever looks like after Soriano’s sloppy inning.

Believe it or not, this was Garcia’s first scoreless start of at least six innings since September 19th, 2006. For some perspective, the Yankees starter that day was … Jeff Karstens. Yeah, it’s been a while.

WPA Graph & Box Score has the box score and video highlights, FanGraphs the nerd score.

Up Next

For the second straight weekend, the Yankees will play the rubber game of their series on ESPN’s Sunday Night broadcast. CC Sabathia gets the ball against Alexi Ogando. Just win series, baby. Just win series.

Prospects on parade in Charleston win

I didn’t get to post this last night, but the Yankees were well represented in this week’s Prospect Hot Sheet. Jesus Montero and Slade Heathcott ranked as the eighth and ninth hottest prospects in the minors over the last week, while Ramon Flores got some love under the Helium Watch. Montero is certainly no stranger to the Hot Sheet, but this was the first time for Slade and Flores, who have been fantastic in the early going.

Apparently the Yankees signed some teenage Australian outfielder named Adam Silva over the winter. The article describes him as a “strapping lad and hard-working athlete who has made a tremendous impression on scouts and baseball officials over the past few years.” So there’s your scouting report, he’s strapping.

Triple-A Scranton was rained out, though I’m not sure when they’re going to make this one up. Mark Prior will be joining their bullpen tomorrow.

Double-A Trenton was rained out as well. They’re going to play a doubleheader tomorrow. Kevin Millwood gets the ball in game one, Craig Heyer in game two.

[Read more…]

Open Thread: Hughes’ Throwing Program

(AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

As you know by now, the Yankees placed Phil Hughes on the disabled list yesterday so he could deal with what’s being called a “dead arm phase.” He’ll begin a throwing program tomorrow according to Ian Begley, who reports that Hughes will throw long-toss on Sunday and Monday before resting on Tuesday. He’s going to throw the ball on a line rather than up in the air, and Larry Rothschild is going to pay attention to his arm speed. The soonest he would throw off a mound is Wednesday, but that’s not guaranteed. I don’t care what they do, as long it gets Hughes right.

Anyway, here is your open thread for the night. The Mets and Braves are playing the second game of their doubleheader, and the MLB Network will be carrying a game as well. Who you see depends on where you live. You’ve also got NBA and NHL playoff action all over the place, so there’s enough to keep you occupied on a rather miserable (weather-wise) night. You all know what to do, so have at it.

Long: Gardner needs to use his lower half more

Via George King, hitting coach Kevin Long found a mechanical flaw in Brett Gardner‘s swing during a recent video session. “He is not trying to lift the ball at all, it has more to do with what he is not doing with the lower half,” said K-Long. “He isn’t using the lower half. And he is looking at pitches and expanding the zone more than usual. He has been feeling for his swing.” For what it’s worth, I noticed that Gardner had abandoned the two-handed follow through during his at-bat today. OF course, it was just one at-bat. Hannah wondered if he should hit ninth, but me? I say absolutely, let him work out the kinks in a non-premium lineup spot.

Recommended: Check out this FanGraphs Community post about Gardner’s propensity to take strikes. Very interesting stuff.

Shockingly, Kevin Millwood looks “terrible”

Via Jayson Stark, an unnamed source (scout? GM? fan? he didn’t specify) gave a not so glowing review of Kevin Millwood from Extended Spring Training: “He looks terrible. Here’s a guy who used to throw 94-95. Now he’s throwing 86.” PitchFX only goes back so far, but Baseball Info Solutions says he hasn’t sat anywhere near 94-95 in the last ten years, but I guess I’m just nitpicking.

Millwood will make a start for Double-A Trenton on Sunday, and he told Mike Ashmore that he threw 75 pitches last time out and should be able to get it up to 90 this weekend. “My whole thing was trying to build up arm strength and trying to get my pitch count up [in Extended Spring Training],” said the righty. “And I did that. It still probably has a little ways to go, but it’s definitely closer than it was when I got here.”

A-Rod lifted with back and oblique stiffness

Update (3:18pm): The Yankees say that Alex left the game with “lower back and oblique stiffness,” and there are no tests planned at this time. Fingers crossed.

Original Post (2:55pm): Alex Rodriguez was lifted from today’s game in the seventh inning for an unknown reason. Eric Chavez replaced him defensively. It’s been raining pretty much all game, but there was nothing obvious that made it look like he got hurt. We’ll update this post with more info once we find out why he was lifted, but in the meantime I recommend full blown panic. Okay, not really.

Game 13: More rain for Gus & Freddy

"Bored during the delay? Go spend $55 on a porterhouse at NYY Steak." (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

The weather in New York isn’t good right now. It’s cold and rainy and windy and it’s expected to remain that way pretty much all day, though there’s a chance they’ll be able to play this afternoon’s game. It just won’t be pretty. Both Freddy Garcia and Gustavo Molina have had scheduled starts interrupted by the weather already once this year, so perhaps they’re just cursed. The Yankees had a real quick hook when it came to announcing their first two postponements, and I wonder if they will again today. The Rangers do come back to New York in mid-June, so they could take advantage and skip both Gus and Freddy once again. It’s not fair, but that’s life. Here’s the lineup, should they actually play…

Derek Jeter, SS
Nick Swisher, RF
Mark Teixeira, 1B
Alex Rodriguez, 3B
Robinson Cano, 2B
Andruw Jones, LF
Jorge Posada, DH
Curtis Granderson, CF
Gustavo Molina, C

Freddy Garcia, SP

Hooray for the first non-FOX Saturday broadcast of the season. The game is scheduled to begin shortly after 1pm ET, but then again who knows with the weather. YES will carry this one. Enjoy.