Winning streak ends, Sox stomp Yankees

First place was fun while it lasted.

  • For the third time in four starts this year, CC Sabathia got completely pounded by the Red Sox. They hung seven runs on him through the first 3.2 innings, the big blow being a three-run homer by Jacoby Ellsbury. The first three hits Sabathia gave up were off the Green Monster for doubles, and four of the nine hits he gave up were to left-handed batters (two to Carl Crawford and his .208 wOBA vs. LHP). CC dominates lefties (.183/.242/.243 with 61 K and 9 BB in 179 PA off him before this game), he shouldn’t be giving up that many hits to them in one game. The end result was ten baserunners and those seven runs in six innings, so give him some credit for sticking around a little bit and preserving the bullpen.
  • The Yankees actually had more baserunners than the Red Sox (18 to 13), but they just didn’t finish off many rallies. The worst case came in the fifth, right after they fell behind 7-2. Frankie Cervelli singled on John Lackey’s first pitch of the inning, Brett Gardner got hit by the second pitch, and Derek Jeter singled on the third pitch. The Yankees had a run in with runners on first and second just three pitches into the inning, but the 3-4-5 hitters (Curtis Granderson, Mark Teixeira, and Robinson Cano) went down like wimps to end the threat. The first two guys didn’t even put the ball in play. Terrible.
  • Cervelli, sadly, was the Yankees’ best offensive player in this game, picking up three hits in four trips to the plate. Cano didn’t get a hit but he did get hit by a pitch, while Jorge Posada continued to look absolutely fried with an 0-for-4. Grandy, Tex, and Nick Swisher all had a hit and a walk (Tex’s was a garbage time solo shot off Dan Bard, who he completely owns), whilr Gardner and Jeter had one hit each. Eric Chavez did his best Don Mattingly impression with two hits, including one to the opposite field off the base of the wall. Eighteen baserunners, but two double plays and ill-time strikeouts hamstrung the offense.
  • Luis Ayala and Hector Noesi were pretty terrible in garbage time; Ayala walked two in a scoreless frame before Noesi put four guys on base and allowed three runs in his only inning. At least the core relievers are fresh for the rubber game on Sunday.
  • The loss ends the Yankee’s eight game winning streak and brings them back into a tie with the Red Sox for first place in the AL East. Both teams are (at least) seven games up in the wildcard though. Here’s the box score, here’s the FanGraphs stuff, and here’s the updated standings.

Believe it or not, the finale of the series will mark the last time the Yankees will be on ESPN Sunday Night Baseball this season. Good, I hate night games on the weekend. Freddy Garcia gets the ball against Josh Beckett at 8pm ET. RAB Tickets can get you into the park if you’re making a last minute decision to attend.

Sanchez homers again as each affiliate wins

Triple-A Scranton was rained out. They’ll play two tomorrow with Manny Banuelos going in the first game.

Double-A Trenton (5-3 win over Altoona)
Austin Krum, CF: 1 for 5, 1 R, 1 K
Jose Pirela, SS: 1 for 4, 1 R, 1 BB, 1 K
Corban Joseph, 2B: 1 for 4, 1 R, 1 RBI, 1 BB – singled in the go-ahead run in the top of the ninth
Rob Lyerly, DH: 2 for 4, 1 R, 1 2B, 2 RBI, 1 BB – had been hitless in his last 21 at-bats with 14 strikeouts … seriously
Melky Mesa, RF: 3 for 5, 1 R, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 1 E (fielding) – threw a runner out at first … second straight game with a jack
Zoilo Almonte, LF & Yadil Mujica, 3B: both 1 for 3 – Zoilo walked
Addison Maruszak, 1B: 0 for 3, 1 BB
R.J. Baker, C: 0 for 4, 1 K – tough to stay sharp when you’ve been on and off the phantom DL all season
Craig Heyer, RHP: 5 IP, 6 H, 3 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 3 K, 1 HB, 8-3 GB/FB – 62 of 89 pitches were strikes (69.7%)
Chase Whitley, RHP: 3 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 2 K, 1-2 GB/FB – 26 of 40 pitches were strikes (65%) … just one earned run allowed in his last 11.2 IP
Ryan Pope, RHP: 1 IP, zeroes, 1 K, 0-2 GB/FB – ten of 14 pitches were strikes (71.4%)

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Saturday Night Open Thread

Sucks the Yankees lost. Sucks Jesus Montero is still stuck in Triple-A. Sucks it’s raining out. Sucks that the new Alec Baldwin/Jim from The Office commercial sucks. Everything sucks. Except being alive, that’s pretty awesome. So go out and live a little, but use this thread if you need to kill some time while the better half gets ready or while you wait for some plans to develop. Anything goes, have at it.

Game 112: Increase The Lead

(Photo Credit: Flickr user Jay?? via Creative Commons license)

The Yankees took sole possession of first place in the AL East last night, and now it’s time to start putting some distance between them and the Red Sox. They have the right guy on the mound today, the en fuego CC Sabathia. We play today, we win today, das it. Here’s the lineup…

Brett Gardner, LF
Derek Jeter, SS
Curtis Granderson, CF
Mark Teixeira, 1B
Robinson Cano, 2B
Nick Swisher, RF
Eric Chavez, 3B
Jorge Posada, DH
Frankie Cervelli, C

CC Sabathia, SP

The weather in Boston isn’t great, but it looks like the rain will hold off long enough for them to get nine full innings in. It’s a FOX broadcast, and I’m setting the over/under on A-Rod/poker references at 5.5. The game starts at 4pm ET. Enjoy.

Yankees planned to demote Nova after Thursday’s start

Via Joel Sherman, the Yankees had planned to send Ivan Nova back to Triple-A Scranton following Thursday’s start against the White Sox, but he pitched so well that they just couldn’t do it. “It is hard to send out a guy who strikes out 10 and walks none,” said Brian Cashman.

Larry Rothschild called the current rotation situation a “crossword puzzle,” and indicated that the Yankees could use their starting surplus to give Bartolo Colon and Freddy Garcia extra rest down the stretch. Not just a few days, but skip them entirely once in a while. The Yankees begin a stretch of 30 games in 30 days on Tuesday (one day off, one doubleheader), so they won’t have any extra off days they can use to rest their starters. Either way, it’s been made clear that no one in the rotation will be shifted to the bullpen.

Monitoring Sabathia’s workload

One of the selling points of CC Sabathia‘s Cy Young case is the incredible volume of innings he’s amassed this season. Fans have long grown accustomed to the bulky lefty throwing up outsized innings pitched totals, and for this reason it’s easy to gloss over his prolificity. This year, he’s thrown 176.2 innings, a number eclipsed by only Justin Verlander of the Detroit Tigers. In the last two years, he’s thrown the third most innings in baseball, behind Halladay and Felix Hernandez. In the last five years no one in baseball has thrown more innings than Sabathia. He’s thrown 1,138.1, leading Roy Halladay by 8 innings. The next closest is Dan Haren with 1072.2. If you add in the seventy some-odd innings he’s thrown in the postseason since 2007, his lead over Halladay only widens further.

This is a cause for pride and for concern. Sabathia has earned his reputation as a durable ace, and there’s no current reason to think he’ll suddenly get injured or break down. Still one could be forgiven for wondering if he’ll be able to do this in perpetuity. If he won’t, then when exactly will the decline begin? This is a particular relevant question this season, as CC is currently on pace to threaten to eclipse his past innings pitched and total pitches thrown totals. Below is a chart detailing the past five years of work, and projecting what he might achieve if current trends hold.

As it currently stands, Sabathia is throwing around 108 pitches per start. This is a mark reminiscent of his last contract year with the Milwaukee Brewers. If he keeps up his current pace, Sabathia will pitch close to 250 innings again and throw around 3700 pitches, 100 pitches or so higher than what he did in 2007, 2009 and 2010 and, again, closer to his 2008 campaign. Of course, the postseason counts too. It doesn’t show up in Sabathia’s initial Baseball-Reference page, but the pitches he’s hurled with that left arm count just as much (if not a little more, given the stress of the event) than the ones in April.

Obviously, the 2011 totals could vary a great deal depending on how far the Yankees go into the postseason. In the scenario that minimizes the number of postseason pitches thrown for Sabathia (the worst-case scenario for the Yankees, they go home in the ALDS), Sabathia makes one start. In the scenario that maximizes the number of postseason pitches thrown, Sabathia makes 8 starts (2 in the ALDS, 3 in the ALCS and 3 in the WS – heart-attack city). Spitballing it, his 2009 numbers seem like a fair enough estimate for what he might do in this year’s postseason, but even so he averaged 7 innings and close to 110 pitches per outing that year. Scaling it back to 5 starts, 500 pitches and 30 innings is a bit more conservative. This isn’t any sort of serious projection, to be clear; no one knows how far the Yankees will go into October and how many starts Sabathia will make. There’s nothing wrong with spitballing though as long as you admit you’re spitballing it! Here’s the cumulative data on Sabathia, including the regular season and postseason.

To recap, Sabathia is likely looking at around 250 innings and 3,650-3,700 pitches in the regular season. This would be his highest mark since 2008. If he throws 5 postseason starts of six innings and 100 pitches apiece (a conservative estimate that could vary wildly), his innings pitched and pitches thrown totals will creep up to an all-time high, well past the 265.4 IP and 4,134 pitches thrown mark he set in back in 2009. It’s not inconceivable that he could crack 280 innings and 4,200 pitches. If he were to make 2 starts in the ALDS, 3 in the ALCS and 3 in the World Series, he’d easily surpass the 300 innings pitched mark.

This is all a moot point if the Yankees get bounced before the World Series, but it’s at least worth monitoring for several reasons. For one, the last time he cracked 250 innings in the regular season (after pitching on short rest for what seemed like weeks) he was ineffective in his only NLDS start with the Brewers. He looked run-down, and the Brewers went home early. It doesn’t even need to be said, but the Yankees need a sharp CC to do well this October. Secondly, Sabathia will likely opt-out of his current contract and re-up with the Yankees on another long-term deal this winter. If he’s going to be around for awhile and making big bucks, it might be a good idea to look after his long-term interests.

One easy way to do this would be to continue to roll with the six-man rotation in August. As Moshe Mandel of The Yankee Analysts noted in great detail, the six-man rotation this month would result in one less start for CC Sabathia. Hughes and Nova both pitched well in their last outings, so there doesn’t seem to be huge harm in allowing them to continue to battle it out this month, and hopefully it would result in slightly lower innings pitched and pitches thrown totals for Sabathia. He’ll still have ridiculously high numbers by the standard of mostly any other pitcher, but there’s only so much that can be done. The Yankees should do what they can to keep him fresh for October and beyond, but at some point they’ll simply have to roll the dice and hope for the best.

Yankees claim first place in AL East with win over Red Sox

Stop the presses! The Yankees have actually beaten the Red Sox. It most certainly was not easy, but some timely hits and dominant bullpen work preserved the 3-2 victory.

  • WPA won’t back this up, but hands down the biggest at-bat of the game was Boone Logan striking out Adrian Gonzalez with the bases loaded to end the fifth inning. Bartolo Colon had to work very hard for four-plus innings, especially in that prolonged fifth, but Logan came out of the pen to strikeout one of the three or four best hitters in the world on three pitches. Just a great job by Boone, star of the game right there.
  • The Yankees were down two-zip at the time of Logan’s strikeout, but they turned around and scored the only three runs they’d need in the very next half-inning. Eduardo Nunez gets a gold star for leading off that sixth inning with a walk after Jon Lester got ahead of him 0-2 in the count. Derek Jeter singled back up the middle, then Curtis Granderson got the Yankees on board with an RBI single to the opposite field in a two-strike count. Great piece of hitting. Mark Teixeira walked to load the bases, then Robinson Cano tied the game by grounding into a double play after a nine-pitch at-bat. Less than ideal, but it worked. Nick Swisher plated the go-ahead run on a ground rule double down the line. Down two to up one just like that.
  • Logan’s whiff of Gonzalez was clearly the biggest out, but the entire bullpen was stupid good. Boone got two more outs in the sixth then gave way to Cory Wade, who changeup’d Jarrod Saltalamacchia to death for the final out. Rafael Soriano threw some serious gas in a perfect seventh inning (the best he’s looked as a Yankee), David Robertson got some at ’em balls in a perfect eighth, then Mariano Rivera struck out two in the ninth after a Carl Crawford infield single. All told, the relief corps retired 13 of the 15 men they faced, and the only two exceptions were Crawford and his sub-.300 OBP.
  • It wouldn’t be a Yankees’ game without some blown opportunities, of course. Jorge Posada looked at strike three to end the second with men on first and second, Andruw Jones wandered to far off first on what was ultimately a double play to end the fifth (he completely misread the fly ball, he had to think that sucker was dropping in), and both Jeter and Nunez got thrown out trying to steal at various points. Swish was the only Yankee with multiple hits (he also walked), though Nunez singled and walked twice. Andruw walked twice, Tex once. The few hits they did get were well-timed, that’s for sure.
  • The Yankees have won a season-high eight games a row, taking sole possession of first place in the AL East for the first time in exactly a month. Here’s the box score, here’s the FanGraphs stuff, and here’s the updated standings.

Because eight wins in a row aren’t enough, the Yankees will send CC Sabathia to the mound in the second game of this three-game series on Saturday afternoon. That’s a FOX game, so it won’t start until 4pm ET. John Lackey’s pet horse goes for Boston. If you want to catch the game, RAB Tickets can help you find the cheapest way to get there.