Yanks blow a pair of six run leads, fall to Tribe

Photo Credit: Bill Kostroun, AP

The Yankees broke out of their offense slumber on Friday night, and there was plenty of reasons to feel good about Saturday’s game with CC Sabathia on the mound against one of the game’s worst teams. The offense was there again, putting 11 runs on the board, but the pitching staff completely blew this one, especially the bullpen. This might have been the Yanks’ worst loss of the season, but it feels like we’ve said that half a dozen times in the last two weeks.

What’s This … A Rally?

The game was very much in the Yankees’ favor early on, with Sabathia cruising and the offense pushing three runs across in the first three innings. The last place Indians wouldn’t go quietly though, putting a three spot on the board in the top of 4th to tie things up. Despite the eight run outburst on Friday, the Yanks’ are still trying to find some some consistency with the bats, so coughing up an early three run lead really stung.

Thankfully, the offense showed what made it the game’s base last season. Kevin Russo singled to left-center but ended up on second when Austin Kearns muffed the play, and 11 pitches later the bases were loaded following walks to Brett Gardner and Derek Jeter. A fly ball to bring in a run would have sufficed, but Nick Swisher got greedy, battling back from 0-1 and 1-2 counts to draw a walk and force in a run. Reliever Aaron Laffey then plunked Mark Teixeira after getting ahead 0-2 to bring another run in, but the big hit didn’t come until two batters later.

Alex Rodriguez swung through an 88 mph fastball for out number two, but the Yanks’ hottest hitter came to the plate with a trio of ducks on the pond. Laffey started him off with three straight fastballs, all off the plate for balls. Cano was taking all the way as Laffey threw a slider over for a strike, but he jumped all over the next pitch and drove it to the opposite field for a two run double.  Cervelli, up for the second time in the inning, bounced a ball back through the middle for two more runs after Marcus Thames walked, putting the Yanks up by six.

It was the team’s first sustained rally in who knows how long, probably going back to the 1st inning against Daisuke Matsuzaka 12 days ago. It was the first time the Yanks scored in the double digits since that game, so I feel good about my guess.

Photo Credit: Bill Kostroun, AP

The Bullpen Of Doom

Entering the 7th inning, the Yankees had a still comfortable five run lead and Joe Girardi was probably thinking about which veteran to pull for some extra rest in the late innings. David Robertson started the frame, but left after just seven pitches with a minor back strain. Sergio Mitre inherited a 1-0 count and threw three wide ones to put two men on with one run already in. Damaso Marte did his job by getting pinch hitter Russell Branyan to fly out, but then Girardi brought in Joba Chamberlain.

Ever since he exploded onto the scene in 2007, we’ve all expected to see great things from Joba. More than two full years later, those expectations still haven’t been met, and he’s not much more than another guy with a great arm failing to deliver on his promise. He entered today’s game with men on first and second, two outs, and a four run lead, and he yet he couldn’t preserve it. Let’s recap…

  1. Mark Grudzielanek singled in a run.
  2. Matt LaPorta walked on five pitches to load the bases.
  3. Lou Marson doubles in two after being behind in the count 0-2.
  4. Jason Donald doubles in two on a 0-1 count.
  5. Trevor Crowe singles in a run on a 1-2 count.
  6. Shin-Shoo Choo struck out to the end the inning.

Four hits and a walk scored six runs for the Indians, all with Joba on the mound and all with two outs. Three of the four hits, including the two doubles, came after Chamberlain got ahead of the hitter. His PA for the contest? How about -.701. This is the the third lead he’s either blown or contributed to blowing in his last five outings.

Joba’s been up and down all season, and given his performance in recent weeks, I can’t see how the Yankees could trust him in the late innings of a close game right now. At the very least, they should perhaps move him down in the pecking order into some lower leverage spots, but I also hope they’re seriously considering a demotion to Triple-A Scranton. You can’t keep running him out there if he’s going to keep blowing big leads, and you can’t let him sit around and think his job is safe.

If nothing else, hopefully this outing shows people who are hung on velocity that it isn’t everything. Joba was throwing 96-97 this afternoon, but it didn’t do him any good.

The Good

Cano and Swisher continue to mash, mash, and mash some more. They combined to go 6-for-9 with four runs driven in and three runs scored. Add in Jeter and A-Rod, and those four batters combined to go 11-for-18 with eight runs driven in. Tex was the only one of the top five batters in the lineup without multiple hits (or a single hit, for that matter), though he did reach twice on a walk and the hit by pitch mentioned above. When the top of your lineup does that, you should win.

It was good to see Shelley Duncan play in the game, he’ll always be a fave.

The Bad

Photo Credit: Bill Kostroun, AP

CC Sabathia wasn’t good Saturday afternoon, continuing a trend that goes back four starts now. After cruising through the first three innings on just 31 pitches while allowing just a lone hit, Sabathia really had to labor over the next three frames, needing 82 pitches to record to the next nine outs. Five runs in six innings is pretty bad, and it’s certainly not what we’ve come to expect from CC. He flirted with a 4.00 ERA until early August last year, so there’s no cause for concern. But when you start your ace against the third worst team in baseball, you have to win that game. Period.

Brett Gardner getting picked off first in the 5th inning. Can’t do that Brett, especially not with a righty on the mound. He now has one stolen base in the last 16 days. One! If he’s not stealing bases, then what is he good for?

The Ugly

Photo Credit: Bill Kostroun, AP

No, not the bullpen, this was much more serious. With men on first and second and one out in the 3rd, A-Rod took a first pitch changeup up in the zone from Indians’ start David Huff, and smacked it right back up the middle. Huff couldn’t get out of the way, and the ball hit him above the left ear and deflected all the way down the rightfield line. It was a double and a run for the Yanks, but no one seemed to care about that.

Huff laid on the mound faced down for a few minutes before being taken off the field on a stretcher. Updates after the game said that he never lost consciousness or experienced memory loss, and that the CT Scan came back negative. He was kept in the hospital for a few hours as a precaution, but has since been released. It sounds like Huff will be okay, but still, that was a really scary moment.

WPA Graph & Box Score

Brutal. Just brutal.

MLB.com has the traditional box score, FanGraphs the nontraditional box score.

Up Next

Another day game tomorrow, with A.J. Burnett taking on former Red Sox Justin Masterson. First pitch of the third game of this four game set is scheduled for 1:05pm ET. The Yanks need a big outing from their number two starter.

Montero vs. Strasburg, Montero wins

Sorry folks, had some technical difficulties and lost DotF with four of the five games done. Going to bullet point it now…

Open Thread: Swish settles down

The happy couple at last year's World Series parade. (Photo Credit: Mike Coppola, FilmMagic)

We’re fashionably late on this one, but it’s worth posting nonetheless. In between hitting homeruns and drawing walks as the Yankees’ rightfielder, Nick Swisher managed to find the time to trick some chick into marrying him propose to his girlfriend, actress  Joanna Garcia (I’ll save you the time, here’s a Google Images search). You’ve seen her in Gossip Girl, Reba, Family Guy, American Pie 2, Dawson’s Creek, Party of Five, and a whole bunch of other stuff. Swish actually landed an older woman, he’s about a year younger than the missus. Congrats to the both of them, we wish them nothing but the best.

Now that we’ve brought you up to date on Mr. Nick Swisher-Garcia, it’s time to turn you loose on this open thread. The Mets are in Milwaukee, plus the Dodgers and Rockies will be on MLB Network at 8pm ET. Game One of the Stanley Cup Finals starts at the same time on NBC, and a little later on you have Game Six between the Lakers and Suns. Whatever you choose, enjoy it and chat about it here.

Robertson leaves game with minor back strain

Update (5:52pm): Girardi said during the postgame that Robertson’s day-to-day, and he believes it stemmed from the Mauer shot the other day.

4:43pm: Robertson left a minor back strain. The replay showed him bent over to the side and cringing after he threw his final pitch. Not sure if it’s related to the ball that Joe Mauer hit off him last series in Minnesota. I’m not sure how I feel about this, as we’ve seen with Al Aceves, a minor injury can turn into a major one very quickly.

4:05pm: After throwing just seven pitches in the 7th inning of today’s game, David Robertson walked off the mound with the trainer apparently due to injury. He had thrown nothing but fastballs to that point, all in the 91-92 range, and there wasn’t an obvious issue. I’ll update this post with more info as we get it.

Game 49: Taking it easy on Curtis

Photo Credit: Bill Kostroun, AP

Curtis Granderson returned to the lineup with a bang last night, reaching base three times thanks to a walk, a double, and a hit by pitch. Alas, he won’t be in the lineup this afternoon as the team coddles in him back from the groin injury. It doesn’t hurt that the Indians are throwing a lefty out there today, so if you’re going to give Grandy a day off, might as well be on a day a southpaw’s starting. Here’s the starting nine…

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

And on the mound, C.C. Sabathia.

First pitch is set for 1:05pm ET, and can be seen on YES.

The wrong call on Randy Winn (and Kevin Russo)

I know I’m in the minority when I saw this, but the Yankees made the wrong call when cutting Randy Winn.  I say this not in support of Winn’s ability, but in support of Kevin Russo’s.  While I believe that Russo likely at this point can bring more to the table than Winn, he’s not a big enough improvement to justify having Russo lose important development time.  Russo has the ability to be a decent super-sub type of player, and riding the pine at the big league level isn’t going to help.  If there is a serious injury and someone is going to get 300 AB’s, I’d much rather it be Russo than Winn, but for the role the Yankees need to fill now, Russo is not the man for the job.

As the winner of the Winn/Russo battle (as 4th or 5th outfielders), Russo is going to maybe start one game a week. How much more can Russo possibly bring to the table than Winn?  Winn is the better defensive outfielder, and he also has the ability to play CF.  Now Russo likely will be more productive with the bat than Winn, but a glance at his triple slash line (.250/.286/.350 in a very SSS) doesn’t show the type of impact some feel he has had.  A couple of “big” hits and everyone thinks he’s off to a great start, but he’s not.  If Russo were 30 years old, I could care less.  Russo, however, is 25 and has a chance to be an important (and cheap) player off the bench for the Yankees for years to come.  He needs to be in the minors getting reps all over the diamond to see if he can become that player.

Russo does not have the bat to be a corner infielder or outfielder, and likely doesn’t defend well enough to be a full time 2B.  If he’s relegated to 4th or 5th OF now, he’s eminently replaceable.  Kevin Russo the outfielder carries almost no value, Kevin Russo the jack of all trades does.  I’d like to see Russo get the chance to be a Mark Derosa or Jerry Hairston type of player, instead of being just another guy.

If you send Russo down, he’s a short drive back the New York if he’s truly needed.  Right now he’s not needed; he’s a short term luxury that comes at a long term price. (My) best case scenario is that the final shoe has not yet dropped.  Maybe the Yankees bring up Greg Golson in a few days to become the final OF on the roster and get Russo back to Scranton.  Maybe they pick up one of the available OF’s still looking for jobs (Rocco Baldelli, Eric Byrnes, Elijah Dukes?), maybe they make a trade to pick up a veteran to fill the job.  In any of these scenarios, I have no problem with them cutting Winn today; I just don’t want this to be a long term thing at the expense of Russo.  Likely his only chance of having a long term career (and maximizing his value to the Yankees) is by learning to play everywhere.  Let’s hope they find a way to make that happen sooner rather than later.

For more of my work, head over to Mystique and Aura.

Yankees welcome back Granderson with a win

Photo Credit: Bill Kostroun, AP

Following Thursday night’s disappointing loss to the Twins, the Yankees had two things to look forward to: They were coming back home, and Curtis Granderson would be back in the lineup. Their centerfielder had missed just about four weeks with a groin injury, and during that time they went an unspectacular 12-11. After Friday’s game, it sure looks like Granderson is a key part of the Yankee offense.

Swisher Puts The Yanks On Top

The last time the Yankees won a game, they won because Nick Swisher came through big time with a 9th inning homer in Minnesota. His shot wasn’t as dramatic on last night, but it served the same purpose.

It was only the 2nd inning, and Robbie Cano had just reach base thanks to a blown call by first base ump C.B. Bucknor (more on that later). Fausto Carmona, who’s rebounded well in 2010 after two horrid seasons, started him off with a fastball off the plate for ball one, and he probably wishes he did the same with the second pitch. Instead, he hung a sinker that Swish jumped all over, wrapping it around the rightfield foul pole for two runs that felt like 20 given how the team has been swinging the bat.

The score was much more lopsided at the end of the game, but that two run homer increased the Yanks chances of winning by 15%, a sizable mark that early in the game.

Welcome Back, Curtis

Photo Credit: Bill Kostroun, AP

After all that time on the disabled list, Granderson returned Friday and instantly added some length to the Yankees’ lineup, not to mention some much needed lefthanded pop. He flew out in his first at-bat, but drew a five pitch walk next time up. After a grounder the third time up, Granderson took two swipes at bunting Derek Jeter over to second against a very tough lefty in the 7th, but when he couldn’t get it down he took a big cut at a 0-2 fastball right down the middle. The ball flew out to the right-center gap for a double, and reminded us all of what we were missing while Randy Winn and Kevin Russo and whoever else was playing the outfield during Granderson’s absence. He tacked on a hit by pitch to reach base three times in his return to the lineup.

The Goods

Photo Credit: Bill Kostroun, AP

Phil Hughes was pretty darn good tonight following two stinkers, striking out eight guys and allowing just six baserunners (five hits and a walk) in seven innings of work. He threw 76 of his 109 pitches for strikes (69.7%), and got twice as many ground ball outs as fly outs. Oh, and he started the game by striking out the first five batters he faced. That was pretty cool.

Robbie Cano cooled off a bit earlier this month after his molten hot April, but he’s back in the swing of things now. He went 3-for-4 on Friday night, including his third career four-run homer which broke the game wide open late. Cano’s now hitting .390 in his last 14 games, and he’s hit safely in his last 11 contests.

How about Juan Miranda working a bases loaded four pitch walk? Sure, Carmona made it somewhat easy for him, but it’s not uncommon to see guys who were recently called up try to do too much and expand their zone in a spot like that. Also, how about Ramiro Pena‘s 11-pitch at-bat with two men on two batters later? Even though he struck out, that’s great stuff from a guy swinging a a rolled up newspaper.

Mark Teixeira was kickin’ ass and takin’ names defensively in this game. He made several nice plays on balls that took weird hops or were right on top of him. That’s why he makes the big bucks.

Photo Credit: Bill Kostroun, AP

The Yankees certainly benefited from some blown calls by Bucknor at first base in this one. Cano reached in the 2nd despite being obviously out, and then crossed the plate when Swisher homered one batter later. Fast forward to the 7th, and Jason Donald was called out despite beating Hughes to the bag. The next half-inning, Jeter was called safe at first on a questionable call, igniting a four run inning. I’m not complaining, I’ll take the ump screw-ups when they come. They tend to even out over the course of a season.

And finally, nice debut for Chad Moeller. Just missed a homer early in the game, but ripped a double in the 8th. Maybe Joe Girardi won’t be so hesitant to sit Frankie Cervelli once a week now.

The Bads

Really not much to complain about in this one. Miranda smoked a ball to dead center and had nothing to show for it but an out because Trevor Crowe made an absolutely amazing catch (video). It’s good that he crushed the ball, but damn. Back to the dugout he went.

The wave. It can burn in hell. Take that nonsense to CitiField.

WPA Graph & Box Score

MLB.com has the box score, FanGraphs the nerd score.

Up Next

Same two teams tomorrow afternoon in a 1:05pm ET start. CC Sabathia takes on his former team, who will throw young lefty David Huff.