Game 132: Escape from Baltimore

(AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

Just one more game left in this stupid series in Baltimore, with games rained out due to hurricanes but not made up as part of a doubleheader in advance because the Orioles didn’t want to give up the gate revenue Yankees don’t care about Mike Flanagan. Derek Jeter (knee) and Alex Rodriguez (thumb) are still banged up and are unsurprisingly out of the lineup. Here’s the starting nine…

Brett Gardner, LF
Curtis Granderson, CF
Mark Teixeira, 1B
Robinson Cano, 2B
Nick Swisher, RF
Jorge Posada, DH
Eric Chavez, 3B
Russell Martin, C
Eduardo Nunez, SS

Freddy Garcia, SP

The game is scheduled to begin a little after 7pm ET and can be seen on YES. Enjoy.

Injury Updates: Jeter is available in an emergency tonight … A-Rod went back to New York for an MRI (the results were good) and he’ll meet the team in Boston, though he might not play in the series … both Pedro Feliciano and Damaso Marte suffered setbacks in their rehab from shoulder troubles and are done for the year. Just like they were in April.

Yankees activate Freddy Garcia, demote Hector Noesi

In a move that should surprise no one, the Yankees have activated Freddy Garcia off the disabled list in time for tonight’s start against the Orioles. Hector Noesi was sent to Triple-A Scranton to make room on the roster. September call-ups are three days away, but the ten-day rule does apply so Noesi won’t be able to come back until next week. There are some loopholes though, so I wouldn’t be shocked if he was back with the big league team on Thursday. Anyway, tonight will be Sweaty Freddy’s first start in 22 days because of that cut on his right index finger. He’s held the O’s to two runs in a dozen innings this season.

A Bench Role Reversal

(AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

For the first time in what seems like forever, the Yankees started the season with a legitimately strong bench. In recent years they’d begun the season with various cast-offs before seeking upgrades throughout the summer, but this year they targeted pieces for the bench in free agency and had a strong reserve corps from the get-go. Part of that had to do with $20M+ worth of Cliff Lee money burning a hole in the team’s pocket, obviously.

Although Frankie Cervelli missed the season’s first month a broken foot suffered in Spring Training, his absence and Gus Molina’s presence wasn’t that big of a deal because all those April off days allowed the team to play Russell Martin almost every single game without running him into the ground Tony LaRussa-Yadier Molina style. Eduardo Nunez made a strong impression in limited action early on and has since done fine work as medium-term fill-ins for Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez. The other two pieces on the bench have seen their seasons go in opposite directions.

The Great Eric Chavez … Who Ain’t So Great Anymore

(AP Photo/Kathy Kmonicek)

When the season started, Chavez looked like the replacement for Nick Johnson‘s vacant DL spot. He made spot starts at first and third bases in the first two months of the season, hitting .303/.410/.424 with more walks (six) than strikeouts (three) before injuring his foot legging out a triple in Detroit on May 5th. Chavez was only playing once or twice a week and he wasn’t hitting for much power, but he was putting together solid at-bats and contributing to the offense when he did play. His defense, particularly at the hot corner, was stellar. As far as bench players go, the Yankees had hit the lottery.

The foot injury kept Chavez out for more than two full months, and when he did return in late-July, he kept on hitting. He had eleven hits in his first 32 at-bats back, including his first homerun of the season, which prompted the Yankees to bench Jorge Posada and make Chavez the regular DH against righties. That lasted all of three games before Alex Rodriguez returned from the DL and promptly hurt his finger on a diving defensive play (forcing Chavez to play third), but his bat went silent after that. In his last dozen games, a total of 42 plate appearances, the former Athletic has just six hits and three walks (one intentional), leading to a .158/.220/.211 batting line. His season line has fallen to an unimpressive (but still solid) .262/.327/.350 in 113 trips to the plate.

That Bum Andruw Jones … Who’s Pretty Awesome

Andruw did a fine job of introducing himself to Yankees’ fans, clubbing a homerun in his first plate appearance of the season. It was all downhill after that for Jones, who hit just .195/.278/.356 before the All-Star break and .231/.315/.446 against lefties, the very demographic he was brought in to combat. Many fans were wondering why the Yankees didn’t just re-sign Marcus Thames in the offseason (without bothering to look at his performance with the Dodgers, I assume) or promote the righty hitting Greg Golson/Justin Maxwell given Andruw’s struggles as the fourth outfielder.

With a little help from his mother, Jones has completely turned his season around and is hitting .345/.463/.764 overall (.350/.469/.700 against lefties) in the second half. His seven homers since the break are more than guys like Paul Konerko, Adrian Gonzalez, Miguel Cabrera, and Jose Bautista even though he’s got about one-third the plate appearances of those four. Jones has gone from a bit piece to an important cog in the offense (especially against southpaws) thanks to his revival.

* * *

The season started with Chavez as the hot bench bat and Jones as the guy no one really wanted to see at the plate, but injury and some help from mom have reversed those roles. Now it’s Jones with the hot bat and Chavez that’s flailing away at everything. Of course, we have to remember that this is all small sample size stuff, it’s just the nature of the job. Because of that, cold streaks can turn hot in very short order, and vice versa. With any luck, Chavez will get back on track before the end of the season and the Yankees can head into a potential playoff series with two legitimate weapons off the bench, one from each side of the plate.

Link Dump: Burnett & Arbitration Cases

It’s a gorgeous Monday afternoon in New York, beautiful blue sky with a light breeze … they should dome the Tri-State Area with weather like this. Anyway, if you’re stuck spending your lunch break inside, here’s a pair of links to help pass the time…

A.J. Burnett, Reliever?

Joe wrote a post about why the Yankees should stick A.J. Burnett in the bullpen earlier this month, and Lucas Apostoleris added to the argument today at FanGraphs. The graph above shows that Burnett’s fastball velocity drops a good two miles an hour during the course of a typical start, peaking right around 94 mph through his first 30 pitches. Unsurprisingly, his strikeout rate dips later in the game and he gets hit harder. Joe Girardi said yesterday that they’re going to get back to a five-man rotation after the upcoming Red Sox series, and right now A.J. is clearly the odd man out. Given the info presented in Joe’s and Lucas’ posts, it would be interesting to see what the right-hander could do in one-inning relief bursts.

Previewing The Yankees’ Arbitration Cases

The Yankees had three relatively simple arbitration cases last year, settling on one-year contracts with Phil Hughes, Joba Chamberlain, and Boone Logan before hearings even had to be scheduled. It won’t be that easy this year though, the Yankees have six players up for arbitration as Tim Dierkes’ shows in his Arbitration Eligibles series at MLBTR.

None of the six players – the three guys above plus David Robertson, Brett Gardner, and Russell Martin – are non-tender candidates, and all together they could end up costing the Yankees around $18M or so. Most of that is Martin (figure $6M or so), who’s going through arbitration for the fourth time as a Super Two. Gardner will probably get something close to the $2.4M that Michael Bourn got his first time through arbitration last year, and the relievers will be lucky to top $2M each. I really have no idea what Hughes is looking at, but Tim suggests $3.4M or so. Hooray for cheap talent.

Complaining about three games in three cities on two coasts in three days

Brett found a way to relax between games yesterday. (Mitchell Layton/Getty)

As you’ve probably heard by now, the Yankees and Orioles will make up one of this weekend’s games on September 8th at 1pm ET, a mutual off day for the two clubs. Apparently some miscommunication between the O’s and the MLBPA resulted in the decision to postpone the game to that date, which the Yankees most certainly did not want. It was their only true off day of the month, and now they’ve got to play three games in three cities on two coasts in the span of about 60 hours late next week. They’ll play the Orioles in the Bronx on Wednesday, the Orioles in Baltimore on Thursday, then fly to the west coast to play the Angels in Anaheim on Friday.

As he’s prone to do, Buck Showalter ran his mouth about the Yankees being “disrespectful” towards the Orioles following Mike Flanagan’s death by wanting to play two games on Friday. “I’m sure if they stopped and thought about it, if the same thing happened to one of their greats, they probably would have given a lot of consideration to how they were going to handle that day,” said Showalter, apparently failing to realize that the Yankees have lost a number of all-time greats in recent years, including George Steinbrenner and Bob Sheppard last summer. Obviously a tribute to Flanagan was important to the O’s, but they did hide behind that excuse to distract from the real reason why they didn’t want to play two games on Friday: they didn’t want to lose the gate revenue.

Rosters expand this Thursday, so getting the important players rest won’t be too big of a deal down the stretch, but there’s no doubt that the travel schedule is a hassle. The Yankees will play the second of 18 games in 18 days today, a stretch that includes stops in five cities with the last six games on the west coast. By the time they finish up their game with the Mariners on Sept. 14th (10pm ET start) and fly to Toronto, it’ll probably be nine or ten in the morning on the East Coast when they land. Sleep all day before starting the three-game series the next day, and there’s the team’s only scheduled day off the rest of the season. Hardly qualifies as an off day, really.

Thankfully, the Yankees are sitting pretty at the moment, leading the Rays by 6.5 games for the wildcard with only 31 games left to play. If they go 14-14 in their next 28 games, the Rays would need to win 17 of their next 27 games just to make that last series of the year against the Yankees in Tampa interesting, and even then they’d need a sweep to force a Game 163. There’s very little to worry about here, and remember, New York will always be the bad guy. That’s why you have columns supporting the Orioles being written while Josh Beckett gets his ass kissed for complaining about the schedule. The double standard never ceases to amaze.

Hurricane Irene is still causing massive problems in Upstate New York, Vermont, and in parts of New England, so it does feel a little callous to discuss the storm’s ramifications on he Yankees and baseball in general. It’s just a game, a kid’s game, but it’s also part of our lives and a pretty big one for me (and I’m sure several of you). The Orioles were unwilling to be flexible with their schedule, so now the Yankees are going to be stuck feeling the impact of this weekend for another two weeks, if not more. They’ll get through it just fine, but that doesn’t mean they (or us fans) have to like it.

Fan Confidence Poll: August 29th, 2011

Record Last Week: 2-4 (44 RS, 38 RA)
Season Record:
79-52 (683 RS, 492 RA, 86-45 pythag. record), 2.0 games back in AL East, 6.5 up for wildcard
Opponents This Week:
@ Orioles (one game, Mon.), @ Red Sox (three games, Tues. to Thurs.), vs. Blue Jays (three games, Fri. to Sun.)

Top stories from last week:

Please take a second to answer the poll below and give us an idea of how confident you are in the team. You can view the Fan Confidence Graph anytime via the nav bar above, or by clicking here. Thanks in advance for voting.

Given the team's current roster construction, farm system, management, etc., how confident are you in the Yankees' overall future?
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Bats come back to life in second game of doubleheader

Now that’s more like it. This “not getting a runner past first base” business wasn’t going to cut it, so the Yankees went back to doing what they do best in the night cap of Saturday’s doubleheader. They broke out the whoppin’ sticks and pounded the Orioles, which is what they should have been doing all weekend. To the bullet points…

  • Offensive star of the game was Curtis Granderson who clubbed two homers (one a three-run shot, the other solo) and now leads all of baseball with 38 dingers. Both came off lefties too, and his 13 left-on-left homers leads baseball by five. This is a guy that had 16 homers off lefties in his entire career before 2011. Pretty amazing season for Curtis.
  • Because two bombs from Grandy weren’t enough, the trio of Robinson Cano, Nick Swisher, and Andruw Jones combined to go back-to-back-to-back in the sixth inning. Brian Matusz gave up Granderson’s first bomb as well as two-thirds of the back-to-back-to-back jobs, raising his season rate to 3.02 HR/9 (14 in 41.2 IP). He’s far too good for that, something’s seriously wrong there.
  • All the homers provided support for Ivan Nova, who was shaky in the early innings. He gave up exactly one run in each of the first, second, and third innings, and only three of the first 14 batters he faced in those three frames put the ball on the ground. That’s not Nova. He settled down and allowed just an infield single and a walk in the fourth through seventh innings before putting the first two men he faced in the eight on base. David Robertson came in, allowed a single to load the bases, then struck out the next three to escape the jam unscathed. He’s quite good at that. Very nice efforts from both guys (ten strikeouts combined), especially Nova after the shaky start to the game.
  • Everyone in the lineup but Brett Gardner and Eduardo Nunez had a hit (Gardner walked), plus Granderson, Tex, and Cano had multiple knocks. Seven of their eleven hits went for extra bases. Pretty nice rebound following the nonsense in the first game.
  • The Yankees are back to two games behind the Red Sox and 6.5 up on the Rays, so they’re sitting pretty right now. Could be better, but it’s not worth complaining about. Here’s the box score, here’s the advanced stats, and here’s the updated standings.

One more game left in the series, which will be played Monday night. Freddy Garcia will make his (hopefully) triumphant return from the disabled list against Jeremy Guthrie Alfredo Simon.