Open Thread: Run Brett run!

Photo Credit: Kathy Willens, AP

I’m still not sold on his ability to be an everyday outfielder, but it sure was fun to watch Brett Gardner run wild against the Rangers. Dude went 5-for-6 with a walk, a hit by pitch, four stolen bases and four runs scored in the series, beating out three infield hits and almost a fourth. He’s tied for the league lead with seven steals despite starting just eight of the team’s 12 games. I don’t expect Gardner to maintain his .333-.444-.333 batting line all season, but I’ll sure enjoy it while it lasts.

Anyway, here’s your open thread for the night. You’ve got NBA and NHL playoff action, plus the Mets and Cardinals are your ESPN Sunday nighter. Hopefully this one doesn’t go 20 innings. You know what to do, so have at it.

Mitchell rebounds well in second Double-A start

Triple-A Scranton (4-3 win over Buffalo)
Kevin Russo, 3B: 0 for 5, 1 K
Eduardo Nunez, SS: 4 for 5, 2 R, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 2 SB, 1 CS – helluva game right there
Jesus Montero, C: 1 for 3, 2 BB, 2 K, 1 PB – still waiting for that elusive first homer, but it’ll come … don’t worry
David Winfree, 1B-RF: 2 for 5, 1 R, 1 2B, 1 RBI
Jon Weber, DH: 1 for 5
Chad Huffman, LF & Reegie Corona, 2B: both 1 for 4, 1 K – Huffman threw a runner out at the plate … Corona drove in a run, walked & stole a base
Colin Curtis, CF-RF: 1 for 2, 1 R, 1 2B, 2 BB, 1 HBP
Greg Golson, CF: 0 for 4, 1 K – Juan Miranda pinch hit for him late, hence all the outfield moves
Ivan Nova: 6.2 IP, 7 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 2 BB, 7 K, 11-2 GB/FB – 61 of 96 pitches were strikes (63.5%) … 18-3 K/BB ratio in 17.2 IP
Royce Ring: 0.1 IP, zeroes, 1-0 GB/FB – threw three pitches, just one strike
Mark Melancon: 2 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 0 K, 4-0 GB/FB – 17 of 25 pitches were strikes (68%)
Jon Albaladejo: 1 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 1 K, 2-0 Gb/FB – nine of his ten pitches were strikes

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Revisiting the Alfonso Soriano trade

When the Rangers and the Yankees square off, I always think about Alfonso Soriano and today’s Texas second baseman Joaquin Arias. As we all know, he was the Arlington-bound centerpiece of the package the Yanks dashed off to Texas in exchange for Alex Rodriguez, and Arias was the player the Rangers selected from the Yanks’ organization.

This afternoon, while I ducked out of the living room and had to listen to John Sterling and Suzyn Waldman for a few minutes, Waldman mentioned how the Yanks almost gave up Robinson Cano in that trade. I didn’t recall that and went digging for answers. I found a Jim Callis piece from 2004. The Baseball America scribe wrote, “Though initial speculation was that New York would give up a pitching prospect, baseball sources say the five-man list contains four hitters, including outfielder Rudy Guillen, shortstop Joaquin Arias and second baseman Robinson Cano, as well as righthander Ramon Ramirez.”

Eventually, Callis amended his list to include Bronson Sardinha and replaced Ramirez, today a pitcher with the Red Sox, with Jose Valdez. The Rangers on March 23 took Arias, and since 2004, they’ve waited and waited for him to arrive. This year marks his fourth season with an appearance in the Majors, and his track record is inconsistent. He had an impressive cup of coffee in 2006, missed most of 2007 to injuries, played 32 games in Texas in 2008 and played in AAA in 2009. For 2010, he’s hitting over .400 and may, at age 25, may finally be developing into a Major League infielder.

The Yanks don’t miss Arias because they have Robinson Cano, and it’s only through that twist of baseball fate that Cano stuck around. The team offered him to the Rangers, and the Rangers went with Arias. As Cano matures into the team’s number five hitter, I’m happy to see him in pinstripes, and the A-Rod trade would have looked much different had the Rangers opted for the right player.

Meanwhile, Alfonso Soriano has been in the news these days but for all of the wrong reasons. The Cubs, Dan McGrath writes in The Times today, don’t know what to do with him. The Cubs owe him $90 million and have him under contract through 2014. Yet, at age 34, he’s falling apart. His knees aren’t healthy, and his foot and bat speed are both on the wane. He hit .241/.303/.423 in 117 games and stole a career-low nine bases. His offense has picked up this weekend, but his defense in left field has taken a turn for the worse.

Since leaving the Yanks, Soriano has hit a very respectable .275/.328/.514 with 193 home runs. I thought the Yanks would miss him more than the team has. He gained two years after his real age came out following the trade, and his years as a 30/30 player seem to be behind him. I’ll take A-Rod – and Robinson Cano.

Game 12: Derek out with a cold

From my couch, it looks to be a beautiful day for baseball in the Bronx, but the weather is a bit deceptive. It’s 52 degrees out with a light wind. While the players on the field should be fine, the fans in the stands might get a little chilly as the day goes on.

Despite the weather, though, the Yanks are hot. They’re sitting pretty at 8-3, their best start since 2003, and they’ve won four series to open the season for the first time since 1926. A win today would give the team a sweep of the Texas Rangers. The Bombers are sharing first place with the Tampa Bay Rays – who beat the Red Sox twice yesterday – and will hit the road after their 1:05 p.m. contest wraps this afternoon.

For the Yankees, Andy Pettitte takes the bump this afternoon. After tossing six shut-out innings against the Angels in the home opener, the lefty is 1-0 with a 0.75 ERA in 12 innings. He’ll try to put a bow on this homestand as he goes up against Rich Harden. The Rangers’ right-hander is 0-0 with a 2.79 ERA, and while he has struck out 10 in 9.2 innings this year, he has also issued eight free passes. The patient Yankees will test him.

Offensively, the Yanks are giving Derek Jeter, suffering from a slight cold, the day off. Brett Gardner, he of the three infield hits yesterday, will man the leadoff spot, and Ramiro Pena will slot in ninth. This afternoon delight will be on the YES Network.

B. Gardner LF
N. Johnson DH
M. Teixeira 1B
A. Rodriguez 3B
R. Cano 2B
J. Posada C
C. Granderson CF
N. Swisher RF
R. Pena SS

A. Pettitte LHP

Game Notes: With the win yesterday, Joe Girardi became the 11th manager in Yankee history to win 200 games with the team…This is the last matchup between the Yanks and Rangers at Yankee Stadium this year. The Bombers make two trips to Texas later this summer.

Photo Credit: AP Photo/Kathy Willens

Sunday reading: Saving Ruth’s other field

As Babe Ruths’ legend has it, he honed his baseball skills at the St. Mary’s Industrial School for Boys in Baltimore. The school closed in 1950, and the Archdiocese of Baltimore took it over. For 48 years, it served as the home to the Cardinal Gibbons School, and the lot were Ruth learned baseball is still a baseball diamond. Now, the Archdiocese has said the school will close, and another field from Ruth’s baseball past may be lost to history. Richard Sandomir this weekend wrote about the school and the history behind it in The Times today. It’s been a rough few years for Babe’s baseball haunts.

Yanks score early and often as Burnett shuts down Texas

Just like the second half of last season, we sit and watch every game this year expecting the Yankees to win. They’ve delivered on seven of ten occasions coming into Saturday’s game against the Rangers, and they took the field with a chance to win their first four series of the season for the first time since 1926. Using a little bit of the classic wear ’em down approach, the Yankees had this one in the bag after three innings.

Photo Credit: Frank Franklin II, AP

Biggest Play: Nick Johnson‘s bases loaded walk

For the second time this young season, the biggest offensive play of the game was Nick Johnson working a bases loaded walk. Rangers’ starter Scott Feldman came into the game having walked just one batter total in his first two starts, but Johnson drew one in the 1st and came back for more the next inning.

Jorge Posada, Brett Gardner, and Derek Jeter were on base after three singles, and Feldman had already thrown 25 pitches in the inning.Johnson, as he tends to do, took the first pitch even though it was probably the best pitch he saw all game; a fastball belt high and down the middle. A curveball low and two sinkers off the plate later, the Yankees’ designated hitter was staring at a 3-1 count. Johnson let loose in the classic hitter’s count, fouling off a sinker. Two more foul balls later, Feldman’s pitch count in the inning was up to 32 and he was visibly gassed. It’s exactly what the lineup is designed to do, to wear down the opposing team’s pitching staff. The eighth pitch of the at-bat was a cutter high, putting Johnson on first and pushing the first run of the game across the plate.

The Yankees would go on to score another run in the inning for a quick 2-0 lead, and Feldman’s pitch count through the first two frames was over 50.

Biggest Out: Nick Swisher‘s fly out

An inning after Johnson gave the Yankees the lead, the other New York Nick stepped to the plate with a chance to really blow things open. Posada and Curtis Granderson were stationed at second and third with one out, chasing Feldman from the game after he needed 73 pitches to record seven outs. Reliever Doug Mathis came in and was able to retire Nick Swisher on three pitches, getting him to fly out to shallow left, keeping Posada on third.

Even though the Yanks were able to score four runs in the inning after Swish recorded the second out, it could have been a whole lot more if he reached base.

Photo Credit: Frank Franklin II, AP

Biggest Pitch: Michael Young’s fly out

Just as soon as the Yanks took a 2-0 lead, Texas threatened to get some back the very never inning. Taylor Teagarden was standing on third with two outs, and in stood Michael Young, who believe it or not had more hits than Derek Jeter from 2004 through 2009. Instead of waiting out the perpetually wild A.J. Burnett, Young offered at the first pitch, a 93 mph heater in on his hands, flying out harmlessly to Swisher in right. The threat was over, and the two run lead remained just that.

Burnett rolls along

Perhaps more than any other pitcher on the Yankees staff, Burnett has the potential to go out on any given day and throw a one-hit shutout or give up nine runs in two innings. You could either be upset that he’s inconsistent, or enjoy the surprise every time he pitches.

Today, Burnett kept the Rangers’ hitters off balance all day with his usual mix of fastballs and curves. He got 14 swings and misses in his seven innings of work, all of them coming on a fastball. Five of the six hits he allowed were singles, and his biggest jam of the day – bases loaded, one out in the 5th – didn’t come until after he was staked to a seven run lead.

Seven shutout innings is more than you can ask from any starter, and Burnett was kind enough to deliver on Saturday. Over his last two outings, the Yanks’ number two starter has allowed just a pair of runs in 14 innings.

Photo Credit: Frank Franklin II, AP

Happy Moments

Michael Kay had starting bringing attention to it with each at-bat, so it was good to see Alex Rodriguez hit his first homerun of the year. It was a solo shot just to the right of the Yankees’ bullpen, and it pushed him ahead of Mark McGwire for sole possession of eighth on the all-time homerun list. He’s now 16 away from 600.

When’s the last time the Yankees had a team that could beat out three infield singles in one inning? Granderson, Gardner, and Jeter turned the trick in the 5th, and even though they didn’t score, it sure was fun watching a team that can run. Gardner had three hits on the day, none of which left the infield. He almost beat out a fourth too.

Ramiro Pena finally got an at-bat. Good for him.

Annoying Moments

Al Aceves was definitely not sharp, but he gets a pass because the Yanks were winning big and it was only his second appearance in the last 11 days. The three run homer he allowed to league leader Nelson Cruz ruined the shutout, but really did nothing in the grand scheme of things. The Yankees went from having a 99.2% chance of winning to 97.4%. Big whoop.

I don’t know what’s up with Joba Chamberlain pitching exclusively from the stretch, but I’m not sure I see the point. He’s been a starter and pitching from the windup his entire life, why change it up now? I see no reason for him to not work from the windup with no one on. No point in sacrificing stuff.

WPA Graph

Full player breakdowns are available at FanGraphs’ box score.

Next Up

These two teams finish up the series at 1:05pm ET tomorrow afternoon, Andy Pettitte vs. Rich Harden.

Charleston knocks around a top 2009 draftee

Triple-A Scranton (2-0 loss to Buffalo)
Kevin Russo, 3B, Chad Huffman, LF & Chad Moeller, C: all 0 for 3 – Russo drew a walk & K’ed … Moeller committed a throwing error & K’ed
Eduardo Nunez, SS & Jon Weber, DH: both 1 for 3, 1 K – Nunez stole a base while Weber got caught
Juan Miranda, 1B: 1 for 4, 2 K
David Winfree, RF: 0 for 4, 1 K
Colin curtis, CF & Reegie Corona, 2B: both 0 for 2, 1 BB – Curtis K’ed
Jason Hirsh: 7 IP, 6 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 4 K, 9-8 GB/FB – 63 of 88 pitches were strikes (71.6%) … thanks good enough to win most days, just not today
Jon Albaladejo: 1 IP, zeroes, 1 K, 1-0 GB/FB – 7 of 8 pitches were strikes … how come he can’t do that in the show?

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