Yanks guarantee series win over Toronto

Both times the Yankees faced the Blue Jays in August they lost the series 2-1. There are worse things than 2-1 series losses, especially to a team that has played like the Jays. It’s not like they lose a series to the Indians or Royals. With yesterday’s victory the Yankees locked down another series.

Biggest Hit: Mr. Automatic

(AP Photo/Bill Kostroun)

What type of runs would you like? Do you like yours when down in a close game? How about game-tying? I hear that go-ahead runs are just the tastiest. Except walk-off, of course. Walk-off runs are the juiciest runs of them all. Marcus Thames has cooked up all of them this season. Yesterday he prepared us a helping of go-ahead runs.

The game took some early turns. Neither starter got through the fifth. Javier Vazquez did make a bid, but Joe Girardi removed him in a first and third, two outs situation in the fifth. In a scenario that we will discuss in a moment, the Blue Jays tied the game. It stayed that way for a couple of innings. Until Marcus Thames came to the plate, that is.

Thames actually led off in the bottom half of the fifth, but he realized that he had plenty of time. Instead of pulverizing a Jesse Carlson slider he merely grounded it to third. It was a gift by appearances, but Thames was just biding his time. In the seventh he recognized that the situation had become dire. Carlson retired six straight and his successor, Jason Frasor, added two to the tally. But then Robinson Cano snapped the skid with his second up-the-middle single of the game. Thames would not let the opportunity pass.

Frasor threw his first pitch, a slider, towards the inside edge. Thames swung, but he managed only to foul it away. Carlson, fool that he is, tried the same thing again, but this pitch he left right in the center of the plate. Thames put a mighty swing on it and drove it to the bit field in left-center. But it could not contain Thames. He sent the ball into the visitor’s bullpen, putting his Yankees ahead.

A curious pitching change

(AP Photo/Bill Kostroun)

Over the course of a season the manager makes hundreds of pitching changes. There is no way that they’ll all work. Most of the time, if he’s a good manager, he’ll make the right call. But most is just more than 50 percent. There are plenty of times when the manager will make a good call that fails. Other times he’ll make a plain bad call. It happens. Joe Girardi mostly makes the right call. Yesterday he made a suspect one.

Javier Vazquez was not pitching like he had during his previous two relief outings. His fastball didn’t crack 90. He didn’t have the command necessary to compensate for his diminished velocity. He threw too many damn sliders, a pitch that just hasn’t worked this year. It amounted to three runs through four innings, both on second inning home runs. But Vazquez had settled down, allowing no runs in the third and fourth before retiring the first two batters in the fifth. But then he walked Jose Bautista. No biggie. It became a biggie, apparently, when Vernon Wells followed with a single.

That brought Overbay, who had homered earlier in the game, to the plate. Joe Girardi bound out of the dugout after the single, so it was clear that he in no way would let Vazquez face Overbay again. That might sound like a reasonable position, especially considering how Javy looked, but there were a few things to consider here. First, the tying run was 270 feet away, so it would have taken a big hit to score him. Second, the homer earlier on the game came on a slider. Letting Vazquez pitch to Overbay, but forbidding him to throw a slider, was probably the right call. But Girardi went to Dustin Moseley. I fail to see the upgrade.

Maybe if he’d gone to Robertson, or Chamberlain, or even Logan, I wouldn’t have thought it such a bad call. But Moseley? Maybe he could have brought Moseley in to eat an inning or two after that. The big guns in the pen have been worked hard lately. That tends to happen when you win a lot of games in a short span. If Girardi wants to go with the long man in the sixth with a two-run lead, so be it. But Moseley with the tying runs on base? It just seems odd coming from a guy who, just a month and a half ago, used Robertson in the third inning in a crucial situation.

This doesn’t make Girardi a bad manager. No one will make the right call 100 percent of the time. But this seemed like a fairly obvious one. Don’t go to Moseley with the tying run on base unless it’s of the utmost necessity.

Wrap-around lineup

(AP Photo/Bill Kostroun)

For much of the season Brett Gardner has hit ninth. That makes him a “second lead-off hitter,” whatever that means. Really, it means he’s hitting ninth. I don’t know why Girardi does it, but he likes having that second leadoff hitting advantage. But ever since A-Rod‘s injury Girardi has found a spot in the top of the lineup for Gardner. Which makes sense. He takes pitches, he gets on base, and he’s a threat to steal. That means not having a wrap-around lineup. Unless you do.

Francisco Cervelli had another pleasantly surprising day. He doubled twice and came around to score both times, first thanks to a wild pitch and second thanks to a Derek Jeter chopper that — to invoke Michael Kay — fortuitously ricocheted off the third base bag. As Chad Jennings relays, it was the first multi-double game of Cervelli’s career. It’s always a little easier to score runs when the bottom of the order produces. Cervelli deserves much praise for his recent timely hits.

Graph and Box

If I just saw this graph and the final score, I’d probably think that this was a pretty good game. And I’d be right.

More green lines at FanGraphs. Fogies can get their fix with the traditional box.

Up Next

It’s never a bad game when you’re looking at not only a sweep, but a ninth straight win. Phil Hughes goes for it, while Brett Cecil tries to stop it. It’s Day Game No. 4 of 5 from the Bronx.

Trenton clinches division title in loss

Forgot to mention this yesterday, but High-A Tampa clinched a playoff spot. Also, check out some pics of Dellin Betances from yesterday’s start at Brothers at Arms.

  • Triple-A Scranton won. Jesus Montero singled, as did Kevin Russo, Juan Miranda, and Brandon Laird. Jorge Vazquez went deep and tacked on another base knock. David Phelps allowed one run and five hits across eight innings, striking out four and walking zero.
  • Double-A Trenton lost. Justin Christian extended his hitting streak to 18 games with a double. Dan Brewer and Rene Rivera also doubled while Marcos Vechionacci went deep. Austin Romine had the night off. Adam Warren gave up four runs in 4.1 innings of unspectacular work. Pat Venditte took the loss when he allowed five baserunners and two runs in an inning of work. They clinched the division title anyway because New Hampshire lost.
  • High-A Tampa lost. Bradley Suttle, Jose Pirela, Jose Gil, Jack Rye, and Zoilo Almonte all doubled. Almonte also tacked on a triple. Josh Romanski allowed one run in five blah innings.
  • Low-A Charleston won. DeAngelo Mack and Neil Medchill went back-to-back with the homers, but Emerson Landoni topped them with a grand slam. Slade Heathcott and J.R. Murphy didn’t play. Nothing exciting on the mound.
  • Short Season Staten Island won the first game of their doubleheader. Cito Culver and Rob Segedin went hitless, but Gary Sanchez picked up a single. Kramer Sneed gave up a run in 5.1 innings, and Tommy Kahnle closed it out by striking out one and walking another in the final inning.
  • Short Season Staten Island lost the second game. This one was a snoozer. No hits for Segedin, and neither Culver or Sanchez played. Dustin Hobbs allowed five runs in four innings, woo.

The Rookie GCL Yanks season is over. The GCL Phillies won the league championship.

Open Thread: Do I hear eight?

(AP Photo/Bill Kostroun)

Yes, yes I do hear eight. Eight wins in a row is a new season high, and all it took was a little Marcus Thames elbow grease to make it happen. The Yanks are now a whopping 36 games over .500 with a +187 run differential, both representing the best marks in the game. I approve.

Here’s tonight’s open thread. Depending on where you live, you’ll get either the White Sox-Red Sox or Braves-Marlins on MLB Network, plus there’s more college football than I care to recap on as well. With a little help from the ChiSox, the magic number will creep down to 17 tonight. That would be a productive Saturday. You guys know what to do, so have at it.

Marte may be headed for shoulder surgery

The Yankees have been without the services of Damaso Marte since before the All Star break because of a sore throwing shoulder, and now it sounds like the lefthander might be headed for the surgeon’s table. He felt some discomfort when he tried to throw in Chicago last weekend, but it’s unclear what the extent of the surgery would be. Perhaps it’ll just be a routine clean up instead of a full blown reconstruction. Either way, it doesn’t sound like the Yanks will get their second lefty back for the playoffs, which is a shame because he really crushed lefthanded batters this year (.146/.200/.268 against).

Shoulder surgery is never a good thing, but we’ll always have the 2009 playoffs, Damaso.

On the verge of a sale, Tampa Yanks could move to Orlando

The New York Yankees are in talks to sell part of the Single A Tampa Yankees to an Orlando businessman. If the partnership deal goes through, the Yanks’ representative in the Florida State League would likely move to Florida, but the big league club will continue to use Steinbrenner Field in Tampa for its Spring Training home.

At a press conference Wednesday, Orlando businessman Armando Gutierrez Jr. and the Yanks confirmed days of speculation about the potential sale. Gutierrez expressed his desire to bring the Tampa Yankees to the Orlando area but stressed that his deal covers just the minor league team. “You’re not losing spring training. That would be my comment to Tampa,” Gutierrez said.

The Yankees in a statement echoed Gutierrez. “These exploratory conversations will have no impact on the Yankees’ Spring Training facility or the Major League team,” the team said.

In the world of Central Florida, Gutierrez is an intriguing figure. He’s 28 and the son of a wealthy Cuban-American scion. He had been running for Congress as a Republican to fill a vacant House seat but recently dropped that bid to pursue this baseball opportunity. Earlier this year, he spoke at length about bringing a Major League franchise to Orlando, but it seems as though he’s willing to settle for a Class A team instead. “You have a chance to see an 18- or 19-year-old Derek Jeter before he becomes a Hall of Famer,” Gutierrez said of the Minor League affiliate.

Despite this public proclamation, though, a move is no sure thing. The biggest hurdle would, of course, be a stadium deal. “Until we secure a site, there’s still a chance that this could not happen,” Gutierrez said. “But if the county works with us to get us a site, we will make this happen.”

The Orlando Mayor Rich Crotty said a press conference earlier this week that the county has available approximately 12-15 acres of a 29-acre site that could be used for the stadium, but talks for that land are in the very early stages. The land may also be taken over as part of Florida’s ambitious high-speed rail plans, leaving Gutierrez left empty-handed. “I’m not going to go at this in a helter-skelter way,” Crotty said. “As usual, we’ll exercise a lot of due diligence. We’ll make sure that the taxpayers are well-protected and that if we do participate with a land donation in terms of a lease, there will be a return on investment to our citizens in terms of sales-tax collections and so on.”

Even with the land in hand, Gutierrez would have to foor the bill for construction costs. Orlando isn’t going to build a stadium with taxpayer money, and Gutierrez vaguely said he had “multiple options” when it came to carrying the stadium costs. No deal, in other words, is imminent.

Before any potential deal is completed, Gutierrez and the Yanks would have to secure approval from numerous bodies within baseball. The Florida State League and its clubs, Minor League Baseball and Bud Selig’s office all must weigh in on the deal. These hurdles, however, are generally considered nothing more than a formality. The other complicated pieces have to fall into place well before either side grows too concerned with Major League Baseball approval.

Interestingly, this move appears to be the first major one taken by the Steinbrenner family in the wake of George’s death. The team hasn’t said too much about any potential sale, and Hank, Hal, Jessica and Jennifer have been largely silent. They sent Felix Lopez, a team vice president and Jessica’s husband, to the press conference. Still, it appears as though the family may look to consolidate its holdings and focus on the Big League club. One day, they might look to sell the Yankees, but for now, only the Tampa franchise is on the block.

Game 136: Can they make it eight?

Another chance for Javy. (AP Photo/Bill Kostroun)

It’s very easy to get greedy in baseball. A player gets a hit in his first at-bat? How about he makes it 2-for-2 next time up. The bullpen has thrown ten scoreless innings over the last three games? Why not make it 11. The Yankees have won seven straight games? Let’s make it eight. It’s much easier said than done, but the Yankees have a chance to win that eighth straight game this afternoon, which would be their longest winning streak since coming out of last season’s All Star break with eight straight.

Making his long-awaited return to the starting rotation (depending on who you ask) is Javy Vazquez, who allowed four hits and struck out eight in nine innings of long relief since his last start. Hopefully some rumored mechanical tweaks have helped him rediscover his stuff and a fastball that seems to have disappeared without explanation. It is a classic trap game for Javy though, because if the Yanks lose he’ll get the blame even though it’s extremely difficult to win eight in a row in this league. Dustin Moseley, who forfeited his rotation spot to Vazquez, is available out of the bullpen.

The Yankees had a seven game winning streak halted by the Blue Jays on this exact date last season, but the good news is that Roy Halladay won’t be around to one hit them this time around. Here’s the starting nine, which originally featured Nick Swisher. He was a late scratch when his sore left knee stiffened up during pre-game warm ups.

Gardner, LF
Jeter, SS
Teixeira, 1B
Cano, 2B
Thames, RF – yikes, I assume Austin Kearns hand is still bothering him from yesterday’s hit by pitch
Berkman, DH
Granderson, CF
Nunez, 3B
Cervelli, C

And on the bump, it’s Javy Vazquez.

Yet another day game, though that’s not terribly odd on a Saturday. It’s those Friday afternoon games that get you. This one is scheduled to start a little after 1pm ET and can be seen on YES. Enjoy.

Pettitte, A-Rod come through simulated game with flying colors

Via Marc Carig and Ben Shpigel, both Andy Pettitte and Alex Rodriguez came through today’s simulated game very well and with no setbacks, injury or otherwise. Pettitte threw 50 pitches to Alex and Greg Golson, presumably at max effort. Joe Girardi said he was very pleased with how his two stars did today, and that decisions on the next course of action will be made tomorrow.

Tomorrow is the first day A-Rod is eligible to come off the disabled list, but Pettitte surely needs a minor league rehab start, maybe two. Those will have to come during the playoffs, since the minor league season ends on Monday. I’m sure those kids will appreciate the help.