Game 78: Salvaging a lost series

No CC, you're the man. (Photo Credit: Kathy Willens, AP)

The Yankees have already dropped this series with Seattle thanks in no small part to Cliff Lee and Felix Hernandez, but allowing the game’s second worst offense to hang 14 runs on the board in just two games is pretty inexcusable. If anyone can right that ship, it’s CC Sabathia, who hit his stride in June like clockwork. The big guy has completed at least seven innings in his last five starts, during which time he’s held opponents to a .191/.269/.252 batting line against. He’s basically turned everyone into the June 2010 version of Frankie Cervelli. Imagine that.

On the bump for the Mariners is not one of their two aces, but the Australian born lefty Ryan Rowland-Smith and his 6.02 xFIP. Dude has a 3.90 K/9 and a 4.03 BB/9, for goodness sake. This pitching matchup is so lopsided, that I’m tempted to say this game has reverse lock written all over it. Here’s the lineup…

Jeter, SS
Swisher, RF
Teixeira, 1B
A-Rod, DH
Cano, 2B
Posada, C
Granderson, CF
Gardner, LF – first game since being hit by that pitch in the forearm on Sunday
Pena, 3B

And on the mound, Big Stoppa.

Gorgeous day for baseball here in New York. First pitch is set for 1:05pm ET and can be seen on YES locally or MLB Network nationally. Enjoy, folks.

Outfield at the Stadium in poor shape

On June 3, as fans filed out of Yankee Stadium following a 6-3 win over the Baltimore Orioles, the preparations began. While the Yankees would spend the next week on the road, the Stadium would not cease activity. Instead, it would host its first boxing match in 34 years. The event went off without a hitch, it appeared, and they got the Stadium back in order for the Yankees’ return on Friday the 11th. Yet not everything was right.

The first thing I noticed after taking my seat in the bleachers that night was the condition of the outfield. You could see the outline of a stage, which did not come as a surprise. But that wasn’t the worst part. Instead, it looked like half the outfield had been overrun by a football team running drills for the past seven days, from morn till night. My friend commented that the grass looked brown, unwatered. It wasn’t that, though. It was that in many places there was almost no grass at all. The outfield was a shambles.

Photo from Flickr user baseballoggie, who also writes about the games he attends on his blog.

The Yankees played nine games in 10 days there before hitting the road again. They spent eight days on the West Coast, but that wasn’t enough time to get the field back in shape. That was the first thing I looked for when I got to my seat on Tuesday, and I was disappointed to see that it actually looked worse. That was just aesthetics, though. They patched up some parts, but clearly not all. Some parts are light green, others a darker forest green, and others are an even darker mix of green and brown.

In his notes column in the NY Post today, Brian Costello relays Curtis Granderson‘s take on the matter.

“It’s not necessarily better,” center fielder Curtis Granderson said. “They put some new grass out there, but it’s not everywhere. It looks like there’s a lot of seed stuff maybe. There’s a lot of green stuff out there. I don’t know what it is. Before it looked like paint. [Brett Gardner] slipped and his uniform turned bright green. I’m not sure what’s out there.”

The grounds crew will have to do their best to maintain the field as the Yankees play the next four games, but after that they’ll have 11 days to get the outfield into better shape before the team returns on July 16 to play Tampa Bay. While it sounds like they could get the job done in 11 days, they had eight days last time and didn’t accomplish much.

I’m not sure that they’re going to get much accomplished before the off-season, and even then it’s going to be a pain. Jay-Z and Eminem come to the Stadium on September 13th and 14th, so that’s going to take a further toll on the outfield grass. Just in time for the postseason, too. After that maintaining the lawn will be difficult not only because of the winter conditions, but because of the Pinstripe Bowl on December 30.

It’s nice that they’re getting more use out of the New Stadium than the old park, but this is first and foremost a baseball stadium. Are we going to have to look at a half-dirt, half-grass outfield every year?

Riding out the first half

Photo Credit: Jae C. Hong, AP

With the season no longer young, it’s not uncommon to run back and see where this team stands compared to last year’s club, and why not? A World Championship team is the gold standard, and if the Yankees can replicate that success in any way this season, it makes us feel all warm and fuzzy inside.

As I’m sure you remember, the 2009 club really didn’t hit it’s stride until the second half, and quite honestly until August. They went to bed on night of August 1st having just lost three to the White Sox, losers of three of their last four, and just half a game up in the AL East. They then went out and won 12 of their next 13 games, and finished the season on a 41-17 tear that carried right into October.

Much like last season’s team at this time, the 2010 squad has yet to really hit it’s stride. Despite owning the best record and best run differential in the game, we haven’t seen this team fire on all cylinders just yet. At times the pitching has carried them, at times it’s been the hitting, at other times it’s been plain old luck. They’re a full game in up the division compared to last season’s two-and-a-half run deficit on July 1st, and even though they’ve scored 13 fewer runs, they’ll allowed 44 fewer as well.

At 47-30, the Yanks need to go 4-7 over the next week and a half to finish the first half with the same 51-37 record as last year. Of course, the 2009 squad went into the break with the sourest of tastes in their mouths, having just been swept at the hands of the Angels in Anaheim in a particularly frustrating fashion. After today’s series wrap up against the surging Mariners (they’ve won nine of 12), the Yanks will welcome the free-falling Blue Jays (9-17 in their last 28, so once again that early season talk about them being a contender has proven to be premature) to the Bronx for a weekend series before heading out on their final West Coast trip of the season. A three game set in Oakland (they’ve lost eight of ten) precedes a rematch with the Mariners in Seattle.

Both Cliff Lee and Felix Hernandez will pitch in that four game set that closes out the first half, but I would assume playing in Safeco will keep guys like Michael Saunders from hitting the ball out of the park. Winning four of the next 11 games shouldn’t be tough considering the relatively light competition, and really the goal should be greater than that. The Yanks haven’t been in first place at the All Star break since 2004, so that’s the plan right now. Finish up strong, and start the second half in control of your own destiny with eight of their first 12 games against the Indians and Royals.

Yes, the Yanks do have some needs to address before the trade deadline. It’s painfully obvious that they need a designated hitter, or at the very least a platoon partner for the soon-to-return Marcus Thames because extended playing time has unsurprisingly exposed Frankie Cervelli as anything but a starting big leaguer. They need to shore up the bullpen, get A.J. Burnett straightened out (woo Dave Eiland!), manage Phil Hughes‘ workload, and figure out a way to get Derek Jeter and Mark Teixeira performing up their lofty standards. And yet despite all of that, the Yankees are ahead of last year’s World Series winning pace.

It hasn’t been as easy as it was in the second half of 2009, but that’s okay. There’s no reason to expect this team to not improve in the second half, and that should scare the crap out of the rest of baseball.

Kevin Goldstein’s Top 11 Prospects

Baseball Prospectus’ Kevin Goldstein posted his list of the top 11 prospects still in the minors today (sub. req’d), with Jesus Montero coming in at number eight. “Montero has just started to hit this year, batting .287/.330/.511 in June,” says KG, “but for a 20-year-old in Triple-A, he remains one of the more impressive offensive prospects in the game, with barrel control and raw power well beyond his years. Few¬†scouts I’ve talked to have lowered their scouting scores in any way.” He also adds the standard “Montero continues to improve behind the plate, but it’s unlikely he’ll be good enough to play there every day in the big leagues” clause to his breakdown.

Domonic Brown of the Phillies, Mike Trout of the Angels, and Julio Teheran of the Braves make up the top three. Also, as a reminder, the July 2nd international signing period begins tomorrow, so there’s going to be a whole lot of new blood infused into the system soon. I’ll be sure to post the signing info as it comes in, but the best place to get up to the minute news is the Twitter feed of Baseball America’s Ben Badler.

American League’s worst offense again crushes Yanks

It’s one thing to have your pitching staff surrender seven runs in two consecutive games. It’s an altogether different issue when those 14 runs come off the bats of the league’s worst offense. At 3.45 runs per game entering last night, the Mariners sit with the Orioles as the only AL teams under four runs per game. Yes. They’re more than a half-run back from the No. 12 offense in the league. Yet they’ve managed to score 14 runs to the Yankees’ three.

You can’t predict baseball, but sometimes that fucking sucks.

Biggest Hit: Ha ha, very funny

Photo credit: Seth Wenig/AP

At 5.43 runs per game the Yankees rank second in the American League. Yet they have averaged 1.5 runs per game in the past two. It’s not much of a sample, and teams do slump. They were also facing two of the best pitchers in the league, Cliff Lee and Felix Hernandez. No, the Yanks didn’t get any big hits off Felix Hernandez. They threatened with a couple of doubles, but they never amounted to anything. Felix was too good. Most of the lineup was too bad. Either way, it amounted to two hits and no runs.

They had runners on the corner and two outs in the first, but Robinson Cano just missed a double. In the fourth Mark Teixeira led off with a double, but the Yankees couldn’t so much as move him to third. The next inning Colin Curtis hit a double with one out, but again the Yankees couldn’t do anything with it. Derek Jeter did hit one hard back up the middle, but it was right at Hernandez, who fell down fielding it but still made the play to first easily. That was it. Two walks in the first, one in the ninth, a double in the fourth, and another in the fifth.

It seems like the Yanks have done the “tip your hat to the pitcher” thing a few too many times this season, but in the past two games they can say it without embarrassment. Cliff Lee and Felix Hernandez are all-world pitchers. On a team with a bit more offensive prowess they would be the talk of the league. Hell, Lee is even without the aid of run support. Felix had one of those games where even a top offense will have fits. Mix in a few slumping players and it’s a two-hitter.

Biggest pitch: Didn’t matter

Photo credit: Seth Wenig/AP

When the opposing pitcher allows no runs it doesn’t matter what your own pitching does. What was bigger, the hit produced the only run they’d need, or the hit that gave them the level of comfort to think, “okay, three-run lead, this is over”? Milton Bradley got the job done with his second-inning homer, and Jose Lopez delivered the third run. Maybe you can even chalk it up to Russ Branyan, whose seventh-inning jack erased any remote comeback chances.

Not that Javy Vazquez pitched all that well. He did hold the Mariners scoreless for his final three innings, working out of a bases loaded jam in the fifth before retiring the side in order in the sixth. Also, given the nature of Bradley’s hit that set up Lopez’s RBI single, maybe those three earned runs are deceptive. After all, it’s not like Javy gave up a well-hit ball. But he did hit Branyan the batter before, which is no one’s fault but his own.

Furthermore, Vazquez ran up his pitch count early, which forced him from the game after six innings. That left the game in the hands of the Yanks bullpen, and we know how that unit has performed this year. Damaso Marte, who I wanted to see pitch more innings, basically ended the game when he hung a slider and Branyan did what any self-respecting lefty would have done. Hell, any self-respecting righty would have done the same. The pitch was just that fat.

Also, I hope everyone enjoyed Chad Gaudin’s final appearance in pinstripes. The only question left is of whether they announce his release when the reporters show up at 3, or if they wait until closer to game time to announce that he’s been replaced by Dustin Moseley?


Photo credit: Seth Wenig/AP

Teixeira has two doubles in the past two days. Unfortunately, those are the only two times he’s reached base.

That’s all I’ve got.

Graph and box

Avert your eyes, children. This graph may take on other forms.

More at FanGraphs. And, of course, the box score. I won’t even bother with the highlights.

Next Up

The Yanks draw the weakest pitcher on the Mariners staff, Ryan Rowland-Smith. That’ll be a nice break from Felix and Lee. He goes against CC Sabathia in the first of four games with 1 p.m. starts.

Dustin Moseley to join Yankees on Thursday

Via Mark Feinsand, righthander Dustin Moseley will be called up to join the Yankees sometime before Friday’s game against the Blue Jays. It’s unclear who will get the axe, but my money’s on Chad Gaudin, especially throwing 48 pitches tonight.

The 28-year-old Moseley would have been able to opt out of his minor league contract if he wasn’t added to the roster by July 1st, which of course is tomorrow. He put up a 4.21 ERA (~3.50 FIP) in a dozen Triple-A starts, generating his usual high percentage of ground balls (59.4%). In 168 IP spread over four seasons with the Angels, Moseley posted an unspectacular 4.61 xFIP. I don’t expect much out of him, but there’s no harm in seeing what he has to offer when we know all that Gaudin brings is mediocrity (at best).

Productive nights for all the top prospects

We have notes…

  • Grant Duff has been placed on the DL for an unknown reason, but it’s not surprising after he got rocked last time out. J.B. Cox takes his place on the roster.
  • Kevin Goldstein had a little something on Hector Noesi today (sub. req’d): “He doesn’t have a pitch that any scout would put a 60 on, but his fastball has average to plus movement with some cutting action, his curveball is solid, his change is good, and he absolutely pounds the strike zone and pitches without fear … It’s not a crazy high ceiling, but Noesi sure looks like a major-league starter and could be a nice trade chip in the coming month.”
  • Jesus Montero, Eduardo Nunez, and Jon Albaladejo were all named to the Triple-A International League All Star Team, so congrats to them.
  • Robert Pimpsner reported that 32nd round pick LHP Kramer Sneed has signed and will report to Short Season Staten Island tomorrow.

Triple-A Scranton (6-5 loss to Pawtucket)
Justin Christian, LF: 1 for 3, 1 R, 1 RBI, 2 BB, 1 K
Marcus Thames, DH: 1 for 4, 1 RBI, 1 K – obviously, he’s on a rehab assignment … all four at-bats came against lefties … singled after falling behind in the count 0-2 & working it back full … on the other hand, he had a 3-0 count later in the game, only to fly out on a broken bat after the count ran full
Jeff Natale, PH-DH: 1 for 1, 1 R, 2 RBI – took over once Thames got his four at-bats
Eduardo Nunez, SS: 0 for 4, 1 BB, 2 K – four for his last 23 (.174)
Jesus Montero, C: 1 for 5, 1 2B, 1 RBI, 1 K, 1 PB – ten for his last 26 (.385) with three doubles & two homers … I have to say, it’s good to see his AVG/OBP/SLG all go DOWN after a night like this, shows his numbers are back in the realm of respectability
Jorge Vazquez, 3B: 1 for 5, 1 2B, 2 K
Reid Gorecki, RF: 1 for 4, 1 R, 1 SB
Reegie Corona, 2B: 2 for 4, 1 R, 1 K, 1 SB
P.J. Pilittere, 1B: 0 for 3, 1 BB, 2 K, 1 E (fielding)
Greg Golson, CF: 2 for 4, 1 R, 1 2B, 2 K – still six for his last 33 (.182)
Romulo Sanchez: 5 IP, 6 H, 5 R, 5 ER, 4 BB, 4 K, 1 WP, 6-3 GB/FB – 52 of his 90 pitches were strikes (57.8%)
Jason Hirsh: 3 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 3 K, 4-2 GB/FB – 30 of 44 pitches were strikes (68.2%)

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