That was, without question, the worst loss of the season. Easily. Worse than any other two losses combined. And yet, it was one strike away from being the best win of the season at one point. Baseball is a son of a bitch. The Red Sox won Thursday’s series opener 9-8 in ten innings.
The Mother Of All TOOTBLANs
There is not one single reason the Yankees lost this game. It was a bunch of things. That is true of every game, really. It’s never just one thing. The biggest mistake to me was Alfonso Soriano getting picked off second base in the bottom of the ninth. Heck, he actually got picked off twice that inning. Craig Breslow had him picked off first base before Daniel Nava flubbed the throw and allowed Soriano to slide into second safely. After that is when he really got picked off. I have no idea what the hell Soriano was thinking — yes I do, he wanted to steal third so Curtis Granderson could score him with a sacrifice fly like they did in Tampa a few weeks ago — since the Yankees had the winning run in scoring position with Granderson at the plate and Alex Rodriguez on deck. That was an inexcusable mistake. I guess you can take the player out of the Cubs uniform but you can’t take the Cubs out of the player.
One Strike Away
As good as he’s been overall, this has not been a typical Mariano Rivera year. He’s been a little more hittable than ever before and his ability to paint the corner away on righties and inside to lefties hasn’t been as impeccable as it was all those years. At least that’s how it seems to me, I could be wrong.
Anyway, Rivera blew his sixth save of the season on Thursday — first time he’s blown that many since 2003 — after getting two quick outs and a two-strike count on Mike Napoli, who hit one of those poorly located pitches on the outside corner into right-center for a single. Pinch-runner Quintin Berry stole second and third on the same pitch thanks to a poor throw by Austin Romine and a poor block by Derek Jeter. Both screwed up. Romine short-hopped the throw and the Cap’n let it go right through his legs. Remember how I said some random September call-up would do something huge during his eleven-game stretch? Berry’s stolen base qualifies. Stephen Drew singled in the tying run after that and the save was blown.
For the second time on the homestand, Joe Girardi got burned by using Joba Chamberlain in a big spot. He had already used Preston Claiborne, David Robertson, and Rivera, so it’s not like he had a ton of options, but he again used his worst reliever in a big spot and paid for it. Joba retired the first man he faced before the wheels came off, as Jacoby Ellsbury singled, stole second, and scored on Shane Victorino’s single. Victorino should have been called out on a check swing for strike three, but first base ump Joe West disagreed. Considering the gift call the Yankees got when Vernon Wells stole third in the seventh inning (more on that in a bit), they really can’t argue.
After Chamberlain got Dustin Pedroia to fly out for the second out, Girardi brought in Boone Logan to … intentionally walk David Ortiz? What the hell was that about? Let Joba walk him so Logan can start fresh without having throw four balls. That was definitely one of Girardi’s weirdest calls. Seems like he originally intended to pitch to Ortiz but changed his mind after bringing in Logan. Very weird. Anyway, pinch-hitter Brandon Snyder flew out to center to end the inning, but the damage had been done. Logan should have started the inning or at the very least been brought in to face Ellsbury. I know the bullpen was short with Shawn Kelley unavailable, but I would have preferred Logan against Boston’s big right-handed bats over Joba against anyone. Second time on the homestand Girardi was burned by Joba in a big spot. It can’t happen again.
My least favorite managerial move is the whole “send the starter back out for no apparent reason so he can allow the leadoff man to reach base before bringing in a reliever” thing. It happens all the time. Girardi’s a big fan it seems. That move opened the door for the Yankees to make their massive but ultimately pointless six-run comeback in the seventh inning. Seriously, I would have much rather watched them lose this game 7-2 than the way they did.
BoSox manager John Farrell sent Jake Peavy out to start the seventh even though his pitch count was already over the century mark, the right-higher wound up putting the first two men on base to spark the rally. After Ichiro Suzuki‘s leadoff walk and Wells’ pinch-hit single — after which he stole third and was incorrectly called safe, replays showed he was out and it would have been the first out of the inning at first base while down five runs — Brett Gardner‘s singled in a run off lefty reliever Matt Thornton. Gardner’s been awesome in big spots, no? Jeter had a great at-bat to draw a walk and load the bases for Robinson Cano, who grounded into a fielder’s choice and narrowly beat out the double play. A run scored and the Yankees had men on the corners with one out.
With the hard-throwing Junichi Tazawa taking over for Thornton, Soriano poked a two-run single to right to beat the shift and make it a 7-6 game. Granderson hit a booming two-strike double off the right field wall that tied the game and would have allowed Soriano to score from first it hadn’t been hit so damn hard. Lyle Overbay picked up A-Rod following his strikeout with a ground ball two-out single through the right side that turned a one-run deficit into a one-run lead. For the second time in the last three games, the Yankees had mounted a huge comeback to turn a huge deficit into a small lead. It was awesome. Too bad it didn’t matter in the end.
Fooled No One
The Red Sox had something on Ivan Nova. Either he was tipping pitches or they just had one hell of a scouting report on the right-hander. They had no trouble laying off his curveball at all, like they knew it was coming. Didn’t even flinch. Nova threw 26 curves and do you know how many Boston’s hitters actually swung at? Seven. He had one swing-and-miss with the pitch, six taken for strikes, and 19 taken for balls. The curve was a complete non-factor, and when that happened, Ivan had to rely on his fastball against one of game’s best fastball hitting teams. Needless to say, it wasn’t pretty.
Nova threw 96 pitches in his four innings of work, including a ridiculous 47 pitches in the two-run third inning. The Red Sox ran him right through the grinder. Deep counts, long at-bats, foul ball after foul ball … they were just brutal. Nova had no way to combat them and the fact that he escaped four innings with just three runs allowed on five hits and two walks is a bit of a minor miracle. It could have been way worse. Hopefully this was just an off-night and not an indication teams are figuring out Nova is beatable if you lay off the curve.
The Yankees scored their first two runs on a Cano’s bases loaded double in the third and I have no idea how he hit that pitch as hard as he did. Peavy busted him inside with a cutter and somehow Robbie pulled his hands in, hit it off the label, and clubbed it off the top of the right field wall. It was maybe three feet from being a cheapie grand slam. Most batters have their bat broken and ground out weakly on that pitch. Cano somehow got enough wood on it for a double. Insane.
Because of Nova’s short outing, Girardi had to cycle through seven relievers. Preston Claiborne allowed three runs and all five men he faced to reach base while Adam Warren allowed a run and soaked up 2.2 innings. Cesar Cabral struck out the only man he faced with the bases loaded, so hooray for trial by fire. Cabral has struck out all three big league lefties he’s faced on ten pitches total. Robertson threw a perfect eighth, Rivera blew the save, Joba blew the game, and Logan retired the only man he faced. Seven relievers combined to throw 134 pitches in six innings.
Romine came into this game with a 24% success rate at throwing out base-stealers (a tick below the 26% league average), and he allowed two killer steals in the ninth and tenth. Chris Stewart, who is riding an 0-for-22 streak at the plate and stranded runners at second and third in the fourth, is out of gas and hasn’t had much success throwing out runners himself lately (22% since the All-Star break), but you have to think he would have given them a better chance in those spots. Then again, if Wells doesn’t pinch-hit, the six-run rally doesn’t happen.
The Yankees had ten hits as a team but Gardner and A-Rod were the only guys with multiple knocks. Jeter drew two walks and looked really bad in the field. Like barely mobile. He couldn’t turn a potential inning-ending double play in the fifth because he simply couldn’t cut in time to get to the bag. The team won’t ever move him off the position, but at age 39 and with all those recent leg injuries, it’s clear the Cap’n has no business playing short.
For the first time since May 1916 (!), the Yankees had six players successfully steal a base in a single game. That’s nuts. Ichiro, Gardner, A-Rod, Overbay, Wells, and Soriano did the honors. New York has stolen 23 bases (21.1% of their season total) in 13 games against the Red Sox (9.3% of their games) this year. They’ve run wild on Boston’s various batteries.
Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings
Depressing graph is depressing. For the box score and video highlights, head over to MLB.com. FanGraphs has some other stats while the updated standings are at ESPN. The good news is that the Rays lost to the Angels, so the Yankees remain three back of the second wildcard spot in the loss column. The bad news is that they haven’t made up any ground in three days now and games are still ticking off the calendar. The Orioles and Indians are tied with New York in the loss column but have played one fewer game. Cool Standings gives the Yankee a 14.3% chance to make the postseason. This loss was incredibly bad.
Same two teams on Friday night. Left-handers Andy Pettitte and Felix Doubront will meet in the second game of this four-game set. If you want to catch the game live — there are only nine home games left in the regular season, you know — RAB Tickets can get you in the door.
Double-A Trenton (2-1 win over Binghamton) the Thunder lead the best-of-five first round series two games to none
- LF Ramon Flores: 2-4, 1 R, 1 3B
- RF Zoilo Almonte: 0-2, 1 RBI, 1 K — drove in their first run with a sac fly and played seven innings in his first rehab game
- RF Yeral Sanchez: 0-1, 1 K — took over for Zoilo
- 2B Jose Pirela: 1-4
- C Gary Sanchez: 0-4, 1 K
- DH Tyler Austin: 0-3, 2 K
- 1B Kyle Roller: 1-3, 1 K – not a good night for the middle of the order
- CF Mason Williams: 2-3, 1 R — scored the go-ahead run from first on a double in the seventh inning
- 3B Reegie Corona: 0-3
- SS Ali Castillo: 1-3, 1 2B, 1 RBI — doubled in Williams
- RHP Mikey O’Brien: 6 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 5 BB, 4 K, 1 WP, 1 HB, 8/5 GB/FB –56 of 102 pitches were strikes (55%) … let’s call this one “effective wild”
- RHP Zach Nuding: 2 IP, zeroes, 2 K, 0/3 GB/FB — 18 of 27 pitches were strikes (67%) … now that is how you middle relieve
- RHP Tommy Kahnle: 1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 2 K, 1/0 GB/FB — 12 of 19 pitches were strikes (63%) … obligatory walk to make it interesting in the ninth
The Triple-A Scranton, High-A Tampa, Low-A Charleston, Short Season Staten Island, and both Rookie GCL Yanks seasons are over. Trenton is the only affiliate still playing.
The Red Sox are entirely too comfortable in the new Yankee Stadium. They’ve won 21 of the last 35 games they’ve played in the Bronx, which is way too many. The Yankees need to stand their ground and defend their home park these next four games like their playoff life depend on it, and you know it? It does. New York is backed into a corner — seeing Game 140 in the headline really drives home how little time is left in the season, no? — and simply holding their own against the good teams isn’t an option anymore. The Red Sox are a very good team, and for these next four days, the Yankees need to be better. Here’s the lineup that will face right-hander Jake Peavy:
- CF Brett Gardner
- SS Derek Jeter
- 2B Robinson Cano
- LF Alfonso Soriano
- DH Curtis Granderson
- 3B Alex Rodriguez
- 1B Lyle Overbay
- RF Ichiro Suzuki
- C Chris Stewart
And on the mound is right-hander Ivan Nova, the self-proclaimed best pitcher in the world. He’s been the team’s best starter for about a month now that Hiroki Kuroda has hit a wall. Nova needs to set the tone for the series and shove it down Boston’s throat tonight.
It is cloudy and cool in New York with no threat of rain. The baseball gods don’t want anyone getting off easy, I see. First pitch is scheduled for 7:05pm ET and can be seen on YES locally and MLB Network nationally. Enjoy.
Ivan Nova was a punching bag last season. I think that’s a fair way to put it. He allowed an MLB-high 87 extra-base hits despite only throwing the 83rd most innings (170.1) in baseball, and opponents tagged him for a .288/.349/.511 batting line. Nova turned every hitter he faced last summer into someone resembling 2010 Nick Swisher (.288/.359/.511). He was terrible.
Things have been much different this year, particularly of late. Nova was just named the AL Pitcher of the Month for August and has a 2.06 ERA in 74.1 innings and ten starts since officially rejoining the rotation in July. Opponents have hit .224/.297/.294 against him during those ten starts, which is slightly better than 2013 Chris Stewart (.215/.288/.280). He’s been a rotation godsend.
As David Golebiewski at Baseball Analytics showed today, Nova’s success this year stems from his ability to keep his fastball down. Scrapping his slider in favor of a curveball helped as well, but keeping the fastball down — the heat maps above show how much his location has improved — has been crucial in limiting extra-base hits. Opponents slugged .597 (!) off his heater in 2012, but this year that sits at just .397. The league average for starting pitchers is .443, according to Golebiewski.
The Red Sox are one of the better low fastball hitting teams in the baseball — slugging an MLB-best .505 against low heaters according to Golebiewski — so the key for Nova in tonight’s start is going to be that curveball. Breaking out his rarely used changeup and possibly showing some sliders as a change of pace pitch could be in order as well. Nova is excelling because he’s keeping his fastball down and the Red Sox are mashing because they hit those low fastballs. The Yankees will have to adjust accordingly in tonight’s opener.
Via Mike Ashmore: Zoilo Almonte has joined Double-A Trenton for a minor league rehab assignment. The Thunder is in the first round of the Eastern League playoffs and are the Yankees’ only minor league affiliate still playing. They lead the best-of-five series one game to none, so they have at least three games remaining in their season.
Almonte, 24, hit .261/.305/.341 (75 wRC+) with one homer and three steals in 95 plate appearances for New York earlier this summer. He has been out with a sprained ankle since mid-July. The Yankees have five veteran outfielders on their current roster and figure to stick with them down the stretch, but having another bat on the bench in September is never a bad thing, particularly a switch-hitter. Almonte hit .297/.369/.421 (124 wRC+) with six homers in 293 Triple-A plate appearances before being called up and will give Trenton’s lineup a nice short-term boost in the postseason. · (12) ·
Even though the Yankees don’t have much of a chance of catching the Red Sox for the top spot in the AL East, this is a hugely important series for New York’s playoff chances. They’re no longer in direct competition with Boston for a postseason berth, but they are in desperate need of every win possible. Once again, this is the biggest series of the year. At least until the next one.
What Have They Done Lately?
The Red Sox absolutely clobbered the Tigers yesterday. Like 20-4 with a franchise record-tying eight homeruns clobbered. Boston took two of three from the defending AL champs and have won nine of their last eleven games overall. They sit atop the division at 84-57 with a +154 run differential, both the best marks in the league. The Yankees are seven games back of the Sawx in the loss column.
At 5.1 runs per game with a team 112 wRC+, the Red Sox have the best offensive team in baseball. That’s kinda scary considering how shaky the non-Ivan Nova/first 85 pitches of Andy Pettitte part of the rotation has been recently. OF Jacoby Ellsbury (110 wRC+) and C Jarrod Saltalamacchia (108 wRC+) are both dealing with nagging injuries and are listed as day-to-day, but they’ll play tonight. Don’t worry.
Behind Ellsbury, manager John Farrell has the highly productive trio of OF Shane Victorino (116 wRC+), 2B Dustin Pedroia (114 wRC+), and DH David Ortiz (153 wRC+). Victorino recently abandoned switch-hitting and bats from the right side exclusively now. OF Jonny Gomes (102 wRC+) has been very productive of late as well. 1B Mike Napoli (115 wRC+) has been hot and cold, ditto SS Stephen Drew (108 wRC+) and OF Daniel Nava (129 wRC+). 3B Will Middlebrooks (84 wRC+) has been pretty good since returning from the minors a few weeks ago.
1B/OF Mike Carp (141 wRC+in part-time duty) has been a force off the bench for Farrell. The team is also carrying top prospect IF Xander Bogaerts (85 wRC+ in very limited time) and they recently welcomed back backup C David Ross (84 wRC+ in limited time) from a concussion. Their crop of call-ups and extra bodies includes OF Quintin Berry, C Ryan Lavarnway, IF John McDonald, and UTIL Brandon Snyder. I wouldn’t worry about those guys too much. Expect the Red Sox to rely on their regulars heavily this weekend in an effort to clinch the division and bury their oldest historic rival.
Starting Pitching Matchups
Thursday: RHP Ivan Nova vs. RHP Jake Peavy
The Red Sox went out and upgraded their rotation at the trade deadline by acquiring the 33-year-old Peavy in a three-team deal. He’s pitched to a 3.91 ERA (3.92 FIP) in 19 starts this year while missing more than a month with a fracture in his ribcage. His strikeout (7.52 K/9 and 20.9 K%) and walk (1.73 BB/9 and 4.8 BB%) rates are in line with the last few years but his homer (1.35 HR/9 and 11.0% HR/FB) and ground ball (34.0%) numbers are career worsts by a decent margin. Peavy is a fastball-heavy six-pitch pitcher, using his low-90s four-seamer, low-90s two-seamer, and upper-80s cutter about 75% of the time. A low-80s changeup is his top offspeed pitch, and he’ll also throw upper-70s curveballs and low-80s sliders. His platoon split is relatively small thanks to the changeup. Peavy actually made his big league debut against the Yankees back in 2002, but otherwise he hasn’t faced them very much by virtue of being in the NL and/or injured.
Friday: LHP Andy Pettitte vs. LHP Felix Doubront
Doubront, 25, has taken some steps forward this year and owns a 3.89 ERA (3.52 FIP) in 25 starts (and one relief appearance). Almost all of his improvement stems from cutting his homerun rate in half — he went from a 1.34 HR/9 (15.9% HR/FB) last year to a 0.66 HR/9 (7.4% HR/FB) this year. His true talent level is probably somewhere in between given his home ballpark and the other hitter friendly parks in the division. Doubront’s walk (3.59 BB/9 and 9.3 BB%) and ground ball (46.5%) rates have improved slightly but his strikeout rate (7.96 K/9 and 20.5 K%) has dropped off big time from 2012. He uses four pitches regularly, including a mid-80s changeup that seems to give the Yankees fits. He sets that and his mid-70s curveball up with low-90s two and four-seamers. A mid-80s cutter is an infrequently used fifth offering. His platoon split is small. Doubront has pitched very well against the Yankees these last few years, but they did rough him up for seven runs in four innings last month.
Saturday: LHP David Huff vs. RHP John Lackey
Thanks to his brand new elbow, Lackey is having his best season since before signing with Boston. The 34-year-old has a 3.22 ERA (3.73 FIP) in 25 starts with very good walk (1.89 BB/9 and 5.1 BB%) and ground ball (47.1%) rates. His strikeout (7.71 K/9 and 20.9 K%) and homer (1.16 HR/9 and 12.7% HR/FB) totals are worse than what you’d like to see. Lackey has thrown six different pitches this year but he leans heavily on three: his low-90s four-seamer, mid-80s cutter, and upper-70s curve. He’s thrown those pitches more than 90% of the time combined. A low-90s two-seamer, mid-80s changeup, and mid-80s slider are rarely used fourth through sixth offerings. For whatever reason, Lackey has a big reverse split this year — lefties have a .282 wOBA against him while righties are at .344 — that doesn’t jibe with the rest of his career. The Yankees have faced the big right-hander a bunch of times over the years and have one good game (four runs in 6.1 innings) and one bad game (one run in 6.2 innings) against him in two meetings this year.
Sunday: RHP Hiroki Kuroda vs. LHP Jon Lester
I’m not sure what to make of the 29-year-old Lester anymore. He started this season very well, was terrible for a good portion of the summer, but has been awesome of late. He’s sitting on a 3.88 ERA (3.70 FIP) with strikeout (7.48 K/9 and 19.6 K%) and walk (2.91 BB/9 and 7.6 BB%) rates that are damn near identical his disaster season a year ago. His ground ball rate (44.2%) has dropped and yet he’s giving up significantly fewer homers (0.87 HR/9 and 8.9% HR/FB). Furthermore, Lester’s four-seam fastball recently jumped back into the mid-90s and he’s begun to shelve his upper-80s cutter. A low-90s sinker, mid-80s changeup, and mid-70s curveball round out his repertoire. The Yankees have seen Lester plenty of times over the years and know everything there is to know about him. No surprises here.
Thanks to yesterday’s laugher, the Red Sox were able to rest all of their important late-game relievers and come into this series in good bullpen shape. Closer RHP Koji Uehara (1.83 FIP) has been untouchable for about two months now, but he doesn’t really have a set setup man. RHP Junichi Tazawa (3.15 FIP), LHP Craig Breslow (3.69 FIP), RHP Brandon Workman (3.38 FIP), and LHP Matt Thornton (4.00 FIP) all rotate in and out of the role depending on who’s pitching well at the time. LHP Drake Britton (2.80 FIP in limited time), RHP Rubby De La Rosa (7.54 FIP in very limited time), and LHP Franklin Morales (4.65 FIP in limited time) round out the eight-man bullpen.
Even though the Yankees had to use both Mariano Rivera and David Robertson yesterday, their bullpen is still in very good shape heading into tonight’s series opener. Those two have actually had a surprising amount of time off recently. Thanks to the expanded rosters, Joe Girardi has a whopping eleven relievers at his disposal. I’m guess we’ll see all eleven at some point this weekend. Check out our Bullpen Workload page for details and Over The Monster for the latest and greatest on the Red Sox.
In an Insider-only feature, a panel of ESPN’s expert ranked baseball’s 30 franchises using a formula based on five factors: big league talent, minor league talent, finances, management, and roster flexibility. The Cardinals lead the way with a score of 86.9 (out of 100) while the Red Sox (83.4) were the only other club to score higher than 78. The Brewers bring up the rear at 14.3. Ouch.
The Yankees rank 11th at 53.8, down from fifth (65.9) before the season and second (79.6) from this time last year. Their financial grade, which ranks second only to the Dodgers, carries them as the big league roster, farm system, and management categories all took hits from earlier this year. Weirdly enough, the Yankees improved their roster flexibility grade, I guess because they have a ton of players due to become free agents after this season. Even though they’ve played well of late and could sneak into the postseason, it’s hard to argue the team is trending downward and in need of a rebuild or retooling in the near future. · (20) ·
Thanks to last night’s sweep-clinching win over the White Sox, the Yankees have won five of the first six games of this all-important ten-game homestand. They took two of three from the Orioles over the weekend and swept the last place ChiSox, which is pretty close to the best case scenario. Sunday’s bullpen meltdown still stings, don’t get me wrong, but at least the Bombers rebounded well with the three straight victories.
Winning five of the first six homestand games was very important because these next eleven days are going to be a nightmare. The White Sox won’t be in the Bronx to kick the ball around — seriously, are they not one of the sloppiest teams you’ve ever seen? awful — and use a parade of overmatched rookie pitches anymore. No, now things get really tough. It’s make or break time.
Matt outlined the schedule situation of the various wildcard contenders yesterday, but the Yankees’ schedule is worth a deeper look. Starting tonight, they head into an eleven-game stretch that will more or less definite the rest of their season:
- Four games vs. Red Sox in Yankee Stadium
- Four games vs. Orioles in Camden Yards
- Three games vs. Red Sox in Fenway Park
That’s hell. Hell with no off-days scheduled. Just spitballing it, how many of those eleven games do you think the Yankees need to win to remain in the postseason hunt? Remember, there will be only 12 games left in the season after the stretch, so they have to legitimately make up ground and not just tread water. The time for water-treading is over. Seven wins in eleven games is the bare minimum, no? Anything less than that and it’s probably time to shift focus to the final few innings of Mariano Rivera‘s career instead of the out-of-town scoreboard.
For the sake of having numbers and something tangible to look at, here’s how the Yankees have fared against the Red Sox and Orioles so far this season:
|W-L||Runs Scored Per Game||Runs Allowed Per Game|
Do you know what those numbers mean? Absolutely nothing. What happened earlier this year has no impact on what will happen going forward. Not only have the Yankees rebuilt their lineup by trading for Alfonso Soriano and getting a small All-Star team back from the DL, but the Red Sox and Orioles have remade their rosters with trades and injuries and whatever else. How much you want to bet some random September call-up does something huge at some point in those eleven games? It’s damn near inevitable. That’s baseball, man. It’s weird sometimes.
The only thing we know with any certainty is this: those eleven games are going to be the toughest eleven games of the season. The Red Sox and Orioles are really good teams and always seem to play the Yankees hard. Maybe one or both of those clubs will have a bad series, but I wouldn’t count on it. New York will have to play its very best baseball of 2013 to make it through these next eleven days and continue to worm their way into a playoff spot. There is no margin of error anymore, that came and went last month.
On the other side of the coin, if the Yankees do manage to survive those eleven games and come out of them still within striking distance of a postseason berth, they’ll be rewarded by playing nine of their final dozen games against losing teams. Not just losing teams, I’m talking terrible, horrible, no good last place teams. Three against the Blue Jays, three against the Giants, and three against the Astros. There are three games with the Rays mixed in there — how enormous could that series be? goodness — but that’s what awaits the Yankees after this eleven-game stretch. By no means are those easy wins, but they’re damn easier than beating Boston and Baltimore. The most important stretch of the 2013 season begins tonight.
That was an unnecessarily stressful game. But, a win is a win is a win. The Yankees returned the favor and completed the sweep of the last place White Sox on Wednesday night, surviving a late-inning rally for the 6-5 victory.
Four In The Fourth
To give you an idea of how out of it the ChiSox are, they had three players make their big league debuts in this game. One of the three was starting pitcher Erik Johnson, who coughed up a solo homer to Robinson Cano in the first before striking out Ichiro Suzuki to escape a bases loaded jam later in the inning. He settled down briefly before the Yankees took him out behind the woodshed in the fourth inning.
That inning started innocently enough, with an Alex Rodriguez ground ball single back up the middle. Ichiro grounded back to the pitcher, but Johnson floated the throw over to first and Jeff Keppinger wasn’t able to scoop it out of the dirt. With runners on first and second with no outs, the Yankees turned Lyle Overbay loose in a 3-0 count and he came through with a run-scoring double. After Austin Romine grounded out, Brett Gardner sliced a two-run triple into the left-center field gap for two more runs and a 4-1 lead. I have no idea how that ball went for three bases, the White Sox outfielders looked like they were running in slow motion. Don’t get he wrong, it was hit hard and sure extra-base hit, but it took them forever to retrieve the ball.
Cano brought in Gardner with an infield single later in the inning, capping off the four-run attack. Johnson threw a first pitch strike to just two of the first seven batters in the inning — Romine on the ground out and Cano’s first-pitch single. Everyone else was ahead in the count 1-0 or better at one point. Tough to live life that way, but that is what rookie pitchers do. They struggle to throw strikes and get hurt. The Yankees capitalized on Johnson’s throwing error and his general young pitcheritis.
A Better Sabathia
Much like Hiroki Kuroda on Tuesday night, CC Sabathia probably would have gotten clobbered had he been facing a Major League caliber lineup on Wednesday. A pair of walks and a double gave the White Sox a first inning run, but Sabathia settled down and kept Chicago in check from the second through seventh innings. He did put a man on base in every inning but the seventh, however. To be fair, one base-runner came on an error and two others came with the bases empty and two outs. Not the end of the world, really.
The final line was three runs on five hits and four walks in 7.1 innings of work, with four strikeouts and eleven ground outs compared to six in the air. Sabathia wasn’t on the mound when the second and third runs scored. He also completed a full seven innings of work for the first time in five five starts and just the second time in ten starts. Seven innings used to be the minimum for this guy. The White Sox are the worst lefty hitting team in baseball and they didn’t exactly knock Sabathia around the park (lots of bloops, really), so maybe this is something he build off confidence-wise. He’s still clearly not the guy we’re used to seeing, but at this point CC just needs to give the team enough of a chance to win. Sabathia did that on Wednesday.
Almost Death By Bullpen
Despite the comfortable five-run lead, Girardi went to David Robertson to finish off the eighth because he needed some work. He had not pitched in four days and only pitched once in the last nine days. The rust showed, as Robertson allowed four of the five batters he faced to reach base. Three singles and one walk to the unwalkable (career 5.2% walk rate) Dayan Viciedo turned a five-run lead into a one-run lead in a real hurry. An easy win suddenly became a nail-biter.
With the tying run on second and the go-ahead run on first with two outs, Girardi didn’t screw around. He brought in Mariano Rivera for his first four-out save since July 2011. Mo struck out Alejandro De Aza looking on seven pitches to end the eighth inning rally before retiring the side in order on eight pitches in the ninth. Nice and easy. It would have been nice to get Rivera a night off, especially since they led by five runs at one point, but every win is important and I’m glad he aggressively went to his two best relievers in big situations. Robertson just had an off night.
It was an afterthought at the time, but Alfonso Soriano plated Derek Jeter with a sacrifice fly in the seventh inning for what looked like a simple tack-on run. That eventually became the winning run given the ChiSox’s eighth inning rally. Jeter walked and moved to third on Cano’s single earlier in the inning. They had runners on the corners with one out and it could have been a huge inning, but Curtis Granderson lined a ball right at the first baseman for a double play. Sucks.
Once again, Cano led the offense with a homer and two singles while Gardner singled and tripled. Those two accounted for five of the team’s eight hits while A-Rod, Overbay, and Granderson (double) had the others. Jeter, Soriano, A-Rod, and Overbay each drew a walk. Johnson struck out just one batter — Ichiro to end the first inning rally — and the Yankees struck out just three times as a team.
Former Yankee C.J. Nitkowski covered for Suzyn Waldman in the WCBS 880 booth while she was away for the Jewish holiday, and while I didn’t hear any of the broadcast, he was supposedly excellent. Maybe he’ll fill in again at some point.
Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings
See? The graph says the White Sox weren’t all that all close to coming back and winning the game. You had nothing to worry about. Anyway, for the box score and video highlights, go to MLB.com. FanGraphs has some other stats and ESPN the updated standings. The Yankees have a one-game lead over both the Indians and Orioles in the loss column and, depending on the outcome of the late game, they’ll either be three games (Rays win) or two games (Rays win) back of the second wildcard spot. Cool Standings has their playoff odds at 18.3% at the moment.
The Red Sox are coming to town for an extended four-game weekend set. Needless to say, that will be an enormous series for the Yankees. Ivan Nova and Jake Peavy kick things off on Thursday night. Check out RAB Tickets if you want to catch the game live. Only ten more home games left in the regular season, you know.