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Gary Sanchez | C
Raised in Santo Domingo, the largest city and capital of the Dominican Republic, Sanchez signed with the Yankees for $3M on the first day of the 2009 international signing period. He was 16 years old at the time, and it remains the largest signing bonus New York has ever given to an internationally signed amateur. Thanks to the spending restrictions implemented by the new Collective Bargaining Agreement, Sanchez figures to hold the record for the foreseeable future.
The Yankees skipped Sanchez over the Dominican Summer League and brought him stateside for his pro debut in 2010. He hit .353/.419/.597 (188 wRC) with six homers in 136 plate appearances with the rookie level Gulf Coast League affiliate after a stint in Extended Spring Training, earning him top prospect honors in the circuit according to Baseball America. The Yankees bumped him up to Short Season Staten Island very briefly at the end of the season, and he played 30 of 47 total games at catcher. Both Baseball America (#30) and Keith Law (#68) ranked Sanchez as one of the 100 best prospects in baseball the next spring.
Blowing leads in the ninth inning is never a fun way to lose a game, especially when a pitcher throws away what would have been a double play ball. What is it with pitchers and throwing to second? They’re usually okay when going to first but I feel like the success rate when they go to second is like, 50%. Maybe less. Anyway, the five-game winning streak is over.
Mix & Matched
I didn’t particularly care for Joe Girardi‘s explanation about why David Robertson did not start the ninth inning — he was trying to stay away from him as long as possible after he pitched on Wednesday — but the bottom line is that Clay Rapada got a tailor made 1-6-3 double play ball and he threw it into center field. The pitching part of Girardi’s mixing and matching worked fine there, but the fielding part failed. It happens. It’s annoying, but what can you do.
Anyway, Robertson ended up recording three outs and throwing 15 pitches anyway, but not before he missed out and over the plate with a fastball that Dayan Viciedo hit for a go-ahead three-run homer. Girardi’s strength as a manager is his bullpen management, but there were just some weird decisions made in this one. If Robertson was available then use him to start the inning so he has a clean slate. He’s been off the DL for two weeks now, if they still have reservations about using him on back-to-back days then they should probably ask themselves if they rushed him back before he was ready.
Ivan Nova‘s pitching line — 7.1 IP, 6 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 3 BB, 5 K, 6/9 GB/FB — looks an awful lot better than how he actually pitched. The White Sox made a ton of hard contact against him, especially early in the game. Nova escaped a first and third with no outs situation in the fourth because A.J. Pierzynski scorched a line drive right at Robinson Cano for a double play, Mark Teixeira made a diving stop to end the third, and Derek Jeter made a nice leaping catch in the fifth. If you watched the game on television, you saw an awful lot of 14 because Curtis Granderson had his back turned and was running down balls hit to deep center all night.
That said, sometimes a starting pitcher won’t have his best stuff and he has to fight through it. This was one of those games for Nova and he got some serious help from his defense. You need that sometimes during a 162-game season. Outside of Alejandro De Aza, who went 4-for-4 with a solo homer off Nova, Ivan kept the Yankees in the game and made pitches when he had too. Not everything needs to be micro-analyzed, Nova got lucky a number of times and that’s that.
The Yankees scored their first two runs on back-to-back doubles by Alex Rodriguez and Cano in the fifth before Teixeira plated an insurance run with a solo homer in the eighth. It wasn’t enough insurance, unfortunately. Scoring two runs in seven innings off some guy named Dylan Axelrod is quite annoying.
The top five hitters in the lineup went a combined 6-for-20 with three doubles and a homer while the other four hitters mustered just two singles and two walks in 16 trips to the plate. Granderson stole a base early in the game but I through Dewayne Wise waited to long to steal in the ninth. When you lead off the inning with a single down a run, you have to get to second as soon as possible so everyone else has as many chances to drive you in as possible.
Robertson and Rapada really blew it in the ninth, but Boone Logan — three-pitch strikeout of Adam Dunn — and Cody Eppley — four-pitch strikeout of Paul Konerko — really took care of business with the tying run in scoring position in the eighth. Eppley did allow a leadoff single to Alex Rios in the ninth, but Rapada muffed the double play ball.
The video isn’t up on MLB.com yet, but the Yankees visited a nursing home with Glamour Gals for Thursday’s HOPE Week event. Glamour Gals is an organization of volunteers who visit and spend time with seniors in nursing homes, building relationships with people who are easily neglected. Here’s the HOPE Week video archive, I’m sure the clip will be posted sometime overnight.
Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings
MLB.com has the box score and video highlights, FanGraphs the nerd score, and ESPN the updated standings. The good news is that every AL East team other than the Red Sox lost on Thursday, so the Yankees didn’t see their lead in the division shrink. Boston is playing the Mariners out on the West Coast and is six back in the loss column anyway.
Game two of this four-game set will feature two pitchers who spent last season in the Yankees’ farm system. Adam Warren will make his big league debut for New York against the left-handed Jose Quintana, who signed with the ChiSox as a minor league free agent this past offseason. Check out RAB Tickets if you want to head up to the Stadium on Friday night.
As I said earlier, Joe Posada’s retirement press conference was nothing but first class today. The Yankees really did a wonderful job. The video above if Jorge’s statement on his retirement, but that was just a small part of the day. You can see basically the entire event — albeit broken up into small clips — at the YES Network’s site. Here’s the video archive.
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Here is tonight’s open thread. The Knicks, Rangers, Islanders, and Devils are all playing tonight, but Time Warner customers like myself are still without MSG. Anyway, talk about whatever you want here. Except politics, that always gets messy.
Good times, good times. Here’s a link to the video archive, so you can relive all the glory of Game Six. Once you’re done with that, use this as your open thread. Game Three of the Taiwan All-Star Series will be on MLB Network at 9pm ET, but the game is on a delay and I can’t find a recap, so I have no idea what happened. Hopefully no one got hurt. Talk about whatever you like here, the thread is yours.
Discussion Topic: Rank the 1996, 1998, 1999, 2000, and 2009 World Championships by awesomeness.
It’s only early-August, but this is probably the Yankees’ most important series of the season (to date). The Angels are their primary competition for the AL wildcard at the moment, and this series will give them a chance to really bury them in the race for a playoff berth. These two clubs have played one other series this year, with the Yanks taking two of three in Anaheim back in May.
What Have The Angels Done Lately?
We’re focused on the Angels as a wildcard threat, but they’re only one game back of the Rangers for the AL West lead. I’m sure that’s what they’re focusing on. The Halos have won three of their last four games and eight of twelve as they’ve trimmed their deficit in the division from four games to one already this month. They did just win a series against the punchless Mariners, though they only scored four runs in the three games. Overall, the Angels are 63-52 with a +22 run differential.
Angels On Offense
Despite all the big names on their roster, the Angels have the fourth worst team wOBA (.308) in the AL this season. Their best offensive player pretty much all season has been Howie Kendrick, a .302/.359/.446 hitter that hasn’t hit for much power since a big April (.100 ISO since May 1st with just two homers). Rookie masher Mark Trumbo took over for the injured Kendrys Morales at first and he leads the club with 22 homers, but he’s a hacker (4.7% walk rate) and can be pitched too. Just don’t make a mistake in the zone, he’s a bomb threat.
The big three – Bobby Abreu, Torii Hunter, and Vernon Wells – are sporting .326, .313, and .277 wOBA’s, respectively. Abreu, unsurprisingly, is the team’s best on-base threat with a 15.0% walk rate and .367 OBP. His power is all but gone at age 37 though (.089 ISO). Wells is the exact opposite, he’s all power (.171 ISO) with no on base ability (4.2% walk rate). Hunter’s pretty much right in the middle, with a .149 ISO and an 8.9% walk rate. Kinda funny how that works. The Angels have a really awesome rookie center fielder, but it’s not Mike Trout (he was shipped back to the minors about a week ago), it’s Peter Bourjos. His game is all speed, he’ll steal bases (15-for-19 this year) and most of his extra base hits are hustle doubles and triples. Bourjos is also a Brett Gardner-level defender in center as well, the kid’s MLB.com highlights page is outfield defense porn.
The rest of the offense is fairly unspectacular. You’ve got Maicer Izturis (.316 wOBA), Erick Aybar (.320), Alberto Callaspo (.327), Russ Branyan (.258), utility infielder Andrew Romine (one hit in seven plate appearances so far, and yes he is Austin’s brother) and the catching duo of Jeff Mathis (.212) and Bobby Wilson (.226). I assume Mike Scioscia is unaware of Branyan’s Yankee Stadium exploits and will have him on the bench like he has most of the season. The Halos will steal bases as usual; Bourjos, Kendrick, Aybar, and Abreu all have 10+ steals, and Wells, Trumbo, and Izturis are closing in on double-digits.
Angels On The Mound
Tuesday, RHP Dan Haren (vs. A.J. Burnett): It’s kinda hard to believe that after all these years, Haren is just now having the best season of his career. His 2.72 FIP, 1.27 BB/9, and 0.58 HR/9 are all career bests, though his strikeout rate (7.27 K/9) has predictably dropped with the shift back to the AL. Haren’s a four fastball guy, he throws a straight four-seamer in the high-80′s about 13% of the time, a mid-80′s cutter more than 48% of the time, a low-90′s two-seamer about 18% of the time, and a strikeout splitter in the mid-80′s about 9% of the time. A high-80′s curve and mid-80′s changeup round out his repertoire. Haren will pound the zone, so the Yankees will have to be aggressive and jump on the first hittable pitch they see. They haven’t faced him since the series in Arizona last season.
Wednesday, LHP Hisanori Takahashi (vs. Ivan Nova): Takahashi is going to make his first start of the season this series because Joel Pineiro was so bad that the Angels had to pull him from the rotation (5.31 ERA and 4.59 FIP). Takahashi says he’s good for 100 pitches on Wednesday, but he hasn’t thrown more than 43 pitches in a game since last July. We’ll see.
Anyway, Yankees fans surely remember Takahashi for the two six-inning, no run starts he made against them with the Mets last season. He’s a pure finesse pitcher, throwing a high-80′s fastball, low-80′s changeup, and high-70′s curveball with a show-me slider. The southpaw misses a ton of bats (10.6% whiffs career) and has a reverse split this year, but he’s homerun prone (1.12 HR/9 in a pitcher’s park) and will hurt himself with walks (3.54 BB/9). Hopefully the Yankees remember what they saw out of Takahashi last season and go to town.
Thursday, RHP Tyler Chatwood (vs. Bartolo Colon): Thank you Carlos Guillen. This was supposed to be Jered Weaver’s start, but he’s serving a six-game suspension for throwing over Alex Avila’s head one batter after Guillen took him deep and pimped the trot. Instead the Yankees will face the rookie right-hander Chatwood, who has been in over his head pretty much all the season. The 21-year-old had more walks that strikeouts up until three starts ago, but he still misses next to no bats (4.6% swings and misses) and has a huge platoon split. Chatwood throws both his four and two-seamer in the 91-93 range, setting up his high-80′s curve and the occasional changeup. I know the Yankees seem to struggle against pitchers they’ve never faced, but there’s no real mystery here, he’s a fastball-curve guy that will shoot himself in the foot with ball four untilScioscia yanks him from the game.
Bullpen: It’s a sneaky good bullpen, led by rookie closer Jordan Walden. He’s getting his walk issues under control as the season progresses (3.60 BB/9), plus his strikeout (9.60 K/9) and ground ball (47.9%) rates are excellent. Setup men Fernando Rodney (4.01 FIP) and Scott Downs (3.17 FIP) are solid and stellar, respectively. Right-hander Rich Thompson (9.90 K/9 and 3.38 BB/9) is their David Robertson, though maybe the 2009 version and not the 2011 version. Bobby Cassevah (4.54 FIP in limited action), Horacio Ramirez (7.26 FIP in very limited action), and Pineiro round out the bullpen. Yes, it’s that Horacio Ramirez.
The last few days have been pretty good for Yankees fans, starting with Derek Jeter‘s 3,000th hit and 5-for-5 game on Saturday. After the Cap’n went deep for the milestone hit, I declared that game the best in the history of the New Yankee Stadium. Many disagreed and offered alternatives, so what follows is only natural: a poll. Let’s relive seven of the most memorable games in New Stadium history, then vote for our favorite at the end…
The Red Sox mopped the floor with the Yankees early in 2009, winning the first eight games they played. New York got into the win column on August 6th, but it wasn’t until the next night that it felt like they were over the hump. Josh Beckett and A.J. Burnett dueled for seven-plus scoreless innings, then the bullpens squared off for seven more scoreless innings. Rookie Junichi Tazawa was on the mound for Boston by time the 15th inning rolled around, his big league debut. Jeter singled to lead off the inning, but the Yankees looked liked they were about to blow another opportunity after Johnny Damon popped up a bunt and Mark Teixiera struck out. Alex Rodriguez took matters into his own hands, ending the game by clobbering a 2-1 curveball into the visitor’s bullpen for the walk-off win.
They called it Yankee Stadium, but the park needed some postseason magic before it felt like home. That magic moment came in bottom of the ninth inning of Game Two of the 2009 ALDS, when the Twins were nursing a 3-1 lead with ubercloser Joe Nathan on the mound. Teixeira dunked a single into right to lead off the inning, and then Nathan made the mistake of falling behind A-Rod. His 3-1 fastball caught a little too much of the plate, and Alex did not miss it. I’ll never forget the moment of silence immediately after contact. It was almost like everyone in the building was gasping for air in disbelief. The place exploded it was clear the ball was heading over the fence for a game-tying two-run homer. It was … indescribable. David Robertson‘s greatest escape job ever and Tex’s walk-off homer two innings later were almost secondary, A-Rod’s brought the house down with his ninth inning homer. There was no more looking back, the new Stadium was home now.
You can make a pretty strong case that this was the most important game in the history of the New Stadium. The Yankees got manhandled by Cliff Lee in Game One of the Fall Classic, and if they dropped Game Two they were going to Philadelphia for three games down two games to none in the best-of-seven series. A.J. Burnett did his part, shutting down the Phillies down for seven innings after giving up an early run. Pedro Martinez was on his game in the first few innings, but Tex tied things up with a solo homer in the fourth. Hideki Matsui gave the Yankees a one-run lead with a solo homer in the sixth, then Jorge Posada plated an insurance run in the seventh. Burnett struck out nine in his seven innings, handing the ball off to Mariano Rivera for the two-out save. Just like that, the Yankees were right back in the series.
The Yankees have opened every one of their new stadiums with a World Championship, and the current version is no different. Matsui drove in four runs before the end of the third inning and six total on the night, leading to his World Series MVP trophy. Andy Pettitte gave up three runs in 5.2 IP on three days rest, Joba Chamberlain chipped in a scoreless inning, Damaso Marte pitched out of the Phillies’ last threat by striking out Chase Utley on three pitches, and Mo recorded the final five outs to clinch the franchise’s 27th title. It was glorious.
Unlike the other games in the post, I was actually in attendance for this one. The Yankees jumped out to a 5-0 zip off Daisuke Matsuzaka in the first inning, but the Red Sox slowly chipped away and a back-to-back homers by Kevin Youkilis and Victor Martinez off Chan Ho Park in the eighth inning gave them a 9-7 lead. Boston had a chance to add on a few more when they had the bases loaded in the ninth, but Javy Vazquez came out of the bullpen to strike out Youkilis to end the inning. Brett Gardner led off the bottom of the ninth with a double into left and Tex nearly tied things up with a ball to deep center one batter later. A-Rod did tie the game, launching a homer into the visitor’s bullpen for two runs, but the Yankees weren’t done. Robinson Cano hit a ball to deep center like Teixeira for out number two, but Frankie Cervelli extended the inning by taking a fastball to the ribs. Mighty Marcus Thames stepped to plate hunting a first pitch fastball and he got it, hitting a walk-off two-run homer into the left field stands.
The Boss’ health had been declining but his death still caught us all off guard. I still remember feeling sick after hearing the news of his emergency trip to the hospital soon after waking up that morning. The Yankees were off for the All-Star break at the time, so they didn’t return home to honor their late owner until a few days later. Much like Bobby Murcer following Thurman Munson’s death in 1979, one player seemingly carried the Yankees to victory on this date. The Rays grabbed a 4-3 lead in the seventh inning on a Ben Zobrist RBI ground out, but Nick Swisher got that run back with a leadoff homer in the bottom of the eighth. A ninth inning rally ignited by a Curtis Granderson leadoff walk and capped off by Swisher’s walk-off single through the right side sent the Yankees home victorious, the first game of the post-George era. Swisher had also driven in a run earlier in the game, and his +0.745 WPA is the largest by any player in a single game at New Yankee Stadium.
It wasn’t just when or where, it was how. Jeter’s milestone hit a no-doubt homerun into the left field bleachers, arguably his hardest hit ball of the season. Teammates met him at the plate and the celebration lasted several minutes on the field, but Derek wasn’t done yet. He had his third career 5-for-5 game, and the fifth hit drove in the game-winning run in the bottom of the eighth. It was one of those moments that make this game beautiful, when an aging star steals a day from his prime and reminds us of their past greatness.
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I think these seven games are the best candidates, but if you disagree and think another was the greatest in New Stadium history, then tell us about it in the comments. Thanks in advance for voting.
Is it home run or homerun? I’ve always preferred one word, but the official site and Wikipedia say I’m wrong. Oh well. Anyway, tonight is the night of the most simultaneously boring and entertaining event in baseball, the
Home Run Homerun Derby. The first two or three batters are fun, then it just starts to drag. MLB changed things up this year by appointing team captains (Prince Fielder and David Ortiz, the last two winners) and letting them pick the participants, though that didn’t do too much. I know he’s having an awful year, but it’s criminal that Adam Dunn still has not taken his hacks in the Derby yet. Mike Stanton’s another guy that should have been picked as well, just look at what the kid can do. His MLB.com highlight pages are pure homerun porn. Oh well.
The Yankees have one of their own in the Derby, second baseman Robinson Cano. Mark Teixeira was originally asked to participate, but he decided against it when he didn’t get selected for the game. Can’t say I blame him, I’d rather spend the time off with my family than fly out for the one event. Cano’s father Jose (a former big leaguer) will pitch to him, which would be pretty cool. Here are the participants, though I have no what order they’re hitting in…
StatCorner says Chase Field is basically a neutral homerun park for right-handed batters (102 HR pack factor) and very favorable for lefties (114), but you know what? I’m going against that and am picking Holliday. It’s not about how far you hit the ball but how many you hit out, and we’ve seen so many players tire in the later rounds over the last few years. Holliday’s so absurdly big and strong that I think he’ll hold up the best during the course of the competition. Plus having the experience from last year, when he hit just five homers, will probably help.
Anyway, that’s my pick. The Derby starts at 8pm ET and can be seen on ESPN and ESPN3.com. You can talk about that or whatever else your heart desires here in the open thread, so have at it. Anything goes.
Update: Here’s the order: Cano, Holliday, Gonzalez, Weeks, Bautista, Kemp, Ortiz, Fielder.
There once was a time when the Yankees simply could not beat the Angels. They were just 28-36 against the Halos from 2002 through 2008, but then things changed in 2009. After getting swept in Anaheim right before the 2009 All-Star break, the Yankees went on a big second half run that includes three wins in four regular season games against the Angels, and of course the four games to two series win in the ALDS. It’s been smooth sailing against Mike Scioscia’s fading club ever since.
What Have The Angels Done Lately?
Coming off two straight losses to the Royals, the Angels have
won just lost eight of their last 13 games to push their record to 29-29. They do have a positive run different at +3, but for all intents and purposes it indicates that they are exactly what their record suggests they are: a .500 club.
Angels On Offense
There’s one thing the Angels really lack on offense, and it’s power. As a team, they have just a .133 ISO and 49 homers, both good for tenth place in the American League. The lack of pop is even more noticeable with both Kendrys Morales and Vernon Wells on the disabled list. When Scioscia fills out his lineup card tonight, he’s going to have just two players with more than three long balls at his disposal: Torii Hunter (eight) and Mark Trumbo (ten). The Yankees, on the the other hand, have just one regular (Derek Jeter) with fewer than three homers.
In addition to Morales and Wells, the Halos are also without second baseman Howie Kendrick, who a) kills the Yankees (.371/.441/.481), and b) has been one of the best hitters in baseball this season (.322/.388/.520). It sounds like they might be able to activate him off the disabled list in time for Saturday’s game, however. Their best hitter aside from Kendrick has been Erik Aybar, who sports a .315/.356/.444 line with 14 steals out of the leadoff spot. Maicer Izturis (.285/.354/.414) is the only other regular with both a .310+ OBP and a .400+ SLG. Yep.
Old buddy Bobby Abreu is still doing the on base thing (.388 OBP) and stealing bases (eight), but his power is completely gone (.097 ISO). Hunter’s season line sits at .242/.325/.397, and Alberto Callaspo’s line is a lot like Abreu’s (.299/.371/.388). Trumbo, the rookie first baseman filling Morales’ shoes, is at .255/.305/.467 on the year but .320/.346/.680 over the last two weeks or so. He’ll get himself out on stuff off the plate, but don’t miss in the zone. Another rookie, Hank Conger, has done a decent job of taking playing time away from the certifiably awful Jeff Mathis, but he’s still at .234/.287/.364. The Angels recently picked up Russell Branyan to add some pop, but he wasn’t hitting with the Diamondbacks (.284 wOBA) and has done next to nothing (.095 wOBA) in seven games with Anaheim.
Like Justin Turner a few weeks ago, my pick to annoy the everliving hell out of the Yankees with weekend is Peter Bourjos. The rookie center fielder might be the best defensive outfielder in the game right now, and if you don’t believe me just check out his video highlights on MLB.com. Bourjos is only hitting .236/.292/.382 on the year, but don’t let that fool you. He has some pop and can run, and will do all the little things to annoy the crap out of you in this series. I guarantee he’ll hit at least one triple in these three games. It’s inevitable.
Angels On The Mound
Friday, RHP Jered Weaver: The Yankees have been facing great pitchers all road trip, so there’s no point in stopping now. Jeff’s younger brother is sporting a 2.48 FIP through a dozen starts this year, striking out more than eight men while walking just over two for every nine innings pitched. He is a fly ball pitcher (37.3% grounders) but he has pretty considerable reverse split over the last two years because his changeup is really good. All those lefty bats – Curtis Granderson, Robinson Cano, and switch hitters Mark Teixeira and Nick Swisher – are going to have to watch out for it. Weaver also throws four and two-seam fastballs right around 90 mph, and his out pitch is a slider in the upper-70′s. He’ll also bust out a curveball from time to time. I suppose the good news is that he’s cooled off after a scorching start, but he still sports at 3.18 ERA in his last five outings. Don’t hate on him for being a Weaver, Jered’s as good as it gets. But this is the third series in a row we’re writing this.
Saturday, RHP Dan Haren: As of this writing, it’s unclear if Haren will even make this start. He had to cut Thursday’s regular bullpen short because of back pain, and the Angels have yet to provide an update. I assume he’s still starting in that case. Anyway, Haren is in the middle of the best year in his career, rocking a 2.54 FIP on the strength of his always stingy walk rate (1.46 BB/9) and a strong homerun rate (0.52 HR/9) that comes from his best ground ball rate (44.6%) in years. He pounds the zone with two and four-seamers around 90 mph, a cutter in the mid-80′s, and then finishes batters off with a splitter around 90 and the occasional changeup or curveball. Only twice this year has he allowed more than three earned runs in a start, and only four times has he allowed more than two earned runs.
Sunday, RHP Ervin Santana: I have this weird disconnect between what I think Santana is and what he really is. He has a 5.55 ERA and a 5.94 FIP in ten career starts against the Yankees, but for whatever reason it’s stuck in my head that he always pitches well against them. It’s probably just me. Anyway, Santana has a respectable 3.81 ERA in 12 starts this season, and he’s actually sporting his best peripherals (7.75 K/9 and 2.47 BB/9) since 2008. The good news is that he’s allowed no fewer than four runs in six of his last nine starts, including four games of five or more runs. Looking at the PitchFX data, Santana’s just a two pitch pitcher these days. He throws his low-90′s fastball more than 60% of the time and his low-80′s slider more than 36% of the time. The other four percent or so is a changeup, but the usage of that pitch has continually decreased over the last few seasons. If Ervin’s going to come after the Yankees with just a fastball and a slider, well that’s just not a fight he’s going to win.
If Haren does not start on Saturday, the Angels will likely just move Santana up a day. He’d make that on regular rest because they had Thursday off. That would then put Joel Pineiro in line for Sunday’s start. The sinkerball extraordinaire missed the start of the season with a shoulder issue, but he’s posted a 3.55 ERA in seven starts since coming back, relying on his usual combination of no free baserunners (1.57 BB/9) and a healthy amount of grounders (52.3%).
Bullpen: Long gone are the days of Scot Shields crushing souls for two innings in front of Francisco Rodriguez, these Angels certainly feature a good ol’ fashioned lolpen. Their 4.28 FIP is fifth worst in all of baseball, and their 3.67 ERA would be a lot worse if not for a 77.4% strand rate. A 6.85 K/9 and 4.45 BB/9 are both bottom six marks in baseball.
Rookie closer Jordan Walden is legit, with an upper-90′s fastball and wipeout breaking ball, but he also walks 4.62 batters for every nine innings. Fernando Rodney walks two guys for every three innings pitched, and Scott Downs has suddenly forgotten how to strike people out (3.71 K/9). At least he has a 60% ground ball rate to get by with. Kevin Jepsen has walked seven and struck out four in ten innings, and Hisanori Takahashi is amazingly homer prone (1.62 HR/9). Long man Trevor Bell is another sub-4.00 K/9 guy (3.86, to be exact), but the secret weapon is Rich Thompson. The right-hander has struck out 9.99 batters per nine innings while keeping the walks down below three per nine. He’s legit, as is Walden, but everyone else is pretty sketchy.
Recommended Angels Reading: True Grich
For the first time in two seasons, the Yankees played in a true must win game on Wednesday afternoon. There was no wiggle room, it was win or go home with the Rangers leading the best-of-seven ALCS three games to one. Thankfully they were able to put the season in the hands of ace CC Sabathia, who delivered six classic grind-it-out innings, putting his team in a position to seal the all important win.
Biggest Hit: Little League
When you’re struggling, sometimes it takes a comedy of errors to help score some runs. The problem was that until Game Five, the Rangers were playing sound if not downright spectacular defense as a team, so the Yanks weren’t getting any breaks at all. That all changed in this game, which is exactly what they needed to get themselves back in the series.
Jorge Posada had already driven in the first run of the game (more on that in a sec) in the second inning and stood on first base with Lance Berkman parked 90 feet ahead of him. There was just one out in the inning when Curtis Granderson stepped to the plate, the only Yankee other than Robbie Cano to do much of anything offensively in the series. C.J. Wilson went after him with a fastball (called strike) and then a curveball (ball) before going back to the heater, which Grandy flipped into shallow right for a single. Berkman scored and Posada chugged around second towards third.
Jeff Francoeur was in right and handled the ball, firing towards third to get the slow Posada. The throw beat him to the bag easily, by about ten feet, but it was a little high and Michael Young missed the catch. The ball hit the rail in front of the Ranger dugout, and Jorge rounded third and headed home. Wilson grabbed the ball in foul territory and flipped it home, and again the throw had Posada beat by a good ten feet. Except it was too high, clearly over the leaping Matt Treanor. Georgie should have been thrown out at two different bases on the play, but he instead crossed the plate with the team’s third run of the inning and game. The WPA swing on this sucker was +.138, the single biggest play of the game.
Honorable Mention: Jorge Starts The Scoring
It’s no secret that the Yanks have had trouble scoring in the series, pushing just five runs across in Games Two through Four. They had also developed the nasty habit of allowing the other team to score first, so when Posada grounded a 2-0 fastball through the left side of the infield to drive in Alex Rodriguez for the first run of the game, it was a huge relief to everyone watching at home. It was just a measly one run lead in the second inning, and the team scored more on Granderson’s play one batter later, but holy cow was that big. It all started right here.
Biggest Out: Moreland Looks At Strike Three
I’m taking the subjective route this time, because the WPA scores are stupid. Apparently the most important defensive play of the game for the Yanks was Michael Young’s double play in the first inning (-.074 WPA). Pfft, yeah right.
Instead, I’m going to fast forward a few innings to the sixth, when the Yanks held a big enough but not really all that comfortable 6-2 lead. Sabathia was over the century mark in terms of pitches and starting to labor, and Texas had already scored a run when Matt Treanor hit a weak grounder with the bases loaded and one out. Mitch Moreland, who has proven to be a real pain in the ass at the bottom of the order, had a chance to bring his team to within two with a single.
Moreland had fouled off four of six pitches before singling in the fifth inning, and he went right back to the work in the sixth. CC started him away with a slider for a swing-and-a-miss before missing with a fastball to even the count. That’s when we went heavy with the offspeed stuff. The next three pitches were two sliders and a fastball that Moreland fouled off, then he took a fastball out of the zone for a ball before fouling off yet another slider. Sabathia was at 111 pitches and walking the tight rope, but he broke off yet another slider. This one was inside by design, freezing Moreland as it broke back over the plate for strike three. The threat was over, the lead was intact, and Mariano Rivera was that much closer to becoming a factor.
Honorable Mention: MVP GIDP
The Rangers had a chance to get back in the game in the fifth inning as well, after Moreland and Michael Young followed up Treanor’s solo homerun with a single. Josh Hamilton came to the plate with an opportunity made a 5-1 deficit a 5-4 deficit with one swing of the bat. Sabathia didn’t just cave and give him a fastball, he instead started him with two straight sliders for a 1-1 count. The third pitch was probably a little bit of a mistake, a 95 mph heater elevated in the zone, but thankfully the likely AL MVP hit on top of the baseball, grounding it to second for the inning ending double play.
CC Grinds It Out
Two runs in six innings of work is a fine end result, but Sabathia certainly had to work for it. He gave up eleven hits, nine of which were singles, but he didn’t walk anyone. Texas fouled off 24 of those 112 pitches, and they put at least one batter on base in each of CC’s innings. To paraphrase Ron Washington after the game, Sabathia bended but did not break. Yep, bended.
It wasn’t a traditional ace-like performance in that it was eight innings of three hit ball or something like that, but this is the kind of game that separates the great from the very good. CC dealt with adversity every single inning, whether it be baserunners or bad command or both, but he found a way to make big pitches when he needed to and preserved the lead his teammates gave him. It was a big game by the big man in a big spot, and it was exactly what the Yankees needed.
Robbie Cano had been a one man wrecking crew for the first four games of the series, hitting the team’s only three homers. The problem is that he was the only one doing much of anything at the plate, but obviously that all changed in Game Five. Two of his teammates joined in on the long ball action, with Nick Swisher whacking on a solo shot in the third and Curtis Granderson doing the same in the eighth. Swish’s was traditional big fly down the leftfield line, but Grandy’s was a laser beam, a line drive that couldn’t have been more than 30 or 35 feet off the ground as it zoomed into the rightfield stands.
Not to be outdone, Cano hit his fourth homer of the series immediately after Swish for back-to-back jacks. It was good to see the Bronx Bombers get back to doing what they do.
Elvis Andrus is rapidly becoming one of my most hated players. The guy’s luck is unreal, with two more infield singles in this game, including one that stopped rolling literally on the foul line. Needless to say, I certainly enjoyed watching Kerry Wood pick him off second in the seventh inning.
Speaking of Wood, how about the work that guy did? Andrus’ infield single was the only baserunner he allowed in two innings, when he struck out three on 28 pitches (21 strikes). Mo was available for up to seven outs if needed, but Wood made sure he wasn’t by doing a phenomenal job of bridging the gap between CC and Sandman. Can’t say enough for how important that was given the bullpen’s recent struggles.
Scary moment for Berkman in the fourth inning; he slipped and fell flat on his back on the warning track chasing after an Ian Kinsler pop-up. He somehow didn’t hit his head, but he knocked the wind out of himself and said he was sore from his neck to his butt. Puma stayed in the game (and switched from rubber to metal spikes) and even produced a little with the bat from the right side, drawing a walk and driving in a run with a sac fly.
As for the rest of the offense, Derek Jeter reached base twice (single, walk) in five plate appearances, coaxing 25 pitches out of the Rangers’ staff. Swish walked in addition to the homer while Grandy picked up two more hits besides his big fly. One of those two was a double deep into the leftfield corner off a lefthander, something he never ever would have been able to do three months ago. Even his outs are loud these days. A-Rod doubled (ground rule style) and walked twice, and Posada had a double in addition to the RBI single in the second. All told, everyone except Brett Gardner reached base, and everyone except Gardner and Marcus Thames (who walked intentionally) reached base at least twice. They needed a game like this.
WPA Graph & Box Score
Day off on Thursday, then Game Six on Friday will feature Phil Hughes against Colby Lewis. The Yankees are playing with house money now. No one expects them to win the series, so the pressure’s all on Texas. Make sure you enjoy the games, it’s nice to be the team no one expects anything out of for once.
Coming off Friday’s thrilling come-from-behind win, the Yankees had every reason to feel good about themselves when they showed up to the park for Game Two on Saturday. The Rangers, on the other hand, had every reason to doubt themselves, but to their credit they put it all in the rear-view mirror and jumped all over the Yanks to tie the ALCS at one in blowout fashion.
A Hughes Disappointment
Two games, two terrible performances by Yankee starting pitchers. The bullpen and offense was able to bail CC Sabathia out in Game One, but no such luck for Phil Hughes in Game Two. Texas forced the issue in the very first inning, with Josh Hamilton and Elvis Andrus combining to literally steal a run (more on that in a bit) while Hughes struck out the side. He looked strong in the first inning, very strong in fact, but boy were we wrong.
The Rangers scored another two runs in the second, the first on a David Murphy solo homer, the other on a Michael Young double down the rightfield line following singles by Mitch Moreland and Andrus. The two runs were actually the two largest WPA swings of the game, with Murphy’s homer coming in at +.092 for Texas, Young’s double +.083. A three run deficit in the second inning isn’t the end of the world, the Yanks proved that in Game One, but Hughes’ pitch count was already over 40 and the Rangers’ batters were making nothing but solid contact.
Texas added another pair of runs in the third when three of the first four batters of the inning – Nelson Cruz, Murphy, and Bengie Molina – doubled. Hughes managed to escape that inning and throw a scoreless fourth, but Joe Girardi curiously sent him back out for the fifth with his pitch count approaching 90. Cruz led off the inning with a double and Ian Kinsler followed with a triple, and that was it for young Mr. Hughes.
The final line is ugly (4 IP, 10 H, 7 R, 7 ER, 3 BB, 3 K, 1 WP) but even more infuriating was Hughes’ inability to put batters away with two strikes. Seven (seven!) of Texas’ ten hits off Phil came with two strikes, and he allowed runners to reach scoring position in every inning but the fourth. The Rangers fouled off more than a quarter of his 88 pitches, unsurprising when 68 of those pitches were fastballs. Hughes was absolutely dreadful, worse than Sabathia was the day before. He gave his team basically no chance to win.
It didn’t feel like it when the game was in progress, but the Yankees had a few opportunities to push some runs and just didn’t get it done. They left two runners on in the second, third, sixth, seventh, and ninth, plus one runner in both the fifth and eighth innings. Of the seven (!!!) walks issued by Rangers’ pitchers, zero came around to score. All told, the Yanks left a dozen runners on base and had just one hit in eleven at-bats with runners in scoring position, a single by Lance Berkman who got thrown out foolishly trying to stretch it into a double. They had opportunities, but just couldn’t cash them in.
Robbie Cano Is BOOM!
It wasn’t all bad for the Yanks’ offense; Robbie Cano was a one man wrecking crew all afternoon. He ripped a line drive in his first at-bat that Nelson Cruz against the wall, then doubled over Josh Hamilton’s head his next time up (he came around to score the Yanks’ first run of the game), then capped it off solo homer into the second deck in his third trip to the plate (the only other run they’d score). Cano also made the final out of the game, a rocket to the opposite field that Cruz somehow managed to catch on the run on the warning track. I tweeted that if the game was played at Yankee Stadium, Cano would have had three homers, and that was only semi-hyperbolic. Those first three balls were just crushed.
Two stupid mistakes on the Rangers’ first run, when Andrus stole home on Hamilton’s attempted steal of second: Jorge Posada actually throwing through to second with the speedy runner on third, then Cano not tagging Hamilton for the out. The run probably would have scored anyway, but at the least inning would have been over. Hamilton was intentionally trying to get in a run down, take the free out. Still, that’s a Little League play. Posada has to get his head out of his ass.
No excuses, but I’m not sure why Hughes was sent back out for the fifth. Yes he had just thrown a very good fourth inning, but he was clearly laboring and the bullpen was full of rested relievers with the day off tomorrow. He allowed the double and triple before giving way to Joba Chamberlain, who nearly escaped the jam with a pair of strikeouts before Moreland slapped a grounder through the left side. I thought Joba looked extremely good, with a fastball that bumped 96 and a slider that garnered two swings-and-misses for strikeouts.
In fact, the entire bullpen as a whole was strong yet again. They combined to throw four innings, allowed just two hits, walked three (one on purpose), and struck out six. Sergio Mitre even made an appearance, his first in 13 days. If nothing else, Joba, David Robertson, and Boone Logan were able to get some tune-up work in after the long layoff.
Every Yankee in the starting lineup reached base at least once except for Brett Gardner, who went 0-for-2 before being lifted for a pinch hitter. Curtis Granderson saw 27 pitches in just four trips to the plate. They also forced rookie closer Neftali Feliz to throw 30 pitches in the ninth (just 16 strikes), which has to put a little doubt in every Rangers’ fan mind should he pitch in an actual high leverage situation this series.
I’m not going to make a big deal out of it because it’s a cop out, but Tony Randazzo’s strike zone was awful. Here’s the scatter plot if you don’t believe me. The green markers are balls, the red called strikes.
One last thing to remember: splitting the first two games on the road is generally considered a success. Things seem worse than they really are because Sabathia and Hughes were awful, but those kinds of efforts are the exception for those two, not the norm. The Yanks grabbed homefield advantage from Texas and now head home to play the next three in Yankee Stadium. Short of winning both games in Arlington, this is the best situation they could have hoped for.
WPA Graph & Box Score
It’s a best-of-five series now, but the two teams will take Sunday off before resuming play at 8:00pm ET on Monday. Andy Pettitte goes against Cliff Lee in a matchup of lefties.