Yanks win an odd one against the Angels

For four innings this seemed like a typical rebound game. After getting their asses kicked last night the Yanks scored six runs in four innings while holding the Angels scoreless. Javier Vazquez had thrown just 37 pitches through those four innings, and it didn’t look like the Angels had much of a chance. But from the fifth inning on it became anything but a typical ballgame.

Biggest Hit: Miranda takes out an insurance policy (WPA) and Cano’s tater (subjective)

Photo credit: Kathy Willens/AP

The aim of WPA, as I see it, is to capture the essence of the moment. Given the current base-out state and score situation it can, using data from thousands of games, describe how important a certain moment or event appears. Of course, you can’t always capture emotion in a number. When it comes to important moments in a game I’ll sometimes argue with the value WPA assigns to it. Today we’ll split the difference.

Heading into the bottom of the seventh the Yanks were walking a tightrope. In a matter of two innings they saw their 6-0 lead cut all the way to 6-5. The Angels mounted a few threats that the bullpen quelled, but it still felt like heartbreak could be a few pitches away. That’s why Juan Miranda‘s one-out solo home run in the bottom of the seventh was so important.

Scot Shields got Cano to, once again, chase a pitch at his eyes to cap a three-pitch strikeout. That brought up Juan Miranda, 0 for 3 to that point, with none on and one out. On the 2-1 pitch Shields delivered a fastball up and over the plate, and Miranda laid into it, sending it into the Yanks’ bullpen for some much-needed insurance. Even the one additional run made the lead seem so much safer.

To me, though, the biggest hit came earlier, during the four-run third. The Yanks had rallied on a Jeter single, Swisher double, and Teixeira single to extend the lead to four. Two batters later Robinson Cano took a 2-0 sinker over the center field wall to break open the game. At that point, with Vazquez cruising, it felt like a comfortable game.

Biggest Pitch: Joba gets another grounder

Two dozen photos, none of Joba | Photo credit: Kathy Willens/AP

I don’t know what happened to Javy. I don’t think Javy knows what happened to Javy. Girardi explained it as him trying too hard to avoid the walk. It could be that. It’s definitely not something you see every day from a pitcher who was going so well earlier in the game. David Robertson then worked himself into a jam in the sixth but got out of it in what was the second biggest pitch of the game. He ran the count to 3-1 on Howie Kendrick before getting him to line out on a high fastball.

In the seventh, Girardi went to Boone Logan, who retired both lefties and allowed a single to the righty Torii Hunter. With another righty, Mike Napoli, due up, Girardi went to Joba Chamberlain for the final out. He basically let Hunter steal second, and then on a 3-2 count missed low with a fastball to put on Napoli. It looked like he’d get out of it when Juan Rivera hit a chopper towards third, but it was hit too weakly and everyone reached safely. For the second inning in a row the Yankees faced a bases loaded jam, and for the second inning in a row they avoided damage. Kevin Frandsen grounded to A-Rod, who stepped on third to end the inning.

The bullpen did a great job, Joba’s eighth aside, for the second time in three games. The relief corps remains one of the weaker parts of this team, but they’ve come through lately and have helped deliver two big wins.

Miscellany

Photo credit: Kathy Willens/AP

Derek Jeter had a nice-looking day. He’ll go on a tear sometime later this month into August. Just watch.

If I didn’t know better I’d think that Nick Swisher has a chance to hit .300 this year. It looks like he can hit anything up there. He looked especially good in the third when he waited back on a curveball and served it back into center for a base hit.

With this 3 for 5, two-double night, Mark Teixeira‘s line is up to .256/.366/.471. I have August 8 in the pool of when he’ll get his SLG over .500.

A-Rod has struck out only 4 times in his last 40 AB.

As Chad Jennings notes, Robinson Cano hadn’t been intentionally walked twice in a game since 2007.

For the second time this season Juan Miranda homered off a pitcher with the last name Shields. He hit one off James on May 20.

Granderson looked good, going 2 for 4. If it takes a critical article every day to get him going, I’m up to the task.

Yesterday was Cervelli’s 10th multi-hit game in 49 starts.

Brett Gardner lost a chance to bring his batting average back over .300 when he got ejected, for the first time in his career, in the seventh.

Photo credit: Kathy Willens/AP

Colin Curtis, who hit his first career home run, is the only player in the league with the last name Curtis. There are only two players whose first name is Curtis.

And finally, Michael Kay got all riled up for an A-Rod fly ball that didn’t even push Matsui to the warning track, but showed no emotion when, one batter later, Robinson Cano put a ball in the bullpen to give the Yanks a 5-0 lead.

Box, graph, and highlights

Poppa, what does the tall red bar mean?

More at FanGraphs. Also: traditional box and highlights.

Up Next

The Royals come to town for a four-game set. Thanks to the luck of the draw, Zack Greinke pitched on Wednesday, and so he won’t face the Yankees. Bruce Chen will square off against CC Sabathia at 7:05 p.m. tonight, and the Yankees will hope their starting pitcher can make it through six innings for the first time since CC’s last outing.

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Miranda back up; Russo back down

Juan gone to AAA no longer. | Photo credit: Kathy Willens/AP

The Yankees have recalled Juan Miranda from AAA Scranton and have sent Kevin Russo back to the minors, reports Ben Shpigel. Miranda is in the lineup tonight as the Yanks’ DH, and he will be batting eighth against Tampa’s James Shields.

For the 27-year-old Miranda, this is his second stint in the Bronx this year. In his previous stay, he hit .217/.294/.435 with a pair of home runs in 51 plate appearances. Recently back from a minor injury, he had been on a tear at AAA over his last ten games, hitting .459/.545/.838 with three home runs and eight doubles. On the season, his minor league line is .291/.380/.509 with 10 home runs in 175 at bats. He certainly can mash the ball.

Russo has long been the Yanks’ odd man out. He made a splash during the Subway Series in the Yanks’ 2-1 win over the Mets in May and, a few days later, helped down the Twins 3-2. Since then, however, he hasn’t hit or played much at all. He’s had just 28 plate appearances over the team’s last 36 games, and he’s just 3 for 24 in that span. He’s far better off getting regular playing time in Scranton than he is warming the bench in the Bronx.

For Miranda and the Yankees, this could be a semi-permanent move until or unless the team finds a true DH, and it could also be a trade showcase. If the Yanks want to make a move in a few weeks without selling the farm, Miranda could be the perfect trading chip. It could also spell the end to Francisco Cervelli‘s playing time as well because the Yanks would prefer to use Jorge at catcher while Marcus Thames and Miranda share DH duties. Either way, this is a move that was a long time coming.

Rays offense dooms Yanks again

A bright spot | Photo credit: Kathy Willens/AP

The O’Neill Rule has failed. The Yankees bats were not, in fact, enlivened by the 9th inning rally on Wednesday. In fact, a number of the team’s hitters, including A-Rod, looked considerably worse at the plate than they did in Wednesday’s loss. They took advantage of Rays’ mistakes, but never conjured a rally of their own. The Rays, on the other hand, continued to pound Yankees’ pitching. The injury riddled lineup just couldn’t hang.

Defining moment: Yanks fail to capitalize in the third

The Yanks came into the game needing a win, so to see the Rays put across three in the first was pretty deflating. They came back for a couple in the second, and then appeared poised to assert themselves in the third. Randy Winn opened with a single, and you just can’t waste opportunities like that. And so the Yankees went to work.

Derek Jeter laid down a beauty of a bunt that easily advanced Winn to second. That, however, wasn’t the ultimate aim. With Evan Longoria playing back, Jeter’s intention, I’m sure, was to put himself on base, too. Once the ball got past James Shields that was assured. Brett Gardner followed with a bunt of his own, this one a bit more predictable. Shields fielded this one, but likely wouldn’t have gotten Gardner even if he made a good throw. He didn’t, though, and the ball rolled into foul territory in right, allowing Winn to score. All the sudden, a deflated feeling turned into joy. The Yankees had tied the game.

Not only did the Yanks get a new life, they also got an opportunity to break open the game. Runners stood on second and third with none out, and the Yankees had their 3-4-5 hitters coming to the plate. In the most painful fashion, Shields dispatched of them. Mark Teixeira tapped a weak one right back to the pitcher. Alex Rodriguez struck out on a pitch that Dioner Navarro had to block. Robinson Cano waved at strike three well outside the zone.

While they had tied the game, the failure to score even one run in that situation again brought the deflated feeling.

Andy Pettitte: Not sharp

Photo credit: Kathy Willens/AP

It was clear, right from the first batter, that Andy Pettitte was going to battle through this one. Four batters later he had a runner on first with none out and a 3-0 deficit. He threw 28 pitches in the inning, 13 of which were out of the zone. I’m pretty sure Cervelli had to move his glove on every pitch, though I might just be imagining that.

Overall Pettitte thew 103 pitches, 101 of which came before the sixth. In that inning he threw just two pitches, both cutters to Carlos Pena, who slammed the second one into the Yankees’ bullpen to give the Rays a 7-4 lead. Again, deflating. Two runs is one thing. Once they tack on that third run, though, well, I’m not sure if it’s just psychological, but it seems like a much tougher hole to dig out of.

It looked like Pettitte had settled down a bit after the first, but he slipped again in the fifth. Gabe Kapler singled with one out, and for some reason Pettitte payed a bit too much attention to him at first, throwing over four times during Jason Bartlett’s at-bat. That one ended with a seven-pitch walk, which set up Carl Crawford to knock home Kapler with a single and give the Rays the lead. A Ben Zobrist sac fly put them two ahead.

I thought that would be it for Pettitte, but apparently Girardi wanted Pettitte to face the lefty Pena. In his career Pena is a markedly worse hitter against lefties, though he’s been equally bad regardless of handedness this year. Anyway, it was a decent move that backfired.

Sheilds’s change perplexes Yanks hitters

Photo credit: Kathy Willens/AP

James Shields continued his high-strikeout ways by sitting down seven Yankees, six of them swinging. Five of those came on changeups. What’s strange is that, so far as I can tell, Shields did not generate any swings and misses except for a strikeout pitch. He threw it 24 times, his most utilized secondary pitch, and made only one mistake. That was Juan Miranda‘s second-inning homer.

In the past few years Shields has proven himself to be a very good pitcher who doesn’t appear dominant. He induced just six swinging strikes in his 7.1 innings, which matches his number of swinging strikeouts. That’s amazingly efficient. The Yanks did get to him in some ways — he did allow eight hits — but one of them came because B.J. Upton couldn’t find a fly ball. Four runs in 7.1 innings from Shields is not bad. But he still looked good.

Another rally falls short

For the second straight night the Yanks posted a rally in the ninth that fell short. Derek Jeter drove in two with a picturesque double into the gap, but that just wasn’t enough. lt’s encouraging that they were able to bring the tying run to the plate, but it just wasn’t enough.

WPA Graph and box score

The peak at the beginning makes this one even more depressing.

More at FanGraphs. Here’s the box score.

Up Next

It’s back on the road, but not really, for three games at Citi Field this weekend. Javy Vazquez vs. the lefty Hisanori Takahashi.

AAA prospects: a status report

Photo Credit: Cataffo/ Ny Daily News

Mike does a great job compiling all of the stats and happenings across the Yankees’ minor league system in his nightly Down on the Farm series. From Staten Island to Scranton, we have a pretty good sense about how our players did, even if we mostly only care about Montero, Romine, ManBan, Ramirez, Warren, Z-Mac, Stoneburner and a handful of other players.

But after a while we sometimes get “stuck” in the numbers — we forget how the guy that’s just gone 0-5 with 4 K’s during last night’s game is very often the same guy that went 4-5 with two home runs the night before. So I’m going to be doing a recap of how some of the AAA farmhands have performed thus far, all of which came from milb.com or minorleaguesplits.com. Many of the players on this list are on Mike’s Preseason Prospect List, where you can get a better look at their long term prospects. In this AAA installment I chose to recap players that are actual prospects, most of which will likely (if they haven’t already) see major league action this year. Not too many are interested in seeing Amaury Sanit’s progress, though I’m betting we’d all love to find out if Kei Igawa sleeps with those awesome sunglasses on (I’ll do some digging and try to find out for you all).

Next week we’ll take a look at how some of the AA guys are looking. Also, because there’s a Montero Watch present in the sidebar and most DotF are comprised of MonteroTalk, we’re going to leave him out on this one.

AAA Scranton-Wilkes Barre

Kevin Russo, 2B: With the big league club having apparently suffering a pandemic of Mets-itus, a few AAA players have seen some promotions. Chief among them, and for good reason, is utility player Kevin Russo. Russo, a former 20th round draft pick out of Baylor in 2006, had hit .302/.383/.425 as Scranton’s second basemen before jumping to Massachusetts after Robinson Cano was hit by a Josh Beckett fastball. He got only two plate appearances but Russo’s versatility – he can at least play three infield spots and man the corner outfield positions – defensively, his solid on-base skills, and good contact ability make him a good candidate to stick in the big leagues for a long time. With Ramiro Pena‘s mounting struggles with the bat (which was inevitable, really), Russo may take him over as a super-utility guy at some point. He’ll have to show he can at least play SS passably, though, and there’s no guarantee of that. Bonus: if there are minors fantasy leagues that exist (I’m hoping they do), he’ll soon have CF eligibility, too. He’s played there of late.

Season line in AAA: .301/.388/.416

Last ten games: .310/.383/.405

Time in New York: .000/.000/.000

Eduardo Nunez, SS: Most people saw this coming. Nunez got off to a torrid pace, as Greg Fertel and even RAB’s own Mike Axisa have noted in his DotF postings. Consequently, Nunez has really tailed off, displaying why we shouldn’t fall in love with early season small sample sizes. With a few middle infielders ahead of him in the pecking order and poor defensive skills (albeit with a great arm), Nunez is unlikely to see any big league action this year. If he does it will because of ghastly circumstances. Poor defense, weak power, unrefined on-base skills with very good contact ability, plus speed and a wonderful arm. That may translate to some modicum of minor league success, but I don’t see it happening on the major league level for a middle infielder (and really one in name only).

Season in AAA: .321/.371/.400

Last ten games: .244/.262/.268

Juan Miranda, 1B: Miranda was a big-money IFA signing of the Yanks from Cuba back in 2006. You may remember he was once considered the future first baseman of the Yanks. While that doesn’t look like it’s going to happen, Miranda, in his final option year, is playing for a contract for a big league club next year. The book on him was that though he really nails right handers, he struggles with lefties and his defensive play is by no means great, even for a first baseman. Last year he took positive steps in correcting those problems, hitting lefties with a triple slash of .291/.367/.507. So far, in AAA, he’s continued that pace, hitting .313/.389/.563 in 33 plate appearances (note: this is according to minorleaguesplits.com, which is a bit behind in their stats). Oddly, he’s struggled against righties, hitting .222/.354/.364 in 66 plate appearances. He’s been in New York for a few games, and with Nick Johnson possibly out for a few months, Miranda may stay in New York as a DH. Considering Johnson’s injury history, the team couldn’t be caught too surprised by that. This may be make or break for Miranda.

Season line in AAA: .260/.371/.438

Last ten games in AAA:.250/.357/.417

Time in New York: .143/.250/.286

Photo Credit: Mike Ashmore

Ivan Nova, SP

Nova’s rocketed up Yankee top prospect lists over the last two years as he’s finally started to harness his very good stuff. He’s been up in New York after the injury bug hit and he’s largely impressed, though he’s probably the guy sent back down with Park coming back from the DL. In his first appearance, Nova, signed by the Yanks and returned after being selected as a Rule V from the Padres, came in and threw two scoreless innings and in today’s game he again looked fairly good. With a likely ceiling as a back-end starter in the AL East (which really isn’t all that bad when you think about it), Nova is very likely to be the first guy up again with another injury, first because he’s already on the 40-man roster, and second because a groundball pitcher with good stuff is always a valuable commodity. He also has an outside shot at a rotation spot next year depending on how things shake out.

AAA season: 37 IP, 2.43 ERA, 35 hits, 32 K, 12 BB, 1.78 GO/AA

Last two starts: 13 IP, 3.84 ERA, 17 hits, 7 K, 4 BB

Time in New York: 3 innings, 0.00 ERA, 4 hits, 1 K, 0 BB

Zack McAllister, SP

Z-Mac has had an up-and-down in his first run at AAA. Arguably the Yankees’ top pitching prospect, McAllister ran into some issues in late April, early May, giving up over 6 runs in two of three starts. Still, he’s sprinkled in some good games and has strung two consecutive 7-inning performances of good ball. A polished groundball pitcher, McAllister may wind up trade bait or perhaps in the rotation as early as next year. He, like Nova, has back rotation or possibly #3 starter potential, but he’s going to need to get that groundball rate up again. A 34% GB ratio is not going to work at the big league level for a guy with his skill set. It wouldn’t hurt to develop a true out pitch, either.

Season in AAA: 45 IP, 4.40 ERA, 52 hits, 32 K, 9 BB, 0.52 GO/AA

Last two starts: 14 IP, 2.14 ERA, 14 hits, 8K, 1 BB

Romulo Sanchez, SP/RP

The last of the famed “Fat Sanchezes,” Romulo has been very impressive in his time in Pennsylvania and also in New York. Sanchez has a great fastball, occasionally hitting the high 90’s with his 4-seamer, but he likely profiles best as a reliever in the future due to his erratic control and fringe-average off-speed pitches (a changeup and slider). If he can locate that big fastball and keep hitters off balance with one of the off speed offerings, he could definitely stick with the big club over the year. His numbers in Scranton are a bit misleading. In April he gave up 10 earned runs in only 2.1 innings. Otherwise, he’s been among the better pitchers in the upper minors.

AAA season: 32 IP, 5.34 ERA, 30 hits, 32 K, 16 BB, 1.22 GO/AA

Last 2 starts: 14 IP, 1.42 ERA, 9 hits, 17 K, 2 BB

In New York: 3.2 IP, 0.00 ERA, 1 hit, 3 K, 1 BB

Mark Melancon, RP

The final name on our list, Melancon entered last season with high expectations and didn’t live up to them in limited action. I recall his propensity for hitting opposing batters (along with old favorite Mike Dunn). It was probably just jitters because he returned to AAA and fell right back where he’d been before his callup. He came back up again briefly and showed signs of life, causing many of us to think he’d be up in the Bronx to start the year. Well, hasn’t happened yet but it seems like just a matter of time. Melancon has again been very good in Pennsylvania in 2010. A look at his splits reveals some quirks, though. You might look at his numbers against righties and say, “Wait a second, this doesn’t look right.” And to some extent, you’d be right. But aha! Along with a BABip against righties of .462, he’s also giving up a line drive rate of 26.2%, yet checking in with an FIP of 3.05. Look a bit further over and you see why. He’s striking out 16.55 righties per nine innings this year. Wow, that’s strange data. Against lefties he’s getting lots of groundouts, another promising sign. I’d be fairly shocked if we don’t see Melancon in the Bronx very soon.

AAA Season: 23 IP, 2.74 ERA, 21 hits, 31 K, 8 BB, 1.71 GO/AA

Last 4 appearances: 5.2 IP, 0.00 ERA, 4 hits, 13 K, 2 BB

Miranda finally called up, Russo sent down, CHoP to start rehab

This one took a little longer to materialize than we originally expected, but Juan Miranda has in fact been called up, and is in the lineup at first base today. Mark Teixiera is getting a half-day off as the designated hitter, but I expect everyone to get a full day off given the weather forecast in Detroit. To make room for Miranda, utility player Kevin Russo was returned to Triple-A Scranton. Unsurprising, but still slightly disappointing. Hopefully Miranda gets regular at-bats, because this nonsense about a rotating DH needs to stop.

Meanwhile, Marc Carig reports that Chan Ho Park will begin a rehab assignment with Triple-A Scranton tomorrow. He’ll probably need two or three minor league outings before being ready to return to the big league team, so that puts him on target for a return next week. The bullpen sure could use him.