All season long we've heard about and talked about how Jason Giambi has not been clutch, killing the team in important situations, hitting .205 with runners in scoring position.
Today, by himself, he may saved the Yankees' season.
Starting the game on the bench, Giambi didn't look like he would be much of a factor, but Joe Girardi guessed right and pinched hit with Giambi for Molina with two outs in the seventh inning. Giambi crushed a two run home run to center, and at once re-energized the Yankees enough to win the game.
Mike Mussina had some of his better stuff today, though, as has haunted him his entire career, he did not get the win. The quest for 20 wins is alive, though it is fading. Still, if it wasn't for Mussina, the Yankees would likely not even be a .500 team. Mussina has, quite simply, been amazing this season.
As a ballgame, today's game was a classic. Great pitching from both Mussina and Lester, and from both bullpens, and, of course, late inning drama. For the final Sox-Yankees game at the Stadium, it was certainly fitting.
Now the Yankees get to welcome Toronto for three--and once again have to deal with AJ Burnett and Roy Halladay. The Yankees can't let that faze them, however--they're in such a situation right now where they simply have to win every game they can.
There's still a month left.
Anything is possible.
Thursday, August 28, 2008
All season long we've heard about and talked about how Jason Giambi has not been clutch, killing the team in important situations, hitting .205 with runners in scoring position.
Tuesday, August 26, 2008
It's not that the Yankees didn't have chances.
In nearly every inning, it seemed, the Yankees had a chance to tie the Red Sox--or at least to chip away at the lead--and every inning, when it mattered most, they came up empty.
The boos came down heaviest on Alex Rodriguez, and, it seems, rightly so--two grounded-into double plays, the last one coming with the bases loaded. The player who was the unquestionable MVP last year seems to have completely forgotten the meaning of clutch and instead is playing as though it's still October 2006.
Rodriguez is not the only one at fault, however.
Jason Giambi has been equally not as good with runners in scoring position, and when the two hit behind each other, it doesn't seem to matter if Johnny Damon, Derek Jeter and Bobby Abreu all reach base, because it seems as though none of them will score.
Andy Pettitte did not have a good outing.
The Yankees staked him to a 1-0 and then a 2-1 lead, and both times he could not hold the lead the next half inning. While some of the blame lies with a mysterious shrinking strike zone, many of Andy's misses were clearly out of the strike zone.
What is especially painful about this game is that it matters so much. Last year, when faced with a similar situation, the Yankees swept Boston at the Stadium (with a little help from Scooter the Squirrel) and then took two out of three at Fenway.
The Yankees don't have the luxury to be able to lose this series and still remain serious playoff contenders, so asking them to win the next two games--tomorrow with Ponson on the mound--seems like a tall order.
Unlike the Phillies or the Brewers or (dare I say it) the Rays, the Yankees don't seem to show any sort of fight, and the problem has been going on all year. As a fan, it's beyond frustrating to watch--you want the team to care, but right now it's as though we're watching lethargy in action.
I know I'm spoiled. I don't remember the last time the Yankees missed the playoffs, but I am used to teams like the Nets and the Jets and Syracuse Football being at the bottom of their league. It's a much different experience following a team that isn't expected to win than one that is (and is not winning)--there's no frustration in the former.
The Yankees will have to try to pull out a miracle.
It's not impossible, but they are running out of time.
Sunday, August 24, 2008
While you were busy lamenting the death of the Yankees season, they went and swept the Orioles.
With Mike Mussina, Carl Pavano and Darrell Rasner as the starting pitchers.
Okay, so outside of Mussina's start, there wasn't much 'pitching' going on in the series, but at this point, the win is the only thing that matters, and the Yankees just got three of them.
Today, the Yankee offense was able to pick up after a poor showing by Rasner, and though it wasn't easy--it was a long, almost Boston-type game--they were able to take a win heading into the off day tomorrow.
As it stands right now the Yankees are five games out of the Wild Card--they would, of course, raather be closer, but five games is not un-doable.
There is no understating how important the upcoming Boston series is--if they get swept, they would be at least eight games back. It always comes down to games with Boston, it seems...
The Yankees will need Andy Pettitte, Sidney Ponson and Mike Mussina all to be up to the task.
Wednesday, August 20, 2008
There was an early barometer for the Yankees in tonight's game.
In the top of the first inning they had the bases loaded with no one out--and too often, this season, the Yankees have found themselves in this situation and not been able to score.
Today, however, (thank g-d), the Yankees took advantage of the situation and scored two runs.
Though the two runs would be all they needed to win, the Yankees grabbed a few more insurance runs, including two on a Derek Jeter home run and won easily a game that they had to win.
It's perhaps an over-used phrase at this point in time--the Yankees have to go about 24-12 and hope Boston plays .500 ball the rest of the way to have a sot at the postseason--but it's true. Every game for the Yankees now is a must win game.
Andy Pettitte had one of his better starts this year, going seven innings and giving up just one run. He had some great defense behind him, and at one point retired nine in a row.
As far as the Olympics go, Usein Bolt has the most amazing and appropriate name ever, Michael Phelps has gills (but this you knew) and Nastia Liukin is so flexible she makes the Cirque du Soleil contortionists look rigid.
Tuesday, August 19, 2008
When things go wrong for the Yankees, it seems like everything collapses at once.
Darrell Rasner shouldn't be blamed for today's loss...until the seventh inning of the game he had actually out-pitched AJ Burnett.
As this season has gone, however, perhaps it's no surprise that a 1-0 win was too much to hope for--not that Burnett is a bad pitcher (he is excellent). However, as it is, the Yankees are now one game from fourth place.
Alex Rodriguez had made a comment about needing to produce--and then struck out three times and got thrown out on a great play trying to stretch a single into a double.
Johnny Damon, who has been slumping, was horrible in center field, directly contributing to Toronto's winning run.
Hideki Matsui made his first appearance since coming off of the disabled list.
I apologize for the utter lack of posts the past few days--busy moving in for grad school. However, that is now completedd and I should be back to my regularly scheduled delusional blogging.
Friday, August 15, 2008
One poster on the LoHud Yankees' Blog has the perfect summation of today's game:
When you read the Yankees' obituary in the papers, it will read--
RIP due to inability to score with RISP
I would like to add that the situation was compounded by an innate stubborness to pitch Mariano Rivera in a tie game.
There's really nothing else you can say about this team right now.
Wednesday, August 13, 2008
So first off, I apologize for being so sporadic recently. I've been dealing with some personal issues which will hopefully sort themselves out, but it looks like I haven't been missing much.
This was, after all, a make-or-break road trip for the Yankees, and, well, when you only win three games out of ten, things don't look very good.
It's hard to pinpoint where it all went wrong.
It's easy enough to blame the injury to Joba as a death knell or contend that the Angels are simply unbeatable, but the fact is, the Yankees had a legitimate chance to win every game they played on the road trip.
In at least one of the Texas games, all of the Anaheim games and two of the Minnesota games, the Yankees had a physical lead. They only won three of those games, and in only two of the games, if memory serves, did they not relinquish a lead.
Teams that play baseball in October, it should be noted, know how to keep leads once they have them.
There wasn't any one part of the Yankees that has been more at fault than the other--when they hit, they didn't pitch, when they pitched, they didn't hit, when the starters couldn't go deep, the bullpen was overworked and prone to giving up even more runs.
The ERA of the pitching staff, once one of the best in the majors, has skyrocketed since the eight game win streak.
To add injury to insult---err, reverse that---it now looks like Derek Jeter and Dan Giese are hurt as well.
It's not time to write 2008 off just yet--speaking as an optimist, I won't until the Yankees are mathematically eliminated--but the team is fighting for its life right now, and the fight is not going in their favor, at all.
Miracles can happen, but the Yankees shouldn't have to rely on that for October baseball.
Monday, August 11, 2008
The next time the Yankees get a hit with a runner on third base, I'm opening a bottle of champagne.
Their season is in free fall. They had a chance to win every game this weekend and didn't win any.
Tonight, they're playing flat, as if they really don't care.
You get the feeling right now that this team would rather be anywhere in October than the Bronx.
A shame. Yankee Stadium deserves better than this.
Saturday, August 9, 2008
The Yankees, it seem, have a physical inability to win baseball games in Anaheim.
This would be not a big deal if the Yankees were not in the middle of a pennant race--one in which they are outsiders looking in.
By all accounts, the Yankees have a beat up pitching staff, and the only reason Ian Kennedy was starting tonight was because there was no other option. Phil Hughes is still at least a start away from being a viable candidate.
This does not excuse Kennedy's poor performance tonight, but it might help explain it.
Still, only two innings from Kennedy was the last thing the Yankees needed. It doesn't just mean that Kennedy had a bad outing, but that the Yankees were forced to use Darrell Rasner for an extended period of time.
While Rasner pitched well, it effectively means he will be unable to start until Wednesday, and the Yankees are now short a bullpen arm.
Brian Bruney had an evening he would rather forget--when he entered the game, the score was 7-5, and the Yankees were clearly still in the game, but by the time the inning ended, they were down 10-5. It's admirable that Bruney worked his bum off to be able to come back, but an outing like the one tonight was not what the Yankees needed.
In terms of the offense, the Yankees did not have an awful game. Most of the time, five runs should be enough to win the game.
As one poster on LoHud Yankees says,
Two of the pitcher on your opening-day rotation have a total of zero wins. Your ace is gone. Your all-star catcher, who seems to be a clubhouse leader, is gone. Matsui is gone. You have a new manager. Your replacement ace is injured. Not one single person on the team, with the exception of Mo, is really even having an above-average season.
It really is a miracle that the Yankees are still in contention for a Wild Card spot.
The Opening Ceremonies were marvelously well done. I was especially touched by the story of the boy that walked with Yao Ming (who was carrying the flag for the Chinese delegation).
He had been in school during the earthquake a few months ago. He pulled himself out of the rubble, and then went back to help his classmates.
Why? Because he was one of the class leaders and it was his responsibility.
Thursday, August 7, 2008
If a Little League coach ever wants to instill in his young pitchers how to work out of trouble, he might consider showing them a tape of Mike Mussina's performance tonight.
Mussina was not dominant--eight hits, one walk and six strikeouts over seven innings--but he made the pitches (and the defensive plays) when he had to, and ended up anchoring a Yankee shut-out of the league's leading offensive team in Texas.
At this point in the season, from the Yankees' viewpoint, they don't have to be pretty they just have to be wins. Every game is a must-win, especially on a night like tonight, when the Red Sox are off and the Yankees had a chance to pick up half of a game on Boston.
On the offensive side of things, Derek Jeter had one of his best games this season, and was responsible for two of the Yankees' three runs.
Alex Rodriguez, however, had a horrible series and did not reach base once. Hopefully, the change of scenery--Anaheim next--will do him well; the Yankees will need his bat.
Robinson Canò's hand seems to have fully healed--he went 3-for-4 with a double--though he still needs to work on his baserunning a little bit.
The Yankee bullpen tonight--Brian Bruney, Dàmaso Marte and Mariano Rivera--did not allow a baserunner. Seems the innings given by Sidney Ponson last night helped rest the bullpen.
The Yankees are in Anaheim tomorrow night, and they will send Ian Kennedy (yes, that Ian Kennedy) to the mound against Jered Weaver. The Yankees have historically had trouble winning in Anaheim; a win tomorrow would be especially important in setting the tone for the series.
As you know, the Opening Ceremonies for the Olympics start tomorrow night. I'll try to throw in a little Olympic coverage as well.
Go USA! Go United Kingdom! Go World!
Wednesday, August 6, 2008
(I would make a really, really crappy motivational speaker. Yay!)
All right, Yanks, listen up.
You've got some ground to make up in the standings, and not a whole heck of a lot of time to do it.
I understand that this season has been hard. Right now, in fact, you have only one starting pitcher that was in the rotation and active on Opening Day, and that's Mike Mussina--and dude, Moose, there's no justice in the universe if you can't get to 20 wins this year. More than ever, you deserve it this year.
Anyway, back to what I was talking about--the injuries. When the bug bit, it really went all out--it didn't just take pitchers (including our current "ace" and by most accounts our future "ace" as well), but it took our shortstop, third baseman, starting catcher and our left fielder/designated hitter as well; the latter two for most of the season. That's a tremendous part of the offense--no denying it.
That said, guys, you can't wallow in that misery.
Fact is, the line up still has the power to be potent--or did you not just score fourteen runs against the best team in the league?
I know at the beginning of the season I said that one of the things about optimism is the belief that anyone, on any given night, can be the hero of the game. I didn't mean, however, that everyone should try to be the hero.
Just think about this--in the eighth inning tonight, instead of hacking away, Robbie Canò took pitches and worked his third walk of the inninng, which brought Richie Sexson to the plate, and, well, you saw what happened there.
Robbie wasn't trying to play the hero, and it helped get the team back into the game.
Look, I know three back in the loss column in the Wild Card looks pretty daunting right now, but that's not the only way to look at it. All you have to do is win the games you play. Take it game by game--leave worrying about the big picture to Joe Girardi. It's his job to wory about that.
Remember Mariano Duncan in 1996: We play today, we win today, das it!
The only thing you can control is the game you are playing on that day. You can't control what Boston or Tampa does, so don't worry about it.
Instead, focus on winning your own games. If you play hard, with heart, and don't give in, even if you're down by five runs and only have one out left with which to worrk, you'll start winning more games.
Right now, that's all that matters.
You're still in this. You have enough games left with Boston and Tampa that right now, saying the season is 'done' is incredibly premature.
Don't give up, don't give in, play hard, play with heart, and win.
Tuesday, August 5, 2008
...but maybe the Yankees could institute a fine every time a batter grounds into a double play?
They could donate the funds to Yankees Universe or some other charity.
What was that, four DPs hit into by the Yankees today? It's a little hard to win games when you do that.
Also, Andy Pettitte has not been Andy Pettitte of late--one hopes he is not pitching hurt.
In a series the Yankees had to take three of four, they will now be lucky to salvage a split. Sidney Ponson pitches tomorrow--have fun watching that, I'm going to Maryland to visit family for the evening.
Monday, August 4, 2008
There aren't too many nice things liberal New Yorkers like to say about Texas.
After tonight, there are probably even fewer nice things New York Yankees fans will say about Texas.
Last year, Phil Hughes lost most of the season after pulling a hamstring while pitching a no hitter in Arlington. In June, Chien Ming Wang severely injured his foot while rounding the bases in a 13-0 Yankees win in Houston.
Now, add another casualty to the Texas injury list: Joba Chamberlain.
Nevermind that the Yankees lost the game on a bottom of the ninth inning grand slam--and now appear to be as snakebit against Texas as they are against Baltimore.
There is a far more important concern.
A shoulder injury for a pitcher is never good, and any thought that Joba's injury was just a cramp was dismissed when the Yankees stated that he had a "stiff shoulder". While it may not be serious, one should note that the Mets just placed John Maine on the disabled list with a "stiff shoulder".
We won't know the full extent of Joba's injury for a little bit, but it is a huge concern. The loss of Chien Ming Wang was hard enough to take; the loss of Joba for any extended period of time would be absolutely brutal when one considers where the Yankees are in the standings and the upcoming schedule.
As for the good news, shaving the 'stache seemed to work for Giambi; Robinson Canò went upper deck and would have had another hit if not for a Marlon Byrd (@$*@#$*&@#$*) catch, and Xavier Nady continues to make Brian Cashman look real good.
Sunday, August 3, 2008
Down 5-0 in the fourth inning, Yankees fans were just praying the deficit wouldn't get any larger.
Maybe, just maybe the Yankees would be able to chip away and make the game close, and maybe, just maybe, there would be that little glimmer of hope that the Yankees could end the series on a positive note.
When a base-running error with one out in the fourth inning by Bobby Abreu kept the Yankees from scoring on a sacrifice fly from Xavier Nady, you could hear the collective groaning from Yankee fans everywhere: that was our inning, and we missed it.
Guess everyone forgot that 27 outs are a lot of outs.
From the fifth inning on, the Yankees scored at least one run every inning--one in the fifth, three in the sixth, four in the seventh and then six in a wild eighth inning.
Xavier Nady had a career high 6 RBI, including a home run in the seventh to put the Yankees ahead 8-5. As a Yankee he is hitting .385 with three doubles, three home runs, and ten RBI in eight games--and that's despite a very slow start in Boston.
Boston can keep their Jason Bay; the Yankees like the X Man just fine.
In terms of pitching...well, there wasn't much of it unless you count what John Lackey did in the first three innings, and what Dan Giese did in the middle innings.
If anything, Giese made a case for him to start next Friday night against Lackey in Anaheim in place of Darrell Rasner, who did not have a good performance.
Edwar Ramirez was overdue for a couple of baserunners, but the grand slam he gave up to Mark Teixiera was a crushing blow after the Yankees had just taken a three run lead. Had the Angels played something remotely resembling defense in the eighth inning, it would have been a crushing loss for the Yankees.
As luck would have it, however, the ghosts seemed to be out today, and the Yankees, seemingly sparked by Justin Christian's double steal in the eighth, would not lose the game, and battled themselves to a split with the league's best team.
A word of caution: Apparently Mariano Rivera was unavailable to pitch today due to back spasms.
Saturday, August 2, 2008
There are few certainties in life.
Death, taxes. and that Old Timer's Day will always leave a chill in your Yankee fan blood.
At about noon this morning, it was pouring Noah's Flood, and it looked like the Yankees would be lucky to get the ceremonies in, but, almost as if by destiny, the skies cleared and 72 former Yankee players--some Hall of Fame Legends, some that just caught lightning in a bottle--were able to assemble on the field of the House that Ruth Built for one last time.
While Yogi Berra and Whitey Ford produced goosebumps, and Paul O'Neill, Tino Martinez, David Cone and David Wells made you pine for the late nineties, it was the return of Willie Randolph to the Stadium that received the most attention from the Stadium crowd.
As Michael Kay said in his introduction, "once a Yankee, always a Yankee."
The game that followed did not disappoint, from a Yankee point of view.
Mike Mussina pitched an absolute clinic--he did not allow an Angel baserunner to reach after the second, retiring seventeen in a row. It was a pure vintage performance, and while he struggled with his control in the first two innings, he found a rhythym and didn't look back.
The Yankee offense was sparked by an unusual source: a two-run home run from Wilson Betemit in the bottom of the second inning, the first of four Yankee home runs on the day.
After last night's offensive debacle, the Yankees had home runs from Betemit, the streaking Bobby Abreu, Alex Rodriguez, and Jose Molina, who had his first home run of the season as part of a 3-3 day.
The Yankees now have a chance to salvage a split out of the four game set--which would be impressive against a team as good on the road as the Angels are--though a win last night would have meant the possibility of taking three out of four.
Brian Bruney, who was not expected to be back at all this season, pitched a one walk, one hit ninth inning. His command was a little off, but given the time he has missed, it is understandable.
Friday, August 1, 2008
If the offense doesn't care, why should I?
Sidney Ponson pitched the best I have ever seen him pitch. Can't have asked him for more than that.
The Yankees have to stop using Mariano Rivera in tie games.
It's now up to Darrell Rasner and Mike Mussina to avoid a sweep.
One day removed from the most interesting regular-season day of the year, one can begin to analyze the moves the Yankees have made as buyers at the Trade Deadline.
Dàmaso Marte, LHP, Pirates
Xavier Nady, OF, Pirates
Ivan "Pudge" Rodriguez, C, Tigers
Jhonny Nuñez, RHP, Nationals
Matt Cusick, 2B, Astros
Ross Ohlendorf, RHP
Jose Tàbata, OF
Jeff Karstens, P
Dan McCutchen, P
Kyle Farnsworth, RHP
Alberto Gonzalez, INF
LaTroy Hawkens, RHP
By the above lists alone, once can see that in the trades the Yankees did make, they came away very well, getting an outfielder having a career year, the best left-handed reliever on the market and a hall of fame bound catcher, for what looks like little cost (unless Jose Tàbata's power magically develops ad he becomes the next Vladimir Guerrerro).
The Yankees filled some of their most glaring needs--a right handed bat, a lefty reliever and a catcher to help take the strain off of Jose Molina--but there is one area that they were not successful: they did not get a starting pitcher.
While one can argue that the Yankee rotation as is can suffice, just remember that tonight Sidney Ponson is pitching against the Los Angeles Angels (of Anaheim of the USA of the Milky Way of the Universe...)
Now, just because the Yankees didn't get a strting pitcher at the deadline doesn't mean they're out of option--there's still the waiver deadline later this month, not to mention certain available free agents and Ian Kennedy, Alfredo Aceves, et al, in the minors...
The Yankees were much more active this year at the trade deadline than they were last year, and on the surface it looks as though they pulled off a coup, but all of their needs have not been solved yet.
It's up to the Yankees now to make something happen with the pieces they've gotten.