Sunday, May 31, 2009

Screw Baseball Logic. Rivera Should Have Been Pitching (postgame notes 31 May 2009)

Conventional baseball wisdom is a funny thing.

Conventional baseball wisdom states that in a tie game, on the road, you don't pitch your closer beccause there's always the chance that your team will take the lead and you will need someone to pitch the bottom of that inning.

Conventional baseball wisdom, however, also assumes a few things.

It assumes that the rest of your pitching staff is functional and that your other relievers won't have an issue throwing strikes.

It makes the assumption that everything is playing exactly as it should play.

As you might imagine, the problem with this is that this scenario rarely occurs.

Case in point: today's Yankees' game.

Going into the bottom of the ninth in a tie game, the best pitcher the Yankees had left in their bullpen was their closer, Mariano Rivera.

Now, if the Yankees didn't want to pitch Rivera to start the inning, that's one thing, but once Phil Coke gave up the lead off walk and that runner reached scoring position, the move to go to the unreliably wild David Robertson over Mariano Rivera is baffling once you disregard conventional wisdom.

Even if the Yankees take the lead the next inning, it's not as though Rivera's never pitched two innings before...and while it's understandable that you might not want Mo to pitch two innings, surely then you're more comfortable throwing Robertson or Aceves or whomever out there with the lead than in a tie game while Rivera sits unused.

Having worked exactly once since last Sunday, it's hardly like Rivera's been overtaxed.

Sometimes the best managers are the ones who take conventional logic, and then precede to say, "screw it".


Otherwise, the game was nothing to get too upset about--Carl Pavano pitched well, but the Yankees struck when Wedge took him out of the game. Teixeira had all four Yankee RBI; Hughes had one bad inning in the third and it kept him from pitching more than five, though he wasn't awful and the game never got out of hand.

Yankees will have a chance to take the series tomorrow evening.

Yankees at Indians, 31 May 2009: A Liveblog

10.43 AM: Mmm, it feels good to liveblog again, though the week off was just what I needed.

10.43 AM: Posada is sitting today in favor of Cervelli; day game after a night game is usually a day off for Jorge.

Today's pitching matchup is Phil Hughes and Carl Pavano. This could be, uh, interesting.

12.50 PM: Yankees waste a lead-off double there and don't score in the top of the first. Now, it's Hughes' turn.

1.01 PM: Hughes strikes out two, plunks one and gets a roundout So far he's pumping strikes and the velocity isn't too shabby, either.

1.07 PM: There's a reason Canó isn't known as a great base stealer...

1.11 PM: Nothin' doing there...move along...

1.19 PM: Two innings and four K's for Hughes

1.25 PM: Still nothin' doin' on the offensive front.

1.36 PM: With the bases loaded, Jhonny Peralta singles and it's now 2-0 Cleveland as Hughes seems to have come a bit undone.

1.45 PM: That was a rather awful inning for Hughes, but all things considered 3-0 has to be considered doable for the Yankees.

1.53 PM: Let me rephrase. 3-0 is doable, but the Yankees have to actually hit the ball.

2.00 PM: Hughes needed that 1-2-3 inning to get bak on track. Now the hope is for the offense to do something. Anything, really.

2.07 PM: Too much to hope, then?

2.28 PM: That's Teixeira's 13th home run of the season. Had the umpire not botched the call on Jeter, it'd be 4-3. Anyway, it's 4-2 and the Yanks have nine outs to play with.

3.21 PM: Lots going on in this inning. Carl Pavano's cruising, gives up an infield single to Derek Jeter, so Indians' manager Eric Wedge takes Pavano out and brings in Rafael Perez, who promptly gives up a double to Johnny Damon. Perez comes out, Rafael Betancourt comes in and leaves after two pitches with some sort of leg injurt, and Matt Herges comes in...and gives up a two run double to Mark Teixeira. Game is now tied.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Yankees' Errorless Streak Reaches 16 Games In Win (postgame notes 30 May 2009)

Not only are the Yankees in first place right now; they're playing like they belong.

Well, with the exception of Jose Veras and Hideki Matsui's legs, but on the whole the point is still valid.

Their third win in a row and fourth of five (and fourteenth of seventeen) was sparked by the offense, which got on the board when Jorge Posada and Nick Swisher homered in the second, and then took advantage of two Cleveland errors in the fourth, scoring five runs there.

CC Sabathia had no-hit type stuff through four, then seemed to struggle in the fifth and get hit a bit harder in the later innings, but by then the Yankee lead had been built and even if Sabathia had given up a grand slam, the Yanks would have still had the lead.

One of the most encouraging signs this weekend has to be that Jorge Posada has come off of the DL as though he had never gone on it.

On that note, perhaps one of the reasons things have been going so well for the Yankees of late is that even when one player goes down, another steps up in his place.

Think of how well Gardner has been hitting while taking over for Gardner, or Cervelli for Posada, and similar. No team wants to have to play its depth, because then you lose the depth, but the Yanks' depth has exceeded expectations--and now many of the DL'd guys are on their way back.

When Jose Molina returns, likely sometime this week, Francisco Cervelli will likely be sent down; not because Cervelli hasn't done his job (far from it), but because he needs to play every day.

The Yankees have now won 14 of 17 games and haven't enjoyed a stretch like this in a long time.

The feeling you get as a fan is that every day, every game there's a new chance to win...and that might be the best feeling of all.

Liveblogging will return tomorrow...if I wake early enough for the 12.40 start. (this is not a guarantee on a Sunday).

Friday, May 29, 2009

Yankees Do Enough To Beat Cleveland and Take First (Postgame Notes 29 May 2009)

The Yankees have waited more than two years to reclaim solo possession of first place.

So what was waiting another hour and a half rain delay?

Indeed, that is what the Yankees endured before they took the field for today's game, but it did not seem to matter.

The Yankees got to Indians' starter Cliff Lee early; while they didn't really do what they were supposed to do with lots of baserunners and break the game open, they did score three runs before Cleveland scored any, and though they scored without much fanfare, they do still count.

Jorge Posada appeared in his first game after coming off of the DL, and had a couple of the Yankees' best hits in the game. More good news is that instead of having to DFA Kevin Cash to make room for Posada, they were able to option him to AAA. While it's unlikely Cash will reappear with the big club this season, the Yankees do now have some extra insurance if something happens.

Andy Pettitte was far from sharp, but through five made the pitches he needed to make to get out of trouble. The problem was, however, that Andy left early with lower back stiffness. We don't really know more than that right now, but that Pettitte stayed on the bench at the end of the inning has to be an encouraging sign.

Alfredo "Mendoza" Aceves pitched three innings in relief; he allowed an inherited runner to score, but gave up nothing else and Mo pitched a nearly flawless ninth to break the starter-saver record combo (don't ask, baseball likes useless records.)

Anyway, the Yankees now sit eight games above .500 and a half game ahead of the Red Sox in the standings for first place; the first time since the end of 2006.


As you may have noticed, I've sort of taken this week sort of off. Everything should be back to normal on Sunday.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Looking at the Yankees on an Off Day

The Yankees have not only picked up the pace in the last few weeks; they've moved into a tie for first in the AL East.

Let's take a look at how they got there.

Starting Pitching

This has probably been the greatest improvement. The Yankees are 12-4 in their last sixteen games; in only two of the losses did they allow more than five runs. In six games, the opposition has been held to two runs or less and in 12 games the opposition has been held to four runs or less.

It's a far cry from the 15-5 and 22-4 blowouts of April.

Let's take a closer look.

  • CC Sabathia: Has turned it on. He lost his last start, to Philadelphia, but this has more to do with Hamels pitching well than him pitching poorly. He beat Baltimore and Toronto, allowing a grand total of three runs in those games, and perhaps most importantly, win or loose he always seems good to throw eight innings, which helps to save a really taxed bullpen.
  • Phil Hughes: Has decided he really wants to stay in the rotation, apparently. he had a couple rough starts, but got better and in his last start against Texas was fantastic. With the exception of the one start in Baltimore where everything came undone in the second, the most notable accomplishment for him has been the way he's bent, but not broken, with men on base. last season all of those men score. This season they don't. Phil's growing up.
  • Joba Chamberlain: Seems to have figured out the first inning woes by throwing a simulated inning before the start of the game, but needs to work on efficiency. Not sure if Joba's last start was a result of his poor numbers against Texas or some leftover weakness from getting hit in the leg with a line drive; probably a combination of both. I am wholeheartedly against moving him to the bullpen since i think it would kill his arm, but he does need to become more efficient.
  • AJ Burnett: Had a couple tough luck outings, with a loss against Halladay and then a no decision against Minnesota; gave up absolute bombs to Philadelphia, but yesterday, thank your deity(ies), was very good against the Rangers. 118 pitches in six innings is too many; but six shutout innings a team will take every time.
  • Andy Pettitte: He's been Andy Pettitte-ish. He'll give up hits and occasional runs, but somehow, as if by magic, always keeps the team in the game. He's been perfectly cast as the team's fifth starter; not quite his role in Yankee teams of yesteryear, but he's doing exactly as the Yankees needed him to do, and he's still historically a better second half pitcher.
  • Chien Ming Wang: Now pitching out of the bullpen despite not being a bullpen arm. The trouble is, if Hughes keeps pitching well Girardi will be in no hurry to remove him from the rotation. It's an odd problem to have: too much starting pitching and not enough bullpen.

The Offense

Let's see here.

Since the last off day, the Yankees have scored at least three runs every game but one--and that was Halladay's start. In their wins, the Yankees have scored five or more runs ten times.

Even while missing Nady and Posada, and for most intents and purposes, Swisher, the offense is working like a $200 million team.

  • Derek Jeter: Seems to have slowed his decline just enough. He's never hit for a whole ton of power, but seems much improved in that department over last season. He's still, perhaps, not entirely suited for the lead off role, but it's drastially reducing the team's GIDP that makes it all worthwhile.
  • Johnny Damon: Has cooled off a little bit, but since he had basically been carrying the team for a while now, he's allowed. The right porch at the Stadium suits him perfectly and has turned him into a legitimate power threat at home.
  • Mark Teixeira: There aren't really words to describe how awesome he's been since A-Rod has come back and, well, offered him protection in the line up. He's got twelve home runs already in May and is now in the league lead in that department. We knew he'd heat up in May with the warmer weather...but I'm not sure anyone expected this.
  • Alex Rodriguez: Still has more home runs than singles and the scary thing (for other teams) is that his timing, while better, is still not all the way there. Now, if he had some serious protection in the line up--Matsui and Canó can be too streaky--there is no limit to the damage he could do.
  • Robinson Canó: Was insanely hot, then cooled off, and now is pretty warm again. He is night and day with himself last year, and the Yanks are probably pretty happy they got the 'day' version this year.
  • Melky Cabrera: Already has three walk off hits this season. It's not just that he's taking better ABs (and he is), it's that he's making them count. The shoulder injury looked painful on TV, but if what we're hearing is right than the injury should not be too devastating. At the very least, nothing is broken or dislocated and small mercies though they be, they still count.
  • Nick Swisher: has cooled off something awful. He needs a day off (or three), but until Nady is back and with Melky hurt it won't happen any time soon. He's still managed to keep a very good attitude about the whole thing, but you can see he's pressing. Every hitter slumps; it's not the slump that matters so much as whether or not you can get yourself out of it.
  • Hideki Matsui: Had also been slumping awful and then he hit two home runs last night Maybe the change of scenery was what he needed; at any rate, he needs a few more games before we can call the slump over.
  • Brett Gardner: Seems to have his bwest games when coming in off the bench for someone that's been injured or tossed. Melky's getting the better swings; but Gardner doesn't look as lost as he did earlier in the season. Plenty of players--ie, Miguel Cairo--have fashioned lengthy careers off the bench.
  • Ramiro Peña: Also been slumping, but the difference is he was never supposed to hit in the first place. His defense makes up for it, though. So the Yankees will take it.
  • Francisco Cervelli: I thought this kid was a Mendoza line hitter at AA? He's still got virtually no power, but the fact that he's not an automatic out--and, in fact, has come up big in a few clutch situations--is not really going to upset anyone, either. He continues to do all the little things right and now there's debate if the Yannkees should keep him or Molina on the roster when Molina comes back.
  • Kevin Cash: Has likely seen his last game action, which is okay, because he was pretty painful to watch with the bat.
  • Angel Berroa: Who?
  • Jorge Posada, José Molina and Xavier Nady have not played since the last off day.

The Bullpen

Oh, that bullpen. It's been better, but better does not necessarily mean good.

  • José Veras: I loved him last year I do not love him this year. i don't know where that control went but it doesn't look like it's going to come back.
  • Phil Coke: He's been okay. If you can find it, his postgame comments after his first (and probably only) career save are well worth a listen. It's hard not to like a pitcher who is so candid with the media, but asking the 8th inning of him may be a little too much.
  • Alfredo Aceves: Alfredo Mendoza. Seriously, there's nothing else to say. Dude is great. Not perfect, but the best Mendoza-like guy we've hand in ates. If only Girardi would stop trying to proctor him...
  • Brett Tomko: Has been kind of what we expected. Okay in low leverage situations; hold your breath in a tie game.
  • Mariano Rivera: Between the walk offs and the blow outs he's not gotten a whole lot of pitching opportunities. Still, having seemed to have overcome his dead arm, Mo's the most reliable thing the Yankees have outside of, well anything. For what it's worth, it's Mo that's done and told AJ to "get the pie ready" during the walk offs, and Mo that sat as judge during the kangaroo court.

The Yankees are 3-3 in their last six but 12-4 in their last 16. The most impressive thing here is that they've followed each loss with a win, as if to say that they can't wait for their next nine game winning streak.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Yankees at Rangers, 26 May 2009: A Liveblog

8.43 PM: I've been out and about all week (and will continue to be), but for one of the rare times, I am thankful for the rain delay. I'll actually be able to catch the whole game!

Today's line up from LoHud:

Jeter SS
Damon LF
Teixeira 1B
Rodriguez 3B
Cano 2B
Cabrera CF
Matsui DH
Swisher RF
Cervelli C

10.03 PM: First pitch scheduled for 10.30 PM.

10.32 PM: First pitch second pitch, first hit. I can work with this.

10.38 PM: One hit and nothing else. Johnny Damon is left at third. Now Joba takes the mound; hopefully he pitches a bit better than his 7+ ERA at Arlington.

10.42 PM: Uh oh. Melky ran full force into the wall and is obviously hurt and in a lot of pain.

10.57 PM: Joba has a rough first inning; giving up two runs and too many walks. He obviously did not pitch his simulated innings. Still, 2-0 is not quite a blow out.

11.11 PM: Gardner stranded at third as Matsui, Swisher and Cervelli can't bring him in. Yanks have to do something about Matsui becoming a black hole at DH.

11.38 PM: Yankees have had men on base every inning thus far, but haven't been able to bring home the run(s).

Meanwhile, Joba looks tentative and uncomfortable on the mound.

11.51 PM: News on Melky Cabrera is a right shoulder sprain (strain? Some are saying sprain and others strain, there IS a difference); x-rays were negative, so this is a good sign. I imagine he'll be out a couple of days but shouldn't be worse than that.

Meanwhile, Milwood is pitching like...well, not like a Rangers' pitcher.

11.57 PM: Joba does not look good, at all. Dunno if it's Texas or what, but he looks fairly awful right now.

11.58 PM: Melky to have MRI tomorrow--from Hoch.

12.05 AM: Damn, that is one sweet swing.

12.10 AM: Yankees go to Aceves in the fifth inning. Not sure if Joba was removed for pitch count or ineffectiveness, but whatever it was, it wasn't what the Yankees needed.

12.14 AM: Aceves there was everything Joba was not: efficient and effective.

12.21 AM: Matsui there seriously just missed a home run. Given his struggles of late, one must imagine Millwood is not too long for this game. Now 3-2 Rangers.

12.24 AM: After Swisher strikes out on three pitches, Cervelli singles and Matsui scores the tying run.

1.00 AM: At 1.00 AM on 27 May 2009, my love affair with Nick Swisher came to an end.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Messin' with Texas (Postgame Notes Memorial Day 2009)

Phil Hughes must really want to stay in that rotation.

It's so easy to see the 11-1 score of today's game and automatically assume that today's game revolved around an offensive explosion, a real manifest of Bronx bombing.

But if you did that, you'd be wrong.

Really, really wrong.

The Yankees won today because Phil Hughes was exceptional, allowing just three hits over eight innings and no runs (Texas' lone run was scored off of a Nelson Cruz HR in the bottom of the 9th).

The Yankee offense struck early, and stuck often, using singles, doubles and sac flies--not home runs--to build their ten run lead; but had they never scored another run after the first inning, they would have still won the game. That's how well Hughes pitched.

Maybe it's something about Texas; after all, last time Hughes pitched here he nearly had a no-hitter.

At any rate, what's really awesome, is that the last two times the Yanks have lost a game, they've come right back with a win the next day.

For the first time since 2007 (not counting April), the Yankees are only a game out of first place, and they are in first in the Wild Card (though no one on the Yankees or their fans really want to settle for that).

After all, this team is simply playing too well for that.

Yankees at Rangers, Memorial Day Gamer

I'm headed out for the day, so here's what you need to know before the game.

  • The Yankees were 2-2 last year at the Ballpark in Arlington.
  • Phil Hughes, Joba Chamberlain and Chien Ming Wang have all suffered devestating injuries while pitching in the state of Texas (Wang was in Houston; Hughes and Joba in Arlington)
  • So, of course, Hughes pitches today.
  • Since the Yankees are on the road, they can't walk off. Boo.
  • The Yanks went 8-2 on the homestand and are in the thick of the AL East race.
  • I'll put the over/under at four HR/game.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Anatomy of a Winning Homestand

Despite their loss today, the Yankees went 8-2 on their ten game homestand.

I guarantee that if you ask any single person in a Yankees' uniform they will tell you that, yes, it would have been nice to sweep the homestand, but going 8-2 over ten games is not a shoddy deal.

Here's why the Yankees went 8-2.

1) They beat the team they were supposed to beat, no excuses, sweeping Baltimore in the middle three games of the series.

2) They never said die, even in games it didn't look like they'd win. They had four walk-off wins; nearly five, and in some of the walk-offs never lead until their final at bat. The starting pitching kept the team in the game; the bullpen did a remarkably good job, despite often playing short, and the offense came up clutch when it mattered.

3) The homestand wasn't the responsibility of one single player. Nearly everyone pulled their weight at some point. There will always be someone slumping; what matters is whether or not the rest of the team can pick that someone up. This week, the Yankees did.

4) Starting pitching, starting pitching, starting pitching.

Only AJ Burnett struggled on Friday. Nearly every other game, every starter kept the team in the game, even if they had to grit through it (and when the starter couldn't, ie, Joba's injury, the bullpen did).

5) Clutch hitting.

Four walk off wins, and nearly five, says a heck of a lot. None of the walk offs came against the weak Orioles; they came against the relatively competitive Twins and the world champion Phillies.

So, there you have it.

Yes, the Yankees dropped the series to the Phillies, but they came *that close* to not. If Teixeira doesn't ground into that double play, the Yankees probably win that game.

There was one loss--that on Friday--in which the Yankees never had much of a shot at winning the game. One, out of ten games.

The team is playing with the type of energy and fight that, face it, we haven't had since 2003.

Yes, the Yankees are still be in third place.

If they keep playing like this, they won't be for long.

Game 44: NY Yankees vs Philadelphia Phillies. Pinch Live Blog

Hi kids! (Hi Dr. Nick!) Elizabeth here from Blogging The Mystique to cover the first hour and a half of today's game for Rebecca. Today's matchup sees everyone's Second Favorite Lefty face Cole "Don't Call Me Brad Pitt" Hamels. Can Carsten Charles keep his hot streak rolling? Will today be the day that Hamels remembers how to pitch? Can Melky Cabrera get any more awesome? All the answers to these questions and more today on....Oh! Hey! YES is doing a small pre-game feature on Melky! Gotta go!

...that was disappointing. No matter! It's almost time to play ball! (Can you tell I just had sugar?)

Top of the 1st

It's an absolutely gorgeous day here, in Rochester, and it looks even nicer in the Bronx.

1-2-3 Inning for Sabathia, including getting Ibanez (I wish I had a tilde key on my computer) to ground into a 3U.

I know the Yankees have been living by the walk-off, but I wouldn't turn down a few early-game runs, here.

Bottom of the 1st
Leadoff single and 8-game hitting streak for Jeet.

Just checked Baseball Reference. CC is a career 3.26 pitcher in the month of May, which is more than a run less than his career April ERA. So he's right on track to continue his trend of lights-out summers.

Stolen base there for Cap. Can you believe he's stolen 9 bases so far? Jeter will be 35 on June 26th. Many Yankee fans would appreciate if that speed translated to the field.

Alas, Jeter is stranded at third as Alex strikes out to end the inning.

Top of the 2nd

The announcers are heaping praise on Melky. This is like Christmas for me. I'm curious, o readers: who is your "Melky Cabrera?" Which player have you been rooting for from the get go? Which player has a special place in your cold, grizzled heart?

I always cringe when I see a pop up head for third base. Alex Rodriguez's fear of pop ups has been well-documented. We all remember opening day in 2007 when he dropped a pop up on the first play of the game. Though it is amusing to see him stare the foul pops into the stands for so long. "Darn. If only you weren't 20 rows back, I could have caught you."

Another 1-2-3 for CC. He's thrown 27 pitches.

Bottom of the 2nd

Speaking of Melky (when am I not?) he has an infield hit deep to shortstop.

The announcers are discussing Matsui, and are touching on some of the things I've mentioned about him--streaky hitting, bailing on the ball--but as a fan I like Matsui in my lineup a lot. He's the epitome of "professional hitter." He's steady and unflappable. However, there's no denying the effect that the knee issues have on his hitting. I'm not an injury expert, but is there a possible correlation between his extreme pull hitting and the knee issues?

Yikes. Strike-em-out-throw-em-out as Matsui whiffs on a high fastball. You can't blame the knees for that.

Top of the 3rd
Two-out single by Hank Aaron Ruiz. No-hitter gone, sadly.

And that, boys and girls, is why you should not be diving after every single ball hit to the outfield. I will never understand why Girardi insists on putting Gardner in centerfield over Melky, outside of the difference in their arm strengths. Sometimes that catch gets made, but more often than not, you'll miss, and the ball will roll to the wall. If Gardner simply cuts that ball off, Rollins doesn't score on Victorino's base hit.

2-0 Phillies

Bottom of the 3rd

You've gotta love when your AA fill-in catcher who was only on the team to avoid a 40-man move rips a leadoff double down the line. Maybe what he needed was a major league hitting coach.

Gardner can redeem himself here with an RBI single.

My brother always says that popping out behind home plate is the worst possible out to make because (besides the futility of it) it shows that you not only were late on a ball but you got under it, as well.

Nope, lined out softly to second base.

Lies and the Lying Liars who Tell Them (tm Al Franken) as Jeter "strikes out" on a foul ball that bounced in the dirt. No double checking with the first base umpire. Just a "yup, catcher caught the ball. Go sit down."

If Hamels does so well pitching with RISP, as YES informs us, then the Yankees will clearly need to hit six or seven solo home runs.

Oops, spoke too soon. Double down the right field line by Johnny Damon to plate Cervelli (which I think should be pronounced "chair-velli," since he's of Italian ethnicity, even though his immediate family is from Venezuela. I won't bore you with the history lesson on the South-Central American/Italian immigration and connection. 2-1 Phillies

Base hit by Tex, but Damon gets thrown out at the plate for the second time in three games. I applauded the move by Thompson on Friday but I'm not so sure this time. Would you really turn down a first-and-third situation with your best hitter coming up?

Top of the 4th
I like seeing Jeter range all the way behind second base to snag Howard's bouncing hit, but sometimes you have to hold on to the ball.

Meanwhile, Twitter has exploded with people crucifying Thompson for sending Damon. I don't really like the call of sending him, but Thompson's been a very good third base coach thus far this year.

Hey, Nick Johnson was a late scratch against the Orioles (thanks, RotoWorld). Injury? Trade? Mets or Red Sox?

Bottom of the 4th
Wow. There was a LOT of cheering when Alex struck out. I wasn't looking up and assumed he had walked. Thanks a lot, Yankees fans, for selling your tickets.

And the Yankees strand another running in scoring position. Time to have those knees drained again, 'Sui!

Alright. I'm off for the day. Time to go to work! Enjoy the rest of the game and Go Yankees!

Saturday, May 23, 2009

A-Rod on pace to break Maris AL HR Record

This from David Pinto:

Alex now has seven home runs in 15 games since returning to the Yankees. If you look at his pace as over a 134 game season (he missed the first 28 games, he’s on a pace for 63 homers this year, which would set a new AL record. Imagine if he started the season healthy.

From here

That's kind of crazy, right?

It gets crazier when you consider that A-Rod has seven home runs...and only ten hits over all.

It gets craziest when you consider that Alex's timing is still not quite what it should be, and that he's still a month behind the rest of MLB's hitters.

It's A-Rod's best possible move against the events of the off-season.

A-Rod and Melkman Come Up Clutch; Yanks Walk Off (Postgame Notes 23 May 2009)

Earlier this afternoon, Helen and I are on the D train from Columbus Circle, going north to Fordham.

Helen has just arrived from Newcastle, England; she's not, as you imagine, a baseball fan by nature, though she is trying.

We're standing, holding onto one of the poles, it's about 4.30 pm and I can't remember now what we were talking about then, but at 125th street, a guy and a girl get on. The guy is wearing a Yankees' cap while the girl is wearing a Phillies' cap.

As one might imagine, the girl starts uttering,

"We'll be lucky if we get there by the seventh inning."

I can't help myself.

"All the good stuff happens in the later innings, anyway."

Self-fullfiling prophecy, it would seem.

I have no idea as to how Andy Pettitte pitched or as to how most of the Yankees hit; when I turned the game on, it was 4-1 Phillies.

Here is what I did see:

Phil Coke is something, that 8th inning guy if/when Bruney can't go.

Derek Jeter had a nice home run, but Alex Rodriguez hit one out in the ninth, and that one mattered, no question.

Bottom of the ninth inning, off of Brad Lidge, to tie the game...and, of course, once that happened, there really wasn't much of a question:

AJ had to go get the pie ready.

The question became not if the Yankees would win the game, but who, and it would somehow seem fitting that Melky Cabrera, who started the last winning streak, should start this one.


CC Sabathia and Cole Hamels tomorrow; should be quite a match up

Friday, May 22, 2009

Don't Forget Your Sunblock

I briefly touched on this in my last post, but I want to harp on it a little. It's not the world's biggest issue, but it kind of baffles my mind.

According to both those working at the Yankee team store and those at the customer help area, there is no place in the new Stadium that sells sunblock.

I don't really understand this.

The minor league park in Syracuse, for example, sells sunblock.

This came in very handy last spring when I went to a game, where it was 85+ F outside and I was sitting in the sun.

I am of northern European Jewish ancestry and there are a number of natural redheads in my Mom's family. In other words, I burn. And I burn pretty easily.

So when I wound up at the game last spring with no sunblock, I was, indeed, very happy when I could buy sunblock at the park and go home without getting burnt.

Tonight, I simply forget to bring my sunblock. I'd taken it out of my purse some time ago, because it's a big tube, and simply forgot to put it back. So I figured I could buy it somewhere in the Stadium, where there are and will be day games in the bright, hot, dazzling HOLY CRAP DID YOU SEE THAT SHOT FROM LEBRON?!? summer sun.

Alas, it was not to be.

Now, there are stores down the street that sell sunblock, but once inside the Stadium I obviously could not leave.

I understand forgetting the sunblock is my own fault, but it kind of escapes me why a team would simply not sell it, especially when they'd probably make a ton of money with Yankee-brand sunblock.

The thing here is that, unlike key chains or bottle openers, this isn't something that I want for my convenience or so I can have a keepsake from the game.

Sunblock is something that's used to protect one's health.

I was lucky it was a night game and my seats were under an overhang; I was really only in the sun before the game, waiting for friends outside the Stadium. However, the next game I have a ticket for is a day game.

As is tomorrow's game, and Sunday's.

Out of the thousands of fans sitting in the sun on the field, main and terrace levels, is every single one of them going to remember to bring sunblock? I guarantee there will be one or two that realize, only when their skin starts to burn, that they want it, only to be told they can't find it.

It's really a simple thing here, for the Yankees to sell sunblock.

Just small containers in bins at the register, like lip balm at CVS. Charge the hell out of it, for all I care, but at least it would be there, and as someone pays for a t-shirt, they say, "hey, sunblock's not a bad idea", and they add it to their purchase. Maybe it stops them from getting burnt; maybe it stops one who's had way too many burns (like me) from something worse.

I know Yankee Stadium isn't the beach. You really only need sunblock on your shoulders/arms and maybe your face; and not all over your back and midriff.

Still, I can't think of any logical reason not to sell it.

Sometimes Your Luck Runs Out (Postgame Notes 22 May 2009)

The game, I must have decided, wasn't unlucky when Ibañez uncorked one all the way into the right field bleachers.

It wasn't unlucky when Kevin Cash had some of the worst-looking swings I've ever seen from a major leaguer.

It wasn't even unlucky when Jimmy Rollins hit the very first pitch of the game over the right field fence.

No, it was unlucky when they couldn't find my jacket.


Last Friday, amidst the hubbub of Melky's and the Yankees' walk-off win, Dan and I forgot the Adidas jacket that I had been brought in case of rain. It was still there, plopped under a seat in section 211, when we exited the Stadium and headed for a cab.

No problem, I figured. I have tickets for next Friday's game. If they have a lost and found, surely, then, I'll find it, get it back and all will be fine and dandy.


This evening, when I got to the Stadium, I met my brother and his friend, whilst my game companion (Joe) was still en route.

My brother and his friend decided to explore the Stadium; I figured I'd go and check after my jacket.

I walked up to the booth in the Great Hall for customer service; I asked one of the very nice people there two questions:

a) Is there anywhere in the Stadium that sells sunblock (No, which is an issue considering summer sun and day games) and

b) Do you have a Lost and Found?

They do have a Lost and Found. They asked what I lost, when it was lost and where; I told them a black Adidas jacket last Friday in section 211.

They looked through a log and then phoned someone in a far off room, but to no avail. They shook their heads, as though to say "Sorry, no dice."

There goes my summer rain coat.


As for the game itself...

I have seen home runs.

I have seen players hit multiple home runs in the same game.

I've seen one run home runs, two runs, three runs...though I can't remember ever seeing a Grand Slam.

I've seen home runs off of good pitchers and home runs off of bad; cheap shots that just clear the fence and no doubters...

...but I have never seen the shots like I saw tonight.

Jimmy Rolllins, Jason Werth, Raul Ibañez and Carlos Ruiz for the Phillies; Alex Rodriguez, Derek Jeter and Mark Teixeira for the Yankees.

A hot night and two fly ball pitchers was a recipe for home runs. And so we saw. From the very first pitch.

Ultimately, the difference may be ascribe to this: Of Philly's four home runs, two came with men on base, so instead of four runs there were six (and one more on a non-home run play).

All of the Yankees' home runs were solo shots (but holy moly, what a shot for Teixeira! Into the top deck!), because they just couldn't get men on base. Brett Myers put on a razzle-dazzle them type-show.


Lost in all the home run hullaballoo will be Chien Ming Wang's three innings, where his ERA went down even after Raul Ibañez's shot.

Wang gave up six hits in three innings--too many, of course--but with the exception of Ibañez's utter moonshot (and it was a moonshot) they were all singles, and the way the ball carried tonight, that says something.

Wang's three innings are the most he's pitched all year, and by being able to work out of trouble, he showed massive progress.

He's not all the way there yet, but he's better than he was, and that's something.


The best reaction to the game came from the team itself:

So what if we lost tonight? It happens.

We'll consider this the start a new winning streak.

Since Boston and Toronto both lost, the Yankees lost no ground in the standings.

Andy Pettitte's on the mound for the Yanks; I have to pick up a friend at JFK around three, so I don't expect to liveblog.

I'll be blogging likely sporadically throughout the week, but I will do my best to make sure each game is covered.

Yankees Vs Philllies, 22 May 2009: An Unlive Blog

4.00 PM: I'm headed out to the game tonight, but thought I'd provide you with what I can before I go.

Per WFAN the Yankees' line up tonight:


If this line up is correct (the entire reason I'm listening to WFAN right now is a long story and I still don't entirely trust Francesca), then it's good to see Damon back in there, though I get the feeling I'll never actually see Cervelli in a game.

I'll be section 118, Row 28.

Also, check out my guest post on River Ave Blues this afternoon about Alfredo Aceves and the second coming of Ramiro Mendoza.

4.08 PM: Via Bryan Hoch on Twitter, Jonathan Albaladejo has been optioned down.

4.33 PM: Per WFAN, Bruney got an MRI on his arm, but "sounds like he will be okay". If I hear more I will let you know.

4.57 PM: Yeah, Bruney is unavailable tonight. Feeling elbow pain so soon after being activated off the DL, even with a clean MRI, is not a good sign. I'm no doc, but your body is usually only in pain when something is wrong.

The Yankee bullpen tonight is basically Wang, who was recalled and activated off the DL, Tomko and Coke. Mariano Rivera's pitched two nights in a row so they probably try to stay away from him tonight, and Coke's arm might still be a little sore, so hopefully Burnett is on his game. Otherwise it might get ugly in a hurry, and those Phillies can mash.

The AL East Isn't What We Thought It Would Be. It's Better.

Last night I was thinking about the Jays.

I was thinking about the Jays, and how people are saying,

"Look at how Toronto is now 1-5 against non-Baltimore AL East opponents," as if to say that no, they're really not that good.

Now, these people are likely right. That a team that a number of experts picked to finish last in the division, or only just above it, has maintained its hold on first place for so long, deserves commendation...and also a second look.

The Jays are 16-8 against the AL Central, and 19-8 against the AL Central and Baltimore. They're 7-4 against the AL West, which is respectable enough, and, as said before, 1-5 against non-Baltimore AL East, for a total of 8-9 against non-AL Central, non-Baltimore opponents.

This illustrates two things:

1) The early Jays schedule was chock full of AL Central opponents,


2) That the AL Central is quite possibly not very good.

It's not just the Jays here, either:

The Yankees are 10-4 against AL Central opponents; two losses against the Indians and one each against Justin Verlander and Kansas City.

Then again, maybe it's not the AL Central.

Maybe it's the AL East.

The division leaders in the AL Central, AL West, NL East would all be in fourth place in the current AL East; Milwaukee in the NL Central and the Dodgers in the NL West are right now the only teams that would be in first in the AL East, and when you consider the Dodgers' competition in the NL West--and they are 20-8 in their own division--the 29 wins is a bit qualified.

As another example, consider how the other teams in the AL are doing against the AL East.

Out of the other nine teams in the American League, only the vaunted Angels have a winning record against the AL East, and they've played their favorite regular-season foe Red Sox a few times already.

I would guess, right about now, that teams in the AL Central and AL West are very thankful for the unbalanced schedule, and that getting into the playoffs is based on how you do in your division more so than overall standings...

Another way of looking at it is that the AL East has not one, but two teams over .600, and the Yankees, at .585 are not far behind.

Granted, the Blue Jays will fall back to earth, at least a little, but the Rays are only just beginning to play well. In the end, the Jays and the Rays may simply end up flip-flopping, although, right now, if one takes the record against AL East teams as a portent, the Red Sox would have to be favored, being 16-6 against the division (with five wins against the Yankees and three against the Jays).

At any rate, what this means--and what we've kind of known all along--is that the AL East could end up finishing the season with the, potentially, three or even four best records in the American League, if Toronto doesn't falter too badly, and only two will even have a shot at the playoffs.

Crazy sport, right?

Thursday, May 21, 2009

This One's For the 'Pen: Yankees win 9th in a row despite injury to Joba (Postgame Notes 21 May 2009)

Even when things go wrong for the Yankees now-a-days, they're going right.

Leaving the game in the first with an injury, Joba Chamberlain being hurt could have been the ultimate blow that quashed the Yanks' winning streak.

It wasn't.

Instead of giving in, the Yankees offense took advantage of an ineffective Adam Eaton, scoring seven runs early and not looking back.

The bullpen fashioned three solid innings from Alfredo Aceves, two and a third bend-but-don't-break innings from Jonathan Albaladejo, one and two thirds pretty-darn-good-considering innings from José Veras, and one good ole' fashioned inning from Mariano Rivera and won their ninth in a row.

Just think, even as recently as two weeks ago, the idea of the bullpen having to pitch 8.1 innings would have sent the Yankees' universe into a tailspin.

Even the lingering specter--that of Joba's injury--was alleviated with the announcement that x-rays were negative and Joba had a bruised knee.

Now, there's no saying whether or not the knee's going to swell much or otherwise make life miserable, but it's not broken and the injury is not to a shoulder or an elbow. All things considered, it's the best possible outcome for such an injury.

The Yankees, on the strength of three straight doubles in the first and home runs from Robinson Canó, who excelled out of the two-spot tonight, and Hideki Matsui, swept the Orioles.

This may seem unremarkable, but then when one remembers that the Yankees may have missed out on the playoffs last year due to their inability to beat cellar-dwelling teams, this is a refreshing sight.

At the very least, even if Philadelphia comes in and sweeps the Yankees (which, obviously, I hope does not happen), the Yankees will still have gone 7-3 on a 10 game home stand.

They have not one nine in a row since 2007; AJ Burnett and co. have a chance to make it ten in a row tomorrow.


I'm headed to the game tomorrow evening. Section 118, row 28. If you're going, stop by and say hi.

Yankees vs Orioles, 21 May 2009: A Liveblog

4.35 PM: Some really interesting going-ons today

1) The White Sox and Padres had worked out a Jake Peavy deal, but it looks like Peavy didn't like the idea and used his NTC to get out of it.

2) The Brewers and Padres pulled off a Tony Gwynn Jr-for-Jody Gerut trade.

3) The Minnesota Twins are currently up on the ChiSox 20-0 and there's still another inning to play.

4) Yankees lineup, from @Yesnetwork:
Jeter SS
Canó 2B
Teixeira 1B
Rodriguez 3B
Matsui DH
Swisher RF
Cabrera LF
Cervelli C
Gardner CF

I'm not entirely sure why Canó is batting second, but I am assuming Johnny D is just getting a night off.

4.50 PM: I'm always wrong. From LoHud:

Josh reports that Phil Hughes will get another start. Hughes will start Monday in Texas. Chien-Ming Wang will pitch a minor league game tomorrow.

“We just want to see him have the stuff he had in the bullpen,” Girardi said.

Johnny Damon wrenched his neck jumping for Adam Jones home run yesterday. He is sore but Girardi hopes its only one day. “He’s a little sore.”

It doesn't seem like Damon's hurt too bad, but even so there's no being too cautious, especially with a neck.

5.40 PM: There's a rumor going around that Phil Hughes has asked to go to the bullpen when Wang returns to the rotation. If/when I get this from an official source I'll say so. For now, it might just be pointless rumblings.

5.42 PM: Now I'm hearing it was Girardi per WFAN.

5.57 PM: Phil Coke is a game time decision after getting hit on the shoulder yesterday.

7.03 PM: Yeah, old news now, but Peavy officially rejected the trade.

7.17 PM: Joba kind of couldn't get out of the way of an Adam Jones liner; he's in the game now, but we'll see if there are any effects.

7.19 PM: It looks like the Yankees are going to go to the bullpen. We have to hope that Joba's injury is not serious. And that the Yankees can piece this together with the bullpen.

7.31 PM: Guess Robbie's okay hitting second out of the line up.

7.41 PM: Melky is so clutch. Even lets the runs score before getting tagged out. 4-0 Yankees and Aceves and co. have some breathing room.

7.48 PM: I don't know which of the Yankees scouts signed Aceves, but he deserves a huge bonus check.

7.57 PM: Robinson Canó has three RBI and it's only the second inning. That ball probably doesn't get out at the old park, but it is at least a gapper.

8.11 PM: Ken Singleton asked Michael Kay if he remembered Ramiro Mendoza and then corrected that to Mario Mendoza, but an Aceves/Ramiro Mendoza comparison here seems more apt.

I'm not sure how much longer the Yanks let Mendoza Aceves go, but that might depend on what the Yanks do in the bottom of the inning.

8.14 PM: The longer we go without hearing about Joba, the more I worry.

8.27 PM: Can we give Aceves a medal here? And how the heck did this team go so long without a long man, given what Aceves has done? It's like Ramiro Mendoza spawned.

8.35 PM: Looks like Aceves is coming back out to start the fifth. I can't say I'm entirely fond of this idea. He's thrown 50 pitches so far. I know he's a starter, but he threw two innings last night

8.37 PM: And I am wrong yet again. Albaladejo is in. And he promptly serves one up to Brian Roberts. Now 6-1 Yanks.

8.40 PM: Only an eight pitch inning there. I can live with Roberts' solo HR, especially if the Yankees can tack on. Also, it means Albaladejo should be okay for the sixth, too. And then would you go Veras-Bruney-Mo? Or Veras-Bruney-Bruney? Or Veras-Bruney-Tomko? Or any combination thereof in which you can stay away from Phil Coke who is slightly injured?

8.49 PM: I know it's a bandbox, but as long as the Yanks keep hitting absolute bombs like that, I'm okay with it.

9.02 PM: And now it's a 7-3 game as Wigginton has a PH double. Albaladejo really needs to get the last out here before Baltimore gets any closer.

9.04 PM: That works. Yanks head to the bottom of the sixth with a four run lead. This would not have happened if the Yanks needed 8 innings from the pullpen as recently as three weeks ago.

9.11 PM: Word from YES is Joba X-rays are negative and he has a bruised right knee. That could have been so much worse.

9.15 PM

You see where that "I" is supposed to be in the big Mac sign?

Pujols took that out.

And A-Rod grounds out with the bases loaded. So unclutch.

(Photo credit Matthew H Leach/St Louis Cardinals)

9.20 PM: Markakis with a solo shot and now 7-4 Yankees. Albaladejo is likely gassed, but I'm not sure you can trust Veras with a three run lead. Guess we're gonna find out.

9.32 PM: Yankees could have used a run there but it was not to be. Somehow they have to fashion six outs out of the remaining relievers and I don't know if they go to Mo after a four out save last night, albeit a 14 pitch only appearance.

9.41 PM: Veras worked into and out of trouble there. The Yanks will go to the ninth with a three run lead.

9.48 PM: George Sherrill looked good there. It is now up to Mo. We'll see if there's any effects from last night.

Meanwhile, Down on the Farm

Shelley Duncan, via Twitter (@shelldunc) provides this picture of the team bus headed up to Pawtucket. They've been on the road all day.

Now, that is one empty bus!

I wonder if the guys in rookie ball and short season have to take school buses...

Were the Yankees right to pitch Mo in the ninth?

While the Yankees have won eight straight games, the topic of conversation on many minds last night and this morning is whether or not the Yankees abused their demi-god, Mariano Rivera.

If you didn't catch the game last night, here's what happened:

In the top of the eighth inning, it was still a 5-3 game. Phil Coke, pitching, gave up an odd sort of lead off single, retired the next two batters and then was supposed to face Melvin Mora, who was 2-21 lifetime against Mariano Rivera.

So, as you might expect, Joe Girardi decided to bring in Rivera for a four out save, since Brian Bruney pitched the night before and is only just off the DL.

Mo came in and on three pitches retired Mora, no big problem there.

The problem came in the bottom of the inning, when the Yankee offense decided to go BOOM. Of course, scoring the tack on runs was great for the Yankees and the fans, but it also meant that Mo had been sitting for a really long time, and that the Yankees now had an 11-3 lead--not quite the three-runs or less most commonly seen in save situations.

It seemed obvious to everyone that Girardi would go to Albaladejo in the ninth, but somehow, for some reason I didn't stay up to watch, he didn't, leaving Mo into pitch the ninth.

Now, it's understandable if Girardi didn't want to risk the lesser relievers in Albaladejo, Tomko and Veras blowing the lead...but if he has utterly no faith in those relievers in an eight-run game, that doesn't portend very well.

Mo, of course, is something other than human and got through the ninth throwing a total of fourteen pitches on the evening (though he did serve up a home run to a rookie, albeit a legit prospect, but still a rookie), but was it worth the risk?

The argument in one camp is that Mo is 39 years old, and you really don't want to mess with his health, especially after shoulder surgery.

The other argument is that, well, Mo only threw 14 pitches so it's not really a big deal.

I tend towards the camp that Mo didn't need to pitch the ninth inning, but I'm curious. What do you guys thing?

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Yankees Ride Back to Back to Back Home Runs to 8th Straight Victory (Postgame Notes 20 May 2009)

When things go right, they really go right.

For instance, today was likely Phil Hughes' last start before Chien Ming Wang comes back to the rotation. He needed to impress.

So he struck out nine in five innings while only walking one.

Nick Swisher had been slumping something awful at the Stadium.

So he hit a home run, which was only the first of three back-to-back-to-back home runs that the Yankees hit in the second inning, each getting progressively bomb-ier.

After Hughes' short outing the Yankees needed a good performance from the middle relievers.

So Alfredo Aceves and Phil Coke combined to throw two and two-thirds scoreless innings (with some help from Johnny Damon).

After Mariano Rivera got the last out in the eighth, Yankees fans were praying for an insurance run or two so that Mo didn't have to sweat the ninth.

So the Yankees scored six runs in the bottom of the inning--and every runner to reach scoring position in the inning scored.

And then Mo pitched the ninth, anyway, saving Albaldejo, Bruney, Tomko and Veras for another day.

Add it all together and the Yankees have won eight straight, with the guarantee that they will gain on somebody as Toronto and Boston are also doing battle (and it looks like Boston will win).

The Yankees have guaranteed themselves a winning record on the homestand, which could be important as Philadelphia, which comes to town on Friday, is not exactly a pushover.

Yankees vs. Orioles, 20 May 2009: A liveblog

5.08 PM: Kevin Cash gets the start tonight with Hughes on the mound. Otherwise the line up is the same as it's been for most of this winning streak. As they say, if it ain't broke...

Swisher could really use a day off; my guess is that Gardner's shoulder is probably still bothering him.

No word on how the Yanks made out in the kangaroo court. Maybe later.

6.57 PM: Aha! Here we go:

The Yankees held their first Kangaroo Court since 1995 this afternoon at Yankee Stadium, with Mariano Rivera - the elder statesman of the clubhouse - doing the honors as judge. Xavier Nady served as the secretary and court stenographer, and Derek Jeter, A.J. Burnett and Johnny Damon served as the jury.


The guys seemed to love the process. Nick Swisher did a television interview in Detroit shirtless and Burnett hit him with a $20 fine for that. Phil Coke's wallet was $30 lighter as a result of the home run he served up to the Twins' Joe Mauer. Coke pointed to the drive off the bat, thinking it was a fly ball that could be easily tracked by center fielder Brett Gardner, but the ball carried out and hit the netting over Monument Park. Johnny Damon was fined $100 for showing up late to court, blaming New York City traffic. But no fine was crueler than this one -- Alex Rodriguez got hit for being late ... for the season. "
From Bryan Hoch

For the first time, in a long time, it's way easy to fall in love with these guys.

7.17 PM: Whoa. Guess Phil doesn't want to lose his spot or something. We can have eight more of those? Please Phil?

7.23 PM: Mark Teixeira is on all sorts of fire.

7.27 PM: After an A-Rod HBP, Matsui lines into a DP. Still, Yankees head to the second with a 1-0 lead.

Some sad news: the wife of pitcher Scott Schoenweiss was found dead. Thoughts and prayers are with his family.

7.40 PM: An odd play there to end the second inning, but no harm as the double came before the walk. Not the domination of the first inning, but getting out of it without letting runners score is not something Hughes was able to do last year--or the last time he played Baltimore.

7.45 PM: Now, Swisher just hit his first HR at the new Stadium (finally!), but did you see the air time Markakis got at the wall?

7.47 PM: And now Robbie Canó makes it back to back. Chicks dig the long ball.

7.49 PM: Guess Melky heard me. Three jacks in a row! Alas, I don't think Cash will keep the streak alive, but you never know.

7.56 PM: Interesting to see what Phil does here.

8.04 PM: Again, Hughes gets out of trouble. Runners on the corners with no one out, he gets a strikeout and then a strikeout-throw-em-out double play. Still 4-0 Yankees.

8.12 PM: Two walks and then an RBI single from Canó and now it's 5-0 Yankees.

8.14 PM: Melky just fouled one off his...junk. Ouch. Looks like he's staying in. Ballplayers are pretty tough.

8.22 PM: Deep two run shot for the Orioles. Yankees lead now 5-2, but Phil's got to make some pitches. Don't let the Orioles back in this one.

8.28 PM: That wasn't quite the inning the Yanks wanted to give Guthrie. Kay barely had time to get the trivia question answered.

8.35 PM: Phil doesn't get a call on a pitch and next thing Jones hits it out. Phil's got 8 K's, but has thrown over 80 pitches and isn't yet through the fifth.

8.37 PM: That's nine strike outs for Hughes. Hard to decide what to make of the performance. Not dominating by any stretch; he's thrown too many pitches, but we're through five and the Yankees still have a two run lead. Yankees fans will sit a lot easier if the offense can score some more runs, however.

8.42 PM: Thanks to a double play from A-Rod, Guthrie threw only 7 pitches that inning. The Yanks need to get him out of the game and get into Baltimore's bullpen, but their not doing themselves many favors. Still, a two run lead is still a two run lead.

8.51 PM: Nice inning for Aceves, with some considerable help from Johnny Damon's throwing arm. Yes, you read that right.

8.54 PM: Really wish Yanks would stop swinging at the first pitch there. Guthrie's at 90. 91. Make him work.

8.56 PM: So are the Yanks trying to avoid Baltimore's bullpen? Or something?

9.02 PM: Aceves is ace. Speaking of which, we need a catchy nickname for the shaved heads of Bruney, Coke and Aceves. "The three guys that can get outs" doesn't quite have a ring to it.

9.10 PM: Man, the Yankee offense kinda went dead, didn't it? Here's hoping the bullpen can (continue) to do its job.

9.13 PM: And Adam Jones hits Coke with a liner back to the mound and Coke can't find the ball. Tying run is now at the plate.

9.16 PM: "Mo how close are you?" That's all you need to know about Girardi's faith in Veras.

9.19 PM: Asking Mo for a four out save here.

9.31 PM: Robinson Canó has lifetime pretty bad numbers with the bases chucked, but if there was ever a time to get an RBI, even just one, that was it. Well done. 6-3 Yankees.

9.35 PM: Melky keeps the carousel moving.

9.37 PM: Kevin Cash gets in on the action with a sac fly. 8-3 Yankees.

9.39 PM: Some more Jeterian clutch. Now 10-3 Yankees. They need a home run to cap it off.

9.43 PM: Okay, no home runs that inning, but six runs scored anyway, 11-3 Yanks, and Mo doesn't have to pitch the ninth. If Albaladejo can't get it done I'm sure one of Bruney or Tomko can.

9.45 PM: Okay, Mo is still in there. I know the bullpen's been problematic...but I have to believe this was Mo's call.

9.49 PM: Mo serves up a solo HR but in an 11-4 game, that's not a huge deal. They have won eight in a row now.

How Soon We Forget (and why Phil Hughes Does Not Belong in the Bullpen)

A lot is being made right now about the Yankees' bridge, or lack thereof, to Mariano Rivera.

I'm wondering, does anyone here remember how last year, for a while, that bridge was named Kyle Farnsworth?

Just sayin' is all.

The other thing that's caught my eye is people bringing up sticking Phil Hughes in the bullpen when Chien Ming Wang returns to the rotation.

I am, for the moment, against the idea for the following reasons:

1) Hughes is a 22 year old kid. Yes, still. He's the 20th youngest MLB player. He's still developing. If he was 27, 28, it'd be a different story, but he's not. He's still working all the kinks out after missing large time periods with injury. Baseball history is littered with starters that struggled early in their career and then turned into something incredible.

2) Hughes has a better chance of furthering his development if he goes down to AAA, where he can start every day, than if he has to remake his mentality. It's the old cross country racer-turned-sprinter argument. They're both pitching, but the types are so different they might as well be two different sports.

3) Joba worked as a short reliever because he could throw 100 mph heat without breaking a sweat. Phil's velocity is lower, and with his occasional control issues, it does not make a good mix for a set up man.

Now that Bruney's back, the Yankees have a little--not much--but a little more breathing room in the bullpen. If the starters can keep pitching into the seventh inning, then the rest of the bullpen should work itself out.

They're finicky things. Hell, the Mets have two closers this year and they still have bullpen issues. The Indians had the best bullpen in 2007 and have the worst in 2009 with largely the same staff. The Angels pen was shut-down-to-K-Rod in 08 and has pitched something awful in 2009.

Yankees to host Kangaroo Court

This via Mark Feinsand of the Daily News:

Wednesday, the entire roster will assemble in the bowels of Yankee Stadium for a Kangaroo Court, a long-standing tradition in baseball that allows teammates to put each other on trial for a variety of reasons. Court will be in session at 3:15 p.m. sharp (late arrivals will be fined $100, no exceptions), with Judge Mariano Rivera presiding over the hearings.

CC Sabathia said he’s had a Kangaroo Court on every team he’s ever been on, but in my nine years covering the Yankees, I can’t remember hearing of one taking place. That’s not to say it hasn’t, but it certainly hasn’t been quite as public as this one, which was advertised by a sign hanging on the front door of the clubhouse.

I think my favorite part of this entire thing is Mariano Rivera as judge. I'm not sure what other way you could script it better.

This gets me to thinking, what sort of grievances could there be?

Nick Swisher's music choice on the ipod comes to mind.

Then again, Melky Cabrera, Alex Rodriguez and Johnny Damon might have something to say about the quality of whipped cream AJ Burnett prefers.

I'm sure there are some more serious issues, but from everything you've seen and heard from these players over the past week or two, you wouldn't know it.

I've never made it a secret that I'm a fan of chemistry--even the Bronx-is-burning Yankees had a certain chemistry, albeit more of the baking soda and vinegar, as opposed to lovey dovey type.

It's true that chemistry on a baseball team is nothing like chemistry on, say a hockey or basketball team where five athletes need to move seamlessly on the ice or the court, but to say it doesn't matter at all is hogwash.

When Melky Cabrera hits a walk-off single, and Brett Gardner, his centerfield competition, is the first to congratulate him?

When Johnny Damon knows the pie is coming and *still* can't avoid it?

When the team advertises the kangaroo court on the clubhouse door for all, including the media, to see?

Yeah, there's chemistry here. Even a fan can sense it.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

CC Dealing, Teixeira and A-Rod Smashing, Yankees Winning (Postgame Notes 19 May 2009)

A Yankees fan could get used to this.

For his third start in a row, CC Sabathia was great--tonight going seven innings giving up just three hits and one earned run; two of the hits and the one run in the first inning.

For the second game in a row, both Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez homered, and for Alex, it was his fourth game in a row with a home run.

The two sluggers are getting it done--while Alex hasn't been getting the singles or the doubles that Teixeira is, he's making up for them with home runs, most of them no doubters in any stadium.

While this game turned into a laugher, for most of the game, it was a tight 2-1 score.

Sabathia's dominant performance might not seem so important, but at the time it was. Baltimore scored one run in the top of the first; the Yankees responded with two via an A-Rod jack in the bottom of the inning, and then neither team did much of anything.

At one point Sabathia retired 12 straight birds while the O's starter Bergesen retired 13 straight Yankees, and it seemed the game would end up a good, old fashioned pitcher's duel.

That, however, did not count on Baltimore's bullpen.

After the first two Yankee baserunners reached in the seventh, O's manager called upon once-highly-touted-closing-prospect Chris Ray. A single, error, double and home run later, he was unable to record a single out, and the score had gone from 2-1 to 9-1.

The good news continued for the Yankees, as Brian Bruney was able to enter in the eighth inning for his first appearance since going on the DL and pitched a one-two-three inning.

This, ladies and gentlemen, is what the $200 million team looks like.

A starting pitcher that keeps the team in the game (or, in CC's case, is utterly dealing), an offense that does enough against good pitching and crushes bad, and a bullpen that comes in and does it's job so proficiently that you don't notice.

The Yankees have now won seven straight, and are five games over .500 for the first time this season.

Yankees vs Orioles, 19 May 2009: A Liveblog

5.39 PM: Sabathia's on the mound for the Yanks and Matsui is back in the line up, batting fifth as DH. Alex Rodriguez is also playing third; hopefully, then, the Yanks won't need the defense they needed last night!

Also, Brian Bruney is slated to come off the DL and the NY Post is reporting that the Los Angeles Dodgers will play in the Bronx next year.

5.56 PM: Apparently Michael Kay is not too fond of AJ Burnett's walk-off pies. I am not quite sure how to express this politely, but I'll try. These guys are paid to play a game. They're having some fun with it. It's not like murdering babies out there. So what. the. hell. is the big deal if they eat a few whipped cream pies?

6.26 PM: No word yet on who's getting the hook for Bruney. The Yanks are taking a while with this one...but can it be all that hard to go eeny-meany-miny-mo between Veras, Edwar and Albaladejo?

6.45 PM: And Edwar Ramirez is the lucky winner of the Scranton Express!

7.15 PM: Not entirely sure why CC didn't field the ball right there. Baltimore has two on and none out.

7.19 PM: Nice effort by Teixeira to try to get the double play at home, but Roberts is simply too quick. 1-0 Baltimore, two outs.

7.31 PM: Alex Rodriguez has homered in four straight games. I could so get used to this.

7.37 PM: I am a rare breed, a Yankees/Nets fan. There should be more of us, given our teams, you know, share a channel.

7.43 PM: 1-2-3 inning for CC. The first ball was hit hard, but the second was a harmless fly out and the third a strike out. 2-1 Yanks after 1.5.

7.48 PM: Eight pitch inning for the O's there. Canó's liner was ticketed for center field, but it was caught. Swisher's slumping something horrible; Cabrera had a ground out.

7.56 PM: Sabathia seems to have found the magic juice. I could get used to this, again.

8.03 PM: So we're headed to the fourth inning...I think this time last night we were still in the first.

8.05 PM: Alfredo Aceves, Brian Bruney and Phil Coke are sitting next to each other in the bullpen. This otherwise unremarkable occurrence is notable because they all have shaved heads. Aceves is the only one, speaking as a female, that can pull it off.

8.10 PM: Have I mentioned that I like this CC?

8.16 PM: It's good CC's doing what he's doing because the Yankees' offense hasn't done anything since A-Rod's homer.

8.29 PM: A single and a walk for the O's, but CC works out of further trouble.

8.35 PM: Someone oughta tell the Yankees offense it's, you know, okay to reach base.

8.40 PM: Six pitch inning for CC. Maybe the offense does something now. Maybe not. We'll find out.

8.58 PM: Yanks missed an opportunity there. But hey, at least they got some baserunners. Maybe next inning they'll score.

9.09 PM: CC through seven good innings, but the pitch count is up there. Tough call to send him out for the 8th or toss Bruney right into the fire.

9.24 PM: Hey look! Another run! 3-1 Yankees.

9.28 PM: A hit by Jeter scores two and the Cervelli scores on the throwing error by Adam Jones, and it's now a 6-1 game. And one doesn't need to worry about who pitches the 8th--perfect time for Bruney to get an inning, though CC probably wants it himself.

9.32 PM: That was awesome, utterly crushed by Teixeira. He's playing like he's worth $180 million of late. Now Bruney can let the O's score three runs next inning and not even break a sweat (but I doubt he so chooses).

9.46 PM: Oh Brian Bruney, we have missed thee.

Good Starting brings Good Bullpen

Last night I was watching the MLB network and Bill Ripken said something so astoundingly simple and obvious that I just had to take it further:

"You cannot have a good bullpen without a good starting staff."

Let's consider for a moment, shall well, the last few games for the Yankees.

The Yankees have won seven of eight, losing only to Roy Halladay in Toronto. The starting pitching may not have been perfect, but it's been pretty darn good.

In the past six game winning streak, the pitching has allowed two runs three times, four runs twice and more than five just once (last night).

Now, last night may have been far from a decent pitching performance from the Yankees, but what is perhaps more important is that with the #4/#5 starter on the mound (depending on who you ask), the Yankees took a lead and never relinquished it.

It's not as though the bullpen has had many nights off, as three walk-off wins in a row tend to involve bullpen usage, but last night, the bullpen was still able to get it done and avoid the use of Mariano Rivera.

In the last eight games the bullpen has pitched 22 innings and allowed just five earned runs.

It's probably not much of a coincidence that Sabathia, Burnett and Joba have done some of their best pitching of late while Pettitte has been good enough and Hughes, in his last start, only let three of ten runners score.

Now, the current bullpen is far from a good bullpen. Fans shouldn't have to bite their nails when a team scores seven runs on the basis of the reliever brought into pitch, but still, there is reason to be optimistic.

Brian Bruney should return tonight, and while Bruney, Alfredo Aceves, Phil Coke and Mariano Rivera may not be the core of other Yankee bullpens past (excepting Rivera), it's still a starting point.

A closer, a potential long man, a lefty and a righty set up man that can all get the outs they're supposed to is perhaps the minimum for an effective bullpen, but if they can all do their jobs--and there's no reason to suppose they can't, especially when the starting pitching gives you six or seven innings every time out--everything else becomes gravy.

At the beginning of the season, Yankee starters had not been giving the team any length. For the most part, this seems to have shifted of late, and with it comes a more effective bullpen even without Girardi lifting a finger.

It's probably too obvious, the correlation between good starting and a good bullpen, which is why it needs to be said.

Peña and Cervelli Making Most of Their Opportunity

There's one moment from tonight's game that keeps cropping up in my mind, even a couple hours after it's over.

It's in the ninth inning; there are two outs with Carlos Gomez at first in a one run game, and Phil Coke is struggling to throw strikes.

Instead of, say, Jeter and Canó heading out to the mound to calm Phil Coke, it's Francisco Cervelli and Ramiro Peña.

The two youngsters, of course, if everything goes to plan, should never have been in a major league game this year, at least, not as starters and, with the exception of Peña's late-inning glove, certainly not in the ninth inning of a one-run game with the tying run on base.

And yet, here they are, saying whatever words of wisdom they can to settle a pitcher trying for his very first major league save.

Peña and Cervelli are not, at least yet, marquee players, and they're not really expected to be. Cervelli will probably be overshadowed by either Jesus Montero or Austin Romine within a few years (or less), and Peña doesn't even rank on Baseball America's prospect radar.

Yet, here they are, and here they are playing better than anyone expected.

Neither is the automatic out they were expected to be; both do all the little things right, and both are positively beaming every time they are interviewed after the game.

While Peña will probably stay on the 25 man roster as long as Alex Rodriguez is still a little gimpy (and, face it, he inspires more confidence than Angel Berroa), the future for Cervelli is less certain after Jorge Posada and Jose Molina return. It's unlikely that the Yankees would want to carry three catchers, especially if they can send Cervelli to AAA (I doubt they send him all the way back to AA) where he can play every day. It's entirely possible that if Posada and Molina are a bit gimpy, Cervelli hops the Chris Britton express.

While they're still in New York, however, they've done everything asked of them and then some.

And they've made the team fun to watch in the process.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Yankees Bend, don't Break, win Sixth Straight and Sweep Twins (Postgame Notes 18 May 2009)

For a while, it seem scripted that the Yankees might have to settle for a fourth-straight walk off if they were going to win the game. Going into the ninth with a 7-5 lead and an unavailable Mariano Rivera, there was perhaps more tension here than in any of the walk off wins, as going to extras here would have meant blowing a one-time 6-2 lead.

Yet, with Carlos Gomez dancing off of first, Francisco Cervelli and Ramiro Peña--and not Derek Jeter--went out to the mound to calm the young Phil Coke, who like the rest of the pitching staff buckled, but never broke.

The Yankees were down 2-0 at the end of the first--Minnesota scored first every game of this series--but got to work quickly on Glen Perkins.

The first four batters all reached base and scored, thanks to home runs from Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez, and Perkins was knocked out of the game in the first.

The Twins' bullpen, was, however, very effective, and slowly the Twins began to chip away. A run here, a run there, and soon enough the score was 6-4, a two run lead and only a depleted Yankees' bullpen to protect it.

Teixeira added another home run to make it 7-4, and after Edwar Ramirez served up a home run to Michael Cuddyer Denard Span, it became very clear that the extra run was needed.

It's perhaps fairly surprising that the combination of Veras and Ramirez only gave up one run, but it was quite hairy. The Twins didn't have a 1-2-3 inning all game.

The Yankees were perhaps also helped by stellar defense from Ramiro Peña, Derek Jeter, Robinson Canó and Mark Teixeira. They were making plays that I doubt Jason Giambi or a still slightly gimpy Alex Rodriguez would have made, and they loom large now.

Still, despite the hairyness, the Yankees have won six straight to get to four games over .500 for the first time this season, and Brian Bruney should return tomorrow (and Mo should be available, of course).

Mo, Bruney, Coke and Aceves is not quite an imposing bullpen core, but the four have been steady all year when healthy (or in Mo's case, all career).

CC is on the mound for the Yanks tomorrow night; the last time he pitched Baltimore, it was crack. Hopefully he can emulate the performance.

Yankees Vs Twins, 18 May 2009: A Liveblog

4.28 PM: After a great weekend I get a chance to veg out on the couch and watch some baseball. Today's line up, courtesy of LoHud:

Derek Jeter SS
Johnny Damon LF
Mark Teixeira 1B
Alex Rodriguez DH
Nick Swisher RF
Robinson Cano 2B
Melky Cabrera CF
Ramiro Pena 3B
Francisco Cervelli C

As lovely as all the walk off wins have been, it would be nice for the Yanks to score early and often, thus not draining the bullpen--or our emotion.

4.32 PM: Courtesy of Bryan Boch (@bryanhoch) via Twitter: Brian Bruney to be activated Tuesday. Chien Ming Wang will throw pen at Stadium Tuesday and decision will be made after.

4.36 PM: Some words that Brett Gardner is DTD with a bruised shoulder; have yet to hear it from an official source, WFAN is reporting.

4.46 PM: From Hoch: "Additionally, Brett Gardner has a contusion of his right rotator cuff after his slide into home plate yesterday. He had an MRI today and Girardi said he is day-to-day."

That makes it sound a little more serious than just a bruised shoulder, but that's what happens when you use fancy medical terms I don't always understand.

7.12 PM: Whoa didn't mean to go three hours without updating. Anyway, Mark Teixeira makes a better gymnast than me.

7.14 PM: Inauspicious start (sorry Kay), as a double and a single and now the Twins have a 1-0 lead with one out.

7.17 PM: Now 2-0 Twins. Not really the start Pettitte envisioned, I'm sure.

7.21 PM: That didn't go very well, as the Twins hit the ball hard. Hopefully Pettitte's just pulling a Joba, but we'll see.

7.27 PM: Two singles for the Yanks and then a balk... which doesn't matter, because Teixeira just crushed one to left field. 3-2 Yanks.

7.30 PM: Alex Rodriguez has now homered in three straight games. And this was back-to-back with Mark Teixeira. It's true, chicks dig the long ball, and I could so get used to this.

7.41 PM: I think that single by Cervelli there, where three fielders could not come up with the baseball, explains the entire weekend for the Twins.

That's all for Perkins who pitches 2/3 of one inning. Yanks up 6-2. Only Swisher and Peña didn't reach base, and Swisher didn't miss by much.

7.47 PM: Now here's a question: does the long inning hurt or help Andy?

7.58 PM: Seemed to help Andy well enough. Twins got runners on via HBP and a bunt, but did not hit the ball hard at all that inning. Of course, the Yanks' stellar defense also helped.

8.06 PM: Nothing doing there for the Yanks. Stupid knuckleballers, and all...

8.15 PM: Andy's getting better as the game is going on.

8.23 PM: A hit, a CS, and two ground outs there. Canó basically gave himself away and Mauer's probably not the world's best catcher to run on.

8.27 PM: That was an absolute bomb by Cuddyer, good thing no one was on base. Now Carlos Gomez with a base hit and Andy Pettitte better watch out. He's only up by three.

8.30 PM: Punto was out by a mile there. Cervelli, it seems, has quite the cannon.

8.31 PM: The Yanks have flashed all sorts of leather tonight. Girardi picked a good day to DH A-Rod.

8.55 PM: Good job there by Pettitte to get himself out of trouble. One would like to see the Yankees score a couple more runs.

9.09 PM: Denard Span bloops one over Jeter's head and now it's 6-4 Yanks. The Yanks really need to get some more runs. They need to get out of this inning first.

9.10 PM: Okay, so they got out of the inning. Now they really need some more runs. Do you trust a 2-run lead in the hands of the bullpen when Rivera's possibly not available after throwing 44 pitches the past two nights? Yeah. Me niether.

9.20 PM: Second and third with one out and the Yanks didn't score, Jeter and Damon striking out. I know, I know, the Yankees are still winning, but now it's only two runs...and that bullpen...

9.29 PM: José Veras coming in to face Cuddyer with two men on. Why do I feel this terrible compulsion to look away?

9.35 PM: Veras gets out of it, but only after walking the bases loaded. Ayayay. Good thing Bruney's back tomorrow, isn't it?

9.40 PM: Teixeira with his second HR of the evening. The Yankees needed that run. They would like some more.

9.50 PM: Only one run there, but even just the one helps a bit. Now, does Veras actually attempt to pitch a whole inning, do they leave it to Edwar, or do they have Swisher come in to pitch?

9.59 PM: And that is why you need the extra run. Now 7-5 Yankees and I'm not really sure who you want facing Mauer and Morneau.

10.03 PM: On the bright side...well... Morneau up with Mauer on in a two run game? I need a drink. Again.

10.07 PM: And Phil Coke strikes out Justin Morneau who had been 4-4. Now the question du jour, who pitches the ninth? Normally it's Mo but he could use the night off.

10.22 PM: To the ninth the Yanks go, with a two run lead, a Mo probably not available and the options of Coke, Albaladejo, Tomko and Aceves. This could be quite interesting.

MLB Power Rankings Week Six

As the season progresses, teams till jump up and down the rankings, but not nearly as much as in the first few weeks.

30. Arizona Diamondbacks: They fired their manager, now a while ago, and have not improved all that much, if at all. That alone would be bad enough, but it's the middle of May and the snakes are already eleven games out.

29. Washington Nationals: No other team has won so few games; the -43 run differential is the second worst in all of baseball. Still, only 9.5 back of the Mets, instead of 11 out, they get to stay out of the basement another week. It's too bad Ryan Zimmerman lost his hitting streak--that was by far the most interesting thing going on with the team this year.

28. Oakland Athletics: Only the Nationals have fewer wins. Only the White Sox have scored fewer runs, and a starting pitching staff as young as the A's, there are bound to be rough outings. Billy Beane had a good idea in trying to nab sluggers during the off-season, but it seems like he chose the wrong ones.

27. Colorado Rockies: When the Pirates are playing like the Pirates usually play (ie, in last place and not on some hot streak), and then you lose to the Pirates, it's not a good sign.

26. San Diego Padres: Give them some credit. Despite their league-worst -47 run differential, they managed to outlast the Reds in a 16-inning marathon. This is, of course, what happens when two teams with not-very-good-right-now offenses meet up...Adrian Gonzalez could probably hit in spots 1-9 and be more effective than the rest of the Padres' offense.

25. Cleveland Indians: They don't have the league's worst record this week, so yay! That was a great move by Eric Wedge on Sunday, waiting for the Rays to take the field before telling the umpire that the Rays had two 3B and no DH, but as the season's gone for the Indians, they still lost that game.

24. Baltimore Orioles: They should call up Wieters. They won't, at least, not yet. The -33 run differential points to the biggest issue-although they can hit like a major league team, they can't pitch like one, and if you can't pitch, there's only so much an offense can do.

23. Chicago White Sox: The palehose are in something of a free fall as no team in the majors-not even the lowly Diamondbacks or Padres-have scored fewer runs. Closer Bobby Jenks broke one of baseball's all-time unwritten rule when he admitted intentionally throwing at a batter.

22. Pittsburgh Pirates: The Pirates are, once again, playing like the Pirates. Refreshing that some things always stay the same, no?

21. Houston Astros: Somehow, they're only two games under .500. Maybe it's because Oswalt has finally started winning (my fantasy team thanks him), or something.

20. Florida Marlins: Well, thank goodness for that 8-1 start, right? Ricky Nolasco is still not right, which is a big problem when Baseball Prospectus has labeled you as a prospective ace. I wonder how long before they give him the Wang/Perez treatment...

19. Seattle Mariners: Like the Marlins, if you're going to fall from grace, you should, well, fall completely and totally from it. They did walk-off against the Red Sox on Sunday, though, and they aren't on pace to lose over 100 games again, so that's something.

18. Minnesota Twins: I really don't know what you say to your team after losing three in a row via the walk-off. The Twins have played better than their 18-20 record, and could just as easily be 21-17 had their pitching staff not made three bad pitches at precisely the wrong time.

17. Atlanta Braves: A .500 record, a nearly nil run differential...if that doesn't define a non-descript third place team, I'm not really sure what does.

16. Los Angeles Angels: They were beginning to come on and then ran into the Texas Rangers, likely before they were ready. This team's still good, to still be as close as they are despite everything that's happened, and the best news is that they are beginning to get players back.

15. Tampa Bay Rays: They're still under .500, but they're beginning to heat up. When your pitcher ends up batting third because of a manager's error and then has a double and an RBI, you know karma is beginning to shift your way.

14. San Francisco Giants: They're over .500 and have done it all with pitching. The team should consider trading for a slugger at the deadline--if they do and Manny Ramirez is still suspended, things could get interesting for the Dodgers.

13. Kansas City Royals: They've had some struggles lately, as was probably likely they would, but the AL Central is so weak that I'm not sure anyone's really all that worried. Certainly, this is the latest KC has been over .500 in a good, long time, and Zach Greinke is still a stud.

12. New York Yankees: While the three walk off wins (literally) take the cake, let's not forget the team has won five straight, five of six and seven of nine. The starting pitching is truly getting there: of the two losses in the last nine, only one was truly a bad start-Phil Hughes couldn't make it out of the second in Baltimore, but the other loss was simply a good AJ Burnett running into a better Roy Halladay. With the three walk off wins, however, the Yanks have to believe they can win any game no matter what, and that might be more dangerous than the wins themselves.

11. Cincinnati Reds: Being on the wrong end of a 16 inning marathon sucks, but the "Reds" and "over .500" is not something we've heard in the same sentence for a while.

10. Detroit Tigers: What is Justin Verlander eating for breakfast, and where can I get some?

9. Philadelphia Phillies: No, this team isn't as good as last year's and yes, Jamie Moyer may be reaching the end, but it's still a good team that's only a half-game back of the Mets.

8. St. Louis Cardinals: The redbirds are still all sorts of fun, but the Brewers were better this week. Ever notice how the injury bug always seems to bite certain teams? The Angels, the Yankees...the Cardinals, perhaps?

7. Boston Red Sox: It's a tough West Coast swing, but when they're done, they're done. As in, for the rest of the year. Yankees fans are, of course, fuming.

6. New York Mets: Moving Oliver Perez to the DL seems to have worked all sorts of wonders. There have been some Mets moments--like Jose Reyes not running hard out of the batter's box, which theoretically cost the Mets the game--but the team is winning enough to grab a hold of first place in the NL East. If only Johan Santana could get some run sup...He did? Really? Oh.

5. Chicago Cubs: No Zambrano, no Ramirez and almost no problem. Alfonso Soriano is still all sorts of fun to watch, but the Cubs should stop taking lessons from the Yankees' bullpen.

4. Texas Rangers: They sniffed opportunity when the Angels became all sorts of injured and the Seattle Mariners returned to, well, being the Mariners. I'm not sure if there are many more teams that are so much fun to watch, from the incredible offense, still strong, to Josh Hamilton's spiderman-like climbing of the wall to make a play, and even the pitching is holding its own. The Angels have a lot of work to do.

3. Milwaukee Brewers: Five straight wins, and they've taken over the lead in the NL Central. They are 8-2 in their last ten, and beating St. Louis, one of the competitive teams in their division, certainly helps.

2. Toronto Blue Jays: They recovered nicely after having lost two of three to the Yankees, (though the third game could have been won by either team). The Jays still have yet to face the Red Sox or Rays, and have been feasting on the AL Central, but so far, they still have a game or two to play with in the AL East standings.

1. Los Angeles Dodgers: Manny who? The Dodgers keep winning, and they're playing as though Manny Ramirez never was a Dodger. Not only do they have the best record in baseball, a half-game better than the Jays, but they also have the league's best run differential--+70.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Maybe it was Tino (Postgame Notes 17 May 2009)

Friday night, as Dan and I are sitting there, at Yankee Stadium, watching the game, there's a roar from the crowd.

We glance at the screen in centerfield to see why: Tino Martinez in the broadcast booth.

Three games later, three walk off wins later, I wonder if maybe there was something to it.

Do the dynasty teams invoke this much magic, to be able to affect the games ten years after? We don't even ask if they can, just if they do.

Perhaps the best part of it all is that this is the type of magic that turns a stadium from just a building into a home.

How must it feel to be the Minnesota Twins, to have to come back here tomorrow night knowing full well how the last three have ended?

Three wins, three walk off wins, five wins in a row.

It's a good weekend to be a Yankee fan.

How I Caught A-Rod's Walkoff (Postgame Notes 16 May 2009)

Dan and I have just walked the length of Fifth Avenue, from Central Park South to 34th Street/Herald Square.

We want to get down to Greenwich Village, but our feet are a little tired, so we hop the subway to West 4th Street.

We wander around a little, trying to figure out where things are in a neighborhood I am hardly ever in. Eventually, I cave and buy a map.

We're walking down West 4th Street towards Sullivan Street, and on the corner of MacDougal there's a bar showing both the Yankees and the Mets games. I look quickly at the screen; the Yanks are batting in the bottom of the 10th and the game is still tied. I pause to watch the batter.

"You wanna go in and get a drink?" Dan suggests. I know it must be torture for him, to watch this much Yankees baseball when he's a die-hard Red Sox fan.


So we take seats at the bar; he gets a Sam Adams and I get a glass of water because I can't drink beer.

We watch the Yanks do nothing in the 10th, play some stellar defense in the top of the eleventh...

...and then, in the bottom of the eleventh, we watch as Mark Teixeira works a lead off walk.

"Lead off walks come around to score sixty percent of the time," I muse.

Next batter, Alex Rodriguez. It'd be cool if he got a hit here, I think.

He does. He sends it right over the left field wall.


Two walk off wins in a row.

If that doesn't get a team going, nothing will.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Some More Thoughts From Last Night's Game...

...Now that I've had a chance to think about it.

  • Brett Gardner was the first to run to Melky after Melky's walk off hit. The two might be competing, but that scene is what you want to see--competition, but healthy competition that makes everyone better.
  • There had to be something to the fact that Tino Martinez was in the Stadium and it was a walk off win. I refuse to believe that it was nothing more than coincidental.
  • The game did have 'walk off win' written all over it. I'm not really sure how you explain it, but somehow we knew. We just knew. Once Robbie Canó was walked it was all but over. If Melky keeps up his knack for walk off hits, he'll be a legend in his own rights.
  • Hughes didn't pitch all that well, but Minnesota had a ton of chances they didn't take advantage of--not that the Yankees were necessarily much better. Still, it was better than Hughes' last inning. I think for Hughes, there's an issue with confidence soon as the first run scores. If he can get past that, he should be okay.
  • On the replay, Mark Teixeira barely avoided having his arm shattered when Carlos Gomez ran past. He had a legitimate beef there.

I am not covering today's game in any way, shape or form, so all you need to know is that Joba is pitching, Teixeira's DHing and Swisher is playing first so that Gardner and Cabrera can play in the field--which seems to be a well deserved reward for their play last night.

Friday, May 15, 2009

How I Nearly Missed Melky's Walk-Off (Postgame Notes 15 May 2009)

Scene: 12.30 PM, Fordham area, Bronx, NY.

Dan and I make our way up to the fourth floor of my building, where my apartment is. Dan doesn't have a lot--you don't need a lot when only staying for a weekend--but he puts it down on my coffee table, which I worked so hard to clean last night.

The plan was to go to Central Park, toss a frisbee and find a bar to watch the Yankees.

You could not have asked for nicer weather.

I'm sitting on the couch, checking my email while Dan's putting his contacts in, when I get an idea.

"Hey, want to see if we can find cheap tickets to today's game?"

"Sure, why not?" He says.

I go to Stubhub and look for tickets. I can't do Grandstand or Terrace--Dan is not a height person--so I look around at the Main sections. I find one where the tickets start at $20. I click; I find two tickets for $26 each. I go to to compare face value. Face value on gameday is $80. It's a no brainer.

I buy, they send, and we walk over to the library to print.

5.30 PM Near New Yankee Stadium, Bronx, NY.

Dan and I get off the subway. It's quite hot out right now, the air from the city sitting heavy as it likes to do in the summer.

"Would you like to go to Stan's or into the Stadium?" I ask. Dan's a beer and bars fan. I can't drink beer and I get claustrophobic in bars, but since Dan is visiting, it's up to him. If he wants to go to the bar, we go to the bar. It's reversed when I visit him.

"Well..." He gives it some thought. "It's early. Let's go to Stan's, I'll get a drink, then we can head over."

So we go to Stan's. It's crazy crowded, and the music is really loud, but the music is good music. I can't remember now, so many hours later, what they were playing, but I know the mood it set: life is good. Forget your troubles. Life is good.

Second Inning, Yankee Stadium.

Justin Morneau comes up to bat.

I think, but do not say, it would not be surprising if he hit a home run here. A few pitches later, I watch the ball sail over the right field fence. I do not even rise from my seat to see the ball land; there is no way it is going to come down in time for Swisher to have a chance.

At the end of the inning I am amazed it is only 1-0. The Yanks are still in this.

Third Inning, Yankee Stadium.

Dan and I have great seats, for the most part. We can see the entire field, and the players are large enough to be human, to be nuanced and flawed.

But we cannot see the pitches well.

From our angle, down the right field line, we can only tell if pitches are way high, way low or way inside--because the player jumps out of the way. We cannot see movement and location on close pitches.

When Johnny Damon strikes out, we are not sure how to react--and then Johnny Damon makes it clear for us.

He argues. There's no question what he's arguing about and no one is surprised when he gets tossed. We wonder if it'll give some life to the offense; we don't realize what, exactly, the consequences of bringing in Brett Gardner to play center will be.

Later in the Third Inning, Yankee Stadium

We kind of knew this would happen.

We kind of knew that Alex Rodriguez would be called on to do something big. Bases loaded here, one out, the Yankees down by one run, and all the Yanks need is a single to take the lead.

A-Rod's timing is still off, however.

A few more weeks, and some of those pitches go way over the centerfield wall.

Not tonight.

The chorus of applause turns to boos. This is, after all, New York.

It's refreshing to see some things never change.

Fourth Inning, Yankee Stadium

Minnesota's just scored again on a sacrifice fly.

I text Joe from River Ave Blues, who's at the game.

Me: Way too many pitches.
Joe: I'm just glad he got out of it.

How is the score only 2-0?

It baffles us.

Fifth inning, Yankee Stadium

Justin Morneau is at bat again.

I don't think about him hitting another home run, but this is what he does.

It's now 3-0 Twins. It's by no means undoable for the Yankees, but eventually the runs will continue to build. If Phil Hughes can keep it here, we have a chance.

I look at the scoreboard. I can't believe it's already the fifth inning. I can't believe it's only the fifth inning.

Later Fifth Inning, Yankee Stadium

Derek Jeter is at bat.

The count goes to 0-2 (or so I think. Later I see the count was actually 2-0, but somehow I've missed this.)

"Please," I say, "please, please do not strike out on three pitches."

He doesn't.

He plants one over the right field porch. The Stadium comes alive: We are still in this.

Sixth Inning, Yankee Stadium

"You know, Rebecca," Dan says, "I think this is the best idea you've ever had."

I want to agree; it's hard when the Yankees are losing, but there is time yet.

Seventh Inning, Yankee Stadium

Phil Coke comes into pitch.

It's been a few days since Coke has pitched and he's perhaps the only other reliever in the bullpen capable of getting outs.

It's refreshing to see him again.

So refreshing that he serves up a home run to Joe Mauer.

Not so refreshing after all. He settles down and gets two outs before Joe Girardi brings in Brett Tomko.

"Uh Oh," I think.

Then, two pitches later, the side is retired. Maybe it's not such a big deal after all.

Later Seventh Inning, Yankee Stadium

There are two quick outs and Brett Gardner comes up to bat. It does not seem too promising, and soon enough, Gardner is down in the count, 0-2.

"He's going to strike out on three pitches," I say.

"The last time you said that, there was a home run," Dan says, not really amused.

So I watch, but I don't expect much. Gardner doesn't have Jeter's power.

Gardner doesn't hit a home run. Well, it doesn't seem that way...just a bloop down the line...but then it gets past the third baseman and the left fielder, and Gardner never stops running.

He's flying around the bases and by the time he gets to third the Stadium is in an uproar, because we all sense it: Gardner can make it home.

We egg him on. He keeps running. He slides, and is safe.

I have never heard the Stadium this loud. None of us have ever seen an inside-the-park-home run before. We don't realize it'll get louder later.

Ninth Inning, Yankee Stadium

It's a 4-2 game and the Yankees have to hold it here to have a chance. Against Joe Nathan it will likely not be much more than that, just a chance.

"You never know," says the man sitting in front of me. "That's baseball."

"You're right," I admit.

Dan brings up an issue that is on both of our minds: it is getting late.

"Well, if the Twins hit a two-run home run here, against Edwar, we're leaving," I say. They don't hit a home run, but they do send to the bullpen for José Veras. You can hear the Stadium's collective "Uh oh", you can see the mass exodus.

Dan and I have a 15 block walk from the subway back to my apartment. It's late and we, despite being city people, still find ourselves preoccupied with our safety.

"All right," I say, "let's go."

We walk down the ramp and are heading towards the exit. We are in the great hall and I can see the Babe Ruth Plaza outside the gate.

Ten steps, eight, seven, six, five....

And with that, Vera strikes out the side. Do they have a rally in their bones?

I grab Dan's arm.

"You know what? Let's stay."

"Are you sure?"

"Yeah. It's Nathan. It'll probably be quick, anyway."

We walk up to the edge of the field level concourse. A crowd has gathered, all like us, all nearly out the door and deciding at the last minute to stay. Hey, why not?

So I try to watch Gardner's at bat--I can't see the field that well, because there are too many people in front of me, but I can see the screen.

I expect Gardner to strike out, but he doesn't. He hits the ball to the gap. He slips as he rounds first and still winds up at third. If he doesn't slip, he quite possibly has another inside the park home run.

"Dude," I say, "I've never seen one inside-the-park home run before, and we nearly had two."

Mark Teixeira follows. We just want a ball in the outfield. Something to score Gardner.

He obliges with a single.

It's now 4-3. The Yankees are only down one run, there's no one out, A-Rod's at bat. We can taste it. We are in this. We can win this.

"He's rattled," says the tattooed man behind me, referring to Nathan.

After A-Rod walks, it's clear, Nathan's definitely rattled.

We root for Matsui, who strikes out, and then root again for Swisher, who grounds out but moves Teixeira and A-Rod to second and third in the process.

This is key.

It's key because Joe Nathan and Joe Mauer and the Twins decide to intentionally walk Robinson Canó. It's a good idea in theory. Vaguely.

"Horrible idea," says the tattooed man.

"I know," I say. "Robbie's not good with men in scoring position and Melky's been hot. Gardner has a inside-the-park home run and a triple. You know Melky wants to do something."

"It's the competition. It's working. A little center field competition," smirks the tattoeed man.

While Robbie is being walked the Stadium starts chanting Mel-ky, Mel-ky.

Melky's already given the Yankees one walk off this season. He's been one of our most clutch hitters.

Right now, either he comes through and it's the most amazing experience I've ever had at a Yankee game, or he doesn't and we go home heartbroken, but right now, at this moment, none of us think Melky won't come through.

This has walk-off win written all over it.

Nathan pitches.

Melky dunks one in there.

The Yankees win.

The Stadium is howling with WHOOO, YAY, and everything else in between, including a lot of four letter words.

Brent calls me and is excited and I can't let him get a word in edgewise. This is way, way, too amazing.

10.30 PM, outside Yankee Stadium

Dan and I take a taxi back, instead of the subway. It's a little on the pricey side, but it's well worth it. The cabbie plays the Yankee postgame in the car.

"You know," says Dan, who is from Boston and a Red Sox fan, "I almost, just for a second, got caught up there. I almost had to cheer."

"It's the best $25 I've ever spent on baseball," I say.

I don't add: it's also the best two feet I never walked.