June 2009

Even You Can Beat Yankees

(more…)

Was Wang’s Start Well Grounded?

NATIONALS 3, YANKEES 2

Joe Girardi threw down the gauntlet. The question is did Chien-Ming Wang throw enough pitches down on Wednesday night to save his job.

Ironically, Wang’s mound opponent John Lannan kept enough pitches down to induce even more ground outs from the Yankees to hold on for a 3-2 victory for the worst team in baseball. Their record is now 17-45.
All Yankee eyes, however, were trained early on former ace sinkerball specialist Wang. After winning 19 games in both 2006 and 2007, Wang suffered a lisfranc sprain in his right foot last May, when he was sporting a gaudy 8-2 record.
The Yankees, counting on him to assume the No. 3 spot in the Yankees retooled 2009 rotation, could not have foreseen that Wang’s foot troubles would still be putting him on shaky footing at this juncture of the season.
He entered Wednesday with an ERA over 14. He had been blasted for 23 earned runs in just six innings spanning his first three starts. Placed on the 15-day disabled list, the Yankees medical staff determined that Wang’s foot problems caused him not work out his lower body enough in the offseason, leaving Wang with weakness in his hip muscles. That contributed to an altered delivery and Wang’s pitches did not sink.
After working the hip muscles back into shape, Wang began a minor-league rehab stint that brought him off the disabled list — but not back into the Yankees rotation. Girardi and pitching coach Dave Eiland wanted Wang to work out of the bullpen before they granted him a rotation spot.
Wang responded with three excellent relief stints. He pitched 8 innings, gave up 9 hits and just two runs. Wang walked only two and struck out seven — enough to convince Girardi that Wang was ready to replace Phil Hughes in the starting rotation.
But after three starts, Wang is 0-2 with an ERA of 8.76. Yet, after Wednesday night’s performance, the Yankees are cautiously optimistic that Wang may be on the way back.
On closer examination his 91-pitch five-inning stint was not as bad as the six hits, two walks and three runs he surrendered. For a more positive view you have to look at Wang’s outs.
Of the 15 outs Wang recorded, 10 were ground-ball outs. Two outs were fly outs but only one of those left the infield. He struck out the others. His catcher, Jorge Posada, was very encouraged. He told MLB.com: “I thought he threw strikes with all of his pitches and looked a lot better in the strike zone. I thought he used both sides of the plate and was a lot better. Coming out of the things he did, I’m very positive.”

Wang, however, got no support from the offense. Once again, a young pitcher the Yankees had not seen before dazzled them with 88 mile-per-hour fastballs and even slower sliders and changeups. Lannan (4-5) completed 8 1/3 innings, giving up just four hits, one walk and striking out four batters. 
Other than home runs by Robinson Cano in the fifth and Johnny Damon in the ninth, Lannan actually killed more Yankee Stadium infield dirt worms than Wang. He recorded 15 ground ball outs. He only allowed four flyball outs to the outfield in a totally dominating display of pitching artistry.
Alex Rodriguez summed it up to MLB.com: “It’s the first time we’ve seen him. He threw the ball in and out very well, changed speeds, threw strikes and didn’t walk anybody. If you throw strikes against us, you’ve got a chance.”
The Yankees actually mounted a heroic comeback attempt in the ninth inning. Johnny Damon greeted Lannan with a line-drive home run into the first row of “Damon’s deck” in right for his 14th home run. That made the score 3-2. 
After Nick Swisher flied out to left, Mark Teixeira sliced a single into left field. Girardi went to his bench to summon Brett Gardner to pinch-run. Nationals Manager Manny Acta then went to his bullpen to summon closer Mike McDougal, who has not recorded a single save since being named the team’s closer three weeks ago. Of course, there have not been any save opportunities accorded him.
Alex Rodriguez strode to the plate with a chance to save the Yankees night. Gardner increased those chances by stealing second and third base during the at-bat. The steals meant that A-Rod would only need to hit a fly ball of some length, a base hit or slow grounder to score Gardner with the tying run.
But McDougal, calculating those odds, decided to pitch around A-Rod and walked him to set up a potential double play. That, however, was also a potentially risky gambit given Cano was  on deck.
Cano was 4-for-4 against the Nationals last night with 2 RBIs, including a double that gave the Yankees a lead they did not relinquish. McDougal dug in on the mound. But so did Cano in the batter’s box.
The first eight pitches was an epic battle with Cano fouling off tailing fastball after tailing fastball. McDougal, looking for the double play, kept the pressure on by unleashing all 97 mph in his arsenal.
Cano only needed to make good contact and stay out of the double play. But, on pitch nine that is exactly what he did. He rolled a two-hopper to shortstop Cristian Guzman, who relayed to second baseman Anderson Hernandez for one and Hernandez fired to first baseman Nick Johnson for the back-breaking final out.
Gardner’s efforts were left unrewarded and the Yankees for once failed in their typical late-inning rally.
But, looking for the silver lining, Wang may be on his way back and the Yankees pitching staff may be taking shape. 
CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett, Andy Pettitte and Wang seem set now as Girardi told MLB.com about his thoughts on Wang: “We wanted to see some good things out of him, and I think we did tonight. Hopefully, it’s good for him. From the naked eye, I saw some pretty good pitches, and the ground-ball outs are a real good sign.”

The onus now shifts to Joba Chamberlain, who pitched only four innings in his last start. Perhaps Phil Hughes may replace Chamberlain (3-1, 3.84 ERA) if he continues to have problems with his command and pitch count.
He will take the mound tomorrow against another pitcher the Yankees have never faced, Craig Stammen, who
is 0-2 with a 5.86 ERA.
Gametime is 1:05 p.m. EDT.

Unknowns Still Vexing Yankees

On Sunday I published an item here under the headline “Leaving a Bad First Impression” that detailed how six relatively unknown starters had stymied the Yankees this season.

Well, it happened again Tuesday night. So make it seven.
The Washington Nationals sent a 22-year-old righthander named Shairon Martis to the mound versus veteran ace lefty CC Sabathia. On paper it looked like it could be another a laugher given these facts:
  • The Nationals came into the game with the worst record in baseball by far. They were 16-45 and weak on offense, defense and pitching.
  • Martis carried a road ERA of 7.66 entering the game. In addition his overall ERA was 5.04.
  • Sabathia, despite a bad April, has been one of the best pitchers in baseball since then and he has pitched deep into games in virtually every start.
  • The Yankees have been a hot team, recording a 23-12 record since May 8.
But one statistic was in Martis’ favor. The Yankees have had trouble of late with these rookie or journeyman starters this season. These starters include Japanese rookie Koji Uehara of the Orioles (twice), Justin Masterson of the Red Sox, Angels 30-year-old journeyman rookie Matt Palmer, Phillies lefty J.A. Happ, Rangers righty Scott Feldman and Mets righty Fernando Nieve, who vexed the Yankees in a 6-2 loss on Saturday.
Combining their statistics in their starts against the Yankees they have pitched a total of 42 innings, gave up just 32 hits, only 10 earned runs, walked nine and struck out 22. That’s an ERA of 2.14 and a Walks and Hits to Innings Pitched (WHIP) of 0.98. (Any WHIP under 1.20 is considered excellent. A WHIP under 1 is considered dominant.)
So by now adding Martis’ statistics to those of the previous starters who made the Yankees look bad, it becomes clear this is a continuing trend the Yankees must overcome. 
The seven pitchers have a combined pitching line that reads 48 innings, 36 hits, 11 runs, 14 walks and 23 strikeouts. That is a combined ERA of 2.06 and a WHIP of 1.04.

According to MLB.com: 

Martis was the second relatively unknown pitcher in three games to hold the Yankees down, joining the Mets Nieve on Saturday.  Mark Teixeira said Martis kept them guessing.

“Every pitcher that we face, if you know them, you recognize pitches,” Teixeira said. “You recognize tendencies and look for certain pitches. If you don’t know a guy, you’re going up there cold and hoping to swing at strikes.

“The way he was throwing, he was throwing a really good sinker and changeup, and we didn’t always know which one was a strike.”

The point is that the Yankees may be revealing a problem here: A club of veteran hitters who seem to be unable to solve pitchers they know very little about. This could be concern to Manager Joe Girardi and his coaches going forward.

Teams are not stupid and, if they see a trend like this, they are prone to exploit it. So unless the Yankees begin to start hitting these marginal unknowns they may expect to see teams start calling up minor leaguers and scrap heap finds with no track record and little scouting information to face the Yankees. 

I know if I was a manager facing the Yankees, I might try it.

It’s a challenge the Yankees better respond to soon. Very soon!


Cano Gets “National” Reputation

YANKEES 5, NATIONALS 3

If the American League starting second base position was up to the Washington Nationals to decide Robinson Cano would get their unanimous vote.
After frustrating them for nine innings Tuesday night, Cano would win hands down.
All Cano did was go four for four at the plate and drive in two runs, including the double in the seventh inning that finally gave the New York Yankees back the lead. In the field, Cano turned in two gems to help preserve the lead and give the team a 5-3 victory.
The four hits tied Cano’s major-league high.
The Nationals, despite a major-league worst 16-45 record coming into the game, played the Yankees tough for the first six innings behind 22-year-old righthander Shairon Martis. Martis held the Yankees to two runs (one unearned) on just four hits and five walks.
The Yankees opened the scoring in the second inning with singles by Cano and Jorge Posada. After Hideki Matsui grounded out on a slow roller to first base, Martis walked Nick Swisher to load the bases. Melky Cabrera then launched a fly to left to score Cano.
The Yankees then added a run in the following frame thanks to a two-base error from third baseman Ryan Zimmerman on a Johnny Damon grounder. Zimmerman took a routine grounder but air-expressed the throw past first baseman Nick Johnson and the ball bounded down the rightfield line allowing Damon to take second.
A Mark Teixeira grounder to first base chased Damon to third. Martis, who admitted to MLB.com after the game that he was deliberately walking the Yankees tougher hitters, then walked Alex Rodriguez to bring up Cano.
Cano then rocked a line drive so hard that Johnson did not see it until it ricocheted off his wrist and bounced behind him to score Damon from third.
“I didn’t see it until it was two feet from me,” Johnson told MLB.com after the game.

The Yankees then turned to their ace lefty CC Sabathia to hold the 2-0 lead. He could not. Sabathia was touched up in the fifth inning by one-out singles from a pair of ex-Yankees, Alberto Gonzalez and Wil Nieves.

Then Nats second baseman Anderson Hernandez then shocked Sabathia, the Yankees and perhaps even his own teammates by golfing a 1-2 slider into the first row of the leftfield stands over the head of a leaping Damon. It was only the second home run of Hernandez’  major-league career and erased the Nats’ 2-0 deficit on one swing.

“I didn’t think I hit a home run right away. I saw Damon hit the wall and the ball came back,” Hernandez stated to MLB.com.

Martis retired the Yankees 1-2-3 in the sixth on just eight pitches, however, Manager Manny Acta chose to take him out because he had thrown 106 pitches at that point. But the Nationals bullpen has been house of horrors for the team all season and it reared its ugly head again on this night.

Damon greeted former Yankees lefty Ron Villone with a ground smash into rightfield. Teixeira followed with a double to left center that struck the wall and chased Damon home with the tying run. After Villone struck out A-Rod, Cano then launched a low line drive that Nats centerfielder Elijah Dukes appeared to have a play on. But the ball went over his head and scored Teixeira with the go-ahead run. 

“I thought it was going to be caught, but thank God he missed it,” Cano said to MLB. com.

Cano tried to stretch the hit into a triple but was thrown at third base.

The 26-year-old second baseman then broke out his glove to frustrate the Nationals even more.

In the eighth inning Yankees Manager Joe Girardi went to the bullpen with two out and Johnson at first base after a walk from Sabathia. Sabathia finished the night with three runs on six hits in 7 2/3 innings, walking just the one and striking out two.

Girardi summoned righthand setup man Brian Bruney, who had just been activated from the 15-day disabled list that day. Bruney showed
no ill-effects, throwing at 96 miles per hour.  Zimmerman sent a grounder headed up the middle. However, Cano flagged it down after a long run and threw a strike to Teixeira to get Zimmerman for the final out of the inning.

After the Yankees added an insurance run in the eighth inning on a bloop single from reserve infielder Ramiro Pena, the Yankees summoned closer Mariano Rivera to pitch the ninth inning. Cano flagged down another potential hit headed for the hole between second and first off the bat of Dukes, He spun and fired to first to get the first out.

Pena later snagged a hard hopper up the middle by Austin Kearns to record the final out and give Rivera his 15th save in 16 tries. It also was the 497th save of Rivera’s career.

The victory also put the Yankees at 10 games over .500 and kept them 2 games down to the Boston Red Sox in the American League East.

Tomorrow night the Yankees will send Chien-Ming Wang (0-4, 14.34 ERA) to the hill to oppose lefthander John Lannan (3-5, 3.51 ERA). Gametime is 7:05 EDT.

NOTES:

Yankees captain and shortstop Derek Jeter left the game in the eighth inning with soreness in his left ankle. Jeter said it was actually a re-aggravation of an injury incurred Sunday afternoon on a hard takeout slide by the Mets’ Gary Sheffield in the fourth inning of 15-0 Yankees rout  . . .  CC Sabathia’s victory over the Nationals ran his season record to 6-4 . . . Cano’s two plays in the field actually were overshadowed by a diving catch made by centerfielder Melky Cabrera in the sixth inning. With one out and nobody on, Dukes blooped a ball in shallow centerfield. Cabrera dove headlong, caught the ball in the tip of the glove and the glove took two hard bounces on the turf that failed to dislodge the ball . The Yankees crowd rose to its feet and gave the outfielder a “Melky, Melky, Melky”  cheer  . . . In order to make room on the 25-man roster for Bruney, Yankees designated enigmatic righthander Jose Veras for assignment. Veras was 3-1 with a 5.96 ERA in 25 appearances, allowing 23 hits and 17 earned runs in 25 2/3 innings. He walked 14 and struck out 18, according to statistics compiled by MLB.com . . . Girardi makes no bones about the fact that Wang must step up and pitch well Wednesday night. He did not say that Wang would lose his spot in the rotation to Phil Hughes but it could be inferred by his serious tone.

Yankees Cast Spell on Santana

Got your spell on me baby


- Santana
BlacMagic Woman

It would seem that the New York Yankees had cast their own special spell on Johan Santana in Yankee Stadium on Sunday.
By the fourth inning it was apparent they were not going to change their “Evil Ways” either.
By the end of Santana’s afternoon in the fourth inning he suffered the worst beating of his career, giving up 9 earned runs and 9 hits in 3 plus innings as the Yankees coasted to a 15-0 smackdown of the New York Mets to win the home portion of their 2009 Subway Series 2-1.
Santana hardly looked like Santana at all. Unable to command his fastball in the strike zone, he was unable to use his deadly changeup to put away hitters. That became apparent in the seocnd inning when he got touched up for four runs capped by a two-run single by Johnny Damon.
The only reason the inning ended was when Damon was called out by second-base umpire Fieldin Culbreth for what he claimed was Damon slapping the ball out of shortstop Alex Cora’s glove. Replays seemed to show Cora merely dropped the ball but considering the eventual score I doubt Manager Joe Girardi would take his case to Judge Judy.
After a 1-2-3 third inning Santana immediately got into trouble in the fourth with a walk to rightfielder Nick Swisher and a two-run home run from DH Hideki Matsui. Santana then gave up three consecutive hits, ending with shortstop Derek Jeter’s single to left to score centerfielder Melky Cabrera to make it 7-0.
That hit chased Santana much to the delight of the Yankees fans among the 48,000 in attendance.
Reliever Brian Stokes then brought in some gasoline to throw on the fire, giving up a double to Damon and an infield single to Mark Teixeira. After Alex Rodriguez grounded into an unassisted double play to second baseman Luis Castillo, Robinson Cano blasted a two-run home run to make it 13-0.
It ended up being the most lopsided victory in the history of the Mets-Yankees series.
On the other side, Santana’s mound opponent A.J. Burnett started off strong but faltered badly in the third inning.
Burnett started the inning by walking first baseman Daniel Murphy, who entered the game hitting a mere .241. After catcher Brian Schneider laced a single to rightfield, Burnett walked Castillo to load the bases.
But, in what would the turning point in Burnett’s day, he was able to breakout a sweeping curveball to strike out Cora and 20-year-old rookie Fernando Martinez. He then induced Carlos Beltran to line out to Jeter to end the bases-loaded threat.
Burnett ended the day with seven innings of four-hit shutout baseball, striking out eight batters and walking four. He ran his season record to 5-3. Santana dropped to 8-4.
Jeter led the Yankees, going 4 for 4 with two runs scored and two RBI. Damon added two hits and 3 RBI and Cano ended up with three hits and 3 RBI as the Yankees pounded Mets pitchers to the tune of 17 hits.
It was hard to believe that this was the same Yankees offense that struggled with runners in scoring position Friday night and managed just two hits in the first six innings off journeyman righthander Fernando Nieve Saturday afternoon.
The series victory was the Yankees first over the Mets since 2003.
The Yankees will get to rest their bats Monday before breaking them out again in the Bronx against the hapless Washington Nationals, who are 16-45 and 20 games out in the National League East.
The Nats will start 22-year-old righty Shairon Martis (5-1, 5.04 ERA) against Yankees ace lefty CC Sabathia (5-4, 3.68 ERA). The Yankees also hope to welcome back righthanded reliever Brian Bruney back to the bullpen after his second stint on the DL with elbow soreness.
It is unclear who the Yankees might send down to make room for Bruney.

Leaving a Bad First Impression

After 62 games it has become apparent that teams who really want to beat the New York Yankees have a pretty good shot at wining by starting a pitcher Yankees have never seen before.

It has happened several times this season and the result has been pretty much the same.]: The Yankees flail at pitches, struggle to get runners on base and they lose the game. It happened again Saturday afternoon when the New York Mets started Fernando Nieve.
With the Yankees countering with Andy Pettitte the matchup looked decisively one-sided. It was. The only problem for Manager Joe Girardi and his team it was the Yankees who were overmatched by Nieve.
The 26-year-old righthander with but 11 previous major league starts with the Houston Astros under his belt, managed to fool the Yankees for 6 2/3 innings. He gave up just four hits, two walks and two runs to pick up his fourth major-league victory.
This is the same pitcher who was 0-1 with an 8.44 ERA as a relief pitcher for the Astros last season. This the same pitcher who had been in the Houston organization since he was 16 years old and never could impress the Astros enough to use him in the major leagues until 2007.
He was a candidate for the fifth spot in the Astros 2009 rotation but his 11.27 ERAin spring training forced the Astros to place him on irrevocable waivers on March 14. The Mets decided to take a flier on him and claimed him.
The only reason he was starting against the Yankees Saturday is because righthander John Maine came down with a fatigued shoulder and had to placed on the disabled list. The fact that Nieve ended up besting Pettitte and the Yankees in a 6-2 defeat at Yankee Stadium should not have been a real surprise to Yankees fans.
The Yankees have been losing to pitchers like Nieve all season.
Here are the others:
APRIL 8 Yankees at Orioles: Veteran Japanese righthander Koji Uehara gives up just one run in five innings against the Yankees to win his major-league debut.

APRIL 26 Yankees at Red Sox: Justin Materson yields one run in 5 1/3 innings leading the Red Sox to  4-1 victory and a sweep of the series.

MAY 2 Angels at Yankees: 30-year-old journeyman Matt Palmer gives up one run in 6 1/3 innings to best CC Sabathia and the Yankees 8-4.

MAY 10 Yankees at Orioles: Uehara yields just one run in six innings in a game the Yankees came from behind to win 5-3 with a rally in the seventh inning.

MAY 23 Phillies at Yankees: Rookie J.A. Happ surrenders just two runs in six innings in a game the Yankees rallied to win the ninth inning 5-4.

JUNE 3 Rangers at Yankees: Scott Feldman teases the Yankees with 6 1/3 innings, giving up just two runs on five hits as the Yankees lose 4-2.

The combined pitching lines from these games with Nieve’s totals added is enough to break a Yankees fan’s heart: 42 innings, 32 hits, 10 runs, nine walks and 22 strikeouts. That is an ERA of 2.14 and a Walks and Hits to Innings Pitched (WHIP) ratio of .098. Any WHIP under 1.20 is considered excellent. Anything under 1.00 is dominant.
For a comparison look at these five pitchers current ERAs: Uehara, 4.37; Palmer, 4.11; Feldman, 3.70; Masterson, 3.88 and Happ, 3.53. This quintet has pitched well but obviously kicked it up a notch when they faced the Yankees.
Or . . .
The Yankees hitters were unable to solve a very hittable pitcher simply because they did have enough familiarity with them to have a game plan against them. The answer lies somewhere between the two most likely.
To be sure, the Yankees have given some other young pitchers fits this season:
APRIL 9 Yankees vs. Orioles: The Yankees blasted O’s lefty Alfredo Simon for four runs in five plus innings en route to an 11-2 romp.

APRIL 22 Athletics at Yankees: The Yankees hammered rookie Brett Anderson for five runs in 5 1/3 innings in a game they won 9-7 in 14 innings.

APRIL 29 Yankees at Tigers: The Yankees rudely greeted Tigers righty phenom Rick Porcello with six runs in only 3 2/3 innings in an 8-6 victory.

MAY 13 Yankees at Blue Jays: The Yankees pounded righthander Scott Richmond for seven hits and two walks in 1 2/3 innings for five runs en route to 8-2 thrashing of Toronto.

MAY 19 Orioles at Yankees: The Yankees finally get to Brad Bergeson in the seventh inning for a total of four runs in 6 1/3 innings as the Yankees won 9-1.

MAY 25 Yankees at Rangers: The Yankees light up Matt Harrison for 10 hits and seven earned runs in five innings during an 11-1 rout.

MAY 27 Yankees at Rangers: The Yankees get to lefty Derek Holland for 10 hits and five earned runs in just five innings in a 9-2 thrashing of Texas.

These examples show that the Yankees are capable of giving nightmares to some young starters who do not have command of their pitches or are prone to mistakes. But it strictly is a 50/50 proposition at this point.
What this does show is that if the Yankees want to improve their record and move into first place in the American League East they are going to have to do a better job of hitting the talented young pitchers they face.



































































The Ultimate Gift

Yankees 9, Mets 8



June 12 was Hideki Matsui’s 35th birthday and the DH blasted a three-run home run to celebrate. But at the end of this evening in the Bronx it was Alex Rodriguez who received the best gift of all.
The largesse was bestowed by former Gold Glove New York Mets second baseman Luis Castillo in the form of a dropped last out pop fly that scored two runs for the New York Yankees and allowed them to steal a 9-8 victory in the opener of the Subway Series of 2009.
There were 47,000 fans, two managers and two teams whose collective jaws dropped open in disbelief at what they just witnessed.
The bottom of the ninth had started with the Mets leading 8-7 after David Wright doubled in the top of the 8th inning to score Carlos Beltran from first base off Yankees closer supreme Mariano Rivera. Rivera, who was summoned in a 7-7 tie with two out, to retire Beltran to end the inning. He walked him instead and allowed Wright to follow to untie what had been a wid night of lead changes and momentum swings.
Little did the Mets and Castillo know that one more lead swing would be in the offing.
The Mets closer Frankie Rodriguez was summoned for his 15th save. As has been his pattern, Rodriguez had to walk a highwire throughout the frame. 
He retired Brett Gardner on a foul pop to start the inning. However, Derek Jeter reached by reaching out of the strike zone for an outside changeup he sent up the middle for a single. After striking out pinch-hitter Johnny Damon, K-Rod decided to pitch carefully to the dangerous Mark Teixeira, who had added to his American League home run total with his 20th in the third inning with Garner aboard.
Once the count reached 3-0, K-Rod intentionally walked Tex to get to A-Rod. Pitching carefully again, A-Rod managed to put K-Rod into a hitters’ 3-1 count and the Yankees third baseman was looking fastball form the Mets pitcher.
He got it and he did make contact. However, the ball popped up seemingly into a harmless spot in short rightfield. Castillo drift out, settled under it and waited for the final out to nestle in his glove. A-Rod slammed his bat in frustration and trotted to first.
But the baseball gods had other ideas and the ball hit the heel of Castillo’s glove, squirted into the air and down to the lush green turf. Jeter, who was off with the contact, was already at home plate. Teixeira, who also ran out the pop-up, was almost at third when the ball hit the turf.
He then kicked it into fourth gear and he slid home well ahead of Castillo’s throw to home to backup catcher Omir Santos.
The Yankees poured out of the dugout to jump on A-Rod with congratulations. Oddly, the person they needed to thank stood stunned in short rightfield.
This miscue certainly enters Yankees-Mets rivalry lore. But it may also get as much airplay as Bill Buckner’s ole’ in the 1986 World Series. There are errors, there are miscues and there are gaffes. But Castillo’s may been one for the ages.
He told MLB.com “I have to catch that ball. The ball was moving a little bit. I didn’t get it. I feel bad. It was a routine fly ball. … I need to get it. … I feel so bad. I don’t want to make any errors, so I feel bad about myself. I made a mistake — I feel bad.”

It was the Yankees who were felling bad most of the night. Every time it seemed they would get a lead, the Mets had an answer. Robinson Cano homered in the second inning to break the seal on the scoring. However, Yankees starter Joba Chamberlain gave it right back in the third without giving the Mets the benefit of one hit.

After a walk, a fielder’s choice, a stolen base and another walk, Chamberlain hit rookie left fielder Fernando Martinez to load the bases. He ten walked Beltran to knot the game at 1. After striking out Wright, Chamberlain then hit Ryan Church with an 0-2 pitch. Perhaps the gift-giving started in this frame.

Teixeira’s two-run blast in the bottom off the inning off veteran righthander Livian Hernandez took the lead back for the Bronx Bombers.

But the Yankees could not hold it. Chamberlain had to leave the game after four innings because he threw 103 pitches. He had only given up a single to Wright for the Mets only hit. But he walked five and hit two and did not seem to have command of his fastball most of the night.

Manager Joe Girardi summoned Brett Tomko in the fifth. Tomko then got lit up like the Fourth of July. After a double and a walk, Church doubled them both in to reclaim the lead for the Mets. DH and former Yankee Gary Sheffield followed with a towering home run down the leftfield line to make it 6-3.

Jeter blasted his ninth home run of the season to cut the lead to 6-4 in the fifth and Matsui, who celebrated his 34th birthday with a grand slam home run, took a 2-0 Hernandez fastball and sent it into the second down in rightfield to give the Yankees a 7-6 lead.

But the Mets tied it in the seventh by chasing reliever David Robertson with a double off the bat of Sheffield. David Murphy singled to right but Sheffield was held at third. Catcher Brian Schneider then rolled into a 4-6-3 double play as Sheffield crossed the plate to tie it.

That set up Wright’s heroics in the ninth off Rivera and made it look like the Mets had finally put down the Yankees for the night. However, Castillo’s misplay turned celebration into frustration.

As A-Rod told MLB. com after the game:  “I really have never seen
that before, and I’ve played for a long time,” he said . “That’s why you play for nine innings — that’s why you play hard. The lesson we take from here is to play all 27 and hustle all the time.”

Perhaps it is a good thing Jeter and Teixeira ran it out, as did A-Rod. Otherwise, the embarrassment might have been with them rather than Castillo.

The Yankees will take the gift nonetheless. After three straight losses in Boston it was just what they needed.

Where Did The “O” Go?

Yankees Batters in Beantown

Without any comment or embellishment here are the batting averages of the New York Yankees regulars who played in the series against the Red Sox. First, what they were batting coming in, then what they did in the series and then the difference is listed to the right. 

  • Derek Jeter                   .306   2 for 13   .154   -152  points
  • Johnny Damon              .299   1 for 13   .077   -222  points
  • Mark Teixeira                .286   4 for 12   .333   + 47  points
  • Alex Rodriguez              .248   1 for 10   .100   -148  points
  • Robinson Cano              .300   2 for 13   .154   -146  points
  • Jorge Posada                .297   2 for 7     .286   –  11  points
  • Nick Swisher                 .257   2 for 9     .222   –  35  points
  • Melky Cabrera               .297   3 for 10   .300   +   3  points
  • Hideki Matsui                .246   4 for 6     .667   +419  points
Is it any wonder why the team went 0-3?

The Yankees’ New Carl Pavano?

It appears the ghost of Carl Pavano remains hovering over the 2009 New York Yankees.

The Yankees may have spent $80 million for a new version of Pavano in A.J. Burnett. So fans might have surmised after the damage he inflicted on the Yankees Tuesday night at Fenway Park against the Boston Red Sox. A dismal 7-0 thrashing.
Let’s quickly review why Burnett was so important to the Yankees this offseason. For one thing, the youth movement of 2008 (Phil Hughes and Ian Kennedy failed). Chien-Ming Wang was coming off a foot sprain that ended his season in early June. Mike Mussina chose to retire. And, at the time of the CC Sabathia and Burnett signings, Andy Pettitte was not signed.
It was pretty obvious the Yankees needed starting pitching and lots of it.
Burnett hit the free-agent market riding a tailwind off his best season as a professional. He had an 18-10 record and 231 strikeouts for the Toronto Blue Jays in 2008. What might have been overlooked was his 4.07 ERA and Walks/Hits to Innings Pitched (WHIP) of 1.34. Those two stats suggest two things: Burnett put a lot of people on base and the Blue Jays must have scored a lot of runs in his starts.
Yankees GM Brian Cashman ignored that because of one important thing on Burnett’s resume: He carried a 5-0 record against the Red Sox.
But now after 12 starts it appears there may be some buyer’s remorse in the Bronx. Burnett is 4-3 but has a 4.89 ERA and a WHIP of 1.48. However, even more important to Yankee fans are his two outings against the Red Sox.
Burnett took his first career loss to Boston on Tuesday. But it was not the loss itself. It was the way he lost. He was wild and inconsistent in his delivery. He also seemed to be intimidated by the Red Sox and afraid to throw a pitch in the strike zone.
He gave up four runs in the second inning. He let the Red Sox bat around and, though he was not helped by an Alex Rodriguez error, he went to three-ball counts to 12 of the 18 batters he faced. He threw 43 pitches in the second inning alone. Is that depressing enough?
The result: In two outings versus Boston, Burnett has pitched 7 2/3 innings, given up 13 hits, 8 walks and 11 earned runs. For those scoring at home that is an ERA of 12.91 and a WHIP of 2.74. Numbers that are not pretty in anyone’s league.
Either Burnett is hiding that he is hurt, there is something off in his mechanics or he just plain is the Yankees next Carl Pavano. None of those scenarios bodes well for Burnett or the Yankees.
To be sure, Pavano’s latest run of success with the Cleveland Indians makes this situation even worse. Pavano was offered a four-year $40 million contract by Cashman in 2005 following his best season as a professional with the Florida Marlins (18-8 record with an ERA of 3.00). Sound oddly similar?
Of course, Yankees fans are well aware how that free agent signing worked out. Pavano spent more time rehabbing than at Yankee Stadium. He could have actually had a Greek god named for him: Whirlpoolis.
Cashman, the Yankee front office and even the players wanted Pavano and his sour disposition gone when his contract expired. When you make only 26 starts and win just 9 games in four seasons that will kind of get your ticket out of town punched. Considering thaey were paying a pitcher $4.4 million per victory, it didn’t make much economic sense even for the big-spending Yankees.
So Pavano was sent packing and he landed in Cleveland on a small $4 million make-good contract. Pavano seems to have begun making good on that deal after a rough start in April. Since May 1, Pavano is 6-1 with an ERA of 3.00 and 1.06 WHIP.
He also has pitched two excellent games against the revenge-minded Yankees (a 1-0 mark with an ERA of 2.70). Seems Pavano got the better of the revenge angle.
Oh, and this not is for A.J. Burnett to know. Without a 96 mph fastball and a knee-buckling curveball that Burnett possesses, Pavano also managed to beat Boston on May 5, giving up six hits, three walks and just two runs over six innings.
Granted, Pavano might have felt compelled to leave the Yankees anyway after the way he was treated by the front office, the players, the fans and media. But I am beginning to think signing Burnett and letting Pavano walk was a mistake the Yankees might regret for the next four years. That is the length of Burnett’s deal.
Let’s just hope we get more than 9 victories from him. But, right about now, I think most Yankees fans just want to see Burnett pitch like he is capable of pitching and not like an expensive veteran like Kei Igawa or a scared rookie like Ian Kennedy.
The Yankees deserve a lot better from him. It’s time he start earning that money.

Bomb’s Away in the Bronx

Yankees 5, Rays 3


Tonight was a good night for souvenir’s in the rightfield bleachers in Yankee Stadium. 
Four New Yankees missiles landed there Monday night as the Yankees blasted the Tampa Bay Rays and won the rubber game of the three-game set. They also extended their lead over the idle Boston Red Sox in the American League East to a full game.
The Yankees fly into Boston to defend that lead with a three-game set in Fenway Park that is scheduled to end on Thursday.
But Monday, it was all about the longball. No bunts, no steals and none of that old-fashioned “Little Ball.” The Yankees used the home run to frustrate Rays starter Andy Sonnanstine. And if you were late getting to your seat you missed the first shot of the night in the first inning.
Sonnanstine retired Derek Jeter and Johnny Damon on fly balls. But Mark Teixeira decided to check and see if those outfielders could catch a ball in the second deck down the rightfield line. Mark, the answer is no.
Teixeira picked on a 1-1 Sonnanstine cutter that did not cut and he deposited it into the comfortable Bronx night air. The long home run gave Teixeira 18 on the season and it gave him the lead in the AL in that category. Little did Sonnanstine know at the time but the rightfield blasts would become “the pattern” for the evening.
In the second inning, Robinson Cano singled to left. After two outs, Nick Swisher, on the same 1-1 count, blasted another off-target cutter his 12th home run of the season on a line drive to right-center. Yankees 3, Rays 0 and Sonnanstine was left scratching his head.
His counterpart Andy Pettitte, was a bit more careful. Pettitte walked a high-wire all night, throwing a lot of pitches on the corners and the dirt and walking those who did not bite. The strategy seemed to pay off until the fourth inning.
In the fourth second baseman Ben Zobrist reached on an Alex Rodriguez fielding error and took second on a wild pitch. He made it to third on DH Joe Dillon’s flyout to right. Backup catcher Michel Hernandez then plated the Rays first run on a single up the middle. Hernandez then scored when Pettitte made his only huge mistake of the evening.
After getting the Rays on six strikeouts in the first three innings using off-speed sliders in the dirt, Pettitte tried to sneak a 3-2 fastball past rightfielder Gabe Kapler. But Kapler was not fooled and lined the pitch in the leftfield stands for his first home run of the season. The journeyman outfielder was hitting just .169 entering the game.
The two-run shot tied the game at 3.
It stayed that way until the bottom of the sixth inning. After one out, Johnny Damon took yet another 1-1 pitch and sent it five rows deep in right for his 12th home run — most of those have landed in the newly coined “Damon’s Deck” in right.
Pettitte, meanwhile, was maxed out after six innings at 104 pitches. He gave up five hits and walked three batters and finished with seven K’s. It was not his sharpest effort but the veteran southpaw wriggled off more hooks than Charlie the Tuna to hand the slim one-run lead over the bullpen.
Monday also was the 2009 bullpen debut of Phil Hughes, who lost his starting spot to Chien-Ming Wang last week. Hughes showed he might actually be a weapon out there in his one inning of work. He retired B.J. Upton on a groundout to third, Carl Crawford on a bouncer back to the mound and struck out star third baseman Evan Longoria on a 3-2 fastball. Three outs all in a tidy 11-pitch outing.
The Yankees just might have found their elusive “bridge to Mariano Rivera.” A future one anyway.
Phil Coke pitched a scoreless eighth and left the game to Mariano Rivera.
However, Sonnanstine was still dealing for the bullpen weary Rays in the bottom of the eighth because he had only thrown 91 pitches. Other than the home runs, Sonnastine had only given up Cano’s single in second and an infield single to Nick Swisher in the seventh.
As I said, though, the theme of the night was blasts to rightfield and Jeter greeted the righthander with one last blast on a line to rightfield to extend the lead to two runs. It also was the last pitch for Sonnastine. Manager Joe Maddon pulled him and two Rays relievers finished the inning without any further damage.
That left the ninth for Rivera. He blazed a quick path by getting Kapler on a infield bouncer,  retired Matt Joyce on fly to center and struck out Upton on a high inside cutter for his 14th save and gave the Yankees the series victory 2-1 over the Rays.
The Rays, who were riding into town on a hot streak, ended up leaving under .500 at 29-30 and their second straight loss pushed them 6 games back in fourth place in the division. Sonnanstine did receive one slight bit of good news. Despite giving up five earned runs he lowered his ERA to 7.00 from 7.07.
But his mistakes got magnified when the Yankees took him yard four times. Bombs away in the Bronx led to another Yankees victory. On to Boston!
SPECIAL COMMENTARY

Because I live in Florida I tuned into the Fox Sports cable broadcast of this game with Rays play-by-play man DeWayne Staats and color commentator Kevin Kennedy. In fact. because the games were broadcast in HD I watched their telecast for all three games. (YES Network’s broadcast here was blacked out Saturday anyway).

I am used to Fox Sports allowing their announcers to be “homers.” for their team. I mean I have suffered through the Los Angels Angels saddle shoes and pom-pom pair of Steve Physioc and Rex Hudler for years until they were finally canned after the 2007 season.

But even their shameless shilling for the Angels could not rival the bias of Staats and Kennedy this weekend. Any pitch that a Rays pitcher that was within the same zip code of the strike zone was “questionable” if it was dared called a ball. Every close call on the bases that went against them was “missed” by the umpires.

But they really hit rock bottom on Monday night after Andy Sonnanstine surrendered his fourth home run of the night to right field to Derek Jeter. Kennedy called the home run “a joke.” Staats later added that the Yankees will have “to do something” because of how cheap the home run was in the new Yankee Stadium.

What the broadcasters failed to mention is that the Yankees held a 4-3 lead before Jeter homered. So it really mattered little in terms of the result of the 5-3 Rays defeat. But there is one more point that needs to be made.

Sonnanstine’s first two gopher balls to Mark Teixeira and Nick Swisher were not cheapies that barely cleared the first row on a high fly that got blown into the seats. Both were tagged and would have been home runs in any park.

Jeter’s shot was a line drive that landed at the back of the lower section in right, hardly a cheap home run. It was hit hard and was easily traveling out.

The only home run to question might have been Damon’s. It landed about five rows in and may not have been a home run in some parks. But they did not question Damon’s blast at the time. They only mentioned it after Jeter’s home run made it look like the team that signs their paychecks was going to lose. Mariano Rivera was coming into the ninth inning with a two-run lead and it did not look good for the Rays at that point.

So Kennedy just vented and later even had the gall to say it had nothing to do with the result of the game. I beg to differ. I assure you if Carlos Pena of the Rays or Carl Crawford had pop flied a few into the stands this weekend and it won the Rays a few games it would not have been mentioned.

How do I know? 

I have caught Staats’ act before. Many times. Earlier this season Staats questioned an umpires call of a strike on a Rays batter that was clearly on the plate. It was close. But it was a good pitch. He railed and railed about it. The very next inning a Rays pitcher got a strike call in the very same spot on a Yankees batter. Staats said nothing. 

Some years ago Staats even showed more lack of class. On a close play at first base, a Yankees batter was ruled safe. He then went on to rail against the umpires by saying that it wasn’t enough that the Yankees buy all the best players they want but that George Steinbrenner and his team did not need any help from the umpires too. Perhaps the last-place and perennial loser Rays should have been the benefit of every call in Staats’ mind.

No matter how unprofessional a comment like that is, Staats and Kennedy will remain where they are. They never hear from the network and they never hear from Major League Baseball. They just keep spouting off venom and hate when their team loses because it never can be that the opposition could be the better team that night. 

It ALWAYS has to be another reason. Kennedy said about a Rays pitcher who did not get a strike call: “I feel sorry for this kid because here he is pitching a great game and the umpire makes a bad call like that.”

And tonight. Why not give credit to Andy Pettitte for pitching well enough not to allow a home run to rightfield. Or perhaps blame the Rays for not taking advantage of the so-called cheap nature of balls hit to right. Why is the park a joke?

I just wonder why the YES Network, NESN, Vin Scully and radio legends like Bob Uecker and Jack Buck could play their broadcast right down the middle and hacks like Staats and Kennedy can’t. Would it harm the game any? Why shill so shamelessly?

It makes me want to vomit. One of these days this kind of broadcasting is going to spark an ugly on-field incident and I would hate to see how they could justify that.

You two should be ashamed of yourselves. By the way, as announcers you stink worse than any umpire I have even seen. I do not have to check with the first base umpire to make that call.


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