July 2009

Joba, Joba, Doo! Chamberlain Eclipses Rays

YANKEES 6, RAYS 2


Tell Joba Chamberlain he is not a starter. Tell him he doesn’t pitch deep into games. Tell that that he belongs in the bullpen.
Joba Chamberlain will tell you all of that is wrong. 
He also showed the Rays they were wrong in an overpowering eight innings of three-hit shutout baseball Wednesday night as the New York Yankees put the Rays right back where they were after they lost to the Yankees on Monday night.
The Yankees 6-2 victory at Tropicana Field pushed the Rays to 7 1/2 games back in third place in the American East race. The Boston Red Sox lost to the hapless Oakland Athletics for the second straight night by an 8-6 score to fall 3 1/2 games behind of the Yankees.
Is there a phone line burning between Boston and Toronto tonight?
Chamberlain put on a Roy Halladay-like display of his own against a punchless Rays team, winning his third straight start. 

“It’s just having confidence again, going out and being yourself,” Chamberlain told MLB.com. “You always need a little reminder once in a while, but it’s just going back to having fun and being aggressive.”

Chamberlain (7-2) struck out five and walked two and is now 3-0 with a 0.83 ERA after the All-Star Break. 

“Since he’s come back from the break, he’s done everything that we expected him to do,” manager Joe Girardi said. “You can’t expect him to be perfect all the time, but he’s throwing the ball so well and mixing all of his pitches in. His last three starts are as good a run as he’s had.”

“It’s the best performance we’ve ever seen from him,” Yankees outfielder Johnny Damon told MLB.com. “The pace of game was great, and that’s what we like to see. If we can see that all the time, you’ve got another guy like Roger Clemens out there.”

The Yankees roughed up Rays starter Matt Garza (7-8) early and often. They took an early 1-0 lead after Derek Jeter tripled to right to start the game and Mark Teixeira drove him in a batter later with a single.

In the fourth inning, the Yankees, who were bloop hit to death the evening before, got a bloop single of their own off the bat of Alex Rodriguez. DH Hideki Matsui then moved him to third with an opposite field double in the left-field corner. Robinson Cano scored A-Rod on an RBI grounder.

Cano made it 3-0 with two out in the sixth on a long blast to left center when Garza left a 1-2 slider over the plate. Garza actually knew the ball was gone and waved to it as it landed in the bleachers. It was Cano’s 16th home run of the season.

Garza also had to escape big jams in the third and fifth innings. He left after seven innings. He gave up three runs on eight hits and three walks.

The Yankees were able to tack on single runs in the eight and ninth innings off a shaky Rays bullpen. Jorge Posada contributed a run-scoring single in the eighth and Teixeira regained a tie with Justin Morneau for the American League lead in home runs by belting his 26th almost directly to centerfield.

The only concerning moment was in the ninth inning when reliever Brian Bruney coughed up a two-run home run by Evan Longoria. One out later, after Carlos Pena singled Girardi called on Mariano Rivera to close out the Rays. Despite a rare walk, Rivera fanned two batters to nail down the Yankees’ 11th victory in 13 games.

But all the Yankees could talk about was how dominant their 23-year-old starter was. 

“He’s throwing the ball so well, and he’s throwing so many strikes,” Girardi said. “His stuff is crisp. I think that’s the biggest difference.”

The Yankees will now ride their hot streak into Chicago to take on the White Sox on Thursday night.

Veteran lefty Andy Pettitte (8-6, 4.67 ERA) tries for his victory since July 1 in the opener at US Celluar Field. Pettitte actually held the Athletics to two hits in six scoreless innings before he faltered. But reliever Alfredo Aceves allowed all his inherited runners to score and Pettitte was charged with giving up four earned runs. Pettitte has not faced the White Sox this season.

The White Sox will send out righty Gavin Floyd (8-6, 4.24 ERA). Floyd gave up two runs — one earned — in 6 2/3 innings in his last start against the Tigers on Saturday. He ended up with a no-decision when closer Bobby Jenks blew his second straight save in the ninth inning. Floyd has career record of 1-0 with a 6.75 ERA against the Yankees.

Gametime is 8:11 p.m. EDT and it will be nationally broadcast live by MLB-TV.

NOTES . . . Chien-Ming Wang had season-ending surgery Wednesday on his right shoulder capsule by Dr. James Andrews in Birmingham, AL, and he will miss the rest of the season. Wang has been on the 15-day disabled list with a sore shoulder and bursitis. After a period of rest Wang felt discomfort on his biceps during his first throwing session. Examinations by Yankees team doctors and Andrews confirmed surgery was necessary. It is not known how long Wang will need to recover. He finished the season with a 1-6 record and 9.64 ERA in 12 games (nine starts). Wang was on the DL earlier this season with weakness in both abductor muscles in his hips. Last season Wang had his season cut short on June 15 when he suffered a sprain of the lisfranc ligament in his foot running the bases in Houston . . . The Yankees received a special surprise visit before the game from George Steinbrenner in the visitors clubhouse at Tropicana Field on Wednesday. In the half-hour visit the 79-year-old principal owner told the team to keep up the good work. The team promptly did just that and best the Rays . . . The Yankees officially released right-hand reliever Brett Tomko. Tomko had been designated for assignment when the club called up Sergio Mitre to take Wang’s spot in the rotation . . . The Yankees also acquired right-hander Jason Hirsh from the Colorado Rockies and assigned him to Triple-A Scranton-Wilkes Barre. GM Brian Cashman said the move was to add minor-league pitching depth lost with Wang out and Mitre having been recalled . . . The Yankees reportedly are sitting out the Roy Halladay sweepstakes but they are watching closely to see where he might end up. The rival Red Sox have apparently dangled Clay Buchholz and prospects for Halladay but the Jays apparently are driving a hard bargain for the former Cy Young Award-winner. The Yankees, who would have to part with Joba Chamberlain or Phil Hughes to even start discussions with the Jays, are just hoping Halladay does not end up in their division and they would be ecstatic if he went to a National League club. The trade deadline is 4 p.m. EDT on Friday.

St. Petersburg Is Still A Cowtown

COMMENTARY


ST. PETERSBURG — I last attended a Yankees-Rays game two years ago. In fact, last season was the first season in four years I had not attended all nine games at Tropicana Field the teams played.
So I was curious to see just how things might have changed since the Yankees did not qualify for the playoffs for the first time in 15 years and the Rays won the American League championship in 2008.
As I got to the parking lots surrounding the dome, I immediately saw the biggest change. Parking for Rays games is no longer free. New owner Stu Sternberg, in an effort to attract more fans to “The Trop,” had allowed fans to park for free and bring some of their food and drinks into the stadium.
But now that the Rays have tasted victory, they have decided that in these tough economic times it is best to not only charge people for parking and no longer allow outside food in drink into the stadium, it is best to gouge them for it too.
Around the stadium, lots were up charging $15 and $20 for parking. I did see one lot who actually had the pre-free parking price of $10 on their lot. I opted to drive off onto a side street (17th Street) and park in a neighborhood for free.
Sorry, Mr. Sternberg, you already charge premium prices for Yankees and Red Sox tickets, I am not going to stuff your wallet with $20 for parking too. Go find another sucker.
***********
The Rays have always been noted for having some of the rudest security people in baseball. Their head of security decided to flex his muscle on me four years ago and it was an real experience.
I was attending a Rays-Marlins game and I had decent seats behind the third base dugout. I was wearing a T-shirt my son had given to me for Father’s Day. It was a Yankees T-shirt referring to the curse the Red Sox “broke” in 2004 by winning their first championship since 1918.
On the front it read “I guess there never was a curse.” On the back it read “They just sucked for 86 years.”
The security “czar” came over to me and told me I had two choices: Take the shirt off and reverse it or leave. I, of course, was stunned. Free speech being what it and all, I thought in America we were better than this.
But he was quite serious. I immediately sought to contact the public relations staff that I knew very well. I talked to the person I had purchased the tickets from and tried to get in touch with his boss and get this matter resolved.
A few years earlier I had purchased tickets to a Rays-Yankees game with a parking pass for the game. However, when I arrived at the game the police had closed the lots BEFORE THEY WERE FULL and disregarded the fact I had the pass. I did not make it into the stadium until the FIFTH INNING because of where I had to park and how far I had to walk from there.
The PR director of the Rays was very apologetic later for my plight and offered me a refund on the $10 pass and tickets to another Rays game (excluding the Yankees and Red Sox, of course). I gladly accepted and was satisfied the Rays cared.
So I had hoped that I could get the same help from him in this situation. But I was told No. 1 that he was not on site and No. 2 that the public relations group was being warned not to intercede on my behalf by this same very obnoxious security czar.
I even asked the czar if he could show me in any of the printed materials outside the stadium or the ticket itself that warned that “inappropriate” T-shirts could mean ejection from the stadium. He looked and me and said no.
So I left without seeing a pitch. I have told this story to many people and they are shocked something like this could happen. But apparently, the Rays security staff is serious. They now have it marked outside on their walls.
Just for fun I wore the same shirt to Tuesday’s game. Nobody said a word to me.
Hmmm!
**********
Now the rudeness had spread to the vendors at Tropicana Field.
I was sitting in Section 125 three rows back from the field. Great seats. There was a food table in front of me allowing me to place my pizza on it and a cup holder for my Pepsi. I even had room to put my baseball scorebook and a Yankees calendar on it. (I keep score of every Yankee game live or on TV and the calendar I brought to get autographs. I just missed A-Rod but did get Alfredo Aceves to sign it.)
But in the second inning a heavyset vendor peddling cotton candy went barreling through the table in front of me with a huge yellow bag around his hip. He not only hit the Pepsi in the cup holder with the bag but he pulled it completely out of the holder, spraying the Pepsi and the ice all over the table and my calendar.
He knew he had done it because he actually stopped for a half-second to look. He then continued on his way to hawk his wares. No apology, no nothing.
Rude does even begin to describe it.
**********
For years Yankee fans have come to “The Trop” in droves. After all, the Yankees have a spring training home in Tampa and the Steinbrenner family base the operations there. They have a Single-A team that plays in the Florida State League. Phil Hughes pitched there. Robby Cano played there too.
So given the Rays ineptitude for many years, Yankee fans have come to root for their team. They do not come to boo the Rays. They are there to cheer the Yankees.
This irritates Rays fans. It has irritated them for so long that they decided to do something about it. The front office has encouraged fans to bring cowbells to the games. This was done for two reasons: (1) It gives the club’s fans an identity, albeit, the image of St. Petersburg as a cowtown and a orphan sister to Tampa has pretty much stuck. And (2) It gives 10,000 Rays fans a good fighting chance to drown out 20,000 Yankees or Red Sox fans.
That was in good evidence Tuesday night. But I notice that the PA system starts the cowbell cadence for the fans who may not be smart enough to know when to start the clanging. This even though they have a “Cowbell Etiquette” primer broadcast on the big screen before the game.
I don’t ever remember seeing the Yankees needing a clown mascot like Raymond, a so-called “host” like the Rays have to rev up the crowd as he runs around the stadium like a madman or someone to tell the Yankees fans when to cheer.
I also heard lots of Rays fans yelling “balk” when CC Sabathia faked a throw to second and when he properly stepped off the mound with a runner at first. This group of fans may be the most baseball illiterate group I have ever witnessed.
**********
Another “big treat” of the drive to St. Petersburg is listening to the local sport radio channel, 620-AM WDAE, the so-called Sports Animal. Their drive time host is the so-called “Big Dog,” Steve Duemig.
I guess if you are the Sports Animal you better make sure you have a Big Dog. I think having a Big Goat or a Big Anteater may not make much sense. But, if this Big Dog was measured for his insight into baseball, he would be a pretty big chihuahua.
A caller who had attended the Yankees-Rays game the night before called Duemig on Tuesday afternoon. He was a Rays fan and had been for some time. But he called a bit troubled by the booing Rays fans
did that night before of Derek Jeter and Johnny Damon. 
He said he clearly understood why Rays fans would boo Alex Rodriguez but could not understand why they would boo two people who were good guys who actually had homes in the area and had done  charitable things in the community.
Duemig immediately got his dander up, which is dangerous with any chihuahua.
“Why shouldn’t Rays fans boo the Yankees best players?,” he asks.
Later, as the poor caller was relegated to dreaded “silence” button, Duemig then said it was disrespectful for the Yankees fans to do the “Let’s Go Yankees” cheer in Tropicana Field. 
Excuse me!
What disrespect are the Yankees showing? Their fans are there to see them. They are there not to boo the Rays, not to denigrate the Rays or any way or even wish ill of the Rays. But somehow doing a Yankees cheer is disrespectful.
I have a message for Mr. Chihuahua: I invite all your fellow Rays fans to come to Yankee Stadium and do the “Let’s Go Rays” from now until the cows come home with cowbells clanging. I will guarantee that no Yankees fan will take it as disrespectful in the least.
Of course, when you have 200 Rays fans among 54,000 people it is kind of hard to hear them.
Which is probably why Mr. Duemig, the Big Chihuahua, is so worked up he is due to for distemper shot at the vet. The fact that so many Yankees fans show up in St. Petersburg bothers him. The fact they make so much noise and drown out Rays fans bothers him. So the only way to get back is to denigrate the Yankees, their players and fans.
I know of no effort on the Yankees radio hosts part to denigrate St. Petersburg or the Rays on the air. You won’t either. Because it just is not on their radar. The Yankees have 39 AL championships and 26 world championships. The Rays have one AL championship.
On anyone sliding scale, the scale is a bit one-sided.
Far be from me to be disrespectful for handing the Rays my earned dollars for tickets, parking, overpriced food that vendors knock over. I am sorry I spent all that money if you find it disrespectful that I root for the visiting team.
Pardon me now. I need to find my pooper scooper for Steve. Here Steve! Here boy! Arf! Arf!

Command Woes, Bloops And Errors Cost CC Dearly

RAYS 6, YANKEES 2


ST. PETERSBURG, FL — You could tell in the second inning that CC Sabathia did not have “command” of his fastball and it would be a long night for the Yankees.
It all unfolded just that way as the Tampa Bay Rays used Sabathia’s poor trajectory, the Yankees’ sloppy defense and the Rays’ entire yearly quota of bloop hits that came in one night to defeat the Bronx Bombers 6-2 at a Yankee-dominated Tropicana Field on Tuesday night.
The Rays tagged — or a better term would tweaked — Sabathia for 10 hits but only an Evan Longoria solo home run in the fifth inning was hit hard. Most of the rest of the hits sounded if the Rays struck the ball with a wet newspaper.
But they found holes, or dropped just out of fielders’ reach or the Yankees fielded them and decided to airmail some tosses to first base to test just how good Mark Teixeira is. The end result was the Yankees maintained the 2 1/2 game lead in the American League East race.
The Boston Red Sox and closer Jonathan Papelbon, given a golden opportunity to take advantage of what the Rays provided them, choked and surrendered a three-run lead on Oakland in the ninth inning and lost to the Athletics 9-8 in 11 innings.
The only team to benefit was the Rays, who were teetering close to edge of division race irrelevancy at 7 1/2 games out in third place coming in. The victory brought them a game closer at 6 1/2. But their chances are running out and a lot is riding on Wednesday’s night rubber match.
The second inning started as you would think it might have when Murphy’s Law is working the Yankees dugout. Ben Zobrist hit a ball to deep short and Derek Jeter threw the ball over Teixeira’s head to put Zobrist at second. Sabathia walked Pat Burrell, who entered the game hitting .226. 
Sabathia fanned Carlos Pena and then inexplicably walked .244-hitting Gabe Kapler to load the bases. The left-hander tried to wiggle off the hook but .223-hitting catcher lofted a sacrifice fly to score Zobrist with the game’s first run.
“It was horrible,” Sabathia said. “This team is too good for me to not even give us a chance. This is definitely frustrating. We’ve been playing well, but you want to continue to play well. These are games in our division that we need to win.”
It was not much better in the third inning. It started with a bloop (what else) single to right by B.J. Upton. Carl Crawford then tripled Upton home. Longoria then rolled a ball to Alex Rodriguez at third and Rodriguez threw the ball high and down the right-field line as Crawford scored and Longoria trotted into second.
Sabathia escaped further damage by overpowering Burrell and .217-hitting Carlos Pena.
After Longoria’s home run in the fifth made it 4-1, Sabathia was pinged to death in the sixth and, again, was the victim of some shoddy defense. Kapler opened the inning with a double and moved to third on a groundout.
Jason Bartlett then followed a pop-up that just eluded Teixeira’s glove and Bartlett was just able to beat Teixeira to the bag for a 90-foot RBI single to score Kapler. Upton followed with a pop fly that hung just inside the right-field line and it bounded off the glove of Nick Swisher for a hometown scoring gift double and a RBI and it was 6-1 and Sabathia’s night of torture was over.
“That’s just part of the game,” Sabathia said. “I’m going to have those games, and that’s when I need to step it up and get outs.”
Sabathia (10-7) lasted just 5 2/3 innings and gave up nine hits, two walks and six runs (five earned. 
“I’ve been getting away with a lot of things, but today was one of those bad nights where I got into bad counts and got behind, and it hurt,” Sabathia said.

In the meantime, the Rays got the pitching performance of the season from former ace Scott Kazmir. Kazmir (5-6) has had nothing but struggles this season with injuries, command, high pitch counts and an even higher ERA. He entered the game with an ERA of 6.69.
Instead he pitched over his head in going 7-plus innings and he gave up four hits and one run. He walked one and struck out four in his longest outing of the season. He had been winless in his previous seven starts.
“He was very good — we give him a lot of credit,” Teixeira said. “He can throw his fastball hard, locating it, and mixed in his offspeed pitches when he had to.”
Sabathia, meanwhile, is tied for the team lead with A.J. Burnett for wins and he has a 3.83 ERA. But the Yankees are 11-11 in his starts this season. He also is a combined 0-2 with a 6.10 ERA against the Red Sox and Rays.
“We could have won a lot of the games that he’s pitched, but we haven’t,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. “He’s matched up against guys that have thrown very well against us. But he’s throwing the ball good for us and that’s my concern.”

The Yankees will try to win the series Wednesday night with Joba Chamberlain (6-2, 3.86 ERA) coming off his two performances of the season. On July 19, Chamberlain gave up just one run in 6 2/3 innings in defeating the Tigers 2-1 in New York. He followed that by giving up just two hits and one run in seven innings in beating the Athletics on July 25.
Chamberlain had a no-decision against the Rays on June 7. He allowed three runs on five hits in over six innings in a Yankees 4-3 victory.
The Rays will pin their flagging hopes on Matt Garza (7-7, 3.68 ERA). In his last start Garza alloweed two runs in nine innings as the Rays bested Roy Halladay on Friday night. He is 1-2 with a 3.79 ERA in seven career appearances against the Yankees.
Gametime is 7:05 p.m. EDT.

Dag Burnett, Rays Can’t Touch A.J.’s Stuff

YANKEES 11, RAYS 4


A.J. Burnett came to St. Petersburg, FL like a man on a mission. After seeing how he laid waste to the Tampa Bay Rays hitters you would have to admit it was Mission Accomplished.
Burnett gave up just one run on two hits in seven innings as the New York Yankees unleashed a combination of power pitching and hitting in an 11-4 victory over the shellshocked defending American League champions.

“He didn’t really give us many opportunities to score,” Rays third baseman Evan Longoria told MLB.com. “He’s tough. He throws to both sides of the plate and throws hard. I thought our at-bats were OK against him, but we didn’t do a good job really getting to him.”

Burnett won his fifth straight decision and he is undefeated in his last six starts. The victory also pushed he Yankees post-All-Star break record to 10-1. 

More importantly, the Yankees maintained their 2 1/2 game lead over Boston in the AL East because the Red Sox defeated Oakland 8-3 on Monday. However, the Yankees extended their lead over the third-place Rays to 7 1/2 games.

“We know they’re a good club,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said to MLB.com. “They’re dangerous all the time. They’re a great club at coming back and winning games, with an explosive offense and good pitching. They’ve got a lot of talent over there. Any time you can separate yourself a little bit, it’s important.”

Burnett (10-4) set the tone early even though he did not feel comfortable with his ability to control his curveball. 

“I didn’t really feel overpowering,” Burnett told MLB.com. “I had a lot more movement tonight than velocity. We mixed in everything and confidence is huge. Obviously, when you’re on a roll, you’re more confident than when you’re not.”

Since a horrible performance June 9 against the Red Sox at Fenway Park, Burnett has actually been the Yankees best starter. He is 6-1 with a 1.84 ERA in eight starts. 

“He’s one of those guys that you hate facing, but you love him on your team,” Nick Swisher said. “There’s no doubt about it. He’s a gamer. Everybody sees how he goes about his business. On game day, you don’t even talk to him. He’s just completely focused all day, and tonight, he went out there and did an awesome job for us.”

B.J. Upton singled to leftfield in the third inning and Carl Crawford singled to rightfield in the sixth inning for the Rays sum total of offense against Burnett. Upton, who had reached base on a third strike passed ball by Jorge Posada, scored in the sixth on a double play off the bat of Longoria.

The Yankees offense did the rest. The Yankees pounded Tampa Bay ace James Shields (6-7) for five runs and nine hits in 5 2/3 innings.

The Yankees scored three runs in the second inning, keyed by an RBI triple by Robinson Cano that scored Posada, who had just doubled in Hideki Matsui for the first run. Cano later scored the third on an RBI groundout by Swisher.

The Yankees tacked on two more runs in the sixth inning on back-to-b
ack home runs by Cano and Swisher, both of them hitting their 15th homers of the season

The Yankees turned it into a laugher by scoring six runs in the final two innings. Alex Rodriguez, celebrating his 34th birthday, plated two runs a single in the eighth to make it 7-1. After the Rays added two runs in their half of the eighth off Jonathan Albaladejo, Nick Swisher connected for another home run and Johnny Damon added a three-run shot to send most of of what was left of the 33,442 fans at Tropicana Field home.

Swisher connected for home runs from both sides of the plate for the second time this season. It is the 13th multiple home run night of his career.

Damon’s home run was his 17th of the season and the 200th of his career.

The Yankees are now a season-high 23 games over .500 this season (61-38), the best record in the American League and just one game off the pace of the Los Angeles Dodgers for the best record in the majors.

They will have a chance to deal a serious blow to the Rays’ hopes to get back into the division race with a victory on Tuesday. They will send ace lefty CC Sabathia (10-6, 3.87 ERA) to the hill. Sabathia will be looking for his third straight victory. In his last outing he gave up three runs in seven innings in a 6-3 victory over Oakland at Yankee Stadium. He earned a no decision against the Rays on June 6 in New York after allowing five runs (four earned ) in eight innings.

Sabathia’s opponent will be lefty Scott Kazmir (4-6, 6.69), who was the unfortunate losing pitcher in White Sox lefty Mark Buehrle’s 5-0 perfect game victory last Thursday over the Rays. Kazmir served up a grand slam home run to Josh Fields that provided all the offense Buehrle needed.  Kazmir is 5-4 with a 2.65 ERA in 12 career starts against the Yankees.

Gametime will be 7:05 p.m. EDT.

NOTES . . . The Yankees decided not to option either pitcher Jonathan Albaladejo or Mark Melancon to Triple-A Scranton-Wilkes Barre. Instead they elected to keep 13 pitchers for the road trip to Tampa Bay and Toronto. That means the Yankees have opted not to replace Brett Gardner, who is on the 15-day DL with a broken left thumb, with another outfielder. That means the Yankees will back up centerfielder Melky Cabrera with either Nick Swisher or Johnny Damon . . . In a personal note, I will be attending Tuesday night’s game. I hope to be able to speak to some of the players and get some insights before and after the game. So stay tuned to my blog and I will hope to have some inside stuff for you all.




Rebuilt Yankees Bullpen Key To Second Half

THE MAKING OF A BULLPEN

PART 1: Trial and Error

The New York Yankees broke camp in Tampa, FL with seven relief pitchers and a hope that what they did last season and throughout the spring was not an illusion. Mariano Rivera was entrenched, as always, as the closer and there were no more questions about his health after his minor shoulder surgery over the winter.
The big question remained: Why was Joba Chamberlain in the rotation when the Yankees needed a set-up man for him. Manager Joe Girardi and pitching coach Dave Eiland had faith in Brian Bruney, who had pitched so well last season before a foot sprain cost him four months of the season.
Phil Coke was impressive too. The former starter did well last season down the stretch and he had a sensational spring. Coke showed Girardi he could get both righthanders and lefthanders out and that he came into games throwing strikes.
The rest of the bullpen had some holdovers from last season’s bullpen that Girardi ultimately trusted. Damaso Marte came over in a trade with Pittsburgh as a lefty specialist but he did not perform well. After participating in the WBC in the spring, Marte came up with a sore left shoulder. The Yankees hoped it had healed for him to start the season. He did start the season but he was not healthy.
Edwar Ramirez and Jose Veras both had their moments last season. Ramirez was impressive with his change-up and Veras had an impressive fastball and slider combination. But both also had moments when they could be wild. Yankee fans have long been wary of Veras when he was wild.
The last spot in the bullpen supposedly would go to a long relief specialist. Girardi said the candidates were last season’s holdover Dan Giese, late-season call-up Alfredo Aceves and spring free-agent signee Brett Tomko.
But Eiland and Girardi decided to release Giese and send Tomko and Aceves back to Triple A in order to keep Jonathan Albaladejo for the second straight season. Albaladejo, when he is on, is able to get groundouts with his sinking fastball and Girardi likes the mix he brings.
This is the bullpen the Yankees used to back what was arguably the best rotation they have had in years: CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett, Chien-Ming Wang, Andy Pettitte and Joba Chamberlain.
But of the seven relief pitchers Girardi selected, only two of those pitchers are still in the bullpen and stayed on the active roster all season: Coke and Rivera. Two of the relief pitchers were placed on the disabled list (Bruney and Marte) and Marte is still rehabbing his shoulder that still has not healed from his work in the WBC.
One pitcher is no longer with the organization at all. Veras was designated for assignment on June 16 and he was claimed off waivers by the Cleveland Indians. His inconsistency has vexed Yankee fans for the last time. 
Edwar Ramirez was optioned to Triple A on May 19 and has not returned. Ramirez was not getting his fastball over enough to make his change-up effective. His wildness led him to have to lay fastballs over the plate and hitters rocked his average fastball enough that Girardi had enough and sent him down.
Albaladejo was optioned to Triple on May 22 but has been back on two other occasions. He was recently recalled when Brett Gardner was placed on the disabled list but he is not expected to stay. The Yankees had wanted him as an extra arm for a limited bullpen and they plan to option him back to Scranton-Wilkes Barre.
PART 2: THE NEW CAST TAKES SHAPE

The Yankees tried a whole new cast of characters to replace the relievers they lost to injury and ineffectiveness. Two young guns were summoned from the minors early in April. Anthony Claggett was one. But he probably wished he never was called up. 
He was called upon to pitch after Chien-Ming Wang had been shelled for eight runs and 1 1/3 innings against the Indians on April 18. Claggett did better than Wang but only slightly. he gave up eight runs in 1 2/3 innings. He and his 43.20 ERA have not been seen since.
Steven Jackson was another. But he never got a chance to pitch and he was eventually optioned back to Scranton and later was placed on waivers. the Pittsburgh Pirates claimed him and he is now pitching for them.
The Yankees then tried David Robertson and Mark Melancon, two young relievers the Yankees believe have a great future in the major leagues.
Robertson has pitched pretty well at times while Melancon has not shown he is ready to pitch yet at the major league level quite yet. After being sent up and down a few times, Robertson is back in the Yankees plans for the second half. Melancon was back at Scranton.
However, Melancon was recalled on July 10 to replace Albaladejo on the roster. He pitched against the Angels on that date and gave up three runs (two earned) and his ERA is currently at 7.71. He has not pitched in a game since. Albaladejo’s ERA is at 5.04 and he has not pitched since July 9. So it is a good bet that Melancon will be sent back to Scranton today and Albaladejo will remain with the team until Marte is ready to be activated.
In May the Yankees tried their two “long-relief” candidates from the spring: Alfredo Aceves and Brett Tomko. Aceves was recalled May 4 and Tomko came up on May 9. Both added a bit of stability to the bullpen.
Aceves only got better over time. Tomko, however, reached a point where he was not pitching much and when he was he was not effective. The Yankees designated for him for assignment July 21 and he likely will be released by the organization.
The last addition to the bullpen happened quite by circumstances and accident. Phil Hughes was called up to replace Chien-Ming Wang in the starting rotation. Hughes did well in his first start but he gave eight earned runs in his third start against Baltimore and after six starts and a 3-2 record and a 5.45 ERA, the Yankees decided to put Wang back n the rotation and Hughes would stay in the bullpen.
Of course, Hughes was expected to be sent back to Scranton to keep his innings up as a starter. But that did not happen. Hughes stayed and Hughes got better and better in the bullpen.
Now he is considered the set-up man for Rivera. Now the once-maligned Yankees bullpen is looking a lot better and a lot deeper.
The revised seven are: Melancon, Robertson, Bruney, Aceves, Coke, Hughes and Rivera.
Part 3: THE BULLPEN STARTS OFF BADLY

The original group of seven relievers, including Rivera, got off to a very shaky start to the season. Remember that on May 8, when Alex Rodriguez returned to the starting lineup, the Yankees had a sub-.500 record of 13-15.
Here is an interesting statistic about the bullpen during those first 28 games. Of the Yankees’ 15 losses, six of them were as a result of the bullpen. Phil Coke, who struggled mightily in April, was tagged with two of the losses. Albaladejo, Veras, Marte and Rivera were charged with the others.
The starting pitchers lost the rest of those games. If you remember, Wang was pitching hurt and he lost all three of his starts. Sabathia was very inconsistent in April and he lost three his starts. Pettitte, Chamberlain and Hughes each lost one.
Part 4: BULLPEN PICKS IT UP IN MAY

In May, with A-Rod back, Tex hitting and the starters pitc
hing a bit better, the bullpen started losing less games and keeping the Yankees in more games. After a  May 7 game in which Rivera lost a tied game to the Tampa Bay Rays in the ninth inning on a Carlos Pena home run, through June 6, the Yankees bullpen only lost a total of four games.
The Yankees record during that stretch was 23-8. The four losses were charged to Tomko, Aceves, Coke and Rivera again. Rivera blew a 7-5 lead to the Rays in the ninth inning at Yankee Stadium on June 6 for his only blown save of the season.
The starters lost the other four games. Burnett lost two and Hughes and Pettitte lost one apiece.
Part 5: NEAR PERFECTION SINCE

Here are the numbers that will prove the Yankees bullpen has been a intergral part of the team’s overall success. Since the Yankees were 32-23 on June 6 when Rivera blew his lone save, the Yankees record has been 28-15. The bullpen has only lost wo of those games.
Brett Tomko, used in relief of a game CC Sabathia was forced to leave early due to biceps tendinitis, lost a game 6-5 to the Florida Marlins on June 21.
Mark Melancon, used in relief of a struggling Joba Chamberlain in Anaheim on July 10, ended up losing to the Angels 10-6.
Since Phil Hughes made his first relief appearance on June 8, it is a safe bet to say it has been the main catalyst in the one of the best bullpen turnarounds in a long time. Experts from all over the spectrum had predicted that the Yankees would not beat the Boston Red Sox in the American League East because of the Red Sox superiority in the bullpen.
Where are those experts now?
Do they still believe the Yankees bullpen is so bad it will cost them the division?
Let’s look at some stats from June 6 (Aceves start on July 9 is not included):
Rivera: 19 games, 19.1 innings, 5 hits, 1 run, 2 walks, 19 strikeouts, 0.47 ERA
Hughes: 18 games, 25.2 innings, 13 hits, 2 runs, 6 walks, 31 strikeouts, 0.70 ERA
Aceves: 15 games, 22 innings, 16 hits, 4 runs, 3 walks, 16 strikeouts, 1.64 ERA
Coke: 24 games, 20.2 innings, 13 hits, 7 runs, 5 walks, 20 strikeouts, 3.05 ERA
** Coke’s ERA excluding a nightmarish outing against the Angels on July 11 when he gave up 4 runs in one inning would be 1.37.
Part 6: BRUNEY SHOWING SIGNS

Brian Bruney has had a rough season. Tabbed as the Yankees set-up man coming out of spring training Bruney wanted to prove right away the Yankees did not need Joba Chamberlain as long as he was around.
He promptly pitched poorly in his first outing, giving up two runs to the Orioles in April 6. But from that appearance until he injured his elbow on April 21, Bruney showed why he was chosen for the role. In seven games he pitched 6.2 innings, gave up no hits, no runs, walked none and struck out 12. 
He tried to come back to the Yankees on May 19. He pitched a scoreless inning but went back on the disabled list. He was activated off the disabled list June 16 but he has not been the same pitcher since his return.
In 10 appearances Bruney pitched 8.1 innings, 11 hits, 8 runs, 8 walks and 7 strikeouts. The ERA during that stretch was a very ugly 8.64. Yankee fans have booed him unmercifully.
But Girardi may be seeing signs of getting his closer back. Bruney last two outing have been good. 1.3 inning, 0 runs, 1 hit and no walks and 3 Ks. Bruney struck out Oakland’s Mark Ellis with runners on second and third with one out. Girardi called it the biggest out of the game.
So if Bruney is in fact recovering from his elbow problems he could add to what already is a strong bullpen. Add a healthy Marte to the mix and the Yankees might have their deppest bullpen since the days of Rivera, Mike Stanton, Jeff Nelson and Ramiro Mendoza.

Jeter’s Second Chance Hit Gives Yankees Victory

YANKEES 7, ATHLETICS 5


Second chances don’t come often in baseball but when they do having to come through with a something big adds even more pressure.
Derek Jeter was up the task the second time around as he laced a two-run single in the sixth inning to hand the New York Yankees a lead they had just squandered in the top of the inning as the boys from the Bronx beat the Oakland Athletics 7-5 on Sunday.
The victory gave the Yankees a 9-1 record at the end of their homestand and it put the Yankees back at a season-high 22 games over .500. Coupled with the Baltimore Orioles’ 6-2 defeat of the Boston Red Sox, it restored the Bronx Bombers’ 2 1/2 game lead in the American League East standings they had lost the day before.
Jeter was happy that he was able to come through the second time around. In the fourth inning, Melky Cabrera delivered a one-out single off Oakland lefty Dallas Braden (7-9). Cody Ransom, filling in at third base for a resting Alex Rodriguez, followed with a double down the leftfield line to give Jeter a perfect chance to to add to the Yankees 4-3 lead.
Jeter failed, flying out instead to shallow rightfield. Third-base coach Rob Thompson wisely held up Cabrera when Ryan Sweeney made a strong throw to home plate. Johnny Damon ended the rally with a weak popup to second baseman Mark Ellis.
In the meantime, the Yankees’ new No. 5 starter Sergio Mitre was having a hard time keeping Oakland hitters off base. Mitre gave up two runs in the first inning when four of the first five Oakland hitters got base hits. The big blows were an RBI double off the bat of Scott Hairston and an RBI single from Kurt Suzuki.
But the Yankees offense rescued Mitre in the bottom of the inning with four runs of their own off a struggling Braden. With two outs, Hideki Matsui muscled a inside fastball into leftfield to score Jeter, who had led off the game with a single.
After a walk to Nick Swisher that loaded the bases, Robinson Cano — who entered the game with a .203 average with runners in scoring position — blasted a sinking line drive to center that bounded past the dive of centerfielder Eric Patterson and scored all three runners. Cano actually made it to third on the throw home but he overran the base and was tagged out to end the inning.
But Mitre was unable to keep Oakland from threatening. He needed double plays in the third, fourth and fifth innings to escape further trouble. In fact, the double play in the fourth actually bailed out Mitre from an embarrassing misplay after he already given up one run.
Sweeney started the inning with a solid single to left. Daric Barton, who entered the game hitting .100, followed with a single to right-center that moved Sweeney to third. Ellis scored him with a sacrifice fly to right. 
Then Patterson hit an easy comeback dribbler to Mitre. Mitre whirled to throw to second to start the double play but threw the ball to the right and low in front of Jeter and the ball rolled away allowing Barton to reach third.
Mitre was rescued by on a grounder off the bat of Adam Kennedy that Jeter went far to his left to grab. He tossed the ball to Cano and Cano got off a nifty relay to Mark Teixeira at first to keep the tying run from scoring and ending the frame.
In the sixth inning, Suzuki dropped a single into center to lead off the inning and manager Joe Girardi elected to go to the bullpen to replace Mitre with lefthander Phil Coke.
Coke promptly retired Sweeney on a flyout and Barton on a force play. Then Coke suffered an unusual meltdown. Ellis tagged him for a two-run home run and the Athletics took a 5-4 lead heading into the sixth.
Mitre ended up giving up nine hits and four runs in five innings. He did walk a batter and struck out one.
“They bailed me out,” Mitre told MLB.com. “It was great to come back and get that four-spot in the first inning. The bullpen did a great job, but I need to go a little bit deeper into games.”
But Cabrera and Ransom again started a rally with one out in the sixth. Cabrera worked a walk off a 3-2 count and Ransom blasted another double to left off Braden. Jeter then squeaked the first Braden offering up the middle for a single to score both runners.
“I was just fortunate to hit it up the middle,” Jeter told MLB.com. “I didn’t really hit it that great.”
After Johnny Damon doubled to right, Teixeira singled to center to score Jeter for a 7-5 Yankees lead.
The Yankees touched Braden for seven runs on 10 hits and six walks in 5 2/3 innings. 
The bullpen shut the A’s down the rest of the way. Phil Hughes pitched a perfect seventh inning with two strikeouts. He began the eighth with another strikeout but faltered a bit when he walked Sweeney and gave up a double to Barton.
Girardi summoned struggling reliever Brian Bruney and Bruney was able to strike out Ellis, keeping runners at second and third with two outs. 
“I think it’s a big stepping-stone for him,” Girardi said to MLB.com. “I thought his stuff is getting closer and closer, and we weren’t going to ask Mo to give us five outs today. We have to be really smart. For [Bruney] to come and strike out Ellis, that’s a huge out — maybe the biggest out of the game.”

“Anytime you don’t succeed at the job you’re handed, it’s discouraging and frustrating,” Bruney said. “There’s a lot of angst. It’s a long, long season. I know I haven’t pitched great, but I know what I’m capable of. Really, I just felt like I needed to get healthy and the rest would take care of itself.”
Closer Mariano Rivera was then called in to get the final out of the inning, which he did by getting pinch-hitter Nomar Garciaparra to bounce back to Rivera for the third out.
Rivera then pitched perfect ninth with two strikeouts to close out the Athletics and pick up his 29th save in 30 chances. Coke (2-3), despite giving up Ellis’ two-run home run, was credited with the win.
The victory was the Yankees 31st come-from-behind victory of the season, which leads the major leagues. 
“We’ve been doing it all year,” Jeter said. “It’s not always a good thing; you don’t want to fall behind. But we’ve been pretty good at playing nine innings. You’d like to not have to do it, but it’s always good that when you’ve done something, you have the confidence to do it again.”

Joba’s Emotion Carries Yankees To 8th Straight

YANKEES 8, ATHLETICS 3


Joba Chamberlain knows that the worst thing you can do with a one-run is to walk two batters. 
But that is exactly what he did in the fifth inning with one out. He even made it more difficult on himself by throwing a wild pitch to move both the runners up into scoring position.
However, Joba became Joba to fan the next two batters and the 23-year-old righthander let out a loud scream and pumped his fist as he walked off the Yankee Stadium mound.
The rediscovered emotion helped Chamberlain pitch into the eighth inning while giving up just one run, two hits, those two walks and striking out six as the New York Yankees defeated the Oakland Athletics 8-3 on Friday night for their eighth victory in a row.
“I think emotion is real important to him,” manager Joe Girardi told MLB.com. “There has been discussion about his emotion. I don’t ever think Joba is showing anyone up. I think he feeds off his own emotion when he gets big outs. I believe that emotion makes him a better pitcher.”

With the victory, the Yankees remain 2 1/2 games ahead in the American League East against rival Boston, who held on to beat the Baltimore Orioles 3-1 at Fenway Park to snap their four-game losing streak.
The Yankees also are at a season-high 22 games over .500 and they have the best record in the American League. They have won 21 of their last 26 games.
Chamberlain set the tone by refusing to lose his 2-1 lead in the fifth with Ryan Sweeney at third and Daric Barton at second. After a six-pitch battle with Mark Ellis, Chamberlain struck out the second baseman on a slider that ran out of the strike zone.
Chamberlain then initiated his fist-pump mode when he retired Eric Patterson on another nasty slider for his sixth and last strikeout of the night. Joba then erupted and he realized the importance of that moment.

“I’m just having fun and getting back to being myself,” said Chamberlain. “I’ve got faith in my teammates, and I’ve got faith in myself. We work so hard for a reason. It’s going back to having fun and doing what you have to.”

Chamberlain had to outduel Oakland young ace lefthander Brett Anderson, who was riding 21 innings of shutout baseball over his past four starts. Anderson extended the streak to 23 innings on Friday but he was touched for two runs in the third inning on an RBI single by Derek Jeter and an fielder’s choice groundout by Johnny Damon.

The Yankees tacked on single runs in the fifth and sixth innings on another fielder’s choice grounder from Damon and a RBI groundout from Hideki Matsui. 

Anderson pitched 6 2/3 innings and gave up four runs on nine hits and two walks. The lefty did strike out seven Yankee batters.

The Yankees turned the game into a laugher in the bottom of the eighth inning, which started with a Jorge Posada home run to start the inning off A’s lefty Craig Breslow. They would go on to take advantage of an error by reliever Santiago Casilla to score three more runs in the inning.

Jeter led the Yankees attack with three hits and two RBIs. Damon added a hit and three RBIs. Melky Cabrera was 3 for 4 and scored two runs.

“We’re getting some timely hits and scoring some runs,” Jeter said to MLB.com. “But you just want to take it day by day. We’re not coming in saying, ‘We have a streak.’ You just want to do what you can do that particular day.”

Chamberlain’s effort on Friday continued a string of excellent starting pitching performances by the Yankees rotation. They are 6-0 with a 2.35 ERA since the All-Star Break. They have held each opponent to three earned runs or less in each outing.


The Yankees will send veteran lefty Andy Pettitte (8-5, 4.52 ERA) to the hill on Saturday to continue the string of good pitching performances. Pettitte pitched 7 1/3 innings of one-run ball in a no decision against the Orioles on July 20. The Yankees won the game 2-1. Pettitte beat the A’s earlier this season. He allowed two runs on nine hits over seven innings as the Yankees beat the A’s 5-3 on April 21.

Pettitte will face young lefty Gio Gonzalez (1-2, 9.33 ERA), who had the best start of his career at Cleveland (two earned runs and eight strikeouts over seven innings) two starts ago. However, Gonzalez followed it with worst start of his career. He gave up 11 earned runs in 2 2/3 innings against the Twins on Monday. This will be his first career start against the Bronx Bombers.

Gametime will be 1:05 p.m. EDT.


Yanks Storm Back On A’s For 7th Straight Win

YANKEES, ATHLETICS 3


CC Sabathia knew the calvary would arrive. He didn’t know when it would come or how many runs it provide, but Sabathia knew the Yankees offense would bail him out.
They did and the New York Yankees erased an early 3-0 deficit to be the Oakland Athletics 6-3 on Thursday night for their seventh straight victory and a 2 1/2 game lead on the slumping but idle Boston Red Sox in the American League East.
Sabathia, despite early command issues that led to the early deficit, pitched seven innings for the 12th time in his last 15 starts and won his 10th game of the season.
Mark Teixeira homered and doubled and drove in three runs. Jorge Posada added two RBIs as the Yankees ruined the Yankee Stadium debut for Oakland starter and New Jersey native Vin Mazzaro (2-7), who had a contingent of family and friends who braved a two-hour, 53-minute rain delay before the game started.
Sabathia (10-6) surrendered a sacrifice fly to Jack Cust and an RBI single by Bobby Crosby in the second inning. In the fourth, Kurt Suzuki touched Sabathia for an RBI single. But Sabathia shut down the Athletics the rest of the way.
Sabathia gave up nine hits but did not walk anyone and fanned four batters.

“Just keep it there — that’s what I’ve been saying all year,” Sabathia told MLB.com. “I’m not trying to go out and throw shutouts and try to win the game myself. It’s damage control, just keeping the game where it is until the offense can score some runs.”

Sabathia then turned the game over to the Yankees new eighth-inning specialist, Phil Hughes. The only thing is that manager Joe Girardi took off the training wheels for his new prize reliever.

Because closer Mariano Rivera had closed five games in the past six days, Hughes was allowed to pitch both the eighth and ninth. Hughes was perfect and earned his first career major-league save.

“It was good. I had a little cushion to work with, so that was nice,” Hughes said to MLB.com. “It didn’t sink in until they threw me the ball.”

Hughes lowered his bullpen ERA to 0.37 and he has not been scored upon in 15 straight appearances, a total of 18 2/3 innings. In that span he has given up just 10 hits and three walks and struck out 22 batters.

“He’s been really good,” Girardi told MLB.com. “He has taken this role and really ran with it. He comes out with a lot of confidence and very good stuff every night.”

Mazzard, a 22-year-old righthander and native of Rutherford, N.J. who grew up a Yankees fan, stifled the Yankees for the first three innings. He struck out six of the first 10 batters he faced and only surrendered a single to Robinson Cano in the second inning that was quickly erased when leftfielder Matt Holliday gunned Cano out at second base trying to stretch the hit into a double.

But the Yankees spoiled Mazzaro’s 10th major-league start with a four-run fourth inning, fueled by Teixeira’s 24th home run after Johnny Damon had singled to lead off the inning. Teixeira had worked the count to 3-0 and guessed right on the next pitch. He scorched it into the second deck in rigthfield.

“The pitch has to be right down the middle and that’s what I got,” Teixeira said to MLB.com.

Posada later added a game-tying double and Eric Hinske capped the rally with a two-out single to score Posada.

The Yankees then chased Mazzaro in the fifth when Teixeira ripped an RBI double to right and Posada later added a bases-loaded single that scored Damon and end
ed Mazzaro’s night.

“The kid has got a great arm,” Teixeira said. “Location was probably the difference.”

Mazzaro left having given up six runs in 4 1/3 innings. He yielded eight hits and four walks but did strike out seven.

It was not a sure thing the game would even be played Thursday night. Rain forced a long delay of a game that actually was a makeup game of April 20 game scheduled between the two teams. Though the game was played, not many of the announced crowd of 44,206 stayed to watch the game, which was played in steady drizzle and it became a downpour in the ninth inning.

The victory gave the Yankees their second consecutive seven-game winning streak following the All-Star Break. The Yankees won eight in a row after the 2008 All-Star Break.

“We’re just playing really well,” Hughes told MLB.com. “It’s the same team, the same guys. It’s not like we’re trying to do anything different. We’re getting great starting pitching and scoring some runs. It all starts with starting pitching.”

The Yankees will attempt to extend that winning streak to eight games with righthander Joba Chamberlain (5-2, 4.05 ERA) on the mound. Chamberlain is coming off his first victory at home this season. In one of his strongest outings of the season, Chamberlain struck out eight and pitched in to the seventh inning to lead the Yankees to a 2-1 victory and a sweep of the Detroit Tigers.

Chamberlain will be opposed by Athletics lefthander Brett Anderson (5-7, 4.25 ERA). Anderson was perfect for 6 1/3 innings in his last time out against the Angels on Sunday. He ended up throwing eight scoreless innings. He gave up two hits, walked none and struck out six. He will enter tonight with a 21-inning scoreless streak over his past four starts. 

Anderson gave up five runs in 5 1/3 innings on April 22 to the Yankees in his third major-league start.

Gametime is 7:05 p.m. EDT.

NOTES . . . It looks to be very bad news for Yankees injured starter Chien-Ming Wang. Because Wang felt discomfort in his arm after trying to rest it for two weeks, the Yankees are sending Wang to have his sore right shoulder looked at by Dr, James Andrews. Andrews will be offering a second opinion on whether Wang may require season-ending surgery. The Yankees will not comment on Wang’s status until they get the results back . . . General Manager Brian Cashman said Chamberlain’s role will be changing because of a team-imposed 150-inning limit on the righthander. Chamberlain has already pitched 95 innings. Though Cashman did not specify what the new role would be, it is clear that the Yankees might be looking for yet another starter to replace Chamberlain. The Yankees could acquire a pitcher like Mariners lefty Jarrod Washburn before the trade deadline, move Chamberlain back to his setup role, keep Sergio Mitre in the rotation, send Hughes to the minors to prepare to come back as a starter and supplant Mitre in September. This is only speculation but the moves could make the Yankees rotation stronger with lefties Sabathia, Pettitte and Washburn separated by righthanders A.J. Burnett and Hughes. I am not sure the Red Sox would want to face that group with Chamberlain, Aceves, Coke and Rivera looming in the bullpen.


Burnett Hurls Yankees To ‘Colorful’ Victory

YANKEES 6, ORIOLES 4


The victory was not a work of art but A.J. Burnett “colored well between the lines.”
Burnett struck out six in seven gritty innings to give the New York Yankees a 6-4 victory over the visiting Baltimore Orioles on Wednesday afternoon.
The victory was the Yankees sixth in a row. It also gave the Yankees their second consecutive home sweep after the All-Star Break. They also have now beaten the Orioles 10 consecutive games at Yankee Stadium.
Coupled with the Red Sox fifth consecutive loss, a 3-1 defeat to the Texas Rangers on Wednesday night, the Yankees now enjoy a very comfortable two-game lead in the American League East.
But between getting from point A to point B, Burnett and the Yankees had a strange afternoon in recording that victory. It all started in the bottom of the first inning with the Yankees facing Orioles rookie Jason Berken for the first time.
The Yankees batted around, scoring four runs on five hits and a walk. Alex Rodriguez had an RBI single, Robinson Cano had an RBI infield single and Nick Swisher started his roller coaster afternoon with a two-run single to cap off the inning.
It looked as if Berken was about done before he started. But that is another odd story.
Burnett pitched into and out of trouble all afternoon. He gave up six hits, three walks, uncorked another of American League-leading wild pitches but never broke in maintaining the lead. The Orioles left seven men on base in the first four innings and Swisher was Burnett’s tormentor and savior all within the third inning.
Leading off the third, Brian Roberts lined a ball to Swisher in righfield and it inexcusably clanked off his glove for a two-base error. After a bullet single to right by Adam Jones, the Orioles had men on first and third with nobody out.
Burnett then tried to work some magic. He induced Nick Markakis into a fly ball to shallow left that Roberts could not score on. Burnett then fanned Aubrey Huff.
Then Burnett went to work on Ty Wigginton. Failing to strike him out on a 2-2 pitch that was called a ball and not wanting to walk the bases loaded, Burnett laid a full-count fastball over the plate and Wigginton lined it to deep rightfield.
Swisher, who had gotten Burnett into the mess to begin with, came up with an amazing over the shoulder catch just before he cleated up the rightfield wall Bo Jackson style and preserved the shutout. Burnett greeted Swisher joyfully as he returned to the Yankee dugout.
“I threw out a ‘Dumb and Dumber’ line,” Burnett told MLB.com of his ensuing chat with Swisher. “I said, ‘Then you do something like that and totally redeem yourself.’”

“I was just happy it actually went in my glove,” Swisher told MLB.com. “I was like, ‘Wow, OK, maybe I still can catch it, which is nice.’”
There was to be even further redemption for Swisher in the fifth when Luke Scott lofted a fly ball to deep right that appeared to be close to a home run or a double off the wall. Swisher drifted back, timed his leap and caught it at the top of wall to save Burnett further damage.
Meanwhile the Yankees offense had added a solo run off Berken in the third inning on a Jorge Posada’s 12th home run of the season, a line-drive that landed in the Yankees bullpen in right-center. 
Yep, Berken was ripe for the taking and he was now down 5-0.
But something odd happened, Berken started recording outs and the Yankees stopped taking him deep into counts. From the second inning to the sixth inning, the Yankees had two hits, including Posada’s home run. The Yankees mounted no serious threat and Berken threw just 58 pitches in those innings after throwing 31 in the first inning.
Then Burnett’s string of good luck ran out in the seventh inning. 
No. 9 hitter Robert Andino started the inning off by a bouncing a ball so hard off the plate that he was able reach first without a throw before it came down to Posada. After one out, Jones cue-balled a double right down the third-base line. 
Markakis followed by a lifting a fly ball to moderately deep center that scored Andino and allowed Jones to get to third. Burnett then ended the inning with a strike out of Aubrey Huff but the problem was Burnett uncorked his wild pitch that eluded Posada. So Huff reached first and Jones scored to make it 5-2.
But Joe Girardi had a plan. It was a simple one: Use the bullpen which has been so great since the early June. Phil Hughes pitched a scoreless eighth and the Yankees had Mariano Rivera warming to pitch the ninth. 
The Yankees did manage to add a run in the bottom of the eighth inning off Orioles lefty George Sherrill. A-Rod opened the inning with a single and he later stole his fifth base of the season on five attempts. After Hideki Matsui struck out, Posada doubled to the gap in left and Rodriguez scored to give the Yankees a 6-2 cushion.
Girardi had Rivera sit down as struggling reliever Brian Bruney got loose. Little did the Yankees know just how loose.
Bruney had an eventful inning. He came out breathing fire and knocked the bats out the hands of the Orioles first two hitters: Andino and Roberts. He struck them out swinging at pure heat. But perhaps Bruney was throwing “too hard.”
Bruney then gave up two solo home runs to Jones and Markakis within three pitches.
Exit Bruney. Enter Rivera, who restored order by striking out Huff looking for his 28th save. So it was not the prettiest of victories. But the six-game winning streak?
“That’s six pretty good games right there,” Swisher said to MLB.com.
But Burnett, Swisher and the Yankees did add color within the lines to go a season-high 20 games over .500, the second-best record in the major leagues and the best in the American League. Winning is now becoming a habit.
“We’ve been much better at it [winning], that’s for sure,” Girardi said. “It has been very professional the way these guys have gone about their business. And that’s what you want. Every day, you come in and you expect to win. When you don’t win, you’re upset and you’re shocked. And I sense that about this club.”
The Yankees will attempt to keep their streak alive when the invite in the Oakland Athletics to Yankee Stadium for a four-game set. Yankees ace lefty CC Sabathia (9-6, 3.66 ERA) will start the series Thursday. Sabathia is coming off a very good outing against the Detroit Tigers and their ace Justin Verlander. He pitched seven scoreless innings for his eighth victory in 11 decisions in a 2-1 Yankee victory.
Opposing Sabathia will be A’s righty Vin Mazzaro (2-6, 4.09 ERA), who is coming off a really awful performance against the Los Angeles Angels. The rookie gave up eight runs on 10 hits in three-plus innings. However, Oakland fielders committed four errors so only four of the runs were earned. Mazzaro is also winless in his last seven starts. This is the first time he will be facing the Yankees.
Gametime is 7:05 p.m. EDT.

Yankees Hot While Red Sox Rotation In Shambles

COMMENTARY


The New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox took different views about improving their pitching this offseason.
The Yankees, having not made the playoffs for the first time in 15 seasons in 2008, decided they needed to dive into the free-agent market with whatever dollars they were saving by shedding the salaries of Bobby Abreu, Jason Giambi, Mike Mussina and Carl Pavano.
Their effort yielded two of the best studs in the market, CC Sabathia and A.J. Burnett. The pair are 17-10 but the Yankees are 22-16 in their starts. Both have given the Yankees seven or more innings in most of their starts.
It is safe to say that the Yankees latest hot streak is due, in part, to the pitching of Sabathia and Burnett.
The Red Sox, coming off winning the American League wild-card, did not return to defend their 2007 championship. They lost in the American League Championship Series to the division-winning Tampa Bay Rays.
They chose to stick pretty much with the pitching staff they had: Josh Beckett, Jon Lester. Daisuke Matsuzaka and 42-year-old Tim Wakefield were givens. 
But the Red Sox took calculated gambles on a pair of injured veteran free agents: Brad Penny and John Smoltz. That decision now will decide whether General Manager Theo Epstein made the right choice or cost the Red Sox the division and maybe even the wild card.
Penny and Smoltz certainly cost the Red Sox less money. But can the pair help lead them when the Yankees are firing on all cylinders and the Red Sox seem to have blown a tire?
Since the All-Star Break the Yankees have won five straight games while the Red Sox have lost their last four in a row at Toronto and Texas. They are hitting .194 as a team since the break. J.D. Drew is 0 for 22 in the same time frame.
But, even worse, on the same day the Yankees reclaimed sole possession of first place in the AL East for the first time since June 8, the Red Sox placed Wakefield (11-3, 4.31 ERA) on the 15-day disabled list with a back injury.
Wakefield, coming off being selected to his first All-Star team, has not pitched since July 8. But because the Red Sox had just sent Buchholz to the minors after a start on July 17, Wakefield can’t return until Aug. 2. But will he be able to return then? I mean we are talking a back injury on a 42-year-old pitcher.
In the meantime, Dice-K has pitched this season like Mice-K (1-5, 8.23 ERA) and it appears that his stint pitching for Japan in World Baseball Classic this spring has put his season in jeopardy. He is currently on the disabled list and he has not pitched since June 19. Even if he does return how effective will he be?
Lester has loads of ability but he has been inconsistent this season. He is 8-7 with a 3.87 ERA. It is up to he and Beckett (11-4, 3.42 ERA) to hold the rotation together until help arrives.
But the injuries to Wakefield and Matsusaka call into question Epstein’s decision to offer bargain-basement contracts to pitchers they knew were coming off injuries. Now it is perhaps coming back to haunt the young GM.
Penny is 6-4 with a bloated 5.02 ERA and he has pitched into the seventh inning only three times in 18 starts and he has not won a game since June 17.
Smoltz, who was carefully brought along through an extended rehab due to off-season shoulder surgery, is 1-3 with a very un-Smoltz-like ERA of 6.31 in five starts. In his last start, he was sailing into the sixth inning with a 2-1 lead.
But home runs from Michael Young, former Red Sox outfielder David Murphy and Jarrod Saltalamacchia buried the Red Sox with a 6-2 deficit and they lost the game 6-3. 
Now the Red Sox have to count on an inconsistent Clay Buchholz. Following his his no-hit late season heroics in 2007, Buchholz was a miserable 2-9 with a 6.75 ERA last season. He was so bad Epstein chose not to include him in any plans for this season’s rotation. Though he pitched well and won his July 17 start is there any guarantee he will not pitch like he did in 2008?
With an offense sputtering and a rotation in shambles, the news that the Yankees have won 18 of the last 23 games can hardly be good news to the Red Sox. More bad news, the Red Sox tailspin has the Tampa Bay Rays just 3 1/2 games behind the Sawx.
Uh-oh!
Even more bad news: Toronto Blue Jays GM J.P. Ricciardi said it is “unlikely” they will make any deal for ace righty Roy Halladay. So if Red Sox Nation was hoping to bring the All-Star starter over the border to Fenway they will have to look elsewhere for pitching help.
This is not to say the race is over. The Yankees do not feel like they won anything yet. But the Red Sox better recover in a hurry before they bury themselves in what is a very competitive division.
Pinching Pennys and Smoltzes may have cost Theo Epstein a fortune and the Red Sox may regret it for a long, long time.
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