September 2009

Teixeira Made His Mark With Yankees



Over his previous three seasons, Teixeira has averaged 32 home runs, 112 RBIs and a .298 batting average. At the All-Star break of this season, Teixeira had 21 home runs, 63 RBIs and a .275 batting average.
In 16 fewer games after the All-Star break Teixeira produced 18 home runs, 58 RBIs and a .321 average. His season totals are currently 39 home runs, 121 RBIs and a .295 average. So he will finish the season with a slight uptick in production over his previous seasons.
Is he the MVP of the American League? With apologies to his teammate Derek Jeter, I think he can make a better case for being MVP. Jeter’s statistics are great but can you give him the award over Joe Mauer of the Twins?
Mauer has hit for a better average, hit more home runs and drove in more runs than Jeter. But Mauer’s stats do pale in comparison to Teixeira’s. So that is why Teixeira should be the AL’s MVP.
All Teixeira is done is lead the league in home runs and RBIs in his first season in pinstripes. In addition, he played first base near flawlessly, showing unbelievable range and an uncanny ability to catch the throws on tough hops and those over his head.
He has made the Yankees infield better by making the tough catches. It is pretty hard to get a throwing error with Teixeira at first base. You really have to being trying to get it past him.
So Teixeira is in line for the league MVP, a Gold Glove and a Silver Slugger Award in his first season after signing a long-term free-agent contract with the Yankees this off-season. It is a good thing that general manager Brian Cashman chose to make a late run at him.
It is hard to imagine where the Yankees might be without Teixeira at first base for them and playing perhaps for the Boston Red Sox.
Teixeira is simply the best first baseman in the American League from a hitting and fielding standpoint. He is the closest thing the Yankees have had at first base since Don Mattingly retired.
I gave Teixeira a first half grade of B+ because of his slow start in April — something that has plagued him throughout his career. But you have to give him an A+ in the second half for providing the same power and production while raising his average close to 50 points.
Teixeira remained healthy all season too. He started 146 games at first base and he was the foundation of what was the best offense in baseball, batting third and driving in the big runs all season long.
It would be foolish to rank his backup Nick Swisher here since he played the position so little. So I won’t do that. Teixeira simply was dominant in every way for the Yankees.

It is not easy to live up to the expectations of Yankees fans and the New York media. But Teixeira has done that and then some this season. He is not flashy or controversial. He doesn’t date movie or TV stars like Jeter or Alex Rodriguez. Good thing, too, because he is married.
All he does is go out and play baseball and play it well. That is good enough for me and I suspect it fine with the fans and the media. Teixeira is my choice for MVP. 
He made his mark with the Yankees in 2009.

Posada Proved Doubters Wrong In 2009


It is hard to know what you have missed when it is never gone. In Jorge Posada’s case that was true up until he missed most of the 2008 season with an injured right shoulder. In his previous three seasons he averaged 21 home runs, 85 RBIs and a .289 average.
So when the 2009 season began Posada at age 37 was a bit of question mark. But he quickly dispelled any doubts about his surgically repaired shoulder and he hit just like he always had in the past in the first half of the season.
Despite missing 24 games with a strained hamstring, Posada posted an excellent first half with 11 home runs, 40 RBIs and a .285 average. Though teams still took liberties on the bases, Posada showed enough arm strength in his shoulder to keep enough runners at bay for his pitchers.
The remarkable thing about Posada is his consistency at the plate. After the All-Star break, Posada proved that by putting up almost identical numbers to his first half. He had 11 home runs, 41 RBIs and hit .294.
And his overall season numbers — 22 home runs, 81 RBIs and a .290 average — are nearly identical to his three previous healthy season averages.
Along with Joe Mauer of the Twins, Posada is probably the most reliable run-producing power hitting catcher in the American League. Posada also answered critics who questioned the four-year contract the Yankees offered him after the 2007 season.
Posada does not look to be in decline as a hitter at all.
He deserved the B he received for his first half and I think he deserves a B+ for keeping the pace the same in the second half. 
There will still be critics of his pitch calling and his inexplicable passed balls. He also will allow good base-stealers to steal him blind at times. But he never was considered a great defensive catcher. 
But his offense in the No. 6 spot in the batting order has been sensational and his contributions tend to be overlooked with Tex, A-Rod, Jeter, Matsui and Cano in the same lineup.
But Posada and his recovery from a bad 2008 at age 37 is pretty heroic and he remains one of the unsung contributors to this team.

In the first half of the season, Molina was the missing man behind the plate. Like Posada, running the bases in damp and cool early season weather forced him to the disabled list with a strained left quad muscle he suffered on May 7. 
A setback on his rehab set him back even further and he was not activated until July 8 and he did not start his first game until July 10 against the Los Angeles Angels. So he did not receive a first half grade.
During the 2008 season, Molina was forced to play more than he had in the past because of Posada’s shoulder injury. That exposed Molina’s major weakness with the bat but it also displayed his great defensive and throwing skills. 
This season, Molina’s work behind the plate is the same as always — great receiving skills, game-calling ability and his cannon arm does deter base-stealers from even trying him. However, Molina’s work with the bat has regressed.
In 130 at-bats, Molina is hitting a woeful .215 with 1 home run and 11 RBIs. Molina, when he is in the starting lineup, is simply a virtual automatic out and his inability to even hit around his career average of .235 could cost him a job with the Yankees in 2009.
Molina received an I for incomplete for his injury-plagued first half. I would give him a C for the second half and all of that is for his excellent defense.


Cervelli was pressed into service when both Jorge Posada and Jose Molina were injured within two days of each other. At the time he was hitting .190 at Double A Trenton. He actually took over as the starting catcher for this team beginning on May 8, which also is the same game Alex Rodriguez started his first game after undergoing hip surgery.
Cervelli provided the Yankees an exceptional defensive catcher with a very good throwing arm. In fact, his work against baserunners is even better than Molina’s. He allowed 11 stolen bases but 10 baserunners were caught stealing. There is no doubt he had an impact in the 23 games he started.
When Posada returned as the starter on May 29, Cervelli took over Molina’s role as the backup catcher. He worked primarily as CC Sabathia’s catcher during this period and drew praise from Sabathia for his pitch-calling and poise behind the plate.
What the Yankees did not know was that Cervelli has some offensive skills. Cervelli hit a surprising .284 in his 78 at-bats. 
I gave Cervelli a grade of A for the first half because he managed to exceed the expectations of the Yankees front office. Because Posada and Molina were healthy in the second half, Cervelli remained at Triple A Scranton and he was not recalled until September. So he receives an I for incomplete for second half.
But the fact that Cervelli is now hitting .294 with a home run and 11 RBIs shows he may be a better and cheaper option to Molina in 2
010. Cervelli may not be as good with the bat as future Yankees catching prospects like Jesus Montero and Austin Romine. But Cervelli is great defensively and he made a good impression in the brief time he was needed.

Posada’s bounce-back season has been vital in the Yankees surge back to first place in the American League East. Not many teams can say they got 20 home runs and 80 RBIs from their catcher. 
Posada proved that while some catchers like Jason Varitek fade in their late 30s, it is not true for him. Posada was simply one of the most unsung heroes of the Yankees resurgent season and they should be happy they have him under contract for 2010.
Cervelli’s future looks bright too. He proved that he could handle the defensive load at the major-league level and he can hit a little too. 
Molina’s future looks to be in doubt because of Cervelli and his inability to show any improvement at the plate. In fact, he got worse.

Miranda Delivers Yankees’ 15th Walk-off Victory


New York Yankees fans waived their right to remain silent on Tuesday night.
September call-up Juan Miranda singled off the leg of an old friend, Kyle Farnsworth, with two outs in the ninth inning to drive in Eric Hinske with the winning run as the Yankees engineered their 15th walk-off victory of the season, a 4-3 win over the Kansas City Royals.
It was the Yankees’ sixth victory in a row and put them at a season’s best 46 games over .500.
The oddest part of the victory was that manager Joe Girardi had all but conceded the game by replacing Derek Jeter, Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez in the eighth inning with the Yankees trailing 3-2.
However, Girardi could not have foreseen that Royals manager Trey Hillman would insert former Yankees whipping boy Farnsworth to close out the game for Kansas City. In his two-plus seasons with the Yankees, Farnsworth was 6-9 with a 4.33 ERA and he often drew the ire of Yankees fans by blowing leads and giving up 28 home runs in his 170 1/3 innings of work with the Yankees.
For the 44,794 fans in attendance, it was deja vu all over again with Farnsworth in the ninth inning. Only this time he was wearing road grays.
Farnsworth opened the frame by striking out Brett Gardner looking. But reserve catcher Francisco Cervelli dribbled a single off Farnsworth’s hand for an infield single.
Girardi, seizing an opportunity for a victory, sent Eric Hinske up as a pinch-hitter for Ramiro Pena and Hinske slapped a single into right and Cervelli was able to make it to third base on the hit.
Robinson Cano, who had just entered the game the previous inning to play second base and bat in Derek Jeter’s spot in the batting order, lofted a 3-0 pitch to the deepest part of centerfield for a sacrifice fly that scored Cervelli and tied the game at 3.
Further seizing an opportunity with Johnny Damon at the plate, Girardi gave Hinske the steal sign and Hinske slid into second as catcher John Buck’s throw eluded Yuniesky Betancourt and rolled into centerfield allowing Hinske to take third.
Hillman then thought he saw a way Farnsworth might escape further damage. With Teixeira out of the game and Miranda in the on-deck circle, he had Farnsworth walk Damon intentionally so Farnworth could pitch to Miranda, who had only five major-league at-bats this season and only one hit.
But Miranda spoiled the Hillman strategy by hitting an 0-1 fastball off the leg of Farnsworth and the ball rolled to Farnsworth’s left past the first-base line between first base and home plate. Before Farnsworth could retrieve the ball Hinske scored the winning run and Miranda reached first base and fell down rounding the bag.
Bedlam broke out as the Yankees rushed out of the dugout onto the field to congratulate the first baseman who was called up this month from Triple A Scranton-Wilkes Barre. A few moments later he was indoctrinated in the Yankees walk-off ritual: a face full of whipped cream courtesy of the Yankees starting pitcher on the night, A.J. Burnett.
The Yankees struggled on offense all night, courtesy of a Double-A righthander named Anthony Lerew, who threw change-up after change-up and mixed in a sinker to keep the Yankees off-balance all night.
Lerew shutout the Yankees for the first five innings on just two hits until Teixeira, with two outs, blasted a high change-up into right-center that bounced off the top of the wall and bounded into the seats for his 39th home run. The home run tied the game in the sixth and gave Teixeira a tie with the Rays’ Carlos Pena for the American League lead in home runs.
Nick Swisher greeted Lerew with a leadoff home run in the seventh inning to make it 3-2. Swisher took a 0-2 mistake and ripped a long drive to centerfield and chased Lerew from the game.
In six-plus innings Lerew gave up just the two runs on five hits and two walks and he struck out three batters.
Burnett, meanwhile, pitched well for a third straight outing. 
He gave up an RBI single to Billy Butler in the third inning but he otherwise kept the Royals in check. He left with one out and one on in the seventh inning. In 6 1/3 innings he gave up just three hits, all in the third inning, walked three and struck out eight.
Phil Coke then came on to give Little League participants a clinic in how NOT to field your position.
Alex Gordon started the clinic off with a bunt that Coke took his time in both fielding and throwing to first base only to have Gordon beat the throw. One batter later, Josh Anderson hit a one-hopper right back to Coke.
Coke whirled towards second base threw the ball well to Jeter’s right and into centerfield to allow Mark Teahen, who Burnett had walked to begin the frame, to score an unearned run. Gordon reached third and Anderson took second on the misplay.
Mitch Maier then hit another comebacker to the mound that Coke fielded cleanly. However, instead of throwing home to cut down Gordon easily, Coke chose to throw to first and allowed a second unearned run to score.
Fortunately for Coke and for Girardi, Farnsworth stepped in to snatch victory for the Yankees out the jaws of defeat.
The Yankees will go for a sweep of the three-game series with the Royals on Wednesday night. Joba Chamberlain (9-6, 4.72 ERA) will make his last start of the regular season and he will be opposed by righthander Robinson Tejeda (4-2, 3.41 ERA).
Gametime is 7:05 p.m. EDT.

‘Scranton’ Yankees, Gaudin Drub Royals


Shelley Duncan broke a 2-2 tie in the sixth inning with an RBI single and Ramiro Pena added an RBI single and hit his first major league home run as the Scranton-Wilkes Barre Yankees defeated the Kansas City Royals 8-2 on Monday night.
With most of the starters of the New York Yankees resting a day after the team clinched the American League East title and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs, some of the September call-ups got an opportunity to contribute in a big way.
Fill-in starter Chad Gaudin (6-10) pitched his best game as a Yankee, going 6 2/3 innings and giving up two runs on just four hits and two walks. Gaudin struck out five batters as he pitched in place of A,J. Burnett, who requested the day off so he could be at his father’s side for a surgical procedure.
One of the Yankees regulars, Robinson Cano, put the game out of reach with a grand slam home run during a five-run seventh inning as the Yankees won their fifth consecutive game and kept their momentum heading to the playoffs that begin next week.
Royals starter Luke Hochevar (7-12) kept the game close until the seventh inning. Through six innings he given up just three runs on eight hits and one walk. But he ran into big trouble in the seventh inning.
Former Scranton catcher Francisco Cervelli hit a double to start the inning and Pena followed with a single to drive in Cervelli to make the score 4-2.
After Pena stole second, Brett Gardner hit a soft liner into left to move Pena to third and Melky Cabrera drew a walk to set the set the stage for Cano’s big blow. Cano took a high 0-1 fastball and sent the ball into the last row of the right-centerfield bleachers for the second grand slam of his career.
Cano now has 25 home runs and 84 RBIs and the 25 home runs helped the 2009 Yankees set a franchise record with five players who have hit 25 or more home runs: Cano, Nick Swisher, Hideki Matsui, Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira.
Johnny Damon, who was held out of the game after an hour and 56 minute rain delay to protect his sore calves from the wet conditions, could become the sixth player because he has 24 home runs on the season.
Damaso Marte completed the seventh inning by getting Alex Gordon on a foul popup and Alfredo Aceves pitched two scoreless 1-2-3 innings to finish the game for Gaudin, who is fighting to make the postseason roster as a long reliever.
His effort Monday night was impressive enough.
“He’s given us a lot to think about,” manager Joe Girardi told

Eric Hinske opened the scoring for the Yankees with a RBI single to drive in Cano, who had doubled, for the Yankees first run.
The Royals tied it in the next frame on a solo opposite-field home run off the bat of Mark Teahen.
The Yankees struck back an inning later after Cervelli had singled. Pena was asked to make contact on a hit-and-run play but missed the pitch and Cervelli was thrown out by Miguel Olivo.
On the very next pitch Pena hit a fly ball to right-center that landed three rows into the seats for his first major-league home run. But his teammates decided to play a little prank on him as he got to the Yankees dugout.
Rodriguez had urged his teammates to give Pena the silent treatment when he reached the dugout. An excited Pena was stunned to his teammates sitting quietly on the bench until Jorge Posada led the charge of players who came to congratulate the rookie.
Gaudin was the big winner on the night. He is trying to become a member of the 10-man pitching staff for the opening playoff series. With seven spots set (CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett, Andy Pettitte, Joba Chamberlain, Mariano Rivera, Phil Coke and Phil Hughes), Gaudin is battling Alfredo Aceves, Damaso Marte, Brian Bruney and David Robertson for the three available spots in the bullpen.
He and Aceves can throw multiple innings of relief and Gaudin’s effort Monday night will make it tough on Girardi. Gaudin’s ERA in his past three starts is 3.31.
“That’s all I’m out there trying to do,” Gaudin said. “Get the team closer to the playoffs, closer to being ready for the playoffs and just keeping it going. And having the confidence and the backing of my manager is a great thing.” 

Yankees Starters Improved In Second Half


A.J. BURNETT – Age 32

This was the starting rotation with which the Yankees started the season. Of course, Chien-Ming Wang did not finish the season, having season-ending surgery to repair his right labrum. So the Yankees had to come up with a fifth starter to take Wang’s place.
Despite calls to shift Phil Hughes back to the starting rotation and efforts be made to acquire Roy Halladay from the Toronto Blue Jays, the Yankees instead tried to go a cheaper route by bringing up veteran righthander Sergio Mitre from Triple A and picking up swingman Chad Gaudin off waivers.
Neither starter distinguished himself but both were able to keep the Yankees in the games in which they started. So it was not a total disaster to have either pitcher start for the Yankees. But it was also painfully obvious that neither would be a option to start games in the postseason.
So keeping Hughes in the bullpen and saving future Yankees’ prospects by not acquiring Halladay was the positive in the decision general manager Brian Cashman made.
I gave the starters an overall grade of C at the midpoint. 
Here are the individual grades I handed out:
Sabathia  B+
Burnett B
Wang I (Incomplete)
Pettitte C
Chamberlain D
Let’s now look at the second half beginning with Sabathia. In 14 starts after the All-Star break, the big left-hander earned his position as the staff ace by recording a record of 11-1 with a 2.36 ERA. 
His only loss was an outing in which he gave up six runs (five earned) in 5 2/3 innings against the Tampa Bay Rays in St. Petersburg.
The Yankees won both of his no-decisions: beating the White Sox 5-2 in 10 innings on Aug. 28 at Yankee Stadium and beating the Rays 4-1 on Sept. 7 also at Yankee Stadium.
In his 99 innings of work after the All-Star break, Sabathia has given up only 79 hits and 24 walks for a sensational WHIP of 1.04. He also struck an even 99 in those 99 innings.
With one start remaining and a 19-7 record, Sabathia has a chance to win 20 games for the first time in his nine-year major-league career. He won 19 games in 2007 with the Indians and was awarded the American League Cy Young Award.
He is a candidate for the award again this season.
Sabathia simply was everything the Yankees imagined he would be, particularly in the seond half. For that reason, he would have to earn an A+ for the second half and an overall A grade since he was just 8-6 with a 3.86 ERA in the first half.
The Yankees other high-priced free agent A.J. Burnett struggled with inconsistency in the first half of the season. He was 8-4 with a 3.77 ERA before the All-Star break. 
He had ended the first half on his hottest streak of the season with a 1.34 ERA in his last 33 2/3 innings and he had won four of past five starts. We gave him a B and said he could improve upon that great by continuing to pitch this well in the second half.
That did not happen entirely.
Throwing out a really bad shelling he took from the White Sox at U.S. Cellular Field on Aug. 1, Burnett did go 2-2 with a 2.38 ERA over his seven starts to begin the second half. But his 2009 nemesis, the Boston Red Sox, started him on another steep decline on Aug. 22.
Burnett surrendered a career-worst nine runs on nine hits and two walks in five innings at Fenway Park. In two September starts against the Orioles, Burnett gave up six earned runs in both outings. Over that five-start stretch, Burnett gave up 25 runs in 29 1/3 innings (7.67 ERA).
It sounded alarm bells as the Yankees moved closer to the playoffs. Would Bunrett be a reliable starter for the Yankees in the postseason.
The Yankees hope Burnett’s last two starts are indicative of how Burnett will perform in October. In his last two starts he has given up just three runs in 12 2/3 innings (2.13 ERA) with 17 strikeouts.
In the second half overall he was 4-5 with 4.69 ERA. He gave up 88 hits and 40 walks in 88 1/3 innings for a really awful WHIP of 1.45. 
He received a midseason grade of B but for his poor second half he deserves a C- for his lackluster and inconsistent second half. After paying him a princely sum in the off-season, his overall record 12-9 with a 4.19 ERA gives him a disappointing overall grade of C for this season.
Andy Pettitte was 8-4 with a high ERA of 4.85 in the first half. Between his struggles in May and June he earned an overall grade of C. But we mentioned at that time that Pettitte has historically been a better pitcher in the second half.
That again proved to be true. You can make a case for Pettitte being the key member of the staff with Wang out and Burnett struggling with his consistency. The end result was Pettitte rediscovered his hard cutter and he cruised to a 6-3 record after the break.
But the record did not tell the real story. The lefthander gave up just 29 earned runs in his 82 2/3 innings (3.16 ERA). He gave up just 66 hits and 28 walks for a 1.08 WHIP. His cutter also allowed him to regain a strikeout pitch by fanning 77 in those 88 2/3 innings.
Though he was plagued by five no decisions in the second half to go along with five in the first, a better indication of Pettitte’s worth can measured by the fact that the Yankees were 8-2 in those games. So the Yankees were 22-9 in all of Pettitte’s 2009 starts.
In comparison the Yankees were 3-3 in Sabathia’s no decisions and 22-10 overall. So Pettitte was well worth the bargain-basement $5 million-dollar contract the Yankees signed him to in the winter.
Pettitte earned his second-half grade of A and, with his 14-7 record and deceiving 4.11 ERA, he gets an overall grade of B+ for the season. 
Joba Chamberlain was 4-2 with 4.25 ERA at the break and he was drawing criticism from the Yankees brass for his inconsistency and inability to pitch deep into games. He started the second half with hopes of showing some improvement.
He did. 
In his first three starts after the All-Star break, Joba was 3-0 with a 0.42 ERA. In 21 2/3 innings he gave up eight hits and eight walks (0.74 WHIP) and struck out 19 batters.
But after that, Joba;s season was short-circuited by the so-called “Joba Rules.” Concerned that pitchers under the age of 25 should not throw more than 30% more innings in the following season, Cashman said Chamberlain would be limited in his innings in the second half of the season.
Chamberlain would be skipped in the rotation at points and substitute starters would be used in others. What it ended up doing is ruining whatever ability Chamberlain might have had to help the Yankees in August and September.
In his next nine starts, from Aug. 6 through Sept 20, Chamberlain pitched 36 innings. In those 36 innings, he gave up 33 runs on 50 hits and 21 walks. That’s an ERA of 8.25 and a WHIP of 1.97. 
This carnage lasted through two different sets of Joba Rules. After skipping Chamberlain’s starts and giving him additional rest did not work, the Yankees decided to pitch him every fifth day but limit his innings. Neither version worked.
In his last start, one in which he was pitching on five days of rest and not limited by innings or pitch counts, Chamberlain pitched like he did in his first three starts of the second half. On Friday night against the Red Sox, Chamberlain gave up three runs over six innings and served up just five hits and one walk while striking out five.
It was his first victory since Aug. 6 and only his fifth victory in the second half. That proves one thing: Joba Chamberlain was adversely affected by what Cashman and the front office did to him.
Probably slated for long relief in the bullpen in the first playoff series, it will interesting to see if Chamberlain is used as a starter in league championship series. 
He earned a D for the first half and I hesitate to give him another D for the second half. It was the manipulation of his innings that skewed his poor numbers. So I will give him an I for incomplete for the second half and an overall grade of I for the season.
Until the Yankees take the the training wheels off Joba it is hard to evaluate what kind of starter he will be. But I agree with a lot of pundits in stating that the Yankees should flip-flop Hughes and Chamberlain next season, making Hughes a starter and moving Chamberlain to the bullpen.
However, that will create another problem. Hughes will have to have his innings limited by those same Joba Rules for him: Philly Rules. So maybe the Yankees will have to leave well enough alone and keep Joba in the rotation and Hughes in the pen.
Sergio Mitre made nine starts in the second half and ended up 3-3 with a 7.16 ERA. The team was 6-3 in his starts so I guess that pleased Girardi enough. 
Mitre also had his moments. On Aug 15, he gave up just one earned run in 5 1/3 innings against the Mariners. Then on Aug. 29, he took a no-hitter in the sixth innings against the White Sox before being hit by a line drive off the bat of A.J. Pierzynski. 
But take away those two outings and Mitre was tagged for 34 runs in 32 1/3 innings for a 9.46 ERA and that is bad in any No. 5 starter’s book. In his last two starts he was blasted for 16 runs in nine innings against the Blue Jays and he has not started since.
It is safe to assume he will not be a starter in the postseason and he likely will not be in the bullpen either. Mitre can go back to rehabbing after Tommy John surgery and it unclear if he even has a future with the Yankees.
He certainly earned the D- for his woeful pitching.
Chad Gaudin has made five starts for the Yankees, not including the start he is making Monday night. He has no decisions in any of them. In fact, he has pitched into the sixth inning in only two of them.
But he has been effective in those starts. In 24 1/3 innings, Gaudin has given up 24 hits, 13 walks and nine earned runs. That is ERA of 3.33 and a WHIP of 1.52. Gaudin’s shortcomings are bouts of wildness and he loses effectiveness after four or more innings. 
You have to give Gaudin props if, for nothing else, that the Yankees won every game he started. So a 5-0 record as a fill-in starter is not bad. Gaudin is even more effective in the bullpen where he can pitch multiple innings.
So his role as the long man of the bullpen is all but assured. Girardi held out hope that Gaudin might be selected as the fourth starter if Chamberlain continued to struggle. But Chamberlain’s strong outing against Boston on Friday and Gaudin’s inability to get out of the fifth inning in his last start looks to have sealed his fate to the bullpen.
I would give Gaudin a solid C for his work as a starter.


Grading The Yankees

In July, I wrote about every position and graded each of the starters and pitchers. Now that the Yankees have clinched the American League East title for the 13th time in 14 seasons and have home-field advantage throughout the playoffs, I thought it would be a good idea to give them all second-half grades.
The grades are based solely on their production in the second half. I graded the team pretty strictly in the first half. For instance, I gave the starting pitchers an overall grade of C because collectively they did not pitch real well in the first half.
It will be interesting to see how the second half grades compare to those awarded in the first half. I hope you enjoy reading these evaluations and feel free to comment on them.

Yankees Sweep Bosox To Clinch AL East Title


Champagne sure tastes better when your most bitter rival has to watch you drink it.
The New York Yankees, who began the season by losing eight straight games to the Boston Red Sox, clinched their 13th American League East title in the past 14 seasons, by completing a three-game sweep of the Bosox 4-2 on Sunday afternoon at Yankee Stadium.
The Yankees notched their 100th win of the season and beat Boston for the ninth time in their past 10 meetings to even the season series between the two teams at nine apiece. The Red Sox became the first team in major-league history to win the first eight games of a season series and fail to win the series.
Hideki Matsui put the Yankees in front in the sixth inning with a two-out, two-RBI single to right off former Japanese League rival pitcher Takashi Saito. American League MVP candidate Mark Teixeira added a insurance run with his 38th home run of the season in the eighth to give the Yankees their final margin of victory.
Brian Bruney, Phil Coke and Mariano Rivera combined to protect the lead for starter Andy Pettite (14-7) as the Yankees ran their record since May 8 to a major-league best 87-41. 
The Yankees, who refused to celebrate when they clinched a playoff spot last week, did take part in celebrating this achievement on the field with most of the 47,576 fans in attendance at their new cathedral for baseball they christened this season.
The Yankees not only clinched the AL East title, they also will have home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.
Andy Pettitte, who pitched six strong innings to get the victory, characterized the mindset of the team. 
“It’s been a while since we’ve won one here, and I think everybody is hungry,” Pettitte told “We’re all trying to push each other and grind through. We want to bring another championship to New York. There’s no better place to win than here.”

After missing the playoffs for the first time in 14 seasons in 2008, the Yankees set a goal not to miss them this season and their manager reflected on that on Sunday.
“I think the way last year ended left a bad taste in all of our mouths,” manager Joe Girardi said. “This organization is used to going to the playoffs and playing deep into the postseason. It was hard for all of us. It gave us all a chance to self-reflect and evaluate what we do, and it has paid off.”

“This is the first goal for us, to win the division,” Derek Jeter said. “That’s why we didn’t celebrate when we clinched a playoff spot, because we had our sights on the division. Now we’ve got to regroup in a week and get back to work.”

With the champagne chilling in the Yankee clubhouse and only one win needed to open it, New York began the day by allowing the Red Sox to take a 1-0 lead in the first inning. A wobbly and wild Pettitte walked Kevin Youkilis and David Ortiz after Jason Bay singled with two out.
Mike Lowell made Pettitte pay for his wildness by hitting a hot shot off Pettitte’s foot. The ball ricocheted to Alex Rodriguez at third but he was unable to make a play and Bay scored.
The Red Sox added a run in the third after Bay and Youkilis singled to open the inning and Ortiz walked again. With the bases loaded and no one out, Lowell bounced into a double play that scored Bay.
However, Pettitte struck out J.D. Drew and limited the damage. For the next three innings, Pettitte retired nine of the 10 batters he faced and struck out three. The Red Sox would pay dearly for not knocking out Pettitte when they had him on the ropes early.
Melky Cabrera got the Yankees on the scoreboard in the bottom of the third inning off Boston’s retread starter Paul Byrd. Cabrera hit a first-pitch change-up into the second deck in right for his 13th home run of the season.
Byrd, however, continued to frustrate the Yankees with his assortment of off-speed breaking pitches off the edges of the plate. But the Yankees broke through in the sixth  after there were two outs.
Teixeira touched Byrd for a bloop single to center that Jacoby Ellsbury misjudged and Rodriguez then battled Byrd in a 10-pitch at-bat in which Rodriguez lined a single up the middle.
Red Sox manager Terry Francona replaced Byrd with Saito to pitch to Matsui. After a wild pitch that moved Teixeira to third and Rodriguez to second, Matsui slapped a 2-2 inside fastball into right to score both runners and the Yankees took a 3-2 lead they would never relinquish.
Bruney pitched a perfect seventh and two-thirds of the eighth inning before giving way to a huge ovation from Yankee fans. 

“Everybody here was counting on me, and everybody let me know they appreciated it,” Bruney told “I would have loved to look up and give a thank you, but honestly, I had tears in my eyes and I couldn’t. That’s been my moment in baseball right now. It was an awesome feeling.”

Coke then received spirited applause for striking out Ortiz to end the eighth.
The Red Sox then called on rookie flamethrower Daniel Bard to pitch the eighth. Teixeira greeted the young righthander with a fly ball to right-center that dropped into the first row of seats for a home run. Teixeira, who leads the Amerfican League in RBIs with 120, now trails the Rays’ Carlos Pena, who has 39 home runs, by one home run for the American League lead.
Rivera came on in the ninth to record his 4
4th save but he had to endure some shaky play in the field. 
With one out, Drew singled. Victor Martinez was then sent up to hit for Jason Varitek and he hit a soft liner to the left of Robinson Cano at second. Cano tried to make s spectacular spin move to get Drew at second but dropped the ball for an error.
That put the tying run at first in the form of pinch-runner Brian Anderson and the potential lead run at the plate in pinch-hitter Casey Kotchman. But Rivera induced Kotchman to ground out to Cano, who this time conventionally took the slow roller and gunned down Kotchman while the two runners moved up a base.
Ellsbury became the last batter to stand between the Yankees winning and clinching the AL East title. Rivera threw his famous inside cutter on a 1-1 pitch to Ellsbury and the lefthand hitter could only weakly dribble it back to Rivera to the left of the mound.
Rivera carefully scooped up the slow roller and gently underhanded the ball to Teixeira at first and the celebrations and cheers thundered all around the new Yankee Stadium and echoed out across the street to the old cathedral — the one that Ruth built.
It was clear when Girardi picked the No. 27 for himself last season what the goal was and still  is for the Yankees. They have not lost sight of it this season.
“Joe did a tremendous job from spring training,” Rivera said to “He pulled us together, and we stuck together. That’s the only reason why we accomplished all this. The front office did a tremendous job recruiting a bunch of great guys. That, plus what we have, is why it came as natural as this.”
Now the Yankees can prepare for the playoffs.
“It’s a stepping stone to do some special stuff around here,” Pettitte said. “Hopefully we’ll continue to do this and carry it into the postseason.”

CC Helps Blank Bosox To Win 19th

Ace –  the best pitcher on a baseball team.

                                                                                      — Merriam-Webster Dictionary


CC Sabathia was on a mission on Saturday and by the end of his day on the mound at Yankee Stadium he had achieved it.
Sabathia pitched one-hit shutout baseball for seven innings to win his 19th game of the season as the New York Yankees won their eighth game in their nine meetings with the rival Boston Red Sox 3-0.
The Yankees’ victory coupled with the Red Sox’ defeat left their magic number for clinching the American League East title to just one game with seven games left to play. 
Sabathia (19-7) in becoming the major league’s first 19-game winner also solidified his spot as the Yankees unquestioned ace going into the American League Championship Series.
“The responsibility I feel, the definition of an ace, is just giving the team a chance to win every time,” Sabathia said. “With these guys, you feel like you have a chance to win every time you go out there. That’s what I try to do. I go out and give everything I have.”

Robinson Cano provided all the offense Sabathia and the Yankees really needed with his 24th  home run of the season in the sixth inning off Red Sox starter Daisuke Matsuzaka (3-6). The solo shot, which hit off the top of the leftfield wall and bounced into the seats, ended a scoreless duel between the two pitchers as Sabathia remained undefeated in his 11 starts since Aug. 2.
“He’s been everything that you’d ask for and more,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said to “From the way he’s pitched on the field, the way he right away in Spring Training came and brought the pitching staff together, he is an ace.”

Johnny Damon added a two-run single with the bases loaded and two out in the eighth inning to give the Yankees a three-run cushion to closer Mariano Rivera in the ninth as he notched his 43rd save of the season.
The Yankees can clinch the AL East title they had won 12 consecutive seasons before losing to the Tampa Bay Rays in 2008 by sweeping the Red Sox on Sunday afternoon. A victory also would tie the season series between the two rivals at nine even though the Yankees lost the first eight games of the season to the Red Sox.
“We haven’t gotten there yet,” Derek Jeter said. “We know we’re going to the postseason, which is good. But we have a series of goals or steps when we go to Spring Training, and the first one is to win the division, and we haven’t done that yet.”

Girardi refuses to state what his postseason plans until the Yankees do clinch the division title, but no matter what happens this week Girardi is sure that Sabathia will have the ball in Game 1 of the ALDS.
Sabathia does not think it is much of a burden at all.
“I don’t think it feels like a big burden,” Sabathia said. “I think earlier in my career, in Cleveland after Bartolo [Colon] left, we were looking for that guy. I wanted to be that guy so much and it took a toll, 23 years old and trying to be that guy. Now, I’m a bit older, and I understand what I need to do to be successful.”

Sabathia ended his day after 96 pitches. He walked two batters and struck out eight. He retired the first 11 batters he faced until Victor Martinez drew a walk in the fourth inning. Mike Lowell broke up Sabathia’s no-hit bid in the fifth inning with a single to centerfield.
But Sabathia did not let the hit deter him and he continued to mow down the Red Sox.
“He’s pitched tough against us almost every time,” Lowell said. “He’s a guy who has elite stuff. He’s so big on the mound, it looks like he’s about 10 feet away from you, which seems a little bit unfair. He’s got a plus fastball, he’s throwing his changeup for strikes. He can come in, he can go out. When he’s executing his pitches, he’s tough for anyone.”

Matsuzaka shut the Yankees out until the sixth but he was hardly as sharp as Sabathia. He gave up six hits and five walks in his seven innings of work with the Yankees failing to get a big hit to score a run.
Like Houdini, Matsuzaka got out of a bases-loaded, no-out jam in the fifth inning by getting a great play from Martinez. Alex Rodriguez hit a dribbler down the first-base line that Martinez fielded and dove to tag home plate just ahead of Jeter.
Matsuzaka completed the inning by getting foul pops off the bats of Hideki Matsui and Nick Swisher to end the threat.
“He just mixes his pitches, and he lives on the corners,” Girardi said to “He cuts it and he sinks it and changes speeds. It seemed like when we did get some runners on, he got us to chase pitches. He did a nice job. Fortunately, our guy was a little bit better.”

The Yankees were 0-for-13 with runners in scoring position until Damon’s bloop single into shallow rightfield off Red Sox reliever Billy Wagner. Both runs that scored were unearned bec
ause shortstop Chris Woodward was charged an error for allowing Brett Gardner to escape a rundown off a wild pitch from Wagner.
A throw from Martinez ticked off Woodward’s glove and Gardner slid back into third safely, much to the delight of the Yankee faithful among the crowd of 48,809 at the stadium.
Damon’s blow came on Wagner’s 38th pitch of the inning in which he walked two batters and hit another to load the bases. Now Damon looks forward to clinching the AL East and the Yankees’ ultimate goal.

“It’s a good feeling,” Damon said. “Hopefully, we can do something about it tomorrow, but even when that does happen, we still have to go win 11 more games in the postseason. That’s what we’re shooting for.”

Yankees Nip Angels, Clinch Playoff Berth

“Playoffs?! Don’t talk about playoffs! Are you kidding me? Playoffs?! I’m just hoping we can win a game, another game!”

                                                         — Former Indianapolis Colts Head Coach Jim Mora


One can almost hear manager Joe Girardi echo the sentiments of Jim Mora as the New York Yankees, indeed, became the first major-league team to clinch a playoff berth in 2009.
The Yankees have not exactly played well, having lost six of their past 10 games entering Tuesday night. They also did not play well against the Los Angeles Angels, blowing a 5-0 lead. But they did manage to collect themselves in the ninth inning to beat the Angels for the first time in 2009 at Angels Stadium 6-5.
The last time the Yankees beat the Angels on Sept. 14 at Yankee Stadium, it was on the speed of Brett Gardner. Gardner again used his speed to help beat the Halos when he singled to lead off the ninth inning off reliever Matt Palmer (10-2) and stole second base with Derek Jeter at the plate. 
Jeter later drew a four-pitch walk and the Angels manager Mike Scioscia brought in lefthander Darren Oliver to pitch to Johnny Damon.
After falling behind in the count 1-2 on two foul bunt attempts, Damon rolled a perfect sacrifice bunt up the first-base line that advanced Gardner to third and Jeter to second. Oliver then intentionally walked Mark Teixeira to load the bases.
Alex Rodriguez, who in third inning had hit a two-run home run for the Yankees first two runs of the game, delivered a line-drive sacrifice fly to Torii Hunter in centerfield. Hunter caught the drive and threw a strike all the way to catcher Brian Budde but the speedy Gardner slid safely under Budde’s left leg and Budde dropped the throw.
Mariano Rivera pitched the ninth inning and used a strike-’em-out-throw-’em-out double play by Jorge Posada to retire Juan Rivera and pinch-runner Reggie Willits en route to his 41st save of the season.
The Yankees actually clinched the playoff spot before the game ended when the Texas Rangers lost to the Oakland Athletics 9-1 in Oakland.
It will be the Yankees 14th playoff appearance in the past 15 seasons. As a franchise the team has gone to the postseason 47 times in 107 seasons.
Now the Yankees will have to determine whether that berth will be as a wild card or as the champion of the American League East. The Yankees’ victory coupled with the Boston Red Sox 5-1 loss to the Kansas City Royals dropped the Yankees magic number to win the AL East to six games.
The Yankees also pushed their lead for the best record in the American League to 4 1/2 games over the Angels. They will play the rubber game of the series with the Angels on Wednesday afternoon.
The Yankees’ offense stalled badly in the first two innings against Angels starter Ervin Santana. 
In the first inning Rodriguez struck out with Jeter at third and Damon on first and only one out. Posada ended the inning on a flyout with the bases loaded.
In the second inning, Jeter stranded Robinson Cano at third with two out by striking out on a pitch out of the strike zone.
But the Yankees did manage to break through on Santana in the third when Rodriguez homered with Teixeira on first and one out with the 580th home run of his career on a 3-0 pitch. The blast landed in the rock formation almost in dead centerfield.
Hideki Matsui then reached first base on catcher’s interference by Jeff Mathis. On a 2-0 pitch Jorge Posada connected for his 22nd home run of the season and made the score 4-0.
Matsui extended the lead to 5-0 when he blasted his 28th home run of the season leading off the fifth inning. 
The Yankees looked to be in good shape because starting pitcher Chad Gaudin had shut out the Angels in the first four innings on just three hits. Things in the bottom of the fifth looked even better when Gaudin retired the the first two hitters.
However, the wheels came off the Gaudin Express rather quickly.
Chone Figgins slipped a fly ball just inside the foul pole in right for his fifth home run of the season. Maicer Izturis then doubled and Bobby Abreu worked Gaudin for a walk. 
Vladimir Guerrero then chased Gaudin with a line single to left to score Izturis. Reliever Alfredo Aceves ended the threat by coming in to strike out Hunter.
But the usually reliable Aceves showed some rust after eight days of inactivity when he ran into trouble in the sixth inning. Kendry Morales, who was 4-for-4 in the game, opened the frame with a single to center. Juan Rivera followed with a single of his own.
After one out, pinch-hitter Gary Matthews lined an 0-2 pitch into right to score Morales. Figgins singled to left and the bases were now loaded. After Izturis was retired on a foul pop to Rodriguez, Abreu drew another walk to make it 5-4.
Rodriguez then rescued Aceves when he flagged down a hot smash down the left-field line and threw out Guerrero by two steps to keep the Yankees in front.
The lead held until the Yankees’ defense let down Phil Hughes (8-3) in the eighth inning. 
Howie Kendrick led of the eighth with a one-hopper that Cano misplayed for an error. With Figgins at the plate, Kendrick stole second base and he advanced to third when Posada’s throw to second rolled into centerfield for the Yankees’ second error of the frame.
Hughes retired Figgins on an infield popup but Izturis lined a 3-1 pitch to right to score Kendrick with the tying run. Hughes escaped further damage in the inning by fanning Guerrero and Hunter.
That allowed the Yankees to mount their winning rally in the ninth.
Now the Yankees will try to win the series on Wednesday with A.J. Burnett (11-9, 4.22 ERA) scheduled to pitch. He will be opposed by former Tampa Bay Rays’ lefthander Scott Kazmir (9-8, 5.08 ERA).
Gametime is 3:35 p.m. EDT.

Tex Wrecks Mariners As CC Wins No. 18


Mark Teixeira stepped to the plate in the ninth inning needing only a double for the cycle and when he blasted his second home run of the game he took some good-natured ribbing from his teammates when he reached the dugout.
The New York Yankees could afford to laugh it up as Teixeira singled, tripled and hit two home runs and drove in five runs while CC Sabathia pitched seven solid innings to earn his American League-leading 18th victory in a 10-1 laugher over the Seattle Mariners on Saturday night.
Things were not so funny for the Yankees in the fifth inning when Sabathia took a shot to the chest off the bat of Franklin Gutierrez. Gutierrez reached first on a single while the Yankees coaches and players raced to check on their ace lefthander’s condition.
Sabathia (18-7) told manager Joe Girardi and trainer Steve Donahue that he was fine and he continued to go seven innings, giving up one unearned run on five hits and two walks. Sabathia fanned eight en route to his eighth consecutive victory in his past 11 starts.
Teixeira led the offense with a RBI triple in the first inning that actually was a home run that Gutierrez brought back into Safeco Field but he could hold it in his glove. The veteran first baseman added a three-run home run in the fifth inning to break the game open for the Yankees at 6-0.
After he hit a solid single in the seventh inning, Teixeira needed only a double in the ninth inning to become the second Yankee to hit for the cycle this season. On Aug. 2 Melky Cabrera became the first Yankee to accomplish the feat since Tony Fernandez in 1995 when he hit for the cycle in an 8-5 victory over the Chicago White Sox.
Instead Teixeira launched a solo shot into left-center 37th home run of the season. Teixeira trails the Tampa Bay Rays’ Carlos Pena by just two home runs for the AL lead in the category and Pena is out for the rest of the season with two broken fingers in his left hand.
Teixeira, who entered the contest leading the AL in RBIs with 113, now has 118 and leads the Rays’ Evan Longoria by 10 RBIs.
Hideki Matsui added a solo home run in the fourth inning for the Yankees and it broke Don Baylor’s club record for home runs by a designated hitter with 26. 
Robinson Cano collected four hits on the night, three of them doubles, as the Yankees pounded Mariners starter Doug Fister (2-3) and four relief pitchers for 18 hits. The Yankees collected at least one hit in all nine innings.
Sabathia lost his shutout in the fifth inning a batter after Gutierrez struck him with a line drive. Jose Lopez followed with a hot grounder down the line that Alex Rodriguez fielded but his throw to first eluded Teixeira and rolled into foul territory down the right-field line. The error on Rodriguez allowed Gutierrez to score the Mariners lone run of the evening.
Sabathia got out the inning when Teixeira reached far into the seats behind first base to catch a foul popup off the bat of Mike Sweeney. Sabathia pitched two perfect frames in the sixth and seventh innings before giving way to the bullpen.
Brian Bruney and Jonathan Albaladejo pitched scoreless frames in the eighth and ninth innings, respectively, as the Yankees rebounded from a devastating 3-2 walkoff comeback victory by the Mariners on Friday night.
The victory allowed the Yankees to reduce their playoff magic number to two and their division magic number is now nine. The Yankees have a six-game lead on the second-place Red Sox in the AL East.
They will now try to take the rubber game of the weekend series with the Mariners on Sunday afternoon. Joba Chamberlain (8-5, 4.39) will pitch for the Yankees. He will be opposed by Ian Snell (6-10, 5.17 ERA).
Gametime is 4:10 p.m. EDT.