The 5-2 Win

Wright was 2 outs shy of sticking together back-to-back 6 inning efforts, but was yanked after allowing a 1-out single in the 6th. His pitch count was only at 83, which is uncharacteristically low for Wright, so I think he could’ve lasted another 4 or 5 outs. But Torre wasted no time in calling for Proctor and what followed was a bizarre inning. A 4 pitch walk to Guerrero. Then Orlando Cabrera stole second and third base without attracting a throw. Then Vlad stole second base, but was picked off a batter later by Posada to end the threat. Proctor followed that inning with a scoreless 7th and the flame thrower Farnsworth came in to pitch a perfect eighth. All in all, Yankees pitchers were hit only 4 times and allowed only 2 runs. What could’ve caused trouble were Jaret’s 4 walks, but I think he excells at thwarting the rallies he creates. And even though the Angels weren’t exactly piling on the runs, it would’ve been reassuring to see a couple clutch hits with runners on base. In the third inning with runners at 2nd and 1st and 1 out, Posada ended it with a double play. In the fifth inning with runners at the corners and 1 out, A-Rod grounded into a double play. In the seventh inning with Melky at 3rd and 2 outs, Jeter ended the inning with a swinging K. In the eighth inning with runners at 2nd and 1st with 1 out, Posada popped up and Cano went down on strikes. I guess it doesn’t matter though, because Mariano comes in and records an easy 1-2-3 ninth for his 30th save in 33 opportunities. I don’t expect every potential run to score, but to pick up ready-made runs on a sacrifice fly and not depend on the opposing pitcher to make a few mistakes in one inning would only benefit the Yankees and their bullpen a lot. We’re an offensively minded team and to see only 5 runs on the board today and only 4 runs last night when more were to be had is slightly disappointing. But a win’s a win I guess, and the Yankees’ division lead remains at 2 games.

I was originally thinking that the Yankees needed to win the next 2 games against the Angels to offset the series loss to Chicago. That would be helpful, but I stopped to look at the schedule and reminded myself how many games are left to play. That would be….a lot. We’re in no rush yet. A series split though is necessary. What would help is either Jeter getting out of his 5-for-29 (.172) slump or Damon and A-Rod hitting a little more often. Those two are born .333 hitters and both are currently below .290. The arrival of Cano has helped significantly. Maybe I’m being unreasonable, but the way I look at it is when you have superstar talent like Damon, Jeter, A-Rod, Cano, etc., you want to see it working to perfection simultaneously. And right now it isn’t. But like I ended the last paragraph, maybe it doesn’t matter because we won today and a win’s a win. A-Rod did go 2-for-3 today with 2 doubles and a run scored. I haven’t overlooked that. Neither have I overlooked Robbie’s sweet swing on that 3-run homer. He really does have a nice swing. I still like Bernie’s the best though. I feel weird calling a guy’s swing "pretty", but I have no other word for Bernie’s. Bernie has one of the prettiest swings in the majors.

Right now, if anything should prevent the Yankees from winning consistently, it’s the shallow bullpen. We’ve got four lights out arms in Villone, Proctor, Farnsworth and Rivera, but in September and the postseason, we can’t count on them to weather the storm alone. Can we? All it takes is one sub-4 inning start from Lidle or Wright or Johnson, and we’ll over tax 3 relievers for 6 or 7 innings. Who’s to relieve the next game? Veras? Nope. Ponson? Sure, but we better have a double digit lead. Myers? Can he pitch to anyone but a lefty? I suppose the postseason provides the luxury of using a starting pitcher in relief, but we can’t plan ahead. What’s more important than the arrival of Matsui or Sheffield is the return of Dotel. Because the offense and starting rotation are covered. One more reliever would be a priceless safety net.

The Chicago Series

It’s pretty enjoyable to make fun of the Red Sox right now for getting swept by the raging tornado that is the KC Royals, but the Yankees would’ve been swept by a cellar team also if they played how they played last night. You’re going to lose no matter who your opponent is when you strand 15 runners on base. That’s 15 runs the Yankees could’ve scored, should’ve scored and didn’t. We failed again and again and again. The White Sox didn’t play great either, only 3 of their 5 runs were earned and their pitchers issued 7 walks. The White Sox didn’t win that game as much as we simply lost it.

But what can you do? It’s impossible to be perfect everyday, so we just have to laugh it off and look at the positives. Robbie Cano has stormed back into the lineup, going 7-for-14 with a homer in the Chicago series. I think Torre might consider putting him higher in the lineup, or at least in the #9 spot so he’s followed by more consistent hitters. When the guys behind you are Wilson and Melky, don’t get me wrong I love Melky, but the odds of scoring a lot of runs are against you. Statistically the run scoring opportunities are increased when a .333 hitter (Cano) is followed by a .290 hitter (Damon) and a .345 hitter (Jeter) instead of hitters at .268 (Wilson) and .280 (Melky).  Moving on, Abreu stole 2 bases last night and both Giambi and Melky hit 2-run homers. We were patient at the plate, forcing deep counts, and got a total 12 hits and 7 walks, it’s just unfortunate we weren’t able to string them together. The offense was working. The timing wasn’t. That’s baseball for you. Matter of fact, we out hit the ChiSox 33-27 in the series. That’s an 11 hits per game average vs. 9 hits per game. Basically the same thing. All three games were decided by one run. Even though we lost the series, you have to feel good that we were able to keep pace with the Champions. We were barely edged out. That edge could change sides in a 7 game series such as the ALCS. I think that’s how Torre evaluates a series. It’s similar to what Mattingly says about hitting, "you can have a good at-bat without getting a hit". Well, you can have a good series without winning it.

I know in the past we’ve been owned by the Angels, but they’re a different club this year, a weaker club than in years past. The Haloes are 9th in the AL in runs scored, but are second in ERA. In a nutshell, these next 4 games should be low scoring, which means they’ll be won in the late innings, quite possibly resulting in a battle of the bullpens. Our bullpen was overworked in the Chicago series, so we need to start the series on the right foot, and that is by Lidle eating up a good 7 or 8 innings. That would be just what the doctor ordered. The reliever’s IPs for the Chicago series are:

Proctor, 3 IP
Villone, 2.1
Rivera, 2.1
Farnsworth, 1.2
Myers, .2 (I can’t recall the last time Myers pitched twice in a series)
Veras, .1

The bullpen pitched a total 10.1 innings in 3 games. That’s a few more than ideal, but not disastrous. In the first series of August, when we swept the Blue Jays, the bullpen contributed 8 innings. Right after the All-Star break, when we swept the White Sox, the bullpen pitched 8.2 innings. When we swept the Rangers a few weeks later, the bullpen pitched 9.2 innings. It might not seem like much of a difference, but I think it is, especially when you’re starting a stretch of 21 games in 20 days.

In the first of a 4 game set, the pitcher we’re up against is 25 year old rookie southpaw Joe Saunders. He’s started in only three games this year, gone exactly 7 innings in all three and ended up with the win in all three. I haven’t heard anything about him yet, but these numbers are incredible.

July 18, v. CLE: 7 IP, 4 H, 1 ER
Aug. 1, v. OAK: 7 IP, 5 H, 2 ER
Aug. 6, v. TEX: 7 IP, 3 H, 0 ER

That’s basically 3 masterpieces in a row. Hopefully Lidle can match those. I think he can, but who knows if he will tonight. The timing at the plate didn’t grace the Yankees last night. Here’s hoping we have a timely gem from our 5th starter tonight.

A Thrilling 7-6 Win

Thank goodness! That was horrifying! Blowing a 7 run lead…totally unacceptable. But it is the World Champion White Sox so no big surprise that they’re able to plate 6 runs in about 3 minutes. I never doubt Rivera, but I have tremendous respect for that killer Chicago lineup. That’s a tough bunch. But Rivera has only blown saves in back to back games once in his entire career, and that was last year to the BoSox.

Well, now that the bullpen’s completely burnt, I have a hard time believing we’ll win tomorrow, unless we have a 20-run lead. Luckily Proctor didn’t pitch, so at least he’ll be available. Rivera has pitched a full 3-game series before, so if really necessary, I’m sure Torre would be desperate enough for a win to call in Mo. Since the All-Star break, Farnsworth has been great so I think this was just a blip in the radar. A rough outing that won’t repeat itself soon. Villone was absolutely, positively fantastic, terrific and spectacular. Facing a bases loaded, no out situation in the 7th, he induced two infield pop ups and then an inning ending fly ball. Perfect, man! That’s the game’s pivotal moment, when the Sox could’ve busted down the doors early, but Villone has turned into a pretty good stopper. Very nice. And Rivera, pure magic. The cutter that caused a weakling of a bloop that fell back into #42’s glove totally owned Pierzynski. It crippled him! And then after a rare hit-by-pitch and an Iguchi single, the ChiSox weren’t going quietly and the Sandman was engaged in a stare down with Thome. The choppy grounder Thome hit up the middle was fielded so smoothly by Cano that it looked like Robbie’s mind was elsewhere. I think it was a tougher play than it appeared. At some point in his career, Cano is bound to win a Gold Glove.

That was Rivera’s 29th save on the year and the Yankees’ 67th win. What a thrilling cap to an edge-of-your-seat conclusion. What a great way to begin a game though, a Damon stand up triple, followed by base hits from Jeter and Abreu. Abreu’s been on fire and he’s lighting up pitchers in every game. Tonight he went deep for his first Yankee homer. A-Rod also chipped in 2 hits and an RBI. Way to go A-Rod! Jeter stole a bag, 25th in 28 attempts. And Melky added a solo shot, which you could say is the difference maker considering we won by 1-run. However, the Yankees’ last run was scored in the seventh inning on Posada’s ground out. The inning started with a lead off double from Phillips who advanced to third on a passed ball. Jeter walked and then stole second. That stolen base was probably what made a 7th run possible because A-Rod follwed up with a single, which advanced Jeter to third base instead of just second. Posada then grounded out and Jeter drew no throw home as he crossed the plate. Were it not for stealing second, Jeter could’ve been stranded at third and Crede’s bomb would’ve tied the game at 6 apiece. Way to get that extra run Captain!!! Jeter rocks!!!

That extra run enabled Randy to get his 12th win, a win he so deserved after taking a no-no through 6 innings. I was impressed once again by the Unit who’s been all over the charts this year. He’s had to battle his peaks and valleys, and tonight we saw a peak and we won because of it. He’s pitching like a decent #3 starter, and as long as Moose and Wang precede him with their usual dominance, the effectiveness of the rotation remains intact.

This game reminded me of how powerful and frightening the Chicago White Sox lineup is. All they need is their starters and bullpen to find consistency and they’ll appear in a second straight World Series. I’m not making predictions, only mentioning the possibility. The 3 through 7 slots in the lineup are .300 hitters or better and boy, do they have pop. I don’t know if it’s a Murderer’s Row, but it’s pretty dang close.

Well, tonight was a well fought and hard earned win, but it’s time to turn our gaze to tomorrow. Vazquez hasn’t been the most feared pitcher in the league thus far, but he’s coming off a stellar 8-inning, 1 run outing against none other than the hard hitting Blue Jays. Moose’s performance against Baltimore 5 days ago wasn’t so cool. He needs to refind the touch he so brilliantly displayed when he won 5 straight games earlier in the year. The momentum’s in our favor, so let’s go out there and wrap up another series victory.

The 6-5 Loss

Bummer. It would’ve felt really good to pick up Rivera after a rare blown save and a rare home run. But the offense couldn’t get a rally together. In the ninth inning we stranded Cano at third with 1 out. In the eleventh inning we stranded Cano at second with 1 out. In the eighth inning we had the bases loaded with 1 out and were it not for Giambi getting plunked on the elbow, we would’ve stranded 3 more runners. A-Rod had a nice game going 3-for-3 with a 2-run homer and a stolen base. In his first game since June 25th, Cano went 3-for-5 with a double. And Posada was a perfect 3-for-3 in throwing out base runners. Managers are going to have to wise up and stop running on him.

Even though the bullpen let us down twice, you can’t blame them. They’ve been too good all year, the offense didn’t give them any margin for error and they had to face the majors’ highest scoring team. Winning on a day Boston lost would’ve been helpful, but we can’t rely on other teams. As long as we win every series we’ll end up on the field come October. 

If we had kept the one run lead and finished on top, the reason would’ve been a play in the first inning when Podsednik was thrown out trying to stretch a double into a triple. Abreu fed a strong throw to Cano who shot a BB at third and A-Rod put the tag on for out #1. If Podsednik was safe it’s a sure run. Another great play came in the second inning when Chien-Ming Wang faced a bases loaded and no out situation. The White Sox batter hit a high chopper back to the mound and Wang leaped to grab it, threw home and Posada turned the easy 1-2-3 double play. But then Cintron got a 2-out base hit and a few runs scored. Wang didn’t have his A-game. It’s to be expected, but he still pitched well. Well enough to get a win at least. He faced the team that leads the majors in runs and he only allowed 4 when he clearly didn’t have his best stuff working. I’m positive so I call it a commendable effort. The Yankees didn’t play poorly. The ChiSox were just a bit better.

The Yankees stand at 66-43. Last year at this time (after 109 games) the Yankees’ record was 59-50. That’s a 7 game improvement! Just by keeping a steady pace and avoiding series losses, the Yanks have it made. But first we need to regain momentum tomorrow. LET’S GO RANDY!!!

The 6-1 Win

Not sure what happened yesterday with our lineup and the Orioles’ pitchers, but today the Bombers got 7 extra base hits from the offense. Giambi went 3-for-3 with a homer and a double. Abreu went 3-for-4 with 2 stolen bases. Damon went 2-for-5 with a homer. Jaret gave 6 innings of one-run ball. And Mariano recorded a 4-out save, his 28th in 30 chances. I guess it counts as a save because Mo inherited runners at 2nd and 3rd in the 8th with a 4-run lead. But the headline news is that Jaret Wright pitched a full 6 innings for the first time since July 7th. And he only threw 95 pitches, which improves upon his 103 pitch count in 5 innings last time out. If Torre needed to rest the bullpen another inning, then I’m sure Jaret could’ve given it to him. And that’s a good thing. Who knows when it will happen again, but it helped win a game today. And winning today is all that matters.

Also good news: I hear Cano will rejoin the Yanks in the upcoming Chicago series. We’ve taken over first place with Cairo and Green, so getting a healthy .325 hitter back will help keep that lead, which is basically not even a lead considering how many games are left. But right now, everything’s going our way so we have to live in the moment.

Trivia: On this date last year the Yankees’ record was 58-50. They’re currently 66-42.

The 8-1 Win

Well, the first comment I have today is that the Astros’ throwback jerseys look awesome and they need to ditch their regular uniforms for these.

Lidle won his debut and the starter he replaced got the last 4 outs in relief. That would be Ponson who also allowed 2 hits and seemed to be getting into a lot of hitters’ counts, but in the end he got the job done, which is all that matters. Not long after recording the second out in the eighth Farnsworth was removed because his throwing hand was hit by a comebacking chopper. If it’s just his hand I think he’ll probably be ok. I hope he is because the Proctor-Farnsworth-Rivera unit have become very reliable and nearly unhittable. Losing him would be another staggering loss.

The lineup did it’s thing today. Take pitches. Get on base. Get hits. Set the table: Jeter and A-Rod. Clear the table: Giambi. In a flash we have 3 runs on the board. Set the table: A-Rod and Giambi. Clear the table: Craig Wilson. And before you know it, the floodgates have opened and we have 8 runs. Melky also chipped in an RBI single. So a successful day at the plate overall with the exception of Nick Green who went oh-for-4 and took some truly horrible swings at pitches no where near the strike zone. Fasano didn’t look so swift either, with 3 Ks, including a strike ’em out, throw ’em out double play. But he did make a nice play on a pop up near the on-deck circle. The Blue Jays hitter standing there didn’t move out of the way, so luckily he wasn’t decked by Sal who’s a pretty big guy. And I’m sure Sal would’ve caught the ball regardless of who was standing there. Hitting wise he doesn’t look so great, but I trust his defense. Earlier in the year he was on Web Gems with one of the greatest plays I’ve ever seen a catcher make. It was like a Jim Edmond’s over-the-shoulder catch, but Sal was sliding when he made it. Check it out here and scroll down to May 23. Rewatching it I’m thinking, "man, I love this guy. That’s some crazy effort". In my mind, that’s one of the plays of the year.

I think Abreu likes hitting third. That guy has wheels. I’ve never paid much attention to his baserunning, but he flies around the bases like Jeter. Two nights ago in his debut in pinstripes he grounded out to the second baseman and the ball was fielded cleanly, but Bobby was still only a step away from beating the throw. It reminded me of that ninth inning against the Mets when Damon legged out an infield single for an RBI against Wagner. A game we ultimately won. Well, that’s the type of thing Abreu will be doing.

Have I mentioned Lidle yet? He was spectacular. Maybe I’m exaggerating, but I think 6 innings of 1-run ball from a #5 starter is hard to come by and a coveted commodity in both leagues. Hopefully this becomes a trend for him.  Statistically he’s a much better pitcher in the second half.

13 games left till the 5 game bout at Fenway. Needless to say, a pivotal series. While there’s still a full month of games left after that, I think winning 4 or even all 5 of those could be enough to cement the division leader in place. Of course, an extended losing streak would then reverse that, but there’s a chance it could have a big impact on who ends up winning the East. If the Yankees are able to finish the next 13 games with a 10-3 or better record, then losing the Fenway series wouldn’t be that bad. It just depends. And if the Yanks and Sox stay neck and neck, then the pennant race doesn’t really start until the season’s last two series. That’s probably when it will be decided. I’m not putting any stock in Varitek and Nixon being on the DL. To me that means nothing and I don’t see how it could translate into losses. But if they lose Papi, they can kiss the division goodbye.

The 5-1 Win

Tonight’s good news, even more so than the win, at least for me, is that Sheffield has said he will change position to accomodate Abreu. I was worried about that becoming a serious team chemistry problem, but now that the Master Sheff doesn’t mind playing third base, first base, left field, center field or DH, we’ll rest assured that once he’s off the DL that big bat of his will be in the lineup. I love the acquisition of Abreu, but Bobby doesn’t compare to the intimidation factor of Sheffield. We really need both of them.

Wright was as usual. Too many pitches (103) crammed into 5 innings, 5 hits and 1 run. But as long as he’s allowing 1, 2 or 3 runs, the Yanks have a chance to win and you can’t complain. Luckily Villone, Proctor and Farnsworth have been untouchable.  But pretty soon, when the innings begin to stack up, I don’t know if we can expect the bullpen to pitch 4 innings every time Wright starts. Right now we’re getting by, but it might not be so easy in two months.

Wright’s pivotal moment was in the fourth inning when, with 2 outs and runners at the corners and a full count on McDonald, he induced a ground out. That kept Toronto’s lead at one run and set up the Yankees’ big inning. If McDonald reached base, I bet Torre would’ve called to the bullpen because Wright’s pitch count was in the high 80s to low 90s.

Our 4 runs in the bottom half were created by A-Rod, Abreu and Bernie. With Jeter and Giambi already on base, A-Rod doubled in the tieing run and then Abreu walked to reset the table for Bernie who doubled home all three base runners for a 4-1 lead. Then in the seventh inning A-Rod knocked in another run which pushed the score to 5-1 and saved Mo for another day. That run proved very important because if the score remained 4-1, Mo would’ve pitched the ninth and I’m all for saving Mo’s arm a little bit here and there even though I know he has no problem pitching on back to back to back nights.

Chien-Ming Wang needs to pitch a good game tomorrow. 7 or 8 innings would be paradise. Everytime after Wright pitches I feel thirsty and the best quencher for that kind of thirst is an old fashioned complete game. Wang went the distance last time out, so maybe that means he only lasts 6 innings this time. I don’t know, but like always I see a sweep on the horizon and if the bullpen gets some more rest then that could become a reality. One thing I’ve learned from this season is the wonders that a rested bullpen can do. Now I know why the White Sox were so good last year.

Also good news, Utley got #33. I wouldn’t mind seeing a 50 gamer in my lifetime. Got a ways to go though. Keep up the chase.