Bummer. A waste of Randy Johnson’s spectacular game. 8 innings, 3 runs (2 earned), 11 strike outs, 1 walk. That’s a pitching line that deserves a win. Then Farnsworth equaled The Unit’s dominance in the ninth, only tossed 4 pitches. But the Seattle arms had our number too.
The Mariners tried running on Stinnett 4 times. They were caught twice in strike ’em out, throw ’em out double plays. Only Ichiro was fast enough to beat the throw on both attempts. One of his stolen bases gave the Mariners the winning run when Stinnett’s throw bounced into centerfield. Ichiro advanced to third and scored on Ibanez’s sac fly.
The way I approach baseball is that luck finds the team who deserves it. When you win 1-0 in back to back games against the worst team in the AL, you’re doing something right that makes stuff align perfectly for you. Scoring only 2 runs in 16 innings against the team with the highest ERA in the American League is kind of pathetic. It isn’t impressive and it doesn’t deserve two wins. But you have to give credit to those Boston pitchers, stepping up when they needed to. They have an ERA of O.OO in the last 23 innings and an ERA of 2.40 over the last 5 games during which they have 4 wins. Streaks like this happen for every team, so I’m not giving up hope or heaping the praises on Boston. Nevertheless, I am impressed by Boston’s last two games. Winning a 1-0 game twice in a row seems like a challenging thing to do. I’m just down right now because we lost this game with no offense while Boston managed to win two straight games with no offense. Oh well, there’s always tomorrow.
And over the coming 4 game series against Toronto, the offense will need to show up. The cold weather above the border must freeze the better part of those Blue Jays’ arms (except for Halladay’s and Ryan’s), so putting on a fireworks display might not be a challenge for the Bombers. The Blue Jays have the ninth best ERA in the AL. Only the Royals and Orioles have allowed more home runs in the AL than Toronto. And I’ve read that their bullpen averages about 7 walks per 9 innings. Except for Halladay they don’t have a reliable starting pitcher. Lilly’s been ok, leads the team in strike outs, but walks about 4 or 5 batters a game. Burnett’s only pitched 7 games, has a losing record and an ERA above 4. He averages about 6 innings a start and has 41 strike outs and only 8 walks in 42.1 innings. Their offense leads the AL in batting average. They’re second in home runs and fifth in runs scored. So they’ll pose a threat, but I think the Jays are a bit overrated. I agree that the AL East is a three team race, but the Jays will finish in third because the Sox and Yanks are on a higher playing level. The Jays do have one of my favorite players though, Frank Catalanotto, the Prince of Palermo.
I was looking at the rankings for blown saves in the AL and here’s what I found, from most to least:
Royals…20 blown saves
I’m not sure what this means. You hear a lot about how championship teams are made of great pitching and great bullpens, so I suppose one way to read this is that the A’s and Rangers have no chance if the Angels can put together a major league lineup. And maybe we should consider the Twins more of a threat in the Central. I have no clue, but I’m sure it means something.
I’m reading this book called Dynasty: The New York Yankees 1949-1964 by Peter Golenbock and something in it caught me by surprise. It’s just a minor detail, nothing big, but here it is: "With the score 2-1 (Yanks losing) Maris doubled, went to third on a wild pitch, and scored on a bunt by Mantle". When I read that Mantle was asked to lay down a sac bunt, I was thinking, "why?". Maybe they wanted to spare his arms and legs any more abuse, which I know were killing him. Anyway, I found it interesting and felt like sharing.
I also found it interesting that this author makes it seem like the people who didn’t want Maris to break Ruth’s record were the minority. I’ve heard the story about Maris losing clumps of hair and I thought that happened throughout the whole season. But this author says it happened for the first time just a week before season’s end. I was also told by a Red Sox fan (and college professor) that Yankee management didn’t want Maris to break the record, so they batted him lower in the lineup to decrease his number of at-bats. According to this book, that’s completely false. I was also surprised that Maris recieved a full house standing ovation when he hit home runs 60 and 61. In the past I’ve heard that Yankee fans hated him because they were too much in love with Mantle. I don’t think the author is writing through rose tinted glasses because he does include extensively how much stress and pressure Maris was under. However, from now on I’ll be cautious of all the dramatized stories. The manager batting Maris ninth….bologna. Don’t know why I believed that.
I was hoping the Rangers could help us out with a win over the Red Sox. After Wakefield was removed in the eighth it looked possible as Blalock singled off Papelbon for his first blown save of the year. That was just the tieing run though and the Rangers’ former closer Francisco Cordero made quick work of allowing the winning run. My opinion of the Rangers is that they aren’t a very good team and it occured to me that the American League has only about 5 really good teams: the Yankees, Red Sox, Blue Jays, Tigers and White Sox. And I still think the Tigers and Blue Jays are dubious. So basically when it comes down to it, the AL has only three teams who could weather serious postseason competition. And unless the submarine teams Cleveland and Oakland surface and bomb everyone they play in the second half, which seems to be their annual strategy, we only have three teams with legitimate chances at success in the playoffs: Yankees, Red Sox, White Sox. Even factoring in the White Sox pitching troubles of late, I think their defense and power gives them the edge over the Yankees and Red Sox. However, in the last few weeks, the Yankees have played amazing baseball, some of the best baseball I’ve seen played in awhile. They became that organized, economic dynamo and found what makes it click. I honestly see the World Series in this teams 2006 future and I want Melky Cabrera for World Series MVP. Whoa! Take a deep breath Charles. Calm down for a few secs. Yeah, it’s only June. 4 months left. And if history repeats itself, everything I just said will prove incorrect as I have never been adept at forecasting events, performances, etc. But still, I love how the Yankees have played lately and I think they have mountains of untapped potential. The best is yet to come.
I like Tim Wakefield. He’s a Hall of Fame baseball player in my book. I don’t know why that is because his career numbers wouldn’t look good on a plaque: 148 wins, 130 losses, career ERA of 4.27, less than 2,000 strike outs, not particularly good in October. But when Wakefield has control of his breaking pitches, he enters the ranks of those pitchers who are literally throwing unhittable pitches to the plate. That knuckleball and curve ball and whatever else he magicked slippery tonight that turned bats into fly swatters reminded me of why I love watching him. Each and every delivery through seven innings was identical, fluid and effortless. I suppose a criticism is that he isn’t pitching as much as he is simple-mindedly lobbing balls no faster than 70 miles per hour with random, uncontrollable movement, but that criticism doesn’t bother me. So I guess his career isn’t Hall of Fame material, but I think whenever he took and continues to take the mound the chances of him being the best pitcher in the game are 50/50. He reminds me of a softer throwing Gagne.
During the Rangers game yesterday, the game which they lost a 7 run lead over the Royals, the commentators mentioned Reggie Sanders as an outfielder the Yankees might be looking at. My feeling is that Reggie wouldn’t be much of an improvement and the only deals that make sense are if the sought after player is at Sheffield’s level. If Cashman is on the hunt for an outfielder, he needs to get an All-Star outfielder instead of some mediocre Joe. And sacrificing prospects and current roster members on a superstar outfielder is probably not worth it.
I remember three starts ago after Randy Johnson blanked the Tigers through six innings people were claiming that the Yankees once again had their ace back in the rotation. Then after pitching so-so into the eighth against Baltimore, fans saw the imminent return of the Randy of old. A few skeptics such as myself reserved a couple more outings to know for certain. I think it’s written in stone that from now till the end of the year Randy Johnson is going to be on again, off again. Mostly off. He’s making too many mistakes. He’ll strike out the side and then look to have another perfect inning before serving up a juicy one for some guy who’s never hit a home run to golf out of the park. He’s really erratic and when pitted against a menu of good hitters he struggles and struggles to escape from jam after jam. For example, he had a good April. In 4 starts he pitched 28 innings, allowed only 6 runs and struck out 21. That makes for a 1.92 ERA. But those starts were against the A’s, the Angels, the Royals and Orioles: all teams below .500. Good pitching from our ace nonetheless. However, I’ve omitted two April starts in which he allowed 13 runs in 8 plus innings. Who were those against? Toronto. He has trouble with the powerhouses, the "real teams" who we need to beat in the second half. Come May he beats the Devil Rays (even though he allowed 5 runs), loses to Boston, loses to Oakland, pitches horrible against the Mets, but gets lucky with the no decision, beats Boston (even though he allowed 5 runs) and pitched brilliantly for the win in Detroit. He’s made 14 starts and what we’ve seen is what we’re gonna get. If we’re going to the World Series, which we must, another good arm must be added. Winning the ALCS with our current rotation would be one shocking, yet awesome, miracle.
Papelbon blew his first save. Todd Jones blew his third save. Gary Majewski blew his fourth save. Rheal Cormier blew his third save. LaTroy Hawkins blew his third save. Ryan Dempster saved his tenth game. Isringhausen saved his nineteenth. Ambriorix Burgos saved his eighth. Huston Street saved his twelfth. Bobby Jenks saved his eighteenth. Trevor Hoffman saved his fourteenth. J.J. Putz saved his tenth. Mike Gonzalez saved his ninth.
Mariano Rivera + 5 pitches = game over!
The Mariano Career Saves Counter: 391 (4th All-Time)
Melky Cabrera for AL Rookie of the Year! That catch to rob Manny could not have come at a better time. And it was awesome. Absolutely awesome. After Matsui and Sheffield return I still want to see Melky play. With all five players healthy, I think we have the deepest outfield in baseball: Matsui, Damon, Sheffield, Melky, Bernie…it doesn’t get any better.
Chien-Ming and Pauley teamed up to perform the pitchers duel we were supposed to see last night. Pauley competed through 7 strong innings and actually allowed only one run, which came from Bernie’s long ball. The Yankees’ game-winning run was walked in by Pauley’s relief, Seanez.
The Yankees’ ideal game plan materialized in Chien-Ming pitching beautifully for seven innings. Cue Farnsworth who struck out Ortiz again. Follow the script and Mariano knows it’s time to seal the deal. Very good to see the pitching come through and deliver the win.
Damon’s been playing much better. He’s finally got his BA above .300 and he has 11 hits in his last 24 at-bats. Cairo, Cano, Damon and Posada all had two hits and with the whole team playing this good together, I think a sweep is possible. The Yankees need to pounce on the next two games and reel in the catch. Going up 7-4 in the season series and taking a three and a half game lead will be huge. Huge!
Before I begin, (and before I forget once again) thank you to everyone who’s commented. Every comment is appreciated and keep them coming.
The Yankees leveled the season series at four wins apiece. Looking at the final score leads one to the simple conclusion that the Yankees got a flurry of hits and the Red Sox didn’t. Right? No need for a recap. Actually Boston had only one hit less than New York’s total. Tonight’s was a wild game from the get go. Coco led off with a double. Then Mussina strikes out the side. In the Yankees half, Damon walks and Melky chops one to Beckett who threw bad to second base, making only one out possible. Then with Giambi batting, a pitch in the dirt got by Varitek and Melky tries for second. Varitek’s throw went into the outfield so Melky goes to third, but third base coach Larry Bowa sends Melky home because no one is covering the plate. Varitek was covering third and I don’t know where Beckett and Youkilis were. Melky scores for the early lead. In Boston’s third inning Nixon, Youkilis and Lowell rattled off three singles, which scored a run. Varitek grounded into a double play to score a second run. The Yankees begin the second with six straight hits. Phillips jacks a three run shot to left. Giambi jacks a three run shot to right. Van Buren relieved Beckett and the Yankees score another five runs off him in the third.
The craziest play of the game though was in the bottom of the third, Bernie on first base with one out. Cairo taps a ball in front of the plate and Varitek assumed it was in play, tagged Cairo for one and threw to second for the double play. So the BoSox took off, the inning ended and ESPN cuts to a commercial break. When they come back, Francona was argueing as he should have been, because the umps change their call slightly. Cairo is ruled out from the tag but Bernie returns to first because he was never tagged. So play resumes and Damon walks, Melky doubles, Giambi walks, A-Rod walks, Riske relieved and promptly hit Posada to force in the eleventh run. Then Cano doubles to make it thirteen. And that was it. No more Yankee scoring in the next six innings.
Mussina didn’t pitch his best tonight. 6 innings, 5 runs (4 earned), 8 hits, 8 strike outs (a season high) is a winning line, but he looked less in control than he has in previous starts. He threw 101 pitches in those 6 innings. Give the BoSox credit. Their lineup is dangerous and patient. They took a lot of pitches and made Mussina work hard. But give Mussina credit also. He kept the scoring at a minimum and battled through some tough at-bats. I honestly was afraid the Red Sox would come back. If the Yankees could score 13 runs in a hurry, why couldn’t Boston? No lead is a safe lead. 11 runs was all Boston needed. And what’s the name of my blog? If the Yankees did it, I believe Crisp, Loretta, Ortiz, Manny, Nixon, Youkilis, Lowell, Varitek and Gonzales could do the same. Our bullpen though was good news.
Tomorrow’s matchup is Chien-Ming Wang v. David Pauley. Pauley’s only start with Boston this year and big league debut came at the end of May against Toronto. He pitched decently into the fifth inning, only allowed two runs at that point before the Jays jostled him for 4 runs. So only one bad inning accounts for his ERA of 12.46. He looked commanding in what were his first four major league innings though. And he wasn’t facing Kansas City. He had to deal with Glaus, Overbay, Catalanotto and Rios. I won’t consider tomorrow an easy win.
Chad Cordero got his 10th save. Tyler Walker saved his 10th also. Turnbow saved his 16th. Isringhausen blew his 4th save. Tom Gordon saved his 18th.
So, what was today’s biggest baseball event? Lastings Milledge hitting his first home run? His personal victory march into right field, giving and taking high fives from the fans? Chris Young entering the sixth with a no-no, after throwing 7 hitless innings in his last start? The Yankee Captain leaving with a bruised thumb? Ranger Rheinecker throwing two run, eight inning ball against the ChiSox? Pujols goes on the DL? Whoa. Wait a second…did you say Pujols and DL in the same sentence? Yahoo! even ran that headline and I never see sports headlines in Yahoo!’s generic, just plain ol’ news box. This must be big.
I’m crushed. It’s unfathomable. How will we cope with Albert Pujols-less baseball? The absence, however, is not enough to make St. Louis an underdog. I think St. Louis has a good enough roster and a good enough manager in Laser Eye La Russa to maintain their perch on the division peak, but I wanted to see Pujols hit 60-80 home runs and collect 200 RBIs. If he only misses two weeks, I think his chances for 60 home runs and 200 RBIs are still intact. If he’s DL bound for a month or more, a monster season is sure to be had, but the chase for any records will have to wait. Nevertheless, the baseball gift is so sublimely ingrained in his bones that I’m not giving up on him quite yet. Putting up the aforementioned numbers after a DL stint would reaffirm him as a great, great and much loved baseball player.
So, the Yankees lost. I don’t care about the loss or the ever changing 1/2 game advantage, but I am scared now whenever a Yankee is hit and then removed. That’s all we need. Given the Yankees’ current state, a bean ball at A-Rod or Giambi could be the end of us. We aren’t far away from fielding a roster of triple-A call-ups and pinch-players. Lucky for us Lopez just got Jeter’s hand and he probably won’t miss a significant amount of time.
Why is David Ortiz listed on the All-Star ballot as a first baseman? Youkilis is a better first baseman, meaning that Youkilis actually plays defense at an All-Star caliber level and hits All-Star worthy, too. I assume Jim Thome would be listed at first base were it for another All-Star already at that position. Regardless of how good a hitter Ortiz is, he shouldn’t be taking that spot from Youkilis. Ortiz belongs as a write-in. Just like Thome.
I also hope people start voting for other players. I don’t want all the vote leaders to be either Yankees or Red Sox. In fact, the only ones deserving of the most votes at their position are Jeter and Manny. The other Yankees and Red Sox players are good, too, but I don’t think they should be voted as starters.
Hoffman saved his 12th game. Weathers blew his 5th in 14 chances. Isringhausen saved his 18th game. Gordon saved his 17th. And Frankie Rodriguez is lucky his Angels had a 14 run lead because he allowed 2 runs in the bottom of the ninth to raise his ERA to 4.07.
Boston beat a D’Ray pitcher who hasn’t won a game all season. In fact, I hear he hasn’t won a game in his last 13 starts dating back to last year. Doug Waechter’s his name. He went 5-12 with a 5.62 ERA last year. He looked pretty good today. Kept the BoSox to 3 runs. Of course a win is a win, and I’m just bitter Tampa didn’t hand Papelbon his first blown save. Maybe Waechter won’t be pitted against a pitcher like Josh Beckett next game and he’ll get the cushion of some run support. That would be pure paradise for Doug. Might be enough for a win, might not. If it’s Randy Johnson he’s facing, then the D’Rays will probably bat around in the first and Dougie will take the mound with an 8 run lead. Then he’ll leave in the 8th, proud that he kept the Bronx Bombers off the board. But in his revelry he’ll forget the Tampa Bay bullpen likes to joke around. The Yankees will win on a majestic walk-off, pinch-hit grand slam by Mariano Rivera, filling in for Terence Long who tripped on a baseball in the dugout. I hear Mariano practices running down fly balls with the outfielders and that he runs very fast.
Carl Crawford also runs fast. He had a big game against Boston. A 3 hit night following his 5 hit performance yesterday. He also stole his 19th bag. The Tampa Bay clean-up guy, Huff, is hitting .161. Just like the Seattle clean-up guy Sexson, who’s horrifying pitchers with his .208. Those numbers are usually seen at the bottom of the order. Unless you play for Dusty, who puts Juan Pierre and his .269 OBP to bat leadoff. I guess it doesn’t matter. Their tops in RBIs is Aramis with 23. The managers of these subterranean teams need to shake up their batting orders. Draw the names from a cap or just ask the guys where they want to hit that day. "Blanco, you want to leadoff? Thanks for stepping up. A fine day to be a hero. Zambrano, you want to hit second? Good stuff, now we’re getting somewhere".
I shouldn’t be making fun of these bad teams. Now that the Royals have lost 13 straight, they’re prime for an inexplicable explosion of amazing baseball. The baseball gods must be feuding with Steinbrenner or something, because they’ve dragged Kansas City through a nightmare just to make them their 2006 season highlight: a three game sweep at Yankee Stadium. Thanks baseball gods. Why can’t KC suffer three more games? A 16 game losing streak is an accomplishment in its own unique way. Just like Dimaggio’s 56, the Royals could post an impressive 20 to 30 game losing streak for the ages. Actually, the Royals face a relatively easy schedule after New York: Oakland, Seattle, Texas, Tampa Bay, the Angels, Houston, Pittsburgh. All teams hovering around or drowning below the .500 mark. The wins can wait till then. So baseball gods, how ’bout it? Please don’t humiliate us. I know you want to.
So today, 6 games, 4 succesful save conversions, 2 unsuccesful. Gordon got his 14th, Chad Cordero his 7th, Chris Ray his 12th, Papelbon his 16th. Calero of Oakland and the Royal Burgos were the unlucky ones, stricken with the abbreviation BS next to their names in the box score.
Rangers Duplicate What Yankees Did
Texas staged its own comeback win tonight. Oakland was ahead 7 to nothing in the 6th. At that point the Rangers only had 3 hits until the catcher Barajas blasted a grand slam. Then rookie Ian Kinsler, fresh off the DL, hit two homers and Teixeira decided to slingshot a round tripper for the first time in 18 games. Then in the bottom of the 9th with two outs, game tied, Phil Nevin, who’s hitting .226 with 7 homers, looks up and sees fireworks and kids piling on a ball in centerfield. He just took Street deep. Nevin literally walked to first base carrying the bat, a look of shock on his face. Texas is wild right now. I live in Austin and everyone here thinks we won the World Series. Of course I joke.
The Mariano Career Saves Counter: 389
Randy Johnson picked up his first win since May 4th. Against a Boston lineup jam-packed with strong hitters he matched a season high of 8 strikeouts and allowed 5 runs in 5 innings, which included a scoreless 4th and 5th. 5 relievers were needed to finish the game. Farnsworth edged out of a jam in the 8th when Ortiz struckout for the 4th time. Rivera entered the 9th to face Manny, Varitek and Lowell. Manny had already launched two tape measure shots over the Monster. But Rivera was in fine form as he retired the side. The last out was Jeter’s signature leaping throw from deep in the hole to close the books on a Yankees’ series win.
The 1st inning began with auspicious signs after Johnson allowed a single to Youkilis. Loretta knocked one off the Monster but T-Long gunned him down at second. Then Ortiz struckout. It appeared that Randy had pulled everything together and would escape without denting the scoreboard. But Manny didn’t let him off the hook so easy, sending an effortless moonshot into left that made Randy mumble to himself. Both I predict are future Hall of Famers.
We retook the lead with 4 runs in the 2nd. Boston tied in the bottom half and retook the lead with 1 run in the 3rd. Another 4 run inning secured the lead for good. Manny took Proctor deep in the 7th for Boston’s last run.
The game was evenly played. Boston plays great D. Youkilis over at 1st base snagged a number of hot shots that could’ve put runs on the board. Stabbing peas backhanded like a hockey goalie was Youkilis whenever a leftie scorched one down the line. Both Clement and R.J. were hit hard early. Clement literally took a Bernie driven liner off his ankle. Half our runs were knocked in by Melky batting from the leadoff spot. He also made a superb running catch in right that probably would’ve bounced over the short fence for a ground rule double. I’m starting to like him more everyday. Bernie went 3 for 5 with an RBI and T-Long had two hits and an RBI. Every starter got a hit except Stinnett who botched a bunt in the 5th with 2 on and no out. He ended up looking at strike three and barked at the umpire. "Hey Stinnett, you’re hitting .175 and you can’t lay down a bunt. You’re not in the position to argue balls and strikes. Plus, you’re the catcher. You need to be on the ump’s good side." In the 7th inning Stinnett got a chance to redeem himself. With no outs and T-Long on first, Stinnett attempted a bunt but instead handed it straight into the pitcher’s glove who tossed to 2nd for the easy out.
Boy was it a wild game and a difficult, tense win. Boston has a tough lineup. The top features two good table setters in Youkilis and Loretta who have OBPs of .423 and .349 respectively. Then of course the nightmare that is Big Papi and Manny take center stage before handing the baton to Varitek who’s a time tested clutch hitter. Lowell’s batting .327 and has doubled 21 times already. Luckily we have the day off tomorrow, which enabled Torre to use all the relievers we needed to keep that Red Sox lineup quiet.