Since the Yankees-Red Sox game never happened, I tuned into the Rangers visiting the Royals. The pitching matchup featured two rookies, John Koronka and Bobby Keppel. The 11,000 at Kauffman Stadium actually had something to cheer this lucky evening as Keppel kept Texas scoreless through 8 innings. Young, Teixeira, Blalock and Mench; he kept them all off the board. Why were the baseball gods generous enough on this occasion to descend such a thirst quenching miracle on the dying club in Kansas City? I predicted that once the Royals rang the bullpen the big bats in the Texas lineup would get an inning of batting practice. But until that time, all was well and the Royals were poised to win their 15th game. Until Keppel allowed a single and Buddy Bell brought in the closer. Now, I know Buddy wants to feel like a big league manager, making the call for that dead-end pitcher he’s proud of. He wants to feel like Torre bringing in Mo or La Russa calling for Izzy. He wants to be intoxicated by that deafening buzz of the fans and his secret smile tasting victory because his closer is the best. But when you have a guy on the mound who’s shut down the opposition for 8 innings, you don’t yank him in the ninth just because he allows one baserunner. And especially when your closer has 5 blown saves and allowed 28 hits in 26 innings with an ERA in the high sixes. The whole stadium booed as they smelled the imminent disaster. The disaster that happens at every game in that town. The Royals lead was slim at 2-0 and Ambiorix Burgos was promptly touched for a base hit. Then something happened and there was a runner on third. Then a sac-fly erased the shut out but KC still had a one run lead with two outs. Burgos actually took the next batter Barajas to an 0-2 count, dwarfed on that lonely and bleak mound by 11,000 fans standing and clapping. Maybe that disrupted his concentration. He had never heard the fans cheer so emphatically. It fell mute when Barajas punched a looper over the infield to tie it. Then Buddy summoned Dessens who Gary Matthews Jr. touched for a double for the winning runs. Royals fans were depressed. Bobby Keppel had his first major league win stolen, not saved the way it’s supposed to happen. I don’t think Buddy should’ve yanked Keppel. His pitch count was 99 and yes, the Texas lineup is dangerous, but the Royals bullpen is playing for another team. It’s like the Royals are bipolar and consist of two teams. They have one half scoring runs and defensively protecting those runs while the other half are these guys behind the outfield wall couped up like chickens suffering from mental disturbances due to being alone and talentless who continually fight their rival Royals by blowing hard fought leads. Hopefully Keppel gets another shot in 5 days.
A Mets community blog called Hot Foot quoted my praise for Melky and that fabulous catch he made (in addition to quoting Jacob from Mile High Yankees). First of all, I am honored that my words were quoted and commented on. Anyway, down to business. The author Matt thinks the catch is overrated. The fact that it might be overrated never occured to me and I found his comments interesting. Matt refers to it as a play made by plenty of outfielders every year. This is true as I am accustomed to seeing Griffey, Hunter, Rowand and the likes make it almost weekly. So in terms of uniqueness, Melky isn’t the first to rob a home run. And he isn’t the first to rob a home run in the crucial moments of an important game. I know there are better examples to mention, but the quickest one to mind is Juan Pierre stealing home run 714 from Bonds. What makes the two plays so different? Matt says:
"1. Who expects Melky Cabrera to make a great catch?
2. Robbed Yankee killer Manny Ramirez.
3. He ran and tripped after catching the ball, but still held onto it.
4. It had a big impact on the game."
Reason 4 is why I jumped for joy. I think it’s easy for any non-Yankee fan to see it as overrated for understandable reasons, since it wasn’t perhaps the hardest catch ever made in the outfield and it only benefited the Yankees. But Matt makes clear to me that what boosts Melky’s catch over any other similar catch is the context in which it happened. A 21 year old rookie sprinted back and leaped to rob a Boston Red Sock and "Yankee killer" of a game tieing home run in the 8th inning beneath 50,000 Yankee fans. Big deal? You betcha. It was pure clutch defense at its best. What makes it great was the situation. It saved our lead over the Red Sox. Melky isn’t credited a save statistic like Mariano, but he certainly helped the cause in a big way. Between two last place teams the catch wouldn’t have mattered. The stadium would’ve been half filled and each team a dozen or so games from first place. I also think the manner in which he made the catch makes it great. Many a time those plays have the outfielder waiting at the wall, timing his jump to bring the ball back in. But Melky never stopped running. He didn’t have time to slow down and set himself. As soon as he reached the fence he leaped and fell backward. Anyway, nice post Matt, you made me look at the play in a different light.
For that catch, many big ABs and home plate assists, Melky deserves Rookie of the Year.
Royals 7 – Yankees 6
I said in my last post that if the Royals beat the Yankees it’s simply because they’re due for a win. The baseball gods are desperate to end KC’s skid so they’ll get all the lucky bounces and all the close calls. Well, it happened the other way. The Yankees were just outplayed. It happens. In fact, the Royals should be given credit because they didn’t get lucky. The Yanks fought and the Royals fought back. They get a big W.
Damon, Jeter, Giambi and A-Rod had multiple hits. That’s a collective 9 for 15. You’d think enough for a win, but apparently not. Mussina allowed 3 runs in 6 innings. Not his best. He’s performed better against better teams. It got bad when Farnsworth allowed a three run bomb. Bummer. That was probably the only mistake of the night. Well, striking out Ortiz on Wednesday is enough for me. I forgive him.
It was Scott Elarton’s first win of the year. His numbers are poor, especially the homeruns, but he’s had a few nice outings. The most incredible is when he allowed only 3 runs through 8 innings to the White Sox. A few starts later he shutout the Twins through 7, scattering 3 hits. And once again facing the White Sox he allowed 3 hits and 1 run in 6 innings.
So 4 earned runs and 10 hits in 6 innings against the Yankees is Elarton at his worst. We’re lucky the good Elarton didn’t show up.
Mussina pitched the same amount. I don’t think he allowed a basehit before or after the 2nd inning. Were it not for a high pitch count Mussina could’ve made it 7 innings. He only had 1 bad inning, the 2nd when the Royals hit him 4 times for 3 runs.
The other game I caught was the Cubs v. Atlanta. The Cubs were ahead 5-3 in the 9th. Zambrano carried a no-hitter through 6 2/3. How’d the Braves win? The story goes…
Baker brings in his closer Ryan Dempster. His first pitch is roped into right. The next batter slaps one into left. A wild pitch moves both runners up a bag. The next batter walks. Bases loaded, no outs. Renteria walks. Cubs are ahead 5-4, but the bases are still juiced and there’s no out. Dempster gets Chipper to whiff for strike three and Wrigley exhales a sigh of relief. The Cubbies are a double play away from pulling off a win. But Andruw Jones flies out to deep center to drive in the tieing run. The relay throw to the infield pops out of Neifi’s glove so a Brave tries for the plate. The runner might have been out if Michael Barrett was 12 feet tall. The throw is airmailed to the backstop. Braves lead 6-5. Brian Jordan flies out to end the torture. The Wrigley boo birds circle overhead the Cubbie prey.
Well, a hard loss for the Cubs. And a hard one for the Yankees. So it goes.
Today saw three blown saves: Dempster (3), Turnbow (2) and Francisco Cordero (7). And 4 converted saves: Frankie Rodriguez (12), Otsuka (7) and Nathan (6). Papelbon retired one batter with a 4 run lead to save his 17th. Not much of a save if you ask me, but whatever. He could’ve done it with the bases loaded and no out and a one run lead.
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.