So we’re down a run in the top of the ninth and Texas calls in their closer, Akinori Otsuka. The first pitch he throws is lined up the middle by Jeter and then Giambi taters one into the seats. Just like that, BOOM, ball game’s over and thaaaaaaaaaaa Yankeeees WIN! Because we all know who’s pitching the ninth. That’s right, the guy with the fourth most career saves. Mo comes in and the sweep is accomplished. Of course, every win is important, but losing today wouldn’t have been that big a deal. We would’ve won the series and Boston and Chicago lost so we’d lose no ground. But like I said, at this time of year every win is crucial so gaining a game in the standings is helpful. Unfortunatly, it’s just one game and doesn’t mean anything if we don’t build on it. So great game Yankees, but keep it up.
All 8 runs proved necessary to nail down this win, but I want to bring attention to one of those runs. To lead off the 8th inning an A-Bomb landed beyond the walls in dead center field. The guy that supposedly stinks so bad that we need to trade him sparked a 4 run rally and the first run scoring frame for the Yanks since the first. Giambi’s long ball only would’ve tied the game without A-Rod’s solo shot, so you can’t knock him down for only hitting when it doesn’t matter. Also, Happy 31st Birthday A-Rod!
But let’s not forget the miracle that was Shawn Chacon. Inheriting a bases loaded, zero out situation in the 8th inning and keeping the one run deficit intact. Chacon induced a swinging K and a double play, beautifully done to set the stage for Giambi’s game winner. Plus, he bailed out Proctor who’s probably been overworked the past few days.
I liked seeing Fasano in the lineup already. That must be a good feeling. Get traded that morning and your new manager immediatly needs you in the game. Also must’ve been an exciting victory to be apart of with his new team. He’s kinda tubby, looks like slow motion when he labors out to the pitching mound, but I see more enthusiasm from him than I saw from Stinnett. Fasano looks jazzed to be playing and might be the slowest base runner in the major leagues, but he undoubtably has a lively spring in his step. However, they’re both second string catchers so I don’t see much of an improvement. I mean, this isn’t the final piece of the puzzle that wins us the AL East. Fasano hit .243 in 50 games for the Phillies and Stinnett hit .228 in 34 games for us.
I bet we keep this streak alive with our top 3 pitchers slated to face the D’Rays (that’s such a bizarre animal to name a team after). And lucky for us we won’t see Kazmir because of shoulder soreness. Although the kid they’re starting on Friday looks decent.
How about them Twins? Pretty remarkable what they’ve done this year. I heard something like they’ve only lost 8 of their last 42 games. At one point they were like 23 and 2 in their last 25 games. I don’t know if they can fend off Chicago once the reigning Champs get rolling again. Last year I believe both Baltimore and Washington entered the All-Star break with division leads and then lost them before the end of July. I doubt that will plague the White Sox. That means the Yankees need to aim for first place in their own division, because Chicago is down but they aren’t out.
And you know, I was just thinking, wouldn’t it be awesome to win a Game 7 of the World Series on an outfielder throwing out a runner trying for the tieing run at home plate? Winning like that might be cooler than winning on a walk off home run. I’m putting in the call: Game 7, Yankee Stadium, top of the ninth and one out, score 6-5 in the Yankees’ favor, Jose Reyes at third base and there’s a fly ball hit to left field and Melky guns him down at the plate. Boy, that would be dramatic.
Sure is good to get that horrible Toronto series out of our system. And because the Twins beat Chicago, we gain a game in the Wild Card. It would be even better if Oakland could muscle up a win over Boston, but it doesn’t look like that’s gonna happen.
Our pitching tonight was excellent. Johnson delivered a great start, lasting 6 strong innings with 7 strike outs and only 2 runs. After Proctor pitched a scoreless seventh, Farnsworth came in for the eighth and immediatly allowed two singles. But he then reared back and touched the high 90s for three straight swinging strike outs. Farnsworth is inconsistent, but when he’s on he’s untouchable. He’s simply been on fire the month of July, posting an ERA of .96. I was surprised to see Rivera pitch the ninth and I wish Torre saved Mo for a save situation. He could’ve tried Villone or Wilson for the final 3 outs. But Torre wanted a quick ninth so Mo jogs in and game’s over.
The offense had a highlight reel night. A-Rod had a good game. After Jeter led off the seventh with a double A-Rod added a double of his own for an RBI and the Yank’s sixth run. Jeter also had a nice night, that double and a triple right after Melky tripled. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen back to back triples (with 2 outs no less!). Speaking of Melky, he was a home run shy of the cycle and also threw out Teixeira trying to turn an RBI single into a double. Speaking of Tex, there’s a guy who hasn’t lived up to the high expectations. He hit 43 and 38 home runs the last two seasons. He also had 144 RBIs last year and a .301 batting average. So far he’s hit the long ball only 14 times and had only 9 at the All-Star break. He’s got an average at .271 and has 61 RBIs. Let’s compare that RBI total to Jeter’s which happens to be 59. Jeter only has 6 home runs and hits from the two spot, but has driven in about the same number of runs as Teixeira, who hits cleanup. I think this says more about how good Jeter is, but it doesn’t make Tex look great either. Basically my point is to provide more evidence that A-Rod is not the only player having an off year. Matter of fact, all of A-Rod’s stats are better than Tex’s. Why doesn’t Tex ever get booed?
So we’ll so how Eaton fares in his season debut tomorrow. He’s got a tough counterpart to match in Mussina. I hope Damon’s back in the lead off spot, but considering how well Melky did today Torre might decide to give Damon another day off.
Today Mariano Rivera saved the Yankees for the 400th time in the regular season. And closed the books on a 3-game sweep of the defending World Series Champions in a 6 out save against the most productive offense in the game. In fact, the whole pitching staff during this series was rather spectacular. The ChiSox were outscored 26 to 12, which means they averaged only 4 runs a game. And our bullpen allowed only 3 runs in 8 2/3 innings. Not perfect, but good enough.
This afternoon the RBIs were spread out evenly, coming from the leaders Jeter, Giambi, and A-Rod, and also Cairo and Crosby. Melky Cabrera made a pivotal, game saving play when he threw out Crede at the plate and Guiel contributed a heads up play when he threw out Thome at second. Cabrera also led off one inning with a double and ended up scoring. Cairo and Crosby each had 2 out RBIs. In the absence of Matsui, Damon, Sheffield and Cano, the Yankees as a team were getting it done.
Villone finished the 6th inning perfectly for Wright. Then dug up some trouble in the seventh, leaving with no outs and runners at first and second. Myers was called on to work the lefty Thome and induced a pop up. Farnsworth was phoned to finish the inning and retired Konerko and Dye. Farnsworth lost his touch in the eighth though and left with no outs and runners on first and second (again!). Rivera took the mound and got a double play and then something else. Again in the ninth those three monsters Thome, Konerko and Dye came up to bat, but Rivera controlled them easily with a cool hand. Those three guys create a landmine in the middle of that lineup. So far they’ve combined for 77 home runs (more than half of their team’s total) and 216 RBIs. So to limit that third of their order to 1 for 14 like the Yankees’ pitchers did today was the key of the game. If those guys had just two good swings, the score could’ve been an 8 to 6 White Sox win (or possibly worse).
This win sends the Yankees to within a 1/2 game of Boston. No more than two weeks ago the Red Sox had a 4 game lead, right? And all the baseball analysts were saying the Yankees wouldn’t make October. How can you make any predictions on the close races when there’s still about 80 games left to play? It’s going to be a stock market year in all of the divisions with the exception of the NL East. But obviously the Yankees have a very good chance and I believe they’ll make the postseason.
The Mariano Rivera Career Saves Counter: 398
Not much to say about tonight except that Wright and our bullpen were awesome. One curious item I discovered in the boxscore was the number of strikes and balls in Wright’s pitch total. I’d assume that striking out 10 and walking no one in 6 innings would result in a noticeable disparity between the ball and strike totals. But out of Wright’s 91 total pitches, only 56 were strikes. That figure struck me as very low considering he recorded 10 Ks and 0 BBs. Through 6 frames he scattered 35 balls, which, for simplicity’s sake, averages out to roughly 6 balls an inning. And throwing only 6 balls each inning seems like a very good ratio. So I guess my initial bewilderment was misled and I’ve just never studied that stat before. And like usual Mariano was very economical, needing only 12 pitches to record 3 outs. I think I might start keeping track of the number of pitches certain closers need to finish an inning, because it seems to me that a few closers (Wagner and Isringhausen for example) need more than 20 pitches on a regular basis to record 3 outs. And I think guys like Mariano who don’t stack up high pitch counts are better closers. But that’s just a thought.
While I’m on the subject, you guys know I love closers and I like keeping tabs on what they’re doing all over the game, so tonight I’ll blog about an idea I’ve pondered before. I’m not out to prove anything here and I have no idea what any of this even means, but I think the relation between save opportunities and innings pitched is very revealing of a closer’s ability. In the following chart I listed every major league closer I could think of and their save opportunity vs. their innings pitched stats. I’d tend to believe that closers with more SVOs would naturally have more IPs, but as the numbers show, that isn’t the case. Keep in mind these stats were current as of yesterday and have changed by now.
Baez 9/16 SVO, 42 1/3 IP
Cordero 13/15 SVO, 40 1/3 IP
Lidge 21/24 SVO, 40 IP
Wagner 17/21 SVO, 39 2/3 IP
Weathers 9/15 SVO, 38 IP
Turnbow 23/29 SVO, 37 2/3 IP
Dempster 13/18 SVO, 36 2/3 IP
Gordon 21/23 SVO, 36 1/3 IP
Isringhausen 25/31 SVO, 36 IP
Fuentes 16/19 SVO, 34 1/3 IP
M. Gonzalez 12/12 SVO, 33 2/3 IP
Hoffman 22/23 SVO, 33 IP
Borowski 15/17 SVO, 32 IP
Valverde 14/17 SVO, 30 2/3 IP
Benitez 9/13 SVO, 21 1/3 IP
Rivera 18/20 SVO, 45 IP
Papelbon 25/27 SVO, 42 2/3 IP
B.J. Ryan 23/24 SVO, 41 2/3 IP
Putz 15/17 SVO, 40 1/3 IP
Burgos 14/22 SVO, 39 2/3 IP
Jenks 26/27 SVO, 38 2/3 IP
Street 19/25 SVO, 37 2/3 IP
Otsuka 16/18 SVO, 36 IP
F. Rodriguez 19/21 SVO, 35 IP
Nathan 15/16 SVO, 35 IP
Ray 20/21 SVO, 34 IP
Jones 22/25 SVO, 33 IP
Wickman 13/16 SVO, 26 IP
I think the most interesting comparison is between Rivera and Isringhausen. Izzy has had 11 more save opportunities than Mo, but has logged 9 fewer innings pitched. Or check out Jones who is tied for 2nd in most SVOs in the AL, but is next to last in IPs. I think that a closer like Rivera who pitches on a more consistent basis and still records the saves is the all-around better pitcher. Some of these closers only enter a game in a save situation and some can only pitch effectively for one inning. The number of saves a closer has collected is a misleading stat too, because closing out a game isn’t too difficult. Think about it: you come on with a three run lead to record 3 outs once or twice or at most three times a week. Due to the ups and downs of the schedule, you might not pitch for 6 or 7 games. So you’re well rested when all you need to do is pitch one inning. Now, hear me out, I don’t at all believe that a closer’s job is a piece of cake. I admire and appreciate the rare mental and pitching talent it takes to handle those pressure situations. Nevertheless, I think that 30 or 40 saves for one season should be expected of every closer. Pitching like that every year though is where they drop like flies. Sustaining that success is what I use to evaluate a closer. So while Papelbon has been spectacular this year, he isn’t in my mind a great closer until he repeats this season about ten times. And splitting time between the closer’s role and a long or short term relief role makes that pitcher more valuable to a team. So while Izzy and Jenks lead the majors with 26 saves each after tonight, they’re pitching far fewer innings than some closers by being limited to only specific situations.
Maybe I’ll continue that train of thought another time. I think there’s more to learn from that discussion, but ’tis enough for one night.
Toronto has lost 5 of their last 6. They’re now 6 games back from first place and 3 behind us. That’s good news for the time being, but the Blue Jays are a team the AL still needs to worry about. Regardless of their next two games and Boston’s outcomes against Chicago, the Yanks really need to sweep Tampa Bay. Starting the second half only one or two games back would be ideal. Or if Boston some how sweeps Chicago, it wouldn’t help to lose anymore ground. It’s gonna be tough against Kazmir though. If we could only knock in one run against Seo who has a 5+ ERA, how are we not going to be no-hit by this phenom? He blanked Boston in a complete game last time out so maybe the baseball gods plan on letting the Yanks tear him up tomorrow.
Rivera earned his 19th save of the season. Isringhausen closed out game #26 on the year. Hoffman got save 23 (459th career). Mike Gonzalez now posts a perfect 13/13.
One departing note: I found this an interesting article about official scorers.
Actually, one last question, did anyone know Joey Gathright was traded to Kansas City? It happened recently I think and I missed it.
The Mariano Career Saves Counter: 397
I’m very excited for Rivera to reach the soon to come plateau of 400 career saves.
Let’s talk about the bullpen. Wow! What happened? Villone threw two great innings. Then Proctor and Farnsworth combined on an easy 7th and 8th. Then Rivera erased the need for any 9th frame at all. Ball game over. Yankees win. Thaaaaa Yankees win! Our bullpen does this every so often. They just need consistency. Let’s remember this game later in the season, perhaps even in the playoffs, when we’ll need to feel confident in our bullpen’s ability.
I don’t find myself doubting the Mets at all. They’ve wandered into a 4 game skid just like Boston some how managed a 12 game winning streak. Every decade or so freak things like this happen. No rhyme or reason. I believe, and don’t ask me why, that during their streak the Sox were overachieving while the Mets are currently underachieving. The Mets remain my pick to win the NL. I didn’t predict that before the season, but I am now. By the way, Coco Crisp’s catch against the Mets on Thursday night was fantastic. Reminded me of Melky’s. Same type of situation. They’re both excellent examples of clutch defense at it’s finest.
I was looking at Jamie Moyer’s game log and was happy to see he’s having a very good season. The ERA is at 3.51. Never been much of a strike out pitcher so the Ks are low, but he’s had only one start when he didn’t survive the fifth inning. In June, he’s thrown a complete game, then the 5 frame duel with Minnesota, then a 6 inning start, an 8 inning start and most recently 7 solid innings in which he allowed only 2 runs. He ends June with an ERA of 2.06. In fact, Seattle is finally over .500 and in striking position of the AL West crown. But you know, it’s still too early to be discussing the games-ahead and games-behind stat. The BoSox fans looked pretty perky with their 4 game lead, and then BOOM! they lose to a team below .500 and the Yanks beat the NL’s best team. Just like that it’s down to 3. And we still have 85 games left! I’m very proud of the Yankees for only falling 4 games back during Boston’s smorgasborg. If things didn’t go our way we could be in a 6, 7 or 8 game hole. But at the start of July, no lead under 10 is a safe lead. Even then I don’t doubt one could fight back. But I was thinking about the Pirate’s 13 game losing streak, and was wondering if that ruins all your chances of the postseason. Is it possible to lose 13 straight, fall maybe 7 or 8 games furthur behind and still have hopes for October? Like I said in the previous sentence it’s definitly possible, but I guess a losing streak that long effectively wipes you out of any playoff chances.
My All-Star Selections…
C Joe Mauer, MIN
1b Paul Konerko, CHI
2b Jose Lopez, SEA
3b Mike Lowell, BOS
OF Jermaine Dye, CHI
OF Vernon Wells, TOR
OF Raul Ibanez, SEA
C Johnny Estrada, ARI
1b Nomar Garciaparra, LAD
2b Dan Uggla, FLA
3b David Wright, NYM
SS Omar Vizquel, SF
OF Alfonso Soriano, WAS
OF Matt Holliday, COL
OF Jason Bay, PIT
Todd Jones saved his 21st game. Mariano Rivera saved his 18th. Joe Borowski saved his 15th. Akinori Otsuka saved his 16th. And Josh Fogg pitched 2 hit ball for 9 innings so Colorado didn’t need Fuentes.
If you’re new to my blog, I’ve been counting down to Mariano’s 400th save. That’ll rank him 4th all-time in career saves (behind John Franco , Trevor Hoffman  and Lee Smith ). Mariano (my favorite Yankee) is currently tied with Eckersley.
The Mariano Career Saves Counter: 390
Mariano turns 37 this November, so I think he’ll have a few years left, hopefully enough to reach a 500 save milestone to cap his beautiful Yankee career.
The 6-5 Win
So, today’s game. Despite the loss and possibly looking ahead to another baker’s dozen losing streak, the Royals should be jazzed that they almost took over the lead against the Yankee bullpen while their bullpen was near perfect. Proctor followed Wright in the 6th and gave KC 2 runs. His last few appearances have been disconcerting, allowing 8 runs in 3 2/3. I hope we don’t find out in a few weeks that he needs surgery. Farnsworth excelled at his bridge job again, shuttling the ball over to Mo with the lead protected. With the exception of Proctor’s last 4 trips to the mound, he and Farnsworth have been key to our success. Kyle had a much better April when he only gave up 3 runs. His ERA has escalated a tad but nevertheless, Proctor and Farnsworth have become that tactical unit Torre can rely on in the late innings. We don’t have the best bullpen, but it works a majority of the time.
Jeter’s hit streak is now at 9. Damon’s picking up speed. He also might notch his 2,000th career hit at the end of the year. Currently at 1,845. A-Rod’s now playing like the A-Rod who won MVP. I don’t endorse booing him, but you have to admit he was playing sub-par for awhile. And he still wasn’t bad, but he wasn’t the dangerous hitter we know he can be. He’s hitting .333 with 12 RBIs and 4 HRs in the last 10 games. Definitly the numbers that translate the middle of our lineup into serious trouble for an opposing pitcher.
I’m not up to date with all the lineups in both AL and NL, but right now I think the only other batting order that features the same 1-2-3 punch is the White Sox. The Sheffield to Giambi to A-Rod entity is similar to Chicago’s Thome-Konerko-Dye. But with Matsui in the lineup we’re unmatchable. The similarity extends to the solid hitters surrounding this core. Podsednik and Iguchi, Crede and Pierzynski are dangerous as well. It’s a lineup with no breathing room, no margin for error. I guess it will be this three game set with Detroit when I’m finally acquainted with the Tigers, but by the way they’re playing they must have the type of lineup I’m talking about.
The Fenway Phenom Papelbon has dropped his ERA to a very pretty 0.39. In 23 innings he’s allowed 11 hits and struck out 21. 3 walks and 1 run are the only evidence that he’s human. Boston has watched their young closer finish off more than half of their wins but according to the laws of baseball he’s going to jog in from the bullpen someday this season and exit with an introduction to the blown save column. It’s what all closers go through unless they’re a freak of nature like Gagne and even he’s done it on occasion. Rivera had a 30 something streak snapped last year and Brian Fuentes of the Rockies had a 20+ streak going into this season snapped at the end of April. But a few blown saves won’t scar dominant pitching and Papelbon has the pure intensity to spearhead his way to a 40 save rookie year. While I think the only way to evaluate a closing pitcher is by their consistency over several seasons, Papelbon looks more than promising as a knock out closer in years to come and he’s a keeper.
Another closer in the AL East nailing the door shut is B.J. "Blue Jay" Ryan. He’s in his 9th career season but only his 2nd as a fulltime closer. It’s easy to overlook him but so far he’s converted 11 saves in as many opportunities for Toronto and touts an ERA of 0.42. Pretty darn good and will play an equalizing role if Toronto threatens Boston and NY for first place.
Other closers getting the job done tonight were Todd Jones for his 14th, Cordero for his 6th, Frankie Rodriguez for his 11th, Hoffman for his 8th and Isringhausen for his 15th.
I recently finished reading The Last Night of the Yankee Dynasty by Buster Olney. It narrates Game 7 of the 2001 World Series and relates it to an analytical behind the scenes look at the Yankee organization. Though resurfacing those Game 7 memories made me teary eyed, it was a great read and I highly recommend it.
Alright. Leave comments please if you’re reading. You can leave a blank comment if you wish or just a brief, "Hey, you spelled ‘Pierzynski’ wrong" type thing. Just want to know how many hits I get a day.
The Mariano Career Saves Counter: 388