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.
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.
Randy’s Not Back
Don’t get over excited. Randy’s still dormant. Regardless of Randy Johnson’s great pitching today, I don’t think we can expect that the ace of our rotation is back. Fans are happy that he’s finally shown up for the ’06 season at the end of May by shocking everyone with the incredible no-hit dominace that made Randy the Intimidator in his heyday. People are announcing, Randy is back! But I wonder, which Randy is back? Don’t get me wrong, I think what he did today was great: 6 shut out, two-hit innings against the AL’s best team no less. I’m glad we won and that Randy might revive himself as a winning pitcher. But today he was more than just a winning pitcher, he was a dominant pitcher, sweeping aside the Tigers like he would’ve a few years ago, cool under pressure, chugging along with a no-no startling an unassuming team of young but dangerous hitters. Don’t forget he’s still 42. Today’s win doesn’t change that. Maybe today’s win marks a turning point for him, but I don’t expect anything this good for the rest of the year. 6 innings, 2 hits, 0 runs is too good to be true. 6 or maybe 7 innings, 6 hits and 3 or 4 runs will probably be the Randy we’ll see most often from now on. I’m excited he pitched this spectacular against a dangerous Detroit offense, the AL’s 7th best in runs scored, and that we won the game, but come on, do you really think he could duplicate an outing this good? I don’t want to get my hopes up so I say no. However, I could definitely be proven wrong. What do I know? He somehow managed 8 innings of 1 run ball in an April start against Baltimore, so maybe he really is capable of better things. Maybe he has just enough left to toss a perfect game. I have no clue, but I’m waiting until after the All-Star break to believe that a 42 year old Big Unit can revitalize his stuff from Seattle and Arizona. The stuff that got him 372 Ks in ’01. That would warrant excitement, but that’s not happening. At best he’ll be the Randy of last year, but I’m still waiting to know for sure.
Best Player in the Game
So, Pujols is already the NL MVP, right? Do we all agree? I can’t think of anyone who makes it a contest. Unless Pujols gets injured or has some slump, which he won’t, no one can catch him. He has 25 of the Cards’ 53 home runs and 64 RBIs. Without his 3 run homer today the Cards’ lose 1-0. I’m currently reading Three Nights in August by Buzz Bissinger and Tony La Russa, without actually saying it, implies that yes, Pujols is the greatest player he’s ever managed. He doesn’t want to single out anyone or disrespect his players by labeling one as the best. Tony says Pujols has that rare inner-teamwork of talent and heart that continually pushes him to greater and greater places in the game, something that Tony says he’s only seen in a handful of players. So, I’m collecting as many of his baseball cards as possible because 30 or 40 years from now he’ll be legendary.
In his 2nd major league start John Rheinecker of the Rangers pitched 8 1/3 innings against the Mariners, struck out 6, allowed 4 hits (none to Ichiro) and a walk, and ended up with the W and a standing O at home. He put two men on base in the 9th so Buck brought in Bauer to finish it off. Rheinecker’s first start in the bigs was in April against Tampa and less than noteworthy: 4 innings, 7 hits, 2 runs, a no decision. But what he did tonight was fantastic news for the Rangers who probably need a more consistent rotation to keep up with Oakland in the second half. They might cycle Rheinecker around for another start in five days. Seattle’s very own "phenom" King Felix hasn’t graced the team with a game that good yet in the young stages of what’s supposed to be a Hall of Fame career. I wonder if Felix Hernandez will ever pitch as good as scouts suspected. Anyway, Rheinecker’s counterpart on the Seattle side was Washburn who gave up 2 runs in 7 innings and got awarded his 6th L. He made just one mistake, a pitch that Teixeira took over the fence for only his 6th HR and 25th RBI.