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.
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.
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.
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.
Rangers 6 – Yankees 2
Jaret had a strong outing. 3 runs in 6 innings isn’t bad. The problem came when Erickson and Villone combined for 7 walks. If Jaret pitches like this again we have three solid starters in Mussina, Chien-Ming and Jaret. Randy will straighten up soon and Chacon is decent. Our pitching is actually looking hopeful.
Damon drove in both our runs. On a low and away pitch from Cordero he poked a single over Michael Young’s head.
Other than that, Padilla and Showalter’s favorite relievers held us to two runs. I was surprised that Otsuka came into the ninth in a non save situation. Mahay warmed in the bullpen but I guess Showalter wanted this game badly.
A-Rod needs to start producing if we’re going to win without Sheffield and Matsui. I say Giambi is due to put up big numbers this weekend.
Yankees 4 – Rangers 3
I missed all of tonight’s game except for the 5th inning when the Yankees took the lead for good. Giambi started the 3 run rally when he stepped up with the bases empty and two out. He worked the count deep like a good Giambi before doing what he planned on doing. He legged out a double, which set up four straight singles from A-Rod, Posada, Cano and Bernie. Other than that, Loe, Wilson and Cordero shut the Yankees down.
Chien-Ming was excellent. And Mariano was dominant again, needing only 14 pitches to retire the side. He got the fly ball, the three pitch K and the infield pop up that the Yankees and their bullpen needed.
The Mariano Career Saves Counter: 387
The Good: We won.
The Bad: We left 9 on base. Luckily Chien-Ming was in control.