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Monthly Archives: August 2005

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Chutes and Leiters

The Yankees enter tonight’s game in a three-way tie for the AL Wild Card lead with the slumping A’s and surging Indians. For their part, the Yankees have won three of their last four having allowed just one run in those three wins combined.

Enter Al Leiter. This will be Leiter’s eighth start since joining the Yankees. Al has failed to make it out of the sixth in any of his last five starts and has walked a whopping 27 men against 25 strikeouts in his 35 1/3 Yankee innings.

The good news is that the Yankee pen is very well rested at this point. Mariano Rivera and Tom Gordon haven’t pitched since Friday, and both were working on two day’s rest then. Tanyon Sturtze’s eight-pitch inning yesterday was his first since last Wednesday. Felix Rodriguez’s perfect inning on Sunday was his first since August 14, two Sundays ago. Aaron Small has pitched just one inning since the Saturday before that, and that came last Wednesday. Scott Proctor’s perfect ninth yesterday was his first since last Tuesday, the same is true of Alan Embree’s two pitches to Aaron Hill yesterday (the second of which was laced for a double).

On the hill for the Jays is Josh Towers, whom the Yankees beat in Toronto on August 7.

The Wright Stuff

That headline is corny as hell, but it’s much deserved. Jaret Wright‘s second start since returning from a shoulder injury was even better the first as he needed just 99 pitches to hurl seven shutout innings against the Blue Jays, holding them to four hits and, after a trio of free passes in a shaky first inning, no walks through his final six frames.

Not that his evening was without excitement. Wright kicked things off by walking the game’s first two batters, but then settled down to strike out Vernon Wells on three pitches, get Shea Hillenbrand to pop out to second, and get ahead of Corey Koskie 0-2. Unable to put Koskie away, Wright then walked him on seven pitches to load the bases, but got out of the inning when Gregg Zaun to flied out to the warning track in left on a 1-2 count.

After a pair of 1-2-3 innings that included three strikeouts, Wright gave up a lead-off double to Hillenbrand in the fourth. Hillenbrand moved to third on a Koskie groundout, and Joe Torre brought his infield in to try to preserve what was then a 1-0 Yankee lead. On a 1-2 count, Gregg Zaun hit a bouncer to Robinson Cano at second, which Cano caught on his heels and fired home to try to catch the charging Hillenbrand. As we’ve seen many times before this season, Jorge Posada has finally learned to block the plate, and he did so again on this occasion, keeping Hillenbrand away from the dish long enough to apply the tag and preserve the Yankee lead.

The Jays threatened again in the fifth when one-out singles by Orlando Hudson and Russ Adams put runners on the corners, but Wright got Frank Catalanotto to ground in a double play to again keep the score 1-0.

Wright then retired the next five Blue Jays he faced but, nursing a still-slim 2-0 lead in the seventh, gave up a two-out single to Erik Hinske. Wright then battled Orlando Hudson, falling behind 1-0, then getting two strikes (one looking, one swinging), only to fall behind 3-2, the third ball being a wild pitch that moved Hinske to second. On his final pitch of the night, Wright muscled up and blew Hudson away to end the inning, after which Wright left the mound with a furious fist pump and a primal scream with which he seemed to be releasing the frustrations that had built up over more than three months of injury rehab.

With Toronto starter Scott Downs out of the game, the Yankees responded to Wright’s performance with a four spot in the bottom of the seventh and added another run in the eighth to top off a convincing 7-0 win and give bullpen aces Rivera and Gordon another much-needed night off.

The first two Yankee runs in the seventh scored when Hideki picked up Alex Rodriguez (who had struck out on three pitches with the bases loaded and none out) by singling home Tony Womack and Bernie Williams, who had reached on a single and a walk respectively. There was a close play at the plate on Bernie, who slid in feet first. Gregg Zaun failed to block the plate as well as Posada (!), and tagged Bernie’s folded up right leg after as his extended left leg touched the dish. The ump got it right, and the replays were pretty clear, but Toronto manager John Gibbons got his money worth and an early shower with a classic, bill-to-bill argument with his doppleganger, home plate ump Marvin Hudson as the Jays dropped their fourth straight game.

By The Way

  • Derek Jeter sat out the game with a sore thumb. In his place, Felix Escalona went 1 for 3 with an RBI and a hit-by-pitch. Jeter is expected to be back in the line-up tonight.
  • Jason Giambi broke an 0-for-21 slump by going 2 for 3 with a resounding RBI single in the seventh.
  • The final Yankee run scored when an Alex Rodriguez double off the top of the left field wall cashed in a lead-off double by . . . Tony Womack!? Leading off the game in Jeter’s absence, Womack picked up his ninth extra base hit of the year in 341 plate appearances, raising his slugging percentage to .273.
  • Bubba Crosby, who incidentally has no extra base hits in the majors this season, has not started a game since July 28, and has just four plate appearances since that start, fewer than Escalona, who has appeared in just two games since being called up on August 8.

Winning Ways

Forgive me if I refuse to join the pity party that commenced after the Yankee offense failed to compensate for Randy Johnson’s atrocious fourth inning yesterday, but with the Yankees having already taken the first two games of the series from the AL-leading White Sox, I can forgive them the failure to sweep. Of course, that might also have something to do with the fact that I didn’t suffer through yesterday’s game as I refuse to watch Jose Contreras pitch.

Still, rather than dwelling on what the Yankees did (or didn’t do) yesterday, I’m more inclined to look back at what they’ve done over their previous forty games. Why forty? Because that is the exact extent of what I had previously dubbed (via Steven Goldman), the “punishingly difficult” portion of the Yankees’ schedule.

So how’d the Bombers do against the best the league has to offer? Pretty darn well. The Yankees went 24-16 over the last forty games against the Red Sox, Angels, White Sox, Indians, Twins, Rangers, Blue Jays, and Devil Rays. That’s a .600 winning percentage against six of the seven AL clubs above .500 (including all three division leaders), the fallen AL West challengers (Rangers), and the home nine’s 2005 bugaboo (D-Rays).

Over that stretch, the only teams against whom the Yankees posted a losing record were the AL West leading Angels (3-4) and those pesky D-Rays (1-2). One could argue that they got fat on the collapsing Rangers (6-1), who now have the fourth worst record in the league, but emerging from that stretch of schedule with a .600 winning percentage, especially considering the fact that their starting rotation was in ruins for the bulk of that period, remains a remarkable accomplishment.

Looking to the next forty games (as that is all that remains of the regular season), there are just three .500 teams left on the Yankees schedule, the Red Sox and A’s, the two teams the Yankees are chasing in the playoff hunt, and tonight’s opponent, the Toronto Blue Jays.

Hanging in just five games off the A’s Wild Card pace, the Blue Jays remain the most overlooked team in the American League, and the Yankees face them more times than any other team over the remainder of the 2005 season. Starting with this week’s three-game series in the Bronx, the Blue Jays and Yankees play ten times over the remainder of the season, meaning these two teams will be playing each other over a full fourth of the remaining schedule.

Thus far, the Yankees are 5-3 against the Blue Jays, going 4-1 in Toronto, including a 2-1 series win a little over two weeks ago. The Blue Jays did take two of three from the Bombers in the Bronx to finish April, but they did so behind the pitching of Roy Halladay (in a fantastic first game) and against the pitching of Mike Stanton (in an awful third game), two pitchers who are unlikely to appear in the remaining ten games between these teams (Halladay having encountered numerous complications on his way back from a broken leg suffered just prior to the All-Star break).

Absent Halladay, I just don’t think the Blue Jays have the pitching to beat the Yankees consistently (reliever Pete Walker got the win in the other two Blue Jays victories against the Yankees this year, both games in which the Jays scored 8 runs to outdistance the 5 and 6 spots put up by the Yankee bats). Indeed, looking at the men the Blue Jays have lined up for this series (Scott Downs, Josh Towers, Dave Bush, and Mr. Gustavo), I think the Yankees fate is in the hands of their pitching. If they can keep the Jays from dropping an eight spot on the board, I think they’ve got an excellent chance to make some major hay against the Jays.

Tonight, Scott Downs will be opposed by Jaret Wright, making his second start since being activated off the DL. Wright is pitching on six days of rest thanks to Thursday’s off-day and the fact that Joe Torre elected to pitch Randy Johnson on normal rest yesterday, swapping him with Wright in the rotation. One hopes that decision, which went largely unnoticed, wasn’t in response to Wright experiencing discomfort following his excellent start against the D-Rays a week ago. Much as I was rooting against him when Chein-Ming Wang (who continues to make progress, by the way, recently moving up to throwing batting practice in Tampa) was cruising, a healthy and effective Jaret Wright could be the difference in the Yankees’ season at this point. We’ll know more after tonight.

The Big Fizzle

“How do you explain that?” Johnson said, clearly exasperated. “That’s the one thing I’m going to walk away from this game not understanding.”
(N.Y.Daily News)

When Randy Johnson pitches a complete game like he did yesterday, chances are the news is good for Yankee fans. Johnson looked good early on against the White Sox. Then came the fourth inning. Johnson allowed consecutive home runs to Iguchi (fastball away, hit over the right field fence), Rowland (fastball at the shoulders hacked over the right centerfield wall), and Konerko (flat slider, low and over the plate, deposited deep into the left field bleachers). After two more hits, back up catcher Chris Widger woodchopped another fastball ball up between the shoulders and eyes for a three-run dinger:

“He makes that pitch, and 99 out of 100 times, there’s no way I even put that ball in play,” Widger said. “That just happened to be the one where I did. I hit it solid, but it was a two-strike swing, and I didn’t know it was going. Shoot, after I hit it, I was just happy that I made contact and put it in the outfield, to be honest with you.

“I’m not that good, especially. Even the good hitters aren’t going to hit that pitch very often. He put it right where he wanted to at 94 miles an hour. Somehow, the barrel of my bat hit it. I’m not going to question why it happened. I’m just happy that it did.”

Six runs before you could blink. Rowand and Widger took defensive swings, but they were both strong enough to muscle the ball over the fence. It was the first time in Johnson’s career that he allowed back-to-back-to-back homers, and the first time in his career that he’d ever allowed four in one inning. He’s given up 29 on the year, one shy of his season record.


Put up yer Dukes

For true drama, it would have been fitting if Al Leiter pitched against El Duque Hernandez yesterday. Now that would be an endurance test. Instead, Hernandez was done-in by a few mistakes, and was also thoroughly out-pitched by Shawn Chacon as the Yankees handed the White Sox their seventh consecutive loss. Final score: New York 5, Chicago 0. The Bombers gained a game in both the AL East and wildcard standings as both Boston and Oakland were defeated.

After retiring the side in the first, El Duque started the second by throwing a pitch behind Alex Rodriguez. Rodriguez wiggled as if suddenly being attacked by a bee; his response was almost comic. Rodriguez has handled El Duque in the past, so this was the Cuban righthander’s not-so-subtle message to beware. El Duque was immediately warned by the home plate umpire Larry Vanover.

“I didn’t think it was an accident. He has too good of command. There was a purpose for it and I’m not sure what it was,” Yankees manager Joe Torre said. “But I thought Larry Vanover did the right thing.”

Rodriguez got under a fly ball and flew out to centerfield. Hideki Matsui was the next batter and he took a 2-2 fastball on the outside corner for a ball. El Duque walked off the mound and went directly to Vanor for a discussion–Vanor’s strike zone was incredibly stingy–not something you see every day. (Heck, even Jason Giambi of all people, would argue balls-and-strikes before the game was through.) At the end of the inning, three-up/three-down, the two spoke again and everything looked to be okay between them. But when Duque returned to the dugout he smashed his mitt down on the top rail.



Mike Mussina out-dueled Jon Garland in Chicago last night as the Yankees beat the White Sox, 3-1. The Yanks did not gain any ground as both Oakland and Boston won, and the White Sox lost their sixth in a row. Moose threw 115 pitches over seven innings and had his good stuff working last night: crisp fastball mixed with sharp breaking pitches. Garland threw 120 pitches over seven, but never dominated. If the Yanks did not score much, they at least put together stubborn at bats, making Garland work for his outs. Chicago is excellent in the field, no wonder their pitchers have done so well this year–Joe Crede made a couple of nifty plays at third last night.

Bernie Williams had two hits and an RBI batting in the two-hole, while Robinson Cano collected a couple of hits himself from the ninth slot. Gary Sheffield had an RBI single as well. Flash Gordon worked around a one-out hit in the eighth, and Mariano Rivera pitched a one-two-three ninth to earn save number 33.


The View From Here

Thanks to a well-timed and largely media-free vacation on the Maine coast, I missed the latest Yankee stumble against the sub-.400 Devil Rays. Not having witnessed the infuriating manner in which the Bronx Bumblers blew the final two games of that series earlier this week, I sense that I might have a slightly different perspective when sizing up the remaining six weeks of the Yankees’ season than those embittered by watching those games unfold.

What I see when I look at the standings is that the Yankees are four games behind the Red Sox in the AL East with six games left to play against Boston and one and a half games behind the A’s in the Wild Card race with three games left to play against Oakland. That means the Yankees’ destiny is in their own hands. If they are able to match just one of these two clubs win-for-win over the remainder of the season and sweep their head-to-head confrontations, the Yankees will make the playoffs for the eleventh consecutive season.

Not that I expect that to happen.

But then again, why not? Aside from those nine games against the teams they’re chasing, the Yankees have just three remaining games against the other two AL teams with better records than their own, those being the three games they will play against the AL best White Sox in Chicago this weekend.

Otherwise, the Yanks have three home games against the league-worst Royals, three games at the West’s worst Mariners (against whom the Bombers are 5-1 on the season, including a 2-1 series win in Safeco in May), and a whopping 22 games against the three teams below them in the AL East standings.

The A’s, meanwhile, have those three games against the Yankees, four in Fenway against the Red Sox, and seven against the division-leading Angels. The Red Sox have those six games against the Yanks and four against the A’s, and six more against the Angels, who whupped them 13-4 last night to open a four-game series in Anahiem.

For those keeping track, that’s 11 remaining games against what I’ll, for lack of a better term, call “playoff caliber” teams for both the A’s and Yanks, and 14 for the Red Sox. Overall, I think it’s fair to say that the Yankees have the easiest remaining schedule as, while the A’s, Yanks and Bosox will all do battle with each other, the A’s and Hosers each have a pair of series remaining with the Angels (who as of this moment are my pick to win the AL pennant) while the Yankees get a second chance at the slumping White Sox.

Yes, the White Sox still have the best record in the American League and a convincing 10.5 game lead in the Central, but that was almost entirely the result of a smoking first half that saw the Chisox peak at 57-26 (.687) before being swept by the A’s in their final series before the All-Star break. Since then, the Pale Hosers have gone 16-18 (.471), dropping their overall winning percentage 60 points to .627. Best of all for the Yankees, the bulk of that losing has come in August, a month in which the AL’s “best” team has gone 6-9. Most of that is due to an active five-game losing streak that started immediately after the Southsiders squeaked out a 2-1 series win against the Yanks over the course of three one-run games early last week.

Since that series, each team has made just one roster move. The Yankees have dumped bullpen flotsam Wayne Franklin in favor of an apparently healthy (knock knock) Jaret Wright, who turned in what was easily his best Yankee outing in his first start off the DL this past Monday and will start against a hopefully less determined Jose Contreras on Sunday. The White Sox, meanwhile, have had to disable lead-off man Scott Podsednik, giving his roster spot to 23-year-old rookie outfielder Brian Anderson and his spot in left field and the batting order to < a href="http://cubtown.baseballtoaster.com/archives/166042.html">Timo! Perez.

The Yankees move clearly makes them better, while the White Sox move clearly makes them worse (Timo! actually started two of the three games in last weeks’ series due to a Carl Everett injury, but not as the White Sox’s lead-off hitter, and good as Timo is in the field, Podsednik is better). As the last meeting between these two teams resulted in a net score of 6-5 White Sox, it’s not irrational to think that these simple changes just might have tipped the balance in the Yankees’ favor.

Tonight the Yanks send staff anchor Mike Mussina against the major-leagues’ second winningest pitcher, Jon Garland. Coming off a pair of stomach-punch loses against the Devil Rays, with the FOX jinx lurking over tomorrow’s El Duque/Chacon match-up, and the two teams the Yankees are chasing starting their respective aces tonight (Harden and Clement), the Yankees really need to pull out a win tonight to keep morale high and the hitters loose.

Let’s Get Together

The Yankees are in Chicago this weekend for a three-game series against the White Sox, a team that has slumped recently. Mike Mussina faces Jon Garland in Game tonight. The Bombers trail Boston by four games after the Sox were pounded by the Angels last night in California. Not for nothing, but after going 0-9 over the last two games, I’d like to see Alex Rodriguez carry the team this weekend.

There are a few articles about Joe Torre’s future as the manager of the Yankees in the New York papers today (Chass, Lupica). If the commentors on this site are any indication, Torre has faced more criticism this season than he has in almost any other year in New York. There is clearly a segment of Yankee fans out there that would be happy to see Torre go. Brian Cashman’s contract expires this fall and he may not be back either. Personally, I think Torre will return next year, but in George Steinbrenner’s universe, of couse nothing’s shocking (I’d also like to see Cashman return as well). In spite of his flaws as a tactition, I would like to see Torre come back in 2006. Call me sentimental, but I’m not ready for the Torre Era to end just yet.

Ol’ Reliable

Allen Barra’s former partner in crime over at the Village Voice, Allen St. John, has an interesting look at the dominant relievers in the game today in The Wall Street Journal. Mariano Rivera is at the top of the list, but not the tippy-top. That spot is reserved for…Justin Spieir. St. John checks the statistics.


“This was ugly. We just gave too much away and we didn’t get the job done. It’s one thing having a team beat you. It’s another thing to help them beat you. That’s what this one was tonight.” Joe Torre

It was a game the Yankees needed to win. With a 5-2 lead in the sixth, it appeared that they would win. But poor relief pitching combined with lousy fielding and hitting allowed the Devil Rays to come-from-behind and beat the Bombers, 7-6. This game goes to the top of the list of painful losses for the Yanks who failed to gain ground on either the Red Sox or A’s. This one was like bony finger in the Yankees’ gut.


Masterpiece Theater

Al Leiter brings drama to each one of his starts–of which there are now precious few remaining. And not only do we get treated to great theater for free, but Leiter often works so deliberately that it’s as if you are sitting through a PBS pledge drive anyhow.

The Sox and A’s both lost this afternoon. This is a game the Yanks have to win, ’nuff said. Let’s get the Led out gentlemen.

Go Al!

What a Difference a Night Makes

When the Yankees loaded the bases in the second inning they already had a 3-0 lead. They had four consecutive hits in the inning, there was nobody out, and Cano, Sheffield and Rodriguez were due up. I thought to myself that this could be the game right here. One hit and Randy Johnson will have all the runs he needs. The Yanks weren’t hitting Doug Waechter especially hard but Sweet Lou had the bullpen up and working just in case things got out of hand. Cano, who had walked on four pitches in the first, grounded sharply to Eduardo Perez. The portly son of Hall of Fame firstbaseman Tony Perez, Eduardo made an off-balance throw home for the first out. It wasn’t a graceful-looking play but it was effective. Waechter then struck out Sheffield and got Rodriguez to ground out to short.

The Yankees would not score again and eventually lost the game in extra innings. Perez, who hit two home runs off of Johnson in New York back on April 19, hit another dinger off Johnson, a two-run shot in the sixth. Then, with one out in the ninth, he tied the game with a solo dinger off of Mariano Rivera, who blew his fourth game of the season. The ball barely cleared the left field fence. A fan wearing a Yankee jersey caught the ball. I could not tell from the replay if he reached into fair territory but it seemed like the ball was only going to hit off the top of the wall. Rivera watched the play unfold and after the ball was ruled a home run, a flash of tension gripped his face. It almost looked like a spasm. His face coiled up with anger and it looked like he was going to say something. Instead he spit. It happened so quickly it was easy to miss. Rivera, who then motioned with his hands that the fan perhaps interfered with the ball, rarely shows emotion but that was a fitting expression. So mad that all he could do was spit.


Mr. Big Stuff

Well…who do you think you are?

Big start for the Big Unit tonight.

As Advertised

The winner of the American League MVP will be determined over the next six weeks. This is nothing new, of course. Nobody in the league is having a dominant season and since the voters usually select a player on a contending team, there is still much to be be decided. There are three guys from up in Boston with a shot (Ortiz–.303/.400/.584, Manny–.287/.385/.595, Damon–.334/.382/.474), and a couple of guys on the Yanks with a chance too (Rodriguez–.320/.421/.611, Rivera). Tejada (.316/.364/.556) and Guerrero (.327/.389/.596) can’t be discouted, especially Vlad. It’s remarkable that Guerrero has only played in 100 games this year but still has more homers than Tejada, who has played in 118 (26-22), as well as more RBI (88-77). However, if Alex Rodriguez finishes the season well, and/or the Yanks make the playoffs, he could be the front-runner. The only significant flaw in his game this year has been his defense, and even that has been much-improved of late. Joel Sherman noted in the Post today:

Early in the season, Rodriguez looked worse at third base than he did in his first year at the hot corner. But something clicked about two months into the season, and Rodriguez has played at a Gold Glove level since. He has not committed an error since June 22.

As Jay Jaffe put it to me in a recent e-mail, “As for A-Rod, we’re getting the one in the catalog now.” I know he’s not going to stay hot forever, but I sure do enjoy watching him shine. There is nothing quite like watching great players, and Rodriguez certainly is a great player.

Talkin’ Baseball

Just a heads up for those of you living here in the tri-state area…Stephen Borelli, author of “How About That! The Life of Mel Allen,” will be appearing at the mid-Manhattan Library this Thursday. The Library is located at 455 5th avenue, which is on the southeast corner of 40th street and 5th avenue (across from the Main Branch of the public library, you know, the big one with the lions out front). Borelli will be there at 6:30, discussing his book and sharing some Mel Allen audio. If you are around, check it out.

Catwalk Cruisin’

With two men on and just one out, the tying run came to the plate against Mariano Rivera in the ninth inning last night (Rivera had allowed a bloop double and then hit a batter). At the same time in Detroit, the Tigers were staging a ninth inning comeback against the Red Sox closer Curt Schilling. However, Rivera steadied himself, retired the next two hitters and sealed a 5-2 win for the Yankees. With the Sox and A’s losing, the Yanks now trail Boston by three-and-a-half games in the AL East, and Oakland by just a game-and-a-half for the wildcard.

Jaret Wright had his longest outing as a Yankee, pitching into the seventh inning. He was aggresive and threw strikes. The Devil Rays hit the ball sharply several times off of Wright, but for the most part, they went directly at Yankee fielders (Alex Rodriguez made an especially nifty pick on a Jorge Cantu ground ball in the bottom of the fourth). Wright gave up two runs on four hits, a walk and a couple of strikeouts. Even better, he only threw 79 pitches and was still throwing in the early-to-mid nineties in the sixth inning.

Alex Rodriguez, the Bombers’ candidate for the American League MVP, led the offense cracking another memorable home run. This one–a solo shot–hit one of the catwalks. Rodriguez knew it was gone off the bat and went into a home run trot. The TV cameras showed centerfielder Joey Gathright going back on the ball as if he had a chance to make a play. Then he just stopped and kept looking up. The ball never came down. Suddenly, Rodriguez was hustling into third. But just as he slid, the umpires signaled that the ball was indeed a home run. Oh man, Jeter is going to bust his chops for this one, I thought.


The Devil Rays

One of the drawbacks to being a Yankee fan is having to watch the home nine play the Devil Rays nineteen times a year. This year things have been especially bad as the D-Rays have not only been their usual last-place selves, but have been beating up on the Yankees, holding a 7-3 advantage in the season series thus far. Here’s a quick summary of those first ten games:

The Yankees and Devil Rays split a two-game series in the Bronx back in late April. In the first game, the Yankees abused Rob Bell to win 19-8 behind a Jaret Wright who did everything he could to lose. Less than a month later, Bell was put on the DL for “personal and psychological issues.” He has since been activated and sent to the minors. Wright, meanwhile will make just his sixth start of the year tonight after more than three months on the disabled list with a shoulder injury.

The next night Hideo Nomo stifled the Yankee bats, while Randy Johnson gave up a pair of homers to Eduardo Perez as the Rays won 6-2. Johnson has since missed his most recent start with inflammation in his lumbar spine and is questionable for tomorrow. Nomo, meanwhile was released by the D-Rays and is currently attempting a comeback in the Yankees’ system.

Two weeks later in Tampa, the Yankees hit what appeared to be their nadir. In the first game, Andy Phillips struck out five times in a 6-2 win over Scott Kazmir and has been blacklisted by Joe Torre ever since. Following the game, Brian Cashman dropped the bombshell that Tony Womack would move to left field, pushing Hideki Matsui into center field, giving the second base job to rookie Robinson Cano, and benching Bernie Williams for the forseable future.

With their new line-up in place, the Yankees proceeded to drop the next three games to the Rays by a combined score of 28-14. In the third game of the series, the Yankees skipped Randy Johnson in the rotation due to concerns over a sore groin. In his place, they started a rookie straight out of double-A Trenton named Sean Henn. Henn was rocked for six runs (five earned) on seven hits and a pair of walks in just 2 1/3 innings. After the game, Henn confessed that his knees were shaking on the mound. He was then sent down to triple-A Columbus.

When the Rays and Yankees met again in the Bronx in late June, it was Henn, back up to fill in for Kevin Brown, who took the mound. Henn faired “better” in his second big-league start, but walked seven men in just 4 2/3 innings, throwing just 47 percent of a staggering 98 pitches for strikes. Against Henn and since-jettisoned reliever Paul Quantrill, the Rays got out to a 5-0 lead behind a stellar outing by Casey Fossum, which was just enough to hold off a four-run rally by the Yankees against the since-demoted Lance Carter in the eighth.

The next night brought another Johnson-Nomo confrontation, with Nomo again coming out on top thanks to Johnson turning in one of his worst starts in recent memory (seven runs on eight hits–three of them homers by Damon Hollins, Kevin Cash and Jonny Gomes–in just three innings). This time, however, the Yankee eighth-inning rally tallied thirteen runs, the second time this year that the Yankees had scored thirteen runs in a single inning against Tampa, and the Bombers emerged with a 20-11 victory.

The next night a 3-2 Yankee lead was erased by a three-run Nick Green home run off Carl Pavano in the seventh, giving the Rays a 5-3 win. In the capper, the Rays got six runs off Chien-Ming Wang to take a 6-4 lead behind Mark Hendrickson, then added a three spot against Tom Gordon in the ninth for good measure to win 9-4.

That most recent series in the Bronx was particularly disheartening as the discrepancy between the Yankees’ home record and the Devil Rays’ road record entering the series was striking:

Yanks Home: 22-13 (.629)
Rays Road: 5-28 (.152)

Entering the current three-game series in Tampa, the home and away records of the two combatants tells a very different story. As of this past Friday:

Rays Home: 28-28
Yanks Road: 26-29



Yankees v. Rangers Game 4

We’ll be back in action tomorrow. In the meantime, here’s another open thread for ya.

In the Boom Boom Room

I’ve been a little out of it for the past few days. As a gentle summer rain cools Vermont off this morning, I’m catching up on the latest dish in the papers. Here’s some Sunday tidbits I’ve come across:

From the Times:

[Bernie] Williams’s day started with a flat tire on his drive to the ballpark, an anecdote Manager Joe Torre shared. “It was perfect, but that’s Bernie,” he said. “That’s the way we categorize everything that involves him: that’s Bernie. Bernie being Bernie.”

…”I know I’ve got a lot to catch up for the year, as far as numbers are concerned,” said Williams, who has nine homers and a .245 batting average. “But hopefully they’ll see a value in me being on the team, more valuable than individual numbers. They’ll see that in a given situation, I can help the team win in that fashion.”


Sweatin’ to the Oldies

On a swealtering day in the Bronx, Mariano Rivera blew a two-run lead to the Texas Rangers in the ninth inning, raising his ERA to 1.33. It is the first time he’s blown a save since he faced Boston at the start the season. Thankfully, our old pal Bernie Williams saved the day, cracking a two-run dinger in the bottom of the 11th to give the Bombers a 7-5 win. No soup for Mussina (who pitched a good game), and no soup for Mo, but lots of soup for everyone else, as the Yanks have taken three-in-a-row from Texas. They’ll go for the series sweep tomorrow afternoon.

Five Game Tally: Yankees 20, Opponents 19

With their 6-5 victory over the Rangers last night, the Yankees have now participated in five straight one-run games, going 3-2 in that stretch. The Yankees are 7-5 in one-run games since the All-Star break and 16-12 (.571) in one-run contests on the season, a pretty solid record. Still it sure would be nice if they’d win a laugher every now and again.

Last night the problem was Al Leiter, who threw 125 pitches (only 54 percent strikes) through just five innings, allowing three earned runs on seven hits and three walks. Derek Jeter was part of the problem as well as, with two outs and the bases loaded in the bottom of the second, Jeter bobbled a Michael Young grounder, then threw wide of Robinson Cano at second, picking up a pair of errors and allowing a pair of runs to score in the process. Fortunately, Jeter was also part of the solution, hitting the first pitch from reliver C.J. Wilson, who replaced an even less effective Chris Young, for what proved to be the game-winning home run in the bottom of the fourth. In a complete reversal of Thursday night’s game, the Yankee bullpen sparkled as Felix Rodriguez, Wayne Franklin, Tanyon Sturtze (picking up the save) and, in a creative bit of managing by Joe Torre, Shawn Chacon on his throw day, combined to allow just three baserunners across four scoreless innings to nail down the win.

The Rangers are calling up Juan Dominguez to start today’s game against Mike Mussina. Dominguez will be making his first major league start of the year. No word yet on how they’ll make room for the 25-year-old righty on the roster.

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"This ain't football. We do this every day."
--Earl Weaver