"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice

Monthly Archives: May 2006

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What Time’s The Gravy Boat

Two out of two Bronx Banter bloggers agree, by winning the first two games, the Yankees have accomplished what they needed to do in their four-games in Detroit. That they did it in the first two games gives them an opportunity to come out ahead with another victory tonight or tomorrow, a win that would counter that unexpected loss to the Royals on Friday night. With rookie Justin Verlander set to start tomorrow, the Yanks would appear to have their best shot at a series win tonight behind Mike Mussina.

Moose’s May ERA has been nearly a run higher than his April mark, but remains an impressive 3.21 (he’s at 2.72 on the season). He’s also been pitching in a bit of hard luck of late, failing to earn a decision in his last three starts because of a lack of offensive support (he left the first game tied 2-2, the second trailing 2-0) and bullpen support (the pen lost that first game and blew a lead and lost the game in his last start against Kansas City). I wouldn’t be surprised to see Moose’s ND streak reach four games tonight with Gary Sheffield and Johnny Damon expected to sit out once again (with Sheffield staring down another DL stay), and the bulk of the bullpen having pitched last night (the exceptions being Darrell Rasner, who it turns out was just called up today and was not available last night–which explains why Torre didn’t go to him in extra innings in a tie game on the road–Ron Villone, who went two innings on Monday, and Mike Myers, who’s a non-factor against the Tigers who have just one lefty bat, lead-off man Curtis Granderson, on their roster).

Opposing the Moose will be bespectacled lefty Nate Robertson. Robertson’s preferred throwing hand is likely good news for Andy Phillips, T-Long haters, and Bernie Williams. But his performance thus far in May (a 2.32 ERA in five starts to go with a 3.02 season mark) is less encouraging, as is the fact that, if Damon is unable to play the field, Long will have to start against him anyway. If so, just remember that the Yankees have done what they came here to do. Another win in Detroit would be gravy.

How Do You Spell Relief?

Before the NBA playoffs in 1983, 76ers power forward, and future Hall of Famer, Moses Malone was asked for a prediction. “Fo, fo, fo,” he replied succinctly, meaning that his team would win each series in four straight (the Sixers did win the title that year, going 12-1 in the process). The NBA playoffs have been truly exciting this spring, but for the injured-torn New York Yankees, the answer to their problems came in a familiar package last night: Mo, Mo, Mo. Mariano Rivera worked three innings for the first time in a regular season game since 1996. He threw just 25 pitches and was brilliant as the Yankees beat the Tigers in extra innings, 11-6. It seemed like the Tigers were going to find a way to pull the game out–coming back from 6-1, but Jason Giambi’s solo home run off of Todd Jones broke the tie and then his teammates added four more for good measure. Combined with another Toronto win over Boston, the Yanks find themselves tied for first place this morning.

It was the Good, Bad and the Ugly last night in the Motor City. Let’s address the bad first. Neither Johnny Damon or Gary Sheffield were in the line-up last night. Damon is playing with a broken bone in his foot and will need to rest every so often. Sheffield’s wrist has not gotten better. In fact, it may have become significantly worse and the slugger may return to the DL. According to Sam Borden in the Daily News:

Sheffield admitted that he has suffered a new injury to his already-ailing wrist and believes he could be facing another long layoff.

“Yeah,” Sheffield said when asked directly if he thought he might need to go back on the DL. “As soon as I picked up the bat to warm up (yesterday afternoon), it felt like my wrist came off. …I don’t know what’s going on. I felt like (the previous sprain) was getting better, but it’s in a different spot now. It’s right on the wrist, right on the bone. It’s really painful.”


See Spot Start

It’s the battle of the spot starters in Detroit tonight with Aaron Small taking his second turn in place of Shawn Chacon, and Roman Colon making his first start of the year in place of the recently disabled Mike Maroth. Curiously, both assumed their rotation spots in relief of disaster starts by the pitchers they’ve replaced, eating up innings while their teams staged unlikely comebacks that ended with ninth-inning victories (though the Tigers’ comeback was against the Royals, so perhaps “unlikely” isn’t entirely appropriate).

On their careers both Small and Colon, who is nearly eight years Small’s junior, have been marginal types who haven’t managed to stick as starters or relievers. Colon came to the Tigers at the trading deadline last year as one of the two pitchers received from the Braves in exchange for Kyle Farnsworth.

In his previous start against the Mets at Shea, Small faced one more than the minimum through his first three innings, then collapsed in the fourth, escaping the hook only because of an inning-ending double play only to get pulled after retiring just one of the first three batters in the fifth.

Small’s next turn will come on Sunday, after which he may well be returned to the bullpen, if not the minors (enduring Scott Erickson while his ERA hovers around 4.00 is one thing, enduring Aaron Small while his is around 8.50 is another thing entirely). Shawn Chacon is scheduled to throw off a mound today and could return to the rotation after one more mound session and a rehab start. Assuming all goes well with both, that second mound session will likely synch up with Small’s throw day and the rehab start with his Sunday turn. That would have Chacon back in the rotation to kick off the Oakland series a week from Friday.

In the meantime, with Jorge Posada having made a triumphant return to the line-up yesterday, going 2 for 4 and feeling less pain thanks the removal of one of the straps on his left shin guard, the Yankees have returned third catcher Koyie Hill to Columbus in exchange for Darrell Rasner. Rasner, you may remember, was plucked off waivers from the Nationals this spring. Since then he’s been the Clippers’ best starter, posting this line in nine starts:

52 2/3 IP, 53 H, 3 HR, 11 BB, 42 K, 1.22 WHIP, 2.56 ERA, 4-0

Unfortunately, the Yankees don’t intend to have Rasner take over Small’s next two starts. Instead, he’ll rot in the bullpen behind Erickson.

Rasner was chosen because Matt Smith, who was demoted in favor of Hill on Friday, two days after being recalled, has to spend ten days in the minors before he can be called up again. But one wonders why they chose Rasner, who has been a pure starter in Columbus, over Ramiro Mendoza, who has pitched out of both the Clippers’ bullpen and rotation and been absolutely lights out overall. The only explanation I can think of is that they didn’t want to have to clear room on the 40-man roster for Mendoza, though moving Matsui to the 60-day DL is all it would have taken. Perhaps the Yankees have decided to convert Mendoza to full-time starting, either as added insurance, or to protect his surgically repaired rotator cuff from being Sturtzed up by Torre.

Speaking of which, Torre has finally figured out that he can use Ron Villone, who pitched two perfect innings yesterday, to lighten Scott Proctor’s load. This revelation gives the Yankees skipper a five-man end-game that includes the one-two punch of Farnsworth and Rivera set up by any combination of the lefty-righty duo Proctor and Villone and lefty specialist Myers. That’s scads better than the “Farns and Sturtze are interchangeable one-inning pitchers setting up Mo” concept that Torre broke camp with. While Villone is pitching as far over his head as Proctor was in April, he at least has some track record of major league success and a history of starting that should allow him to endure the extra work. For those not keeping track, Proctor’s current pace would result in 107 innings over the full year, a staggering total even by Torre’s standards. The last Yankee to throw over 100 innings in pure relief was Mariano Rivera in 1996. Coincidentally, Mo threw 107 2/3 innings that year.

At any rate, expect to see several if not all of these guys tonight. Rasner might even work his way into the game if Small gets an early hook. Perhaps he could swipe Small’s job the same way Small swiped Chacon’s (minus the injury, of course).


Funny what pitching in Comerica Park can do for a pitcher’s disposition. Randy Johnson had some of the old juice in him yesterday–he brushed back at least two Tiger hitters, as the Yanks won the first of a four game series, 4-0. It was the third straight win for New York (who beat the Royals 15-4 on Saturday, and 6-5 on Sunday). Fly balls that have been going over the wall recently against Johnson found their way into the gloves of his outfielders. According to Tyler Kepner:

“It’s one game,” Johnson said. “My career wasn’t over after a few bad ones. It doesn’t mean anything because I threw a good one. It just means I’m back on track to where I should be. That’s all.”

…Detroit stacked nine right-handed hitters against Johnson, who induced more groundouts to third base (six) than strikeouts (four). The Tigers’ Brandon Inge noticed that Johnson was throwing more off-speed pitches than normal.

“That’s something I haven’t seen from him in a long time,” Inge said. “To me, that shows he’s pitching. He’s not trying to blow it past you anymore. But he still has it when he wants to reach back.”

It’s a start. It will be interesting to see how Johnson fares against the Orioles at Camden Yards this weekend.

Detroit Tigers

After dropping the opener to the Royals at home, the Yankees beat up on the majors’ worst team on Saturday (a 15-4 victory) and during the first two innings of Sunday’s game. They then went down in order (save a Johnny Damon single erased by a caught stealing) over the final seven innings of the series, squeezing out a 6-5 win in the finale.

Today they’re in Detroit for a Memorial Day afternoon special to open a four game series with the best team in the majors. The Tigers have a strong offense, which some of us saw coming, but have been winning with dominating pitching, which few if any of us did. This afternoon’s contest features the two disappointments of the two rotations, Randy Johnson, about whom more need not be said, and Jeremy Bonderman, who was the Tiger hurler ticketed for a breakout and, through an odd twist, the only one who hasn’t experienced one.

That’s all I’ve got for you right now. It’s a gorgeous day and Becky and I are going for a picnic. Enjoy!


In the Soup

It hasn’t been hot or humid in New York this spring. Until yesterday, that is. The sun is peaking out this morning but it is muggy as can be and there is a chance we’ll see thunderstorms this afternoon. The game doesn’t start until 4:00 but even if there is a delay, I’ve got every reason to believe they’ll get this one in.

I’ll be there in Bob Uecker territory, the right field nose bleeds with Emily, my cousin Jonah and his wife Jenn. Emily is sooooo excited–it’s her first game of the year (she’s rocking her Giambi shirt). Jonah’s first game ever was at Yankee Stadium but he hasn’t been back since (he’s a Mets fan), so it’s as if he’s never been. This is Jenn’s first time as well, so I’m excited to play host a little something.

You have to figure the Yanks’ll bounce back today after a silly loss last night. “I have faith,” says Emily.

“That’s all you got for a quote,” I ask?

“Yeah,” she says.

“Man, you are getting to be just as bland as the players, Lady.”

“I wish Bubba was playing.”

“You won’t get your Bubba, but you’ll get a Melky and you’ll like it.”

“Mmm, I like Melky.”

Let’s Go Yan-Kees!

Reverse Lock

Mike Mussina, perhaps the best pitcher in the AL in this young season, against the Kansas City Royals, a historically bad ballclub on a thirteen-game losing streak. Sure thing right? Not if you believe in the Reverse Lock, a match-up that’s such a gimme it’s guaranteed to go the other way.

Indeed, the Royals broke their streak by beating the Yankees 7-6 last night in an odd game that was delayed for two hours in the middle of the ninth inning due to a sudden downpour.

To be fair, the Royals didn’t actually beat Mussina. They did score three runs against him in the second inning, but when Mussina left the game, after throwing 98 pitches and turning in his eleventh quality start in as many turns, the Yankees were winning 4-3.

With Mussina on the verge of 100 pitches after six innings, Joe Torre decided to go to his bullpen, apparently planning to give Scott Proctor, Kyle Farnsworth and Mariano Rivera an inning a piece. With the bottom third of the Royals order coming up, it wasn’t the worst decision Torre could have made. Unfortunately, it backfired immediately. Tony Graffanino lead off the seventh with a single, was bunted to second by Angel Berroa and singled home by Paul Bako, tying the game. That was the end of Scott Proctor’s night.

After Mike Myers got the last two outs of the seventh, Kyle Farnsworth came in to keep the game knotted at four in the eighth. Things started well when he caught Reggie Sanders, who had homered off Mussina in the third, looking, but righty-killer Matt Stairs laced Farnsworth’s very next pitch into right for a single. After Robinson Cano made a nice running catch on a foul pop up by Emil Brown for the second out, Farnsworth walked Graffanino on four pitches to put men on first and second with two outs. That brought up Angel Berroa, who had sacrificed in his last at-bat. On a 1-0 count, Farnsworth hung a slider and Angel Berroa launched it over the left field wall for a three-run home run.

The Yankees got one back in the bottom of the inning when Jason Giambi singled, Alex Rodriguez doubled and, after Jimmy Gobble got Robinson Cano to pop out on one pitch, Bernie Williams plated Giambi with a groundout off Joel Peralta, but Melky Cabrera grounded out to strand Rodriguez at third.

Then the rains came. Ron Villone pitched around a Reggie Sanders walk in a downpour in the top of the ninth and, with standing water all over the field, the umpires signaled for the tarp. Two hours later, the skies had cleared, tarp came off and the Yankees, in front of barely a thousand remaining hardcore fans, took their last licks against Joe Nelson.

With Kelly Stinnett scheduled to lead off, Torre sent up Terrence Long, who inexplicably singled against the young righthander. After Damon flew out, Derek Jeter drew a walk and Gary Sheffield laced a single to center that skipped by Esteban German, who had pinch-hit for Shane Costa in the seventh. Long came around to score, Jeter went to third and Jason Giambi came to the plate with one out, men on the corners, and needing just a sac fly to tie the game. What more devastating way for the Royals streak to be extended than by a ninth-inning rally following a two-hour delay in which the Royals had held a ninth-inning lead. But it was not to be. Giambi grounded into the shift and slipped on the wet dirt coming out of the batters box, resulting in a 4-6-3 double play (though Giambi, who runs like he’s standing in quicksand on dry ground, would have been out anyway).


Kansas City Royals

The Kansas City Royals have lost their last thirteen games. In April they had a streak of eleven straight losses. They’ve won just ten games all year. All totaled, they have a 10-35 record. That’s a .222 winning percentage. While the Royals aren’t quite that bad, even their Pythagorean winning percentage, a comparatively robust .261, would rank as the sixth worst since 1901, the twenty-first sub-.300 winning percentage in those 106 seasons, and just the fourth since 1945.*

Amazingly, the Royals, who are scoring an average of 3.78 runs per game, do not have the most inept offense in baseball. That distinction is held by the Cubs, who may soon add Tony Womack to the mix. Of course, the Cubs should also get Derrek Lee back in about a month, which should vault them past the Royals. The Royals, meanwhile, are playing without Mike Sweeney and David DeJesus, but the former is frequently disabled anyway and the latter has been sufficiently replaced by Shane Costa. No, what’s really dragging the Royals down is their pitching. The Royals are allowing 6.36 runs per game, which is to say that their pitching is so bad that it makes every team they face look like the pre-injury Yankees. Indeed, the Royals are on pace to allow 1030 runs this year, which would make them the first team since the 1999 Rockies and the first sea-level team since the 1996 Tigers, who lost 109 games while playing their home games in hitter-friendly Tiger Stadium, to allow more than a thousand runs in a single season.

Tonight the Royals will start Scott Elarton, the only Royals pitcher who has thrown enough innings to qualify for the ERA title thus far this season. Elarton has walked more men than he’s struck out this year and has yet to register a win, in part due to receiving just 3.3 runs of support per game (he does have four quality starts in ten tries).

The Yankee line-up he faces will be without Jorge Posada, who had an MRI yesterday that revealed a torn hamstring tendon. Posada has not been put on the DL, yet, but the Yankees are expected to call up either Wil Nieves or Koyie Hill to back-up Kelly Stinnett, which likely means Matt Smith will be on his way back to Columbus. I hope he didn’t bother unpacking. Neither Nieves nor Hill has hit a lick in Columbus this year. Alarmingly, Nieves, who has slugged just .289 thus far (yes, that’s actually his slugging percentage in triple-A), is clearly the better choice. Get well soon, Jorge!

With Posada out of commission, Stinnett will be catching Mike Mussina for the second time this season. Their last pairing was this past Saturday, when Mussina held the Mets to two earned runs on five hits, including a pair of homers by Carlos Delgado and Cliff Floyd, and no walks while striking out seven, Mussina’s tenth quality start in ten tries on the year.

Last year, the Yankees needed a tie breaker to win the division in part because they went 11-14 against the Royals and Devil Rays, a record that was much uglier before they swept their final three games against each team. This year the Bombers have gone 7-1 against those two clubs. The Yankees have done well to split the 14 games they’ve played since Hideki Matsui’s injury, but with Gary Sheffield back in the line-up (and despite Jorge Posada’s absence), they need to pad their win total against the historically awful Royals this weekend.

*The Terrible Twenty:

.235 – 1916 Philadelphia Athletics
.248 – 1935 Boston Braves
.250 – 1962 New York Mets
.252 – 1904 Washington Senators
.257 – 1919 Philadelphia Athletics
.265 – 2003 Detroit Tigers
.273 – 1952 Pittsburgh Pirates
.276 – 1909 Washington Senators
.278 – 1942 Philadelphia Phillies
.279 – 1932 Boston Red Sox, 1939 St. Louis Browns, 1941 Philadelphia Phillies
.283 – 1915 Philadelphia Athletics, 1928 Philadelphia Phillies
.291 – 1911 Boston Braves
.294 – 1909 Boston Braves
.296 – 1911 St. Louis Browns
.298 – 1939 Philadelphia Phillies
.299 – 1937 St. Louis Browns, 1945 Philadelphia Phillies


Don’t Moose with a Streak (Don’t you know nuthin?)

Mike Mussina gets the start tonight against the Royals, losers of 13 straight. (Is it just me, or does anyone else get nervous that a team is due to win a couple after losing so much, even a team as woeful as Kansas City?) Will this be the year Mussina finally wins 20 games? Ehhhh, could be. Ed Price tackles the subject today in the Star-Ledger:

“Moose likes to live in the shadows somewhere,” manager Joe Torre said. “He doesn’t like all that attention. He’s proud of what he does, but he doesn’t need someone to tell him that.”

Mussina says he’s not overly concerned about winning 20. There is too much season left for him to get ahead of himself. He has to be pleased with how he’s pitch so far, though. Moose adds:

“Being older and a little smarter and all that stuff, when you’ve had years that you’re struggling, you pay attention to why you struggle and what bad habits I had. You try to make sure you don’t have that when you get to the next year.”

Without crunching any numbers, I’d rank Mussina with the likes of Curt Schilling and John Smoltz as borderline Hall of Fame candidates. Smoltz has been a terrific playoff pitcher and of course was also an elite closer for a few years; Schilling has the 300 K and 20 win seasons and two World Serious rings. I wonder which of the three will last the longest. My guess is that right now, Schilling and Smoltz are more likely to make it to Cooperstown, but one never knows…does one?

I can safely say that Mussina’s got the Bronx Banter crew behind him 110%.

What Up, Duke?

As I mentioned yesterday in the comments section, I’m excited to see El Duque return to New York. In a way, it’s actually a relief to me that he’s on the Mets. This way I can enjoy watching him perform without being too emotionally invested in the outcome. I like Buster Olney’s take on the deal:

The best possible situation you can have with Orlando Hernandez at this stage in his career, a high-ranking American League executive said last night, is when you don’t have to count on him.

“The White Sox played it exactly right last year,” the exec said, “because they brought him along and he was kind of the extra guy in the rotation — they didn’t absolutely need him to win. They went into the postseason, and he wasn’t filling a crucial role; he was just another guy on their pitching staff. And then, in the playoff series against Boston, they brought him [in] when it wasn’t make or break, and he was tremendous.”

…There will be issues with El Duque: He gets hurt a lot, he is temperamental and he is high-maintenance. But if the Mets make the playoffs and face a big moment in October, there is nobody stronger mentally than Hernandez.

By the way, I know I’ve mentioned this before, but if you are interested in Duque, do yourself a favor and pick up “The Duke of Havana,” by Steve Fainaru and Ray Sanchez. It’s not necessarily a great baseball book–it actually reads more like a Graham Greene novel than anything else–but it is an absorbing account of Cuban baseball and El Duque’s life and career.


Jim Baumbach has an article in Newsday today about Yankee prospect Eric Duncan, who is currently rehabbing a lower back strain in Tampa:

Team officials are contemplating sending Duncan, who has struggled at Triple-A Columbus, to Double-A Trenton, a demotion they would be likely to say is necessary because of the sudden influx of major-league journeymen at Columbus.

But such a move also would send a message of concession, essentially saying the 21-year-old first baseman isn’t ready to succeed at Columbus. And with the trading season about to begin, this is the worst possible time to send that message to the baseball world.

The Yankees will be in the market for pitching help, and perhaps a leftfielder, too, and the teams that will be sellers will be looking for major league-ready talent.

Meanwhile, Melky Cabrera has shown some promise at the big league level this season. Tyler Kepner has a good piece in the Times about Melky and his big brother/mentor, Robbie Cano:

“Both of them are very similar in the fact that they’re having fun,” [Manager Joe] Torre said. “I don’t think they understand the pressure most people understand here. They’re just out there playing baseball.”

Last week at the Stadium, Cabrera made a fine running catch near the right field wall. After he threw the ball to the infield he made a funny face–in the direction of Cano–that said, “Wow, can’t believe I got that one without killing myself.” With Sheffield back, Cabrera will return to left field where he’ll continue his unsentimental education learning to adjust to the position.

Ham Strung Out

Jorge Posada has a torn hamstring tendon in his left knee. It is still uncertain if Posada will be placed on the disabled list. The Yankees’ catcher will be re-evaluated in a few days. GM Brian Cashman told the New York Times:

“The M.R.I. had to show something. As it was explained to me, there are several tendons that connect to the knee. This one is an unusual injury, but on the good side, it’s a tendon that you don’t need to function.”

In the Daily News, Anthony McCaron continues:

Posada had an MRI yesterday and also was examined by Yanks team physician Dr. Stuart Hershon. Cashman was worried because the Yanks’ trainer, Gene Monahan, couldn’t even speculate on how badly Posada was hurt.

“And Geno’s been doing this a long time,” Cashman said. “It’s good news, considering my level of worry, but the bad news is we’ll be without Jorge’s services for a period of time.”

Posada’s injury is unusual, Cashman said, because he has a tear in one tendon of several behind the knee. “The way Dr. Hershon explained it to me, this is a tendon we apparently don’t have a need for and it is typically used if someone needs a transplant,” Cashman said. “So it’s the pain and swelling that gets in the way for Jorge.

“Jorge told me (last night) that he feels much better since Wednesday and he hadn’t even had anti-inflammatories (medicine) yet. His belief is he’ll be ready sooner than 15 days and Hershon said it was plausible.”

This one is worth holding our collective breath over. Nothing to do but hope for the best, but shoot, this goes down just when Posada was clicking offensively too. Dag.

Hope (is the thing with a Chest Protector)

Steve Lombardi links to a good piece about John Flaherty discussing Randy Johnson’s performance last night. The Yanks acquired back-up infielder Nick Green, while on a more worrisome note, Jorge Posada will have a magnetic resonance imaging exam today to determine if there is anything seriously wrong with his hamstring. We can only hold our breath and hope that Posada is OK though I wouldn’t be surprised to see a whole lot of Kelly Stinnett this weekend.

Trans-Continental Divide

Our pal in Japan, Mike Plugh shared an interesting bit about Godzilla Matsui with me recently that I’ve been meaning to pass along. It has to do with a small reference Bill Madden made about Matsui last week:

The pregame topics of conversation – Hideki Matsui’s return to the Stadium to address the small army of Japanese media and once again apologize for breaking his wrist; Torre’s depleted lineup – had become distant memories.

Mike sent Madden a letter because he believes that the American media has it twisted and thinks that Matsui was apologizing for all the wrong reasons. Anyhow, here is what Plugh wrote to Madden:

Hello Mr. Madden.

My name is Mike Plugh and I live in Akita, Japan where I am an English instructor and baseball blogger. I also teach Cross Cultural Awareness and perhaps have some insight into Matsui’s statements.It seems that the US media hasn’t quite caught the right angle for the storyline, and since I enjoy your writing very much, I decided to send this tip to you.

Matsui isn’t apologizing because he’s sorry for being hurt. Clearly, even he knows that something like that is out of his hands. No pun intended. He’s isn’t apologizing exclusively because he’s letting the team down. He’s apologizing because the Yankees (his employer) made a tremendous financial commitment to him, and he is obligated to earn his pay. He is obligated by what the Japanese call “giri” to perform his assigned duty for the employer, and since he is no longer able to do so, but still collects a paycheck, he has to make amends by lowering himself before the public in an appropriate display of remorse. He’s acknowledging to the Japanese public that with the money he collects and the status he’s afforded he also will bear the burden
of humility to balance the situation and promise to work hard to come back and earn his keep.

Yes, he’s a stand up guy, but that has little to do with his statements and it’s almost a Japanese cultural thing on auto-pilot. You’d see a fisherman, janitor, school teacher, or CEO do the exact same thing. It’s required of them as a matter of protocol.

Good stuff, Mike. Thanks for the enlightenment.

Great Gas Face

The Cookie Monster, David Ortiz gets the Gas Face! This picture is a classic.

Waiting to Exhale

There was not a dramatic turn-around for Randy Johnson on Wednesday night at Fenway Park. He pitched inconsistently and poor enough to allow five runs in five innings, but he did strike out eight (matching his season high) while only walking two. As fate would have it, Johnson pitched just well enough for him to earn the victory in the Yankees’ 8-6 win. Fortunately for New York, Boston’s starter Matt Clement had more than his fair share of problems-—mostly throwing strikes. Batting in the lead-off spot in place of Johnny Damon—who Joe Torre felt sorely needed a rest–Melky Cabrera drove in four runs and was the offensive hero of the game. Cabrera also made a fine running catch to rob Mike Lowell of a hit to end the seventh (it wouldn’t be Lowell’s only lost hit of the night). The Yanks survived three extra base hits from Manny Ramirez, including two home runs, and Kyle Farnsworth struck out David Ortiz with the bases loaded to end the eighth, the dramatic highlight of the game. After getting served by Curt Schilling on Monday night, the Yanks wind up winning the series and they leave town just a half-a-game behind the Sox.

The Sox got to Johnson early. Kevin Youkilis, who Cliff recently called a right-handed version of Nick Johnson, singled and reached third on Mark Loretta’s line drive off the Green Monster. Loretta was thrown out at second and then Ortiz whiffed–one of four K’s on the night for Cookie Monster. But Ramirez belted a home run over everything in left and just like that Johnson was in a hole. (For what it is worth, Ramirez put his head down and ran after both of his dingers on Wednesday.) The Yanks put up four in the second thanks in large part to Clement’s wildness—he walked two batters, hit another, got smacked in the leg by an infield single by Bernie Williams and surrendered a key, two-run single to Cabrera.

The lead didn’t last long. After striking out the first two men in the bottom of the second, Alex Gonzalez singled and then stole second. Johnson got ahead of Youkilis 0-2 but could not put him away. It’s become customary to see Youkilis—like Jason Giambi—extend virtually every at-bat to a full-count situation. Johnson’s payoff pitch was a flat slider and Youkilis crushed it for a game-tying homer.


A Right Bird

Two odd-looking birds pitching tonight in Boston, eh? Randy Johnson and Matt Clement are gangly and all angles. Neither is going to win a beauty contest anytime soon. Johnson, as we all know, has been getting his ass kicked around for more than a minute now. It will be interesting to see if he has figured out any of his problems. He did pitch well against the Red Sox last season but he’s been a different pitcher entirely of late, and it’s likely that it’ll take him a while longer to get his groove back. Still, I just hope he improves tonight. I don’t expect him to turn the clock back to his days with the Diamondbacks.

That said, it would be a tremendous boost for the Bombers if they leave Boston with a series win. The Yanks host the hapless Royals this weekend before four tough games against the surprising Tigers next week. I have a hunch that I’ll be cursing a blue streak tonight, but nevermind the fatalism, let’s hope the boys on both sides give us a good game.

Go Baseball!

The Wright Stuff

Don’t look now, but Jaret Wright is turning into a legitimate number five starter. In four starts in May including last night’s victory over the Red Sox, Wright has posted the following line:

22 1/3 IP, 18 H, 7 R, 2 HR, 7 BB, 13 K, 2-1, 1.12 WHIP, 2.82 ERA

Last night, Wright held the Red Sox scoreless through five innings before leaving with a tweaked groin. Wright initially injured himself while trying to dodge a line drive by Kevin Youkilis leading off the first inning. The ball wound up sticking in Wright’s ribs for the first out. In the fifth, an attempt to dodge another comebacker by Youkilis, which Wright also turned into an out, exacerbated the injury, ending his night after the inning.

Given Wright’s predilection for being hit with flying objects in the later part of last season and the fact that the injury prone hurler has managed to stay healthy while the rest of the Yankee roster has crumbled around him, it seemed only a matter of time before Wright would get his. Fortunately, the Yankees don’t expect Wright to miss his next start, though one wonders if they’ll rethink their plans to skip Aaron Small’s turn this weekend, instead using Small on regular rest to give Wright an extra day off before his next start.


Fluttering By

Gotta do this fast . . .

Tim Wakefield vs. Jaret Wright tonight. Gary Sheffield returns to the line-up, but Giambi will sit to avoid exacerbating his slump by facing Wake’s flutterball. Just as well, he can’t hit that thing anyway, though Sheff can and tomorrow the Yanks should field their best line-up since Matsui broke his arm exactly two weeks earlier. Expect Cairo at first tonight based on his small sample success against Wake and despite his three Ks against him last time. Damon will likely DH again, hopefully Sheffield will push TLong out of the line-up, by bouncing Melky to left. Not a great outlook for the Yanks, but seeing Sheff in action should cushion the blow somewhat.

BoSox Beat Up Bombers

That team is decimated. They’ve lost some very significant people,” said [Curt] Schilling, who improved to 7-2. “We have to take advantage of that.

“Who’s playing for (Gary) Sheffield? Who’s playing for (Hideki) Matsui? That’s a drastically different team. That’s not a knock on any of the guys they’re running out there, but we’re talking about All-Star caliber players – Hall of Fame caliber players – that they’re playing without.

“We’ve got to take advantage of them now.”
(N.Y. Daily News)

That is exactly what Schilling and the Red Sox did last night as Boston drilled the Yanks, 9-5. Schilling’s 199th career win puts his team two-and-a-half games ahead of New York in the American League East (Toronto is three back). Other than a third inning rally which produced a run, Schilling dominated the Yankees, aided by double play balls in the fifth and the seventh. Schilling’s splitter was in fine form–he got ahead of hitters and then put them away.

Chien-Ming Wang wasn’t as sharp and he paid for it. With one out and two men on in the bottom of the third, Wang fell behind David Ortiz 3-0. It looked as if he was pitching around the Yankee Killer, but then Wang laid in a cookie to the Monster who promptly smacked it into left under the glove of a diving Terrence Long for a two-run double (not for nothing but Long looks like Claudell Washington and Oscar Gamble’s long-lost love child). Manny Ramirez followed and quickly fell behind 0-2 before Wang made another mistake–a meatball served up on a platter. Ramirez probably couldn’t believe his luck, and didn’t waste any time walloping the pitch into the center field bleachers.

“He looked like he tried to do something with Manny, something up, which is not his neighborhood,” Torre said. “It’s Manny’s neighborhood, but not his neighborhood, and he killed that ball.”
(N.Y. Times)

Wang settle down for the next few innings but was chased from the game in the seventh, and allowed seven runs in all. By the time the Yankees rallied for four runs in the ninth, the Sox already had a comfortable lead, as they cruised to a victory in the first of three at Fenway Park. Jorge Posada and Alex Rodriguez popped homers off Keith Foulke late, and whatta ya hear whatta ya say, Bernie Williams (the unbooable man) had another couple of hits. The Yankees are eager for Gary Sheffield to return to the line up tonight–he’ll have some kind of welcome back having to deal with Tim Wakefield’s floater.

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