"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice

Icky Thump

The Yankees scored two runs off Joe Kennedy in the first inning of Friday night’s game against the A’s. Mike Mussina made that hold up for seven innings and, after Kyle Farnsworth let two men on in the eighth, Mariano Rivera came on to get the last four outs to secure a 2-1 win.

On Sunday, the Yankees were still looking for their third run of the series as they had been one-hit by Chad Gaudin and Rich Harden on Saturday in a 7-0 loss. Kei Igawa pitched well in Saturday’s game with the significant exception of the three home runs he allowed in 6 1/3 innings. One of those dingers was hit by Jason Kendall, who had previously hit a total of two home runs in his two and a half seasons with the A’s. Scott Proctor gave up hits to three of the four men he faced in relief of Igawa and, with Mike Myers’ help, all three men came around to score. After the game, Proctor, still reeling from walking in the winning run in Baltimore, burned his glove and spikes in front of the dugout.

The Yankees finally broke through to score five runs in Sunday’s finale, but it didn’t do them much good as Andy Pettitte got lit up for eight runs before a single Yankee crossed the plate. Pettitte, who said after the game that, despite a good warmup, he had absolutely no command and that his pitches were just centering themselves over the plate, got the hook with two outs in the A’s seven-run second inning. Ron Villone pitched 3 1/3 scoreless innings as the Yankees rallied to make it 8-5, but Mike Myers and Luis Vizcaino allowed a trio of insurance runs (Myers’ again being an inherited runner, this time charged to Brian Bruney) to put the game out of reach at the eventual final of 11-5. Proctor, breaking in his new equipment, finished things off by retiring the four batters he faced on nine pitches (six strikes).

And so the Yankees’ slide continues as they fall to 2-9 over their last four series, all of which they lost. They’re now four games under .500, which is where they were on June 7, and a whopping nine games out in the Wild Card race behind five other teams including the departing A’s. Suddenly the AL East, where they’re in third place, 11 games behind Boston, seems more winnable. Tomorrow they begin a four-game series against the Twins, who are another of those five teams ahead of them in the Wild Card race (and one with a nearly identical record to the A’s). They pretty much need to sweep that one. Johan Santana pitches on Wednesday. (Do you see where I’m going with this?)

In other news, before yesterday’s game the Yanks finally optioned Chris Basak back to triple-A. Basak had been on the roster since June 5, had appeared in just four games and had just one plate appearance in which he flew out to left field (but thought he had a double). Only once in those for appearances did he play for more than a half-inning, that coming in his major league debut when he pinch-ran for Alex Rodriguez in the eighth-inning of a blowout and then played third in the ninth. Basak last played on Saturday as a defensive replacement for Derek Jeter, who’s fighting tendinitis in his knee, though Jeter didn’t seem hindered at all yesterday, nor was he slowed by taking a Dan Haren pitch off his left elbow.

Replacing Basak on the roster is righty reliever Edwar Ramirez. Ramirez, a scrawny Dominican whose listed as 26 years old, originally signed with the Angels in 2001, but was released by them in spring 2004 after struggling to advance beyond low-A ball. After a year out of the game, he lit up the independent Central League in 2005 earning a single appearance with the Angels’ triple-A squad. Back in the independents in early 2006, he was again dominant and signed with the Yankees, dominating the Florida State League in 19 appearances. This year, he’s been even better in double- and triple-A posting this combined line:

43 IP, 19 H, 3 R, 1 HR, 17 BB, 80 K, 16.61 K/9, 0.83 WHIP, 0.62 ERA

The scary thing is, he’s being doing that sort of thing for three years now. Word is his secret weapon is a Bugs Bunny changeup. That sort of thing just might work in the majors, too. If so, it might be time for the Yankees to use Ramirez and Chris Britton (2.13 ERA, 10.42 K/9, 4.00 K/BB with Scranton) as excuses to dump some of their useless veteran relievers such as Myers (against whom lefties are hitting .320/.407/.440 this year) and Crybaby Kyle Farnsworth, who earned his nickname by throwing a fit when Joe Torre took him out of Friday’s game with two on and two out in the eighth. As Peter Abraham has been pointing out all season, Farnsworth has turned in a perfect inning in just four of his 34 appearances (for comparison, Proctor, who hasn’t been so hot either, has been perfect 12 out of 41 times) and not once come back out of the dugout to pitch in a second frame, regardless of how many pitches he threw in his first. Luis Vizcaino gets a stay of execution as, prior to yesterday’s game, he had made 11 consecutive scoreless appearances. As for Myers, he’s dominating righties as much as he’s being dominated by lefties, but Joe Torre will never figure that out (remember reverse-split lefty Chris Hammond?), so the Yanks might as well just cut bait.

Incidentally, Friday’s 2-1 win was just the Yankees’ fifth-one run victory of the season (against 13 one-run loses), just their second victory in a game in which they had scored fewer than four runs (the other being their 3-1 win over the Red Sox in the game in which Kei Igawa relieved the injured Jeff Karstens in the first inning), and just their fifth victory in a game in which they had scored fewer than five runs.

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