"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice

The Stopper Returns

Everything that went wrong for the Yankees in Detroit went right in the Bronx last night. Andy Pettitte came up big once again, and the Yankee offense kept picking up the runs they needed to make it count.

The Yanks got out ahead in the first thanks to some of Daisuke Matsuzaka’s bonus baserunners. Johnny Damon got things started with a single and moved to second on a Derek Jeter groundout. Matsuzaka then walked Bobby Abreu and nailed Alex Rodriguez in the back with his next pitch to load the bases for Hideki Matsui. Matsui hit a double play grounder, but didn’t hit it hard enough and, with Alex Rodriguez sliding hard, Julio Lugo’s throw pulled Kevin Youkilis off first as Damon scored the first run of the game. Jorge Posada then twisted the knife a bit with an RBI double before Coco Crisp ran down a deep Robinson Cano drive to center to end the inning.

Then a curious thing happened. The Red Sox led off each of the next six innings against Andy Pettitte with a hit, but those were the only six hits they managed off Pettitte all night. Unfortunately for the Yankees, the first of those leadoff hits was an opposite field Manny Ramirez homer in the third, and the second was a Julio Lugo triple in the third, the latter of which was plated by a David Ortiz sac fly to tie the game.

Matsuzaka, meanwhile, settled down after that rocky first, allowing just a walk to Alex Rodriguez over the next three innings. In the fifth, however, Derek Jeter, who was in an 0-for-14 slump at that point, delivered a go-ahead solo homer to the Armitron sign in right center that made it 3-2 Yanks.

Andy Pettitte entered the seventh inning having thrown 103 pitches, Luis Vizcaino warming in the bullpen, and Joba Chamberlain stretching to pitch the eighth. Four pitches later the Red Sox had tied the game yet again on a front-row Jason Varitek homer to left, but for the fourth consecutive inning Pettitte retired the side in order after allowing a leadoff hit, and the Yankees retook the lead in the bottom of the seventh when Johnny Damon snuck a two-run home run around the base of the foul pole in right, plating a leadoff single by Andy Phillips.

With that, Joba and Mo took over. Chamberlain appeared to be overthrowing a bit at first, issuing a leadoff walk to Kevin Youkilis (Boston’s seventh straight leadoff baserunner), but despite that walk and later a single by Mike Lowell, Chamberlain survived his first taste of "The Rivalry"TM pitching a scoreless inning and striking out two. Mo did the same without the baserunners to seal the 5-3 win.

It was a big night for the Yankees. Not only did they win a game that was crucial to the emotional state of the team, but the Wild Card-leading Mariners blew a 5-0 lead over the Angels to lose 10-6, so the Yankees are now just one game behind Seattle in the Wild Card race, and just two back in the loss column. (And, don’t look now, but the Mariners are on a four-game losing streak.)

But that’s not the big news. The big news is that despite my assumptions about Ian Kennedy’s innings pitched limits (which were apparently picked up by Rob Neyer over on his ESPN.com blog), the Yankees are going to promote him to take Mike Mussina’s start on Saturday after all. As that start falls on the first day of expanded rosters, the Yankees will not need Mussina to work out of the bullpen to justify his roster spot. Thus Moose will work on the side, but not out of the pen, with the hope of reclaiming his spot in the rotation next week. I’m still concerned about Kennedy’s innings (he threw just 104 1/3 innings last year between USC and the New York-Penn League and has already thrown 146 1/3 innings across three minor league levels this year), but, given that the team that has implemented the Joba Rules is likely being mindful of such things, I’m delighted to see him get Saturday’s start. Incidentally, here’s a scouting report on Kennedy from Rich Lederer via a post of Alex’s in the wake of last year’s draft.

Here’s the skinny on Kennedy, who will be the sixth man to make his major league debut by starting a game for the 2007 New York Yankees. Kennedy was the Yankees’ top draft pick last year, taken ahead of Joba Chamberlain, both players coming via the compensation picks the Yankees received when Tom Gordon signed with the Phillies. Kennedy has often been referred to as a young Mike Mussina (which, lest you forget, is a very, very good thing) as he is a slender, 6-foot-tall righty who throws a low-90s fastball along with a very effective curve/slider/change repertoire, all of which he can throw for strikes. Just as Chamberlain fell to the Yankees in the draft due to concerns about his conditioning (which has obviously improved) and a forearm injury which put a damper on his senior year at Nebraska (which was last year, by the way, and may be why Joba has Rules and Kennedy does not), Kennedy fell to the Yankees at the 21st pick because of signability concerns linked to his being represented by Scott Boras. Both Chamberlain and Edwar Ramirez have raved about Kennedy to the press, and he’s posted a 1.91 ERA along with a 10.03 K/9, 0.96 WHIP, and a 12-3 record in 26 games (25 starts) between single-, double-, and triple-A this year.

The best part about this move is that, if Kennedy has any sort of success at all, it increases the chances of the Yankees opening the 2008 season with Kennedy, Chamberlain, and Phil Hughes in the major league rotation behind Chien-Ming Wang and Andy Pettitte.

I was at last night’s game and took a few more New Stadium construction photos for you all. I know it’s been a while since I’ve posted any of these, so here are a few. You can click on these for a lager view.




Note the ramp in the above shot.



Here you can see the curve of the bowl looking from right field toward home.




The classic two-stadiums shot.

Here are a few bonus shots from the game.




Andy Pettitte pitching to Dustin Pedroia in the first inning.




Manny Ramirez hitting a very blurry home run to right field (note the ball streaking below Alex Rodriguez’s glove).




Derek Jeter flying out to right.




Joba dealing to Youkilis in the eighth.




Mo dealing to Varitek in the ninth.

And finally, Johnny Damon’s best friend:





All photographs by Cliff Corcoran

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