Offense: The Yanks scored an average of six runs per game over four games against a team that has allowed 4.3 runs per game on the season, so that’s good. In an unusual twist, however, all four games were decided more by the Yankee offense than by the team’s pitching. That credits the bats with two wins, but also two loses. The Yanks won the middle two games of the series by scoring 19 runs and simply out-hitting the failures of the bullpen, but they lost the opener by failing to take advantage of five scoreless innings by the pen, and lost the finale by simply failing to hit Jesse Litsch.
Alex Rodriguez 7 for 17, 2 2B, 5 RBI, 4 R, 4 BB, 2 K, CS
Derek Jeter 7 for 21, 2 2B, RBI, 2 R, SB, 4 K
Doug Mientkiewicz 4 for 10, 2 2B, RBI, R, 2 BB, HBP, K
Jose Molina 3 for 6, 2B, 3 RBI, R, K
Jason Giambi 1 for 10, RBI, IBB, 4 K
Wilson Betemit 0 for 3, 2 K
Shelley Duncan appeared as a defensive replacement in the opener, but did not come to bat. Bronson Sardinha scored the tying run in the ninth inning of the second game as a pinch runner. Alberto Gonzalez did not appear in the series.
Rotation: A good showing by 4/5 of the Yankee rotation, especially considering that Hughes and Pettitte, especially, were given short notice (though full rest) prior to their starts as a result of the injuries to Ian Kennedy (who, it seems, will be shut down for the season) and Roger Clemens (who, as of this writing, is still scheduled to pitch tonight in Tampa). Chien-Ming Wang was the best, matching Roy Halladay for six innings in the opener before finally coughing up two runs (one unearned) in the seventh. Mike Mussina was second best, allowing three runs in his only bad inning out of seven on Sunday. Andy Pettitte recovered from a rough second inning and an unearned run in the third to eek out a quality start in the finale (6 IP, 3 ER). Phil Hughes fell an inning short on Saturday due to inefficiency (5 IP, 99 pitches), but otherwise pitched fairly well (3 R, only one walk, no homers, 69 percent strikes).
Bullpen: The Yankee pen had to work 17 innings in this four game series, which is the sort of workload (nearly 4 1/3 innings per game) that killed the pen back in April. The good news is that the Yankees have a 16-man thanks to expanded rosters, so even with that high work load, four Yankee relievers didn’t pitch at all (Matt DeSalvo, Ty Clippard, Chase Wright, and Sean Henn). Those who did had a wide variety of results, but altogether allowed 13 runs and 25 base runners in those 17 frames, a dismal collective performance.
Joba Chamberlain struck out four in two scoreless innings in the opener, then came back on only one day’s rest to earn a four-out save, striking out three, on Sunday. Totals for Joba: 11 batters faced, 7 Ks, one baserunner (via a walk). Mariano Rivera pitched two scoreless frames, allowing one base runner via a double, and striking out three. Ron Villone retired all five batters he faced over two back-to-back games. Ross Ohlendorf retired all four batters he faced over two appearances. Chris Britton retired the only batter he faced on Saturday.
Luis Vizcaino survived a single and a walk in his one inning in the opener, but gave up a two-run homer in the eighth on Sunday followed by a single and a walk, forcing Joe Torre to go to Chamberlain to get out of the inning. Kyle Farnsworth pitched a perfect eight-pitch inning in the finale, but when called in to protect a one-run lead in the eighth on Saturday gave up two runs on three singles and a walk, retiring just one man on a lineout to first. Kei Igawa was called on to get the third out of that inning, his first major league appearance since his July 26 start in Kansas City. Igawa’s one batter singled home the third run charged to Farnsworth, but a wild 9-2-6-4-2 putout at home ended the inning through none of Igawa’s doing. Similarly, Jeff Karstens picked up the win in that game despite giving up a lead-off single and a two-out double thanks to a perfect 8-4-2 relay off that double to nail Matt Stairs at the plate for the final out. Jose Veras pitched around a double for a scoreless inning in the finale, but was a disaster on Saturday. Staked to a three-run lead in the seventh, Veras started the frame by allowing a double and issuing a walk. After a strikeout he moved the runners up on a wild pitch. After another strikeout, a pitch got past Jorge Posada to plate one run, then Veras issued a second walk and gave up an RBI single, getting the hook. The man who replaced him was Edwar Ramirez, who let both inherited runners score on a double, then threw his own wild pitch and allowed another RBI single before finally getting out of the inning with the Yanks trailing by two. The night before, Ramirez hit one of the three batters he faced and allowed a two-run homer to another. Finally, Brian Bruney struck out the side in his only inning of the weekend, but also lost the opening 14-game marathon by giving up a homer to Greg Zaun in that inning (he then added a single for good measure).
Conclusions: The Joba rules won’t apply in the postseason, and the Yankees are getting him ready for that. First he came in mid-inning against the Orioles. On Sunday, he pitched on what amounted to short rest and came in with runners on base. Before the season’s over, he’ll pitch on consecutive days. The Yankees will continue to monitor his pitch counts and be careful with him, but the training wheels will come off in the postseason. After Sunday’s game, Joe Torre made some reference to Ramirez having a mechanical flaw that has since been rectified. Here’s hoping that’s true, as he’s been dreadful over his last four outings (2 1/3 IP, 6 H, BB, 2 HBP, WP, HR, 5 R). Ron Villone has retired eight straight over three outings and looks to be closing in on a postseason roster spot. Ross Ohlendorf, who has retired 11 of 13 in his young major league career, six by strikeout, could sneak onto the roster as well. Ian Kennedy is still being considered for the long-relief role in the postseason, but is unlikely to pitch again during the regular season due to the muscle strain in his right upper back, which the Yankees hope will have healed up by next week. If Kennedy can’t go, Phil Hughes will likely take his spot, though Roger Clemens will have to prove himself healthy and effective tonight in order for Hughes not to be needed as a fourth starter. Finally, the dearth of Studs and Duds on offense indicates a lack of extreme performances in either direction. That’s probably a good thing. I just hope Torre uses the last six games to rest some of his workhorses (Rodriguez, Jeter, Cano, Melky, Abreu) while mixing in guys such as Duncan and Betemit, who could be valuable off the bench in the postseason, as well as filtering more at-bats to Jason Giambi, who is hitting just .139 in September with 11 strikeouts in his last nine games.