"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice

Throw Strikes

You can’t win if you don’t score. Last night the Yankees got ten men on base, but couldn’t push any of them across against the underwhelming duo of lefty Brian Burres and righty Jim Johnson. The Yanks have scored just two runs in two games in Baltimore, but the story last night was the failure of rookie starter Ian Kennedy to get out of the third inning.

Kennedy got into trouble right away, but was rescued from his first-inning jam when Melky Cabrera ranged deep into the left field gap to snag a deep drive for the third out with the bases loaded. (Likely encouraged by that catch Melky later misplayed two long drives which ricocheted off the wall and back over his head.) A nifty pickoff play at second base allowed Kennedy to escape a second inning jam with just one run allowed. In the third, he wasn’t so lucky.

After striking out Nick Markakis, Kennedy hung a slider to Kevin Millar, who deposited it in the left field seats to make the score 2-0. Kennedy then walked the next two men, his fourth and fifth walks of the game. That drew his manager out of the dugout, not for a pitching change, but for a stern lecture about the need to throw strikes. Kennedy’s first pitch to the next batter was a ball, but he proceeded to strike him out on three more pitches. He then fell behind the next hitter 3-0 before surrendering a two-run double. With that, Joe Girardi had seen enough.

Still fuming over Kennedy’s nibbling, Girardi gave a very aggressive post-game press conference. Some of the highlights:

“It’s hard to pitch the way he’s pitching. You have to attack the zone. Five walks in 17 hitters? You can’t pitch that way. You have to attack the zone and throw strikes. . . . You make all hitters better when you’re behind them. You just can’t pitch that way. To me, it looks like he’s not aggressive enough.”

“You have to find out what people are made of, and he has to make adjustments. He’s gotta fight his way out of it. I’m planning on him being out there his next start. He’s just missing. He understands. It’s a minor adjustment that he has to make for us, and he’ll do it.”

“I never lose patience. This game is hard. It was hard for me. It’s hard for all players. I’m never going to lose patience.”

Kim Jones: “Joe, you say you don’t lose patience, but it is obvious this is testing you.”
Girardi, angrily: “No. It isn’t testing me. I hate losing. That tests me. But I believe in my people, and you continue to encourage them, and you work with them, and they get better.

When asked about both Burres and the Orioles he mentioned specifically the things they did that his team isn’t right now, though he didn’t make the comparison explicit: “They’re playing good fundamental baseball. They’re throwing strikes. They’re getting hits with runners in scoring position. They’re not making errors [Robinson Cano made the game’s only error last night]. They’re not walking people.”

During the YES broadcast, Michael Kay, who has been covering the Yankees since 1987, spanning the terms of 8 Yankee managers, said the only Yankee manager he’s seen take losing as hard as Girardi was Billy Martin.

On the up side, Ross Ohlendorf saved the bullpen once again with three-plus innings of scoreless relief (though he was charged with two runs when Billy Traber plated both of his bequeathed baserunners in the seventh setting the final at 6-0 Orioles). Joba Chamberlain returned from Nebraska with good news about his father’s continuing recovery from what he described as “some respiratory stuff” and shook off the rust by striking out two in a scoreless inning. Jose Molina also returned to action. He went 0-for-3 and failed to catch the only man who attempted to steal against him, but if Molina can catch and Posada, who played first base, is almost ready, the Yanks should be able to farm out Chad Moeller and bring back Shelley Duncan, who has hit .342/.468/.816 with four homers in ten games since being optioned down to Scranton. Of course, the Yankee roster hijinx will continue with the Rodriguez family still expecting a new arrival and Kyle Farnsworth facing a suspension for throwing behind Manny Ramirez, but with an off day finally arriving on Monday and the weather heating up, things are starting to return to normal.

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