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Monthly Archives: August 2008

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Well, That Didn’t Take Long

The Yankees needed to sweep their current series against the Red Sox, so their having lost the first game by the convincing score of 7-3 takes a lot of the excitement out of the remaining two games. Heading into last night’s game, the Yankees were counting on Andy Pettitte to come through in what may prove to have been the Yankees’ biggest game of the year. He didn’t:

“It’s extremely frustrating. I hate it. I didn’t get it done. I didn’t get it done tonight. I wish I could say I felt terrible, but I felt pretty decent. I got out of synch in the first inning and walked a couple of guys, but after that I felt that I was able to throw my all pitches pretty much where I wanted to. I couldn’t get anybody out, though.”

Johnny Damon staked Pettitte to an early 1-0 lead when he led off the bottom of the first by wrapping a solo homer around the foul pole in right field. Pettitte, who worked around those two two-out walks in the first, got two quick outs in the top of the second, but then the last two men in the Boston order reached on slow rollers up the third base line and Jacoby Ellsbury plated one of them with a single to left to tie the game.

The Yankees answered right back with a run in the bottom of the inning on two-out singles by Hideki Matsui, Robinson Cano, and Jose Molina, but Pettitte gave that run and one more back in the top of the third on doubles by David Ortiz and Kevin Youkilis and a single by Jason Bay. It was still 3-2 Sox in the top of the fifth when Jason Bay singled back up the middle off Pettitte to spark a two-out rally.

“I had two outs and was hoping to have a 1-2-3 inning and then the inning turned into a horrible inning. Just frustrating. I felt like it was a pretty good pitch on the outside corner to [Bay]. I think he got into a count [2-2] where I had to throw a little bit more over the plate than I wanted to out there. I thought I threw a good back-door curveball to the next kid [Jed Lowrie] and he hit it, ground ball [single] in between second and third, and then, again, I thought I threw a good changeup in a good count [1-2] to [Jeff] Bailey, and he just rolled it right down the line on the bag. It’s frustrating. I gave up those three runs early. I broke out my changeup in the fourth, and I was throwing it for strikes when I wanted to. It was a game where I thought that as soon as I started throwing that for strikes the way I was, the way I was locating my fastball, it was a game I could carry into the seventh inning or so and hold them to three right there, but obviously it didn’t work out like that. I just, I didn’t get the job done.”

In between Lowrie’s single and Bailey’s infield hit, Coco Crisp singled Bay home to make it 4-3. Bailey’s hit would have been a two-run double, but it ricocheted off the third base bag to Alex Rodriguez, who quickly fired it across the diamond to Jason Giambi, but Bailey beat the throw and Crisp, who had stolen second, never hesitated and scored anyway to make it a two-run infield hit aided by Giambi mistakenly thinking Bailey had been ruled out and thus not throwing home.

That sequence of events made it 6-2 Sox and bounced Pettitte with two out in the fifth. Damon added a second solo homer off Wakefield in the bottom of the inning, but Brian Bruney gave that run back in the top of the sixth on a Jason Bay sac fly after walkking the bases loaded.

From there things got ugly, though the 7-3 score would remain unchanged. The Yankees loaded the bases with one out in the seventh against Manny Delcarmen, bringing Alex Rodriguez to the plate as the tying run against Justin Masterson. Rodriguez took a fastball down the middle at the knees, then took and ill-advised hack at a slider down and in and ground into an inning-ending double play, bringing out the boos for the first time this season.

The Yankees got the first two men on in the eighth against Masterson, but Hideki Okajima came on for an eight-pitch battle with Matsui that ended in curveball that dove across the zone for called strike three. Okajima then got Cano to pop out on a full-count, and Jonathan Papelbon came on to retire Ivan Rodriguez on one pitch. An error by Lowrie in the bottom of the ninth simply allowed Rodriguez to come to the plate to make the last out with a runner on base.

On the night, Rodriguez went 0-for-5 with two strikeouts, two double plays, and an error in the field, and left seven runners on base. He fell on his sword after the game:

“It was an awful night. For me personally, it was a long night, pretty much screwed it up anyway you can screw it up. . . . My team expects me to get big hits and make plays, and tonight I didn’t do that. Johnny, Jeet, and Bobby worked great at-bats all night [combined 6 for 11 with two walks] and I just killed the rally . . . . No one’s more frustrated than me. Everyone’s desperate for wins. A night like tonight, I was booing myself. . . . We’ve always said you want to get a good pitch to hit and put an A swing. On that double play [in the seventh], it wasn’t a good pitch to hit, and it wasn’t an A swing. . . . Today we sucked. I sucked. I played terrible, and they hit balls all over the place down at the corner at third base, and I left men all over the field. . . . tonight you can put it on me.”

I’d actually put it on Pettitte, if I had to point a finger, but Rodriguez was his accomplice. With that in mind, I found this post-game comment from Johnny Damon interesting:

“[Alex is] out there busting his butt. He still works harder than all of us in here. He had that off night and that’s unfortunate. This was a night when we needed to get something and unfortunately, we couldn’t get anything from him. He expects to be the greatest player ever, and unfortunately on a day-by-day basis that doesn’t really translate at times. It’s tough to be the best player on the field every single day. He expects to be, and unfortunately tonight he wasn’t.”

The Yankees weren’t a playoff team last night, either.

Boston Red Sox V: One More Time, With Feeling

In recent years, as the Yankees have found themselves fighting an uphill battle toward the postseason in the final weeks and months of the regular season, I’ve often stressed the importance of the team controlling it’s own destiny. Any time a team either holds a potential playoff position, or has more games remaining against the team they’re trailing than the number of games by which they trail that team in the standings, they control their own destiny. In those cases, all the team in question needs do to make the playoffs is match their rival’s record against third-party opponents and take care of business in their head-to-head matchups.

Right now, the Yankees do not control their own destiny.

Team Record Games Ahead Games v. NYY
Tampa Bay Rays 79-50 9.5 6
Boston Red Sox 75-55 5 6
Chicago White Sox 75-56 4.5 4
Minnesota Twins 74-57 3.5 0
New York Yankees 70-60 - -

Despite having six games left against the Yankees, the Rays have put the AL East out of reach. Meanwhile, it would behoove Yankee fans to root strongly for the second-place Twins to overtake the division-leading White Sox in the Central, as there’s some chance of the Yankees gaining control over their Wild Card destiny before the Chisox visit the Bronx in three weeks provided it’s Chicago and not Minnesota that they’re chasing. As it stands, however, the only opposing team over which the Yankees have any meaningful control is the Boston Red Sox, who come to the Bronx tonight for a three-game series that will be the last meeting between the two rivals at Yankee Stadium.

The Red Sox are limping into town. Josh Beckett was supposed to start tonight, but has been scratched due to numbness in his pitching arm. J.D. Drew hasn’t played in more than a week due to back pain and is likely headed to the DL. Already on the disabled list is third baseman Mike Lowell, and replacing Beckett tonight is Tim Wakefield, who will be activated from the DL to make the start. Despite these set-backs, the Sox have played well in August, posting a .667 winning percentage, their best single-month mark of the season. Still, they remain vulnerable. The Yankees took two of three from the Sox at Fenway at the end of July. This week, the Bombers really need to sweep.

Consider that idea of controlling one’s own destiny. If the Yankees sweep the Sox, they’ll wake up Friday morning two games behind Boston with three games remaining at Fenway and right in the thick of the Wild Card race (the White Sox are off Thursday, so a sweep would also move them within four games of Chicago with those four head-to-head games remaining). However, if the Yankees lose just one game in this series, they’ll wake up on Friday four games behind Boston with those three left to play. With a single loss in this three-game series, the Yankees will forfeit their control over their rivals, leaving them completely at the mercy of the teams ahead of them in the standings.

No Excuses

It’s been a rough season for the New York Yankees, but if they think the Red Sox have had it any easier, they’re wrong. It all started with Curt Schilling’s season-ending biceps injury at the outset of spring training. Since then, Beckett, Wakefield, Daisuke Matsuzaka, Clay Buchholz, and Bartolo Colon have all spent time on the DL. Lowell is currently on the DL for the second time this season, he’s joined there by Julio Logo, who has missed more than a month with a quad tear. Drew has avoided the DL thus far but could land there any day, and David Ortiz missed two months due to a wrist injury. In the bullpen, Mike Timlin and David Aardsma have made repeat visits to the DL. Both Alex Cora and Sean Casey hit the DL for several weeks as April turned in to May, and Casey has sat out the last week with a stiff neck.

That’s just the injuries. Buchholz, the Red Sox’s answer to Joba Chamberlain, struggled upon his return from injury and has since been demoted due to poor performance. Julian Tavarez pitched his way off the team entirely. Though he enters this series coming off a solid week and a half, Jason Varitek was hitting just .212/.304/.338 for the season on Aug 15. David Ortiz came off the DL to face the Yankees on July 25 and hit well in his first week, but without Manny Ramirez hitting behind him, he’s batted .237/.376/.421 in August with just three home runs.

Of course, Ortiz’s struggles likely have more to do with his wrist than who’s hitting behind him. To begin with, it’s not Jason Bay, Ramirez’s replacement in left field, but Kevin Youkilis who is now hitting behind Ortiz, and Youkilis has hit .333/.397/.621 since moving to that spot in the order. Bay bats behind Youkilis and has thus far done an excellent job of matching Ramirez’s production for the Sox this season:

Manny w/ BOS: .299/.398/.529
J. Bay w/ BOS: .333/.385/.529

The Sox have turned over their four, five, and six-place hitters since last facing the Yankees in late July–replacing Ramirez, Drew, and Lowell with Youkilis, Bay, and Jed Lowrie–but their offense has only improved over that span, with Lowrie chipping in with a .343/.425/.600 line since taking over for Lowell two weeks ago.

Still, the Red Sox are vulnerable. With Lowrie and company moved into the middle third of the order, the bottom third looks like what the Yankees had been running out there much of the season. Also, with Beckett out of this series, the pitching matchups give the Yankees hope.

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Wakefield and Pettitte debuted with their current teams in 1995. They first faced each other in May 1997.

Wakefield comes off the DL tonight to face Andy Pettitte. The Yanks touched up Wakefield for six runs in 5 1/3 innings on July 26. In that same game, Pettitte struck out seven Sox in six innings and surrendered just one earned run. Over his last three starts, Pettitte has posted a 3.00 ERA and struck out 14 in 21 innings against six walks and no homers. Tomorrow, Sidney Ponson faces Paul Byrd. Ponson’s two worst outings as a Yankee were his last and his last against the Red Sox, but the Yankees scored nine runs in 12 innings against Byrd over two starts earlier in the year, when Byrd was with Cleveland.

Those two games set up a potential pitching duel on Thursday as Jon Lester, who was rocked by the Blue Jays in his last start but has dominated the Yankees in two starts this year (17 IP, 14 H , 2 R, 3 BB, 16 K), takes on Mike Mussina, who has a 3.00 ERA, and 24 Ks against 4 walks and a homer in 33 innings over his last five starts and threw six shutout innings at the Sox in early July, the last time he faced them at the Stadium.

This is easily the most important series the Yankees have played all season, which is exactly as it should be. Whatever happens, the Red Sox’s final visit to Yankee Stadium will be one worth watching.

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Heads Down, Knuckle Up

Yanks hope they can hang with the knuckler tonight.

Simple Pleasures are the Best

My grandfather and my niece picking corn in Belgium, 1988

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When I was growing up my brother, sister and I took turns visiting my mother’s parents in Belgium during our summer vacation.  Each year one of us would go over and stay for a few weeks where they lived, in a small village between Brussels and Waterloo.  My grandmother loved getting dressed up and hauling us around to visit  relatives all across the country.  My grandfather and I would come along and would be polite though we were bored out of our minds.  I prefered to stick around my grandparent’s house, where the days moved slowly and were generally organized around food.  

My grandfather taught me how to drive on the old stone streets near his home.  I was nervous about driving—learning how to do it on a vehicle with a choke didn’t help matters any.   He insisted I get over my fears and get on with it.  So we’d drive a few minutes down the road, bumping along to the corn fields where we’d pick baby corn–this was corn for the cows not sweet corn–and then come back home, saute the little guys in some olive oil and eat them whole for lunch.

The driving wasn’t much fun for me, but picking the corn, shucking it and giving the outside leaves to the cows next door, and then eating those little suckers is one of my fondest memories of summers abroad.

Start of The Ending

Tonight is the first of the final three games the Boston Red Sox will play at Yankee Stadium. Here are some links n things…

First off, Steve Lombardi breaks down the pitching match-ups at Was Watching.

“When they tear down a ballpark like that, obviously the history that’s going on in New York, you miss it,” Mike Timlin said. “It’s one of the first major ballparks that I ever played in, when I was coming up with the Blue Jays. You step back, you feel the history, you know what has happened in Yankee Stadium. Yeah, you’ll miss it.”
(Amalie Benjamin, Boston Globe)

Jeff Horrigan, writing in the Boston Herald, and Anthony McCarron, writing in the New York Daily News, look at the Yankee-Sox rivalry in the Bronx.

Fatigue is word at YFSF:

It has become an enervating task, to get oneself up for another Yankee-Red Sox game, outside this site the vitriol will once again elevate to a point that I no longer find comfortable or commensurate with these regular season games. This may sound crazy, but it would almost be nicer if our teams were in fourth and fifth place, fighting for nothing, and we all could watch the games for the sport of it, rid ourselves of the overlying tension of the rivalry and the zero-sum nature of the results.

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Gearin’ Up for Yanks-Sox

Peace to Matt Cerrone for the link:

Today on ‘s New York Baseball Today, SNY’s Brian Custer and Ted Berg, and Alex Belth from Bronx Banter, talk about who could be called upon to replace John Maine in the rotation, and whether the Yankees need to sweep the Red Sox to stay in the race, which you can watch by clicking play below:

It’s Like an Irish Wake Up in Here

So there I was bummed out by the news of my barber’s retirement when, apropos of nothing, my twin sister sent me this link:

The Long Climb to Greatness

Jonah Keri weighs in on Mike Mussina’s fine career over at ESPN:

Mussina deserves to be a Hall of Famer, even if he never wins 20 games in a season, or 300 in his career for that matter.

If you insist on using wins as a barometer, you could argue that only six pitchers in major league history have as many wins as Mussina, with a higher winning percentage: Hall of Famers Lefty Grove, Christy Mathewson, Grover Cleveland Alexander and Jim Palmer, and Roger Clemens and Randy Johnson, two of the 10 best pitchers of all time. If you’re into fancier analysis, you could point to the Gray Ink, Hall of Fame Standards and Hall of Fame Monitor tests, all of which show Mussina with more than enough credentials to surpass the average player already enshrined in Cooperstown.

But the argument over Mussina’s candidacy based on his (in)ability to win 20 games in a season raises a bigger issue: Baseball’s media and fans (mostly the media) butcher the numbers in their attempts to evaluate a player’s accomplishments, or his overall worth.

A Death in the Family

For most of us, death will not announce itself with a blare of trumpets or a roar of cannons. It will come silently, on the soft paws of a cat. It will insinuate itself, rubbing against our ankle in the midst of an ordinary moment. An uneventful dinner. A drive hom from work. A sofa pushed across a floor. A slight bend to retrieve a morning newspaper tossed into a bush. And then, a faint cry, an exhale of breath, a muffled slump." *
A Ridiculous Will —Pat Jordan

The summer is almost over: The last days of Yankee Stadium are upon us. Over the weekend, my neighborhood was crowded with kids returning to Manhattan College. A few days ago I went to Brooklyn to get my haircut. I hadn’t been in a few months and was starting to look downright shaggy. When I walked into the shop, early in the morning, the owner Ray was sitting in his chair. I noticed the place looked bigger and asked where my barber, Efrain was.

"He’s gone," said Ray.

As in retired, not dead. Up and left three weeks ago. Moved to Florida with his wife. Didn’t tell any of his few remaining clients. He only gave Ray a few days notice. 

"His legs have been hurting him," said Ray.

I felt stunned although not surprised. I had been waiting for the day that I walked into the shop to discover that Efrain was gone–retired or dead–for some time now. I sat in Ray’s chair and listened to him as he cut my hair. But I didn’t really hear him. I could only think back on Efrain.

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Take The Long Way Home

The Yankees jumped out to a 7-2 lead in Baltimore this afternoon, bouncing Daniel Cabrera in the fourth after he’d thrown 95 pitches. The problem was that Darrell Rasner wasn’t much better, using up 98 pitches in 3 1/3 innings and leaving men on first and second for David Robertson, who needed just two pitches to allow both to score. In the fifth, Robertson left a man on for Edwar Ramirez, who needed just two pitches to allow a game-tying home run to Brian Roberts.

Robinson Cano broke the tie with a 425-foot homer to dead center off lefty Jamie Walker in the seventh and Jose Veras, Damaso Marte, and Mariano Rivera made it hold up as the Yankees won an 8-7 game that lasted a minute more than four hours.

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Confusion follows Marte wherever he goes

After Brian Roberts singled of Veras to put the tying run on base in the eighth, Damaso Marte got two crucial outs by striking out Nick Markakis and Melvin Mora, then got the first two outs of the eighth, one of them a strikeout of Kevin Millar, before walking Luke Scott and giving way to Rivera. After the game, Marte revealed that he’s been dealing with some inflammation in his elbow, but that after some rest (he’d pitched to just one batter since August 12, giving him nearly 11 days off) he’s feeling much better. The elbow trouble supposedly dated back to his 42-pitch outing against the Rangers, which ended in Marlon Byrd’s walk-off grand slam and was Marte’s longest outing in terms of total pitches since August 2006. Of course, when questioned by Peter Abraham before the game Joe Girardi denied that Marte had any health issues. If Marte can build on today’s “comeback” performance, he could have a huge impact on the remainder of the Yankees’ season.

As for Rasner, he said he was disgusted with his performance and that it felt like he had never pitched before, while all concerned (Rasner, Girardi, and catcher Ivan Rodriguez) said he was simply leaving his pitches up in the zone.

Up in Toronto, the Red Sox won a 11-inning game that took just three hours and 42 minutes, while the White Sox beat the Rays at home in a tenth-inning walk-off set up by an interference call on a rundown and took over the lead in the Central with the Twins losing to the Angels. As a result, your Wild Card standings look like this heading into this week’s showdown in the Bronx:

Team W-L GB
BOS 75-55 -
MIN 74-56 1
NYY 70-60 5

Still Not Dead

The Yankees are 5-3 since returning from their miserable cross-country road trip, 5-2 since Mariano Rivera lost a game with a wild pitch, and 3-1 since Johnny Damon dropped two fly balls in Toronto. Most of those wins have come against the last place Royals and Orioles, but at this point in the season, wins are wins, and the Yankees need ‘em whenever they can get ‘em.

Trailing the Red Sox by five games heading into today’s action, the Yankees could enter their upcoming three-game set against the Bosox in decent shape if they can pull out a sweep of the O’s this afternoon. While Darrell Rasner and Daniel Cabrera face off in Baltimore, the Sox will have to contend with A.J. Burnett, who twirled 7 2/3 shoutout innings against them when he last faced Boston on May 1.

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Unlikely inspiration (right)

That’s not to say that things will be easier for the Yankees, who are three-time losers against Cabrera this season. The good news is that Cabrera’s been shaky since the All-Star break, turning in just two quality starts in seven tries and posting a 7.15 ERA. More good news: Alex Rodriguez, who has three doubles in eight at-bats in this series, owns Cabrera (1.246 OPS and four homers in 34 ABs), and Hideki Matsui, Bobby Abreu, Jason Giambi (12 walks in 29 PA), and Ivan Rodriguez all have good numbers against the big Dominican. That’s five of the nine Yankees’ in today’s starting lineup, and Xavier Nady (who is hitting .360/.385/.600 with an active six-game hit streak entering today’s game) has never faced Cabrera.

More good news, Rasner has a 3.38 ERA with 11 Ks and just 14 baserunners in 16 innings in his last three games (including one relief appearance). Most recently, he matched Burnett for 6 2/3 innings in Toronto, allowing just three hits over that span and no runs until a solo homer in the seventh.

Heck, if Carl Pavano can come off the DL and deliver a win, which he did yesterday, anything’s possible. That just might be the Yankees’ rallying cry the rest of this season.

Cool Hand Mo

Last night, Mariano Rivera’s son worked as the bat boy for the Yanks and he wore #42 just like his old man.  With one out in the ninth inning, the boy was perched on the top step of the dugout, leaning over the fence.  Tony Pena told him to step down and the boy sat next to Pena on the bench.  Girardi was next to them.  I wondered what it must be like to be the son of a big leaguer.  The rest of the men on the team must really accept you into the fold.

The next time the YES cameras cut back to the dugout the boy was back on the top step.  Joba Chamberlain was next to him.  They watched the kid’s father put the Orioles down quickly.  When Nick Markakis checked his swing on a full-count pitch, Joba said, "That’s it" as the team moved out of the dugout and onto the field.  The home plate umpire pointed at Markakis, who had held-up on a check swing just a few pitches earlier.  An appeal was made to third but Laz Diaz just smiled as he walked off the field.

The young Rivera, like his old man, was calm and composed.  A few minutes later, the YES cameras showed the kid following behind his father, a double-vision of #42.  For a moment I wondered, what if Rivera is a mean parent?  What if he is cold and distant?  What if the kid will never be able to live up to the pressure of being the son of a famous athlete?  Then I allowed myself to have a nicer fantasy–what if being Mariano Rivera’s son really is all it’s cracked up to be?  What if he’s a great dad? 

Reality lies somewhere inbetween I’m sure, but that looked to be about as cool a bring-your-kid-to-work-day as you could ever see, right?

Gettin Better All the Time

Bob Klapisch writes about his very scary injury for the first time today.  Excellent, sobering piece by Klap.  Check it out.

When the Legend Becomes Fact, Pitch the Legend

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Above: Carl Pavano holds the Orioles at bay.

It was a thrilling night in Baltimore, as tens of thousands witnessed what appeared to be a live Carl Pavano on a Major League pitching mound. Long assumed to be only a hoax or legend, the Pavano was caught from multiple angles by the YES Network cameras. Not only do we now appear to have definite proof of its existence but — perhaps most stunning of all — the Pavano was videotaped throwing five innings for the win, as the Yankees beat Baltimore 5-3.  

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Above: Carl Pavano arrives at the ballpark before last night’s game.

The Yankees, seemingly unafraid of the mysterious creature crouched in their dugout, scored  two runs in the first, on an Alex Rodriguez double and a Jason Giambi “infield hit” (he should send the official scorer a bouquet). The Pavano, however, appeared to be spooked by all the noise, crowds, and sudden movements; it allowed far too many base runners in its first two innings, and was lucky to let no more than three runs score in the second. Thereafter, however, it settled down, and went on to have — under the remarkable circumstances — a fairly decent outing.

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Above: A young Yankee fan in Camden Yards enjoys Pavano’s pitching performance.

The Yankees retook the lead in the third on a Jason Giambi bomb and never gave it back, eventually tacking on a fifth run when Hideki Matsui homered. (According to Variety, the film rights for Godzilla vs. Pavano have already been snapped up by Universal). Brian Bruney, Jose Veras, and Mariano Rivera pitched a combined four innings to lock down the victory for the Pavano, which by then had retreated to the visitor’s locker room in search of something dangerously sharp, heavy and precariously balanced, or poisoned.

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Above: Pavano relaxes in a hot tub after the game.

[UPDATE: EDITOR’S NOTE:  The Pavano spotted by thousands in Camden Yards last night, and hailed as a real phenomenon by viewers around the world, now appears to have been an elaborate hoax. Further investigation has revealed compelling evidence suggesting that this was all a daring prank, and that "the Pavano" was, in actuality, an incredibly lifelike and realistic suit worn by Scranton pitcher Kei Igawa. We sincerely apologize for the error.]

No Laughing

Wonder what kind of comedy we’ll see out of Carl Pavano and the Yanks tonight…

Wrecks N Effects

Erik Wolf has started a website in the name of saving Yankee Stadium:

This irreplaceable stadium can be put to good and profitable public use. Minor league baseball, affordable for the masses can be played here (with admission prices for even the best seats a lot cheaper than the 00 the top priced seat will go for in the new Stadium. And more to the point, just as Mayor Bloomberg has recently announced that a branch of the Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame will be moving to New York, what about a branch of the Baseball Hall of Fame in the House That Ruth Built?

We cannot stand silent and let this great edifice be destroyed. Save Yankee Stadium. For yourself, for your children, you grandchildren, and all generations to come.

You didn’t think the House that Ruth Built was going to go out without someone saying something about it, did you? Head on over to the site and sign the petition to save the Stadium if you are so moved.

Kick in the Pants

There has been a lot of talk lately that none of this slumping would have ever happened to Robinson Cano had Larry Bowa still been around. I don’t know that I disagree but man, that really doesn’t say a whole heck of a lot about Cano, does it? He’s not a college athlete after all, he shouldn’t need a coach to keep him in line. But as Jack Curry points out in a post over at Bats, Bowa really did have an impact on Cano.

Objects In Box Score May Be Closer Than They Appear

The Yankees beat the Orioles 9-4 last night, but the game wasn’t nearly that close, and Mike Mussina did not pick up his 17th win of the season. As late as two outs into the top of the ninth inning, the Yankees’ lead was just one run, and they had taken that lead just the inning before.

The Yankees got on the board right away in the top of the first when Bobby Abreu singled home Johnny Damon, who had doubled to start the game (in between, Derek Jeter picked up the 2,500th hit of his career, a flare that dropped in behind second baseman Brian Roberts). The Orioles got that run right back in the bottom of the first when Roberts singled, stole second, and scored on a two-out Aubrey Huff single. Huff singled home another run in the third, and Ramon Hernandez homered off Mussina in the fourth to give the O’s a 3-1 lead, but the Yanks tied it back up in the top of the fifth when Robinson Cano and Jose Molina (!) led off with back-to-back home runs off O’s starter Radhames Liz.

With one out in the bottom of the sixth, Kevin Millar hit a ground rule double and Luke Scott singled to put runners on the corners. With Mussina at 99 pitches and the score still tied, Joe Girardi came out to the mound for a quick gut check with his starter. Mussina stayed in the game, but Hernandez hit a sac fly to deep left to give the O’s a 4-3 lead before Jose Molina threw out Scott stealing to end the inning. After 110 pitches, that was it for Mussina, who would leave the game without pushing his win total past 16. If he stays healthy, Mussina could make seven more starts this season.

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Steve Gibralter (1-for-5 in his major league career), had nothing to do with last night’s game.

Jose Veras pitched a 1-2-3 seventh, and the Yankees rallied in the eighth against lefty reliever Jamie Walker. Bobby Abreu–who bused the just-defeated Venezuelan little league team to the game and gave them the royal treatment then went 5-for-5 in their presence–led off the inning with a single and moved to third on a double by Alex Rodriguez. After Walker got Jason Giambi to pop out, O’s manager Dave Trembley called on rookie righty Kam Mickolio, one of the pitchers acquired in the Erik Bedard deal, to face Xavier Nady. Mickolio’s first pitch was way outside and sailed clean past Ramon Hernandez, bringing in Abreu with the tying run. Nady then singled Rodriguez home to give the Yankees the slim 5-4 lead they brought into the top of the ninth.

With two outs and no one out in the ninth, Abreu picked up his fifth hit when a grounder to second base skipped past Roberts. Alex Rodriguez then hit a ground rule double to left that, like his double the previous inning, held Abreu at third base. That brought up Jason Giambi’s spot, but in protecting his slim one-run lead in the bottom of the eighth, Joe Girardi had put Cody Ramsom in as a defensive replacement at first base. Facing righty reliever Francisco Cabrera, who had come in to face Rodriguez, Ransom worked the count to 2-1, then blasted a hanging breaking ball into the seats in left for his second home run in as many at-bats as a Yankee, giving the Bombers an 8-4 lead. Xavier Nady then hit Cabrera’s next pitch to dead center for a solo shot that made it 9-4 and Mariano Rivera, who had come on in relief of Damaso Marte with two outs in the eighth, worked a 1-2-3 ninth inning on ten pitches to nail down the win.

In other news, Phil Hughes had another rough outing last night as the SWB Yanks clinched a playoff spot in a wild 13-12 walkoff win. Hughes’ line in his last two starts: 7 IP, 18 H, 13 R, 1 BB, 10 K. Regardless of what Carl Pavano does tomorrow, he was the right choice.

Baltimore Orioles V: Last Throes Edition

The last time the Yankees and Orioles played, the Yankees suffered a let-down coming off a series win in Boston and their 8-1 start to the second half. Going into this weekend’s three game series in Baltimore, I can’t help but look ahead to the Yankees’ three-game set against the Red Sox at the Stadium next week. Here’s hoping the Yankees are able to stay focused on the task at hand and build up some momentum heading in to that Boston series which, if it doesn’t go well, could seal the Yankees fate this season. The Yankees enter tonight’s action trailing both the Red Sox and Twins by six games for the Wild Card lead. They have six games left against the Sox, none left against the Twins, and six left against the Blue Jays, who are just a game behind the Yanks after last night’s win.

The Yankees are an alarming 5-7 against the last-place Orioles this season, and a mere 2-4 at Camden Yards on the year, though they’ve not been to Baltimore since the end of May. Since losing two of three to the O’s in the Bronx at the end of July, the Yankees are 8-12. The Orioles, meanwhile, are 10-9 since leaving the Bronx, their only two series losses over that span coming against the Angels and Red Sox.

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Moose serving up that knucklecurve you ordered.

None of this is encouraging. One would think the pitching matchup would be. Mike Mussina takes the hill looking for win number 17 against just-recalled Radhames Liz, who sports a 7.28 career ERA in the majors. Mussina is 3-0 with a 2.33 ERA and no home runs allowed in his last four starts. Liz was demoted on the eve of the Yankees last series against the O’s after posting a 7.47 ERA in ten starts in June and July.

Not so fast. Five starts ago, Mussina gave up two dingers and six total runs in five innings against . . . the Orioles. In two starts against his former team this season, Moose has allowed 13 runs in 5 2/3 innings. His last start at Camden Yards was also his final start of the 2007 seaon. He gave up six runs in five innings. As for Liz, the 25-year-old Dominican righty posted a 2.67 ERA with a 1.04 WHIP while striking out 27 in as many innings in triple-A this month, and in two relief appearances against the Yankees last year totaling 4 1/3 innings, he allowed just one run while striking out five and allowing as many baserunners. Though most of those innings game in mop-up duty against the Yankees’ subs, the Yankees in tonight’s starting lineup who have faced him are a combined 1-for-10 with four strikeouts against Liz.

Are there any encouraging signs heading into this series? Hideki Matsui has just two hits in 11 plate appearances since returning, but they’ve been good for six total bases (.545 slugging) and three RBIs. He’s also struck out only once and grounded out only twice, which suggests his swing is in good shape. Derek Jeter has hit .317/.382/.440 since June 1, .392/.434/.486 in August, and is 17-for-32 on his current seven-game hitting streak. Bobby Abreu is hitting .328/.407/.531 since the All-Star break. Uhm . . . that’s about it.

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Card Corner: Dick Tidrow

 

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Dick Tidrow wouldn’t fit into today’s game. In an era in which pitchers have become so specialized—there are set-up men, lefty specialists, innings eaters, one-inning closers, five-inning starters, crossover relievers, and never shall any of these categories overlap—no one would fully appreciate Tidrow’s value. That’s because a large part of Tidrow’s value was the actual versatility he brought to the pitching table. He could pitch set-up relief, serve as a long man, close out games occasionally, and fill in as a starter on a moment’s notice. He could perform all of those roles effectively, sometimes within a span of about two weeks, making him one of the most subtle but vital contributors to the Yankees’ mini-dynasty of 1976 to 1978.

Yet, Tidrow didn’t become a bastion of versatility overnight. Bursting onto the major league scene in 1972, Tidrow emerged as a durable right-handed starter for the rebuilding Cleveland Indians. Pitching only occasionally in relief, Tidrow made 74 starts for the Indians in 1972 and ’73, logging over 500 innings in the process. As the Indians’ number-two starter (behind Gaylord Perry), the young workhorse pitched well enough in 1972 to earn The Sporting News’ American League Rookie of the Year award. After a poor four-game stretch to start the 1974 season, the Indians foolishly included Tidrow in the deal that sent Chris Chambliss to the Yankees for an array of can-miss prospects and pitchers. It was another in a series of brilliant moves by Yankee general manager Gabe Paul, who knew the Indians’ talent base as well as anyone, having worked for the Tribe prior to his relocation to New York.

Yankee manager Bill Virdon called on Tidrow 33 times that season—25 games as a starter and eight as a reliever. The following year, Tidrow worked solely in relief, pitching primarily as Sparky Lyle’s main set-up man, at first for Virdon and then for Billy Martin. Except for two spot starts, Tidrow remained in that role exclusively through the end of 1976. During that time, he built up the trust of Martin, who loved Tidrow’s durability and willingness to take the ball. So in 1977, Martin tested Tidrow by starting him seven times, giving him the ball 42 times out of the pen, and allowing him to finish 26 of those games. In his seven starts, Tidrow compiled a spotless record of 5-0. On the season, Tidrow won 11 games, saved five others, and logged 151 innings. Who does that in today’s game? No one does, that’s who.

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