"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice

Don’t Mess With Tex

It weren’t pretty, but the Yanks took a broom to the Twins last night, capping off their thrilling “Walkoff Weekend” (TM) with a 7-6 win to complete a four-game sweep of Minnesota and extend their winning streak to six games.

Unlike the previous three games, most of the action in last night’s contest took place in the first inning. The Twins pushed across a pair of first-inning runs against Andy Pettitte, with Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau each delivering an RBI single, the second enabled by Melky Cabrera missing the cutoff man on the first allowing Mauer to go to second.

Tex heating up with his three-run homer in the first inning (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)Unfazed, the Yanks scored four against lefty Glen Perkins before making their first out as Derek Jeter and Johnny Damon singled then Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez each homered to left field. After Nick Swisher flied out to the warning track, a shot that looked like a third-straight homer off the bat, Robinson Cano sliced a ground-rule double into the stands along-side left field and Melky Cabrera singled him home. After a passed ball and a Ramiro Peña fly out, Francisco Cervelli hit a chopper up the middle that somehow missed Perkins’ glove, then hit the side of second base, avoiding both diving middle infielder. On the YES broadcast, Ken Singleton remarked that, “if there ever was a seeing-eye base hit, that was it.” Cervelli’s hit plated Cabrera with the sixth Yankee run and drove Perkins from the game with just two outs in the first.

Knuckleballer R.A. Dickey held things down from there with 4 1/3 scoreless innings, while the Twins tried to chip away. Michael Cuddyer led off the fourth with a solo homer to make it 6-3. Carlos Gomez singled, stole second, and scored on a Denard Span single in the sixth to make it 6-4. Span later hit a solo homer off Edwar Ramirez in the eighth, but that came after Teixeira added a solo shot of his own in the bottom of the seventh, this one from the left side of the plate, the second time he’s switch-hit homers in a game this season.

That extra run proved to be the winning margin. With Mariano Rivera having thrown 44 pitches over three innings the previous two days, Joe Girardi gave his closer the night off. Lefty Phil Coke, who relieved Ramirez and struck out Morneau for the last out of the eighth, was given the ninth in Rivera’s place. It wasn’t pretty. Coke’s first two pitches to leadoff man Joe Crede, who entered the game with a .296 on-base percentage, were balls. He recovered to go 2-2, but Crede fouled off four full-count offerings and ultimately drew a ten-pitch walk. Matt Tolbert then ran for Crede and moved to second on a wild pitch, to third on a groundout that required Teixeira to range far to his right, and home on another groundout. With two outs, Carlos Gomez, who entered the game with a .286 on-base percentage, nearly replicated Crede’s at-bat, getting ahead 2-0, then even at 2-2 and ultimately working a seven-pitch walk. Mike Redmond seemed to be doing the same thing (2-0, then 3-1, then a pair of full-count fouls), but mercifully grounded to Cano for the final out of the game. Coke’s performance made the news of Brian Bruney’s impending activation (expected tonight) all the more welcome, though to the always forthcoming Coke’s credit, he humorously confessed to having been unnerved by the situation.

As for Teixeira, he was hitting .182/.354/.338  with three home runs and 10 RBIs on May 3, but has hit .351/.397/.789 with seven home runs and 18 RBIs in his last 14 games. Though his average will take a while to rebound (he’s still at just .239), he’s on pace for 45 homers and 127 RBIs, even with that slow start factored in. On-pace numbers can be very misleading, and Teixeira’s current single-season best for home runs is “just” 43, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Tex comes very close to those numbers come late September. Teixeira’s career month-by-month splits show steady improvement with each flip of the calendar, and his defense was an important part of the Yankees’ sweep of the Twins. He’s going to be a lot of fun to watch the rest of the way as, by extension, are the Yankees.

Phil Coke’s postgame comments, delivered through a sort of delerious, almost punchy smile. Coke’s only other professional save came in the Sally League in 2006:

Kim Jones: What’s it like to get your first save?

Oh, man, that’s hard! No wonder Mo’s really good. I mean, man, he’s really good. [chuckles] I don’t know. You’ll have to ask me again tomorrow, ‘cuz I’m completely and totally gassed right now. My brain shut off . . .

Jones: It was that much different than a normal inning . . .

It felt like it. It really did. It was . . . you know, go out there with a two-run lead, it’s like, “okay, I’ve been out there with a two-run lead before.” [affects look of concern] It’s a little different.

Jones: What were you telling yourself and what were your teammates and manager telling you?

Joe came out and told me that, “right now, you’re the only guy I want out here. You’re the guy that we need out here right now.” And Cervelli told me that, he’s like, “man, it’s cool. Relax, dude. It’s alright. C’mon, play catch with me.” It’s like, “okay.” Then Peña came up to me, he’s like, [affects slight Mexican accent] “hey, reelax, dood, what are you doing?” I wasn’t to sure myself. It was fun. It was really fun. I’m glad to have gotten it out of the way, and if I get put in that position again at least I’ll know how to do it. So, that was pretty cool.

Reporter:What did you think of the play by Tex?

I was really happy that he knocked that down, ‘cuz that would have really not been very cool if he didn’t, and . . . man, I love that guy.

Reporter 2: What is so different about standing there in the ninth inning as opposed to the seventh inning?

I have no idea. I really don’t know what the actual difference is other than a nine versus, six, seven, or eight, but it just seemed like everything was way more amplified.

Kim Jones: It could have been the ballgame in the eighth, though. How did you get that strikeout of Morneau? You know dangerous he can be.

Uhm, I was a little mad at him. [smiles] Yeah, I was a little mad at him, so I wanted to make sure I went out there and did everything I could to get him out because that was a big out in that situation. I was really just focused on staying with Cervelli behind the plate and hitting my spots, and then the ninth inning rolled around and I don’t know what happened. [smiles and shakes head]

Jones: Did you know after the eighth, though, that you were going back out for sure.

Yes I did. Yes I did. And I was just trying to stay as relaxed as possible and not think about it. It was like, “okay going back out there for the eighth inning.” You know, trying to play mind games with myself rather than think, “oh God, where’s ‘Enter Sandman?’ Where’s that guy? Because he’s way better at this than I am.”

Jones: Did you say anything to Mo or will you say anything to him tomorrow about all this?

I actually walked up to him in the back and was like, “hey, you’re way better at that than me.” And he was like, “hey, good job, man. It doesn’t matter. You got the job done.” I was like, “yeah, but you’re still way better than I am at that job. So, you can have it right now. Thank you.”

Categories:  Cliff Corcoran  Game Recap

Tags:  Mark Teixeira  Phil Coke

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1 thelarmis   ~  May 19, 2009 3:05 am

that ruled. it was like a post-game interview with Spicoli!!!

2 Cliff Corcoran   ~  May 19, 2009 3:11 am

Coke strikes me as a very bright and self-aware dude. He has a great attitude. He's intense without being humorless and is very honest about his performance and his emotions whenever I see him interviewed. He's an easy guy to root for.

3 thelarmis   ~  May 19, 2009 3:18 am

i love his candidness. i would've like to have heard the inflection in his voice. i wasn't linking him to spicoli as being dumb, but as being funny!

i really hope we stick it to the Oreo's and keep on winning...

4 thelarmis   ~  May 19, 2009 3:27 am

well, i just watched Coke's video at YES (Tex's too). that was cool. yeah, Coke is definitely a good kid and easy to root for!

i'm expecting CC to be CC tomorrow night in da bronx!

5 Mr. OK Jazz TOKYO   ~  May 19, 2009 3:32 am

[3] Spicoli wasn't that dumb, after all he was able to pass Mr. Hand's class, and also party with Van Halen and bikini girls..

6 Mr. OK Jazz TOKYO   ~  May 19, 2009 5:52 am

Now throwing a shutout (still only the 4th) against my beloved Yakult Swallows...Mr. Darrel Rasner! Long way from Yankee Stadium to Kleenex Stadium, home of his current Rakuten Golden Eagles..but it's a small, quirky park with very loud and loyal fans. The Eagles play in Sendai, a city in northern Japan that wanted a team for years and finally got the Eagles a few years ago. I think he will enjoy the experience, and wish he had a blog up...

Anyways, good luck to Rasner tonight, hope he loses 1-0 to my Swallows!

7 Mr. OK Jazz TOKYO   ~  May 19, 2009 6:29 am

dream is over..Rasner gives up the 3-run tater..oh well, grub time!

8 RIYank   ~  May 19, 2009 7:14 am

That's a great interview, thanks Cliff. Is it archived somewhere?

9 Chyll Will   ~  May 19, 2009 7:21 am

[7] Glug-glug, gulp! >;)

That was a fun read of Coke, That's the spirit this team has missed the last few years, and if I'm reading this correctly, that's primarily what Cash wanted Girardi to do the most; integrate younger players and give them a chance to grow in a way that Torre could not bring himself to do. There's still room for improvement (there's rumbling in the booths about sending down Veras and/or Edwar and maybe even, um, coughgettriddofberroacough), but if the spirit of the youthful can weather the losses and bounce back and run off wins like they are now later on in the season, you gotta start thinking of giving Girardi some credit, no?

10 williamnyy23   ~  May 19, 2009 7:54 am

I know I was frightened out of my mind during the 9th inning, so it's nice to know Coke was too.

I thought the Coke interview was as candid and interesting as any I can remember. It really revealed just how different closing out a game is. Sometimes we just assume that those three outs are just like all the others, but Coke's wide-eyed, almost shell shocked reaction dispels that notion.

[9] I am not sure if that argument is valid when you consider how Melancon and Robertson have been handled, especially in light of Girardi's comments about how Melancon hadn't earned his trust. Girardi's problem is that he really doesn't seem to have a consistent philosophy. He can really be all over the map, and I think that really hurts him in game management because it seems like he is battling with himself over decisions.

11 Dimelo   ~  May 19, 2009 8:03 am

I'd just like to clarify something I said in the last game thread - What do the Yanks do that’s really exceptional? - the Yanks do have a great top of the rotation and a great lineup, but that statement is based on just names and their past history.

They haven't performed consistently enough (this year) for me to say, w/ a high level of confidence, that this Yankee team's starting rotation and lineup is exceptional. I am extremely happy the Yanks have played well the last 7 days, but the prior 7 days (from last Monday) I was left shaking my head and thinking "this isn't a playoff team". I want to see more, though, I am glad that the team is no longer allowing 10+ runs in what seemed like every other day.

I am not saying this team sucks, I am just saying I haven't seen enough consistency.

12 ChrisS   ~  May 19, 2009 8:13 am

I am not saying this team sucks, I am just saying I haven’t seen enough consistency.

You and Joe Morgan.

I'd like to see what a consistent team looks like. IMO, in major league baseball, such a thing doesn't exist.

13 Bum Rush   ~  May 19, 2009 8:21 am

@ 9

Why give Girardi any credit when they're in the middle of a nice winning streak and he's pushed all the right buttons, even playing with a very short roster? Nah, better, to malign the guy for something so incomprehensible as "game management" or "philosophy". Yup, nothing like boring people with an explanation that can't be disproved - ever. Why worry about actually testing ideas with data when I can just act confident in utter drivel?

I still think the players need a pre-game Confession. There has to be one honest Catholic priest in New York, right?

I'm just pissed that Girardi hasn't used Angel Berroa and Kevin Cash appropriately. These games would be blow outs if he could just work them into his management philosophies.

14 Dimelo   ~  May 19, 2009 8:23 am

[12] I haven't seen the Dodgers play, but I see them winning consistently. Even the Rangers, this year, have been winning consistently. As have the Blue Jays. The Blue Jays lost 2:3 against us, but then go and win 4 against the White Sox.

A consistent team doesn't lose a number of games allowing 10+ runs, they don't go through 4 and 5 game losing streaks within the first 38 games, with a number of 2 game losing streaks sprinkled in between your wins. That, to me, represents an inconsistent team.

The Yanks are playing better, I want to see more. That's all. Let's see how this all unfolds. Seriously, they just swept a 4 game series and their run differential was 5 runs. That's getting by on the skin of their teeth.

15 Bum Rush   ~  May 19, 2009 8:30 am

@ 12, 14

Sorry but I'm with Dimelo here. This still feels like a .500 team either getting lucky or with a decent manager. They're three games better than their Pythag. But the manager needs a "philosophy"...

16 Dimelo   ~  May 19, 2009 8:30 am

[14] I just saw the Rangers schedule, they've had one 5 game losing streak. The Dodgers longest losing streak has been 3 games this year. The Blue Jays haven't had a losing streak longer than 2. Those are consistent teams, IMHO.

17 PJ   ~  May 19, 2009 8:34 am

[8] Coke's interview is on yesnetwork.com, RYI...

: )

18 Dimelo   ~  May 19, 2009 8:34 am

[15] One thing that I do like is that this Yankee team is developing a fighting spirit. The walk-off wins do help in establishing an identity.

19 RIYank   ~  May 19, 2009 8:34 am

The Dodgers, the Rangers, and the Blue Jays have won more games than the Yankees. If playing "consistent" means more than that, I would like to know what it means.

20 williamnyy23   ~  May 19, 2009 8:35 am

[14] I agree that the Yankees haven't been consistent (and that they haven't done enough things consistently well yet), but wins are wins. After all, three of the four losses to Boston and Tampa Bay were also close games, but they still counted as losses.

Even without Arod and Posada full-time, the Yankees do have a very impressive OPS+ of 113. I think we can expect this team to be an exceptional offensive club going forward. The next things that needs to fall into place is consistency from the starting rotation...that has happened over the past 10 games, but it needs to continue. The big question marks remain defense and the bullpen. The former will never be a great strength, but it has showed sign of improving. The latter, however, still worries me. The Yankees really need Bruney to pick up where he left off, but I think they still could use another arm. Personally, I'd rather see Hughes move over to the pen if Wang returns (and Joba remains in the rotation). At this point, I think he could contribute more than a Veras/Albaledejo and would also learn more from the experience.

21 Dimelo   ~  May 19, 2009 8:39 am

[20] Dude I can pitch better than Veras, I hate seeing him come into any game. I'm with you, the less we see of Veras/Albie then the better off we are. Is Veras the respawn of Felix Heredia? The right-handed version.

I don't equate close losses as consistency, it seems that's what you were trying to say, and I have a hard time accepting that.

22 williamnyy23   ~  May 19, 2009 8:39 am

[19] If the Yankees had played the schedules of the three teams you mentioned, they'd also be winning consistently. Take the Dodgers for example: they have played 28 (20-8)! games against the likes of the Giants, Padres, D-backs and Rockies.

23 williamnyy23   ~  May 19, 2009 8:43 am

[21] That's not what I was trying to say...actually, quite the opposite. My point was the close losses were just that...losses. By the same token, these close wins against Minnesota shouldn't be discounted.

Of course, close losses do mean your not giving up 10+ runs, which is always nice.

24 RIYank   ~  May 19, 2009 8:45 am

Oh, thanks, PJ! I'm glad I watched that.

25 PJ   ~  May 19, 2009 8:51 am

[24] Sure thing friend!

I would get used to Phil being around, if I were all of Yankees Universe!

: )

26 Dimelo   ~  May 19, 2009 8:57 am

[23] I agree, close losses in conjunction with 3+ game winning streaks does mean the team is playing more consistently. When you see quite a few of 10+ runs allowed and losses, then that doesn't make you feel good about this being a consistent team. Let's see how this all plays out from here to the end of May, their schedule in June is not that easy.

BTW, a team can only play the schedule that was given to them. I don't look at that as any sort of indictment.

27 RIYank   ~  May 19, 2009 8:58 am

[25] I could stand that.
Cervelli, Romiro Pena, Brett Gardner, Phil Coke -- all those guys are just enough better than we had any right to expect, and all have such a pleasant attitude, that I'm looking forward to having them around. It also makes me want to have Melancen, Aceves, Miranda all come to the Bronx and sit in the bullpen or on the bench, as the case may be.

Cody Ransom. Jose Veras. Kyle Farnsworth. Miguel Cairo. Ugh.

28 RIYank   ~  May 19, 2009 9:09 am

I'm with Chris: there aren't any consistent teams. The Jays lost three out of four to the Royals, including a 7-1 loss and an 11-2 loss. In that series they won a game 8-1. That's the very antithesis of consistency.

It doesn't inspire great confidence that the Yankees are winning the close games and have lost blow-outs. That's not a good sign (though it is a good thing to win close games, it's not a good sign). But I'm reasonably optimistic because there are lots of reasons to think that some key players will be much more productive in the summer months, and because we're just about even with the Rays and Red Sox despite the April struggles. (Think about what a dismal position the Sox would be in if they'd lost the close games to the Yankees that they in fact won.)

Looking forward to seeing Brian Bruney.

29 Shaun P.   ~  May 19, 2009 9:14 am

[26] Do we know for sure that long winning/losing streaks, or having lots of blowout wins/losses in a season, is any kind of statistically significant predictor of a team's final record, or that it correlates with winning in any way? I want to say that Rob Neyer looked at this a few years ago at ESPN.com, but I can't remember, and I'm not sure how to find his pre-blog columns.

In any case, it sounds like a topic someone would have done a study on. Anyone have "Baseball Between the Numbers" handy?

30 Horace Clarke Era   ~  May 19, 2009 9:18 am

Cult of Baseball nailed me (with a sense of humour) in the game thread:

[464] don’t think that you can just show up at the end of games and act like the voice of reason. you have to spend time in the asylum to have the right to talk sense around here!

I did laugh. But I figure it is a miserable job, but SOMEONE has to do it, right, Cult? If I show up earlier and try to sedate and calm william and others, it just ... won't work! Someone'll get hurt! Probably me! But at the end of a close win, I can walk in with an open bottle of Macallan and pass it around ...

But I can try for voice of reason in the morning too! I think 'constency' is going to be hard in the AL East. Yes, you can only play the schedule you have, Dimelo, but WE have to factor that. Jays have had an amazingly easy sched so far, so has Texas. Schedules will even out in the AL east, but NOT elsewhere. Dodgers will have it easy, the Central and West in the AL will be WAY easier than the East ... that means more games when your bullpen gets tired, more tough losses, even more blowouts.

Look, we all KNEW (didn't we?) that the east had 3 really strong teams. Now a fourth is playing exceptionally well, and history suggests at the 1/4 mark the leader tends to win the division! I don't think the Jays will, but they aren't going to just vanish, and two of their studs (Wells, Rios) have yet to get going. They have 3 pitchers coming back in next little while. Means Gaston will have decisions to make, but those are good decisions to have.

So my point is that we are in for a LONG, tough season in this division, and there WILL be losing streaks ahead. My optimism, if I have any (and I expect to be competitive all year, with no bets as to winning) is our starting pitching, which tends to help avoid major losing streaks.

And I am NOT going to post twice in two days on behalf of Jose Veras. Once is more than enough! I'll just note how quiet the anti-Teixeira guys here have suddenly become. Patience is a virtue. (And that can apply in a manager to vets as well as kids!)

WHY is Berroa on the team? I'll join that chorus too. I don't think it matters a whole lot, a 25th player seldom does more than cheer, but he seems only 'insurance' against two injuries in a single game. Cash goes (catcher Cash, not GM Cash) when either Po or Molina lumber back ... no one has asked who stays as backup when they both return. Cervelli sure looks like he deserves a shot, but is he better still hitting every day in AAA or catching twice a week up here? He'll never pinch hit, except to bunt.

31 RagingTartabull   ~  May 19, 2009 9:32 am

I think we'll have a better read on the "consistency" of this team around June 15th, coming off 9 games against the Rays, Sox, and Mets. Until that point I'd be perfectly content beating up on the Orioles and Rangers (is anyone here seriously scared of Texas??)

And also, it is not a coincidence that this team is 8-2 since A-Rod's return. Lengthening the lineup like that will make any team appear more "consistent"

32 Bama Yankee   ~  May 19, 2009 9:34 am

Good game last night, it was nice to see a "walk on" win after all those "walk off" wins over the last few days... Although, I think someone should tell Phil Coke that John Wetteland called...he wants his "heart-wrenching-pitching-performance-but-still-get-the-save" act back... ;-)

33 Horace Clarke Era   ~  May 19, 2009 9:39 am

[31] Raging Tart, that's no Bull. And it is also not unconnected that Tex got hot around when Alex came back. Even with Rodiguez still really in spring training, no pitcher wants to be the one who watches him bust out. When Alex gets it properly together in a week or two, we'll have our own version of Manny/Papi at their best, or Minny's M&M right now. Girardi's job will then be figuring out a combo of Posada/Matsui/Cano to follow. Actually, if Melky keeps hitting, he can be higher than 8th or 9th, too. I am 'off' Swisher at the moment, though he'll have his hot streaks again. When the Gardner's healthy again (Mauer tagged him AND hurt him, now that's a play!) Swish and he get cycled through, resting Damon and Matsui. Pena lets Alex DH once a week, which will be a good thing, too.

34 The Hawk   ~  May 19, 2009 9:41 am

I'm not one who thinks being a closer isn't a special skill, but I wouldn't hold up one guy's experience in verrrry particular circumstances as dispelling that notion.

35 williamnyy23   ~  May 19, 2009 9:59 am

[34] I wouldn't either...but Coke's reaction was so over the top that it is eye opening. There are plenty of other examples to speak to the specialness of closing, but I thought Coke's interview was the perfect illustration.

36 Raf   ~  May 19, 2009 10:02 am

that ruled. it was like a post-game interview with Spicoli!!!

Nuke LaLoosh was the first person to come to my mind.

37 The Hawk   ~  May 19, 2009 10:19 am

[35] I think it speaks to Coke and to the situation - first time, Yankee Stadium, and most of all - replacing Mariano Rivera.

38 RagingTartabull   ~  May 19, 2009 10:26 am

non-game question: Has anyone here used Will-Call at the new stadium? I'm going to the game tonight and have to drop off my friend's ticket, is it a pain?

39 Just Fair   ~  May 19, 2009 10:33 am

Maybe after Coke's next save he can holler, "Awesome. Totally Awesome." Or perhaps run in from the bullpen to "All I need are some tasty waves, a cool buzz, and I'm fine." Ha.

40 cult of basebaal   ~  May 19, 2009 12:13 pm

WHY is Berroa on the team? I’ll join that chorus too. I don’t think it matters a whole lot, a 25th player seldom does more than cheer, but he seems only ‘insurance’ against two injuries in a single game.

I think the team is still getting to a point of confidence with Alex being able to play long stretches at 3rd without having to DH.

Anytime he's DHing, Berroa's the only other option on the roster if one of the infielders gets hurt.

Me, I'd risk losing the DH spot for part of a game rather than carry the Berroa deadweight, but I understand 'why' he's here, at least for a while.

41 The Hawk   ~  May 19, 2009 12:36 pm

[13]'s writer is getting dangerously close to the monthly sarcasm limit, and there's still two weeks to go! I think that post alone may have used up half of his allotment.

42 weeping for brunnhilde   ~  May 19, 2009 1:23 pm

Consistency in performance just means a relative absence of peaks and valleys. In hitting, it means Cano shouldn't be hitting .380 one minute and .300 the next, but rather get a hit or two each day rather than two or three hits for a couple of weeks followed up by lots of oh-fors.

Same with pitching and with winning. Steady rather than erratic performance.

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