"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice

Not Enough

Despite the 9-7 final score, Saturday afternoon’s game between the Rays and Yankees actually started out as the pitchers’ duel everyone expected given the starting matchup of lefties CC Sabathia and David Price.

Through four innings, each starter had allowed just one hit, and the Yankees held a slim 2-0 lead. The Bombers’ one hit was an Alex Rodriguez home run that bounced off the top of the right-center field wall and into the waiting hands of bullpen coach Mike Harkey. Their other run came when Rodriguez led off the bottom of the fourth with a walk, stole second, moved to third on catcher Dioner Navaro’s throwing error on the steal attempt, and scored by taking a chance on a grounder in on the grass at third off the bat of Robinson Cano.

Ben Zobrist tied the game in the fifth by parking a 1-2 cutter in the left field box seats. Joe Dillon then hit a shot down the left field line that Johnny Damon collected in time to hold Dillon to a single only to airmail his throw over the entire infield, allowing Dillon to reach third base with no outs. A subsequent sac fly by Navarro tied the game.

The Yankees took the lead back in the bottom of the inning when Melky Cabrera led off with a double, was bunted to third by Francisco Cervelli, and scored when Navarro tried to pick him off and threw the ball past third baseman Willy Aybar. The error was Navarro’s third of the game, and the second that led to a Yankee run.

So it was 3-2 heading into the sixth. The Rays had three hits, the Yankees two. Then Sabathia walked B.J. Upton to start the sixth, and gave up a well-placed single to left by Carl Crawford on his next pitch. His very next pitch was a changeup to Willy Aybar, that Aybar deposited in the visiting bullpen for what appeared to be a game-breaking three-run homer.

Of course, these are the Comeback Kids. No game is ever over ’til it’s over, not even with David Price on the mound. The Yankees ran Price’s pitch count up quickly, working five walks and bouncing him after 107 pitches in 5 2/3 innings. With Grant Balfour on the mound in the eighth, Mark Teixeira led off with a booming home run that grazed the suite level in deep right field to bring the Yankees within one run. After an Alex Rodriguez fly out, Jorge Posada walked and Joe Maddon brought in lefty J.P. Howell to face Robinson Cano. Cano singled, Nick Swisher walked, and that man again, Melky Cabrera, tied the game by beating out a double-play ball to plate Posada.

Of course, it wasn’t quite that clear cut. Ball four from Balfour to Posada came on a full count and could have rightly been called a strike as it was at most a pitch off the inside corner, and a frame-by-frame replay on Melky showed that he was actually out by a few inches at first base. In other words, the Rays wuz robbed. Really.

Veteran crew chief Tim McClelland must have noticed this, because with the go-ahead run on third and two outs, he called pinch-hitter Hideki Matusi out on a checked swing that was clearly checked. Nonetheless, the Yankees had tied the game and, after a 29-pitch inning that included a pitching change, Joe Girardi decided to relieve CC Sabathia, who had thrown 101 pitches over the first eight frames, and give the ball to Mariano Rivera in the ninth.

Being the huge Sabathia fan that I am, and given his 112-pitch average over his last six starts, I wanted to see CC throw the ninth, but I never expected what followed: Rivera blew it, big time.

Ben Zobrist led off the ninth by splitting the left-field gap for a triple. Rivera then fell behind 2-0 on Joe Dillon before giving up a single that gave the Rays the lead once again. After that, Rivera got a groundout and a fly out, but with two out and major league RBI leader Evan Longoria pinch-hitting, Joe Girardi ordered Rivera to put Longoria on and pitch to B.J. Upton instead. Upton singled home Dillon to make it 7-5, and Rivera was out of the game after 21 pitches, just ten of them strikes.

Phil Coke came on and gave up two more runs, both charged to Rivera, one of which scored on a ball that skipped off the heal of Alex Rodriguez’s glove and was ruled an error. It was those last two runs that would be the difference in the game.

Facing Dan Wheeler, Derek Jeter led off the bottom of the ninth with a single. Johnny Damon followed with a double over B.J. Upton’s head in center that pushed Jeter to third. Mark Teixeira then hit an 0-2 pitch for a double to right that scored both men and brought Alex Rodriguez to the plate as the potential tying run with no outs, but despite working a seven-pitch at-bat, Rodriguez grounded out to third, freezing Teixeira. Jorge Posada followed with an eight-pitch at-bat that culminated in a fly out right at Upton, who was by then playing very deep. Maddon then called sidewinding lefty and former Yankee Randy Choate to pitch to Robinson Cano. Cano got ahead 3-1, fouled off a pitch, then drove one to the warning track in center, but Upton was again playing deep after being caught short on Damon’s double, and made a leaping catch at the wall to end the game.

I’ll do this one Alex-style and end with a song:

Categories:  Cliff Corcoran  Game Recap

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1 PJ   ~  Jun 6, 2009 11:00 pm

Clearly they are going to have to do better than this, if they are going to successfully remain at or near the top of their division.

I'd start with the pitchers at home. For the most part, they have been lacking in the very place where they are supposed to excel.

Playing at home is supposed to be an advantage, where you perform your best, not a disadvantage, where you perform your worst.

2 thelarmis   ~  Jun 6, 2009 11:13 pm

best cure for today in baseball = BEER!!!


3 Diane Firstman   ~  Jun 6, 2009 11:24 pm

In happier news, my Scrabble acquaintance is one of the final four left sitting at a $2,000 entry No Limit Hold 'em event (starting with over 1,600 players). He's already guaranteed over $125,000 in prize money.

His name is Jim Geary.


You can also follow along on ESPN360.COM

4 monkeypants   ~  Jun 7, 2009 12:19 am

Is this the annual WTFWWMW, or should we be more seriously concerned about Mo? I posted a question/comment a few games ago that is seemed (anecdotally) that Mo was getting hit harder more often this season. is this my imagination, or has anyone else gotten the same sense?

5 Rich   ~  Jun 7, 2009 1:04 am

On the previous thread, OYF responded to my post by asking if my desire to fix the pen included Mo.

My answer is that there has to be a recognition on the part of the entire Yankee organization that Mo has probably entered his decline phase. That doesn't mean that he still isn't very good, or that I have a problem with Girardi using him in this instance despite how bad he was in tie games last season, but it's time to begin to integrate some of their high ceiling young arms into the high leverage situation mix, even if it means enduring some transitory growing pains, in order distribute some of the burden, and I would no longer use Mo for two IP.

btw, Mike Harkey looks like a bouncer.

6 thelarmis   ~  Jun 7, 2009 4:40 am

From Nomaas:

Heading into Saturday's game, Mariano had a 3.67 FIP, much higher than the 2.08 FIP he had last season and the 2.80 FIP for his career. This can be solely attributed to the 5 HRs he's already allowed this season, because his K/9, BB/9, and K/BB are all outstanding. In fact, Mariano seems to be walking less hitters as he gets older. Yet, Mariano hasn't allowed 5 home runs in a SEASON since 2001. His HR/FB is a whopping 26.3% so far.

In addition to the home runs, it seems like batters are hitting Mariano harder in general. Mo's line drive rate is at 24.5% this season, compared to 14.5% last season and 18.5% in 2007. Groundballs are also coming less often, as his 45.2% rate is less than the 54.7% in 2008 and the 53.0% in 2007.

Is it a velocity issue? According to PITCHf/x, his fastball velocity has gone from 94.1 mph in 2007 to 91.3 mph this season. His cutter has gone from 92.7 mph in 2007 to 91.2 mph now. Also according to PITCHf/x, his cutter appears to be moving less, with 1.8 inches of horizontal movement versus 2.7 inches last season and 3.7 inches in 2007. Less velocity + less movement = getting hit harder? Could be.

We don't know what's wrong with Mo, and hopefully this is just the annual Mariano Freak-Out, but as of right now, he seems human.

7 Mr. OK Jazz TOKYO   ~  Jun 7, 2009 4:49 am

[4][6] Mo is fine! How dare anyone even THINK he's in the a decline phase??? It's those damn pesky Rays' fault, showing such disrespect to the great Mariano..I hope we beat them senseless tomorrow..

13 years as a top closer..only Hoffman compares, but doesn't come close..it has to end sometime..

8 Mr. OK Jazz TOKYO   ~  Jun 7, 2009 6:15 am

hey thelarmis, stopped by my regular local jazz cafe yesterday afternoon, he had on "Here We Come" by the 3 Sounds, on Blue Note!

9 OldYanksFan   ~  Jun 7, 2009 8:28 am

[7] In reality, all ballplayers are human (yes... even Mo) and they all get old. Hoffman, Wakefield and other soft-tossers may be less effected by age and therefore last longer.

Both the stats and our eyes tell us Mo is not what he was. But hell, it had to/has to happen sometime. The question is when. Is it now? Or is this just a cool start? Time will tell, but my guess is Mo is showing his age. Next year might be very painful for all of us Mortals who worship and the throne of Mo.

10 Horace Clarke Era   ~  Jun 7, 2009 8:46 am

This has been Mo-town for so long, it'd be very hard to adjust.

As I look at the stats t-mis (cute!) relays, one thing that mildly reassures is the shift in cutter movement, actually. I may be way off here, but that suggests a minor adjustment needed to me, not a grim decline. Speed drop, yes, you get older it drops (eventually). But movement feels to be more a matter of arm slot and release.

I was actually impressed we got the tying run to the plate, though I know that 'almost' is still an "L" on the board. We had, as Cliff says, a few gifts yesterday (including a horrific game by Navarro and a dropped pop to 3rd) so we can't really say we let a deserved win get away.

Today feels important though (for June) as we have a near-ace going and I do agree that HOME is supposed to matter more! It starts to feel as if the new stadium is so new to everyone it slightly nullifies that, makes the Yankees visitors too, a bit.

11 ms october   ~  Jun 7, 2009 9:14 am

good discussion on mo.
thanks for relaying the stats thelarmis - does show where some of the issues reside.
it's always very hard to say if this is just a slighlty bad game, rough patch or if it is somethig else.

i don't feel like looking this up, but it *seems* like mo hasn't gotten regular work recently, which often coincides with his rough patches.

also, part of it could be the rays have "adjusted" to him the way it seemed the red sox did a few years ago.
although the notion that mo only has one pitch is exggerated, mo may need to throw the changeup or another pitch a bit more just to have hitters off balance if the cutter has lost a bit of velocity.

one thing that baseball statisticians don't do enough is discuss wheteher the differences between 2 numbers are statistically significant and then perhaps "baseball" significant - how big of a deal are the drops in mo's numbers?

12 The Mick536   ~  Jun 7, 2009 10:53 am

Bernard Barker died. Scumbag burgled Ellburg and Watergate. Gerald Scully died, also. His work describing the economic value of players, Koufax and Aaron for ex, led to the end of slavery in baseball. And, though I don't have any sympathy for the white shoe lawyers who formerly sat in the good seats who have lost their jobs, as have I, due to the economic turmoil, who knew that George Case of White and Case invented the squeeze play while at Yale.

Good Times today.

13 weeping for brunnhilde   ~  Jun 7, 2009 10:56 am

[11] I would love to see Mo incorporate the change. I've been calling for him to do that ever since he sported it in Tampa, what was it, two, three seasons ago?

14 seamus   ~  Jun 7, 2009 11:01 am

mo mo! momo? [8] you got the right idea mr jazz, chill to some tunes. that is sweetness that heals all wounds. of course, give me a day in the woods and i'm a notch better off as well.

15 The Hawk   ~  Jun 7, 2009 11:29 am

It would be ironic if the Yankees spent all that money for starting pitching in an effort to win now (quick before what's left of the late 90s core breaks down completely!), only to have Mariano's inevitable decline begin in earnest and louse up the entire endeavor. So close, yet so far.

I really really really want a win today. They must stop losing to the Rays and Boston.

16 cult of basebaal   ~  Jun 7, 2009 11:56 am

[13] during a game within the last week or so, kay and leiter were talking about rivera's repetoire and how he threw a changeup when he was a starter and the 1st year or so he was a reliever but then scrapped the pitch once he started throwing the cutter.

evidently, at least according to leiter (and his own pitching experience) the grips for the two pitches are not particularily compatible.

17 Horace Clarke Era   ~  Jun 7, 2009 12:00 pm

Before we go all panic button, remember a 'decline' is just that. It means 'not utterly guaranteed' ... we end up living with what MOST good teams live with. Solid closers, who will blow some saves. Some are worse. Hell, look at Tampa Bay! Look at Detroit.

I'll also agree that there's a kind of long long doomwatch that is going on around Rivera, as if we 'protect' ourselves by seeing the end, or predicting it, at every sign of faltering. He's going to have mini-slumps which do not necessarily mean The End is Nigh.

He is not going to start featuring an effective change at this point. Can't see it. That's something you start working on in off-season, not in 9th innings of pennant race games. Nor has Tampa Bay 'figured him out' ... like Zobrist and Dillon took some 'Decode Rivera' course? This is random good hitting, and Zobrist, in fact, is having a remarkable season. They won't miss Iwamura, it seems, except insofar as Zobrist was their bench depth.

18 cult of basebaal   ~  Jun 7, 2009 12:02 pm

this is good news

Yankees fans will soon be the first in baseball to buy games streamed on broadband to computers and wireless devices within the team’s local market, according to executives briefed on the pending deal but not authorized to speak publicly about it.

19 slim   ~  Jun 7, 2009 7:38 pm

Holy shit, that is some terrible music. Van Horrible.

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