"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice

. . . And That’s the Magic Number

Joba deals (AP Photo/Paul J. Bereswill)The Yankees dropped their magic number for clinching the AL East to three Friday night by beating the Red Sox soundly 9-5. Alex Rodriguez had a big night, going 3-for-3 with a two-run homer, four RBIs, and three stolen bases, but the story of the game was the respective highs and lows experienced by the opposing starting pitchers.

Jon Lester gave up a single to Derek Jeter on his first pitch of the game, and though he ultimately allowed only Jeter to score (following a stolen base on an Alex Rodriguez single), he needed 30 pitches to get through the inning. After stranding two runners in the second, including his second walk in as many innings, Lester got into big trouble in the third.

Mark Teixeira led off the third by concluding an eight-pitch at-bat with a single to left. Rodriguez then crushed an inside pitch into the second deck in left field (just the second time a fair ball has reached that level, both of them hit by Rodriguez). The Yankees then loaded the bases on a single by Hideki Matsui, a Robinson Cano double, and Lester’s third walk. With the bags juiced and one out, Melky Cabrera lined a 1-0 pitch off the inside of Lester’s right knee, plating Matsui and knocking Lester out of the game with what ultimately proved to be just a bad bruise. Hunter Jones replaced the injured Lester and allowed Cano to score before ending the inning with the Red Sox trailing 5-0.

Meanwhile, Joba Chamberlain, who suffered what seemed like a significant performance setback against the punchless Mariners in his last start, retired the first 11 men he faced before Victor Martinez deposited a high fastball in the Yankee bullpen in the top of the fourth. That solo homer came on what was just the 44th pitch of the night from Chamberlain. After stranding a subsequent single by Kevin Youkilis, Joba got into immediate trouble in the top of the fifth when a leadoff single by Jason Bay and a J.D. Drew double put men on second and third with no outs.

It took Joba just seven pitches to work out of that jam. Jason Varitek popped out on the first pitch he saw. Alex Gonzalez struck out on four, and Jacoby Ellsbury grounded to Mark Teixeira on a 1-0 count. Teixeira took Ellsbury’s ball to the bag himself, but Joba was running over to cover just in case and simply turned right and ran right into the dugout as Tex made the play.

A walk to Dustin Pedroia to start the sixth and a two-out two-run homer to lefty by David Ortiz soured his final inning, but overall the night was a huge success for Chamberlain, who had been showing progress in his two starts prior to his disappointing outing in Seattle. Though his recent innings limits were partially to blame, the game marked the first time Chamberlain had completed six innings since August 11, his first win since August 6, and his first quality start since he dominated the Rays on July 29.

Joba will make one more regular season start, on Wednesday against the Royals. The Royals aren’t much to contend with, but neither were the Mariners. Joba had a 90-pitch limit Friday night and used just 86 of them in six frames. He has thrown 152 2/3 innings on the season, but should be allowed to pitch without limits against the Royals in preparation for potential playoff work. His performance in that game could determine a lot, including which ALDS schedule the Yankees choose. If he’s similarly effective, the Yankees might prefer to let Joba start an ALDS game in order to keep him in the groove.

Meanwhile, the Yankees stole seven bases against Jason Varitek in this game, providing a preview of how they might play against the Sox in a potential ALCS matchup. Varitek has thrown out just 15 men all year, a mere 14 percent of attempting basestealers. Victor Martinez has been equally inept at catching thieves, throwing out just nine men for an identical 14 percent caught-stealing rate. The Yankees, meanwhile, have four starters in double digits in steals (Jeter, Rodriguez, Damon, and their center fielder, be it Cabrera or Gardner), and Robinson Cano contributed with a steal of second Friday night. Mix in a postseason roster that could include Freddy Guzman and the Yankees could give the Red Sox fits on the bases, turning singles and walks into doubles with regularity, rendering irrelevant Joe Girardi and Derek Jeter’s irritating fondness for the bunt. Keep an eye on those Yankee baserunners over the final two games of this series.

Finally, last night’s game was the last of the 2009 season to be broadcast on “My9.” The WWOR game broadcast is simply the YES telecast with a different station ID, but the lack of a full postgame treatment and the deplorable duo of veteran anchor Russ Salzberg and reporter Scott Stanford have been regular irritants for me all season.

Back in the ’80s, I used to bemoan the increasing number of games given to cable as opposed to broadcast, despite my having access to both, but I realize in retrospect that most of my harping had to do with the fact that Phil Rizzuto only worked the WPIX games. The Yankees have bounced around the old dial since Scooter’s retirement, and the patronizingly nicknamed “My9” has been their worst stop by far.

Salzberg’s raspy shout makes Michael Kay sound like Barry White, while Stanford has the reportorial skills of a high school freshman and screen presence that suggests he won the job in a contest last week (curiously, he’s better as an anchor, and not just better than Salzberg, proving he’s miscast in his current role). Much like the dismal state of the Yankees radio broadcast, the My9 post-game serves largely to highlight the high quality of the YES broadcast itself. I’m not daft enough to suggest that’s by design, but it does make a regular viewer such as myself thankful that such annoyances are relegated to the fringes. I sometimes worry that overexposure to Michael Kay is rotting my brain, but I’ll take Kay over Salzberg and company any day and twice on Tuesdays. Of course, now that we’ve shed My9, we run the risk of having to watch crucial games on FOX. Sigh.

Categories:  Cliff Corcoran  Game Recap

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1 a.O   ~  Sep 26, 2009 5:04 am

Watching the Yanks run all over Varitek is one of my favorite highlights of the whole season.

2 unmoderated   ~  Sep 26, 2009 6:29 am

the "My" channel is a farce as a whole. Our local cable package does not include it, but after Yankee fans made a stink, they decided to broadcast it on an unused channel one night a week.
It turns out to be a MY9 game from a MY6 feed (out of Binghamton, I think) shown on channel 7.2.
I saw my first MY9 game of the year last night - it took me that long to find it.

3 RIYank   ~  Sep 26, 2009 8:09 am

I loved it when Al Leiter said (after the A-Bomb), "There are no no-brainers about it!"

Martinez will catch Daisuke. Until now, the word was that Varitek would be the catcher for Dice and Beckett. Sounds like they're rethinking it. Varitek has a player option next year, $3 million.

Francona says Lester is okay and may make his next start.

4 Paul   ~  Sep 26, 2009 8:32 am

Loved how Tex screamed "Yeah" or something to the effect at Joba as he ran by after the Ellsbury groundout in the 5th.

[1] Indeed. And with each one, I think I heard A-Rod saying F-U.

Scioscia, watching the highlights, must be grinning from ear to ear.

I don't see how Varitek starts in the post-season. He certainly didn't "call" a great game last night!

Varitek has a player option next year, $3 million.

Now that's funny. (Looking up free agent catchers...now's that's funnier!).

5 Jim in Binghamton   ~  Sep 26, 2009 8:55 am

My9 -- or My8 -- as it is here -- sucks. Especially as we don't get it in HD via TimeWarner, and the low def picture is absolutely awful, somehow worse than the picture on other low-def channels. Even using a hd antenna to pick up the digital over -the-air signal it sucks.

Absurd that the clowns at My9 got two games this week too.

6 Rich   ~  Sep 26, 2009 9:50 am

My problem with My9 is that they should have subtitles when Russ Salzberg speaks.

7 The Hawk   ~  Sep 26, 2009 11:08 am

I was somewhat disturbed by Michael Kay's apparent enthusiasm for Lester's injury. He was positively bubbling over with thoughts of a weakened Red Sox rotation in the playoffs. Then when word arrived the injury wasn't so severe he said "That will make Red Sox fans happy" or something to that effect, to which Leiter correctly replied "It'll make baseball fans happy". I mean come on, Mike!

8 monkeypants   ~  Sep 26, 2009 11:27 am

[7] Ick. I'm glad I missed that.

9 Hank   ~  Sep 26, 2009 1:06 pm

[0] I also loathe the MY9 games, for the visual quality of the broadcast as well as the lack of a postgamze.
[7] Actually, I thought Kay handled the Lester injury fairly well. I felt like he was talking it up because it was a huge story -- a World Series contender losing one of its top starters on the eve of the playoffs. And at the time of the injury as they were showing the replay over and over, he definitely said something like, "If you're a baseball fan, or just a human being, you don't want to see this."

Wait a minute... was I just defending Michael Kay?

10 weeping for brunnhilde   ~  Sep 26, 2009 2:42 pm

[7] Yeah, totally caught that. It was great to hear Leiter call him on it.

Have I mentioned I'm Leiter's #1 Fan, btw?

Seriously, I'm awfully fond of him.

11 monkeypants   ~  Sep 26, 2009 2:59 pm

[11] Won't Andy be jealous??

12 monkeypants   ~  Sep 26, 2009 3:00 pm

[11] was for [10].

In comedy, timing is everything.

13 Rich   ~  Sep 26, 2009 3:01 pm

[11,12] Freudian?

14 FreddySez   ~  Sep 26, 2009 3:04 pm

Part of my brain is trying to stop me from writing this, because I'll stir up a hornet's nest, but...

"Joe Girardi and Derek Jeter’s irritating fondness for the bunt"

I am totally conversant with the statistical arguments against bunting. And I'm not one of these anti-math throwbacks who thinks the game is all about "intangibles" and tobacco juice. And yet...

A bunt is more than just a surrendered out, and I believe it still has a place in the game.

Done right (which is a whole other thread), it's a destabilizing surprise that forces the defense to execute perfectly under pressure. The threat of it skews the way a defense aligns itself, opening other opportunities. Not to mention the prospect that someone like Jeter might beat out a cleanly fielded bunt, as we've seen plenty of times.

Because the argument "for or against stats" has resolved into a false dichotomy and armed camps, it's always dangerous to suggest there's a truth beyond arithmetic. I am not casting my lot here with anti-rationalists like Jon Heyman or any of FJM's other targets (FJM: sigh). But I am reflecting my real-life experience playing a corner infield position in hardball, albeit at a creaky amateur level.

Has the bunt been overused through most of history? Sure. Do modern players learn the skill adequately? No, and I believe that contributes to modern analysts' willingness to condemn it. So the play has all kinds of baggage and problems associated with it. That doesn't mean it's ready for the ash heap.

15 Rich   ~  Sep 26, 2009 3:14 pm

I think a bunt has to be viewed in context. Is it in the early or late innings? Does the batter have trouble v. a given pitcher? Is the pitching matchup such that one run will win the game? Is he bunting for a hit or is he merely sacrificing? On balance, however, run expectancy tables are pretty potent. So as with any tactic that lacks strong factual support, the bunt better work.

16 FreddySez   ~  Sep 26, 2009 3:39 pm

[15] 'zackly.

I respect the gospel of those tables, but we all have to remember that they represent probability, not certainty.

This is one of the less-heralded things that makes Jeter stand out. Because Rich is right -- the bunt "better work" -- and he's one of the few people skilled at it anymore.

17 a.O   ~  Sep 26, 2009 4:04 pm

[14, 15] Very well said.

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