"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice

The Unexpected And The Expected

The first five innings of Friday night’s series-opening tilt between the Yankees and Red Sox were crisp and closely contested. Josh Beckett came out blazing, spotting 96 mile-per-hour heaters and dropping hammer curves. He struck out the side in the first, two of three batters in the second, and struck out Derek Jeter for a second time to strand a Francisco Cervelli single in the third. Phil Hughes kept pace, retiring the first seven men he faced, then following a walk to Beckett’s personal catcher Jason Varitek with two strikeouts to strand him.

The Yankees finally broke through in the fourth when, with one out, Mark Teixeira battled back from 0-2 to work a walk and Alex Rodriguez followed with a single that moved Teixeira to second. Beckett rallied to strike out Robinson Cano on four pitches, then made Nick Swisher look silly on a check swing on a cutter inside before spotting a 96 mph heater on the outside corner for strike two.

At that, Swisher spun on his heel and took a walk out of the batters box, seemingly to gather himself. Swisher has a deserved reputation as a flake because he’s a motormouth and a goofball, but that doesn’t mean he’s not a smart ballplayer. In the bottom of the inning, he made a great play in right, sliding in front of a would-be double to cut it off and hold J.D. Drew to a single. On this occasion it was obvious that Swisher was determined to win the mental battle with Beckett as well as the physical one.

After stepping back in, Swisher took a fastball well high, then took a curve in the dirt and stepped out again. Bat under his right arm, lips drawn tight, eyes peeking out toward Beckett, Swisher had a look on his face like he had figured something out, as if he thought he knew something Beckett didn’t. He then stepped back in the box and hit a curve up in the zone over the wall in straight-away center to give the Yankees a 3-0 lead. After the game, Swisher said he was lucky to run into one. He’s humble, too.

The Sox got one back in the bottom of the fourth on Drew’s single (the first Boston hit in the game), another by Kevin Youkilis, and sac fly by David Ortiz, but when Boston threatened again in the fifth with two out singles by Darnell McDonald and Marco Scutaro that put runners on the corners, Hughes got Dustin Pedroia to fly out to center to strand them.

Then came the top of the sixth. Alex Rodriguez led off with a low line-drive through the shortstop hole that was hit so hard it rolled all the way to the wall for a double. Beckett then threw a 1-0 cutter down and into Robinson Cano and hit the Yankee second baseman on the top of the right knee. The impact was loud and frightening as Cano let out an audible shout. After a visit from the trainer, Cano took his base, but two pitches later he took himself out of the game (he’s day-to-day and likely won’t play Saturday).

Beckett’s 1-1 pitch to Swisher was a fastball, but Varitek, expecting a curve, lowered his glove and the ball hit off his left arm and rolled toward the Yankee dugout, moving the runners (Rodriguez and pinch-runner Ramiro Peña) up. After the Red Sox’s trainer visited Varitek (who later came out with a bruised left forearm), Beckett struck out Swisher, but then curiously intentionally walked Brett Gardner to face Francisco Cervelli with the bases loaded and one out.

Here’s where things got weird. In his previous at-bat, Cervelli had called time while Beckett was taking a long set to freeze Gardner at first. Beckett responded by coming up and in to Cervelli and making him jump out of the way. In this at-bat, Cervelli battled the count full, then called time on Beckett again. Again Beckett’s next pitch was up and in, but this time it was ball four and forced in a run. The first time it was clearly intentional, but Beckett wouldn’t throw at a guy to force in a run in a two-run game . . . would he?

With Beckett flustered, Randy Winn jumped on the first pitch he saw and singled to left, scoring another run. Beckett then drilled Derek Jeter in the ribs with his very next pitch, forcing in yet another run and running the score to 6-1. Would Beckett intentionally force in two runs out of anger?

I wouldn’t think so, but Beckett also shouted at Nick Swisher during his at-bat, and his expression seemed to say “screw this” throughout the inning. Looking back at it now, it seems clear that Beckett had simply lost his feel and inside pitches (Beckett said after the game the pitch to Jeter was a sinker) were getting away from him, but in the heat of the moment, I wasn’t sure what I was seeing. Neither was the Yankee bench, as Alex Rodriguez and CC Sabathia were shouting at Beckett from the dugout while others, including Jorge Posada, Mariano Rivera, and Nick Swisher, and the Yankee coaching staff lined the top step. For our man Alex Belth, the whole scene conjured up this Doc Ellis classic.

Marcus Thames, who had entered the game for Nick Johnson earlier (more on that below) followed with a grounder to shortstop. Scutaro tried to get the out at third base, but with Adrian Beltre drawn off the bag by the ball, Randy Winn slipped in ahead of him. Winn didn’t expect a play at third and didn’t slide, so his momentum briefly forced his foot off the bag, but during that brief moment Beltre was showing the umpire that he had the ball and by the time he went to tag Winn again, Winn had his foot back on the base. Meanwhile, Cervelli scored, 7-1 Yankees.

A Mark Teixeira single plated another run and belatedly drove Beckett, who was at 106 pitches, from the game. Rodriguez then hit a sac fly off Hideki Okajima to cap the six-run inning.

Again, David Ortiz (single) drove in J.D. Drew (double) to get one back for the Sox in the bottom of the inning, but the rest of the game was just a formality, and by the eighth-inning it had turned into an in-game bullpen session for David Robertson, who gave up another run on two walks and a single amid much coaching from Francisco Cervelli and Dave Eiland. Boone Logan, another Yankee reliever in need of some fixing, stranded a lead-off single in the ninth to wrap up the 10-3 win.

Lost amid Beckett’s breakdown was yet another excellent start by Phil Hughes (7 IP, 7 H, 2 R, 1 BB, 7 K, 101 pitches, 70 strikes), who repeatedly hit 95 on the gun.

Also lost was Nick Johnson to a wrist injury, which is a sentence I was afraid I’d be typing at some point this season. Johnson’s is famous for his fragility, and nothing breaks on him more often than his wrists. He missed all of the 2000 season due to a left wrist injury that was never properly diagnosed. In 2002 he missed three months with a bone bruise on that wrist, and in 2008 torn ligaments and tendons in his right wrist ended his season in mid-May (which reminds me, what month is it?).

It’s that right wrist that has sidelined Johnson this time. After the game, he said he had some discomfort in the wrist earlier this season but that today he “felt something” in his first at-bat that “didn’t feel too good” and that he “didn’t have a lot of strength in it after that.” He took three swings in that first at-bat (two fouls, one swing and miss for strike three) and grounded out on the first pitch in his second at-bat after which he came out of the game.

Johnson will have an MRI on Saturday, but it seems as though the Yankees are expecting him to land on the disabled list. If so, I wouldn’t expect him back any time soon, if at all.

In the meantime, expect a reliever–likely Romulo Sanchez, who was called up before Friday’s game to reinforce the bullpen because Sergio Mitre is taking Andy Pettitte’s next turn in the rotation–to be optioned out for an infielder. That infielder, likely either Kevin Russo or Eduardo Nuñez, both of whom are off to strong starts for Scranton, could see some action until Cano is back to full strength in his knee, after which another move might be made for a superior bat (and before you ask, Jesus Montero hasn’t been hitting much, needs more work behind the plate, and left last night’s game with a possible leg injury of his own).

The way I see it, with Jorge Posada’s calf still tender (he sat again on Friday) and Francisco Cervelli hitting (he went 2-for-3 with a walk Friday night and has his average back up to .395), I don’t see why the Yankees don’t just make Posada the DH, and keep Thames, who Girardi said might start at DH on Saturday, in the left-field platoon with Winn, who is now 4-for-10 since Curtis Granderson hit the DL.

Given all of the aches and pains the Yankees have been dealing with, there are worse things than having the DH spot open up for a spell, and as with Granderson, the Yankees are losing a slumping player (six for his last 41, with three of those hits coming on Wednesday), so their offense is unlikely to take much of a hit if Johnson’s DL stay is miraculously short. Of course, it won’t be.

Categories:  Cliff Corcoran  Game Recap

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1 a.O   ~  May 8, 2010 2:33 am

Let's send 'em below 500 tomorrow.

2 iYanks   ~  May 8, 2010 3:01 am

Memo to Yanks:
Open season on lame red sox late in season when red sox are eliminated (again).

yanks minor leaguer pitchers.. plunk Dustin Pedroia.

Enough already.

3 Mr. OK Jazz TOKYO   ~  May 8, 2010 6:22 am

Definite payback due for today. My Little Pony is gritty though so he'll know the score and won't complain about getting plunked (as long as it's not in the head).

Nick Johnson..incredible that there was anyone really defending signing him. 100% predictable that he would land on the injured list for a long length of time...so now what do they do?

4 RIYank   ~  May 8, 2010 6:29 am

[3] Jermaine Dye?

5 knuckles   ~  May 8, 2010 6:29 am

I disagree. Last night, with a 7 run lead and the back of the bullpen in there was the time to retaliate.

Only bad things can come from drawing it out- more Yanks beaned, players specifically looking to fight, suspensions, more Sox on base in that shitty little bandbox. Just take (sweep) the series and leave town like you own the place.

The Yanks have never figured out a way to 'get even' with all the Boston p(l)unks over the years, but frustrating as it is, they call it the high road for a reason.

6 Mr. OK Jazz TOKYO   ~  May 8, 2010 6:32 am

[4] Jermaine Dye, I say "yes"!
[5] Beckett is an enigma..if he was throwing at them on purpose that's insane (bases loaded!?!) If it wasn't on purpose..how do you lose control that quickly? Very odd..

7 NYYfan22   ~  May 8, 2010 6:47 am

dang. had a gig and missed this one. Sounded like a real nailbiter for awhile. Fuckin Beckett man, what a putz. Sweep or be swept seems to be the 2010 boston mantra.

In other news.. you guys see this? funny as hell.

8 NYYfan22   ~  May 8, 2010 6:58 am

Hey Cliff -- Nice write up. It's good to get a play-by-play on all that craziness. I totally agree with Po as DH and playing Cervelli at the dish. For now.

[7] dunno why that link didn't link. http://tinyurl.com/2994lt6 If this doesn't work, either, goto yahoo sports -- mlb, and look for an article on Will Ferrell. Hilarious.

9 wsporter   ~  May 8, 2010 8:39 am

I also like the idea of Jorge at DH and Cervelli behind the dish. You run the risk of loosing the DH in a game but I think it's worth it.

Beckett is a punk and a jerk on the mound but it seems to me that the best way shut that nonsense down and wipe that smirk of his merkin wearing mug was to let him embarrass himself and his team as he did and to beat his brains in as we did. If he was throwing at the Captain with the bases loaded his teammates know it and the Yankees know it. Someone on the Boston side will take one in the ribs today or tomorrow and that will be that. Boston has Beckett under contract for some time and while I hate to wish anyone ill it would serve all concerned right if we were granted the opportunity to watch him slowly melt down to a state repeated ineffectiveness.

10 51cq24   ~  May 8, 2010 9:07 am

even if the pitch to jeter was a 2 seamer (that's not what it looked like but hard to tell), i still think he was trying to hit him. yes, it's weird to let in a run by plunking a batter, but i think he was pissed by that point. obviously i have no real idea, and it's a convenient excuse that his control was shaky that inning and that the bases were loaded, but that pitch was right in the ribs, right at a time when beckett seemed most angry. maybe it just got away, but that one looked intentional to me.

absolutely agree on posada dhing. cervelli is such a good catcher that i almost want him in there permanently.

11 Evil Empire   ~  May 8, 2010 10:06 am

Let me publicly acknowledge that Alex was right -- Nick Johnson's bones are made of balsa wood and I was blinded by his OBP.

Oh well. Putting Jorge at DH and Cervilli at Catcher during his stint on the DL might just increase the overall production of the team. What the hell, I've taken a flyer on Cervilli in my fantasy league.

12 RIYank   ~  May 8, 2010 10:26 am

What would it take to get Miguel Cabrera?

13 Mattpat11   ~  May 8, 2010 11:15 am

Is it safe to assume that Nick Johnson isn't coming back this year?

14 Diane Firstman   ~  May 8, 2010 11:19 am

Juan Miranda's voodoo doll of Nick Johnson seems to have worked.

15 seamus   ~  May 8, 2010 11:24 am

[13] that certainly sounds like what Cliff is saying.

16 Mattpat11   ~  May 8, 2010 11:27 am

It really is amazing how utterly all the Yankees off season moves have blown up on us.

To be fair, the only obviously stupid move was Nick Johnson, but at this juncture its been a bust.

17 seamus   ~  May 8, 2010 11:27 am

I still have zero doubts that Beckett was throwing at Cervelli on purpose. I even commented just before he did it (I didn't think he would do it actually). It's very consistent with how he has behaved in the past (throwing at Abreu, throwing at Cervelli earlier in the game). And, well, all the signs of a guy with a temper tantrum problem are there.

18 Mattpat11   ~  May 8, 2010 11:27 am

[15] I actually made my comment before I read Cliff's post or tweets. :)

19 seamus   ~  May 8, 2010 11:29 am

[16] oh, I don't agree with that. I mean I agree that Nick Johnson was a bad idea. But I don't think because he has a groin injury that means Granderson is anything close to a bust. It does feel overwhelming right now with all the injuries though.

20 seamus   ~  May 8, 2010 11:30 am

[18] haha, fair enough. 90% of the time I don't read the posts before I start commenting either.

21 Mattpat11   ~  May 8, 2010 11:37 am

[19] I absolutely don't think Granderson will be a bust in the long run. I think he's going to be a superstar. But at this point, May 8 2010, we've gotten nothing from him, less than nothing from Johnson, and a total shitstorm from Vazquez.

22 Diane Firstman   ~  May 8, 2010 11:42 am

Phil Hughes and his other-worldly BABIP


23 Diane Firstman   ~  May 8, 2010 11:43 am

I find Francona a bit at fault in all of the 6th inning madness. He didn't come out to settle his pitcher down, nor did he send his pitching coach.

I believe he was just letting Beckett have his little tantrum, with a hardball thrown at upwards of 95 mph. :-(

24 Raf   ~  May 8, 2010 12:27 pm

[22] What's really surprising is seeing Livan Hernandez on that list

25 rbj   ~  May 8, 2010 1:31 pm

I'm not so sure it was intentional throwing at the Yankees as much as it was "I'm going to brush them back & if they get hit it's their problem". Million dollar arm & a ten cent head.

26 OldYanksFan   ~  May 8, 2010 1:42 pm

Random thoughts:
Living in RSN and getting their media, I have followed the Sox for years. They are not as good as Cliff thinks, but not close to as bad as they have shown so far. In their losing streaks, they have been a comedy of errors. That won't go on all year. They may not contend for the top 2 spots, but they will still be a pain in the neck.

Beckett was throwing 'hard and in' on purpose. He may have lost the game, but we may have lost a lot more. Beckett is evil.

I like the idea of getting a bat. It's not panic mode, but an acknowledgement that we have been unlucky, have been hit will a bunch of injuries, and probably can't stand up to much more.

Maybe Gritner and Brains will continue to hit... maybe ARod and Teix will step up. Cano is slowing and Posada may come to earth.

As it is now, we have a bottom of the order of:
Gritner (who should at 9th, double lead-off)
(On some days, you may have to add)

We need Po to Catch as much as possible. Let's give Miranda a look.

I guess a lot depends on Granderson. Is this 3 weeks or 2 months? Does he come back 100%?

Not panicing. But dark clouds on the horizon.

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