"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice

These Are Better Rays Baby

I had never heard James Shields reffered to as “Big Game James” prior to this afternoon, but the Rays starter didn’t give me any opportunity to snicker at it. Shields handily¬† outdueled C.C. Sabathia and led the Rays to a clean 3-0 win, and bringing them to within a game of the AL East lead. Sometimes I miss the Devil Rays of my youth.

The Yankees weren’t lifeless, but they only managed to scrape together 5 hits and, tellingly, one walk against Shields, while Sabathia was solid but not at his best – and it would’ve taken his best to compete against Shields, whose changeup baffled most of the Yanks all afternoon. New York wasn’t helped by Girardi’s odd choice to start Lance Berkman at first base over Mark Texeira, and the defensive downgrade cost the Yanks at several points, but given Shields’ great game it probably didn’t matter in the end. Meanwhile, Alex Rodriguez sat out today, to give him a mental and physical break, but I can’t really quibble with that call. And he made a dramatic pinch-hit appearance in the 7th… believe me, if he’d hit one out, you’d have heard about it. So that storyline continues, god help us, but at least Lance Berkman’s 0-for-his-Yankee-career slide ended a day after it began, with a sixth-inning single.

Sabathia chugged along steadily into the 7th inning, but after he climbed over 100 pitches Girardi pulled him for Newest Yankee Kerry Wood – who made a good first impression by striking out Evan Longoria with a nasty little curveball. I really hope one day I’ll be able to look at Wood and see a reliever with good stuff instead of a symbol of sky-high expectations unfulfilled, but I think it’s going to take a while. In the 8th Wood got two outs (thanks in part to Jason Bartlett’s bunting strikeout, which I imagine has to be one of the worst feelings in baseball) but also loaded the bases, and was replaced by… Chad Gaudin? A baffling decision in a pretty close game, if you ask me, which nobody did. But he struck out Reid Brignac, so no harm no foul, I suppose.

Shields came out after recording one out in the 8th, and was replaced by Chad Qualls; but even against Qualls, the bane of many a fantasy team this year (to say nothing of the actual Diamondbacks), the Yankees couldn’t do a thing. Lance Berkman grounded into a double play, and Qualls lowered his ERA to a shiny 8.15. It’s tough dropping a series to the team breathing down your neck in a division race, but the Rays are a very good team and the games were close- plus there’s a bit of breathing room in the Wild Card race – so there’s no reason for alarm. Still, if the Rays don’t scare you this year, you haven’t been paying attention.

—-

* I of course had, however, heard Lance Berkman referred to as “Big Puma,” which prompted me to head for baseball-reference.com and look up all the Major Leaguers who’ve had “Big” nicknames. It’s quite a list. By my count there have been no less than 17 players nicknamed Big Bill, and 18 Big Eds. In addition to the well-known Big Train, Big Unit, Big Mac, Big Papi, Big Hurt, Big Poison, and both Big Cats, there’s been Big Six, Big Bow, Big Donkey, Big Daddy, The Big Bear, Big Murph, Big Country, and more, including Big Ebbie, who also, to my delight, was known as “Steam Engine in Boots.” You’re welcome.

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25 comments

1 weeping for brunnhilde   ~  Aug 1, 2010 6:35 pm

Kerry Wood is going to infuriate us. Has done already.

Are we prepared to deal with our new Eighth Inning Guy (same as the old)?

2 rbj   ~  Aug 1, 2010 6:35 pm

Glad I spent the afternoon cleaning after it became clear that the team forgot the bats today.

3 williamnyy23   ~  Aug 1, 2010 6:37 pm

Considering that Berkman's misplays contributed to all three runs, Girardi's decision did actually matter in the end.

Also, if the point was to get him a much need physical and mental rest, what was the point in using him to pinch hit in the 7th inning? Even more interesting, why did Girardi start Kearns if he was going to pinch hit for him with another right handed batter?

Finally, in addition to foolishly using him in the field, Girardi's decision to supplant Swisher from the two-hole also is a head scratcher. It presents the same problem as using Granderson in that slot. It might be close to acceptable with a righty in the game, but if a lefty is brought into the game, the lineup becomes exposed in a key spot.

4 williamnyy23   ~  Aug 1, 2010 6:38 pm

[1] He was "a closer", so clearly he should be able to handle the 8th inning, or so says Girardi.

5 Raf   ~  Aug 1, 2010 6:46 pm

The Rays don't scare me. Never have, probably never will.

6 monkeypants   ~  Aug 1, 2010 7:09 pm

3) i missed the last several of those moves because i stopped following in the fifth inning. Saved me additional frustration, i think. You too should have followed the game plan for the day and taken half a day off.

7 monkeypants   ~  Aug 1, 2010 7:11 pm

6) yes he probably will infuriate. But he replaces CHoP who already infuriated and was guaranteed to continue to infuriate. On the balance I'll take Wood, barely.

8 monkeypants   ~  Aug 1, 2010 7:14 pm

7) was meant for 1)

9 The Hawk   ~  Aug 1, 2010 7:15 pm

[3[ I really don't understand removing Swisher from batting second. And I don't like it

10 ms october   ~  Aug 1, 2010 7:38 pm

[0] emma you must have done a great job tuning out chip caray in the playoffs the year before, because that fuckwit called james shields "big game james" approximately 500 times.

sounds like a good game to miss, though dislocating my finger today wasn't much fun.

hopefully can crush toronto the next 3 games, get a nice off day and then get to work against the red sox.

11 Just Fair   ~  Aug 1, 2010 7:59 pm

[10,0] So that's why Big Game James is forever stuck in my head. I kinda like it, though. The nickname, not the pitcher. Hopefully you didn't hurt your finger flipping the bird to the Yanks offense today. Take care. : )

12 RagingTartabull   ~  Aug 1, 2010 8:10 pm

crappy weekend, but its not like the Yankees played particularly bad or anything...all three games really could've gone either way. Go out and rip Toronto apart for 3 games and I'm ok.

I'm going to the game tomorrow night, I was at the game vs KC where A-Rod hit 599...I really didn't think the next game I'd go to I'd have a chance to see 600. so there's that.

13 Raf   ~  Aug 1, 2010 8:12 pm

I'm sure Thames will get PH at bats when there's a LHP on the mound, so Berkman's and Granderson's inability to hit lefties will be mitigated, somewhat.

14 OldYanksFan   ~  Aug 1, 2010 8:29 pm

I don't like some of these moves statistically, but let's remember Girardi is managing humans, not stat sheets. My guess is Berkman has gotten a message. That is, this team feels he is important and is counting on him to perform. Same with Kearns and Woody.

I'm not defending Joe, but I believe he did send some messages, and hopefully, the 3 new guys respond.

15 Raf   ~  Aug 1, 2010 8:42 pm

[14] I think it's realistic to expect to see Berkman @ 1b from time to time, after all, he was playing there with the Astros. I think it's realistic that Wood will see high leverage innings as well. IIRC, Swisher has batted lower in the order for the majority of the time he has been here, so I can see him batting lower than Berkman. Of course, with anything else, that's subject to change. But I'm not surprised to see Berkman batting in the #2 spot.

16 RIYank   ~  Aug 1, 2010 8:57 pm

Hey all.
I've been vacationing in Maine (didn't run into the Thelarmises... uh... Thelarmes... as far as I know). No internet, no tv, not even radio coverage -- I was able to get a few minutes of WABC on Wednesday, when atmospheric conditions were exactly right. And only an occasional newspaper.
I guess you guys did an acceptable job without me, though I admit I was hoping for 2 out of 3 against the Rays.

Lance Berkman I'm okay with. Kerry Wood, not so much. I knew I wasn't going to be happy with a trade for a bullpen arm. Dammit. Oh well, maybe it will work out well in some weird way.

17 Mattpat11   ~  Aug 1, 2010 9:45 pm

The Yankees certainly sounded completely lifeless on the radio.

And I really want to know what the hell is going on with changeups. This team is embarrassingly bad against anyone that throws a mediocre to good changeup (Santana excluded for whatever reason) Could it be something Long can work on?

18 Andyroo   ~  Aug 2, 2010 8:18 am

If you are batting Berkman in the 2 on the strength of his OBP (career .409/2010 .366, which makes sense to me) why are we batting the guy with the 5th highest OBP (.395) in the AL in the 9 hole instead of the 1? Oh yeah, he can run pretty ok too.

19 The Mick536   ~  Aug 2, 2010 8:23 am

I watched on TBS, listening to the insufferable Eck, which is how I felt watching the lifeless Yanks. Especially did not like A-Rod's plate appearance.

[0] As for The Big Cat, can we compare this end of his career big puma to the original big feline, Johnny Mize. He has a plate in the Hall of Fame gallery. Bought in 1949, he epitomizes the Yankee method of moving towards the prize by doing whatever it takes. Yanks didn't want to rely on Joe Collins. Mize had a contract dispute with the Giants. Moved across the river. HIt 25 homeruns in 90 games, A-Rod, in 1950.

20 Diane Firstman   ~  Aug 2, 2010 8:28 am

Mike Lowell as your backup 3b?

http://tinyurl.com/2c9ymdf

21 The Hawk   ~  Aug 2, 2010 9:08 am

[20] Of course it couldn't be a direct trade, but that would be hilarious. Ol' George spinning in his fresh grave ...

22 Diane Firstman   ~  Aug 2, 2010 9:58 am

[21]

I don't think it would be as one-sided as Sparky Lyle for Danny Cater, but yeah ...

23 JohnnyC   ~  Aug 2, 2010 10:31 am
24 JohnnyC   ~  Aug 2, 2010 10:33 am

[17] Sorry about that. Anyway...I don't think it's the change of speed as much as the change of speed AND movement down and away or down and in. Shields was using his change more like a sharp breaking pitch. Don't know if that's something K Long can easily remedy.

25 hiscross   ~  Aug 2, 2010 12:54 pm

The Yankees didn't play to win. This isn't unusal since all teams play certain games to get them out of the way. The Rays are 2nd best team in baseball. There are only 4 good teams in all of baseball Yankees, Rays, Red Sox and Philly. The rest are Triple A or worst (Baltimore is a bad legion team at best).

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