"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice

Split Happens

Splitsville. Under normal circumstances, that’s not a bad outcome opening a best-of-seven series on the road. But facing Cliff Lee in Game Three disrupts normal circumstances. In Game Two, Phil Hughes got pounded, the Yankee offense could not turn base-runners into run-scorers, and the Rangers evened the ALCS at one game apiece with a 7-2 victory.

Texas scratched out a really grimy run in the first inning. Elvis Andrus tapped a bounder over the pitcher’s mound and Phil Hughes deflected it into no-man’s-land behind the rubber. He stole second, and maybe even was safe. I don’t know because TBS only replayed a few times and never found the money shot which would tell me for sure.

(Why is it that I saw the Buster Posey tag-out 50 times and Lance Berkman’s strike three 150 times, but this call was just brushed aside? The media has decided that the blown calls are not acceptable, but when picking which calls to grouse about, they carefully choose the calls that support the narrative they wish to endorse. Lance Berkman took strike three, which was trumpeted from here to eternity, but only a handful of those reports included the other bad calls that went against Berkman in the very same at bat.)

Under duress, Hughes unleashed his best stuff of the game as he struck out Michael Young, Vlad Guerrero and Nelson Cruz. He was unlucky to walk Josh Hamilton after a tough battle and a missed strike three, and because Andrus had also stolen third base, that put the Rangers in a position to get creative on the bases. They tried to trade an out for a run (which I thought was a somewhat-desperate idea with long-ball threat Nelson Cruz at the plate) but the Yankees called an aggressive play and Cano returned Posada’s throw to sender late and wide and Andrus had drawn first blood.

I assume this was a predetermined play because Cano took the throw in front of the bag and threw back to Posada without hesitation, and every team I’ve ever played in every level from Little League on up predetermines what to do when there are runners on first and third. If it was improvised, I thought it was an OK decision from Posada, as sweating one run in the first inning is wussified, and a terrible decision by Cano, because he was unable to prevent the run from scoring and he allowed the inning to continue with one of the Rangers’ most dangerous hitters in the box.

The Yankees looked very dangerous in the top of the second. Cano almost erased the deficit with a wall-scraper, and with two runners on, Lance Berkman made a bid for extra-bases with a rocket to right. Nelson Cruz was able to corral both blasts and the Yankees got nothing for their troubles. But since Hughes had struck out the side in the first and the Yankees had clobbered the ball in the second, Yankees fans had reason for optimism.

That feeling did not survive the bottom of the second. Hughes missed badly to David Murphy and he put it off the face of the second deck in right field. When I saw David Murphy was batting third for the Rangers when the Yankees visited in September, I was reassured that the Rangers were pretty crappy. Then Texas swept the Yankees and here he is doing a lot of damage in the ALCS.

Hughes kept missing spots and the Rangers kept making him pay. He cranked up the extra-base machine and served up five doubles and triple for five more runs and put the game out of reach for even the Yankee bats. I don’t take much issue with Girardi’s moves, though I know he has his detractors here, but why Hughes was still pitching in the fifth inning I’ll never understand. He was getting hit hard from all comers and the Yankees were going to have chances if they kept the score within sniffing distance.

To be fair though, the Yankee offense did not ride to the rescue today and maybe even holding the Rangers at five wouldn’t have mattered. The Yankees had 14 base runners, but only two of them crossed the plate. The Yankees lacked the requisite big hit and fortunate timing. For instance, Cano crushed the ball four times for a double and homer (and two warning-track outs), but he stranded four runners in crunch time.

For most of the game, The Yankees had the donut offense working for them – a big hole in the middle. Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira couldn’t extend or finish the rallies. If those guys were contributing, I think it would have been another fun night. Hopefully they’re saving it for Cliff Lee.

Keeping the Yankee rallies in check for the first five-plus innings was Colby Lewis. He was pitching in Japan last year. This is what at least Hiroshima Carp fan thought of him:

Methinks steroids are not yet en vogue in Hiroshima, because schlubby Colby Lewis should not evoke this kind of nightmarish imagery. Nor should the Yankees be worried about facing him again in the series. If the Yankees return to Texas for Game 6, they will knock him around. They were on him today, and hopefully they’ll turn the scoreboard crooked if they face him again. The Yankees also threatened against the bullpen, but without the breakthrough heroics of Game One.

The only worrisome aspect of this loss was Phil Hughes and his total lack of command. He let up seven hits with two strikes. He’s got to polish those guys off. Why was he crisp and unhittable against Minnesota and throwing batting practice today? I think it’s just a different quality opponent mixed with the inconsistencies of a young, possibly fatigued pitcher. I think it’s possible he’s got a good game in him if needed in Game 6, but I would not be surprised to see him struggle again.

The Yankees now head back to the Bronx and prepare for Cliff Lee. They’re sending Andy Pettitte up against him, so by no means should we paint them as lambs to the slaughter. I’m excited for the game and for some ridiculous reason have a good feeling about it. I don’t think the Yankees will really hurt Lee, but I like their chances to come out of the game with a win. If the Yanks lose that one, I’ll change my stripes for the rest of the series, but until then, bring it on, Cliff.

Categories:  Bronx Banter  Game Recap  Jon DeRosa  Playoffs  Yankees

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1 Mattpat11   ~  Oct 16, 2010 9:40 pm

Cliff Lee is not unbeatable. Yankees in five.

2 Boatzilla   ~  Oct 16, 2010 11:05 pm

[1] Here, here! If the Giants, the San Fransisco, hippie-dippy Giants can beat Deadly Doc Halladay, then the Bombers can beat Cliff Lee. And then some. Let's see some creative at bats.

3 Eddie Lee Whitson KO   ~  Oct 17, 2010 4:15 am

[2] I had the same thought.
Colby Lewis looks like Will Ferrell in Talladega Nights.
The one move I didnt like was taking Gardy out when Joe G did. A little early and he's been working counts better than anyone.

4 Horace Clarke Era   ~  Oct 17, 2010 7:13 am

I confess that though Lee is not unbeatable, and hasn't been this season, he feels closer to it in October. Yankees beat pitchers by waiting them out, Lee is very, very hard to beat with that approach. My morning terror is a game 4, down 2-1, and the season resting on AJ Burnett.

Spare us, please, baseball gods.

5 The Mick536   ~  Oct 17, 2010 7:42 am

First of all, what does that pin arrangement mean.

Terrible game.

Second of all, you were too kind to the number three and four batters for the Yankees. I could not figure A-Rod out. He doesn't seem to care about at bats. It seems that he doesn't get around on letter high fast balls and he pounds balls into the ground or hits meaningless pops. The two rbi hit in game one could have easily been a DP if the fielder got in front of the ball. Tex got some bad calls that changed the tempo of his at bats, but he didn't make any contact on pitches that looked hittable. Too much mental batting, I say.

6 Sliced Bread   ~  Oct 17, 2010 8:21 am

It's little consolation for now, but Hughes will be fine. It was his 2nd postseason start. It's easy for us to forget he's 24. As Joel Sherman notes, the last Yankee pitcher to give up that many runs in that short of an outing was Pettitte in Game 1 of the '96 Series (7 runs in 2 1/3 innings). Of course Pettitte rebounded and pitched an historic gem in his next start. Hughes will be fine. At least I think he has the mental toughness to get back on track after yesterday's shitstorm.

and yeah, Cliff Lee is beatable. Andy needs to get off to a good start. The Yankee sluggers seem to have better at-bats when the team is not in a 3-4 run hole in the early innings.

7 The Hawk   ~  Oct 17, 2010 9:08 am

Yes, I am really just about done with people treating Cliff Lee as if he is superhuman. Sure there's a good chance he'll stymie the Yanks completely for 9 innings. But is it guaranteed? No! Anybody can be got. It's not like the Yankees have no chance; let's do dis.

(Though to [2]'s point, I wouldn't use Halladay's performance for precedent as he was going on looooong rest, just like CC.)

Great game for the Giants last night ... I am so glad the Yankee series is not on Fox.

8 monkeypants   ~  Oct 17, 2010 9:24 am

[4] Even down 2-1, the season will not rest on AJ. The other guys need to win four out of seven, right?

9 OldYanksFan   ~  Oct 17, 2010 10:14 am

It's is said that Pitching wins in the PS.
And no doubt, Doc, Cliff and Tim are monsters.
But in reading the various Yankee blogs, all the talk is about CC, Phil, Cliff, and AJ.
Yeah.... great pitching is great to have.
But what really Wins games is outscoring your opponents

In 30 MLB teams, the Yankees were 15th in ERA.
In 14 AL teams, the Yankees were 7th in ERA.
So, was it great Pitching that got us to the PS?

of the 30 teams in MLB,
we were 1st in Runs Scored
we were 2nd in OPS
we were 2nd in BBs
we were 3rd in HRs
So, was it great Pitching that got us to the PS?

Hopefully, CC, or Phil, or Andy, or (God forbid) may win a game or 2 singlehandedly. It's great when one of our pitchers is dominant.

But that's not how we got here. We got here with OBP and SLG.

If we Win, it will be because we hit. Especially because of how we hit with RISP. We are not SF or the 2001 DBacks. We are the Yankees.
We don't have the best Pitching.... but we have enough. If we hit.

Of the 8 PS teams, the 4 that are still playing are 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 5th, In OPS with RISP.
Texas is 1st.
SF is 2nd (even with great pitching you need to hit)
We are 3rd... but if you take out just 1 inning (the 8th, on Friday),
we are shit with RISP.

Cano has been a monster, but ARod (.499), Teix (.673), Posada (.673) and to a lesser extent. Jeter (.725) , are not getting it done.
Was last night's Texas pitcher really that good?
Or did we just hit poorly?

Conventional wisdom be dammed!
We will not win unless our big bats produce, and produce big.

10 Matt Blankman   ~  Oct 17, 2010 10:35 am

I can't be the only one who feels a little bit better about yesterday's loss now that the Phillies lost game 1 and Halladay gave up 8 hits, 4 runs and got tagged with the L, right?

11 omarcoming   ~  Oct 17, 2010 11:19 am

To paraphrase VP Lloyd Benson:

I knew Sandy Koufax. Sandy Koufax was a friend of mine. You Mr. Lee are no Sandy Koufax.

12 RagingTartabull   ~  Oct 17, 2010 11:48 am

normally I'd be perfectly fine with the split, but a funny thing happened.

I picked up the paper this morning, and as it turns out Cliff Lee is actually a cross between the Silver Surfer, Jesus Christ, and Skeletor in Masters of the Universe after he becomes a God (video evidence found here: http://bit.ly/vgDUO).

So really the Yankees didn't split, they're in fact trailing in the series 0 games to 347, Mark Teixeira has been diagnosed with Legionnaire's Disease, A-Rod has left the team to start his own holy society in the jungles of Guyana, and Joe Girardi has actually been managing the Cubs the past 8 years where he's won 6 championships and none of us even noticed!

So really theres no need for any of us to even watch the game tomorrow night, because right now we're just living in a Donnie Darko-like tangent universe where we are all just unaware that the Yankees died weeks ago.

In conclusion...fuck Cliff Lee, Yankees in 5.

13 The Hawk   ~  Oct 17, 2010 11:51 am

[9] If the thesis is pitching wins in the post-season, or rather "no it doesn't" then referencing regular season stats seems beside the point.

14 JeremyM   ~  Oct 17, 2010 11:59 am

[12] Oh man, I was so excited to see that movie as a kid and well, I still don't know what happened there.....

15 OldYanksFan   ~  Oct 17, 2010 12:51 pm

[9] Are youy suggesting that after a 162 season, and finishing 7th of 14 teams in ERA, that now that we are in the PS, we will have dominant pitching? Platitudes don't apply here. My point is we are where we are because of slugging. And if we continue to Win, my guess is it will be because we slug.

Are you expecting us to outpitch the competition?

16 monkeypants   ~  Oct 17, 2010 1:19 pm

[15] Well, some of the reason the team ERA was 7th out of 14 involved starters named Vazquez and Moseley and Burnett taking regular turns in the rotation. For the postseason, one of those i not on the roster, one is in the BP and one was not in the rotation for the first round and will get only one start in the second.

So to some degree, citing stats from the 162 game season is not relevant to the PS, especially for pitching (the starting offense will be largely the same as it was during the season, with the exception...we hope...of few player players resting).

17 monkeypants   ~  Oct 17, 2010 1:26 pm

[15] Moreover, using the ordinal rank of team ERA is a bit misleading, no? The difference between the #3 Rangers (3.93) and the #7 Yankees (4.06) is .13 earned run per game, or one run every 7 or 8 games one average. In fact, after Oakland (3.58) and Tampa Bay (3.78) there is not much difference between #3 Texas (3.93) and #9 Chicago (4.09).

18 OldYanksFan   ~  Oct 17, 2010 1:30 pm

[16] You make a good point.... but again, the same could be said of our competition. They are also pitching their 3 best pitchers 90% of the time.

My point is that Phil was league average this year, and Andy was recently injured and is at an age where things are harder to predict.

I would be pretty damned surprised if we outpitched our competition by any great degree. I would not be surprised however, if ARod and Teix pounded the shit out of the ball.

19 monkeypants   ~  Oct 17, 2010 1:40 pm

[18] Right, so it would be easy enough (I guess) to compare the top three from each staff.

20 The Hawk   ~  Oct 17, 2010 1:58 pm

[15] iI'm suggesting that just cause you slug your way through the regular season, you're not gonna do the same thing in the post-season. The only basis you present for your assertion that winning in the post-season will happen due to the bats is the regular season. That make little sense to me.

I don't know what you're talking about IRT platitudes, but whatever.

21 yankintexas   ~  Oct 17, 2010 5:02 pm

I have a feeling Jeter will be huge and the bullpen will receive a Tex message late. And yes Pettitte will remind people why he's the team's best pitcher in October not named Mo.

22 seamus   ~  Oct 17, 2010 7:21 pm

What might be useful would be a comparison of post-season starter's stats (regular season or otherwise) and not full team ERAs. Then what also might be useful is a comparison of how each time hit against playoff quality pitching and not just any pitching. And I think it's important to look at average IP per start for each starter since it's pretty critical for texas that their starters go deep. And for the Yankees to a slightly less degree perhaps.

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