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Just Joshing Us

CC Sabathia vs. Josh Beckett was billed to be a pitcher’s duel. In terms of score, it was a pitcher’s duel. But it wasn’t a “classic duel” in the way Clemens-Pedro May 28, 2000 was, where two strikeout masters overpowered hitters from the outset. Sabathia bent, but didn’t break, while Beckett was as dominant as he perhaps has ever been.

Sabathia had his B game, maybe his C game. His final line was an alphanumeric dream: 5 2/3 IP, 9 H, R, ER, 4 BB, 4 K, 118 pitches, 69 strikes. But as he’s done so often in his two Yankee seasons, Sabathia demonstrated an ability to make big pitches to get outs at crucial times. He allowed 13 baserunners but only one crossed home plate.

Beckett, on the other hand looked like the 20-year-old who led the Florida Marlins to a 2003 title, yielding just two hits and striking out 10. Beckett effectively mixed a two-seam fastball, four-seam fastball, and his wicked curveball to keep the Yankees off balance, and off the scoresheet. He tossed eight shutout innings and retired the last 14 batters he faced. Jonathan Papelbon came on and retired the side in order in the 9th.

Given Beckett’s mastery and the Red Sox leaving 16 men on base, the Yankees were fortunate to lose by only a 4-0 margin.

Some early-season Yankee themes were exposed, however:

* For all of the talk about the Yankees’ powerful lineup, the hit parade over the past week took place against mediocre pitching. The Yankees touched up Francisco Liriano, sure, but Beckett, Jon Lester, the young arms of the Orioles and Rangers are on tap. This wasn’t a good first impression of how the Yankees’ offense will handle opposing staff aces.

* YankeeAnalysts’ Larry Koestler tweeted that the Yankees’ 18 home runs have covered up for a lineup-wide slump. It’s true. Go down the line: Brett Gardner .165/.265/.267; Derek Jeter looks like someone about to turn 37, at .206/.300/.235; Mark Teixeira, despite the home runs, is batting .182 and doing nothing to dispel the slow starts that have been a hallmark of his career; Curtis Granderson is batting .172 and getting on base at just a .250 clip; Nick Swisher is at .219/.289/.250; and Jorge Posada has one hit in his last 17 AB and struck out three times Sunday night to drop his average to .138.

Posada admitted as much to the Ledger’s Marc Carig, telling the beat man that “Nothing is positive” for him at the moment.

* Was this a taste of what we can expect when Alex Rodriguez sits? A-Rod has flown under the radar and has arguably been the Yankees’ best player to date, with just one hitless game and an OPS of 1.155. During the in-game interview with Buster Olney, Joe Girardi said A-Rod had the flu, and hoped he’d be ready to play Tuesday night against Baltimore.

* Freddy Garcia made his debut, pitching an uninspired eighth inning. The ball Big Papi hit off the top of the 420 sign would still be airborne if this game was played in July or August instead of April. One inning is a small sample size, but Garcia was mediocre in Grapefruit League action, and mediocre in his work Sunday. Projections for Friday are welcome.

The decision for Garcia over well, anyone else — but most likely Rafael Soriano — was questioned: The consensus: Garcia isn’t pitching until Friday, so it was an opportunity for him to get some work in.

Girardi told reporters after the game that he would have used Rafael Soriano had the game remained 1-0 in the eighth inning, but with the game 3-0 at that point, he “used his bullpen a little different.” So concede the game? With a three-run differential, the game was still winnable in the Yankees’ last at-bat. Keep the game in striking distance with your best available arms.

On a different note, Yankees pitchers issued 8 walks. Three of those walks turned into Red Sox runs.

The Yankees are now 5-4, tied with the Blue Jays for second place in the East, one game behind the Baltimore Showalters, who come to the Bronx Tuesday night. Until the first pitch of that series, Buck’s comments about Derek Jeter will be hashed and rehashed. It’ll probably bleed into the telecast, too.

As for the baseball, it’s still early and it’s far from panic time. But if the Yankees continue to lose series and the lineup at-large continues to struggle, the tension will certainly mount.

[Photo Credit: Jim Rogash/Getty Images]

Categories:  Bronx Banter  Game Recap  Will Weiss  Yankees

Tags:  Red Sox  Yankees

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1 Mattpat11   ~  Apr 11, 2011 12:26 am

Yankees also hit Buchholz pretty well. And knocked around John Lackey, for whatever thats worth in 2011.

2 Boatzilla   ~  Apr 11, 2011 6:30 am

So much for having Beckett's number (past 2 years). Trouble brewing: If Posada doesn't hit, there's no place for him on the team. Mind you, I'm sure he will hit, but, just sayin'...

3 The Hawk   ~  Apr 11, 2011 8:13 am

The one thing that really bothered me about this game - aside from Beckett barf-o-rama of course - was the Garcia move. I know I've heard Girardi refer to gut decisions, but his gut is stupid if it told him to put Garcia in. No actually I'm pretty certain this was one of those think-too-much ideas ... Why on earth he's worried about getting a pitcher work at the end of a winnable game vs a divisional opponent is beyond me.

4 rbj   ~  Apr 11, 2011 9:42 am

"With a three-run differential, the game was still winnable in the Yankees’ last at-bat."

I had the feeling at that point the game was lost. Not going to fault Joe for putting Freddy in at that point. He's going to be starting on Friday and there certainly can be a Garcia vs. Mitre debate, but once the decision has been made, you get the guy ready to pitch.

5 monkeypants   ~  Apr 11, 2011 9:53 am

[3][4] Actually, Girardi is probably correct inasmuch as the win expectancy for a team down 3 going into the top of the ninth has got to be under 10% (maybe RIYank can find teh exact number)?

This being said, with an off day following Girardi could have thrown out the WE chart in his binder and gone with a better reliever. Also, why is it that Garcia had yet to get any work yet this season? He pitched Soriano with a four run lead but couldn't find room here our there to get some work out of his long man somewhere.

But then this leads to my larger critique of current baseball praxis: why do teams carry so many pitchers when it is obvious that #12 and #13, if not more, are useless. That a manager needs to "find" work for the last arm in his BP is evidence enough that the team is carrying one too many pitchers.

Once the Twins games was rained out the schedule affords the Yankees the luxury not to carry a #5 starter. So cut the staff to 11 men (send down or release someone useless like Ayala if they need to protect Garcia) until the end of April when the "need" for that extra pitcher is more pressing.

6 monkeypants   ~  Apr 11, 2011 9:55 am

[4] Is Garcia starting on Friday, or are they using the off day tomorrow to skip his spot and use CC on Friday on regular rest?

7 The Hawk   ~  Apr 11, 2011 9:59 am

It's not just using the opportunity as if it was garbage time, it's putting Garcia in there in particular. It strikes me as an odd time to have him pitch for him, when they're losing and all he can do is make things worse - for two innings, no less.

And yeah, the situation only arises because ten or so games into the season he hasn't pitched yet. It seems like poor planning all around.

8 monkeypants   ~  Apr 11, 2011 10:02 am

[3] OK, according to this win expectancy calculator (http://gregstoll.dyndns.org/~gregstoll/baseball/stats.php?team=V&inning=9&outs=0&runners=1&scorediff=-3), in over 7000 games the visiting team entered the 9th down three runs and won about 2% of them.

So the game was probably pretty much lost at this point.

Now of course, if the Yankees could have held the Sox lead to one run, their chances go up (but only to about 13%), which is why some argue that you should often (not always) use your best reliever earlier in a close game to keep it close, rather than save him for the ninth inning lead that may never come. But that's a dead horse for another day!! ; )

9 The Hawk   ~  Apr 11, 2011 10:13 am

[8] I really don't believe in treating three run leads as insurmountable. I wonder what that win expectancy would be if every manager in that situation started treating it as if the game was over. Darn close to 0, I'd imagine.

May as well try and keep it close, crazier things have happened than a team scoring three runs in the 9th inning. But again, it's more a question to me of why use Garcia in particular there. On the one hand yes you have a day off tomorrow, why not use Soriano or whomever, but I'm more suspicious of the use of Garcia.

10 RIYank   ~  Apr 11, 2011 10:25 am

[8] [9] It's a good point -- probably a lot of managers do treat that situation as 'unwinnable'. If so, then part of what makes the Win Expectancy so low is that the trailing manager doesn't go to his best relievers. (The probabilities are calculated from actual historical data.)

Still, it's got to be a very low Win Expectancy even if the trailing team puts everything on the line. So, even if Girardi made a mistake there, it couldn't have been a big mistake, from the point of view of gaining expected wins.

Monkeypants, the situation was worse than you stated, since the moment in question was the bottom of the 8th. I see, maybe you were thinking, "Even if Soriano pitches and we shut them down, it's still a very long shot."

11 rbj   ~  Apr 11, 2011 10:41 am

[6] From what I've heard, he's pitching Friday, but that could be wrong.

As for why he hasn't been used before, that's a different issue. The fact is, as of last night he hadn't pitched, the Yankees were down 3 against a very good team. If your #5 stater hasn't seen work yet, it's not a bad decision to get him an inning in. Beckett was totally on last night, and Paps, as much as I hate him, is a very good closer. Yankees chance last night was less than 2%.

12 monkeypants   ~  Apr 11, 2011 10:47 am

[10] I meant more generally---that with the Sox up 1-0, the imaginary sabermetric manager would have gone to his best relievers (SorMariano) and hopefully Logan and Garcia never enter the game.

On the other hand, I guess Joba is the third best reliever---after all, he is the 7th inning guy---so Girardi can't be too faulted with using him in the sixth and seventh even if in this case he failed. Maybe Joba should be moved to the all important Sixth Inning Guy role, and Robertson promoted to Seventh Inning Guy?

13 monkeypants   ~  Apr 11, 2011 10:53 am

[10] And yes, even down 3 in the eighth, I might have been willing to use Soriano or even Mo since the next day was an off day, rather than Garcia. I'm not sure how much an inning of work helps the #5 starter...and it may be more valuable to give your good relievers regular work. After all, Soriano and Mo had not pitched since April 7, so now it will be at least five days until they get into a game. Why not get at least one of them an inning before an of fday?

14 flycaster   ~  Apr 11, 2011 11:48 am

[13] I'll try this again, though I never seem to get anywhere. Whether there's an off day tomorrow is not the only factor a manager has to think about. There's also how do I keep this guy from having 100 appearances by September 15th? Because that's what will happen if you bring him in every time you'd like to. It's the problem that obviates the "use your best guy in high leverage situations rather than the 9th inning" idea. There are too many high leverage situations.
Down by 3, I'm not going to waste Soriano. Down by one, maybe...Anyway, like to see some hits Tuesday night. By us, I mean.

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