"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice

Yanks Win by a Nose, but Offense Doesn’t Pass the Smell Test

Arod and Teixeira teamed up to record the final out of the game. (Photo: AP)

It wasn’t the resounding breakout game most Yankees’ fans have been desperately anticipating, but on the strength of three runs, and Alex Rodriguez’ game ending throw, the Bronx Bombers finally managed to squeak out a much needed victory.

May has mostly been a gloomy month for the Yankees, but one bright spot has been the baby steps taken by Phil Hughes. In tonight’s game, the right hander broke out of the gate strong, but then fell victim to two old bugaboos. In the top of the third, Hughes left an 0-2 pitch over the plate to Humberto Quintero, who promptly lined an RBI double into the right field corner. Entering the game, Hughes had allowed opposing hitters to bat an astounding .293/.341/.537 (or 191% better than the league average) when ahead in the count 0-2, so Quintero’s run scoring hit was only the latest in a season’s worth of frustration born of poor location.

The Royals added to their lead in the fourth inning when Jeff Francoeur drove a 2-0 fastball into the left field seats. The long ball has been a season-long tormenter of the Yankees’ starting rotation, but no one has been more vulnerable than Hughes, who has been victimized at least once in each of his starts.  In 47 1/3 innings, Hughes has now allowed 11 home runs, giving him the third highest rate per nine innings among all qualified major league starters.

The negatives aside, Hughes did manage to hold the Royals to only two runs over six innings, which was important because the offense wasn’t quite ready to bust out. The Yankees finally got on the board when Robinson Cano launched a long home run in the fourth inning, but the winning rally was much more subdued. In the bottom of the fifth, the Yankees loaded the bases on a seeing-eye grounder, hit by pitch, and bunt single, setting the stage for another golden scoring opportunity. With the memory of last night’s failure with bases loaded still fresh in everyone’s mind, Derek Jeter fell behind in the count, but finally produced a run with a single that was flared into right. Would this be the hit that would jump start the Yankees’ struggling offense and put an end to their futility with runners in scoring position? Unfortunately, the answer was no. After Curtis Granderson’s ground out produced another run, Alex Rodriguez and Raul Ibanez each went down swinging to end the rally.

Although the Yankees may not have exited the inning with good feelings, they did come away with the lead. Keeping it, however, wouldn’t be easy.  Over the final three innings, Joe Girardi used five different relievers to record the last nine outs (such is life without Mariano), but his master plan almost hit a snag in the bottom of the ninth inning. With two outs, Alex Gordon, who had doubled, was at third when Alcides Escobar hit a grounder that Rodriguez fielded deep behind the bag. Arod’s only play was to desperately put his entire body into the throw, which hurtled across the diamond as Escobar raced down the line. The ball finally nestled into Mark Teixeira’s outstretched glove just ahead of the base runner, giving the Yankees a victory by the narrowest of margins, and, perhaps, a one-day reprieve from having to answer questions about not getting the big hit.


1 OldYanksFan   ~  May 23, 2012 7:18 am

Really... hard to brag about getting 6 hits. Nonetheless, the was a HUGE win, as going under .500 would have been really depressing.

I've said this before. We have an offensive team that likes to drive the ball, as opposed to a 'contact first' offense. When guys are hot, it's wonderful. But it is why we have so much RISPFail. Sometimes I want tio see Gardner up there, and in the old days Damon, because these guys seem to be more concerned with putting the bat on the ball, rather than how hard they hit it.

It seems ARod understands he is not hitting HRs, and is content with opposite field ground balls. Between his bunt and his stealing bases, ARod has really impressed me of late as a team first guy.

Teix is the worst. It seems he needs to hit the ball as hard as he can, everytime up. Martin seems to take the same approach. Cano is so freaking good, he CAN drive the ball hard whereever it's pitched, so he gets a bit of a pass. Derek is basically a contact guy.

Remember 1,000,000 years ago, where if you had a man on base, you would choke up on the bat a bit? Go for contact? Make sure you hit the ball somewhere?

Sometimes a nice, easy stroke will get it done.
Sometimes just hitting the ball back up the middle is a good thing.
I wish the Yankees would have a policy of the first 2 strikes go to the batter, but after that, the AB is for the Yankees.

2 monkeypants   ~  May 23, 2012 7:33 am

[1] Remember 1,000,000 years ago, where if you had a man on base, you would choke up on the bat a bit? Go for contact? Make sure you hit the ball somewhere?

Was that before Ear Weaver's time?l

3 Alex Belth   ~  May 23, 2012 7:42 am

I still don't get why if Tex was so ill he was still in uniform on Friday and Saturday and why he was playing in the rain on Monday.

That play by Alex was really good. Probably didn't make the highlight reel but was a very difficult play, the short hop, the fact that the ball took its time, the fast runner, throwing flat-footed, oh, yeah, and the game being on the line.

4 William Juliano   ~  May 23, 2012 7:57 am

[1] The only problem with your theory is the Yankees have consistently had the same approach and not only posted historically high run totals, but also done very well with runners in scoring position. Choking up on the bat would be about the worst thing the offense could do, especially with the starting pitchers giving up so many home runs.

5 William Juliano   ~  May 23, 2012 7:58 am

[3] It's a sports' cliche to say he gave it his all, but on that throw, Arod put everything into it. That ball was either going into Tex' glove or seats behind first base.

6 OldYanksFan   ~  May 23, 2012 10:06 am

[4] "...but also done very well with runners in scoring position"
I'd like to see documentation of this. However, I am only concerned with RISP when tied, or behind by 3 runs or less.

I know the Yankees have had big innings in blowouts. They score 5 runs in an inning, and go 4 for 5 with RISP... when the game may already be won. I'm not saying these runs don't count, but as we've seen in the last 2 weeks, when you have RISP fail when behind by a run or 2, the game is usually on the line.

The high run totals come because we have great players and hit lots of HRs. This year, we have lost every game where we did not hit a HR. That's no coincidence, Sometimes, you need to be able to 'grind out' a run or 2.

7 Shaun P.   ~  May 23, 2012 10:26 am

[6] "This year, we have lost every game where we did not hit a HR. That's no coincidence,"

Yes it is. 40-something games is the very definition of coincidence, which is also referred to as a small sample size. If at the end of the year, the Yanks win over 81 games but none without hitting a home run, then you can say its not a coincidence.

As for evidence of doing well with runners in scoring position over the years, its because the Yanks have scored tons of runs. If they've scored tons of runs, the majority have certainly not come from solo home runs, two-run home runs with the runner on first base, and doubles and triples with a runner only on first base. That means they must have hit well with runners in scoring position.

8 RIYank   ~  May 23, 2012 10:28 am

[6] Does choking up only work when the game is tied or the other team is ahead by 3 runs or less? That would be surprising. I wonder what the explanation is.

RAB documented the Yankees' RISP success last year, when the popular wisdom had it that they were really bad with RISP. It would be pretty easy to check any given year with Baseball Reference.

9 RIYank   ~  May 23, 2012 10:29 am

[7] It's not exactly a coincidence. A game in which the Yankees don't homer is likely to be a game in which they don't score many runs, after all!

10 Chris in Sydney   ~  May 23, 2012 11:08 am

[1] I think this nails it. It's not literally choking up. It's situational hitting, and this team doesn't do it. Why? Girardi should be doing more managing here (and, I'm sure most will agree, less elsewhere).

[7] I'm not willing to say it's not a statistical anomaly yet, but I think people throw around "small sample size" without really understanding it. You probably have adequate statistical power to do parametric tests with N = 40.

feed Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Share via email
"This ain't football. We do this every day."
--Earl Weaver