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Monthly Archives: May 2012

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Comings and Goings

One of our favorite blogs, Pitchers and Poets, is calling quits. We don’t expect that this’ll be the last we hear from Eric and Ted, though (and there’s always their bitchin’ tumblr site to follow).

Meanwhile, another old friend, Jay Jaffe, makes his debut at SI.com today. Head on over and bookmark his new address.

And in Yankeeland, Brett Gardner is inching toward a return. Won’t be this week though. Can’t be soon enough.

[Photo Credit: Justin Edmonds/Getty Images, via It’s a Long Season]

New York Minute

Only time I miss tokens is when I’m running for a train and the damn card doesn’t swipe right.

More Turns series by Bill Sullivan.

Sullivan is a gifted painter.

The Man Who Wasn’t There

 

Here is a good piece on Chris Bosh by Chris Haberstroh over at ESPN.

[Photo via Fast Company--Chris Graythen/Getty Images]

Million Dollar Movie

Phillip Kaufman has a new movie out–on HBO. Allen Barra profiled Kaufman, one of our finest directors, for the Wall Street Journal last week. And Barra reviewed the movie for the Daily Beast here.

Beat of the Day

Oh, Sister.

Taster’s Cherce

It’s a little early for this, but hell, it’s never really too early for recipe ideas…From House to Haus: sour cherry pie.

Morning Art

Matisse at work.

To Live and Die in L.A.

There aren’t too many games you can point to as “must wins,” especially in the closing days of May, especially when the team is in the middle of a west coast road trip, especially when the team is also riding a five-game winning streak. I’m not ready to say this game on Memorial Day night in Anaheim was a must-win, but it was certainly a game that should’ve been a victory.

Even though Phil Hughes had looked much better recently, the match-up didn’t look good on paper, as the Angels were sending their ace Jered Weaver out to start the series. Aside from Justin Verlander, Weaver has probably been the best pitcher in the American League for the past few years, and except for a bad start in Texas, Weaver has been dominant again this year. This was a game that looked like a Yankee loss before the first pitch was even thrown.

When the second pitch was thrown, however, Derek Jeter smoked a line drive into left field; five pitches later Curtis Granderson waited on a breaking ball and grounded it through the hole between short and third, and the Yankees suddenly had runners on first and second with no one out. Alex Rodríguez came up next and hit a hard grounder just to the right of shortstop Erick Aybar. It looked like a certain double play, but the ball skipped off of Aybar’s glove and somehow bounded over his shoulder into short center field, allowing Jeter to score easily and put runners on first and third.

Working to Robinson Canó, Weaver got a called strike to even the count at 1-1, but immediately started limping on his follow through, triggering a wave of discomfort in the stands and bringing Mike Scioscia and his support staff to the mound. Pitchers scare their managers all the time by catching a spike during a windup and coming up temporarily lame. They look into the dugout and say they’re fine, but the trainer still comes out to watch them throw a test pitch or two, but everything’s fine. Almost immediately it was clear that that wasn’t going to happen this time. Weaver slowly walked to the back of the mound, and when the cameras caught a glimpse of his face, it wasn’t pain that registered, but the frustration of an athlete whose body had betrayed him. Weaver knew this was serious even before he took his practice pitch and wasn’t able to complete it.

He walked off the mound, clenched his fist, and screamed “Fuuuuck!” at the top of his lungs, loud enough to be picked up by the crowd mikes and every ten-year-old in the lower tier. In case any of those ten-year-olds had missed it, he repeated himself just as he stepped into foul territory. Later the Angels would report he was suffering from a lower back injury.

It’s probably not appropriate to take pleasure in an opponent’s injury, but it’s perfectly fine to joyfully accept the opportunity that injury presents. The Yankees already had a 1-0 lead, there were runners at the corners with no outs, and the Angels were going to have to get 27 outs with their bullpen. Things looked good, about as good as they can look.

Bobby Cassevah came in for the Angels and struck out Canó, but then walked Mark Teixeira to load the bases, bringing up Raúl Ibáñez, who lofted a sacrifice fly to left field, scoring Granderson. Nick Swisher came up next and squirted a dribbler to the third base side of the mound. Cassevah fielded it in plenty of time, but rushed his throw, bouncing it past Albert Pújols for an error that allowed A-Rod to score the third unearned run of the inning. Scioscia decided to walk Eric Chávez intentionally, probably because his scouts had told him that the Yankees refuse to hit with the bases loaded. Russell Martin validated that decision by flying out to center field.

Handed this 3-0 lead and free of the pressure of facing an ace, Phil Hughes promptly gave everything back. It was the same infuriating rally the Angels have been cobbling together for years: Mike Trout two-strike single; Macier Izturis fly out, Pújols single, Kendry Morales two-strike RBI single, Mark Trumbo two-strike RBI ground-rule double, Howie “Yankee Killer” Kendrick RBI single.

It was finally over two batters later, but the Angels had sent eight men to the plate, scored four runs, and gotten right back into a game that should’ve been over.

Granderson homered to right in the top of the second to tie the game at four, but the Angels struck again in the fourth. Trumbo launched a towering fly ball to the gap in right center, but both Granderson and Swisher looked as if they had a shot at it. Just as the ball settled into Swisher’s glove, however, Granderson settled into Swisher’s chest. Both men fell in a heap on the warning track, the ball bounced free, and Trumbo ran like the wind. Well, Trumbo ran like a gentle breeze. He ended up on third with a triple. Kendrick took the first pitch he saw and floated it deep enough to right for Trumbo to score on the sacrifice fly. Angels 5, Yankees 4.

Hughes was clearly struggling, but not because of his control. His pitches were finding the strike zone (66 of 87, and through the first three innings that ratio was even higher), but he had no command. Pitches meant for the corners floated out over the plate and were hit hard. Seven times he put hitters into an 0-2 hole, but only once was he able to finish off that crippled hitter with a strikeout.

Hughes was touched again in the fourth, this time when Angel rookie Mike Trout hit a rocket over the wall in left center. There’s been some lamenting lately about the lack of exciting players on the Yankee roster, and some have suggested that Jesus Montero, a home-grown talent with All-Star potential, would’ve provided that. Montero was a player fans had been waiting for patiently, reading reports of his progress through the minors before his successful arrival in the Bronx last September. Trout followed that same flight path and created that same excitement, but he wasn’t traded. Forgive me if I’m bitter.

The suddenly resurgent Teixeira, hitting right-handed now against the left-handed Hisanori Takahashi, homered in the top of the fifth to cut the lead to 6-5. Over the past four games, Tex is 10 for 16 with three doubles, four home runs, and nine RBIs. There is hope.

Hughes made it into the sixth, but he wouldn’t make it out. It was all fairly innocent, which is typical of the Angels. The speedy Peter Bourjos reached on a perfectly placed dribbler to Hughes and was then sacrificed to second. Cody Eppley replaced Hughes, and Izturis hit a grounder up the middle; Canó was able to field it, but he couldn’t get the out. After Pújols walked to load the bases, David Phelps came in to face Morales, and his first pitch was hammered to the wall in left center, scoring two and giving the Halos an 8-6 lead.

Just as Yankee fans were starting to think dark thoughts about their heroes, the Bombers put together a rally in the top of the seventh. Canó hit a laser over Bourjos’s head in center field for a double, and Teixeira followed that with a walk, prompting Scioscia to bring in his fifth pitcher of the night, Jason Isringhausen. (I know what you’re thinking — it must’ve been Jason Isringhausen, Jr. No, it was really that Jason Isringhausen.) Ibáñez greeted him with a rifle shot to right field that looked like a run-scoring double. But Trumbo got a good jump on the ball, good enough that the runners had to be cautious. The ball ended up tipping off his glove, but Canó was fooled. Thinking Trumbo had actually caught the ball, he raced back to second to tag up, so he was only able to get to third.

Still, the bases were loaded with no outs. Swisher came to the plate with an opportunity to do some serious damage, but all he could muster was a sacrifice fly. One out later, though, Russell Martin laced a line drive down the left field line to score two and even the game at eight.

The Yankees would threaten again in the ninth, but again they’d be thwarted by bad luck and bad hitting with the bases loaded. Teixeira opened the inning with a single, then moved to second when Chávez walked two outs later. Martin punched a ground ball up the middle, and again it looked like the Yankees would surely score as the ball seemed ticketed for center field. But Izturis was able to keep it in the infield. He wasn’t able to make an out, but he saved a run. Jeter came up with the bases loaded and bounced the first pitch he saw to Pújols, who flipped to second for the out.

The Yankees had four at bats with the bases loaded and finished 0 for 2 with two sacrifice flies, but there wasn’t much time to dwell on that. Cory Wade came in to pitch the bottom of the ninth and Trumbo made his third pitch disappear into the night. Fuckin’ Angels.

Sons of Bitches 9, Yankees 8.

[Photo Credit: Jeff Gross/Getty Images]

Enjoy Your Stay: Welcome to L.A.

The Yanks are on a little roll but face a team that is perhaps better than its record in the Angels. At least they’ll be up against some formidable starting pitching as well as the hot-hitting Mr. Pujols. Two-of-three would be terrific.

Tonight gives Phil Hughes, he of the straight fastball, against Jared Weaver, a bona fide Ace.

Derek Jeter SS
Curtis Granderson CF
Alex Rodriguez 3B
Robinson Cano 2B
Mark Teixeira 1B
Raul Ibanez LF
Nick Swisher RF
Eric Chavez DH
Russell Martin C

Never mind the match-ups: Let’s Go Yank-ees!

[Photo Credit: Clarke Tolton]

May 28, 1941: Game 13

On a night when the Yankees and Washington Senators played the first ever night game in Washington’s Griffith Stadium, DiMaggio led his team to a 6-5 victory. Three interesting notes about the lights that night: One, Griffith Stadium was now one of only four American League parks to boast electric lights. Two, the lights were turned on for the first time by a Walter Johnson fastball. The retired Senator threw the ceremonial first pitch through an electric beam projected across home plate; his third attempt lit up the night. Three, Washington officials needed special permission to fly the flag after sundown for the playing of the national anthem.

Once the game was underway, the Yankees found themselves trailing 3-1 in the eighth inning as a hitless DiMaggio came to the plate. He tripled deep to right to extend his streak and trigger a five-run Pinstripe rally. In addition to DiMaggio, Johnny Sturm and Frank Crosetti also kept their streaks alive, and DiMaggio’s string was mentioned in the press for the first time in the New York World-Telegram: “Last night’s battle saw all three hitting streaks on the Yankees continued. DiMaggio hit in his thirteenth consecutive contest. Sturm in his eleventh and Crosetti in his tenth.” The fact that a player of DiMaggio’s stature could get almost two weeks into a hitting streak without being noticed underscores a major reason why this record will never be threatened. In this era of media saturation and round-the-clock sports highlights, nothing escapes the public’s unquenchable thirst for information. It isn’t uncommon to hear a television or radio announcer make mention of a three-game hitting streak, and any time a player gets a run up to twenty games, not even half way to DiMaggio, he becomes the lead story on SportsCenter. Even in 1941 DiMaggio endured scrutiny as an entire nation followed his exploits during the latter stages of his streak, but the media crush surrounding a player approaching that record today would be stifling. The physical accomplishment of fifty-six is amazing; the mental strength required to get there would be even more impressive. It’ll never happen.

Rollin’ Rollin’ Rollin’

Yeah, it was made to order for Hiroki Kuroda on Sunday–pitcher’s park, lousy team–and he responded with a fine performance. Kuroda got into one fix–first and third with one out in the seventh–but snaked out of it (strike out, fly out) without giving up a run.

Tommy Milone was almost as good for the A’s. A junkballing left-hander with an easy delivery, Milone allowed two runs, a solo homer by Andruw Jones in the second and a two-out RBI double to Mark Teixeira in the seventh (they were two of the only hard-hit balls by either team all afternoon). The Yanks had runners on base in the first three innings but couldn’t get anything done.

Didn’t matter, though. The A’s weak offense was no match for Kuroda. Raphael Soriano worked around a two-out single in the ninth and earned the save.

Final Score: Yanks 2, A’s 0.

Yanks have won six in a row and trail the first place O’s and Rays by two-and-a-half games. Next up, some serious pitching and a hot Albert Pujols in the suburbs of L.A.

[Photo Credit: Chic Knots; Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images]

The Quiet Man

Hiroki Kuroda is pitching in a big park today, against a not-so-great offense. Be nice to see him throw some zeros up on the board and have a strong outing. His family still lives in L.A. so I’m sure he’ll see them this week.

We’ll be rooting for him and the rest of the fellas:

Derek Jeter SS
Curtis Granderson CF
Mark Teixeira 1B
Alex Rodriguez 3B
Robinson Cano 2B
Nick Swisher RF
Andruw Jones DH
Jayson Nix LF
Chris Stewart C

Let’s Go Yank-ees!

The Nighttime Sniffling Sneezing Coughing Aching so You Can Hit Dingers Medicine

“Whether it’s a solo shot or a grand slam, it’s instant offense,” Teixeira said. “It makes your team feel good, it pumps everybody up. Chicks dig the long ball, fans dig the long ball. Yeah, I said it. It’s fun hitting home runs because not everyone can do it.”
(David Waldstein, N.Y. Times)

Grrrr.

 

Teix feelin’ frisky after getting four hits and two home runs yesterday as the Yanks cruised to a 9-2 win against Bartolo Colon and the A’s.

Yanks go for the sweep later this afternoon.

Boom Boom vs. Bam Bam

Derek Jeter SS
Curtis Granderson CF
Alex Rodriguez DH
Robinson Cano 2B
Mark Teixeira 1B
Raul Ibanez LF
Nick Swisher RF
Eric Chavez 3B
Chris Stewart C

It’s our old pal Bartolo Colon vs. C.C. Sabathia.

Tippin’ the scale. Never mind the snacks:

Let’s Go Yank-ees!

[Photo Credit: Llama Love]

Saturdazed Soul

It’s Saturday. It’s a holiday weekend. And mad humid in New York.

[Photo Credit: o4kikidze_toma]

May 27, 1941: Game 12

For the first time, Joe DiMaggio and the Yankees took the streak on the road as they headed into Washington for a three-game series against the Senators. The Senators were near the bottom of the American League standings as play began on this day, and the Yankees took advantage of their hosts, winning 10-8. DiMaggio led the way with his first big game of the streak, as he had four hits, including a 425-foot three-run homerun to left field. Johnny Sturm continued his own march with three hits, and shortstop Frank Crosetti also rapped out three hits, allowing both men to tack another game to their own hitting streaks. The press continued to follow Sturm’s ten-game streak, and they had now caught on to Crosetti’s nine-gamer, but there would be no notice of DiMaggio until after game thirteen.

It Gets Late Early Out There

If you weren’t able to stay up late with Yankees on Friday night, you missed a comfortably boring Yankee win. Years ago major league teams would fill up their off days by hopping on the team bus and driving to play an exhibition with their AAA affiliates. (Imagine what Josh Beckett and today’s union would have to say about that!) It would keep the major leaguers sharp, give bench players an opportunity to play a full nine, give the minor league players a taste of the Show, and give a nice boost to the triple A team’s cash box.

That’s what it felt like Friday night in Oakland. (Heck, the YES Network even sent out their minor league broadcasting team, Ken Singleton and Bob Lorenz; Lorenz kept confusing Jemile Weeks and Cliff Pennington, two players who, um, don’t look anything alike. Singleton finally corrected him the last time he did it.)

There is no truth to the rumor that the Oakland franchise has petitioned the league to change its official nickname from the Athletics to the Anemics; that’s just the way they’ve been hitting. A quick scan of their starting nine reveals batting averages that look like this: 200, 167, 272, 226, 250, 147, 210, 217, and 215. Forty-six games into the season they’re still hitting just .210 as a team, easily the worst mark in baseball. (Immediately above them is the Pittsburgh Pirates at .217, the Yankees are hitting .265, and the Texas Rangers set the pace at .288. No one on the Oakland roster is hitting .288.)*

So Yankee starter Ivan Nova could be excused for drooling like Wile E. Coyote as he took the mound against this Mollycoddlers Row. Nova cruised through the first three innings, notching four groundouts and two strikeouts while yielding just a hit and a walk. Sure, he would give up a solo home run in the fourth inning to Josh Reddick, the only bat of substance in this sea of mediocrity, but that was more a mental mistake than a physical one; I can’t imagine why Reddick ever gets anything to hit.

Meanwhile, the Yankee hitters weren’t trouncing A’s starter Tyson Ross, but they were pushing him around a bit, kind of like a cat with an injured mouse or when Ali kept Floyd Patterson standing long enough to punish and humiliate him. Curtis Granderson and Alex Rodríguez singled in the first, but were stranded. Nick Swisher doubled in the second, but was stranded. Looking at the box score it looks like this was just more Yankee ineptitude with runners in scoring position, but somehow it felt different watching the game. Ross was a man racing down a dark alley, struggling to keep ahead of the Score Truck at his heels. He wouldn’t last long.

It started in the third, thanks to center fielder Coco Crisp, who is decidedly less cocky and irritating in that Oakland uniform. Two batters after a Granderson single, Robinson Canó ripped a bullet to right center. Crisp raced to his left and had the ball in his sites, but then appeared to actually overrun the ball, and it skipped off the thumb of his glove and bounced to the wall. Granderson scored easily and Canó coasted into second. A few pitches later Mark Teixeira — who may actually be alive — lurched at a pitch and jerked it over the scoreboard in right for a two-run homer and a 3-0 Yankee lead.

In the fourth it might have looked like the Yankees squandered another opportunity to put the game on ice, but I’d argue the game was already on ice. This was just gamesmanship designed to keep the home fans in their seats. Playing in his old park for the first time (the park where he was projected as a Hall of Famer, by the way), Eric Chávez drew a quick walk, then advanced to third on Russell Martin’s double. With no one out and Derek Jeter, Granderson, and Rodríguez due up, it looked like things were about to get ugly. They kinda did. Jeter looped a harmless foul ball to first for out number one (Jeter would go 0 for 5 on the night and see his average plummet to .339, his lowest mark since April 8th), then Granderson walked to load the bases with one out. A-Rod promptly grounded into a double play to end the inning.

You were asleep at this point, so this won’t make sense to you — but somehow it didn’t matter that the Yankees had failed to break the game open. Somehow, at 3-0 in the fourth, it already felt broken open. Like a piñata, only the Yankees were the big kids on the side of the party who were too cool to rush in and grab the candy.

Reddick’s home run in the bottom half would cut the Yankee lead to 3-1, but it felt more like when you were playing your little brother in ping pong and you let him get a couple points so he wouldn’t cry in the end.**

Canó led off the fifth by putting an absolutely beautiful swing on the second pitch he saw. The ball was headed for dead center field, so it looked a bit strange when Canó confidently swung his bat down to the ground as he does when he knows he’s blistered one into the seats. Center field in Oakland, after all, is quite a long ways away. But Canó’s blast cleared the wall with ease, and the lead was 4-1. Teixeira came up next and blooped a hit down the line in left. When it bounded past a diving Seth Smith, Teixeira lumbered into second for a double, but then forgot two things: one, he’s the slowest man in America; and two, there were no outs. He kept lumbering for third, but was thrown out easily. Raúl Ibáñez came up next and rifled a double of his own over Crisp; Swisher then flicked an opposite field homer to left. Four batters had come up in the inning, and the results had been homer, double, double, homer. As Swisher joyfully circled the bases, I had an image of Ali mercilessly jabbing Patterson over and over, punctuating each jab with a taunt: “What’s my name?” Jab. “What’s my name?” Jab. “What’s my name?” Tyson Ross was done for the night.

The A’s pieced together another run in the bottom of the fifth. After opening the frame with a single from Josh Donaldson and a double from Daric Barton, Oakland got a deep sacrifice fly off the bat of Kurt Suzuki to cut the lead to 6-2. Nova would escape without further damage, but he still appeared to vomit into his glove as he walked off the mound. A solo home run from the best name in baseball, Kila Ka’aihue, accounted for the final score: Yankees 6, Lollipop Guild 3.

Nova pitched well enough to win, and the bullpen was as effective as usual. Rafael Soriano picked up the save, but he floated a curve ball with two outs and gave up a booming double to Donaldson, meaning Soriano still hasn’t recorded a 1-2-3 inning this season. No pitcher in baseball with as many innings pitched as Soriano has failed to set the side down in order at least once.

It’s been fun picking on the Athletics here, and I’m sure the Yankees will have more fun on Saturday and Sunday afternoons, but here’s a quick splash of cold water: Only two and a half games separate these two teams in the standings. Doh.

* Even though it’s irrelevant to this game, I can’t resist sharing another interesting stat that jumped out at me as I was scanning those team numbers. Josh Hamilton (19) has more home runs than the San Diego Padres (18). That’s a race worth watching.
** Okay, I’ve just reread this post, and I’m not sure I could’ve squeezed in more metaphors and similes if I had tried. I admit it, I’m an English teacher.

[Photo Credit: Ben Margot/AP Photo]

Afternoon Art

Roberto Clemente.

[Pictures by Macwagen via It’s a Long Season]

Welcome to the Golden State

Yanks in Oakland this weekend.

Tonight gives Ivan Nova.

Derek Jeter SS
Curtis Granderson CF
Alex Rodriguez 3B
Robinson Cano 2B
Mark Teixeira 1B
Raul Ibanez LF
Nick Swisher RF
Eric Chavez DH
Russell Martin C

Never mind the jet lag:

Let’s Go Yank-ees!

[Pictures via It’s a Long Season]

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