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No Horseplay, Please.

KelleyHorse

My glass is always half full, but I had a bad feeling heading into this game. When the news first broke that Jusin Verlander was being pushed in favor of a kid making his major league debut, the prevailing thought was that the Yankees had caught a huge break by avoiding the former Cy Young winner. My first response? “Oh, no.”

I seem to remember seeing some statistics indicating that the Yankees don’t perform as poorly as we think they do against rookies, but my memory tells a different story. Even when the Yankees were regularly running roughshod over the American League, unknown pitchers were their Kryptonite, and so it was on Thursday afternoon at Comerica Park in Detroit.

Hiroki Kuroda, as usual, was good enough to win, even though he didn’t. He pitched seven strong innings, giving up just two runs while allowing only four singles and a walk, an effort the team would clearly have signed up for on Thursday morning.

The problem, of course, is that Detroit’s Kyle Lobstein was just as good — or more accurately, just as effective. He didn’t strike out a single hitter, and Yankee batters were able to hit several balls hard, but it never amounted to anything. He lasted six innings, yielded only four hits, a walk, and two runs (one earned).

As a result, the game zipped into the late innings tied at two, with each team desperate for a win to get closer to a playoff spot, and each team squandering opportunities. Dellin Betances took over for Kuroda in the eighth and eventually found himself facing the best hitter on the planet with two outs and the potential winning run on second base. Demonstrating his growing confidence and maturity, Betances didn’t give in to the temptation to prove his strength by overpowering Miguel Cabrera with a triple-digit fastball. Instead, he froze him with two consecutive 82 MPH curveballs. Cabrera let the first go by without a swing, then waved feebly at the second to strikeout and end the inning.

In the top of the ninth, facing Grizzly Chamberlain, the Yankees mounted a two-out rally. Mark Teixeira walked, Carlos Beltrán singled him to third, and Brian McCann came to the plate needing only a single to put his team in position to win. Joba elevated his second pitch, and McCann absolutely crushed it — but it hooked to the wrong side of the foul pole, leaving the Yankees only inches from what would’ve been a three-run lead. Joba pumped two more pitches past him and the inning was over.

Betances had thrown only 13 pitches in the eighth, so I hoped he’d come back for the ninth, but instead we were treated to Shawn “Horsehead” Kelley. The trouble started immediately. Victor Martínez led off with a double deep into the right field corner, then J.D. Martínez milked a seven-pitch walk and the Tigers had runners on first and second with none out. From there he dug his hole even deeper, working himself into a 3-2 count on Nick Castellanos before recovering with a perfect pitch on the outside corner for a called strike three. Next he toyed with pinch hitter Torii Hunter, overpowering him with 95-97 MPH fastballs and teasing him with marginal sliders before finally finishing him with the heater.

There was hope. As I saw the rest of the game in my mind’s eye, I imagined Kelley overpowering Alex Avila — perhaps striking him out on three pitches — and charging off the mound and into an energized Yankee dugout. His teammates would undoubtedly parlay that momentum into a tenth-inning rally, David Robertson would come in for the save, and the Yankees would escape from Detroit that much closer to the playoffs.

In the time that it took that daydream to wind its way through the corners of my optimistic brain, Avila strolled to the plate, took a hack at Kelley’s first pitch (an inviting slider rather than a crackling fastball), and rocketed it towards the wall in right center. Ichiro raced out towards the gap, but he wasn’t able to make the play (replays showed that perhaps he should’ve made the play), and the game was over.

Kelley was beaten with his second-best pitch, and he seemed to know it. He slammed his mitt to the turf in frustration, and when asked afterwards about how he felt, his answer was direct. “About as bad as I’ve felt walking off a mound in my career. Not good.”

Is this loss worse than any of the other bad losses we’ve suffered through this season? Probably not, but it stings a bit more simply because it reminds of who this team actually is. They simply aren’t going to win six of every seven games they play, but there’s still hope. Masahiro Tanaka is pitching simulated games, Michael Piñeda continues to dominate, Shane Greene has been great, Brandon McCarthy has been much better than anyone could’ve expected, and Hiroki Kuroda has now had three solid starts in a row.

Games like this are frustrating, but it’s not the end of the world. I promise.

What Can and Will Be

chrisheadsz

Afternoon Delight.

Jacoby Ellsbury CF
Derek Jeter SS
Martin Prado 2B
Mark Teixeira 1B
Carlos Beltran DH
Brian McCann C
Chase Headley 3B
Brett Gardner LF
Zelous Wheeler RF

Never mind the sunshine:

Let’s Go Yank-ees!

[Photo Credit: Chris Heads]

Beat of the Day

matilda

Never even thought about it…

[Photo Credit: Matilde Viegas]

Morning Art

cowboy

Picture by Logan Hagege.

New York Minute

chrys

But beautiful.

Picture by Hiroshi Sugitomo.

Taster’s Cherce

redfarm

Last night I sat at one of the community tables at Red Farm on the Upper West Side. I had a view of Broadway between 76th and 77th Street, and looked at the west side of the block where Big Nick’s used to be. Thirty years ago my father started dating the woman who’d become my step mother; she lived a block away, so I’m familiar with the vicinity. Or was.

Around me, the restaurant was clean, bright and full. The service was efficient and helpful, the food expensive, the portions small, and the taste, delicious. The crowd was well-scrubbed–the Hamptons, Abercrombie and Fitch, nouveau riche set.  I was reminded of something a friend of mine told me last week. This friend is about 15 years older than me and he grew up on the Upper West Side in the 1960s and ’70s. He hasn’t lived there for years but recently went on a first date at a spot on Amsterdam Avenue. He sat with the woman at an outdoor cafe and she remarked how lovely it was. Knowing what it had once been, disgusted at what it’s become, he told her it was like sitting in the front row of a farting contest.

They didn’t have a second date. At Red Farm, the crowd, prices, and portions might be enough to keep a sensible person away. But the food was damn tasty so I think I’ll go again.

[Photo Credit: The Daily Muse]

Would Ya Believe?

prices

The Yanks made like the Gashouse Gorillas and put a beatin’ on David Price and the Tigers.

That’s baseball, Suzyn…

[Photo Credit: Credit Paul Sancya/Associated Press]

No Time to Slide

beater

David Price is all that stands in the way of the start of a new winning streak. Oh, and a bunch of OK hitters too. And Verlander tomorrow.

Never mind the funny stuff:

Let’s Go Yank-ees!

[Picture by Bags]

Morning Art

modig

“Portrait of Lunia Czechowska” By Amedeo Modigliani (1919)

She Works Hard for the Money

humans

Here’s a treat from Longform, an excerpt from Studs Turkel’s 1974 book, Working:

You get up at six, you fix breakfast for the kids, you get them ready to go on to school. Leave home about eight. Most of the time I make biscuits for my kids, cornbread you gotta make. I don’t mean the canned kind. This I don’t call cookin’, when you go in that refrigerator and get some beans and drop ‘em in a pot. And TV dinners, they go stick ‘em in the stove and she say she cooked. This is not cookin’.

When I work, only thing I be worryin’ about is my kids. I just don’t like to leave ‘em too long. Wlien they get out of school, you wonder if they out on the street. The only thing I worry is if they had a place to play in easy. I always call two, three times. When she don’t like you to call, I’m in a hurry to get out of there. (Laughs.) My mind is gettin’ home, what are you gonna find to cook before the stores close.

They want you to get in a uniform. You take me and my mother, she work in what she wear. She tells you, “If that place so dirty where I can’t wear my dress, I won’t do the job.” You can’t go to work dressed like they do, ‘cause they think you’re not working—like you should get dirty, at least. They don’t say what kind of uniform, just say uniform. This is in case anybody come in, the black be workin’. They don’t want you walkin’ around dressed up, lookin’ like them. They asks you sometimes, “Don’t you have somethin’ else to put on?” I say, “No, ‘cause I’m not gettin’ on my knees.”

I had them put money down and pretend they can’t find it and have me look for it. I worked for one, she had dropped ten dollars on the floor, and I was sweepin’ and I’m glad I seen it, because if I had put that sweeper on it, she coulda said I got it. I had to push the couch back and the ten dollars was there. Oh, I had ‘em, when you go to dust, they put something . . . to test you.

You know what I wanted to do all my life? I wanted to play piano. And I’d want to write songs and things, that’s what I really wanted to do. If I could just get myself enough to buy a piano … And I’d like to write about my life, if I could sit long enough.”

[Photo Credit: Brandon Stanton/Humans of New York]

Deep Sixed

All losses at this point are tough ones. Even the games that don’t hurt, hurt. But let’s be positive. Maybe the Yankees have stumbled on the recipe for October baseball. Let’s see if they can follow: Win five, lose one. Repeat until the end of the year.

secret-six-bronze-tiger-catman[1]

In this game, like real estate, location was everything. As in, the Tigers had men located on the bases for timely hits late in the game and the Yankees scattered nine hits in such a way that two Ellsbury bombs accounted for two measly runs. As in, Brandon McCarthy, who had only walked seven in eight starts for the Yanks, walked in the first run of the game on a 58-foot worm-killer.

I have fond feelings for McCarthy. Fond enough to stick with him as he let the game slip away in the sixth? Maybe. I definitely didn’t want to see him in the seventh, though. The final score was 5-2, but maybe there was a closer game in there somewhere.  

The Yankees squeezed three games out of four against the Tigers after the trade deadline. The series was a ray of hope quickly obscured by the shittiness of mid-August and forgotten just about the time they dropped their fourth game of five tries against the Astros. Now they face Price and Verlander (though that means something vastly different this year) and need to start a new streak.

Oh, the rollercoaster of the mediocre. But it was this way when they were good too. Then it was the best record in baseball  or an annoying Red Sox team that hadn’t had it’s will broken yet that was causing the turbulence late in the season. Maybe it’s only the really bad teams, like this year’s Red Sox, sorry defending World Champion Red Sox, whose will came broken in the box, that flatten out in the dead of August.

Thank these Yankees for playing just well enough to still matter as we creep towards September. They will need an excellent stretch, with very few games like this one, to extend this any further than that. And it needs to begin now. 

Drawing by J. Calafiore, Sinister Six #17, 2010, DC Comics

 

The Switch

elllmo

Serious business in Detroit for the Yanks this week: Porcello, Price, and Verlander.

One moment at a time.

Jacoby Ellsbury CF
Derek Jeter DH
Brian McCann C
Mark Teixeira 1B
Carlos Beltran RF
Martin Prado 2B
Stephen Drew SS
Chase Headley 3B
Ichiro Suzuki LF

Never mind the growling:

Let’s Go Yank-ees!

[Photo Credit: Andrew Sacks/New York Times]

Beat of the Day

floatss

More than you know:

[Picture by Eric Petersen]

Afternoon Art

upandaway

Illustration by Eric Petersen.

New York Minute

cabbie

Mr. Cab Driver…from Pete Hamill:

Taxi drivers are the most enduring oppressed minority in New York City history. Race, ethnicity and religion are not sources of the oppression. It lies entirely in the nature of the work. Trapped for about 12 hours each day in the worst traffic in the United States, taxi drivers must suffer the savage frustrations of jammed streets, double-parked cars, immense trucks, drivers from New Jersey — and they can’t succumb to the explosive therapy of road rage. Their living depends on self-control.

At the same time, they face many other hazards: drunks behind them in the cab, fare beaters, stickup men, Knicks fans filled with biblical despair, out-of-town conventioneers who think the drivers are mobile pimps. Some seal themselves off from the back seat with the radio, an iPod or a cellphone. All pray that the next passenger doesn’t want to go from Midtown to the far reaches of Brooklyn or Queens. They hope for a decent tip. They hope to stay alive until the next fare waves from under a midnight streetlamp.

[Photo Credit: Matt Draper]

You’re Allowed to Laugh

14097357-mmmain

That was fun. Strange and fun. But mostly fun last night and then more strange this morning when I looked up the following information:

1) At 8-1, the seven run margin of victory was the third largest of the year.

2) That eight run total was only the tenth time this year they’ve scored eight or more runs.

3) At 68-61, their current seven game bulge over .500 is the high water mark of the year.

Back to the fun bits. Michael Pineda, who defines for me the scouting term “big frame”, was excellent. Apart from the Red Sox incident (and you know, barely taking the mound in almost three full seasons) he’s been great every time out there. I was guilty of only seeing him pitch once or twice in Seattle and attributing much of his pre-trade success to Safeco. But his stuff will play in every park, if you know, he actually pitches in that park. And while I’m impressed with how few people he’s walked thus far, I think it we’d have to invent the three-pitch walk to give a free a pass to a Royal. They play only hack-a-thons.

The Yankees tagged James Shields, who has been good-not-great this year. I think Shields is a fine pitcher and I’m not too concerned about this most recent ass-kicking, but I can envision a Yankee press conference introducing him this winter and I fear that would be… sub-optimal. The imagined justification: we like Lester way better, but we only had to commit four or five years to Shields. The sooner the Yankees stop this penny-pinching crap and get back to trying to win every year, including the year we’re actually living in, the better. And if they’re going to pinch pennies in the rotation, just pinch the shit out them and re-sign McCarthy.

Speaking of Brandon McCarthy, he’s battling Martin Prado for my favorite acquisition of the trade deadline. McCarthy has the stellar performance and the fun internet presence. Prado has had big hits and weirdly, looks like he’s always worn a Yankee uniform. His power outage in Arizona made him a buy-low and, if it returns, he’s a borderline All-Star.

In closing, the Royals are in a position to end years of futility by making the Postseason. They might even win the division, thus skipping the Wild Card peril and ensuring themselves a home game in front of delirious fans. Among those fans will no doubt be some of the vile lot that abused Robinson Cano in the All-Star Game in 2012. There was a time when I would have liked the Yankees (or even the Mariners, new home of the abused) and the Tigers to give them a big shit-burger to eat. But I’m letting this go because a path of tallying offenses doesn’t lead anywhere I’d like to go.

The season looked lost when they showed their stink side to the Astros last week. But a winning streak cures all and that’s what’s underway. Keeping up the winning ways this road trip will be a challenge, so at least they are starting off laughing.

 

 

(Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)

 

 

 

 

 

Don’t Sleep

sunnyhighway James Shields faces Michael Pineda and the Yanks tonight for a make-up game in K.C.

Jacoby Ellsbury CF

Derek Jeter SS

Brian McCann C

Carlos Beltran DH

Stephen Drew 2B

Martn Prado LF

Chase Headley 1B

Ichiro Suzuki RF

Zelous Wheeler 3B

Contenders or Pretenders: which one of dese?

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

[Photo Credit: Ralph Crane]

Million Dollar Movie

Ron-Galella-Dustin-Hoffman

More goodness from Cinephilia and Beyond:

[Photo Credit: Ron Galella]

Taster’s Cherce

PB-J-Ice-Cream-Sandwiches-HonestlyYUM1

Back to school special: PB & J ice cream sandwiches.

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