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Two, Three, Break

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One last game in Toronto for The Scrubby Mustache Gang.

Jacoby Ellsbury CF

Chris Young LF

Alex Rodriguez DH

Mark Teixeira 1B

Brian McCann C

Carlos Beltran RF

Chase Headley 3B

Stephen Drew SS

Jose Pirela 2B

C.C. vs. ol’ Mark B.

Never mind nuthin’:

Let’s Go Yank-ees!

Back in the New York Groove

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I was in L.A. visiting friends for a few days. I brought an old 35 mm camera with me and took pictures. When I get the film developed I’ll post some. Such a weird, interesting city. So vast. And sadly, now, so hot and dry.

Big thanks to Jon for holding it down round here. I really enjoyed reading his game threads and recaps. Hey, how bout them Yankees still playing well? The Scrubby-Mustache Gang Rides Again.

So nice to be home.

 

 

The Art(s) of Hitting

Or science(s), if you prefer.

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Jacoby Ellsbury, quiet, balanced and deadly quick, is a joy to watch at the plate. He’s in the middle of a tear right now and you can count on three line blistered drives a night, but even when he’s not scorching, the swing is still a thing of beauty.

It’s a stark constrast to his partner in the outfield and atop the lineup. When Brett Gardner came up I had never seen a worse swing from a Major League player. He’d often lose his bat into the stands, flinging it further than the balls he hit. But Gardner’s swing evolved as he slowly added pull-power to an already useful profile.

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Look into their numbers and you’ll be there all day (I mean, if you go for that sort of thing and you have some free time, I’m endorsing frivolous procrastination or anything) as you compare and contrast all their different methods to skin the same cat. The cursory glance reveals Ellsbury to have more power, but that’s purely a shadow of the Green Monster.

Ellsbury makes more contact than Gardner, for good and for bad. Fewer whiffs but fewer walks as well. Despite a higher batting average for Ellsbury, Gardner actually gets on base just as often. Neither needs a platoon partner and of course, they have the wheels. But by appearance, you’d never mistake one for the other. Especially the follow-thru. Gardner’s one-handed, full-extenstion epee flick versus Ellsbury’s balanced, two-handed broad-sword sweep.

Their swings may be “beauty and the blech” but the results are damn similar (a good lesson to observers who like me, tend make a quick judgment on who can and cannot hit by the shape of their swing). And when they click like this, they’re an especially annoying echo chamber for the opposition. And Yankees are going to win a lot of games.

Like last night. Ellsbury and Gardner reached base five times between them and scored three runs. That alone should have been enough for the Yankees, but in between a strong 8-inning outing from Michael Pineda and a final out from Andrew Miller, David Carpenter got smeared for three runs. No matter though, as the Yankees had three more in their pocket and won 6-3.

***

And now I return you to your regularly scheduled host, Alex Belth. Thanks to Alex and all of you for letting me fill up the space this week. I will head back to twin forges of Little League and Pee Wee Soccer coaching and emerge at the end of June hoping to see the Yankees doing what they’re doing. Playing solid, winning baseball. The only difference is that I won’t be so surprised anymore.

 

Ellsbury Photo by Brad Penner via USA Today and NJ.com

Gardner Photo by AP via Newsday.com

Play it Cool

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Time for the Yanks to play it cool and rebound from the tough loss with a big win, like good teams usually do. I’m still not convinced this is a good team, but might as well act like one either way since they’re already in first place by a couple of games and all.

Feels like Michael Pineda is just the big lug the Yanks need to establish their presence with authority and even up this series.

Jacoby Ellsbury CF

Brett Gardner LF

Alex Rodriguez DH

Mark Teixeira 1B

Brian McCann C

Carlos Beltran RF

Stephen Drew 2B

Didi Gregorius SS

Gregorio Petit 3B

Lineup via LoHud

 

Update:

Lohud also says Jose Pirela has joined the Yankees in Toronto, but has not been activated. The “for rent” sign on second base has grown thick with dust. Let’s hope he takes it and does something with the place.

 

 

S-c-o-o-p

Anybody play “scoops” growing up? Chucking short-hops at each other until someone spells “s-c-o-o-p”? Like “horse” but more likely to cause a black eye. But I’m ahead of myself.

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In the bottom of the 8th inning last night, the Yankees clung to a 1-0 lead, delivered to the bullpen by a sterling Chase Whitley. Dellin Betances, who has been nigh mo-tomatic lately, was not summoned to face the Jays’ three best hitters. Instead, Chris Martin got the very high-leverage appearance and the go-ahead run was on base within three batters. (I didn’t have audio and I haven’t found out yet for sure, but my guess is Miller’s long outing yesterday made Girardi attempt to sneak through this game without him.)

Then came Betances, then came baseball. Dellin’s slow hook got Encarnacion to loft a weak fly ball, but whereas Ellsbury was in the perfect spot to preserve Sunday night’s win, Gardner was in the perfect spot to lose Monday’s lead. The big swing coupled with the weak contact led Gardner on a long, curving route and the ball nestled softly into the corner for a double.

With the go-ahead run on third base, Betances got the second out before facing old-friend Russell Martin. Betances went after him with a steady diet of breaking balls, but with the count full, Martin has seen enough of the knuckle-curve and smacked a hot shot down the third-base line. Chase Headley, playing deep, sprung towards the foul line and snagged the grounder prematurely, as it was surely ticketed for the left field corner. Headley was on his feet and firing across the diamond in an instant, turning a double into a possible out. I’d bet good money the name “Brooks Robinson” was mentioned in the booth. The play was that good.

Too good to be true. Headley’s laser-beam throw from behind the third base bag was right on line but just a hair short. The ball skidded off the dirt as first baseman Garrett Jones stretched heroically but futilely. He swiped his glove at the short-hop, found the ball land true for the briefest moment before failing to squeeze it for the out. The ball skipped to the middle of the infield and two runs scord and the Jays won, 3-1.

It was almost a play for the season’s highlight reel and instead it’s a tough loss. Maybe Teixeira makes the scoop. Maybe. Probably.

Of course he does.

 

Back of the Line

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The Toronto Blue Jays are you at the Halal cart, next in line to order chicken over rice, white and hot sauce please, waiting patiently and quietly, perhaps distracted by an interesting cloud formation or a bike-messenger’s near-miss with a yellow cab. Meanwhile, the rest of the American League East pushes around you, yells over you and slaps their money on the counter and doesn’t even bother to look at you, let alone apologize, as they plant an elbow in your rib cage and knock you back to last place.

And look at that, the Yankees travel to Toronto and find the Blue Jays are in last place. The Rays drafted their way to the front of the line when the Yanks and Red Sox were both still trying and the Orioles have at least taken advantage of the latest Yankee “blue period” and the Boston cellar/series/cellar Oreo to play October baseball. The Jays are going nowhere, fast, again.

A few times the prognosticators have anointed them, most especially when they were able to off-load Vernon Wells on the Angels. But unloading a terrible contract doesn’t necessarily lead to being a good team. Shedding salary (albeit unconscionable salary) just creates empty space. Bautista, Encarnacion and now Donaldson are fun as heck as they swing from the heels and try to hit everything in orbit, but it still seems a sideshow thus far this year.

That doesn’t mean they can’t bloody a team in a short series. Look no further than opening week when the Yanks were fortunate to win one of three and were outscored 15-8. Chase Whitley will find a different breed of hitter in this game than he did against Tampa. And R.A. Dickey has handled the Yankees well as a Blue Jay. But even still, the Yanks have muscled their way into first place, now’s not the time to look back and apologize.

 

Photo via Wikipedia

Taster’s Cherce

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I’m always trying to get to like radicchio but it never works out. I never turn the corner. Still, I’d try this. Food 52 rocks.

Beat of the Day

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Not necessarily…

New York Minute

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When we’re just getting up she’s already on the clock, getting it done.

Parting is Such Sweep Sorrow

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It’s hard to imagine ever saying this, but a couple more games in Boston would be pretty great right about now. Those guys will get it together at some point this season and they’ll revamp the rotation with young guns or Cole Hamels or whatever and they will not be such easy-pickens.

Even with this vulnerable squad, the Sox turned an 8-0 hole into a nail biter as David Ortiz was one swing away from winning the game with bases loaded and two outs in the ninth. Andrew Miller will not, apparently, save every game in 1-2-3 fashion, so he might be human after all. He issued an ominous lead-off walk that opened the door to the top of the lineup where Mookie Betts and Dustin Pedroia survived his entire arsenal to reach base (a walk and panic-sweat inducing error by Headley).

Miller went to the slider to bury Ortiz and it looked like he wouldn’t test his shovel as the first two pitches baffled Papi. But Ortiz buckled down in that annoying way great hitters do and that last strike a lot tougher than the first two. He spit on two chasers and then lashed a liner to center. With all the shifts in baseball, especially with hitters like Ortiz, it’s always a mystery as to where the fielders are standing when they cut to the field camera. Fortunately, this time Ellsbury was standing right where he needed to be and wrapped up the win (and a wonderful night for himself), 8-5.

And now to Canada! Through customs and everything, to face the Blue Jays who so rudely ruined the season opening series by kicking Yankee-butt. Fortunes have flipped though and let’s hope the Yankees can return the favor.

***

After a very thorough second-grade Social Studies unit on Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty, we went to visit the museum and ride the ferry. The kindergartner was very taken with the immigration process as we moved from Great Hall to examiniation room around the island. When we had visitors from Boston a few weeks later, he checked with me, “Will they have to go through Ellis Island to get here?” They should Henry, they should.

To Sweep, Perchance to Dream

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The Yankees have the chance to leave Boston with a red smear on the bottom of their spikes. They’ve won the series either way, but putting an exclamation point after the third game would be a welcome conclusion.

It’s a Sunday night special, under the lights. Adam Warren and Joe Kelly have the honor of trying to keep the game under five hours. Godspeed to them. It’s a fortunate schedule as it’s majestic outside right now.

I’ll keep my eyes peeled for the lineups, but in the meantime, enjoy a heckuva day.

The Flayed Man

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The Yankees beat the Red Sox today 4-2, and through 24 games, this season has been a breath of fresh air. Suck it in, savor it, because here comes the stench.

Word-murderer Brian Cashman announced after the game that the Yankees have chosen not to pay Alex the six million dollar bonus he earned last night. He says they are honoring the contract by opting out. As dumb as that sounds, it sounds even dumber when I don’t paraphrase. This from the Wallace Matthews ESPNNewYork.com article :

“We’re going to honor our responsibilities of the contract,” Cashman said. “(But) how it’s been reported . . . and what the contract actually says are two different things. It’s not ‘you do this, you get that.’ It’s completely different. It’s not all of a sudden, we’re choosing not to do something. If we choose to pursue something we’ll choose to pursue it. If we choose not to, it’s our right not to. In both cases, we’re honoring the contract.”

There are a few people who are privy to the exact wording of the contract, but it’s very hard to believe it’s written in such a way that the Yankees can honor a contract built to pay a player for hitting home runs by not paying him for hitting those home runs. For this to be the case, these well-reported milestone bonuses would rather be Yankee-held options on marketing contracts that they get to consider when the homers are hit. If that sounds absurd just on the face of it, consider this contract was written in 2007!

It makes no sense for Alex to give the Yankees right of first refusal on a marketing partnership so many years in advance without getting something for it. What he got, or obviously what everybody thought he got, was a guaranteed $6 million pay out when he hit the dingers. And the Yankees were going to Steinerize and memorabiliorate until the cows came home with profits. The cows appear unladen and the Yankees are backtracking, feebly.

Putting the organization’s shamelessness aside (After all, that’s the primary reason Cashman is still around right? He’s SO willing to be publicly humiliated on a semi-regular basis) the focus for all of us fans and all other players ever contemplating signing another free agent contract with the Yankees should be on the willingness for the Yankees to have this debate in the public forum. Just as last year, when they relied on our distaste for Alex to join with Bud Selig to railroad him out of baseball for an entire season (112 games more than the CBA dictated) again they are cocksure that we’ll take their side when they deny him his bonus.

This organization became caretakers of the longest running success story in American sports history, experiencing victory in every conceivable way from 1994-2012 (forgiving 2008) and took a pillow to it. They’ve been so ruthlessly effective that just two-plus years removed from the last division title, Yankee fans are gobsmacked by a hot streak in April. The team was so dead on arrival this year that I got an email asking if I’d like to come to Opening Day. On Opening Day. And the fact that they have a pulse on May 2nd is thanks to the surprisingly strong heartbeat of the very man they plan to screw six ways to Sunday.

The Yankees are the devil masquerading as a bank but appearing as a joke. It’s time for the inverse of Seinfeld’s laundry theory. Root for the flesh and blood. Fuck the pinstripes.

 

Thank You Alex, May We Have Another?

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Hopefully the Yankees celebrated last night’s victory and Alex’s historic homer with an early bedtime and chaste reflection. Though actually the 1986 Mets would be just getting back to the hotel right now, and that worked out pretty well, so who knows.

Either way, it’s a day game with Nathan Eovaldi and Wade Miley as the most recent versions of National League exchange students who very well may soil themselves when pitching in front of the Green Monster. (Burnett, Pavano, Wright, Vazquez, Clement, Penny, Dempster… will they ever learn?)   Here’s hoping that Eovaldi, and not Miley, breaks that cycle.

I won’t be in for the lineups, but let’s hope Alex is in the game and mushing 661 with the sun high in the sky.

Say Hey-Rod

Six. Six. Oh, so sweet.

When I was a kid, I cared deeply about Reggie hitting his 500th homer and climbing the ladder of all-time greats. Even with the all the bias of the fanatic, I knew there were some numbers that would never, ever fall. 660. 714. 755.

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And even though a slew of sluggers have crashed the club in the recent era, only one guy knocked down those big three numbers, and Barry Bonds is the greatest hitter I’ve ever seen. In the eighth inning tonight, Alex Rodriguez launched a game-winning missile over the Green Monster for, get this, the first pinch-hit homer of his career. And it was also #660, tying him with Willie Mays for fourth on the all-time list.

But this was a scene within a scene. Alex began the game on the bench as Girardi stacked the lineup with lefties against right-hander Justin Masterson and his notorious platoon split. He had come off a brutal game in Wednesday’s extra-inning loss and surely wanted to get back on the horse. YES had already generated graphics showing the long homerless stretches that accompanied his previous milestones.

When Joe called on Alex to pinch-hit in the 8th, the score was tied 2-2 as the lefties created chances but never really broke through. Oh, the boos. Sustained, lusty boos rained down on Alex when he came up. He took some close pitches and found himself at 3-0. In the interview after game, he told Meredith Markovitz that Girardi had directed the Yankees to rethink their approach and take more advantage of just such counts. Alex said he heard Joe’s voice in his head right before the pitch…

He took advantage. Junichi Tazawa centered a 94 mph fastball and Alex lashed a blue dart right down the line. The ball didn’t clear the wall by a lot, but there was nothing cheap about it.

Andrew Miller (we don’t talk about pitchers becoming TRUE Yankees like we do with hitters, but Andrew Miller makes a pretty great Yankee, don’t you think?) capped three scoreless bullpen innings and CC Sabathia pitched just as well as you could hope a down-on-his-luck lefty could pitch in Fenway.

I hope there’s a kid out there who cares about this homer as much as I did when Reggie hit his.

“A” is for April

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The Yankees won April. That’s one more month than I thought they were going to win. But they’re only up one game on the Rays and Sox and barely more than that over the Orioles and Jays. One bad weekend and we can turn these standings upside down.

Of course, it’s more than the records. The Yankees have held their own against their direct competitors and their series wins against Detroit and the Mets are more impressive than anything else the AL East has mustered. But one bad weekend and… you know.

The coming weekend series, whether good, bad or otherwise, is up in Boston against those second-place Sox. The Yanks would do well to leave Boston with the Sox in third or fourth. But just keeping them in second would be a major accomplishment.

The Red Sox, against all odds, do not have the starting pitcher with the higher ERA in tonight’s matchup. CC Sabathia, 0-4, would fit right in the Boston rotation however as they, as he, have served it up to all comers thus far. Chops will be licked in Fenway tonight.

Jacoby Ellsbury CF

Brett Gardner LF

Mark Teixeira 1B

Brian McCann C

Carlos Beltran RF

Chase Headley 3B

Garrett Jones DH

Stephen Drew 2B

Didi Gregorius SS

Lineup via LoHud

 

Morning Art

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Picture by Christian Coigny.

Thirteen

The Yanks lost to the Rays 3-2 in thirteen innings today, and #13 was el-stinko, going hitless in six at bats, striking out four times and ending the game as the winning run by grounding into a double play. Egads, lock that game in a box and drown it. Alex… he’s come a long way, but he ain’t there yet.

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They had chances to win with a base hit in the 10th and 12th, but Didi Gregorius kept finding himself holding the bat in those spots and I’m not 100% certain he knows how to use that thing. Oh well, the Rays weren’t going to lose every game they play against the Yanks this season.

The Yankee bullpen, reprising it’s ongoing Winston Wolf impersonation, backed up a good-not-great Pineda with 7.3 spectacular innings. They struck out seven, and allowed only five baserunners (four of those in the last two innings by Shreve, one of which was an intentional walk). And the bullpen took the loss. Tough luck.

So the Yanks are stuck on thirteen wins, but still in first place for at least another day. Boston is only one game behind and that’s who’s on deck. Another series win would be sweet.

 

 

 

Ask It If It Can Pitch

Likely exhausted from the many, arduous takes of that omnipresent bobblehead commercial, Masahiro Tanaka is going to be out for a long time. The Yanks say he’ll sit on the shelf for at least a month, right next to the damn doll. Though it’s hard to guess the return date, the “forearm strain” is quite often the precursor to full-blown ligament replacement. Screw that! “Maybe only a month” is what I’m choosing to hear.

New York Yankees

That leaves it to Michael Pineda to slide up a day (he’s still on normal rest however, so it’s nothing crazy) and take the ball for this afternoon’s series finale. The Yankees have already taken the series from the Rays and sit on top of the AL East by two full games, so no matter what happens today, they’ll wake up tomorrow in first place. Wow, just wow to that notion.

But since we’re here anyway, maybe just win this one too?

(Today’s lineup via LoHud)

Jacoby Ellsbury CF

Chris Young LF

Alex Rodriguez DH

Mark Teixeira 1B

Carlos Beltran RF

Chase Headley 3B

John Ryan Murphy C

Gregorio Petit 2B

Didi Gregorius SS

 

(Photo by Charles Wenzelberg, Via NY Post)

Why Don’t You Stay Awhile?

Chase Whitley threw 75 innings for the 2014 Yankees. Huh. (File that to the long list of things that I missed about the 2014 Yankees.) The Yanks called on him for a spot start in May that turned into twelve. It’s happening again.

Called up for a spot start Tuesday, Whitley found himself in the rotation before throwing a pitch as Tanaka’s forearm injury will sideline him for a month. Whitley, for his part, didn’t make things awkward since he went out and pitched well into the sixth in another Yankee victory, 4-2, over the Rays. Those of you well-attuned to the 2014 club will also know the Yankees won eight of Whitley’s twelve starts last year and won’t be that surprised.

These Yanks, what’s the word for them? Versatile? I’m open to suggestion. They’ve won all kinds of ways thus far.

They’re at the top of the league in homers and doubles. But they’re not winning slugfests every night. And they keep tacking on runs throughout the game, as opposed to, you know, not scoring many runs at any time. They’re winning the tight ones where the Plan-A bullpen has to lock down four innings, like last night. Last night the Plan-A bullpen wasn’t even available and they plowed through the Rays just the same.

The only kind of game they haven’t won yet is that 1-0 or 2-1 starting pitcher duel. And sadly, when they win one of those, it probably won’t be their best pitcher on the hill. It’s a shame to lose Tanaka, but if there’s a less-surprising DL stint not involving Carl Pavano, I can’t recall it.

Step inside, Chase Whitley, step inside.

i

 

(AP Photo/Julie Jacobson via ESPN.com)

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