"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice
Category: Staff

Mama Said Tanaka You Out

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I should credit my friend Scott for the headline as he mentioned it as a possible name for his fantasy squad, but he ultimately rejected the handle because he’s a godforsaken Red Sox fan and couldn’t stand the idea of giving such an honor to a Yankee. So screw him.

When the Yankees signed Tanaka, we all breathed a huge sigh of relief as they had put the team before the tax and filled the hole in the rotation with the best available pitcher. But we didn’t exhale completely because we really didn’t know what we were getting. After today’s 3-0 win, my exhale is complete.

Sure he did it against a Cubs team that would make Ernie Banks say, “Let’s play none.” But we’re talking two lousy bunt hits away from a no-hitter. This is straight filth. What I have thoroughly enjoyed about his pitching is that his late innings are just as damn unhittable as his early ones. Moreso thus far.

Carlos Beltran and Jacoby Ellsbury continue to hit, though there wasn’t a lot in the pot for the offense today. No matter. Tanaka was so strong, Girardi traded a free base for an out just to be damn sure he plated the third run.

When Ellsbury nicked Baker’s glove and the ball dribbled into play in the fifth, he could have advanced to first, setting up first and third for the clean up hitter with one out. Instead, he took the out and the extra run, which must have seemed like ten more to the Cubs.

It’s so damn cold, Girardi would be well within his rights to rest some regulars tonight and the probabilty of a sweep isn’t going to be as high as I’d like. Still, I can’t see these Cubs running around the bases unless it’s a mascot race or something.   

Use this as your game thread for the nightcap. I will try to get you lineups when I see them.

 

Frost on First

There’s ice on the windshield this morning. God damned ice on the windshield. Girardi’s got a bunch of old guys with tweaks and playing in 35 degree weather ain’t what the doctor ordered. Here’s the lineup, Jeter’s not in it.

Brett Gardner LF
Carlos Beltran RF
Jacoby Ellsbury CF
Alfonso Soriano DH
Brian McCann C
Yangervis Solarte 2B
Kelly Johnson 1B
Dean Anna SS
Scott Sizemore 3B

Today’s the day all of Tanaka’s cold-weather preparation pays off.

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Double Drip

The Cubbies brought along their perpetual gloom when they arrived in the Bronx. The Yanks are rained out tonight and the two teams will have separate tilts tomorrow at 1 and 7 pm.   

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Rumor has it that the Cubs have all sorts of talent close to the Majors and might be good soon. But not by tomorrow, so let’s see a sweep please.

Too Late & Too Early

I had an early flight this morning, so I will have to guess the outcome. After 21 innings, Ichiro homered off Jonny Gomes to win it 9-8. Feel free to correct me in the comments.DSC_0003

And discuss how much we’ll miss mornings like the one in this picture.

Sixes and Sevens

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The Yankees are either going to be 7-6 or 6-7 after tonight and that’s not much to notice. But taking three out of four from Boston feels like it might drive the season in the right direction, doesn’t it? Plus three of four from Boston is s feel-good story no matter the time of year.

Brett Gardner LF
Carlos Beltran RF
Jacoby Ellsbury CF
Alfonso Soriano DH
Brian McCann C
Yangervis Solarte 2B
Kelly Johnson 3B
Francisco Cervelli 1B
Dean Anna SS

No Jeter again, but all his vitals check out. Maybe this is just Joe Girardi channeling his inner Popovich. If you’ve got nothing to do tomorrow, enjoy the game tonight.

Power Bombs

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The Yankees put the toothpicks away and broke out the heavy lumber yesterday. Five home runs piled up enough runs for Kuroda and the bullpen to secure the victory. The Yankee pitching has held the Red Sox in check if they haven’t shut them down and now they’ve got a chance to win the series by taking the Sunday Night Deluxe.

I didn’t see a pitch of this game because our Little League team had their Opening Day yesterday. Both boys are on the same team this year and I’m their coach. After two practices, a parade, a photo shoot and a game, I’ve been a much better coach to the strangers on the team. I’ll excuse all manners of grab-assing and dirt-clodding, chalking it up to their very young age. My kids get the stink-eye. I tell them to think of me as their teacher instead of their dad when we are at the field and then I immediately forget to treat them like the students. Nine games left to improve on that thankfully.

The team is sponsored by Garden Cafe. I nicknamed them the Gnomes, but it wasn’t tough enough apparently. The kids voted on a new team name and they chose Power Bombs. And they were right; they can hit.

At the first practice, I asked them all their favorite team and player. Two votes for the Mets and David Wright. Mostly Yankee fans. By far the most named player with five votes: Mr. Alex Rodriguez.

 

 

Reclaimed

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Last night’s recap: The Red Sox have sprinkled their magical beard dandruff on Grady Sizemore and turned him into a player again. It’s already cost the Yankees a game in the standings and Skinny C a notch in the loss column.

Today, I’d prefer the Yankees to win. Whaddya say?

Brett Gardner LF
Brian Roberts 2B
Jacoby Ellsbury CF
Carlos Beltran DH
Brian McCann C
Alfonso Soriano RF
Kelly Johnson 1B
Yangervis Solarte 3B
Dean Anna SS

 

Waiting for Lefty

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This frog butt to all the fuss about the pine tar. You know it’s a non-issue when even David Ortiz, who’s never shy to ham it up, let it slide. Game Two of this four-game set rocks tonight with Lester and Skinny C dueling. Got off on the right foot last night, now hop to the left with the southpaws. It will be interesting to see how Sabathia goes after this tough lineup with his softer stuff.

Jeter SS

Ellsbury CF

Beltran RF

Soriano DH

Cervelli C

Solarte 3B

Suzuki LF

Roberts 2B

Johnson 1B

Lineups Via LoHud

 

Michael, Plain and Tall

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At first blush, Michael Pineda, crooked capped and floppy limbed, looks like a prehistoric squid was handed a baseball and pointed in the general direction of home plate. And then cattle-prodded. Watching him plow through the Red Sox for six innings, deftly cutting the ball this way and that, the precision within the spasm is evident.

Pineda’s physical dominance and emphatic delivery will make a lot of hitters uncomfortable before he even throws a pitch. And then if his pitches are like this, woo boy. He might just have to hit a mascot in the head now and then to remind those hitters what’s at stake.

David Phelps converted the rare seven-out save to nail down Pineda’s well-deserved 4-1 victory. There was talk of a short bullpen, but regardless, it was refreshing to see Girardi stick with Phelps.

A pair of lefties, Sabathia and Lester, line up for the Friday night special.

The Chumps are Champs

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The Werld Champeen Red Sox ride into the Bronx atop a 4-5 record. Same as our heroes. Lots of season left for these two squads to define themselves and this early meeting might just be step one in that process. Clay Buchholz will face Michael Pineda in the opener this evening. Two righthanders going in Yankee Stadium, expect the left handed hitters to populate the lineups.

Brett Gardner LF
Derek Jeter SS
Jacoby Ellsbury CF
Carlos Beltran RF
Brian McCann C
Alfonso Soriano DH
Kelly Johnson 1B
Yangervis Solarte 3B
Dean Anna 2B

via LoHud

Start the series on the right foot, fellas.

Smallball Loses

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Early April dumps muddy cleats at the doorstep. And it never seems as warm as it should be. Last night was one of those chilly April nights in the Bronx, where the Yankees dropped a close one to the Orioles. The best game of the season so far, unless you prefer to win.

At decision time, Baltimore’s bloop-ball strategy proved more effective than Jeter’s small-ball. You make the call for yourself:

Score tied 3-3, in the bottom of the 8th. Brett Gardner, polishing off his lead-off double, stood at second base and Jeter promptly bunted him to third. Ellsbury popped up harmlessly to third base, wasting the bunt. The inning ended with Gardner still at third.

Baltimore started the top of the 9th the same way against current bullpen ace Shawn Kelley – double and bunt - but their bunt went foul. With two strikes they chose to swing away and not try to get out. They dunked in three straight bloop hits in front of the outfield and scored two runs.

Jeter’s bunt is disappointing for a lot of reasons, but it’s not the worst bunt ever bunted. One thing it is not is unpredictable. Jeter favors the bunt in those situations and though I don’t know who made the call,  he would have bunted on his own if he hadn’t received a sign. 

The Yankees made it interesting in the ninth with two lead off hits, but if you blinked you missed the sac fly and double play. Yangervis, swinging to end the game with a homer, got jammed and ended the game weakly taping into a double play. 5-4 for the Orioles.

About Tanaka. In two Major League games Masahiro Tanaka has racked up 18 strikeouts against a lonely walk. He making guys swing and miss by combining a Clemens level splitter and a Duque level slider. And though the fastball is a set-up pitch, don’t sleep on it or he’ll paint the corner at 93 MPH.

He’s the real deal. Will hitters figure out his stuff as the season goes on? Or will his experience in the Bigs help him avoid those few crushable mistakes he’s made each game? It will be a lot of fun to watch it evolve.

 

 

He Arrives

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The Fantastic Four handled Galactus with the Ultimate Nullifier. Here’s hoping Buck Showalter is no Reed Richards. Taking the series from Balitmore would be a sweet way to gear up for the World Chumps. And oh yeah, Tanaka’s in da Bronx on a night striped with tidings of Spring.

Haven’t gotten wind of a lineup yet, but I will try to post it when I do.

Cover Art by Jack Kirby, Fantastic Four #48, publishedby Marvel Comics

The Electric Spanking of Core Babies

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A day removed from the honor and hoopla of another Home Opener for the Yankees, which they happened to win , the Yankees returned for a second dose of Orioles baseball, courtesy of past manager and present raconteur Buck Showalter and company.  Ivan Nova, the imminent leader of the new school (if you will) facing Wei-Yin Chen; second in career major league wins to fellow countryman and former Yankee meteor Chien-Ming Wang. An intriguing matchup, no?

Uhh, nope.

In the first, Nova, who from what I was told had some issues in his previous start, but managed to work through them somehow, seemed perfectly content to pitch to contact; these were the Orioles after all, who seemed incapable of doing much of anything when they did make contact, or not so much that it mattered.  But then Old Man Jeter decided to go pastadiving on a windy, but indeterminate Tuesday afternoon and gave the Orioles some unexpected momentum.  The first run would score on a somewhat close play at the plate; Ellsbury showing a pretty good arm in CF threw home on a sac fly from Chris (Crush) Davis that hopped once kinda high before McCann, showing perfect form in allowing a clear alley for the runner to reach home plate, caught it and swipe-tagged in one motion, but too late to catch the sliding Markakis. Then Nova, still pitching to contact, hung something for Adam Jones whose eyes got really big and said “Hulk Smash!” and tanked it over the center field wall for a two-run job.  After some some quick words with himself, Nova decided to strike out Weiters and Cruz to end the bleeding. Already it was 3-0.

Yanks showed a little bit of initiative in the bottom, though it took them two outs to do it; Ellsbury managed to dump a single into shallow right, and Beltran doubled him in to get a run back. Soriano, who looks like he’s starting to catch up to the rest of the season skied out to end the inning and Nova came out to work again.  And labor he did; his pitches didn’t seem to want to listen to him too much as he gave up a single to second baseman Steve Lombardozzi (Jr.) and a well-executed drag bunt to Ryan (Hi Uncle Flash!) Flaherty, he of a 1-17 start to his season.  But Nova did flash some quick wit as Roberts gave him the cue; pirouetting nicely to catch  Lombardozzi off second.  Buck almost challenged the call, but maybe the pirouette looked too good to sully with doubt and instead settled for gnashing his teeth and shaking his head in disbelief as is his wont.  Nova was dealing now, his confidence seemed to falling back into place, but aww Schoop! He doubled down the third base line serving pasta in Port Jervis, and the score was now 4-1.

And nothing really happened until the fourth, when we all realized at the same time that the car battery was dead and Nova had nothing.  After Cruz flied out, the basement trio of Lombardozzi, Flaherty and Schoop each singled so that Markakis and Delmon Young each took a turn driving one of them in with a sac fly and a single.  That was it for Nova, and Cesar Cabral made his season debut while Nova left to a smattering of indifference. But since he cared, Roberts’ throw managed to pull Cervelli off first as Chris Davis beat his shift to first and they all gifted Nova with another one for the road. Cabral, for his part, walked the bases loaded before inducing a pop fly to left that almost caused more chaos, had not Gritner slid for second to avoid crashing into Jeter, who bogarted shallow left for the catch. 7-1.

But the Yanks showed some spunk. Soriano, he of the “he’s gonna be sooo bad this year” bat cannonballed one over left, and styled properly as a true home run hitter should. Why not? It was his 407th career HR, tying him at 50th with one Duke Snider who used to play somewhere on the opposite side of the universe (maybe we can talk about where in another post).  Cervelli followed with a sharp single to left. running hard like a hard single hitter should.  Roberts gave Chen, who was not spectacular but had a lot to work with, a hard time before singling on  3-2 to left (see a pattern developing here?) And then there’s this kid, this what’s his name? Yangervis Port Jervis? My friend, who I was watching the game with, couldn’t get his name straight no matter what I told him, As Kay, Cone and Singleton gabbed about his doubles power, he immediately powers a double to, yes, left, and my friend jumped up and said, “That boy’s name is ‘Doubles’!” (which immediately had me thinking of the possibility of a tie-in promotion with McDonald’s McDouble burger; worth a try if you’re high as some people would say).  Gardner followed with a RBI groundout and Jeter also grounded out, but the score was  now 7-4.

Vidal Nuño came on in place of Cabral in the fifth and retired the side on a Poughkeepsie Shuffle (4-6-3 double play) and a strike out of the suddenly hot Flaherty.  On the flipside, Ellsbury, becoming rather indispensable early on, hit a booming double and later stole third standing up before Chen had a chance to notice the sudden draft from second.  Nothing came of it though, and we all moved onto the sixth, where a familiar phrase floated in to haunt our man Nuño. It started out innocently enough with Schoop striking out, but then Markakis just had to single and then blammo! Delmon Young looped one over everyone’s heads and into the seats in left. The hits just kept coming after that, and the game shifted into a slow motion montage of carnage as Nuño was ripped apart from every angle. As he sighed and peered into the bullpen, the YES cameras showed us what he already knew: emptiness. No one was coming to the rescue. He was… taking one for the team.  11-4.

At this point I stopped taking notes and started thinking about what went well. Soriano’s showing some pop again. Jeter can still get a hit now and again.  Ellsbury is on a roll. I must take a trip to Port Jervis before it becomes de rigueur; hopefully find a nice hamburger or pizza joint. Roberts is still alive. Gritner still has his appendages. Betances, now there’s something else to cheer about; the kid looks like a Real Deal™ type that you hope the Yanks won’t destroy like the others they had recently. Good things can happen in bad places if you look hard enough for them; look at diamonds.  But since we’re looking at what is without a doubt a blood diamond at this point of the game, I have to inform or remind you that although Nuño managed to staunch the bleeding from that point and held his own for a couple more innings, there was no coming back from this.  No fight left em, save for one or two more McDouble by Doubles McJervis and the first homer of the season from Kelly Johnson (well, he had been fighting for that).  But between the time Girardi pulled the starters in the seventh and idiots were being gang-tackled by security to the vast amusement/relief of the paying leftover majority and up until that sidewinder Darren O’Day struck out Austin Romine, the rest of us had already pulled out of the parking lots and hit the Major Deegan or the New England Thruway, had flipped the channel or the flatscreen and took up horseback riding, mowing the lawn, paying the bills or returned to mundanity at work as the Yankees pulled their own pants back up and went quietly to their rooms to contemplate the spanking they had just received.

Deserve’s got nothing to do with this; see you in Hell, William Nathaniel Showalter III.  Yeah.

Final Score: 14-5.

[Photo Credit: Andrew Mills/The Star-Ledger]

Masa-Hero

Tanaka

It used to be that Michael Kay was as willing to cross the Canadian border as Snoop Dogg with a suitcase full of herb, but tonight’s game was big enough to pull even the reluctant Kay from New York into Toronto. A big game on April 4th? Not normally, but with Masahiro Tanaka on the mound for the Yankees, he being the splashiest Yankee acquisition since A-Rod, the most mysterious since Hideki Irabu, all eyes (and two Japanese networks) were on the Rogers Centre as the Yankees and Blue Jays met for the second series of the season.

If Tanaka was nervous about his debut, the Yankee offense gave him just what he needed with two runs in the top of the first. Jacoby Ellsbury led off with a booming double off the centerfield wall, then moved to third on a single through the hole by Brett Gardner. (I love Derek Jeter like we all do, but it sure is nice having those two speedsters atop the lineup.) A bloop single by Carlos Beltrán plated Ellsbury with the game’s first run, and two batters later Mark Teixeira poked a single into left to score Gardner. When Kelly Johnson singled sharply to load the bases with only one out, the Rogers Centre crowd grew restless, and it looked like the Yankees might break the game open before Tanaka even took the mound. But Ichiro struck out and Yangervis Solarte popped out down the right field line; even though any starting pitcher would happily take two first-inning runs, there was a sense that there should’ve been much more.

But it wouldn’t really matter, would it? Tanaka, after all, is unhittable. Reports from spring training were beyond phenomenal — hitters couldn’t identify his pitches, manager Joe Girardi raved about his poise, David Cone proclaimed his splitter the best on the planet — but how would he fare in a regular season game?

The answer came quickly. Our old friend Melky Cabrera led off for the Jays and watched two pitches, a strike and a ball, as if taking the measure of Tanaka. The next pitch came in flat and belt-high, and the result was predictable; Cabrera hammered it into the seats for a home run that split the lead and raised a few Yankee eyebrows. But Tanaka recovered to get Colby Rasmus to ground out before striking out José Bautista and Edwin Encarnación, and it looked like he had settled down.

Or perhaps not. Cabrera’s home run was the result of just a single bad pitch, but the next inning was more than that. Adam Lind grounded out for the first out, but the rest of the inning played out like this: single, single, error, two-run single. Tanaka again recovered, this time striking out Cabrera and Rasmus to get off the field, but the inning merits a second look.

It’s tempting to give Tanaka the benefit of the doubt. All three singles, as well as the ball that Teixeira gobbled up and fired into left field, were hit on the ground. Perhaps Tanaka was just unlucky. But take a closer look. Dioner Navarro was down 0-2 when he started the rally with the first single of the inning, Brett Lawrie was in a 1-2 hole before his single, and Ryan Goins was at 0-2 before watching a pitch for a ball and eventually grounding to Teixeira. With huge advantages over three consecutive hitters and an otherworldly splitter in his pocket, Tanaka failed to put away any of them. He paid the price and lost the lead.

It didn’t take long for the Yanks to get the lead right back for him. Ichiro came up with two outs and Brian Roberts on second. He grounded the ball to second and was signaled out, but even to the naked eye it looked like a missed call. Girardi bounced out of the dugout, challenged the call, and the umpires took just ninety seconds or so to get it right. So instead of getting off the field with a 3-2 lead, Toronto pitcher Dustin McGowan had to face one more hitter. It would be his last.

Solarte, who is making Eduardo Núñez rather forgettable, crushed a double to right center, easily scoring both Roberts and Ichiro to give the Yankees a 4-3 lead and send McGowan to the showers.

The Yankees pushed the advantage to 5-3 in the fourth (Brian McCann singled home Ellsbury, who had led off the inning with his second double of the game), but the real story was that Tanaka was finding his groove. He yielded a ringing double to Encarnación with one out in the third, but he worked around that easily, set down the Jays in order on just six pitches in the fourth, and cruised through the fifth, finishing off that frame with a strikeout of Bautista, the eighth consecutive Blue Jay to go down.

It was more of the same for Tanaka in the sixth and seventh. Encarnación reached to lead off the sixth but was promptly erased on a double play ball, and Tanaka skated the rest of the way, retiring the final five batters he faced.

The Yankee hitters also had a nice night, and they added a run in the eighth and another in the ninth to make the final score Yankees 7, Blue Jays 3. Ellsbury went 3 for 4 with two doubles, two runs, and two stolen bases; Gardner picked up two hits and a stolen base; Ichiro followed up Thursday’s two-hit night with three more singles; and Solarte had two doubles and three RBIs, but the story of the night was obviously Masahiro Tanaka. Yes, he struggled a bit at the outset, but he was dominant over his final five innings. He ended up pitching seven strong innings, giving up just two earned runs on six hits while striking out eight. One start does not an all-star make, but considering his stuff, his mound presence, and his demeanor, Tanaka looked like an ace on Friday night. I’m already looking forward to his next start.

[Photo Credit: Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images]

New York Minute

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The thaw has been gradual but it is supposed to be warmer today and warmer still tomorrow. Each night it stays light a little longer.

Ah, the light. C’mon Spring.

[Picture by Bags]

Easy Does It

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Joe Girardi talks about Michael Pineda:

Asked whether the Yankees will be able to get 200 innings out of Pineda, Girardi said flatly, “No you will not.” He wouldn’t go into detail, but Girardi made it clear that Pineda will be limited this season. He hasn’t pitched a full season since 2011, and even then he pitched just 171 innings.

So, basically, the Yankees want to do what’s best for the team as a whole, and they have to take into consideration the fact that one of their rotation candidates won’t be cleared for a normal 30-start season. Girardi said that limitation won’t rule out Pineda from the competition, it’s just that it might throw a wrinkle into the plan at some point.

“Hypothetically, let’s just say he was a starter at some point, you’d have to adjust because you’re not going to get 200 innings out of him,” Girardi said. “I don’t know (how that would work). I know they’ve talked about it. I’m sure if it becomes a factor and he’s part of our club, we’re going to have to see how it works.”
(Chad Jennings)

[Picture by Bags]

Beat of the Day

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The Duke Masters (1965)

[Picture by Bags]

Afternoon Art

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More melancholy beauty from our man Bags. 

Morning Art

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Picture by our man Bags. Who has been on fire of late.

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