"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice
Category: Game Recap

No Horseplay, Please.

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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.

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.

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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

 

You’re Allowed to Laugh

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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)

 

 

 

 

 

Damn Skippy

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I listened to the first couple of innings of the ball game on Friday night on the radio. I was on a Trailways bus headed upstate to visit my cousin and a few friends for the weekend. As the game started, we were stuck in traffic. Outside–I think we were near Newburgh–it began to ran. Game started like this for the White Sox: base hit, base hit, home run. The next two batters hit long outs–one to the warning track, the other one to the wall.

Welp, it’s gonna be one of those weekends, I figured.

But the Yanks rallied to beat the Sox, won again on Saturday, then yesterday, another comeback. I heard their rally, David Robertson give up a game-tying home run in the 9th and then Brian McCann’s game-ending, pinch-hit homer in extra innings, on the radio again. This time I was in the passenger seat of my buddy’s car. He met me upstate and we had lunch with a friend. Now we were taking a few short cuts to avoid traffic–which we did–and on a lovely, late August afternoon, we listened to John Sterling bring us home. This was no fun for my pal, I should note, as he’s a Red Sox fan, but he was in a good mood so he didn’t mind.

I was happy too and so were the Yanks.

Final Score: Yanks 7, White Sox 4. 

[Picture by Bags]

Faith

Joe Torre Joe Day was a Good day.  Here’s rooting for more goodness this afternoon when the Yanks have to contend with the formidable Chris Sale. Never mind the summer breeze: Let’s Go Yank-ees! [Photo Credit: AP via Lo Hud]

Thank You Sir, May We Have S’More?

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Lousy first inning, no problem. Late magic.

Here’s hoping fer s’more today!

Let’s Go Yank-ees!

[Picture by Bags]

Just Desserts

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Brandon McCarthy: stud. 

[Photo Credit: Danny Ghitis via MPD]

Down Beat

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There is a special kind of quiet that accompanies baseball in the middle of August. I noticed it on Monday night when I caught the first couple of innings of the Reds Cardinals game. It wasn’t silence more like white noise. There it was again last night at Yankee Stadium. Maybe it’s the Yankees–they are a mediocre team playing for a crowd accustomed to something better. Or maybe it’s just the time of year. People are on vacation, and even those of us who work each day, well, the pace is slower. It’s time for swimming and corn and tomatoes not for getting too excited.

There were moments for cheering, like when Martin Prado got a big, game-tying hit. And there was  enough umph for booing too, which is what David Robertson heard as he walked off the field after giving up the 3-run homer that sunk the Yanks in the 9th. Robertson has been terrific this year and I only hope he didn’t take the boos personally. The outburst proved that not everyone was asleep.

Final Score: Astros 7, Yanks 4.

[Picture by Bags]

Only So Much to Go Around

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All season long I’ve played a game with myself as I watch Derek Jeter. He gets a base hit and I wonder how many he has left? Gets a double and wonder, hey, I bet he’s only got 8 more of those left. That kind of thing. That feeling–that there is a finite amount of hits and runs–is also how I’ve been thinking about the team. They win or lose close games as if they were rationing runs.

Yesterday, thanks to a solid start by Hiroki Kuroda, who retired 17 Rays in a row at one point, a big strike out by Shawn Kelley, and the usual strong work from Betances and Robertson, the Yanks won. They were no-hit by Jeremy Hellickson until the 5th inning. Then, after a walk (Drew) and a double (Prado), Brett Gardner slapped Hellickson’s 90th pitch into center for a base hit. Jeter and Ellsbury followed with singles, too, and later Mark Teixeira hit a solo home run.

You’ve got to appreciate the runs, the wins when they come because it’s as if there is just so many to go around. This has been an unspectacular season–some find it outright boring–but there is also something satisfying about each win because they feel so hard-earned.

[Picture by Bags]

The Success of Failure

Derek Jeter

If there’s been one consistent annoyance about Derek Jeter’s game over the years it’s his penchant for the sacrifice bunt. Sometimes, of course, it’s the right move. Sometimes, he’s just following orders. But there are time, like yesterday in the 9th inning with Brett Gardner on second and nobody out, where I yelled, “just swing away, Jeets, drive him in, don’t just move him over.” Well, Jeter tried to bunt anyhow, four times in a row. He took two pitches for balls, another two for strikes. And then he singled past the second basemen, and Gardner scored the go-ahead–and winning–run.

On an afternoon where the Bombers got another impressive start out of Shane Greene, they edged-out the Rays, 3-2.

[Photo Credit: AP via Chad Jennings]

Putt Putt Putt

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim v Texas Rangers

I’m sharing this picture of an unidentified member of the World Famous Wheelie-ing Elvi taken by Tom Pennington last night in Arlington (and brought to my attention by It’s a Long Season) because it’s a lot more fun than anything that happened in the Yankees’ 5-0 loss in Tampa.

Payback

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Michael Pineda was impressive in his return and Dellin Betances was dynamite until he gave up a game-tying solo home run, but when Adam Jones hit a back-breaking 3-run home run off Shawn Kelly, all you could do is sit there and take it. The Yankees have been kicking the crap out of the Orioles–or at least getting the better of them–for 20 years. This season, the Orioles are enjoying some sweet revenge.

They’re due.

Final Score: Orioles 5, Yanks 3. 

Shhh, Baby’s Sueno

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The Yankees scored 10 runs on Friday night and didn’t score again until Jacoby Ellsbury hit a solo home run today in the 9th inning.

Right.

The up-and-down Yankees end the weekend on a down note, falling to the Indians, 4-1.

[Featured Image via]

Shut Down

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Yanks had their chances but could not do anything with them as they fell to the Indians 3-0 after the organization honored Paul O’Neill.

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[Photo Credit: Bruce Davidson]

Yanks Pound Tribe

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And survive a comeback…Carlos Beltran with a grand slam.

Final score: Yanks 10, Indians 6. 

And more good news–Michael Pineda is on his way back.  The one note of concern–Brian McCann suffered a mild concussion. 

Drawing by Jack Kirby. 

How Greene Was My Valley

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The kid Shane Greene pitched into the 9th inning yesterday afternoon at the Stadium. He was removed from the game when he gave up a base hit to start the final inning, his team hanging on to a 1-0 lead. Greene walked off the field stoically, didn’t even tip his cap. Ah, the demeanor of a baseball redass.

David Robertson relieved him, walked Victor Martinez, and then had to contend with pinch-hitter, Miguel Cabrera, all of Greene’s fine work, hanging in the balance. Robertson got Cabrera to hit a ground ball up the middle. The second baseman Brendan Ryan fielded the ball, stepped on second and whipped the ball to first to complete the double play. Then Don Kelly hit a soft line drive to Stephen Drew at short, Yankees win: cue Sinatra.

Four close games and the Yanks took three of them against the Tigers.

Not bad, indeed.

[Picture by Bags]

 

Tigers, Minus the Bite

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Justin Verlander is broken; that’s the word anyway. He had off-season surgery on his core muscles and he’s responded with possibly the worst season of his career. (It’s definitely due to my ignorance of the human anantomy, but when I hear “core muscles” I think of some heavily-fortified, organic power core, like the center of the Death Star.) We know something about this kind of stink – CC Sabathia fell off dramatically last year and instead of rebounding, looks like he’s crashed through floor and it’s an open question whether or not there’s a crane in existence equipped to lift him out.

Verlander is not Sabathia however. He’s younger, slimmer and still taking the ball every fifth day. His diminished velocity had him throwing in the 91-93 range last night with the power to kick it up to 95 mph when facing Carlos Beltran in a big spot in the fourth. Verlander owerpowered Beltran with the fastballs and then put him away with a baffling change-up.

With a curve ball bending mostly to his will, Verlander did not look broken last night. He didn’t look like the pitcher he was in 2011-2012, but he was good. The Yankees didn’t get to him at all until the fourth and they didn’t do any real damage until the fifth. 

Credit Paul O’Neill with the blueprint for how to beat him last night. After watching Verlander cruise through the early part of the game, O’Neill said he might only make a few mistakes tonight and that the Yankees better hope those mistakes end up in the seats. Chase Headley did the honors in the fifth, clubbing a less-than-baffling change into the second deck in right. And then Brian McCann did the same to one of those low 90s fastballs in the seventh. 

Another solid contribution from the booth accompanied McCann’s blast as Michael Kay noted that Verlander’s late-game velocity was nothing like it used to be. Hard to imagine McCann turning on that high fastball on the outer edge if it was 97 instead of 91. (We get on the announcers a lot so it’s only fair to point out when they make a good point, no?)

But how to make two solo homers stand up against the division-leading Tigers? Chris Capuano dealing is one way I guess. Derek Jeter booted the first play of the game and that set-up the Tigers’ only run off Capuano. Thanks to change-up that did not deviate from baffling all night, he never really faced any trouble until the Tigers paired two-singles in the seventh. Adam Warren shut down that inning and then stuck around to help himself out of what could have been a back-breaking eighth.

After Stephen Drew made corned beef hash out of a grounder, the tying and go-ahead runs were on third with one out. Adam Warren fell behind the suddenly dangerous J.D. Martinez 3-0 and pumped three fastballs in there for the crucial whiff. Strikes two and three were of the giddy-up variety, challenging Martinez high in the zone and blowing him away.

The Yankees scored insurance runs in their part of the eighth, which are truly some of the best kinds of runs for my money. Warren’s heroics after Capuano’s heavy-lifitng gave both Betances and Robertson a much deserved night off and the Yankees won 5-1. The Yankees look to take a shocking-but-necessary three of four from the Tigers this afternoon. This typically would be a day for a house money lineup, but not this is not the season for one. All hands on deck please.

Image via moggyblog (Copyright by the owner)

Seen Previously

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As previously mentioned, happiness and frustration with these 2014 Yankees are never far apart. The Yanks had a 3-1 lead against the Tigers last night with David Price on the mound but couldn’t hold it and Alex Avila’s solo home run in the 12th inning was the difference.

Tiger 4, Yanks 3.

Tough game. What I’ll remember most is Dellin Betances facing the great Miguel Cabrera. He fell behind 2-0 and so you figure he’ll throw a fastball, right? Nah, nasty breaking ball, off the outside corner. Cabrera swung and missed. Then, fastball, just off the plate, but too tempting to lay off. One hundred miles per hour, and Cabrera swung through that too. He waved at the next one, another hundred mile an hour fastball. Nifty. And something tells me he’ll touch Mr. Betances one day as revenge.

[Photo Via: Forgotten New York]

Stayin’ Alive

yankees-v-detroit-tigers Watch enough baseball and you develop a sharp sense for knowing if an outfielder is going to catch a fly ball or not, even if they wind up making an improbable catch. There’s just something about their body language that says, “I’ve got this.” That’s how I felt last night in the third inning when Ezequiel Carrera, playing a shallow center field with the bases loaded with nobody out, raced to left center field after a shot hit by Jacoby Ellsbury. He dove as he neared the warning tracked and made a beautiful catch. Heck, he almost overran the ball. Hard to predict making a play like that and yet it seemed like he had it the whole way. carerra_catch_tumblr_l4fj5wps.gif Ellsbury had rounded first and he looked at the TV screen in center field and watched a replay as he walked back to the dugout, hands on his hips. He had a half-smile on his face and he watched and then turned his eyes to Carrera. “Man, you hurt my feelings,” he seemed to be saying. It was the play of the night in what was otherwise a close but sleepy game at the Stadium. Game like that in September or October and the place is ripe with tension. But the fans at the ball park last night seemed lulled by the lack of run-scoring. The Yanks ended up scoring twice in the 3rd and that’d be enough for them to squeeze out another close win, this time: 2-1. That’s the way things have gone this season–win a close one, lose a close one. I’m just pleased they won this one, right? Especially with David Price going tonightski. [Photo Credit: Robert Sabo/N.Y. Daily News]

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