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

Three Times Dope

When Pablo Sandoval launched his third homer on Wednesday night, I selfishly rooted for the ball to hit the wall. I didn’t like seeing Reggie’s signature moment so easily matched. It used to be just Reggie and Babe and that properly placed the feat on hallowed ground. And fine, if they had to make room for someone, then living-legend Albert Pujols was the right guy. But in the instant Sandoval’s shot soared towards center field, I decided the guy named after a cartoon Panda wasn’t welcome.

As many decisions hastily reached and selfishly born, this one does not stand up to scrutiny. First of all, two of Sandoval’s homers were off Justin Verlander, the best pitcher in the game right now. Second of all, those first two homers occurred in a very tight game with an unreliable pitcher on the mound for the Giants. And he did it in his own home park – a notoriously hard place to dinger. 

I remembered Pujols’ homers did not seem critical in their Game 3 blow out of the Rangers lat year. I know Reggie’s homers like I hit them myself, but I didn’t know much about Ruth’s.

Shall we?

Babe Ruth 1926 – Game 4

The Yankees were down two games to one against the Cardinals. The Redbirds threw a pitcher named Flint Rhem. Rhem is not a household name, but he pitched over 1700 innings in the big leagues, and in 1926 he led the National League in wins while posting an ERA of 3.21, 22% better than the league. It would be wrong to call him the ace of a staff that included two Hall of Famers (Jesse Haines and Pete Alexander), but he did have the best numbers and the most innings pitched that year.

The Babe did not have the advantage of hitting in a ballpark built to his specs for this game, but Sportsman’s Park was, by the standards of the day, one of the easiest places to hit homers. The Cardinals and Browns both played their home games there, and though the two teams didn’t have much else in common, their pitching staffs finished one-two in homers allowed in 1926 (and 3-4 in 1928).

In the top of the first, Babe Ruth hit a solo homer with two down to draw first blood. St. Louis countered with a run off of Waite Hoyt in the bottom of the first, so it was all tied-up again when Ruth batted with two down in the third. He hit another solo homer, giving the Yankees the lead for a second time.

The Yankees tacked on another run in the top of the fourth inning and the Cardinals put up three of their own in the bottom half. Babe Ruth walked in the decisive Yankee rally in the fifth, which left the score 7-4 in favor of New York. When he hit his third homer, it was a two run blast in the sixth off a relief pitcher named Hi Bell and it put the game out of reach, 9-4. The final score was 10-5. 

Looking back over the game, Ruth gave the Yankees two early leads and sealed the victory. His homers accounted for only 40% of Yankee runs however. His cumulative WPA for the homers (hWPA) was 0.31, but then again, two Yankee doubles in the fourth had bigger impacts on the result (by WPA) than any of the homers.

The Yankees needed this game to even the series. They ended up losing in seven games, but this outcome was vital to the extension of the season. Ruth added two walks to his three jacks, scored four and drove in four. His total WPA for the game was 0.35 and his third homer still had impact on the outcome, at 0.09 WPA, something none of the other guys can say.

Babe Ruth 1928 – Game 4

In a revenge series, the Yankees stood on the precipice of a sweep of the Cardinals in Game 4 in St Louis. The Yankees again turned to Waite Hoyt as the Cardinals pitched Bill Sherdel. Sherdel, like Rhem in 1926, was the best pitcher in the St. Louis rotation that year, leading the team in innings, wins and ERA. But he was one of four interchangeable parts and probably not at the top of the pecking order. 

The Cardinals broke a scoreless tie in the third on a sac fly by Frankie Frisch. Ruth knotted the score one batter into the fourth with a solo homer. The Cardinals struck back with a run in the bottom half. Sherdel and Hoyt kept it there until the seventh. Ruth again homered to tie the score. This time Gehrig backed him up and took the lead for good.

It was 6-2 when Ruth took his final hack in the eighth and plopped another solo bonk to finish the Yankees scoring. A few outs and one meaningless Cardinal run later, the Yankees were World Champs, four games to none.

The Babe’s impact on this game was muted slightly because he hit into a double play in the first and grounded out with two on in the fifth. The hWPA was 0.33, higher than in 1926, but for overall WPA he landed at 0.24 since he helped kill two rallies as well. Gehrig’s homer which finally gave them the lead was the biggest play of the game, but Ruth homers occupied the next two places in line. 

Of course this was Game 4 of a sweep, so there was more margin for error than during his previous three-pronged attack. But the fact that he clinched the Series is pretty cool too.

Reggie Jackson 1977 - Game 6

Moving to more familiar territory, there’s Reggie Jackson eliminating the Dodgers in 1977. Reggie did it in Yankee Stadium, making good use of the short right field porch for his first two homers. He could have used the Grand Canyon for the third one.

Burt Hooton got the ball for Game 6 and tried to get the Dodgers to Game 7. Like the Cardinals above, these Dodgers featured a deep staff of which Hooton was just one of several good pitchers. He didn’t age as well as Don Sutton or Tommy John, but at the time, he was as good as any of them, leading the 1977 Dodgers in ERA. He pitched 59.7 Postseason innings and went 6-3 with a 3.17 ERA (3-3 against the Yankees from 1977-1981).

Reggie had hit a meaningless homer in the ninth inning of Game 5 in Los Angeles. The Dodgers routed the Yanks 10-4 to force Game 6 and they kept the pressure on when Steve Garvey tripled home two runs in the top of the first. Reggie led off the second inning with a four pitch walk and Chris Chambliss homered to tie the game.

The Dodgers scored again, so when Reggie batted in the fourth with Munson on first, the Yankees trailed 3-2. Reggie hit the first pitch on a line into the right field seats. The Yankees led 5-3 when Reggie faced Elias Sosa in the fifth. Reggie again leaped on the first pitch he saw and ripped it into the stands in right and the Yankees took a 7-3 lead. It was probably a double in most other parks.

For his final at bat of the night, Reggie must have been very happy to see knuckle-baller Charlie Hough on the hill. Hough had pitched a scoreless seventh but Reggie was fortunate they left Hough in to face him. Reggie killed knuckle-ballers. Reggie sent the first pitch into orbit and if you squint at the replay you might see the scorch marks from re-entry as the ball settles way back into the black seats in center.

Mike Torrez gave the Dodgers one more run but he completed the game and the Yankees won 8-4. Reggie had homered on four consectutive swings if you go back to Game 5. His first homer, which gave the Yankees the lead, was the biggest play of the game. He amassed 0.35 hWPA and, overall, 0.39 WPA thanks to his walk, four runs scored and five RBI. His three homers accounted for five of eight total runs, the highest percentage on this list. The margin of victory was also the slimmest, along with Game 4 of 1928.  

The Yankees won the Series and prevented a do-or-die Game 7 with a Dodger team that was unlikely to go quietly. It was a happy day at the zoo.

Albert Pujols 2011 - Game 3

The 2011 World Series will go down as one of the most dramatic ever, and very little of that memory will be devoted to Albert’s three homers. The Cardinals and the Rangers had split the first two games and 14 (!) runs were already on the board at the hitter’s paradise in Arlington when Pujols hit a three-run shot off of flame throwing reliever Alexi Ogando in the sixth. This was a critical blow in the game as it turned a two-run lead into a five run bulge and the Cardinals were not threatened again.

 

Pujols added a two-run shot in the seventh (off Mike Gonzalez) and a solo shot in the ninth (off Darren Oliver). The sum total of the WPA for those two homers was 0.02 as the outcome was pretty much decided when he hit his first bomb. The hWPA is the lowest of all the three-homer games, clocking in at 0.17. Pujols had himself a very good game overall, going 5-6 with two lead-off, rally-starting singles, but there were so many runs scored in the 16-7 drubbing, that his contribution to the victory was only 0.23 in terms of WPA.

Hey, all World Series wins are huge wins, but being tied at 1-1, this game did not have the pressure of an elimination game nor a clincher. The loser would not love his fate, but neither would he be on the brink of disaster. Fun to watch and an amazing performance, but the context puts Albert’s day at the bottom of this list.

Pablo Sandoval 2012 – Game 1

As you know, Pablo Sandoval cracked three homers on Wednesday night. McCarver said that AT&T Park had yielded the fewest homers in baseball this season. This is in a league which contains San Diego’s cavernous PetCo.

Sandoval caught up to a neck-high Justin Verlander heater to give the Giants a 1-0 lead in the first inning. It was the only home run Justin Verlander allowed on an 0-2 all season. With a 2-0 lead and two-outs in the fourth, Sandoval reached down and away and redirected a low fastball into the left field seats. It didn’t look like much off the bat, but it certainly did the trick. The two-run homer made the score 4-0 for the Giants. 

Verlander missed by a lot on the high heater in the first. He got the elevation, but instead of forcing Sandoval to reach to the outside corner, he threw it right over the plate. This second homer was off a nastier pitch: down, hard and slicing away from the left handed batter. 

The Tigers were trailing 5-0 and pinch hit for Verlander in the fifth. So Al Alberquerque got to give up the Panda’s third dong. He threw a decent breaking ball but Sandoval is gobbling up nasty pitches right now, so don’t bother with decent. His homer made the score 6-0. The two teams traded runs and the game ended 8-3.

Sandoval’s homers gave the Giants 0.26 hWPA, but his single in the seventh didn’t move the needle, so his total for the game was also 0.26. Obviously, that number does not take into account the fact that Barry Zito was facing the best pitcher in baseball and nobody had given the Giants much chance of winning this game.

If you rank the homers by hWPA, it goes Reggie, Ruth (28), Ruth (26), Sandoval and Pujols. If you consider the pitcher faced, the score of the series, park effects and anything else you want to throw in there (Bronx Zoo stuff, the spectre of Pujols leaving St. Louis etc), it gets cloudier. I think we can safely put Pujols at the bottom and then work from there.

Reggie’s homers depended on the cozy dimensions of right field in Yankee Stadium. Babe Ruth may have had similar help in Sportsman’s Park. I like that Ruth gave the Yanks two different leads in 1926 and two different ties in 1928. I like that Sandoval abused Verlander. I can’t forget the fact that the Yankees lost the 1926 Series. I also know that the first game of a Series is probably the least important – maybe even less important than Game 4 of a sweep given the scars we now wear from 2004.

The only real knock against Reggie’s game is that one of the homers was a true Yankee-Stadium Special. He did it in a clincher deep in the Series with a charging opponent. He turned a deficit into a lead and then he turned a narrow lead into a safe one. And I’ll admit bias; it’s the foundation stone for my interest in baseball. Reggie’s got the top spot for me and I’ll call it a tie between Sandoval and the two Ruths.

So make room for the Panda, he deserves to roll around and hock bamboo chunks on this hallowed ground.

More Ball

 

Giants are up against it tonight with Barry Zito on the hill…gasp.

Cards one game from the Whirled Serious.

Let’s Go Base-ball!

[Photo Via: This Isn't Happiness]

Heard Any Good Jokes Lately?

Aw, hell. It’s never fun once the season is over, though in some ways it is a relief.

Here are some final thoughts via the intrepid Chad Jennings.

Over at Grantland, Jonah Keri has a thoughtful take on what happened and what’s next for the Bombers.

And here’s our man Cliff.

Thank you guys for hanging around for our 10th season here at the Banter. Don’t go away, we’ll be here, as usual, all day, every day.

[Photo Credit: Hiki]

The Silence of the Lambs

It was already 1-0 when I got on the train to come home this evening. It was 2-0 when I went out of cell service deep beneath Harlem. I held my breath as the train climbed up from 191st St to Dyckman, 6-0 and the season was over before I even got to my stop.

The Yankees completed their crash out of the ALCS with a loss to the Tigers, 8-1. Swept for the first time since 1980. They had only two hits to finish the series batting .157 as a team. If justice prevails, this will not be remembered as Arod’s Waterloo but rather as lineup-wide systemic failure.

The roots of this sweep are buried in Game 4 of the ALDS when the Yankees failed to finish the Orioles. They could have started CC Sabathia in Game 1 of the ALCS and then who knows? Some will say it doesn’t matter, that the Yankees didn’t hit enough this series to bother entertaining “What If” scenarios, but for three games out of four, they were one hit, or one call from an umpire, away from winning.

CC Sabathia pitched a whale of a game in Game 5 of the ALDS, but he didn’t have anything left for this one. For the first time in nine games, the Yankee starter didn’t give the lineup a chance to win. CC came up small, no way to sugarcoat that. I think his two games against the Orioles probably speak louder than this stinkifesto, but we’ll see how the fans react.

I know Alex Rodriguez was bad in this postseason. He looked incapable of hitting a right handed pitcher and I don’t fault Joe Girardi for seeking other options. Eric Chavez pinch hit for Alex Rodriguez in Game 4 of the ALDS. He replaced Alex for 12 at bats in total in the Postseason and went 0 for 12 with six strikeouts.

As disappointing as this series was, from Jeter’s injury to the Alex-drama to today’s drubbing, I refuse to be crushed about this outcome. The Yankees played a very gutsy series with Orioles, and won even while hitting like shit. They played three tough games with the Tigers and lost, while hitting even worse. They have been playing playoff-tension-level baseball since early September and have answered every must-win game with a win until the ALCS. They have earned a lot of respect.

I refuse to be crushed because I am part of a household that is just learning about baseball and if you can’t take losing, you can’t enjoy this game. I am part of a household, that for reasons that will never be entirely clear, cares as much about the Pittsburgh Pirates as the New York Yankees. In this environment, disappointment is allowed but rending of garments is exposed as self-centered silliness.

I rarely felt like I was watching a World Champion when the Yankees played this year, but they were the best team in the American League for 162 games and they own as much claim to the “best team in baseball” as anybody. Admittedly, 2012 didn’t feature a truly great team, but hey, maybe that means 2013 is wide open, too. The Yanks don’t have that much to do to be right back in it again next year.

 

Photo via Jonathan Daniel / Getty Images

 

 

Blowin’ Up the Spot

Game Four, Take Two:

Ichiro Suzuki LF
Nick Swisher RF
Robinson Cano 2B
Mark Teixeira 1B
Raul Ibanez DH
Eric Chavez 3B
Russell Martin C
Brett Gardner CF
Eduardo Nunez SS

Never mind holding back: Let’s Go Yank-ees!

[Photo Credit: Jeremy Geddes via This Isn't Happiness]

Warshed Out

Tonight’s game will be played tomorrow afternoon.

Some brighter news, as I mentioned in the previous thread, The Banter was singled out in this week’s “Best of NYC” issue of The Village Voice:

Sportswriting, whether in print or online, has become awfully balkanized to name a single writer as above the rest. That said, Alex Belth is good both in his long free-association pieces on his website, Bronx Banter, and reviewing books for Sports Illustrated. But as a website host, he truly excels. Bronx Banter goes far beyond the Bronx and baseball with all kinds of terrific interviews (Pat Jordan, Pete Dexter, the late George Kimball) and a terrific array of great reprints from writers of the past like W.C. Heinz, Murray Kempton, Roger Kahn, etc. No one cares more about the history of New York sportswriting or does more to preserve it. In an age when past memories are fading without new ones coming along to replace them, Bronx Banter offers a wonderful mix of past and present with an eye on the future. It’s a New York treasure.

Happy to share this with all of you guys. Y’all keep the Banter fresh. I love doing this, man. We’re coming up on our 10th anniversary and I enjoy this joint as much now as I did when I started. Nah, scratch that, I like it even more.

Ya heard?

[Photo Via: Chillwalker]

Not Fade Away

Season on the line.

Ichiro Suzuki LF
Nick Swisher RF
Robinson Cano 2B
Mark Teixeira 1B
Raul Ibanez DH
Eric Chavez 3B
Russell Martin C
Brett Gardner CF
Eduardo Nunez SS

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

[Photo Credit: Thomas Prior]

Uphill Climb

Here goes:

Brett Gardner LF
Ichiro Suzuki RF
Mark Teixeira 1B
Robinson Cano 2B
Raul Ibanez DH
Russell Martin C
Eric Chavez 3B
Curtis Granderson CF
Eduardo Nunez SS

Last Chance Saloon tonight.

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

[Photo Credit: Steven Siegel]

 

The Master

Tonight…Justin Verlander aka Doom.

“It’s a fun challenge,” Mark Teixeira said. “People think we’re crazy to say that, but it is a fun challenge, because if you’re going to win a World Series, you got to beat the best, and he is the best right now. So we’re going to Detroit, their crowd’s going to be rocking, they’re going to be cheering for their own team, so we have an opportunity to do something special and win a few games out there.”

[Photo Credit: Damian Strohmeyer/Sports Illustrated/Getty Images]

Twoski

Yeah, there’s life beyond the Yankees. I guess. So I’ve heard.

NLCS Game Two.

Have at it.

[Photo Credit: Ezra Shaw/Getty Images North America via It's a Long Season]

Jeff Nelson is Allison Porchnik

 

The Yankees are using Jeff Nelson’s blown call–and perhaps Derek Jeter’s injury–to avoid the fact that have all but laid down and played dead when they are up to bat. It’s not the ump’s fault, fellas, it’s your own.

Twilight of the Long Ball Gods

The Yankee offense continued its run of futility today and it cost them another game as they were shutout, 3-0. That’s the main story though there are a few subplots worth mentioning. First, Hiroki Kuroda was terrific, giving up three runs (should have been just one) in 7.2 innings, five hits, no walks and 11 strikeouts. Working on three days rest for the first time in his major league career, he was a stud. Second, is that there were so many empty seats at the Stadium today you’d think this was Atlanta in the late ’90′s. It’s as if Yankee fans showed their displeasure by staying away or that since Derek Jeter wasn’t going to be there, neither were they.

The other, more enraging part of the game was a blown call buy Jeff Nelson in the eighth inning that would have kept the score 1-0. Omar Infante overran second base on a base hit to right field, Nick Swisher threw the ball to Robinson Cano who applied the tag.

Instead of ending the inning, the Tigers took advantage of the umpire’s gaffe and tacked on two runs. Joe Girardi got himself run arguing the call and spent most of his post-game press conference talking about instant replay (while Nick Swisher bellyached about the Bleacher Creatures). Nelson told reporters, “The hand did not get in before the tag.The call was incorrect…I had the tag late and the hand going into the bag before the tag on the chest.”

“I think the umpire got confused ’cause he saw my hand, something with my hand made him think I was safe,” Infante said.

When asked if he he out, Infante said, “Of course.”

Two critical calls go against the Yankees in the first two games and yet while they give us something to pin our anger on, it’s not what cost them either game. The Yankees didn’t win today because they couldn’t hit water if they fell out of a fucking boat. Four hits all game and none for Robinson Cano, their best player who is in a horrid drought-0-for-his-last 26. ‘

Shit, even if they could hit that doesn’t mean it’d result into runs crossing the plate.

“We’ve been through stretches like this all year,” Alex Rodriguez said. “It has been a very volatile stock market for us this year. You just hope you take a day off and come back with a lot of energy and turn it around…It may start with a change of scenery. I think getting a day of rest tomorrow, take a deep breath, everybody come out and not try to do too much, let the river flow a little bit. We’ve been used to this type of hostile environment and having our backs against the wall, but I’ll tell you what, our heads are not going to go down.”

The fair weather, front running dilettantes have already bailed on this team as evidenced by all the empty seats today.

As irritated as we may be, however, round these parts we stick with our team through it all. And yeah, Verlander vs. Hughes in Game Three seems like Doom on a Platter. But stranger things have happened. Like the 1996 Whirled Serious, as Matt B pointed out last night in a text last night.

Regardless of the slumps and the loss of Jeter and the overall mishegoss we love our boys. And if we don’t always love ‘em, we won’t stop rooting them on. They aren’t done yet, no matter how poorly they are hitting, and they are still one of the the final four teams playing.

Could be worse. Could be raining.

Let’s Go Yank-ees!

[Photo Credit: Bruce Bennett/Getty Images North America; Robert Deutsch, USA TODAY Sports]

Return of the Infamous Bomb Squad

Yeah, things look grim. But you know what? The Yanks are winning today. Hiroki will be good enough, they’ll score a mess of runs, win one for the Jeppier, and leave New York with the series tied.

Ichiro Suzuki LF
Robinson Cano 2B
Mark Teixeira 1B
Raul Ibanez DH
Russell Martin C
Alex Rodriguez 3B
Curtis Granderson CF
Nick Swisher RF
Jayson Nix SS

Never mind last night: Let’s Go Yank-ees!

Bad Moon Rising

For the Yankees, Game One of the ALCS, went from regrettable, to unbelievable, to unforgettable in the worst way.

In the first inning the Yankees loaded the bases against Doug Fister and Alex Rodriguez hit a hard ground ball that was speared by Jhonny Peralta who threw to second just in time to get the force out to end the inning. For Rodriguez, it was more bad luck. Then in the second, Robinson Cano came to bat with two outs and the bases loaded. He hit a line drive up the middle that knocked off Fister’s hand and went high in the air. Peralta fielded it with one hand, threw to first and Cano was called out though the replays showed that he was safe. Right, bad luck.

The Tigers scored a couple of runs against Andy Pettitte in the top of the sixth and in the bottom of the inning Mark Teixeira reached on a single and moved to third on a double by Raul Ibanez. Rodriguez took a curve for a strike, fouled off a fastball that was his pitch to hit and then hacked at a curve ball out of the strike zone for the first out. Nick Swisher laid off a tough curve on a 2-2 pitch and eventually walked. But Curtis Granderson whiffed on three pitches and so did Russell Martin.

No bad luck this time, just the brand of offensive offense we’ve gotten used to around these parts. All three outs were made on undisciplined at bats.

And so we Yankee fans spent the next few innings cursing and muttering and what difference did it make when Delmon Young hit a seed for a line drive home run or when the Tigers added another one to make it 4-0?

Emily and I watched this misery in the living room of our friends’ apartment in midtown. They’ve got kids and were fading fast in the eighth so we excused ourselves and got in the car by the time the Yanks came to bat in the bottom of the ninth. As we made our way from the east side to the west side–no, taking the FDR uptown when there is a game on–I just hoped the game could continue for as long as possible.

So it was John Sterling that guided us west and I gave a solemn fist pump when he told us that Ichiro hit a two run home run. Cano was next and he worked the count full–please, get on base, Robbie–but struck out. One last out and Teixeira came up as we crossed over Sixth Avenue. He quickly fell behind 0-2 but worked the count full and then drew a walk.

Ibanez. Sterling asked if we could possibly demand more from him? “Sure, we can,” I said. And on the 0-1 pitch, I turned off 9th Ave onto 43rd Street when Sterling went into his “It is high…” call. We held our breath and waited to see if Ibanez hit a pop up to the right fielder or if he in fact hit one out. Sterling’s call was just apprehensive enough to make those few seconds feel like hours. But when it was done, and the home run was verified, I couldn’t even scream. I held my breath and clutched the wheel.

But he’d done it again. And the score was tied.

Rafael Soriano got the Tigers out in the tenth and we watched the rest from home.  Saw the Yankees fail to bring home a runner on second with one out in the bottom of the inning, Russell Martin swinging for Jupiter on a 2-0 pitch and every ensuing pitch after that before he flew out. Derek Jeter unable to do the job after him. Ichiro led off with a single one inning later but Cano–0-6–couldn’t do dick and neither could Teixeira or Ibanez.

The trouble here was that Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder loomed in the twelfth. Sure enough, Dave Phelps walked Cabrera who advanced to second on a ground out by Fielder. And then Young lined a ball to right and Nick Swisher, who has specialized in rolling around the ground like a stuck pig for two games–except maybe in the sixth on Young’s blooper–missed the ball. He rolled and tumbled but he whiffed on the ball, a play that must be made. Cabrera grinned all the way home and the Tigers had a lead that they would not relinquish. Maybe Swisher lost the ball in the lights or maybe he made a horrible mistake.

Then things got worse. A ground ball up the middle by Peralta and Derek Jeter stumbled after it. He gloved it but fell over and flipped the ball to Cano. Then Jeter yelled and then he didn’t get up. That doesn’t happen to Jeter. It was hard to see what happened on the replays but his left leg got caught underneath him and he appeared to roll his left ankle. Next thing you know, he’s being helped off the field by Joe Girardi and the trainer, applying no pressure to his left leg.

The Stadium was silent.

Didn’t matter that Phelps botched a ground ball that led to another run or that the Yanks went meekly in the bottom of the inning and lost the game. Here’s the news: Jeter’s ankle is fractured and he’s done for the series. The early word says he’ll recover in three months.

A frustrating night turned thrilling ended with a dispiriting conclusion.

Oy Veh.

Tigers 6, Yanks 4.

[Photo Credit: Touchn2btouched]

Here Kitty, Kitty, Kitty

 

It will be cold tonight in the Bronx. I’ll be out most of the evening and won’t be around the game thread but hope to be back before the end of the game.

Here’s the lineup:

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

Never mind 2006, never mind 2011: Let’s Go Yank-ees!

[Photo Credit: Bryan Sargent]

Enter Da Stage

From Chad Jennings here’s the roster (Eppley added, Nunez dropped):

PITCHERS
CC Sabathia
Andy Pettitte
Hiroki Kuroda
Phil Hughes
Rafael Soriano
Dave Robertson
Boone Logan
Joba Chamberlain
Clay Rapada
Cody Eppley
David Phelps
Derek Lowe

CATCHERS
Russell Martin
Chris Stewart

INFIELDERS
Mark Teixeira
Robinson Cano
Derek Jeter
Alex Rodriguez
Eric Chavez
Jayson Nix

OUTFIELDERS
Curtis Granderson
Nick Swisher
Ichiro Suzuki
Raul Ibanez
Brett Gardner

And the schedule:

Tonight

ALCS Game 1
Tigers at Yankees
8:07 p.m., TBS

Sunday

ALCS Game 2
Tigers at Yankees
4:07 p.m., TBS

NLCS Game 1
Cardinals at Giants
8:15 p.m., FOX

Monday

NLCS Game 2
Cardinals at Giants
8:07 p.m., FOX

Tuesday

ALCS Game 3
Yankees at Tigers
8:07 p.m., TBS

Wednesday

NLCS Game 3
Giants at Cardinals
4:07 p.m., FOX

ALCS Game 4
Yankees at Tigers
8:07 p.m., TBS

Thursday

ALCS Game 5
Yankees at Tigers
4:07 p.m., TBS

NLCS Game 4
Giants at Cardinals
8:07 p.m., FOX

Friday

NLCS Game 5
Giants at Cardinals
8:07 p.m., FOX

Saturday

ALCS Game 6
Tigers at Yankees
8:07 p.m., TBS

Sunday

NLCS Game 6
Cardinals at Giants
4:45 p.m., FOX *

ALCS Game 7
Tigers at Yankees
8:15 p.m., TBS

Monday

NLCS Game 7
SF @ WSH or STL @ SF
8:07 p.m., FOX

* If ALCS is complete, then NLCS Game 6 will shift to 7:45 p.m. (ET).

[Photo Credit: David Rachman]

Thunder-in, Shakin’ the Concrete

The Orioles are dead. The reason I know this is I saw them lose with my own eyes. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have believed it.

They pursued the Yankees all summer long, took the ALDS to five games and in the eighth inning had the bases loaded with one out, down by a couple of runs. Right there biting at the Yankees’ heels because where else would they be? But tonight, CC Sabathia delivered arguably his finest performance as a Yankee. He not only got out of the jam in the eighth but he returned in the ninth and finished the game as the Yanks beat the Orioles 3-1 to advance to the ALCS.

The game began essentially where it left off last night and for the first four-and-a-half innings it was like watching Groundhog’s Day. No hits, no runs.

Then Mark Teixeira led off the bottom of the fifth with a single over the shift into right field. With first baseman Mark Reynolds playing behind him, Teixeira took a walking lead and then sprinted to second and made it safely. Raul Ibanez fouled off a few pitches and then singled Teixeira home. The next inning, Derek Jeter walked with one out and scored all the way from first on a double off the bottom of the right center field wall by Ichiro. And then in the seventh, Curtis Granderson finally got a pitch in the strike zone that he could handle, pounding it into the seats in right field for a home run.

That gave Sabathia a healthy 3-0 lead and he cruised through the Orioles lineup. The only bad moment–and it was a hold-your-breath-tight spot–came in the sixth when Nate McClouth launched a 3-2 pitch high into the right field seats. It went over the foul pole and was ruled foul. The Orioles protested, the umps huddled, and the replays showed that the ball was in fact foul. However, one replay, with an extreme close up of the pole, showed that the ball could have scraped the pole. You can see the ball slightly change directions as it passed the yellow stick. But it wasn’t clear enough to overturn the call and the umps upheld their original call. McClouth whiffed on the next pitch and before you knew it, Ichiro had given the Yanks a two-run cushion.

Sabathia worked easily through the seventh and then came his bend-but-don’t-break eighth. Matt Wieters singled to start the inning and Manny Machado followed with a walk. Mark Reynolds worked the count even, missed a fastball that got too much of the plate (fouling it off), and then whiffed on a breaking ball. Had a pitch, missed the pitch.

But Lew Ford hit a ground ball through the left side for a base hit–watching the replay it was as if someone yelled “Timber” as Jeter dove after it. I thought Brett Gardner, who’d just entered the game as a defensive replacement, had a play at the plate on the slow-footed Wieters but instead threw to third base in order to prevent the runners from advancing.

Robert Andino, another scrapper, hit a slow chopper toward third. Sabathia hopped after it, fielded and then hesitated for a moment, looking at third base. But Chavez had gone after the ball too and wasn’t near the bag. The play was to first, but Sabathia threw to second instead. Too late. His mistake loaded the bases.

He summoned up a mess of courage, struck out McClouth and then got JJ Hardy to hit a slow ground ball to short. Jeter charged in, fielded the ball, and then made an off balanced throw to first. It reached Teixeira in plenty of time for the third out. Jeter may not have much range but he didn’t botch the one right at him–and one he had to make a play on, it was no gimme–when the chips were down.

Sabathia came back out in the ninth, got Adam Jones to sky out to Gardner, struck out Chris Davis, and ended the game by getting Wieters to hit a harmless ground ball to the mound. Sabathia tossed the ball to Teixeira like he was tossing an egg at the county fair.

Final Score: Yanks 3, O’s 1.

CC is a Stud.

The Orioles were resilient and relentless. The Yankees, as fate had it, were a touch better, or luckier.

However you want to call it, the Bronx be happy.

Tomorrow gives the Tigers. Tonight gives relief, hugs, and love.

[Photo Credit: Alex Trautwig/Getty Images North America; Elsa/Getty Images North America]

Ladies and Gentlemen, Boys and Girls, Dyin’ Time’s Here

It is cold in New York today and probably just as well that Game 5 of the ALDS begins in the late afternoon instead of tonight.

It’s down to CC and the bats, minus Alex Rodriguez:

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

Never mind nuthin’ but today. Once more–with feeling:

Let’s Go Yank-ees!

[Photo Via: Running Amuck]

Torn and Frayed

I don’t feel much better this morning, you? Maybe some optimism will creep in as the day goes on–there’s CC to look forward to after all–but right now I’m cranky.

What you guys got?

[Picture by Bags]

Who Do I Have to F*** in This Town to Score a Run?

When we talk about 1968 in baseball we think of Bob Gibson and all those low earned run averages and what is called “The Year of the Pitcher.” But when he wrote about it at the time, Roger Angell dubbed that season “the Year of the Infield Pop Up” which just goes to show how perception changes.

The Yankees and Orioles have been at each all year long, splitting the regular season series, 9-9. The O’s chased the Yanks down in the second half, tied them for first but couldn’t get passed them. They beat the Rangers in the Wildcard game and then split the first two games of the ALDS in Baltimore with the Yanks before getting hosed out of a win in Game 3. All the games have been close and apart from a mirage of scoring by the Yanks at the end of the first game, nobody has hit much.

So you could say that both offenses have been terrible—Alex Rodriguez has been hung in effigy in New York but he’s had company in futility, namely Robinson Cano, Curtis Granderon, and Nick Swisher. Baltimore has its own goats–Jones, Weiters, Thome. Or, you could say the pitching’s been sensational. Year of the pitcher or the infield pop-up? You decide.

More than anything we know the Yanks and O’s won’t let this thing go and so they played a game of reduction in Game 4, and brought horrible offense and stellar pitching into the 13th inning, tied at 1-1.

Despite some rocky moments from Phil Hughes and Joe Saunders, who looks like the barfly from Sex, Lies and Videotape

…nobody scored. Oh, there were some horseshit pitches, and hard hit balls foul. Nick Swisher hit two balls off the end of his bat that otherwise would have been dingers, Jayson Nix hit a few balls well, and the Orioles left a ton of runners on base, but no, there were no runs.

Alex Rodriguez walked in his first at bat, singled in his second, and then continued to look like crap–old, slow, beaten. The most painful moment came when the Yankees had runners on first and second in the eighth and nobody out. Robinson Cano grounded out weakly to second moving the runners over. Rodriguez whiffed and Swisher popped out.

The bullpens were both terrific and score remained tied 1-1 until the O’s manufactured a run in the top of the 13th. J. J. Hardy drove in the go-ahead run with a double to left of Dave Phelps. This, after Joba Chamberlain left the game an inning early when he was hit in his pitching elbow with the a broken bat (x-rays were negative).

That brought on the closer Jim Johnson to face Mark Teixeira, Cano, and, of course, looming as the potential final out, Rodriguez. He quickly got ahead of Teixeira, then the count evened at 2-2, Teixeira fouled off an outside fastball, a high fastball, and looked at a curve ball for a called strike three. Shades of Carlos Beltran in 2006.

Cano lined the first pitch he saw to the left fielder and most Yankee fans were ready to throw in the towel. For a second straight night, Joe Girardi didn’t let Rodriguez hit against Johnson. This time, Eric Chavez took his place. Joe Girardi hoping–desperately–for some more magic. Chavez, looked a curve for strike, took a fastball high for a ball, fouled off a 95 mph heater, fouled off another fastball, took a curve outside, and lined a fastball to third base to end the game. No magic tonight.

What else could it have come down to for these two but Game 5? The season series is 11-11 and the winner will move on.

This is what it had to be.

Final Score: O’s 2, Yanks 1.

The Good News for Game 5? The Yanks have CC Sabathia on the hill. The bad news? Somebody in pinstripes is going to have to score some runs.

[Featured Image Via Stable]

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