"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice
Tag: 2010 alcs

When Seasons Change

The 2010 season ended for the New York Yankees tonight as they lost Game Six of the American League Championship to the Texas Rangers 6-1. The Rangers pounded out the big, two-out, run-scoring hits that win pennants, and the Yankees put forth a display of offensive futility against Colby Lewis that will leave a gag-inducing aftertaste long into the winter.

Light rain fell on the first inning. Curtis Granderson walked and was eager to get into position to draw first blood. He tried to steal second as Cano popped out, and then doubled down and ran again as Alex Rodriguez was working his count. Granderson beat the throw, but his foot hiccuped on the damp dirt and delayed touching the bag for a split second. It was enough time for Ian Kinsler to snatch the ball and slap a tag, and enough of an incongruity to confuse the umpire into a blown call. As the replay clearly showed otherwise, the announcers congratulated the umpire for getting it right. That was it for the sound.

The Rangers jumped onto the scoreboard in the first inning, again. This was the fourth time in the series they scored in the first inning. The Yankees have put nothing on the board in the first inning all postseason. With two-strikes on the leadoff hitter, Phil Hughes couldn’t sneak a fastball up and in. Elvis Andrus shot it through an heavily shifted outfield and pulled into second with an easy double. Josh Hamilton singled when Hughes again tried to go up and in, but missed badly up and out over the plate. Washington, fearing the double play, put Hamilton in motion and when Vlad grounded to second and the Yankees needed two outs to prevent the run from scoring, they could only muster one.

Lewis held the Yankees hitless through four. Curtis Granderson worked two walks, but was erased on the bases both times. In the fifth inning, Alex Rodriguez doubled, his second hard-hit ball of the game. He moved to third as Lance Berkman flew out to the warning track.

That brief instant, when Berkman’s shot flew into the night was the only happy moment of the game for the Yankees. It looked like a 2-1 lead was in reach, but Josh Hamilton tracked it down. Alex scored on a ball that hit Nick Swisher and bounced away, but the umpires missed it. That’s the second time they’ve missed Nick Swisher getting hit in the leg. Both times it cost the Yankees an out, as Swisher couldn’t do anything as the at bat continued.

In the fifth inning, the game fell apart. Much like the sixth inning of Game Four, the Yankees faced a relatively benign one-on, one-out situation. An intentional walk to a left-handed batter to gain a platoon advantage raised the stakes and the Rangers held the trump. Vlad Guerrero ripped the game-changing double on the hangy-i-est of curve balls. After Robertson replaced Hughes, Nelson Cruz ripped the season-ending homer on the flattest of fastballs. (more…)

Firing Squad

Season is on the line once again tonight for the Yanks. Win, and they force a Game 7, lose, and they go home.

Here’s the line up:

Derek Jeter SS
Curtis Granderson CF
Robinson Cano 2B
Alex Rodriguez 3B
Lance Berkman 1B
Nick Swisher RF
Jorge Posada C
Marcus Thames DH
Brett Gardner LF

I say Berkman is the hero should the Yanks win.

Nothing else to add but the usual (this time with feeling):

Let’s Go Yan-Kees!

People Get Ready

It’s not chilly this morning, it’s cold. New York, end of October.

Tonight, down in Texas, where the weather is sure to be more hospitable for playing baseball, Phil Hughes and the Yanks look to extend their season.

The Rangers, of course, look to advance to the Whirled Serious for the first time in franchise history.

No pressure…

I’m Not Asking You, I’m Telling You

Joe Girardi, his team, and Yankee fans everywhere are living the Artie Fufkin Dream this morning: Kick My Ass, Please.

This one hurts but the season isn’t over yet and self-pity won’t get us anywhere. CC goes at 4, and there is hope. Let’s not act like those so-called fans who fled from the Stadium early the past two nights. Win or lose, rain or shine, we’ll be here, root-root-rootin’ for the home team.

Here Comes Your 19th Nervous Breakdown

I’m a pretty calm baseball watcher these days. That’s what happens when you cover the team for a while, or when you’ star to mentally write up the action while it’s still happening, or take notes… you just get more detached. I’m not in the locker room anymore so I don’t have to smother my inner fan with a pillow, but my inner fan has long since taken to self-censorship. I am usually pretty even-keeled about the Yankees these days.

But not always.

I’m all twitchy about tonight’s game, more than I have been in a long time — years — and I don’t know why. The Yankees won the World Series just last year; if they don’t make it this year I’m okay with that. For whatever reason, though, this game is getting to me. I’m having friends over tonight, to watch with me; I don’t want to be alone with A.J. Burnett.

Longtime readers will recall that I have a Bernie Williams bobblehead doll — my only Yankee bobblehead — which, during big games, I often move around my studio apartment until I find a “lucky spot.” Laugh all you want, but would the Yankees have won the World Series last year if the Bernie bobblehead hadn’t been nestled under my bed (after the freezer lost its luckiness)? I guess we’ll never know. Anyway, I haven’t bothered with the Bernie bobblehead pretty much all year, but I’m pretty sure he’ll be shifting around quite a bit tonight.

Here we go… hold onto something.

Barber Shop BS

Cliff Lee vs. Andy Pettitte–let’s chat. No matter how Lee fares tonight, and I assume he’ll pitch well once again, I’ve got a bad feelin’ about Andy.

Am I just being dramatic? My Spidey Sense is tinglin’.

[Picture by: galvarez51]

Split Happens

Splitsville. Under normal circumstances, that’s not a bad outcome opening a best-of-seven series on the road. But facing Cliff Lee in Game Three disrupts normal circumstances. In Game Two, Phil Hughes got pounded, the Yankee offense could not turn base-runners into run-scorers, and the Rangers evened the ALCS at one game apiece with a 7-2 victory.

Texas scratched out a really grimy run in the first inning. Elvis Andrus tapped a bounder over the pitcher’s mound and Phil Hughes deflected it into no-man’s-land behind the rubber. He stole second, and maybe even was safe. I don’t know because TBS only replayed a few times and never found the money shot which would tell me for sure.

(Why is it that I saw the Buster Posey tag-out 50 times and Lance Berkman’s strike three 150 times, but this call was just brushed aside? The media has decided that the blown calls are not acceptable, but when picking which calls to grouse about, they carefully choose the calls that support the narrative they wish to endorse. Lance Berkman took strike three, which was trumpeted from here to eternity, but only a handful of those reports included the other bad calls that went against Berkman in the very same at bat.)

Under duress, Hughes unleashed his best stuff of the game as he struck out Michael Young, Vlad Guerrero and Nelson Cruz. He was unlucky to walk Josh Hamilton after a tough battle and a missed strike three, and because Andrus had also stolen third base, that put the Rangers in a position to get creative on the bases. They tried to trade an out for a run (which I thought was a somewhat-desperate idea with long-ball threat Nelson Cruz at the plate) but the Yankees called an aggressive play and Cano returned Posada’s throw to sender late and wide and Andrus had drawn first blood.

I assume this was a predetermined play because Cano took the throw in front of the bag and threw back to Posada without hesitation, and every team I’ve ever played in every level from Little League on up predetermines what to do when there are runners on first and third. If it was improvised, I thought it was an OK decision from Posada, as sweating one run in the first inning is wussified, and a terrible decision by Cano, because he was unable to prevent the run from scoring and he allowed the inning to continue with one of the Rangers’ most dangerous hitters in the box.

The Yankees looked very dangerous in the top of the second. Cano almost erased the deficit with a wall-scraper, and with two runners on, Lance Berkman made a bid for extra-bases with a rocket to right. Nelson Cruz was able to corral both blasts and the Yankees got nothing for their troubles. But since Hughes had struck out the side in the first and the Yankees had clobbered the ball in the second, Yankees fans had reason for optimism.

That feeling did not survive the bottom of the second. Hughes missed badly to David Murphy and he put it off the face of the second deck in right field. When I saw David Murphy was batting third for the Rangers when the Yankees visited in September, I was reassured that the Rangers were pretty crappy. Then Texas swept the Yankees and here he is doing a lot of damage in the ALCS.

Hughes kept missing spots and the Rangers kept making him pay. He cranked up the extra-base machine and served up five doubles and triple for five more runs and put the game out of reach for even the Yankee bats. I don’t take much issue with Girardi’s moves, though I know he has his detractors here, but why Hughes was still pitching in the fifth inning I’ll never understand. He was getting hit hard from all comers and the Yankees were going to have chances if they kept the score within sniffing distance.

To be fair though, the Yankee offense did not ride to the rescue today and maybe even holding the Rangers at five wouldn’t have mattered. The Yankees had 14 base runners, but only two of them crossed the plate. The Yankees lacked the requisite big hit and fortunate timing. For instance, Cano crushed the ball four times for a double and homer (and two warning-track outs), but he stranded four runners in crunch time.

For most of the game, The Yankees had the donut offense working for them – a big hole in the middle. Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira couldn’t extend or finish the rallies. If those guys were contributing, I think it would have been another fun night. Hopefully they’re saving it for Cliff Lee.

Keeping the Yankee rallies in check for the first five-plus innings was Colby Lewis. He was pitching in Japan last year. This is what at least Hiroshima Carp fan thought of him:

Methinks steroids are not yet en vogue in Hiroshima, because schlubby Colby Lewis should not evoke this kind of nightmarish imagery. Nor should the Yankees be worried about facing him again in the series. If the Yankees return to Texas for Game 6, they will knock him around. They were on him today, and hopefully they’ll turn the scoreboard crooked if they face him again. The Yankees also threatened against the bullpen, but without the breakthrough heroics of Game One.

The only worrisome aspect of this loss was Phil Hughes and his total lack of command. He let up seven hits with two strikes. He’s got to polish those guys off. Why was he crisp and unhittable against Minnesota and throwing batting practice today? I think it’s just a different quality opponent mixed with the inconsistencies of a young, possibly fatigued pitcher. I think it’s possible he’s got a good game in him if needed in Game 6, but I would not be surprised to see him struggle again.

The Yankees now head back to the Bronx and prepare for Cliff Lee. They’re sending Andy Pettitte up against him, so by no means should we paint them as lambs to the slaughter. I’m excited for the game and for some ridiculous reason have a good feeling about it. I don’t think the Yankees will really hurt Lee, but I like their chances to come out of the game with a win. If the Yanks lose that one, I’ll change my stripes for the rest of the series, but until then, bring it on, Cliff.

Punch Buggy Rouge

The day begins on a sweet note. Yanks lose tonight and we won’t stay chipper but for now, we’ve still got a few moments to soak-in last night’s win.

It was a good ‘un.

Fear Not Forecast

Here are some fearless ALCS predictions from the crew at Bronx Banter.

First of all, I predict that I’ll have worked myself up into a state of near fury/exhaustion before the first pitch is thrown tonight. I’ve got nothing against Texas. I’ve never been there, other than a stop at the Dallas airport, but mostly, I admire Texas. But I predict that I’ll be cursing it up-and-down for the duration of the series. The sight of former president Bush will be fodder enough to get me going I figure.

I also predict that my wife will have had it up to hear with me by Saturday night. 

As much as it bothers me to say, I think the Yanks will win the series. At least they should. The thought of them losing…no, there’s no way to make that palatable. Ron Washington is cool, sure, and I’ve got nothing against Michael Young. I’ve always loved Vlady. But collectively, the Rangers come across as a college team, youthful spirit, antler-horns,  hollering, rah-rah. And why shouldn’t they next to the business-like Bombers? Still, that doesn’t mean I have to find it “refreshing.” 

I figure Mo is going to blow one game and the Yanks will beat Lee.  Oh, and if A.J. Burnett gets a start, he’ll do okay.

The Rangers will steal at will against Posada.

I don’t have a feeling about Alex Rodriguez but he’s due to catch fire and be a monster. He was terrific down the stretch. I’d be as geeked as the next guy if he goes on a tear.

Also, I fear Nelson Cruz.

Matt Blankman:

Yankees in 5. Superstition makes me nervous calling for a Yankee victory in fewer than 6 games, but really, if my thoughts and actions have such little impact on my own life, they can’t possibly affect a major league baseball game. The Yankees will drop one in Texas, find a way to win Cliff Lee’s start, and win the pennant in the Bronx. While I’m reading tea leaves, I see another effective start for Hughes, at least one Yankee bullpen implosion and some big hits from Mr. Cano. Also, look for some creative Bronx cheers for Cliff Lee – it’s not often you have to boo a guy you’re simultaneously wooing for next season.

Jon DeRosa:

I predict that the most annoying Ranger batter will be Michael Young, most annoying pitcher will be a tie between the twoDdarrens, and all three of them will be eclipsed by Nolan Ryan, who will be on camera so often that he’ll be the number-two most-annoying sports figure this fall (Nobody’s touching Favre. execpt Favre, obviously).

(more…)

Don’t Mess With Texas

On the one hand, I love the playoffs.  After living and dying through 162 games, your reward as a fan is to watch your team as one of eight — and now four — still in contention for the world championship.  On the other hand, I hate the playoffs.  My TiVo is suddenly not good enough, so I have to plan my world around a baseball game being played three thousand miles away.  Heaven forbid I should miss a single pitch.  How bad is it?  A couple days ago my wife suggested that we schedule a date night for next Thursday.  The good husband answered quickly, “Sure, sounds good.”  But the bad husband inside was secretly calculating: Friday, Saturday, off-day Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, off-day Thursday… No problem! Look away.  I am hideous.

A.J. Burnett is also hideous, but rumor has it he’ll be pitching in this series, a fact that by itself gives the Texas Rangers a pretty good shot at advancing to the World Series.  The more I think about that, the more I think about belt-high fastballs and looping curve balls and line drives back through the box, the more worried I get.  If I were in charge, I’d pitch Burnett against Cliff Lee in Game 3, essentially conceding that game to the Rangers.  As the rotations stand now, it almost looks like Girardi is conceding both Games 3 and 4, meaning that Sabathia had better win the opener and Phil Hughes had better win Game 2.

What if they don’t?  What if Josh Hamilton comes to Yankee Stadium and remembers that Home Run Derby in the old Stadium?  What if Elvis Andrus gets on base seven or eight times and steals fourteen or sixteen bases?  What if Ian Kinsler plays like Ian Kinsler again?  What if Cliff Lee gets to pitch twice?

If you want to know what I really think, the Yankees will win this series, but it won’t take a miracle for the Rangers to win.  I just hope that when I’m sitting in the movie theater on Thursday night, I’m still looking forward to the World Series.

Home on the Range

“We were alert out there tonight,” said Texas Manager Ron Washington. “We were ready to play ball. I’m not saying Tampa wasn’t, but we were ready to play ball tonight – and it showed.”

(N.Y. Times)

So it’s the Rangers–who out-Rayed the Rays last night–to take on the Yanks for a chance to go to the Whirled Serious (Steven Goldman says, have no fear, the Rays will be back next year). This is a more balanced Texas team than we’ve seen in the past. They are spirited and fully capable of beating the Yanks (and for all the Rangers news that’s fit to link, check out the Newberg Report). Still,  I like the Bombers’ chances. I’m curious to see if there is any rust for the ol’ Yanks come Friday night. The one thing that can’t happen is coming back to New York down 0-2 to face Cliff Lee. That said, I’ve got confidence in our boys.

Whadda ya hear, whadda say?

The Price is Right

I think David Price and the Rays will find a way to beat Cliff Lee and the Rangers tomorrow night. Either way, neither Lee or Price is likely to start Game One of the ALCS against the Yankees. Over at the Pinstriped Bible, Steve Goldman takes a look at the possible pitching rotation for the New Yorkers:

Now, we know that the Rangers are reluctant to use Lee on short rest, but perhaps young Price won’t be subject to the same limitations. Yet, moving up Price, or Lee for that matter, doesn’t change anything. Whether they pitch Saturday (three days) or Monday (five days), they’re getting two starts in the seven games. If they pitch on regular rest on Monday, they have the benefit of their usual recovery time, and the manager retains the option of asking them to come back on short rest for Game 6 or regular rest for Game 7.

After the first four games, determining the matchups becomes difficult and depressing. Given Andy Pettitte’s fragile physical state, it seems spectacularly unlikely he would pitch on short rest for Game 5. That means A.J. Burnett or Ivan Nova or Waite Hoyt or someone who wouldn’t ideally start is going if Game 5 is necessary. One alternative, and it’s probably not a good idea or even a realistic one, is Hughes pitching Game 2 . This would open up the possibility of shis tarting Game 5 on three day’s rest. Then Pettitte would pitch Game 3 and would line up to pitch in the seventh game if, for some reason, Sabathia couldn’t make another short-rest start.

Don’t Call Them Twinkies

Why the Twins Will Beat the Yankees…

My college roommate hailed from Edina, Minnesota. Eric was a catcher with an arm-shaped cannon (he’s unavailable to suit up for the Yankees Wednesday night) and remains a die-hard Twins fan. When we played stickball in the park in the sweltering June heat, he wore a turtleneck. When he went out to retrieve the Washington Post from a snow pile in February, he wore shorts and sandals. These Minnesotans are built differently than us New Yorkers. We save our shorts for the summer and bundle up in righteous indignation when it snows.

When the Yankees fell into their September funk, I began envisioning a brief, chilly, miserable series in Minnesota, with their ecstatic fans stomping their flip-flops and Robinson Cano inappropriately smirking from within the latest Gore-Tex innovation in hood-masks as he went oh-fer eight. Weather reports from Minnesota predict sun and warmth, so the Yankees will luck out in the first two games of the ALDS weather-wise. Hopefully it’s the first of many breaks that will go their way, because if they don’t catch some futher good fortune, this is the year the Twins get over the hump and beat the Yankees in the ALDS.

Minnesota set the tone for their 2010 season on March 21st. That’s the day they signed their franchise-player and reigning American League MVP to an eight-year, $184 million contract. The contract was almost Yankee-like in terms of length and amount. It was a commitment to the player, sure, but it was also a commitment to the team and the fan base. In concert with opening a new stadium, the organization was assuring any doubters that the Twins intended to compete with the big spenders.

It was only a few years ago that the Twins desperately peddled Johan Santana to the Yankees and Red Sox. After realizing they were being used as the target in an organizational pissing contest, they turned, dazed and confused, and accepted whatever crappy deal was still left on the table from the Mets. Santana has been good for the Mets, but the Twins are probably thrilled that they’re not the ones paying him right now, with or without shoulder surgery. But I can’t believe that either the fans, players or the management was happy about being the shuttlecock in a game of badminton between Brian Cashman and Theo Epstein.

Now the Twins have a new outlook, beginning with their new ballpark and continuing with a payroll that added 50% from 2009. The payroll still doesn’t come within half of the Yankees’, but for the players and fans in Minnesota, it must feel liberating. It must feel like they have finally joined the big time. And I think this optimism and confidence will fuel the upcoming ALDS. It’s their house; it’s their time. (more…)

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