"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice
Tag: Baltimore Orioles

Delay of Game

AJ Burnett

AJ Burnett is now 31-33 since joining the Yankees.

AJ Burnett is like a golfer who shoots good scores, but has two or three bad holes per round that sully the scorecard. Friday night’s start was indicative of just that. Burnett, for the most part, was solid against a Baltimore Orioles lineup that has some punch. He pitched eight innings, struck out a season-high 10 batters, and walked only two. He ended five of the eight innings with strikeouts. That was the good. The bad: five poor at-bats led to four runs.

In the second inning, Burnett walked Derrek Lee with one out, and then left a fastball on the outer half to Mark Reynolds, who launched it over the right-center field fence into the Yankees’ bullpen. The same part of the order bit him in the fourth inning. Consecutive doubles by Vladimir Guerrero and Lee made it 3-0. In the sixth, Lee victimized Burnett yet again, this time with a home run to right-center. That blast completed the Orioles’ scoring.

Overall, Burnett’s night was the equivalent of shooting 74 or 75, with five or six birdies, but a bunch of bogeys submarining what could have been a fantastic round.

Paul O’Neill summed up Burnett’s night perfectly during the top of the ninth inning on the YES telecast: “AJ Burnett didn’t make too many mistakes tonight — far fewer than in his last game — but the mistakes he did make ended up going for home runs and doubles.”

The loss left Burnett winless in July. It is the third winless month in his Yankees career. How goofy of a season has this been for Burnett? Friday marked the third time this season that he’s pitched into the eighth inning. The Yankees have lost each of those games, and Burnett has been the pitcher of record.

The burden of the 4-2 defeat should not fall squarely on Burnett, though. It was the type of game that if the vaunted Yankees offense did anything to support him, the outcome would have been different. Jeremy Guthrie, a pitcher the Yankees have owned over the last two years, turned the tables and was in complete control. Of the 69 strikes Guthrie threw, 19 were called strikes and 21 were foul balls. He had mid-90s velocity on his fastball with good movement, and he changed speeds effectively to keep the big bats off balance.

Watching the game, the telltale sign that it would not be the Yankees’ night was that the second and third time through the order, usually when they make minced meat of pitchers like Guthrie, the grinding at-bats the Yankees are known for didn’t yield positive outcomes — Mark Teixeira’s solo home run in the sixth inning notwithstanding. When they did put runners on base, Guthrie made a pitch to get the Yankees out. They were 1-for-9 with runners in scoring position; a common refrain when analyzing Yankees losses over the course of this season.

A ninth-inning rally against Kevin Gregg fell short when Brett Gardner, who swung through nearly every hittable pitch that came his way in previous at-bats, capped an 0-for-5 performance by striking out swinging to end the game. The key pitch in the at-bat was the fastball Gregg threw with the count at 3-and-1. Gardner thought it was outside for ball four. Gardner turned toward first base and was three steps up the line when home plate umpire Mike Dimuro called the pitch a strike and ushered Gardner back the batter’s box. Replays confirmed the pitch was off the plate by a few inches, but it was too close to take.

Following the whiff, Gardner slammed his bat on the ground in frustration, cracking it in half. Given that the Red Sox lost to the White Sox and another chance to cut into the 2 1/2-game deficit was wasted, they should be frustrated.

Fractured Fairy Tale

(Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images)

I have to admit that when I first saw the headlines that Orioles reliever Alfredo Simon had a warrant out on him in connection with a fatal shooting on New Year’s Eve, my first reaction was to make a crack along the lines of, well now nobody could say he wasn’t an intimidating presence on the mound. But I’m glad I refrained because now Simon has turned himself in and the more I read about the case, which is still fairly muddled at this point, the sadder it all seems. The shooting was first reported as taking place after a dispute but is now apparently being viewed as an accident, according to authorities, and exactly how it happened is fairly unclear – Simon himself says that it occurred while he was trying to break up a fight between two other people, but his lawyer told The Baltimore Sun that because Simon was firing into the air, he couldn’t have shot the victim in the chest, and that the bullet must have come from another gun. I, of course, have no idea what happened, except that  it wasn’t good.

The touching aspect of the article – at least, touching if we’re assuming that if Simon is guilty of anything,  the shooting was indeed an accident, however stupid – is that Simon’s teammates are stepping up to help. Miguel Tejada found Simon’s lawyer and is footing the bill, with some possible assistance from former teammate Julio Lugo.

Olivares’ representation of Simon is being bankrolled by former Orioles star Miguel Tejada, a compatriot who befriended Simon before being traded to the San Diego Padres in July. Tejada said by telephone Monday morning that he spoke with friends in the Dominican Republic to help him choose a firm that could best help Simon. Tejada said he expects to pick up the bill, although former Orioles infielder Julio Lugo also has taken an active role, he said, and may help with the expenses. Lugo accompanied Simon to the police station Monday.

“Alfredo is a kid I really love a lot,” Tejada said. “He is in trouble right now, and that’s what we do, we stick together. We wanted some big company attorneys, there are some good ones here in the Dominican and this is a special case.”

Tejada said he spoke with Simon on Sunday and that the pitcher is doing well, given the circumstances. “He is fine,” Tejada said. “He told me he doesn’t have anything to do with it, he is not the one to do it, and I believe him. I tell him I am with him and if there’s anything he needs, I am here.”

Lugo said he advised Simon to surrender after he had fled from the scene. “He is scared because he recognizes that he fired shots, although they went into the air,” Lugo said…

I was thinking that this was an impressive display of team loyalty, players putting their money where their mouths are and having each other’s backs when the chips are down. And then I remembered that Miguel Tejada is a grump who’s been tied to steroids and convicted of lying to congress, and Julio Lugo has been on my scumbag list since he was arrested for domestic violence back in 2003 (he was acquitted after his wife changed her story and testified on his behalf, but I’ll let you decide for yourself whether to believe that she hit her own head on a truck).

The moral of the story is, people are complicated.


And so it is that CC Sabathia, unbeaten at home since July 2 of last year, has now been defeated. After Tuesday’s anemic 6-2 loss, the words “CC Sabathia” and “Cy Young Award frontrunner” are not being used in the same sentence. Sabathia, three times a 19-game winner, saw his ERA jump to 3.14 from 3.02, and he may have blown his best chance to finally hit the 20-win plateau. His next start comes Monday against the Rays. He has one more start against the Orioles before finishing against the Rays and either the Blue Jays or Red Sox.

Sabathia’s problems started immediately. The first five Orioles reached base and three runs scored before he recorded his first out. We could sit here and analyze location and nitpick his mechanics, but to simplify it, he was off.

“Could you have a worse beginning?” John Sterling asked the radio audience. The question, framed in his trademark condescending harrumph, was not rhetorical. Ty Wigginton could have hit a grand slam and the O’s could have scored five runs before making their first out. Sabathia showed his toughness by coming back to retire the 6-7-8 hitters and escape with a disappointing yet manageable 3-0 deficit.

Lost in that initial series was how poor defense led to the craptastic start. Jorge Posada alone cost the Yankees two runs: 1) His passed ball allowed Brian Roberts to advance to second base. Roberts would score two batters later, on Ty Wigginton’s bloop single. 2) His inability to hold on to Brett Gardner’s throw allowed Nick Markakis to slide home safely with the Orioles’ third run.

And yet with all that, there was still a sense the Yankees would find a way to dig back against Jake Arrieta. They had their chances, too. They plated a run in the first inning and seemed primed for more, with runners at the corners and one out, until Nick Swisher bounced into a double play. In the second, Seth Everett doppelganger Lance Berkman led off with a single only to be erased on a Posada double play. That double play began a stretch of nine straight Yankees being retired.

On the other side, Sabathia continued to labor and the defense continued to falter behind him. Wigginton led off the third with a double — a long fly ball to the right-center-field gap that Granderson had a bead on and nearly caught, but it bounded off the heel of his glove. Two batters later, Nolan Reimold launched a first-pitch fastball around the left-field foul pole and into the second deck. Granderson’s seventh-inning error led to the Orioles’ final run of the game.

It was only a matter of time before the Yankees had a stinker like this, especially with Sabathia on the mound. The offense, despite valiant efforts and numerous opportunities created, couldn’t bail him out. The Yankees were 2-for-11 with runners in scoring position; they were hitless in their last nine at-bats with RISP. Perhaps the play most emblematic of the Yankees’ night occurred in the bottom of the seventh inning, when with runners on first and third and one out, Alex Rodriguez, pinch-hitting for Ramiro Peña, ripped a line drive off the glove of third baseman Josh Bell, only to have it carom to shortstop Robert Andino, who fired to Roberts at second to force Granderson. Berkman, watching the play develop in front of him, had to hold at third. He’d be stranded there as Brett Gardner grounded out to end the inning and the last Yankee threat.

The Yankees have now followed their season-long eight-game winning streak with three straight losses. Tuesday’s defeat marked the first series loss at home since the Toronto Blue Jays took two of three August 2-4.

Credit the Orioles, though. These are not the Dave Trembley/Juan Samuel led O’s that mailed in the season before the All-Star break. They’re playing inspired baseball under Mr. Showalter. In fact, in the 35 games since he assumed managerial duties in Baltimore, the O’s have the best record in the AL East at 21-14, one game ahead of the Yankees.

It was previously thought that with the upcoming trip to Texas, and 13 games against the Rays and Red Sox, the two series with the Orioles would not necessarily be gimmes, but chances for the Yankees to pad the win column and keep the Rays at arm’s length. Not so. The former Yankees manager has given the young O’s a reason to play spoiler.

What’s a four letter word that rhymes with Buck?

Burn Notice

The first two games of the series at Camden Yards — the last series the Yankees will play against American League competition for a few weeks — did little to hold the interest of even the Yankees, it seemed. The Yankees believe they will win every game, while the Orioles, a once proud franchise, have become a team that is only “Major League” in name, to paraphrase Vin Scully. As WFAN’s Steve Sommers put it on the Wednesday Schmooze, “You know who’s going to win, it’s just a matter of what the final score will be.”

Yet amid an air of seemingly unfailing predictability, there’s AJ Burnett. In his last two starts he plowed through the Indians’ lineup and then ran into the Blue Jays’ home run machine. The O’s should have been the perfect elixir to get him back on track. Except that with Burnett, in a season and a half of watching him closely, we’re unable to discern that there is a track.

In the first inning, Burnett’s numbers read as follows:

2 R, 2 H, 2 HBP, 2 K, 2.00 WHIP.

Great poker hand, terrible pitching line.

But these were the Orioles, so there was still a sense that the Yankees would come back and win this game without issue. Either that, or the Orioles would find a way to botch things and hand the game in the Yankees’ favor as they did Wednesday night.


Baltimore Orioles IV: The Whoopin’ Continues

The Yankees are 8-1 against the Orioles this year, and the O’s have scored an average of just 2.2 runs in those nine games. The Yankees swept the O’s last week in the Bronx, part of a ten-game Orioles’ losing streak during which the O’s scored an average of 1.6 runs per game against their opponent’s 6.6. That streak was snapped on Sunday as the O’s pulled out a 4-3, 11-inning victory over the Red Sox.

The only change the O’s have made since leaving the Bronx is that they finally fired manager Dave Trembley, replacing him with third-base coach Juan Samuel on an interim basis. I always thought the knock on Trembley’s predecessor Sam Perlozzo was that his team would lie down on him late in the season, but that trend continued under Trembley. This year they never stood up despite being expected to finally show some signs of life. It’s wasn’t Trembley’s fault that the only members of the lineup who are hitting are 32-year-olds Ty Wigginton and Luke Scott or that Brian Roberts got hurt, but then there’s nothing to credit Trembley with either. Trembley’s winning percentage had dropped in each of his three seasons despite the perception that the team was improving its talent level. It was time to make a change, but don’t expect the team to rally around Samuel, who had been coaching third-base for the O’s since 2006.

When the Yankees began their current stretch of patsy opponents, commenter OldYanksFan suggested that the Yankees should really aim to win 12 of their 16 games against the Indians, Orioles, Blue Jays, and Astros. Thus far they are 7-3, but I think it’s entirely within reason to expect them to take five of their next six against Baltimore and Houston and not out of the question to expect them to sweep their way through the weekend, particularly given that they won’t be facing Roy Oswalt when the Astros come to town. That work begins tonight as Phil Hughes, who aced his last two starts, the last coming against the O’s, looks to keep hard-luck Kevin Millwood winless on the season.


Baltimore Orioles III: What Happened?

This was supposed to be the year that the rebuilding Orioles began their long climb back up the AL East standings. They weren’t supposed to win, but they were definitely supposed to improve thanks to the young bats in the heart of their lineup and the first of a strong supply of pitching prospects breaking into their rotation. Mix in some solid veteran stop-gaps such as Miguel Tejada and Kevin Millwood and the Orioles were supposed to be, well, not terrible. That they started the season by going 1-11 and 2-16 was supposed to be a fluke, but in their last 15 games coming into this week’s three-game set in the Bronx the O’s have gone just 3-12. It’s just not happening. The Orioles not only aren’t better than last year’s last-place team, they have the worst record in baseball and a winning percentage below .300.

What happened? Well, to begin with, no one is hitting. Adam Jones, an All-Star in 2009, is hitting .251/.274/.382. Matt Wieters, the organization’s can’t-miss catching prospect is hitting .250/.323/.351 as a sophomore. Nolan Reimold a solid-hitting rookie left-fielder last year, hit just .205/.302/.337 and lost both his job and his roster spot to Corey Patterson of all people. Nick Markakis, the one established star in the Orioles’ youth movement, is hitting .307 with a solid .405 on-base percentage, but is slugging a mere .434 with just three home runs after slugging .476 and averaging more than 20 homers a year over the last three seasons. Tejada is slugging just .365.

Garrett Atkins, signed to be a stop-gap at first base, has been a total bust, hitting .214/.261/.294. Atkins first lost his starts against right-handed pitchers to rookie Rhyne Hughes, but once Hughes stopped hitting, the Orioles were forced to move Ty Wigginton to first base. Wigginton has been the lone bright spot in the Baltimore lineup, putting up MVP-quality numbers, but he only got to play because Brian Roberts has been out all season with a back injury and isn’t close to returning. So with Wigginton at first, the Orioles have turned to Julio Lugo at the keystone. Lugo is hitting .234 in 81 plate appearances with three walks and no extra-base hits.

That just leaves shortstop Cesar Izturis, who wasn’t supposed to hit and isn’t (.227/.295/.250) and Luke Scott, who is doing his modest best as the DH and occasional fill in at first base and in left field. The result isn’t the worst offense in baseball (thanks Pirates and Astros!), but it’s darn close. The Orioles are scoring just 3.43 runs per game. Apparently they heard about Ubaldo Jimenez and thought it was 1968.

As for the rotation, heralded rookie lefty Brian Matusz, who faces Javy Vazquez tonight, got off to a solid start, but perhaps frustrated by a lack of run support (he lost consecutive starts to the Yankees despite turning in quality starts both times because the O’s scored a total of one run in those two games), he’s been struggling of late, turning in disaster starts in three of his last four outings. The young pitcher who was supposed to join him in the rotation this year, 22-year-old righty Chris Tillman, only just got there, making his first major league start of the year on Saturday.

Millwood, who faces CC Sabathia on Thursday, has pitched well, but is 0-5 on the season thanks to a mere 2.75 runs of support on average. In Millwood’s 11 starts, the O’s have scored more than three runs just thrice. The O’s have won four of Millwoods starts, with the veteran righty taking a no-decision all four times, by a combined margin of five runs. One of those came against the Yankees. It was the only time in six games the O’s have beaten the Yankees this season and was a game I, among others, blamed on the Yankees having something of a hangover from a busy off-day in Washington, DC the day before.

Phil Hughes faces Brad Bergesen in the middle game of the series. Bergesen has a 5.96 ERA and has walked three more men than he has struck out, a stat that has more to do with Bergesen’s inability to strike anyone out (just 2.4 K/9) than anything else.

So, yeah, the Orioles are a terrible team right now. They still have the potential to suddenly click and have a solid second-half, but even with a pair of fair pitching matchups (the talented lefty Matusz against the struggling Vazquez tonight and the solid vet Millwood against a struggling Sabathia on Thursday), the Yankees should be embarrassed by anything less than a sweep this week.


Baltimore Orioles II: You Ain’t So Tough

When the Yankees arrived in Baltimore a week ago, the Orioles were 3-16 and I wrote that they weren’t that bad. This week, the O’s arrive in the Bronx coming off a three-game sweep of the Red Sox and have won five of their last seven games (four against Boston and one against the Yankees last Tuesday), and I’m here to say, the Orioles aren’t that good (I also believe the Red Sox aren’t that bad, but I’ll save that for Friday’s series preview).

Nothing has changed about the Orioles other than their luck.While the Yankees were in Baltimore last week, Alfredo Simon was called up and installed as the closer, with Kam Mickolio returning to the minors. Since then, the O’s have made just one roster move, sending former closer Jim Johnson to the minors in order to return Brad Bergesen to the fifth spot in the rotation. The Yankees won’t face Bergesen in this series and they’ve already seen Simon. Nothing has changed about the Orioles. (Incidentally, I noticed I forgot to fill in the “Who’s Replaced Whom” section in my O’s post last week, so I’ve included the full 2009-to-2010 comparison below).

The O’s swept the Red Sox by outlasting them. Two of the games were decided by one run in ten innings, and the other had a final score of 12-9. I like the Yankees chances of winning a slug-fest with the O’s, but with CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett, and Andy Pettitte lineup as the Yankees starters in this series, I don’t see one developing. The O’s counter with Jeremy Guthrie, Brian Matusz, and David Hernandez. Hernandez, the only one of the three the Yankees didn’t see (and beat) last week has been a five-inning, keep-you-in-the-game sort of pitcher in the early going, but has walked nearly as many men as he’s struck out and gives up a ton of fly balls, which is a recipe for disaster when facing the Yankees in the Bronx. Matusz vs. Burnett Tuesday night looks like the O’s best chance of a win on paper as Matusz has been solid (three straight quality starts including his loss to the Yankees last week) and I always feel like Burnett is due for a stinker, no matter how well he pitches (and he flat-out dominated the O’s in Baltimore last week, allowing just three singles and a walk in eight shutout innings). Tonight, CC Sabathia faces Jeremy Guthrie for the fifth time since joining the Yankees. Sabathia is 3-1 those matchups thus far, including last Wednesday’s 8-3 Yankee win in Baltimore.


2010 Baltimore Orioles

I like to think I have a firm command of the obvious. To wit, the Orioles, who at 3-16 are four games worse than the next worst team in baseball less than 20 games into the season, aren’t this bad. After all, no team in baseball history has ever finished with a sub .200 winning percentage (the O’s are at .158 entering this week’s three-game series against the Yankees in Baltimore), and the O’s don’t profile as one of the worst teams in baseball history. What’s more, their Pythagorean winning percentage has them at a less compellingly awful .316.

Coming into the season, I thought that this would be the year the rebuilding O’s would slip past the directionless Blue Jays into fourth place, and I still feel that way. The Orioles have a solid collection of good young talent, some of which is still in the process of establishing itself in the major leagues, some of which could arrive in the bigs as the season progresses, and some of which may not even make it until next year or beyond. For that reason, when prescribing off-season strategies for all 30 teams for SI.com back in November, I said the Orioles needed to “avoid trying to buy in too early . . . Once those pieces have established themselves, the O’s can open up the coffers and flesh out the roster, but for now they’ll let [free agent Melvin] Mora go and should stick with inexpensive veteran stop-gaps in the infield . . . while giving the youngsters their opportunities.”

That’s exactly what the O’s did in bringing back the 36-year-old Miguel Tejada to play third base for $6 million, signing deposed Rockies third baseman Garrett Atkins to play first base for $4.5 million, and sticking with Cesar Izturis, on the second year of a two-year, $5 million contract, at shortstop. In a way, wins aren’t really what the O’s are after just yet. General Manager Andy MacPhail has been in enough rodeos to know that there’s no point shooting for a fluky 83-win division title in a division that also contains the Yankees, Red Sox, and Rays. Instead, he’s taking his time, trying to get his kids established and sort the prospect wheat out from the remaining chafe. That sort of strategy can lead to exactly the sort of growing pains the O’s are experiencing now, but misfortune can create opportunity.

With the team desperate to get off the floor, manager Dave Trembley has found an excuse to bench the struggling rental Atkins in favor of minor leaguer Rhyne Hughes. Hughes is a 26-year-old rookie and not among the team’s better prospects, but he hit .301/.357/.510 in his Triple-A debut last year, and his time is now if ever. Hughes was the return for sending Gregg Zaun to the Rays in early August of last year, and if Hughes turns out to be a solid major leaguer, that’s essentially free production. If that happens, the decision to effectively leave first base “open” by signing Atkins will have been key to getting something for nothing there. Hughes has gone 4-for-9 with a walk in his first two major league games, one of which was the O’s third win of the season. That’s not terribly meaningful, but it’s better than having starting off with an 0-fer. Hughes is additionally compelling because the O’s top first-base prospect, Brandon Snyder, really isn’t. Snyder hits for average with some doubles, but he doesn’t walk much, doesn’t have significant home run power, and isn’t anything special in the field.

The O’s are much better off at third base, where they can thank another slick late-season deal for Josh Bell, who arrived from the Dodgers for lefty reliever George Sherrill at last year’s trading deadline. Bell is a big, power-hitting third baseman who is making his Triple-A debut this year and could be among the O’s prospects to arrive in the majors mid-year. There’s some concern about Bell’s defense at the hot corner, which makes him a peripheral concern in the first base picture as well, but wherever he plays, he should be a mid-lineup presence for the O’s in the very near future.

Add Bell and possibly Hughes to a lineup that already includes Matt Wieters and the outfield of Adam Jones, Nick Markakis, and Nolan Reimold, and the O’s have a solid young core that can be complimented through free agency or more deft trades. Before that can happen, however, those youngsters have to get their feet under them in the majors, which only Markakis has done thus far. Wieters and Jones are just 24 and Wieters, off to a solid start this year, has less than a full season of major league experience under his belt. Reimold, who like Markakis is 26 this season, is closer to Hughes than the other four and still needs to prove he’s a major league starter. The flip-side of the Atkins-Hughes situation is that the team’s start has been so bad that is has shortened the leash for lesser prospects such as Reimold. Despite a significant injury which will keep his primary left-field rival Felix Pie out until at least mid-season, Reimold, off to a slow start, has begun losing playing time to the still-older, still-lesser ex-prospect Lou Montanez (though Montanez is in the process of playing himself out of the lineup as well).

On the mound, the O’s have upgraded their brutal 2009 rotation by acquiring veteran Kevin Millwood, on the last year of his contract and thus effectively on another one-year deal, from the Rangers for reliever Chris Ray, who struggled mightily last year in his first year back from Tommy John surgery. More importantly, they’re already getting strong work from lefty Brian Matusz, who was the fourth overall pick in the 2008 draft and is a budding front-of-the-rotation starter and a popular pre-season pick for the American League Rookie of the Year. Millwood and Matusz effectively push Jeremy Guthrie down to the third spot in the rotation. Guthrie is still overextended, even as a number-three, and the final two spots are still filled by pitchers who probably shouldn’t even be in the majors, but that major league mediocrity is again just thin cover for budding prospects including Chris Tillman–who came over with Jones, Sherrill, and reliever Kam Mickolio in the Erik Bedard deal and got a taste of the majors last year at age 21–Jake Arrieta, a 2007 draft pick out of college who could join Tillman in the big league rotation later this year, and Brandon Erbe, who is making his Triple-A debut this year at age 22.

So the O’s have half a lineup, half a rotation, and following a shoulder injury suffered by fragile free agent closer Mike Gonzalez, not much to speak of in the bullpen, but those component parts remain compelling and potential building blocks of a future contender in Baltimore. Right now the Orioles aren’t a good team, but they’re not as bad as they’ve looked in the early going, and are continually getting better. The Orioles should move into fourth place for the first time since 2007, but they’ll still finish with their 13th-straight losing season, yet there remains reason for optimism in Baltimore.


Baltimore Orioles VI: Bambi vs. Godzilla

The Yankees are 12-3 against the Orioles this year and 12-1 against them since the third day of the season. Last week, the Yanks swept the O’s in a three-game series in Baltimore, outscoring them 24-9. The Yankees now welcome the Orioles to the Bronx having just swept the third-place Rays in four games amid one of the most dominant second-half runs in major league history. The O’s are 12-25 (.324) since the trading deadline and have won just two of their last eight stretching back through that last series against the Yankees.

What makes this series different, other than its location, is that the Yankees get their first look at the O’s two young starting prospects, Chris Tillman and Brian Matusz, who start tonight and tomorrow. Tillman is a tall, skinny, 21-year-old righty who came over in the Erik Bedard trade. Matusz is an equally tall (though not as skinny), 22-year-old lefty who was drafted out of college with the fourth overall pick last year. Neither has had much success in the majors thus far, but they, along with catcher Matt Wieters and outfielders Nick Markakis, Adam Jones (currently on the DL with a bad back), and to a lesser degree Nolan Riemold, should be thorns in the Yankees’ side for years to come. Thus far, Matusz, the polished college product has had more success, though per my man Kevin Goldstein at Baseball Prospectus, Tillman remains the better prospect and a potential ace.

Taking on Tillman tonight (weather permitting, and it don’t look good) is Andy Pettitte, who has been ace-like himself in the second half, going 5-1 with a 2.88 ERA while the Yankees have won his last seven starts. Johnny Damon sits out the bad weather with a stiff back. Melky’s in left with Gardner in center, those two hits 8th and 9th. Swisher hits 2nd.


Baltimore Orioles V: Marking Time

This just in: the Yankees are cruising to their first AL East title since 2006. There, I said it. The Yankees have a six-game lead with 32 left to play and nearly half of those remaining games, 15 of 32, will come against the Royals, Blue Jays, and Orioles, three teams with a combined .416 winning percentage.

The Yankees are 9-3 against the Orioles this season and 9-1 since dropping the first two games of the season in Baltimore due to poor starts by CC Sabathia (who has since turned back into CC Sabathia) and Chien-Ming Wang (who has since landed on the 60-day DL).

Since the Yankees last saw them, the Orioles have traded away first baseman Aubrey Huff, closer George Sherrill, and veteran backup catcher Gregg Zaun. Lone All-Star Adam Jones has been fighting back pain and hasn’t had a hit in over a week, and supposed rookie phenom Matt Weiters has been slower to adjust to major league pitching than was expected (.258/.307/.366 in August with 24 Ks against 6 walks in 25 games). The debuts of top pitching prospects Chris Tillman (yet another product of the Erik Bedard trade) and Brian Matusz have kept the O’s interesting, but the Yankees will miss both this week.

So, really, there’s nothing to see here. The Orioles are 10-19 (.345) on the month and have won just one series in August. The Yankees have lost just two series since the All-Star break, have scored 7.5 runs per game in their 11 contests since being shutout by the A’s and Brett Tomko, are coming off a sweep of the White Sox, and have their top three starters lined up for this series in Andy Pettitte, CC Sabathia, and A.J. Burnett. The O’s will be lucky to avoid a sweep.

Jeremy Guthrie takes the hill for Baltimore tonight coming off a pair of strong starts against the White Sox and Twins. In both outings, Guthrie allowed just one run on six hits in seven innings. In the latter he struck out five against no walks or homers. Of course, his season ERA is 5.26, and he’s 1-2 against the Yankees in three starts this season. Guthrie’s first two starts against the Yanks were similar quality starts (6 IP, 7 H, 3 R). He won the first thanks to Sabathia’s bad outing and lost the second when CC got his revenge with a four-hit shutout. He last faced the Yankees on May 20 and gave up five runs in seven innings to lose to Phil Hughes.

Despite a hiccup in Boston hidden by the offense’s 20-run outburst, Andy Pettitte’s second-half numbers are still fantastic: 2.79 ERA, 1.12 WHIP, 9.4 K/9, 3.6 K/BB, just 2 HR allowed in 8 starts averaging more than 6 1/3 innings per start. Andy started that run with 7 1/3 dominant innings against the O’s (1 R, 8 K). Surprisingly, that was his only start against Baltimore this season prior to tonight.

Alex Rodriguez gets the night off tonight. Jerry Hairston Jr., hitting a fluky .316/.413/.553 as a Yankee, plays third and bats eighth. Everyone else moves up a spot.


Baltimore Orioles IV: How To Extend A Winning Streak

Play a patsy.

To be fair, the Baltimore Orioles aren’t a complete pushover. There seven teams in the major leagues with worse records and the free-falling Mets are just two games better. In fact, for the first time perhaps since I started blogging, I’m actually looking forward to the Yankees matchups with the Orioles. That’s because of the exciting young talent the Orioles have in their lineup.

Nick Markakis is in his fourth season as the O’s right fielder, but he’s still just 25, and though his production has dipped down to his rookie-year level, he’s been a strong second-half performer in his young career, hitting .316/.388/.529 after the All-Star break. Adam Jones, who had the game-winning RBI in the All-Star Game, is having a big breakout season at age 23, though he’s slumped since the beginning of June, hitting .253/.307/.333. Those two have been joined by 25-year-old Nolan Reimold in left field. Reimold was called up in mid-May and made an immediate impact, hitting .296/.375/.533 with nine homers through the end of June. He’s scuffled thus far in July (.191/.269/.234, no homers), so it will be interesting to see if he can make the necessary adjustments to stay in the league.

Perhaps overshadowing those three is rookie backstop Matt Wieters, not because of his performance, but because of his blue-chip status. Wieters was supposed to be this year’s Evan Longoria, but with the Orioles out of contention they were able to wait a bit longer to bring Wieters up, thereby protecting his arbitration status. The fifth-overall pick in the 2007 draft, the 6-foot-5 Wieters hit .343/.438/.576 while burning through the Orioles’ minor league system in a little more than a year. Called up in late May, soon after his 23rd birthday, Wieters has yet to really settle in as a major leaguer. Even tossing out his rough first week in the bigs, he’s hit just .270/.330/.416 since June 9. Still, the potential is there for a huge breakout, and Wieters has the potential to develop into one of the best hitters in the league at any position.

Add to those four Brian Roberts, having a slightly down year at age 31, but still leading the majors in doubles, and a strong showing from fellow-31-year-old Luke Scott (.298/.380/.579 and hitting lefties even better than righties), and the Orioles have an offense worth watching.

What makes them a patsy is their pitching staff. The names have changed from when I wrote something very similar prior to the Yankees’ season-opening series in Baltimore. Adam Eaton has been released, Koji Uehara and Alfredo Simon are on the DL, and Mark Hendrickson has been banished to the bullpen, but the Orioles rotation is still awful. Would-be ace Jeremy Guthrie, whom the Yankees will miss, has a 5.12 ERA. The rest of their rotation made a combined five starts above double-A in 2008, all of them by Cubs castoff Rich Hill. Hill, who starts against Sergio Mitre tomorrow, has a 7.22 ERA thus far this year. Rookie Jason Berken, who will face A.J. Burnett on Wednesday night, is 1-7 with a 6.44 ERA.

The Orioles have had more encouraging results from 23-year-old rookie groundballer Brad Bergesen, though he won’t pitch in this series either. Bergesen has been solid (6-4, 3.51 ERA and a 2.41 ERA over his last ten starts), but his low strikeout rate remains a concern. The fifth spot in the rotation is being filled tonight by 24-year-old rookie David Hernandez. Hernandez. Hernandez has struck out 10.4 men per nine innings in his five-year minor league career, but save for his lone major league relief outing (2 2/3 IP, 0 R, 4 K), has yet to find the same success in the majors after five starts. Despite his middling major league strikeout rate, Hernandez turned in quality starts against the Mariners and Angels his last two times out and fell just one out shy of a quality start in two of his other three outings. The catch is that he’s a fly-ball pitcher coming to the new Yankee Stadium with a reputation for grooving pitches when behind in the count.

Facing Hernandez will be Andy Pettitte. Pettitte had always been a strong second-half performer prior to his second-half collapse last year. Even with last year factored in, he sports a second-half ERA of 3.64 and winning percentage of .687 compared to 4.17 and .578 in the first half. In 2007, Pettitte helped pitch the Yankees into the playoffs, coming out of the All-Star break to go 8-1 witha 2.61 ERA in his first nine starts of the second half. Pettitte claimed his poor second half last year was due to poor off-season conditioning, which he blamed on his desire to keep a low profile after his name surfaced in the Mitchell Report. Assuming Andy got back to his normal routine this past winter, it’s time for it to start paying off, particularly given his disappointing first-half performance.

Eric Hinske starts over Nick Swisher in right tonight against the righty Hernandez. Melky Cabrera starts in center. That’s four post-break starts for Melky to one by Brett Gardner. I don’t like that trend. Melky had a six-game hitting streak going, but it was snapped yesterday. He’s hitting .256/.319/.372 in July and was 2-for-10 with no walks or extra base hits against the Tigers over the weekend. Then again, Gardner is hitting .219/.265/.281 with just two walks and one extra-base hit on the month. Both players have taken advantage of slumps by the other this season. There’s no telling who will step up now, but Gardner needs to play to have a chance.


Baltimore Orioles III: Tie Breaker

The Yankees and Orioles split their first six head-to-head games this season, all of which were played in Baltimore, but the three Yankee losses were all directly attributable to poor starting pitching performances: CC Sabathia on Opening Day (4 1/3 IP, 6 R), Chien-Ming Wang the next day (3 2/3 IP, 7 R), and Phil Hughes two Saturdays ago (1 2/3 IP, 8 R). The Orioles scored just five runs against the Yankees in the other three games, while the Yankees have scored at least four runs in all six games and are averaging 5.83 R/G on the series.

That’s been par for the course for the O’s this year, as only the Nationals have allowed more runs per game than the O’s 5.92. That’s hardly come as a surprise. The first sentence of my season preview for the O’s back on April 6 attacked the quality of their starting rotation. Now, just shy of the quarterpole, the O’s starting rotation sports a 5.76 ERA, better than only that of the Phillies, who come to town on Friday.

The O’s are optimistic about the return of lefty Rich Hill from the disabled list, and his first start gave them reason to be, but the Yankees won’t see him this week. Nor will they face early-season staff ace Koji Uehara, who has held the Yanks to two runs over 11 innings thus far this season and sports a 4.34 ERA that’s nearly a run better than that of the O’s next best starter. Instead they’ll kick things off tonight against 23-year-old rookie Brad Bergesen, who has lasted six full innings just twice in five starts (and never more than six full) and has allowed at least three runs every time out, though he’s also not done worse than the five runs in four innings he allowed in his second major league start.

Bergesen and tomorrow’s starter, Jeremy Guthrie, who has two nearly identical quality starts against the Yankees this year, have been middling thus far, sporting .500 records and ERAs in the low 5.00s. Thursday’s starter, Adam Eaton, has been awful (2-4, 7.93 ERA). Things don’t look much better in the pen, though Danys Baez has made a nice return from Tommy John surgery and George Sherrill continues to cling to his closer job despite Dave Trembley announcing that the role would be shared.

At the plate, the O’s have lost one of their hottest hitters, DH/left fielder Luke Scott (.303/.384/.515) to the DL, and have been without their hottest, center fielder Adam Jones (.370/.426/.669), since Wednesday due to a tender hamstring.

Jones is expected to return to the lineup tonight, which is bad news for the Yankees, though CC Sabathia could help get him back off on the wrong foot. Sabathia avenged his Opening Day loss with a four-hit shutout of the O’s two turns ago. He then held the league-best Toronto offense to two runs over eight innings his last time out. After struggling with his control in three of his first four starts, Sabathia has walked just six men in his four (1.17 BB/9) and seems to have over come his one-bad-inning syndrome in his last two strong performances.

It’s easy to say that players like Sabathia and Mark Teixeira are starting to click with the Yankees riding a six-game winning streak, but those performances are part of why the Yankees are on a six-game winning streak to begin with. Tonight, CC looks to make it seven. I like his chances.

Hideki Matsui returns to the lineup today as the DH batting fifth, and Brian Bruney is supposed to be activated before game time. No word yet on which reliever is getting shipped out to make room for him, though I suspect Edwar Ramirez, who unlike Jose Veras has options left, could be on his way to Scranton.


Yankee Panky: Paralysis By Analysis?

The past 10 days have seen an immense range of stories leapfrog to the forefront of New York sports fans’ collective consciousness. In no particular order, with some analysis and commentary mixed in…

• The Yankees slashed prices for the primo seats, an altruistic move that still leaves many of us thinking, “You know, you have your own network, and it’s on my cable system. I’ll contribute to your bottom line that way and I won’t feel like I got stabbed in the wallet.”

• Alex Rodriguez did everything necessary in extended spring training and returned to the lineup Friday. He punctuated the return with a home run on the first pitch he saw, thus fulfilling his job as the media-anointed savior of the team’s season. He proceeded to go 1-for-10 with two strikeouts in the remainder of the series, and perhaps fearing aggravating the hip injury, didn’t hustle down the line to run out a ground ball, thus reclaiming his role as the team’s most prominent punching bag.

• The Yankees lost two straight to the Red Sox at home and have lost the first five meetings of the season. (Sound the alarms! Head for the hills! There’s no way the Yankees can win the division without beating the Red Sox! Except that they can, and they have. In 2004, the Yankees went 1-6 in their first seven games against the BoSox, ended up losing the season series 8-11 and still finished 101-61 to win the American League East by three games.)

• Joba Chamberlain 1: His mother was arrested for allegedly selling crystal meth to an undercover officer. Following Chamberlain’s own brushes with the law during the offseason, it stood to reason that the tabloids attacked this story like starving coyotes. It’s remarkable that he was able to pitch at all given the negative attention he received.

• Joba Chamberlain 2: Flash back to Aug. 13, 2007. Chamberlain struck out Orioles first baseman Aubrey Huff in a crucial late-inning at-bat to end the inning and in the heat of the moment pumped his fist in exultation. Yesterday, following a three-run home run in the first inning that gave the O’s a 3-1 lead, Huff mocked Chamberlain’s emotional outburst with his own fist pump, first while rounding first base, and again when crossing home plate. Apparently, Mr. Huff holds grudges. Thanks to the New York Daily News’s headline, “MOCKING BIRD” with a photo of the home-plate celebration, this story will have wings when Baltimore comes to the Bronx next week. Even better, as it currently stands, Chamberlain is due to start in the series finale on Thursday the 21st. Get ready for a rash of redux stories leading up to that game.

• Mariano Rivera surrendered back-to-back home runs for the first time in his career last Wednesday night, a clear signal that something is wrong. Maybe.

• The team as a whole. The Yankees are 15-16 through 31 games, and some rabid fans (the “Spoiled Set,” as Michael Kay likes to call them; the group of fans between ages 18-30 that only knows first-place finishes for the Yankees) are calling for Joe Girardi’s head. As in the above note on the Red Sox, some context is required. The Yankees’ records through 31 games this decade:

2000: 22-9 (finished 87-74, won AL East)
2001: 18-13 (finished 95-65, won AL East)
2002: 18-13 (finished 103-58, won AL East)
2003: 23-8 (finished 101-61, won AL East)
2004: 18-13 (finished 101-61, won AL East)
2005: 12-19 (finished 95-67, won AL East)
2006: 19-12 (finished 97-65, won AL East)
2007: 15-16 (finished 94-68, won AL Wild Card)
2008: 15-16 (finished 89-73, missed playoffs)
2009: 15-16 (finish TBD)

No one is going to make excuses for the team with the billion dollar stadium and the highest payroll, least of all your trusted scribes here at the Banter. Looking at the last three years — including 2009 — it should be noted that similar issues of injury, age, and woes throughout the pitching staff have befallen the Yankees.


Baltimore Orioles II: Cellar Repeller

I’ll get to the Orioles in a second. First here’s what’s new about the Yankee roster:

  • Alex Rodriguez is back, playing third and hitting fourth in the tonight’s lineup.

That’s huge. Joe Girardi has posted a lineup without Alex Rodriguez and Jorge Posada in roughly one third of the Yankees’ games this season (nine of 28). Amazingly, the Yankees have scored 5.67 runs per game in those nine games, but their record in those games has been 3-6, and four of those games have occurred during the team’s current five-game losing streak, with the Yankees averaging just four runs per game in those four games. Losing Posada for a month or so has undermined the impact of Rodriguez’s return, but Rodriguez’s return similarly negates the impact of the loss of Posada. Yankee third basemen have hit .202/.248/.283 in Rodriguez’s absence. It’s difficult to underestimate the importance of his return.

  • Jose Molina is on the DL with a Grade 2 strain in his left quadriceps. Kevin Cash, who hurt his right shoulder on a slide in April and was just activated from the DL on Tuesday, has been called up to take Molina’s place.

Francisco Cervelli draws the start tonight. I have no idea how Girardi is going to dole out the starts going forward, but I would be surprised if Cervelli and Cash are much more productive in place of Posada and Molina than the Yankee third basemen were in place of Alex Rodriguez. Here’s what I wrote about Cash in my Yankee Campers piece back in February:

Kevin Cash is only three years younger than Chad Moller and a whole lot worse at the plate. He has a great arm, but that simply makes him a younger, less-productive version of Jose Molina. At 31, he’s a career .184/.248/.285 hitter in 557 major league plate appearances. His career OPS+ is 38. He’s among the worst of a worthless breed. The Yankees should be publicly apologetic for not being able to do better.

And here’s what I said about Cervelli:

Cervelli played just 21 games for Trenton last year, but hit .315/.432/.384 in them. That high on-base and poor power is typical of Cervelli, a strong defender who turns 23 in early March and could yet emerge as a major league starter. The Yankees hope Cervelli, the leader in their parade of low-minors catching prospects, will advance quickly, but they’d be wise not to rush him out of desperation. He looked completely overmatched in his five major league plate appearances last September.

And here’s what I wrote about Cervelli when he was called up earlier this week:

After losing most of last year to a broken arm, Cervelli now looks not unlike the catcher-version of [Ramiro] Peña. He’s a strong defender, easily major league quality, with little to recommend him at the plate other than a good batting eye. Cervelli looked overmatched at the plate in his very brief September call-up last year, while playing for Italy in the WBC this March, and in spring training after Italy’s elimination from the tournament. The sample size is minuscule, of course, but the competition in each was something less than what he’s likely to see in the majors in May, and he went a combined 4-for-25 (.160) with just one extra base hit and, despite that good batting eye, just one walk across those three appearances. Thus far this year, he’s hitting just .190/.266/.310 for the Trenton Thunder.

Though I did temper that a bit with this:

I’m not particularly worried about the Yankees “rushing” the 23-year-old Cervelli because Jesus Montero is now just a level behind him at High-A Tampa and is crushing the ball. Montero’s defense is far from major-league-ready, if it ever well be, but he’s nipping at Cervelli’s heals. Peña has handled the jump to the majors wonderfully. Cervelli, who has a veteran disposition—despite his lack of production he was a clubhouse leader on Team Italy—seems as likely as anyone to do likewise.

The way I see it, Girardi might as well start Cervelli and hope for the best given that Cash has already proven himself to be an incompetent major league hitter. That said, if one of these guys has a good day at the plate, he should ride the hot hand.

  • Mark Melancon has been optioned to Triple-A Scranton.

That makes room for Rodriguez, but it doesn’t clear a 40-man roster spot for Cash, so another move is coming. If it doesn’t involve Angel Berroa getting designated for assignment, I’ll hit the roof. The problem is that the need to add Cash takes that 40-man spot away from Shelley Duncan, but then Shelley sat out Scranton’s double-header yesterday with a sore shoulder (his left, not the one he separated last year). Oy.

My suggestion for adding another bat is that the Yankees release the perpetually injured Christian Garcia, who is taking up a 40-man roster spot while working out in extended spring training. The hope there being that they could resign him like they did Humberto Sanchez. John Rodriguez or a recovered Duncan could then take Berroa’s 25-man spot while Berroa and Garcia will have made room for Cash and the extra bat.


Baltimore Orioles

Baltimore Orioles

2008 Record: 68-93 (.422)
2008 Pythagorean Record: 73-88 (.451)

Manager: Dave Trembley
General Manager: Andy MacPhail

Home Ballpark (multi-year Park Factors): Oriole Park at Camden Yards (103/104)

Who’s Replaced Whom:

  • Cesar Izturis replaces Juan Castro, Alex Cintron, Freddie Bynum, Luis Hernandez, and Brandon Fahey
  • Gregg Zaun replaces Guillermo Quiroz
  • Matt Wieters will replace Ramon Hernandez, though for now Chad Moeller has his roster spot.
  • Felix Pie and Ryan Freel replace Kevin Millar
  • Ty Wigginton replaces Jay Payton
  • Robert Andino replaces Luis Montanez (minors)
  • Koji Uehara replaces Daniel Cabrera
  • Mark Hendrickson replaces Garrett Olson
  • Adam Eaton replaces Brian Burres
  • Alfredo Simon replaces Radhames Liz (minors) and Chris Waters (minors)
  • Chris Ray replaces Chad Bradford (DL) and will soon replace George Sherrill as closer
  • Danyz Baez replaces Lance Cormier

25-man Roster:

1B – Aubrey Huff (L)
2B – Brian Roberts (S)
SS – Cesar Izturis (S)
3B – Melvin Mora (R)
C – Gregg Zaun (S)
RF – Nick Markakis (L)
CF – Adam Jones (R)
LF – Felix Pie (L)
DH – Luke Scott (L)


R – Ty Wigginton (UT)
R – Ryan Freel (UT)
R – Robert Andino (IF)
R – Chad Moeller (C)


R – Jeremy Guthrie
R – Koji Uehara
R – Alfredo Simon
L – Mark Hendrickson
R – Adam Eaton


L – George Sherrill
R – Chris Ray
L – Jamie Walker
R – Jim Johnson
R – Danys Baez
R – Matt Albers
R – Dennis Sarfate
R – Brian Bass

15-day DL: LHP – Rich Hill

Projected lineup vs. RHP:

S – Brian Roberts (2B)
R – Adam Jones (CF)
L – Nick Markakis (RF)
L – Aubrey Huff (1B)
R – Melvin Mora (3B)
L – Luke Scott (DH)
S – Gregg Zaun (C)
L – Felix Pie (LF)
S – Cesar Izturis (SS)

Projected lineup vs. LHP:

S – Brian Roberts (2B)
R – Adam Jones (CF)
L – Nick Markakis (RF)
L – Aubrey Huff (1B)
R – Melvin Mora (3B)
R – Ty Wigginton (DH)
S – Gregg Zaun (C)
R – Ryan Freel (LF)
S – Cesar Izturis (SS)

Notes: There are 26 players listed for the O’s 25-man roster because fifth starter Adam Eaton, who was signed to a minor league deal this offseason, won’t be added until just before his first start next week.


Baltimore Orioles VI: The Final Series Edition

The just-completed series against the White Sox had some interest beyond the impending closing of Yankee Stadium thanks to Chicago’s fight for the AL Central, Mike Mussina’s still-active quest for 20 wins, the return of Phil Hughes to the Yankee rotation, and the major league debuts of three Yankee prospects last night. This weekend’s series against the Orioles has none of that. These last three games will be about Yankee Stadium and nothing else. With that in mind, here are the three other opening and closing dates in the Stadium’s 86-year history:

April 18, 1923 – the first game at Yankee Stadium, Yankees beat the Red Sox 4-1 behind Bob Shawkey, who scored the first run at the new park on a single by third baseman Joe Dugan in the fourth inning. Ruth followed Dugan with a three-run homer, the Stadium’s first. Second baseman Aaron Ward had picked up the park’s first hit in the previous inning.

Sept. 30, 1973 – the final game at the original Stadium, Yankees lost to the Tigers 8-5 as Fritz Peterson and Lindy McDaniel combined to allow six runs in the eighth inning. Backup catcher Duke Sims, in his only start of the year, hits the last home run at the old park in the seventh. Winning pitcher John Hiller gets first baseman Mike Hegan to fly out to center fielder Mickey Stanley to end the game.

April 15, 1976 – the first game at the renovated Stadium, Yankees beat the Twins 11-4 with Dick Tidrow picking up the win with five shoutout innings in relief of Rudy May and Sparky Lyle getting the save. May gave up the first hit and home run in the remodeled Stadium to Disco Dan Ford in the top of the first. Twins second baseman Jerry Terrell, who led of the game with a walk, scored the first run ahead of Ford. The first Yankee hit was delivered by Mickey Rivers in the bottom of the first. The first Yankee home run at the redone park would come off the bat of Thurman Munson two days later.

Untitled The relocated St. Louis Browns first played at the Stadium as the Baltimore Orioles on May 5 and 6 of 1954, losing to Eddie Lopat and Allie Reynolds by scores of 4-2 and 9-0. The O’s first visit to the renovated stadium came in a three-game weekend series starting on May 14, 1976. The O’s took two of three in that series, beating Catfish Hunter in the opener. The first batter in that game was Ken Singleton, who struck out looking, but the next six Orioles delivered hits off Hunter, among them a two-run homer by O’s center fielder Reggie Jackson (!) as the O’s cruised to a 6-2 win behind Ross Grimsley.

For the curious, the action depicted in the Merv Rettenmund card pictured here occurred on August 9, 1970 in the seventh inning of the first game of a Sunday doubleheader. With the O’s leading 1-0 behind Jim Palmer, Rettenmund led off the seventh with a double off Fritz Peterson. Andy Etchebarren then hit a hot shot to third base that Jerry Kenney either booted or bobbled, allowing Etchebarren to reach and Rettenmund to advance. The photo on the card freezes the action as Kenney, ball in hand, checks Rettenmund at third base. The O’s would go on to score three unearned runs in that inning, but the Yanks got two in the eighth and two in the ninth to tie it, the latter two on a single by Roy White after Earl Weaver had replaced Palmer with Pete Richert. White would later end the game in the 11th with one out and Horace Clarke on first base by homering off Dick Hall to give the Yankees a 6-4 win.

Finally, here’s an account of the last game at the original Stadium from Glenn Stout’s outstanding Yankees Century:

The Yankees ended the season on September 30, closing down old Yankee Stadium to accommodate the scheduled renovation. In the final week of the season, the Hall of Fame hauled away a ticket booth, a turnstile, and other memorabilia. Anticipating souvenir takers, the club had already removed the center-field monuments and a hoard of equipment scheduled to follow the Yankees to Queens.

The club hired extra security to head off bad behavior, but the crowd of 32,328 arrived at the Stadium in an ugly mood and packing wrecking tools. Disappointed at the late season collapse, banners urging the Yankees to fire [manager Ralph] Houk ringed the park.

The game was only a few innings old when it became clear that souvenir hunters weren’t going to wait. In the outfield and the bleachers fans turned their backs on the game and started demolishing the park. The Yankees took the lead over Detroit but lost it in the fifth [sic]. When Houk came to the mound to change pitchers, exuberant fans waived parts of seats over their heads like the angry they had become.

As soon as Mike Hegan flied out to end the 8-5 loss, 20,000 fans swamped security forces and stormed the field. The Yanks had plans for objects like the bases, but the mob had other ideas. First-base coach Elston Howard scooped up the bag for a scheduled presentation to Mrs. Lou Gehrig, but he had to fight his way off the field, clutching the base like a fullback plowing through the line. Cops stood guard at home plate to make sure it went to Claire Ruth, but a fan stole second base, and third was nabbed by Detroit third baseman Ike Brown. Some 10,000 seats ended up being pulled loose.


Baltimore Orioles V: Last Throes Edition

The last time the Yankees and Orioles played, the Yankees suffered a let-down coming off a series win in Boston and their 8-1 start to the second half. Going into this weekend’s three game series in Baltimore, I can’t help but look ahead to the Yankees’ three-game set against the Red Sox at the Stadium next week. Here’s hoping the Yankees are able to stay focused on the task at hand and build up some momentum heading in to that Boston series which, if it doesn’t go well, could seal the Yankees fate this season. The Yankees enter tonight’s action trailing both the Red Sox and Twins by six games for the Wild Card lead. They have six games left against the Sox, none left against the Twins, and six left against the Blue Jays, who are just a game behind the Yanks after last night’s win.

The Yankees are an alarming 5-7 against the last-place Orioles this season, and a mere 2-4 at Camden Yards on the year, though they’ve not been to Baltimore since the end of May. Since losing two of three to the O’s in the Bronx at the end of July, the Yankees are 8-12. The Orioles, meanwhile, are 10-9 since leaving the Bronx, their only two series losses over that span coming against the Angels and Red Sox.


Moose serving up that knucklecurve you ordered.

None of this is encouraging. One would think the pitching matchup would be. Mike Mussina takes the hill looking for win number 17 against just-recalled Radhames Liz, who sports a 7.28 career ERA in the majors. Mussina is 3-0 with a 2.33 ERA and no home runs allowed in his last four starts. Liz was demoted on the eve of the Yankees last series against the O’s after posting a 7.47 ERA in ten starts in June and July.

Not so fast. Five starts ago, Mussina gave up two dingers and six total runs in five innings against . . . the Orioles. In two starts against his former team this season, Moose has allowed 13 runs in 5 2/3 innings. His last start at Camden Yards was also his final start of the 2007 seaon. He gave up six runs in five innings. As for Liz, the 25-year-old Dominican righty posted a 2.67 ERA with a 1.04 WHIP while striking out 27 in as many innings in triple-A this month, and in two relief appearances against the Yankees last year totaling 4 1/3 innings, he allowed just one run while striking out five and allowing as many baserunners. Though most of those innings game in mop-up duty against the Yankees’ subs, the Yankees in tonight’s starting lineup who have faced him are a combined 1-for-10 with four strikeouts against Liz.

Are there any encouraging signs heading into this series? Hideki Matsui has just two hits in 11 plate appearances since returning, but they’ve been good for six total bases (.545 slugging) and three RBIs. He’s also struck out only once and grounded out only twice, which suggests his swing is in good shape. Derek Jeter has hit .317/.382/.440 since June 1, .392/.434/.486 in August, and is 17-for-32 on his current seven-game hitting streak. Bobby Abreu is hitting .328/.407/.531 since the All-Star break. Uhm . . . that’s about it.


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