If the Yankees are the Evil Empire and they get in bed with the Devil does that just make them double evil?
[Pictures Via Noupe]
Jack Curry is known to Yankee fans as one of the faces of the YES Network’s Yankees reporting team, but he wasn’t always a “TV guy.” Prior to joining YES in 2010, Jack enjoyed a decorated career as a sportswriter, most notably at the New York Times. He forged his path without having to go to smaller markets and work his way back east, a rarity for those who work in media, particularly in New York. His full bio can be found here. You can follow him on Twitter @JackCurryYES.
Jack was a staple on the Yankees beat when I covered the Yankees from 2002 through 2006 for yesnetwork.com. At that point of his career, he was one of the Times’s National Baseball Reporters and I was a punk trying to figure out how to become a better reporter and writer, assignment editor, and do all of it without getting in anyone’s way. I recall that Jack was a pillar of professionalism; someone not only I, but also every other writer respected and liked. He’s the same person on camera as he is off camera.
Over a series of conversations and e-mails, Jack and I discussed a number of topics, ranging from what inspired his career choice to the move from print to TV and Internet, and more.
Bronx Banter: At what point did you “know” that you wanted to become a sportswriter? Was there a “eureka” moment while you were at Fordham?
Jack Curry: When I was in the seventh grade, I started a newspaper at my elementary school. It was only two or four pages. But I remember the jolt I felt when everyone at the school was commenting on my articles. It was the first time I had a byline and I loved how that felt. Writers like to know what people think of their writing so I grew to love the idea of being a sportswriter. I hung on to the dream of being a major league player through high school, but that faded. I played high school baseball, but I was a much better writer. I went to one baseball practice at Fordham under coach Paul Blair. It lasted four and a half hours and I missed dinner that night. Even if I had made the team, I would’ve been a backup. So that one practice told me it was time to stop playing baseball and start covering baseball (and other sports). I funneled all of my energy into journalism and broadcasting after that.
BB: Who were the writers that you admired growing up, and how did they influence your reporting / storytelling style?
JC: I grew up in Jersey City, NJ, and the Jersey Journal was the first newspaper I remember reading. They syndicated Jim Murray’s column so it always had a prominent spot in the sports section. But, since I didn’t know anything about syndication as a kid, I just thought Jim Murray was some guy from Jersey City who had the greatest job in the world. He covered all of the biggest sporting events and, man, he could write. I wanted that job. When I finally realize who Jim Murray really was, it didn’t change my thoughts. I still wanted that job. I got the chance to meet Jim Murray at a college football game, which was an absolute thrill. My regret is I didn’t tell him my “connection” to him. I’m guessing he would’ve thought it was pretty cool.
BB: How did you get from the Jersey Journal to the New York Times?
JC: I worked for the Jersey Journal for three summers while I was in college. I’m going to bet that I covered more Little League baseball in those summers than anyone in the state of New Jersey. But I loved it. I loved going to the games and watching which kids cared and which kids were coached well and which kids were so much better or, unfortunately, so much worse than the other players on the field. Trying to get decent quotes out of 11- and 12-year-olds can be more challenging than trying to get decent quotes out of some major leaguers.
After I graduated from Fordham, I worked at the Star Ledger of Newark for about a year. I covered high school sports there, but I wanted to do more than that. I applied for a position in the New York Times’s Writing Program. Basically, the Times hired you to be a clerk for 35 hours a week and then you could use your days off or your hours off to pitch story ideas and to volunteer to cover events, etc. When I was hired as a “writing clerk,” I wrote a lot of stories that appeared without bylines. The Times had some arcane rules about not giving the clerks a byline, which I always thought was nonsensical. When you were hired as a writing clerk, you were told that there was no guarantee you’d ever be a reporter at the Times.
Anyway, once I got my foot in the door, I was on a mission to do anything and everything to stay there. I wanted to do enough so that they had to keep me. I needed to prove to them that I could be a sports reporter there. It took about three years, but I was finally hired as a reporter.
BB: So many sportswriters jump from sport to sport now. I can think of a number of current beat writers from several of the area papers who have shuttled back and forth. What drew you specifically to covering baseball and keeping yourself on that beat?
JC: I covered college basketball and football and the New Jersey Nets at the Times before I started covering baseball in 1990. I wanted to cover baseball. To me, there was no other sport to cover. I was fortunate that the Times recognized that and trusted me with covering a baseball beat. I took over the Yankees beat at the All-Star break of 1991 and have essentially only covered baseball since then. I like basketball and I’ll watch some football, but I would have never been as happy covering those sports as I was in covering baseball.
BB: When I started at YES and began setting the editorial direction of the website, we were trying to do something completely different in our coverage of the Yankees. Our goal wasn’t to compete with the papers, but to be considered legitimate. How did you view YESNetwork.com’s presence on-site in those first few years?
JC: In the early years, I viewed YESNetwork.com’s presence as another entity that was immersed in covering the Yankees. When I first started as a beat writer, you were concerned about the other beat writers and what they were doing. But, with each year, more and more outlets began to cover the team and you had to pay attention to them, too, and see what they were producing.
BB: What struck you about the way YESNetwork.com covered the team, and the games? How, if at all, has that changed since you became a YES Network employee and contributor to the dot.com?
I think YESNetwork.com has tried to be different than the traditional newspaper sports website, as it should be. The Yankees are the brand and there’s obviously an attempt provide as much Yankee content as possible. I think there’s more interaction with the fans, which is another positive. What I’ve tried to do is use the 20-plus years of experience that I have covering this team to offer analysis on players and trends, develop feature stories and, obviously, push to break news.
BB: Describe the events that led YES to call you and offer you the YES job, and what drew you to make the jump to TV on a full-time basis.
JC: After 22 years at the Times, I decided to take the buyout and pursue other opportunities. The timing was good for me. I felt confident about making a career switch in my 40s. I’m not sure if a person can do that in his 50s. I had always had a good relationship with John Filippelli of YES because I had been a guest on “Yankees Hot Stove” since 2005.
Before I even took the buyout, YES was the place where I hoped I would land. Shortly after my departure from the Times became official, I heard from YES. There was mutual interest and I was excited about the chance to transition from print to broadcast. My colleagues at YES, people like Flip, Michael Kay, Bob Lorenz, Ken Singleton, Jared Boshnack, Bill Boland, Mike Cooney, John Flaherty and so many others, all welcomed me and helped make that transition a smooth one for me. I work with a lot of very cool and very talented people.
It’s rewarding to work for and with people you admire and respect and people that you consider your friends.
BB: Peter Gammons and Jayson Stark were among the first two prominent baseball writers who became “multimedia” guys. Later, your former colleague Buster Olney, Ken Rosenthal and Tom Verducci followed. Did it just make sense for you to do the same?
JC: You forgot to mention Michael Kay. Michael had worked for the Post and the News and did clubhouse reporting for MSG. Obviously, he also was a radio announcer before moving to YES. He was the one person who implored me to give TV a try. I will admit that I was resistant. I liked being a baseball writer. There were times where I thought I would end my career as a newspaperman. But I’m very happy to have made the switch. I love what I’m doing at YES. They have given me terrific opportunities in the studio with Bob Lorenz, who is as selfless as any co-worker I’ve ever had. Flip has also trusted me with chances to do work in the booth during games, which have been great experiences.
BB: In the last 10 years — heck, the last five even — so much has changed in how sports are covered on a daily basis. Responsibilities include blogging and tweeting, in some cases web-exclusive video reporting. The beat writer/columnist’s audience is broader than ever. Has that caused you to change your journalistic approach?
JC: My journalistic approach hasn’t changed. I’m trying to find insightful and interesting stories and tell them as adeptly as I can. I’m trying to dig up timely and pertinent information and deliver it as quickly and as accurately as I can. That’s the way I did the job at the Times. That’s the way I do the job at YES. But I am moving faster in telling those stories and chasing that information. Because of Twitter and blogging, we’re all doing that. When I was a beat writer in the early 1990’s, my world revolved around deadlines: 7 PM, 11 PM, 1 AM, etc. I’m on TV now, but, when I write for the website or I tweet, it’s usually about getting it done as quickly as I can, not about getting it done by 7 PM.
BB: Speaking of journalism, you broke the story of Andy Pettitte returning to the Yankees. What was the internal reaction to your scoop?
JC: My bosses at YES were elated that we broke the Pettitte story. I first tweeted about it and wrote a news story that was up on our website five minutes later. About 25 minutes after that, we led our spring training broadcast with the news about Pettitte’s return. Since that story came out of left field, they were thrilled that we led the way.
BB: What was the reaction to the Twitter war that ensued due to ESPN claiming credit for the story?
JC: It doesn’t behoove me to revisit what happened on Twitter after the Pettitte story broke. From a journalistic perspective, that was a very good day for YES. That’s what’s most important.
BB: Is the rapport with former players you used to cover, like Paul O’Neill, John Flaherty, David Cone, and Al Leiter, any different now that you’re on TV, considered an “analyst” like them?
JC: What’s interesting about all of those guys is that I had a great relationship with all of them when they were players, so those relationships have simply carried over. I liked talking baseball with all of those guys when I was a writer. I like talking baseball with all of them now that we’re colleagues.
BB: Which part of your career was, or has been, the most challenging?
JC: The most challenging part of my career were the earliest days at the Times, but, to be honest, those were also some of the most enjoyable days. Like I said, when I first started there, I wasn’t guaranteed anything other than a future of answering phones. I had to show a lot of different editors that I could write and report.
At first, I was going to answer this by saying the most challenging time was being a new beat writer on the Yankees. But, by that point in my career, at least I had become a reporter at the Times. I knew I had made the staff. In the early days, I didn’t know if that would ever happen. I’m glad it did.
[Photo Credits: YESNetwork.com, New York Times, Twitter]
Reports surfaced as early as mid-December that David Cone would not be returning to the YES Network booth for the 2K10 season. Phil Mushnick of the New York Post first reported the story, and the rumblings regarding the potential shuffle only increased.
In that initial article, Mushnick mentioned the possibility of Cone taking a position with the MLB Players Association. Rumors abound now that Cone does have an offer for an executive position at the MLBPA.
Cone confirmed one half of the speculation Wednesday, announcing that he would not be returning to YES. The Network’s official statement was released early yesterday afternoon.
Quotes from the respective parties read as follows:
CONE: “My YES deal was up at the end of the 2009 season, and I’ve chosen not to return in 2010 in order to spend more time with my family. If I do return to broadcasting, YES would be my first choice.”
YES: “David was a valued member of our team. He will be missed.”
Judging from the commentary of Joe Delessio at NYMag.com and many Banterers over the course of the week, Cone will be missed. Cone was a consensus “best analyst” choice on the YES roster. Personally, I enjoyed his take on pitching, his ability to recall Yankees history – an especially detailed review of Red Ruffing’s career during a Yankees-Red Sox telecast comes to mind – and the fact that you never quite knew what he would say next.
Joba Chamberlain’s third start under the new spring-training-style Joba Rules didn’t start terribly well. Jason Bartlett led off by smacking a 2-1 pitch over the wall in left for a homer. (After the game Joba said it was the pitch he wanted to make and pointed out that Bartlett was having a great year; Joe Girardi said the pitch was “a mistake.”) Carl Crawford followed with a single, moved to second on a wild third-strike to Evan Longoria, stole third while Chamberlain was in the process of walking Ben Zobrist, then scored on a Pat Burrell single.
After that, the Yankee shortstop went to the mound and gave Chamberlain a quick verbal kick in the pants. Chamberlain struck out the next two batters on nine pitches and retired the side in order in the second and third innings. Because Chamberlain’s night ended there (due, I assume, to the 32 pitches he had thrown in the first), it’s difficult to say if that is likely to have been a meaningful turnaround in Joba’s performance going forward, but it was the most encouraging performance Chamberlain has had since his final start in July, which also came against the Rays.
Tampa Bay starter Jeff Niemann, a 6-foot-9 righty who bears a slight resemblance to the actor Jeff Daniels and is having a fine rookie season five years after being drafted fourth overall in the 2004 draft, made those two runs stand up for seven innings, stranding runners in every frame while striking out eight. Meanwhile, the Yankee bullpen matched Niemann by following Chamberlain with six hitless innings, including three from Alfredo Aceves and two from Jonathan Albaladejo.
Alex Rodriguez led off the bottom of the eighth by singling up the middle on Niemann’s 110th pitch, driving the tall 26-year-old from the game. Joe Maddon curiously chose righty Lance Cormier over lefty Brian Shouse to face Hideki Matsui. Matsui singled, sending Rodriguez to third, and Chris Richards threw Nick Swisher’s ensuing grounder into left field while attempting to start a 3-6-3 double play, sending Alex home and pinch-runner Jerry Hairston Jr. to third. Maddon then went to Shouse, who struck out Robinson Cano for the first out of the inning.
With one out, the tying run on third and the go-ahead run on first, Girardi sent Jorge Posada up to bat for Brett Gardner. Gardner made a spectacular, game-saving play in Monday’s day game, but has been struggling to rediscover his stroke since coming off the disabled list, going a combined 1-for-18 since starting his rehab assignment. Maddon countered with hard-throwing Aussie Grant Balfour, flipping Posada around to the left side. Posada worked the count full, fouling off the two strikes, then launched the next pitch into the seats in right for a game-changing three-run home run.
And that was that. Protecting a two-run lead, Brian Bruney typically walked the first man he faced in the ninth on four pitches, but got the next two out on three more tosses before yielding to Phil Coke, who got the final out and a cheap save. The 4-2 win was the 24th game the Yankees have won in their final at-bat this season, a total which leads the major leagues. On the season, the Yankees are averaging more than two runs scored per game in the final three innings and 1.2 runs score per game in extra innings, when one is usually enough to win it.
The win gave the Yankees an unexpected four-game sweep of the rival Rays, who are now a shocking 18.5 games out in the division, and ran the Yankees’ second-half record to 40-13, good for a .755 winning percentage. If they can keep that up through the final 20 games, it will stand as the third-best post-break mark since the All-Star Game began in 1933.
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.
The last time a sense of newness and expectation this powerful converged with the New York Yankees was 2002. The YES Network had been clear for takeoff — it launched on March 19 on Time Warner Cable and RCN in New York (Cablevision would be left out until March 31 the following year). The major signing was a power-hitting first baseman brought to New York from an American League West stalwart.
This year, a massive new stadium — in size and cost — sets the backdrop for a Yankee team that has brought in another powerful first baseman from the AL West, but two stud pitchers to solidify the starting rotation.
The Yankees opened the 2002 season on a Monday afternoon in April, in Baltimore. The same scenario comes to the fore today. Seven years ago, Roger Clemens took the hill and was tattooed in a 10-3 loss. Clemens injured his pitching hand trying to snare a hard-bouncing ground ball with his bare hand.
What will the outcome be today? Will history repeat itself? Will C.C. Sabathia, the highest-paid pitcher ever, try to barehand a line drive and damage the investment the Yankees have placed in him? Will Mark Teixeira, the topic of much discussion over the weekend, particularly after Saturday’s two-home-run performance, do what Jason Giambi couldn’t: get off to a great start in New York and convince the fans that he can hang in New York?
The greatest differences: the 2002 team, while starkly different than its predecessor, was coming off a Game 7 loss in the World Series and a potential four-peat. This Yankee team, at least in the makeup of its core players, is not that different than last year’s, and is coming off its first playoff absence since 1993.
How about the season? Will history repeat itself there also? The opening-day loss didn’t faze the 2002 group, which went on to finish 103-58 and coasted to a fifth straight AL East title only to get complacent and lose to the Angels in the first round. A 103-58 record is possible, but the intradivision competition is tougher. The Angels lurk again.
From everything I’ve read, seen and heard, I sense the air of purpose from this team is as strong as the Joe Torre championship teams. I’m as curious as the rest of you to see how it all plays out, and I can’t wait.
It was a near perfect afternoon in the Bronx yesterday as the Yankees and Orioles played the final day game at Yankee Stadium. Amid sharp shadows and under a cloudless sky, the Stadium gleamed, the cool early autumn air adding a crispness to the day. The Yankees and Orioles played scoreless baseball for eight-plus innings, but the lack of action on the field mattered little as most everyone on hand and watching at home was more concerned about drinking in the doomed ballpark, which has rarely looked more welcoming or more vibrant.
Afredo Aceves got things started off in style in the first inning. Following a Brian Roberts lead-off double, Adam Jones popped up a bunt in front of the mound. Aceves, who has shown himself to be a solid infielder, caught the ball on a lunge before tumbling forward to his knees. He then spun to double Roberts off of second, but Roberts had been running on the pitch and had actually rounded third base slightly, so rather than throw to Cody Ransom covering second base, Aceves, with a big grin on his face, jogged the ball over to second for an unassisted double play, a play rarely turned by a pitcher (paging Bob Timmermann).
Aceves wouldn’t allow a runner past second base all day, and after six innings and 92 pitches, he was replaced by Brian Bruney, Damaso Marte, and Mariano Rivera, who kept that streak intact. The Yankees didn’t do much better against lefty spot-starter Brian Burres. With two outs in the first, Bobby Abreu doubled and moved to third on a wild pitch, but Alex Rodriguez popped out to strand him, and the Yankees didn’t get another man past second until the bottom of the ninth.
Though it would ultimately prove a fitting conclusion to a beautiful day, the bottom of the ninth started off ominously when a 1-1 pitch got away from rookie reliever Jim Miller and hit Derek Jeter on the back of his left hand. Jeter spun to avoid the pitch, but it caught him flush and sent him skipping toward the visiting batting circle in obvious pain. Joe Girardi and trainer Gene Monahan quickly attended to Jeter, who was the DH yesterday to give him a breather before today’s final game at the Stadium, and almost immediately pulled Jeter from the game. Jeter didn’t make a fist with the hand when Monahan was checking him out on the field, and as he headed into the tunnel toward the clubhouse, Jeter slammed his batting helmet on the dugout floor. Fortunately, post-game x-rays were negative and Jeter is expected to be in the lineup for the Stadium’s finale . . . of course.
Brett Gardner ran for Jeter at first base and stole second base easily on Miller’s first pitch to Abreu. After Miller fell behind Abreu 3-0, Orioles manager Dave Trembley decided to make use of that empty base and pass the buck to Alex Rodriguez. Rodriguez took two strikes then hit into a near double play, but managed to beat out the relay to put runners on the corners with one out for Jason Giambi. Trembley called on veteran lefty reliever Jamie Walker to pitch to Giambi, and Walker responded by striking Giambi out on six pitches. Rodriguez stole second on strike three, so Trembley had Walker put Xavier Nady on base and pitch to fellow lefty Robinson Cano. Cano, who still holds the distinction of having hit the last home run at Yankee Stadium, jumped on Walker’s first pitch, delivering a line-drive single just to the right of second base, plating Gardner with the winning run.
So in the final day game at Yankee Stadium, the Yankees beat the Orioles 1-0 on a walk-off single by Robison Cano. Mariano Rivera got the win, and the Yankees staved off elimination for at least one more day. The day was so close to perfect that, in some peverse way, I almost wish yesterday’s game was the last ever at the Stadium. The only way tonight’s game could be better would be for a Yankee to hit a home run and for Jeter to be somewhere other than the trainers’ room when the game ends.
Last night’s game started off a lot like Monday night’s 12-1 humiliation. Bobby Abreu erased a Derek Jeter single* with an inning-ending double play in the first. In the second, the first three hitters reached on a single, a hit-by-pitch, and a double resulting in a run and putting men on second and third with none out, but Ervin Santana struck out Hideki Matsui and Robinson Cano before getting Chad Moeller to line out to end the threat. In the third, Abreu delivered a two-out single, but was promptly thrown out stealing second with Alex Rodriguez, who had singled to lead off the previous inning, at the plate. The Yankees stranded another two-out single in the fourth and went down in order in the fifth.
What was different was Alfredo Aceves. Making his first big league start in front of 31 friends and family members and 43,011 strangers, Aceves worked quickly, mixed his pitches, threw strikes, and made quick work of the Angels. Pitching to contact, Aceves got into just two three-ball counts all night, both of them full counts, one of which ended in a strikeout of rookie Brandon Wood, and didn’t walk a batter. He consistently got ahead early, throwing first-pitch strikes to 20 of the 26 batters he faced, and after three of his first four outs traveled a fair distance in the air, he got ten of his last 17 outs on the ground and two more by strikeout.
To be sure, the defense behind Aceves’ helped out. The first out Aceves recorded came when Robinson Cano made a great sliding stop to his right, then spun to his feet to throw out the speedy Reggie Willits. Alex Rodriguez made several nice plays at third base including eating up a hard hopper in the second and making a nice backhanded play on a shot down the line in the third.
Robinson Cano made another nice play in the fourth with a diving stop to his left that he tried to turn into a 4-6-3 double play, but Derek Jeter let Cano’s throw clank off his glove as both runners reached safely. That came after the runner on first had reached by lining a ball off the right wrist of a diving Jason Giambi. Though both plays would have been exceptional, they should have been made. Undeterred, Aceves took matters into his own hands by reaching across his body to stab a comebacker and start an inning-ending 1-6-3 DP. Aceves has a face of stone on the mound, but after escaping that jam he pumped his fist and shouted a few words in Spanish.
With the score still 1-0 entering the sixth, the Yankees finally gave Aceves some insurance. Derek Jeter led off with a deep fly into the gap in right center. Gary Matthews, who had just been put into the game in place of Torii Hunter, whose back was acting up, got to the ball, but had it clank off his glove for what was initially ruled a triple (later changed to a three-base error). Bobby Abreu followed with a five-pitch walk, and Alex Rodriguez cashed it all in with a three-run jack that made it 4-0.
Those runs came just in time as Aceves appeared to be fatiguing a bit in the bottom of the sixth. Though he had thrown just 60 pitches through the first five frames, allowing just a trio of scattered singles, his pace slowed in the sixth. Reggie Willits took five pitches to ground out to Cano. Garret Anderson then worked a nine-pitch at-bat (just the second three-ball at-bat of Aceves’s night), eventually winning the battle with a groundball single in the gap past Cano. Mark Teixeira followed by lacing a high fastball into right center for a double, pushing old man Anderson to third. Aceves then got Guerrero and Matthews to groundout, but Anderson scored in the process.
Given two more insurance runs in the seventh thanks to a Chad Moeller single and a Johnny Damon dinger that drove Santana from the game, Joe Girardi sent Aceves out for the seventh. Six pitches later, Aceves was back in the dugout getting congratulated on seven strong innings of one-run baseball against the team with the best record in the majors.
Aceves didn’t blow anyone away last night, and he didn’t show any particularly overwhelming pitches, but, as advertised, he mixed his pitches to a dizzying degree. Aceves throws a fastball, a cutter, a changeup, and a curve, but seems to have a variety of breaks and speeds on each one. His fastball topped out at 93 miles per hour and tended to sit around 91, but he threw some 92 mile per hour pitches that dove like sinkers and some 88 mile per hour pitches that almost looked like splitters, as well as cutters in that same range that stayed level but moved side to side. His changeup sat in the mid-80s, but seemed to have a curve-like hop to it. Later in the game, he threw back-to-back straight changeups at 81 and 78 mph to get the final out of the sixth. His curve tended to be in the high 70s and have a moderate break, but in pursuit of the final out of the fifth, he threw Sean Rodriguez a 76 mph back-door yakker that was a called strike (a generous strike zone from home plate ump Ed Rapuano also worked in his favor), then got Rodriguez to groundout on a less-severe 78 mph curve.
All totalled he gave up one run on five hits (four of them singles) and no walks in seven innings while striking out two and throwing just 89 pitches, 71 percent of them strikes. Save for the lack of strikeouts, that’s a near repeat of his line from his two relief appearances. Dig:
RP: 7 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 2 BB, 7 K
SP: 7 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 0 BB, 2 K
As for the rest of the game, Damon added a solo homer off Justin Speier in the ninth and Brian Bruney and Damaso Marte slammed the door without incident. So the day after taking a 12-1 whooping, the Yankees dropped a 7-1 score on the Halos, who came no closer to clinching as the Rangers beat up on Felix Hernandez to beat the M’s 7-3.
In the other notable out-of-town game, the Rays, leading Boston by just a half game, took a 3-2 lead into the bottom of the eighth at Fenway only to have Dan Wheeler give up a two-run homer to Jason Bay and hand Jonathan Papelbon a 4-3 lead in the top of the ninth. Joe Maddon sent Dan Johnson, who had just been called up before the game, in to pinch hit, and Johnson greeted Papelbon with a game-tying homer over the Red Sox’s bullpen in right center. After a Willy Aybar lineout, rookie Fernando Perez, who had pinch-hit in the seventh, doubled to left and then Dioner Navarro doubled him home to make it 5-4. Troy Percival then walked the leadoff man in the bottom of the ninth, but struck out Jason Varitek, and got David Ortiz to fly out. With two outs, pinch-runner Jacoby Ellsbury stole second and went to third on Navarro’s throwing error only to have Coco Crisp pop out two pitches later to end the game and inflate the Rays’ lead to 1.5 games.