Monday, April 30, 2012

Series Wrap: Yankees vs. Orioles 4/27 - 4/29

Game One

June 3rd, 2011. That was the last time Ivan Nova was tagged with the loss after a start. Since that day he started 19 games without taking the "L", and this one looked like it would be the game that broke the streak. Not because Detroit's offense is unreal or anything, but because the Yankee bats would be facing 2011 Cy Young Winner, and 2011 American League MVP, Justin Verlander. I seriously thought we were in for a game in which Nova pitched well, but would end up taking the loss in a 2-1 game.

I was wrong. Not only did the Yankees win the game, but Nova did not have a great outing at all. Ivan gave up 11 hits, 6 earned runs, struck out 5, and walked 3 over 5.1 innings. Since joining the starting rotation after a relief outing on April 19th of last year Nova's started 23 games, and failed to go at least 6 innings only 7 times. So this was certainly a rare poor start for the man people call "SuperNova". Luckily Verlander wasn't at his best either, as the Yankees were able to put 5 runs on the board (4 earned) in Justin's 6 innings. But unlike Detroit's bullpen, who eventually coughed up the lead and the game, Boone Logan, Cory Wade, David Robertson, and THE Mariano Rivera tossed 3.2 innings of scoreless ball.

There wasn't a lot to talk offensively for the Yankees. Only Swisher and Rodriguez were able to put up more than one hit, while Teixeira, Ibanez, and... if you can believe it... Jeter were hitless. Russell Martin was able to make the most of his one hit, blasting a 2-run homer run over the right-centerfield wall. On the offensive side of things, the most exciting play came in the bottom of the 9th inning. Russell Martin grounded out after working the count full, Derek Jeter walked on 5 pitches, and then Curtis Granderson was walked after battling to a full count. Brayan Villarreal threw a wild pitch on ball four to Granderson though, allowing Jeter to move up to 3rd. ARod then came up with men on the corners and one out. Alex had 3 hits so far in the game, and even though some would say he was hot and would get the job done, I was cringing at the thought of an inning-ending double play. But it didn't take long for my worries to go away, as Villarreal threw a pitch that Alex Avila just couldn't handle, allowing Jeter to scurry home to give the Bombers a walk-off win.

Game Two

After a pitcher throws 1.2 innings, giving up 5 earned runs, you'd think he'd be better his next time out. It's not as though having a better showing than that would be difficult. Well, ladies and gentlemen, Freddy Antonio Garcia is not your average MLB pitcher. A week after Yankee fans were ready to scalp "The Chief", Freddy managed to do even worse. Saturday night the Tigers tagged Garcia for 6 earned runs in 1.2 innings. He actually managed to strike out three batters, including Miguel Cabrera, in the 1st inning. Unfortunately that 1st inning also included a walk to Austin Jackson, an intentional walk to Prince Fielder, and a 3-run home run to Andy Dirks. Yes. Garcia struck out a guy that finished 4th in MVP voting in 2009, 2nd in MVP voting in 2010, and 5th in MVP voting last year. But he gave up a bomb to a guy with a career OPS+ of 92 after having played in 86 games. It took two singles, an RBI double, and another single that scored 2 more runners, before Clay Rapada came in to get Fielder to line-out and end the 2nd inning. And, of course, the Yankees bullpen went on to throw 7.1 innings of 2 hit ball.

Even though Jose Valverde did a good job of letting the Yankees back into the ballgame, giving up 3 runs in the 9th inning, it wasn't enough to give the good guys another come-back victory. Jeter went hitless for his 2nd game in a row, which was preceeded by a 15 game hit streak. Curtis Granderson had a couple of hits, including a solo home run in the 7th inning. But it was Nick Swisher that stood out on for the Yankee bats, as both of Swish's hits left the playing field. Unfortunately nobody was on base for any of the three homers the Yanks hit, and their 5 runs weren't enough.

Note that David Phelps threw 3 more innings today, giving up 0 hits, walking 1, and striking out 2. Phelps has thrown 17.2 innings this year out of the bullpen, while Phil Hughes is a starter and has only thrown 16, and even worse is Freddy Garcia with 13.2 innings. And I won't even compared the ERAs of all three of these guys. I'd say more, but I really don't think I have to.

Game Three

Going into the rubber match of the Yankees three-game series against the Tigers CC Sabathia, who would be starting, had the third best ERA on the starting staff. And sadly it's not because the two guys ahead of him in that category, Hiroki Kuroda and Ivan Nova, were having a great year. Hiro and Nova had ERAs of 4.38 and 5.18 respectively, while CC's was at a hefty 5.27. Thankfully the team was going up against Max Scherzer, and his brutal 8.24 ERA. So on paper it didn't look like we needed our ace on the hill in this one.

I'm happy to say that the Sabathia we saw Sunday afternoon was the guy we were expecting in 2012. CC went eight innings striking out eight batters, giving up only two runs on four hits, while walking two as well. Carsten Charles only made two mistakes in the game, but unfortunately those mistakes were thrown to Prince Fielder (home run) and Miguel Cabrera (run-scoring double). The fortunate part was that the home run was a solo shot, and the run-scoring double only brought in a single run. Another way to see that it was a good outing comes from the fact it only took CC the Workhorse 106 pitches to get through those eight innings. As for that 9th inning, David Robertson didn't let anybody on base, and struck out the final two batters of the game.

Derek Jeter had yet to record a base hit in the series, and he broke out of that slump (HA! "Slump") going 2 for 3, with two walks. Robbie Cano, Andruw Jones, and Eric Chavez each conbrituted a couple hits of their own (one of Jones' hits was a solo HR in the 8th inning). While Granderson, ARod, and Chris Stewart added hits of their own (Granderson's lone hit was a solo HR in the 4th inning). The solo bombs by Grandy and Jones were the only extra base hits the Yankees recorded, each of  them solo dingers, showing that the team was able to score four runs without the #evilhomerun. All of this looks good, but I can't help but point out that the Yankees half of the score should have been higher, but the team only went 3-for-13 with RISP, leaving 15 men on base. This one actually could have been a blow-out.

That wasn't the saddest part of the night though, as Nick Swisher suffered a low-grade hamstring strain. After the game Girardi said that Swish would miss "more than a few days", meaning he could be on the DL fairly soon. The good news is that Brett Gardner will likely return from the DL as soon as he's eligible to on May 3rd. I have a feeling the team will go down to 12 pitchers until then, since they will be left with Raul Ibanez, Andruw Jones, and Curtis Granderson starting in the outfield, with Eduardo Nunez as the 4th guy out there.

Series Awards

Jake Taylor Award*
Nick Swisher - 4/9, 3 R, 2 RBI, 2 HR, 2 2B 

Gentry Award*
Mark Teixeira - 0/12, 1 RBI

Rick Vaughn Award*
CC Sabathia - Game 3: 8 IP, 4 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, 8 K

Kelner Award*
Freddy Garcia - Game 2: 1.2 IP, 5 H, 6 ER, 2 BB, 3 K

Next Series
vs. Orioles 4/30 - 5/2
Click here to talk about the series at the Daily Sports Pages Yankees forum.


*The awards are named after one of the best baseball movies of all time... Major League.

Jake Taylor Award - Awarded to the most valuable position player. Named after the hard-nose veteran catcher that, despite making the league minimum, was the heart and soul of the 1989 American League East winning Cleveland Indians.

Gentry Award - Awarded to the least valuable position player. Named after the very first man cut from the 1989 Cleveland Indians, #47 Gentry. A man so insignificant he wasn't even given a first name.

Rick Vaughn Award- Awarded to the best pitcher in the series. This one is, of course, named after the "Wild Thing". The man that made Clu Haywood look silly in the division deciding game.

Kelner Award - Awarded to the worst pitcher in the series. Named after the Opening Day starter for the '89 Indians. Not a good game for Mr. Kelner, as Indians' announcer Harry Doyle famously quipped "thank God" after Kelner left the game. And yet another bad player without a first name.

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