Thursday, April 19, 2012

Series Wrap vs. Twins 4/16 - 4/19

Game One
Freddy Garcia was out to prove something in the 1st inning of the game... he'd rather pitch in garbage innings out of the Yankees bullpen than be traded. Of course, the Yankees do have another option for Freddy... get released. In the 1st inning Freddy gave up five straight hits, threw 30 pitches, and gave up 2 runs. To be fair (to Minnesota... ha!), the Twins should have had 3 runs and possibly more, but the 2B umpire called Jamey Carroll out on a base stealing attempt, and replay showed he was actually safe. Garcia looked as though he finally settled down, getting through the next three innings with little drama, but the joke was on us because Freddy sucked again. The Twins scored 2 in the 5th (Alexi Casilla doubled, Jamey Carroll singled him in, and Mauer doubled in Carroll), and 1 more in the 6th (Justin Morneau solo homer), before Boone Logan came into the game. Logan decided not to carry over his good performance from the previous 2.2 innings he's pitched this season, as he walked 2 batters, and hit another with a pitch, out of the 5 batters he faced. How about Cory Wade? How about "kiss my butt"? 1.2 innings, 4 hits, and 2 earned runs. Clay Rapada? Yeah, not bad, but way too late.

The two run lead that Sweaty Freddy gave to the Twins was quickly erased by back-to-back home runs by Derek Jeter and Curtis Granderson to lead off the bottom of the 1st. ARod got on after that, and two batters later was driven in by Mark "My Contract Is Not A Waste" Teixeira. Two fly outs followed Mark, ending the inning. But the offense gave Garcia some hope after a very shaky first inning. I'd tell you what followed up that first inning offensively, but I can't as I fell asleep just like the Yankee bats usually do after a strong start. The Yankees failed to plate another run the rest of the game, as the 5 hits after the opening fram were scattered. Jeter continued hitting well with a 2/4 performance, Granderson also added another hit on top of his 1st inning HR with a single, ARod had a couple hits, as did Mark Teixeira.

The worst part about losing, and the offense dying after the 1st inning, is that it happened with Carl Pavano on the mound. Ugh!

Game Two
Sabathia got off to a good start in Game 2 of the series, getting Denard Span and Jamey Carroll to ground out on 6 pitches in the 1st inning. Joe Mauer then came up and made things a bit tougher with an 8 pitch at bat, but he too ended up grounding out to Cano.The next inning started off bad when Josh Willingham hit CC's third pitch over the CF wall, making Yankee fans believe that perhaps CC hadn't settled down yet and would give the team a so-so at best start. I admit, even after retiring the next three batters (one by strikeout), I still wasn't sure. A pop-out by Luke Hughes in the third inning tried to make me and other Yanks fans feel better, but that was followed by a single by Alexi Casilla. And then things got interesting.

Denard Span squared to bunt on the first pitch, but pulled the bat back as the pitch looked to be inside. Home plate umpire Greg Gibson, though, called strike one. I didn't think the pitch was a strike, but Gibson signaled that it was a called strike... not that Span didn't pull the ball back. I have yet to read a report saying otherwise, so I can only assume Denard was questioning the strike call. Twins announcers accused Gibson of having a quick trigger, which Span also said in a post-game interview. However, replays showed that Gibson said plenty of things to Span, telling me that Denard had had enough time to voice his displeasure and move on without incident. Gibson was even bent over, in position to call the next pitch, telling me that this was not a case of the ump having an itchy trigger finger at all. Denard should have said what he wanted to say, then shut up and continue. Anybody associated with the game of baseball can tell you that it's taboo to argue ball and strike calls, so Denard should have zipped his lip when he wasn't tossed right away. But he had to keep going, Greg Gibson had enough, and tossed him.

After Twins manager Ron Gardenhire was also tossed, Clete Thomas came into the game to for Span. Thomas hit a double to left field, allowing Casilla to score from 1st. A groan came out of my mouth, knowing that even if CC got Carroll out with no damage, that he was followed by Mauer and Willingham. So naturally Carroll singled, scoring Thomas, and Mauer K'd followed by Willingham lining out to Gardner in LF. Not what I expected to happen, but still it hurt and made me feel that the rest of the game could be a long one. But CC settled in and retired the next 11 batters, followed by a walk to Trevor Plouffe and an error by ARod, before getting Casilla to ground out... ending the threat. A strikeout to Thomas ended CC's day, leaving a good feeling in our mouths as his final line was 7.1 IP, 4 H, 3 ER, 1 BB, and 7 Ks. The bullpen took over from there, and like we've seen most of the time out of them, only allowed 1 hit to go with 2 strikeouts, over 1.2 innings.

On the offensive side of things the team was able to record runs in four straight innings, and five total. It was nice to see as in a few games this year the Yankees have had a nice early start, only to slow down the rest of the way. It looked like that could happen in the 1st inning this time after Swisher's double, but Willingham was able to get to Cano's line drive to left field, and after ARod walked Andruw Jones struck out swinging. The second inning saw Gardner hit a ground rule double on a hard hit ball to left field, scoring Granderson, and moving Nunez to 3rd, with no outs. A big inning wouldn't happen though, as Stewart grounded out, Jeter K'd, and Cano grounded out after Swish was walked. The 3rd inning was the big one, as Nunez had drove in Jones with a single, Stewart singled in Curtis and Nunez a couple batters later, and a new pitcher couldn't stop Jeter from scoring Gardner on a sacrifice fly ball to right field. They were able to get one more run in the 7th on another Chris Stewart single, scoring Gardner, which was more than enough to make the series 1-1 going into Game 3.

Game Three
Even if Gardner would have played, it looks as though Raul Ibanez was going to start in RF. That has to stop. I've said before that I don't mind Raul playing OF in a pinch, but there was no "pinch" that night. On that note, why was Teixeira batting 3rd? It would have been fine if the team was facing a left-handed starter, since Tex has hit about .290 as a right-handed batter in 2010 and 2011. But against righties (which is what the Twins starter, Jason Marquis, was), batting from the left side, Mark has hit about .235 the previous two seasons. The questions didn't end there though as Eric Chavez was starting at 3B, with ARod getting the day off. I'm all for giving guys days off every now and then, but Girardi has to do a better job at mixing it up so the lineup isn't as weak as this one looked.

Hiroki Kuroda did not start off well at all. First you had Denard Span singling on a one-hopper to Granderson in CF, then Jamey Carroll doubled to the left-field corner to score Span from 1st, then Joe Mauer hit a double down the left-field line. Finally Kuroda recorded an out, although the ball grounded to Jeter was well hit by Willingham. Things went from a little better to a lot worse when Justin Morneau hit a bomb into the bullpen in right-center field. The trouble didn't end there, as Chris Parmelee singled. Hiroki was able to staunch the bleeding after getting Burroughs to ground out softly to Cano, and Clete Thomas to strike out swinging. I was hoping the long bottom of the inning would allow Hiro to calm down and throw well the rest of the game, but that thought was thrown into question when Casilla started off the top of the 2nd with a looping single to CF (to be fair, it wasn't hit hard and Curtis may have gotten to it with a bettter jump). The rest of the inning went well, although Cano needs to be slapped for not knowing how to apply a tag, as Martin got the ball there in plenty of time to get Casilla trying to steal when Carroll struck out. After it looked like Hiroki settled in the 2nd, he again allowed a run after a single-double-single combo with one out, but eventually left men on the corners. Kuroda had a 1-2-3 4th inning, and looked to take that into the 5th after getting Willingham to strike out. But Morneau hit yet another home run, his 7th in 12 games at new Yankee Stadium, which chased Kuroda. Rapada came into the game for Hiroki, and started off his effort by walking Parmelee. But Clay settled to get a ground out and a strikeout to the next two batters. The bullpen again did a great job, as Rapada, Logan, and Soriano combined for 4.2 innings, giving up 3 hits, 3 walks, and stricking out 6.

Thankfully the offense had their eyes open to start the game, while Jason Marquis evidentally didn't. To the surprise of absolutely nobody, Derek Jeter singled to lead things off, followed by a walk to Granderson. Teixeira hit one hard to deep CF, but Span was able to chase it down for out #1. Cano came up though and doubled to CF, scoring Jeter. Swisher came to plate after that and proceeded to hit a single up the middle, scoring Granderson and Cano, making the game interesting soon after Kuroda's botched start to the game. The Dark Lord kept things going with a single of his own, while Swish was running, making it a 1st and 3rd situation with only 1 out. That led to a really good, 10-pitch, at bat by Andruw Jones that ended with a walk... loading the bases with still 1 down. Eric Chavez then came up and hit one hard towards right field, but Alexi Casilla was able to get to it and start a 4-6-3 double play to end the 1st inning. Nothing much happened after that for the Yankee bats until Robinson Cano finally broke out the whoopin stick and sent one into the right-center field seats (note, Clete Thomas in RF never moved a muscle). After that the bats went missing until the 9th inning, when Jeter hit his 4th bomb of the year, getting within one inning. But the game ended when Teixeira hit a Michael Kay home run, meaning it was actually just another long fly ball that Kay gets way too excited over.

The Jeter HR in the 9th wasn't enough to overcome the 2 run lead the Twins had going into the last inning, giving Matt Capps his 3rd save of the year, and putting the Twins up 2-1 in the series.

Game Four
The pitching situation in New York is more than a little messed up. They started the season with a rotation of CC Sabathia, Hiroki Kuroda, Ivan Nova, Phil Hughes, and Freddy Garcia. Before the first game was played I thought that rotation right there could take the Yankees to another postseason. And then there were Michael Pineda and Andy Pettitte getting ready to join the rotation sometime in May. So what would happen come mid-May? Well, Freddy and Phil seemed to be making the Yankees decision for them. Each pitcher was having his fair share of trouble. And in the case of Phil Hughes, he was not only getting hit, but he was very inefficient as well. 99 pitches to get through 4.2 innings in his first start at Tampa Bay, and 84 pitches to get through 3.1 innings at home against the Angels. So how would he do in his 3rd start Thursday night?

In a couple words... not awful. The first inning didn't go well, but that was more the fault of Eduardo Nunez who threw the ball away, allowing Joe Mauer to reach first base, and move Jamey Carroll to 2nd, with only one out. A strikeout by Josh Wilingham made it look like Phil could work out of trouble, but a single by Ryan Doumit and a double by Danny Valencia scored 4 runs. Bad news for the Yankees, but not so bad for Phil who got Chris Parmelee to fly out ending the inning, making it so not one of the four runs the Twins scored was earned. Things were looking good after that as Phil got through the next four innings fairly smoothly. That is until the 6th inning when Doumit crushed a ball over the RF wall, plating two runs and cutting the Yankee lead to only 1. Although Phil came back to strike out Valencia, he was lifted for Boone Logan. Right away it looked as though the bullpen wouldn't be able to hold the 1-run lead, as Chris Parmelee doubled to Swisher in RF. But back-to-back fly ball outs by Alexi Casilla and Denard Span ended the 6th inning, and preserved the lead. Rafael Soriano came in in the 7th inning, and after striking out Jamey Carroll to lead off the inning , gave up back-to-back singles to Mauer and Willingham. Justin Morneau, who loves hitting in new Yankee Stadium, struck out, as did Ryan Doumit to end it. The only other excitement on the defensive side of things was when Robertson came in and gave up a lead-off double, only to get the next three batters out. And then Mo was Mo in the 9th.

The offense had some work to do right away in the bottom of the 1st inning, but Granderson and Teixeira hit a couple of souvenirs into the seats, making the Yankee fans stand up and shout after a woeful top of the inning. They couldn't totally erase the early Minnesota lead, but a 1-run deficit was certainly better than a 4-run one. The bats came back right away in the next frame, as Jeter singled home Nunez, and Grandy hit his 2nd homer of the night... a 2-run shot scoring Jeter, putting the Bombers ahead. The Yankees took their foot off the gas in the 3rd inning, but in the 4th Granderson came up to the plate and proceeded to hit his 3rd round-tripper of the evening. They threatened again in the 6th inning as Nunez walked to open thing, then stole 2nd base. Granderson singled a couple batters later (most disappointing base hit ever), and ARod was hit by a pitch to load the bases for Robbie Cano. Don't ya know!? Apparently he didn't, as Robbie hit into an inning-ending double play. Curtis got one more chance to join Lou Gehrig as the only Yankees ever to hit 4 home runs in a single game, but failed to do so. Grandy did, however, get his 5th hit of the evening, making him the clear-cut winner of Player of the Game. Luckily the bullpen didn't need any insurance runs, as the Yankee bats weren't in a giving mood at that point.

The Yankees ended up splitting the series with the Twins, which is pretty disappointing as they and the Houston Astros may very well be the two worst teams in Major League Baseball. But it's probably a good thing that we were playing the Twins, as any other team probably would have won the series 3-1.

Series Awards

Jake Taylor Award*
Curtis Granderson - 7/13, 5 R, 5 RBI, 4 HR

Gentry Award*
Nick Swisher - 1/11

Rick Vaughn Award*
CC Sabathia - Game 2: 7.1 IP, 4 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 1 BB, 7 K

Kelner Award*
Hiroki Kuroda - Game 3: 4.1 IP, 10 H, 6 R, 6 ER, 0 BB, 4 K, 2 HR

Next Series
@ Red Sox 4/20 - 4/22
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 - 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.

Twins @ Yankees 4/19/12

Hughes can already hear Andy Pettitte's footsteps, all the way down in A ball. Hughes needs a big start tonight against the Minnesota Twins, here is the lineup behind him.

Gardner's Elbow Not The Only Thing Hurting

Earlier Burch reported that Brett Gardner was placed on the 15-day DL. Brett had apparently injured his elbow when he attempted to make a sliding catch the night before. Brett had taken batting practice earlier in the day and said he felt fine, but when he swung about a half hour before the game started it was bothering him. I hope this isn't a major injury, because that leaves the Yankee outfield questionable.

The first thing you need to keep in mind is that Nick Swisher was already in RF, and he's an average defender... even in a smaller Yankee Stadium right-field. So having guys in center and left, who have great range, was key in "hiding" the fact that the 3rd outfielder was nothing special. Now the team doesn't have that.

Unfortunately the bad news didn't end there, as Girardi said last night after the game that they were going to call up a reliever, instead of another outfielder such as Dewayne Wise. I was going to say Chris Dickerson, and that may have been a strong possibility, but unfortunately Chris is on the 7-day DL due to suffering a concussion after being hit in the head by a pitchjamming his neck after sliding into the outfield wall following a great catch. Girardi said Cody Eppley is going to be called up, since the bullpen has gotten quite a bit of work thanks to some awful starts.

I understand the need for another reliever, but I really hope this is a temporary move, and either Dickerson or Wise gets the call-up soon. Otherwise the Active Roster only has Curtis Granderson, Nick Swisher, Andruw Jones, and Raul Ibanez under "Outfielders". That doesn't equal a strong outfield, which could really hurt.

Gardner Placed On 15 Day DL

He has a strained/ bruised elbow. Cody Eppely will be called up to replace him on the roster