Monday, June 16, 2014
This is terrible news: Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn has died at 54.
Gwynn had been fighting cancer, which had first manifested itself as a malignant growth inside his right cheek, for four years. Gwynn attributed the cancer to years of smokeless tobacco use. Just yesterday, Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com wrote this story about Gwynn, his son Tony Gwynn, Jr. and their relationship as Gwynn battled cancer. Gwynn Jr. said it had gotten tougher of late, and that his father’s condition had deteriorated.
No, he wasn’t a Yankee. But he was one of the best hitters in baseball for most of the time I have been a baseball fan. You wonder if the 1994 season hadn’t ended prematurely how much longer he could have flirted with .400.
RIP Mr. Gwynn.
Sunday, June 15, 2014
Down by 10 runs at the end of the fourth inning, it was time for the Yankees to think about the big picture. Their plane was gassed up and waiting to wing it back home, and no matter how out of hand this one got, their road trip would be guaranteed a winning record.
The conclusion of a three-city, nine-game trip was a memory that the Yankees would rather flush quickly. Derek Norris and Coco Crisp crushed a pair of three-run homers to knock Vidal Nuno out early and the Athletics rolled to a 10-5 victory on Sunday at O.co Coliseum.
“A loss is a loss. I wouldn’t call it deflating,” said Yankees first baseman Mark Teixeira. “We had a decent trip. We would like to maybe win this series, but that’s a very good team over there. Overall, we played pretty well this trip.”
After losing two of three in Kansas City to start the road swing, New York swept a three-game series from the Mariners, pushing its win streak to four before losing the last two contests in Oakland to finish 5-4.
“I think if you were to say before you start a road trip that you’re going to go to the West Coast and you’re going to end up with a positive road trip, you’d say, ‘All right,’” manager Joe Girardi said. “But when we were 5-2 and had a chance to have a really good road trip, it kind of stings a little bit.”
A patchwork rotation has worked for the Yankees, by and large, but there are days when their lack of depth is apparent. This was one of them: Nuno was charged with a career-high eight runs in three-plus innings and the Yankees lost for the first time in his seven road starts.
It sure would be nice to get somebody in here who could replace Nuno in the rotation, but it does not appear like that will happen until the end of July.
Ah well, terrible game, but we can only hope that they play better at home starting Tuesday.
Well, if the Yankees want to win this series, they’ll definitely have to earn this one. At least Teix is back!
Happy Father’s Day to all of our fathers out there (and I guess all the fathers of our posters, as well)!
Hiroki Kuroda was touched for four runs and was lifted in the fifth inning as the Athletics defeated the Yankees, 5-1, on Saturday night at O.co Coliseum, snapping New York’s four-game winning streak.
Eric Sogard smacked a two-run single to highlight the early production against Kuroda, and the Yankees were held in check by left-hander Scott Kazmir, who whipped six innings of one-run ball (unearned) before departing with a commanding lead.
Kuroda’s command was off in the second inning as he issued a pair of walks, setting up Sogard’s sharp single to center field on a fastball up in the zone, chasing home Yoenis Cespedes and Stephen Vogt with the first runs of the game.
The Yanks answered with an unearned run in the third inning off Kazmir, as shortstop Andy Parrino air-mailed a throw to first base on a Derek Jeter grounder, permitting Kelly Johnson to come home.
That was all that the Yankees produced against Kazmir, who permitted only three hits. New York wasted Johnson’s leadoff double in the fifth as Kazmir got Jeter to hit into a fielder’s choice, with Sogard firing home from second base and nailing Johnson in a play at the plate.
Kuroda was not good, but his defense also let him down a lot tonight.
Taking just a single decent hitter out of this lineup really makes it look awful (especially with Solarte in the midst of a tremendously bad slump). Ellsbury’s hitting streak came to an end tonight. Kazmir looked good, though, so that’s at least something. It is not like the Yankees were up against a mediocre pitcher. Honestly, they’ve had a pretty tough stretch of late of catching some tough opposing pitchers. The one mediocre guy they got they beat up in the final Seattle game. So hopefully they start seeing some mediocre pitchers soon.
Tomorrow, though, they have the pretty good Jesse Chavez to deal with while Vidal Nuno tries to help the Yankees somehow win this series.
Saturday, June 14, 2014
No Teix tonight due to a late scratch. Let’s hope that it isn’t anything serious. A second straight tough pitching matchup for the Yankees and now they’re playing without one of their better hitters. This will be a tough one.
The Yankees have acknowledged that, chances are, their current pitching rotation is the one that they will be leaning on for most of the summer. David Phelps doesn’t seem to believe that should be considered a problem.
Phelps turned in his most dominant outing of the season on Friday night, holding the big-swinging Athletics to just two hits over 6 2/3 scoreless innings as the Yankees won their fourth straight, a 7-0 victory at O.co Coliseum.
“It’s definitely one of the best starts of my career,” Phelps said. “To come in here against a team that’s first in its division with one of the best records in baseball—my biggest thing is going out and trying to give us a chance to win every time out.”
One of the funny things about quality starting pitching is when you get it, you start to crave it even more. That’s now five straight excellent starts by Yankee pitching, a full turn through the rotation. Let us hope that it continues, as the news today that Michael Pineda is now aiming at an August return (which, come on, let’s be frank, “aiming at August” probably means “it ain’t happening this season”) and that CC won’t be back until after the All Star Break means two things. 1. That the current starting five is likely going to be the starting five until the middle of July at the earliest and 2. The Yankees likely won’t be making a trade for a starter, since they will be counting on CC and Pineda returning, whether that is reasonable or not. However, #2 is not an issue so long as the current rotation continues to perform well.
The offense, meanwhile, was great tonight. Seven runs on just singles. That’s a lot of singles! And Jeter even got a single with a runner on second but Kelly Johnson was turned around so he couldn’t score on it.
Saturday’s matchup is another tough one, though, as Hiroki Kuroda takes on Scott Kazmir. Let’s hope for the best!
Friday, June 13, 2014
Yankees (34-31) @ Athletics (40-26), Friday, 13 June 2014, 10:05pm
Stranger things have happened than David Phelps defeating Sonny Gray, but not many.
Derek Jeter’s big league career started in this city back in May of 1995, just a short walk away at the old concrete Kingdome, and his most vivid memory of that evening was scarfing down fast-food cheeseburgers with his father after the game.
The captain celebrated his last regular-season visit to the Emerald City in much finer fashion on Thursday night, ripping three hits, scoring two runs and driving in two as the Yankees completed a three-game sweep of the Mariners with a 6-3 victory at Safeco Field.
“It’s still hard to think you’re not going to play another game here,” Jeter said. “I think when you come to some of these cities, you start thinking about some of the memories you had here. Seattle will always be special, because it was the beginning.”
Jacoby Ellsbury hit a two-run homer, Alfonso Soriano knocked in two runs, and the Yankees flashed some terrific outfield leather to support Chase Whitley, who hurled a career-high 7 2/3 innings and notched his second consecutive win.
Jeter was great, but I don’t see how the headline isn’t all about how great Chase Whitley was tonight. Yes, he got big time assists from first Jacoby Ellsbury and then Brett Gardner, but even with those near-hits, he was excellent tonight. And he did it all with amazing economy! He left in the 8th after throwing just 82 pitches. He allowed just his first home run all season tonight and he hasn’t walked a batter in over 100 innings. And this was a guy who was a reliever in the minors a month ago!
But yes, Jeter had an excellent night. Ellsbury also had another great night with a two-run home run and a great catch robbing Robinson Cano from an extra base hit (Mariano Rivera was likely watching the game thinking, “Pedroia wouldn’t have jogged to first base on that blast to center.”). Sadly, Ellsbury aggravated some right hip tightness on that catch. He took the field for the next inning but then left after batting in the top of the seventh.
Ellsbury said after the game: “It was tight,” Ellsbury said. “I’ll expect to be in there tomorrow, but I think it was the right decision. I got some ice on it, did everything we could, and I plan on being in there tomorrow.” I suspect we might see him take a day off tomorrow, but hopefully not.
Brett Gardner took over for Ellsbury in center and in the seventh inning he made an amazing catch at the wall, robbing Mike Zunino of extra bases. It appeared like the drive might go over the fence and Gardner was actually really slick about it, pretending that it was a home run for a second before throwing the ball in. Whitley had already signaled the umpire for a new baseball because Gardner had even fooled him!
Besides Ellsbury’s injury, another bad thing about the game was Shawn Kelley’s first appearance since he came off of the DL. He looked terrible and he was actually so bad that the Yankees had to bring David Robertson in in the ninth despite entering the inning up 6-2. D-Rob quickly settled things with back-to-back K’s to net the save.
In other news, former Yankee Jesus Montero was called back to the Majors on Thursday. I bring this up because I read an odd article about the event (the link in the previous sentence). Odd because of this quote from Montero about the minors:
“It’s tough. It’s Triple-A and there are a lot of veteran guys there pitching,” he said. “Sometimes it’s a little tough, but sometimes you’ve got a good couple games. I feel great to be here, I feel like I earned it, I feel like I learned something. Now I want to be here forever.”
Is he seriously complaining about the difficulty level of the minor leagues? So weird.
Friday sees the Yankees traveling to Oakland for a three-game series. Let’s see what the first pitching matchup is….okay, here it is…it is David Phelps vs. Sonny Gray.
Oh well, the winning streak was fun while it lasted!
Thursday, June 12, 2014
I truly have no idea how this game will go besides the Yankees will likely score four runs or less.
As an aside, looking at the lineup and how the first four spots are sort of set in stone now (which is fine by me, besides Jeter, of course, but that’s a lost cause), it is interesting to see that Ellsbury has been hitting very well recently, which is great. However, what amuses me about it is how when he was hitting poorly, it was that he didn’t like batting third. Now he’s hitting well and it’s, what, he changed his mind? Or, perhaps (just perhaps), he was hitting poorly then and is hitting well now and where he bats in the lineup doesn’t affect his ability to hit a baseball. Just perhaps, of course.
The Yankees did not make their first selection until the 55th pick of the amateur draft last week, which is a difficult way to restock a farm system. But there is another path to stockpiling young talent: Spend like crazy on international signings beginning on July 2, the day when teams can officially do so.
A major league source told the Daily News that the Yankees have in fact already reached verbal agreements with three highly-regarded infielders from the Dominican Republic: Dermis Garcia for approximately $3.6 million; Nelson Gomez for approximately $2.8 million; and Christopher Torres for approximately $2.6 million. Other estimates for Torres’ market have been closer to $1 million.
The source said that the Yankees were believed to have agreements in place with at least two other players. The deals cannot be finalized until July 2.
It looks like this is why the Yankees went heavily for pitching in the regular draft this year as they intend to spend heavily in the international draft on (hopefully) impact position players, especially infielders. Garcia, a third baseman, is supposedly one of the best available players, but really, these things are so volatile (as the players in question are still so young) that it is a bit of a crap shoot. Hopefully it is a crap shoot that pays off for the Yankees. I wholeheartedly support this strategy, by the way. Use their money in one of the few areas where they’re still allowed to throw their weight around to get young talent.
There have been outings—13 of them now—where Masahiro Tanaka has insisted that he should have done more to help the cause, and it has become a running joke. In his view, anything less than perfection indicates that there is work to be done.
This time, Tanaka came two outs away from his second career shutout, and then expressed disappointment that he was unable to finish it off, prompting his teammates to just shake their collective heads and chuckle.
Robinson Cano’s two-run homer may have spoiled the shutout in the ninth, but Tanaka’s terrific season continued with an 11-strikeout complete game, propelling the Yankees to a 4-2 victory over the Mariners on Wednesday at Safeco Field.
“Obviously, I wasn’t very happy about that home run, but at the end, I’m pretty satisfied that I was able to go a full nine innings tonight,” Tanaka said through an interpreter.
Tanaka is so amazing that I, too, was (like many of you were, I’m sure) honestly a bit disappointed at the fact that he lost the shutout in the ninth even though the guy ended up with a complete game with eleven strikeouts, one walk and only allowing two runs. That’s an excellent game and yet he’s so good I definitely thought, “Oh man, he lost the shutout!”
Anyhow, Tanakaday was once again a joyous day, aided in great part by a Yankee player not only hitting a home run but an actual three-run home run. Teix’s three-run shot was the first home run of three-run variety or better for the Yankees in a week (as I write that out, I guess that isn’t really all that long ago). Ellsbury, Gardner and Teix are all hitting at roughly the same time, which gives the Yankees some semblance of an offense, although it is still pretty dreary and it also is yet another game where the Yankees couldn’t get an insurance run despite having four runs by the fifth inning. They haven’t exceeded four runs in a game this entire month and yet are still somehow two games under .500 for the month. Good pitching covers up a lot of problems, I suppose.
Chase Whitley pitches Thursday as the Yankees try for an unlikely sweep!
By the way, non-baseball related, but I figured that there were plenty children of the 80s here, so for your morning perusal, an article I wrote on Wednesday - “Did B.A. Baracus really never say “I pity the fool” on the A-Team?”
Wednesday, June 11, 2014
Seattle’s lineup sure are funky. The guy who batted cleanup yesterday is batting ninth tonight and the guy who pinch-hit for the cleanup hitter is batting lead-off tonight. Funky, funky lineup.
Anyhow, today is Tanakaday, which is an interesting holiday in that, on the one hand, you get to see Tanaka pitch, but on the other hand, you feel even worse than usual if the Yankees don’t win the game. Chris Young is a decent enough pitcher, which means that he has the ability to completely shut down this Yankee offense. So Tanaka might have to dominate just to give the Yankees a chance at winning. Which is the downside of Tanakaday - Tanaka has to be awesome or it won’t be fun. Imagine if we had Tanakaday back when the Yankees had a good lineup? Can you imagine Tanakaday with, say, the 2007 lineup? Or the 2002 lineup? Yowsa, yowsa, yowsa. He could have repeated his regular season record from Japan.
In other news, Shawn Kelley is back on the team. It’ll be interesting to see how he’s used going forward. In addition, David Huff was reacquired from the Giants to be the Yankees long man (Wade LeBlanc was DFAed. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Angels try to get him back. I think Wade LeBlanc is actually French for David Huff).
Come on, Yankee offense, don’t ruin Tanakaday!
Jacoby Ellsbury picked an opportune moment to extend his hitting streak to 14 games, connecting for a tiebreaking eighth-inning single that lifted the Yankees to a 3-2 victory over the Mariners on Tuesday night at Safeco Field.
Ellsbury’s go-ahead hit came off Charlie Furbush and chased home Derek Jeter, who clubbed a ground-rule double on the final pitch of an otherwise impressive outing by Seattle starter Hisashi Iwakuma.
The late surge credited a victory to Yankees reliever Dellin Betances, who allowed a run in 1 1/3 innings after taking over for starting pitcher Vidal Nuno.
Granted an unexpected off-day by Monday’s rainout in Kansas City, the Yankees’ slumbering offense appeared to be refreshed in the first inning, as it jumped on Iwakuma for two runs and four hits.
Carlos Beltran ripped an RBI double to left field, scoring Jeter, and Brian McCann beat out an infield single that allowed Mark Teixeira to come home. Iwakuma then held the Yankees to just two hits over the next six innings before tiring in the eighth.
So yeah, that was a surprisingly awesome win.
Vidal Nuno did a good job battling, but it is clear that he would have been screwed if not for two amazing defensive plays from Ichiro Suzuki and Jacoby Ellsbury.
Suzuki made a leaping grab to start the second to rob Kyle Seager of a double in front of a double by Mike Zunino. There’s about a 5% chance that Alfonso Soriano makes that play. With Soriano’s awful offense and Suzuki’s decent offense and excellent defense, Suzuki should probably just be the regular right fielder going forward.
Here‘s Ichiro’s catch.
Next, the biggest catch of the day came in the fourth when Ellsbury covered a ton of ground to get to a drive by Michael Saunders with two outs and runners on second and third.
Here‘s Ellsbury’s catch.
Dellin Betances proved to be slightly fallible tonight when he blew the lead in the seventh, but unlike that insane streak the Yankees had (including one game against Seattle) where they lost three straight games despite being tied at 2 in the seventh or later, the Yankees actually pulled this one out on a clutch double by Jeter and then a very clutch ribbie single by Ellsbury.
David Robertson finished the game out by striking out the side (while giving up one walk). Adam Warren was pretty good in the 8th, as well, as the Yankees’ trio of great relievers continues to be amazing. That trio might soon be a quartet when Shawn Kelley returns, which appears to be imminent. It makes you wonder if perhaps either Betances or Warren should be stretched out to be starters if Kelley returns strong.
In other news, in his first game in Triple-A, Rob Refsnyder did…well, just what he has been doing. He got another two hits. Eight straight multi-hit games and twelve of his last thirteen games. That sound you hear is Brian Roberts swallowing hard. “Gulp.” In that same game, Cervello served as the DH. I think that the Yankees might be planning on trying to deal Kelly Johnson to make room for Cervello on the roster on top of Murphy, but I could be way off base there and Murphy will just be sent back to the minors when Cervello returns (if he returns, that is, as I remain skeptical of any Yankee completing injury rehab - the same goes for Kelley, to be frank. I expect a report of a setback any moment).
Wednesday is Tanakaday - don’t screw it up, Yankee offense!
Tuesday, June 10, 2014
One hell of a match-up to start the series. Nuno at least pitches better on the road than at home. So that’s something. However, Iwakuma is likely going to destroy this lineup so it will probably be a bit of a moot point.
In other news, the Yankees have made Kelly Johnson available in trades, which is a good sign that they realize that he’s useless for this particular team, as well. In addition, the Yankees hottest prospect, Rob Refsnyder has been promoted to Triple A (took them long enough!). Brian Roberts probably shouldn’t be making long term plans for staying in New York, either.
Finally, Jacoby Ellsbury is nursing a sore hip, but the Yankees aren’t worried. I am sure it’s totally fine. Totally. Yes sir. No problem at all.
The power pitcher who gained greater prominence because of a final-pitch strikeout in a World Series game than he did for a seminal season and winning a Cy Young Award has died. Bob Welch, forever linked to Reggie Jackson for the strikeout that ended Game 2 of the 1978 Series, died Monday night in Seal Beach, Calif., his legacy tied to two California teams.
The A’s, the second of the two clubs in Welch’s 17-season career, announced Tuesday the passing of the strong-armed, right-handed pitcher who was merely 57 years old. A subsequent release from the Dodgers, Welch’s first employer, stated the cause of death was a heart attack. There had been no indication of heart weakness or trouble. Welch’s death was quite unexpected.
“The Los Angeles Dodgers are saddened to learn of the passing of Bob Welch,” Dodgers president and chief executive officer Stan Kasten said. “He was one of the greatest competitors to wear the Dodger uniform.”
“This is a sad day for the entire A’s organization,” A’s vice president and general manager Billy Beane said Tuesday. “Those of us who knew Bob as a teammate and a friend will miss him greatly. My condolences go out to his family.”
That’s way too young to lose a guy like Welch. Yankee fans, of course, remember Welch for his epic confrontation with Reggie Jackson in Game 2 of the 1978 World Series, where Welch struck Jackson out to end the game with the Dodgers already up one game in the series and clinging to a one-run lead with two men on base (Welch had entered the game with one out and two men on and had already retired Thurman Munson for the second out). Welch battled Jackson for seven minutes before finally k’ing him. Luckily for Yankee fans, the Yankees then swept the next four games (and Jackson singled and homered off of Welch during the rest of the series).
I remember even back in the day that there was controversy over the fact that Welch won the Cy Young Award in 1990 based solely on the fact that he won 27 games (whatever vague stats movement existed back then was all up in the arms over that decision) despite his own teammate, Dave Stewart, having a much better season and Roger Clemens was having a legendary season for Boston (1.96 ERA, 21-6, with 209 strikeouts to 54 walks in 228 innings pitched). That said, I still thought it was kind of weird to bring up the controversy in an article about Welch’s death, and yet Marty Noble decided to go there: “Pitching for a team that won 103 games and a third successive division championship, Welch also led the American League in winning percentage, .818, but in no other category. Indeed, his 2.95 ERA that season was the second lowest among A’s starters. Dave Stewart won 22 games, produced a 2.56 ERA, made one more start than Welch, pitched 29 more innings, had four shutouts to Welch’s two and 11 complete games, nine more than Welch.” Odd decision by Noble. I know I wasn’t going to bring it up if he hadn’t.