Monday, August 31, 2009

Pettitte Almost Perfect

Andy Pettitte has been pitching great since the All-Star break. Going into Monday night's start Pettitte was 3-1 in eight starts with a 2.79 ERA since the mid-summer classic.

The Orioles on the other hand have lived up to the hype. They have progressively gotten worse as the season has played on and they can yet again look forward to another meaningless September.

It seemed like the perfect match up, and Pettitte almost walked away perfect. The crafty old lefty had every pitching working and used impeccable control to make the O's look stupid for 6.2 innings. Baltimore looked disinterested in putting up a fight and with their recent trend of being on the losing end of history (the Buchholz no-hitter and the 30-3 loss to Texas in 2007) they seemed ripe for the taking.

Pettitte seemed on a mission, but history was not meant be on a cool Monday night. After making a slick play at third to steal a hit from Matt Weiters in the bottom of the sixth, the ball found its way to Jerry Hairston again with two outs in the seventh.

This time Hairston couldn't handle the hard grounder from Adam Jones. Pettitte still had the no-hitter intact and could have looked at Jonathan Sanchez for inspiration as he finished off a no-hitter earlier this year after Juan Uribe booted an easy grounder. But Pettitte hung an 0-2 fastball to Nick Markakis who promptly ripped it to left.

Pettitte got through the inning and completed eight innings only surrendering one more hit to the O's, a solo homer to the always annoying Melvin Mora.

It seems that after Pettitte struggled through the second half of last year he has reestablished himself as a force after the break. A reliable number three will be huge for the Yanks once the playoffs role around, and with CC on a dominant run and Burnett pitching well everywhere except Fenway, there seem to be few teams that will be able to match the Yankees starters come October.

Byrd is the Wyrd

That's more like it. Brad Penny take note, Paul Byrd knows how to pitch. Penny has a lot more velocity, but no command. Look, Paul Byrd ain't Greg Maddux, but I think he will give the Sox a chance to win every time out. I'm glad to see him back on the team. And really I love everything about him. I love that he's a grizzled, old vet. I love that he's crafty and is a total junk baller. I love the circa 1895 windup. Perhaps I wouldn't love him over the course of an entire season, but after suffering Penny, Matsuzaka, and John Smoltz crap the bed this season. It was nice to see Byrd pitch an efficient, smart game yesterday, and I'm looking forward to seeing his contributions for this stretch run.

Stories Of Derek Jeter's Demise Have Been Greatly Exaggerated

A lot has made of Derek Jeter and his recent hot streak as it is of a ridiculous nature. Over his past 19 games Jeter has hit an absurd .468. During this streak he has had 13 multi-hit games and of those, seven have been for at least three hits. Jeter has pretty much done everything one can do with the bat during the streak, even hitting for power with five home runs, three of which came on the road for those who think his power comes solely from the new Yankee Stadium.

But the point is that Jeter is far from the end of his career. During the off-season it was noted several times by many pundits that Jeter was finally slowing down with the bat. Coupled with his obvious defensive deficiencies many were wondering how the Yankees would deal with their aging and declining super star as he neared the end of his huge 10 year contract.

Many were right to question Jeter's ability. On the outside, using just his numbers, Jeter was clearly moving past his prime. After his MVP-like 2006 campaign his numbers began to drop. The problem was that Jeter's dropped subtly as he often played through injuries. This lead to the look of a steady decline and not just a down year. Last year it was a strained calf and a bruised hand after Daniel Cabrera put a 95-MPH fastball up in on him.

Jeter didn't sit out a game after the Cabrera HBP, but the effects lingered and it showed. Over his next 24 games Jeter's average plummeted from .312 to a season-low .270. Where the injury really showed was in Jeter's slugging percentage. Suddenly Jeter couldn't drive the ball anymore. His slugging dropped to a career low .408.

This season Jeter has been able to stay healthy and avoid any lingering injuries. This has led to one of his best seasons with the bat, rivaling perhaps 2006 and 1999. Aside from his rejuvenated bat Jeter has showed improved range in the field. This is mostly due to better positioning when out in the field, leading to fewer "past a diving Jeter" calls from John Sterling and Michael Kay on ground balls up the middle.

Joe Mauer is likely the unamimous MVP selection this season and you can't argue with his numbers, but Derek Jeter should get some consideration when the final numbers get matched up. He is definitely the MVP for the Yankees so far in 2009.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Take a Penny, Leave a Penny

God help us. Brad Penny has been released. He started awful, was decent for a little while, and recently has played like hot garbage. What I don't get is that he asked to be released. Do you have fend off all of the suitors, or is the American League that scary? I for one will will not miss Bulbous Brad. (By the way he's listed at 6'1'' 200 lbs. C'mon! He's easily pushing 3 bills.)

My only question is, now what? Yes, Penny wasn't worth one cent, but who's going to pitch now? I suppose the upside of Tazawa, however small, was more enticing than another 3 inning performance from Penny. Wakefield is still fragile in spite of his successful return outing on Wednesday. Who else ya got? Maybe SS Nick Green can pitch. He did something in his relief appearance last night in a blow out that Penny hardly ever did, pitch two consecutive scoreless innings. Heck, he even touched 90 on the gun!

The Sox finish up their home stand with a series starting tonight against Toronto. This is a classic trap series. It would be very easy to look ahead to next week's games at the Trop against Boston nemesis Tampa Bay. Basically the Sox need to take care of business against the struggling Blue Jays and at least win 2 of 3. This is especially important considering that the Sox have been abysmal against Tampa these past two seasons.

Observation: Muscle bound meathead spotted in Moe's mexican restaurant Wednesday wearing an "I hate Johnny Damon" T-shirt. That was four years ago, brah. You have to get over it and move on with your life. By the looks of your camo fatigue hat and shorts you really hold a serious grudge. Might I suggest counseling. It wasn't even that big a deal to me back then. Essentially, he worked and performed well with one big company and got a better job offer from another big company. That's life.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Whaddya mean I need to get 3?

It was the same story but a different pitcher today. A.J. Burnett was solid through six innings, walking three and striking out 12. Hell he was even perfect through 3.2 innings before the two out bug caught up to him like it has every other Yankee pitcher of late.

Over the past week it seems that Yankee pitching has been unable to get that all-important third out of the inning and yet again it cost the Yankees a game. Burnett was perfect through 3.2 innings until walk, walk, home run destroyed his outing.

Aside from his rough forth inning Burnett only allowed two base runners, but the Yankee offense let him down. The bats failed to capitalize on the 11 baserunners they accumlated against rookie Dustin Nippert.

The Yankees then failed in their endeavors against the Ranger bullpen. They managed to start a rally against C.J. Wilson when Johnny Damon singled and Mark Teixeira reached on a botched fielders choice. Wilson settled down though, striking out the side to avoid further trouble.

Lucky for the Yanks, Junichi Tazawa showed up to his start tonight and the White Sox finally broke through against their Red counterparts. The Yanks still have a six-game advantage in the division. Hopefully CC Sabathia can get the Yanks back on track. They're in a mini sort of funk right now, dropping three of their last five. Tomorrow is a good match up of lefties. Here's hoping the Yanks continue their history against Mark Buehrle.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Sox Sloppy But Victorious

Jon Lester was cruising along with a 2-1 lead against the White Sox in 7th last night when he got into a little bit of trouble. It looked like he was going to get out of it with runners at the corners with two out and two strikes on Alexei Ramirez. Lester got Ramirez to flail at a curve ball in the dirt, inning over, only it wasn't. The ball got past Jason Varitek who was unable to tag or throw out Ramirez. He was also unable to prevent the run from scoring. It was one of the weirdest runs I've seen in a long time. Another run scored on a line shot to third that Mike Lowell wasn't able to handle. Fortunately though Lowell was able to keep the ball in the infield and prevent a big inning.

Okajima came in after that and in the 8th mishandled a popup and let a simple throw back to the mound get by him allowing a runner to advance. Luckily those two gaffes didn't lead to any more runs. Starting with Jason Bay's homer in the bottom of the inning, the Sox took back the lead and won.

Back in the Bronx, just when you need the Yanks to win, they blow it. The Rangers beat the Bombers yesterday and kept pace with the Red Sox in the Wild Card. Let's face it. The Sox are out of the division. Go Yankees!

Monday, August 24, 2009

Yankees Keep Knocking On Sox

So as things go the Yankees ripped on the Sox on Friday and then the Sox got their revenge on Saturday. Sunday was set up to be the rubber match on the series with both teams sending their aces to the mound. Everyone was expecting to see a scoreless duel between the major league leaders in wins, so of course it was another sloppy slugfest.

Well to be fair Sabathia was pretty much on point except for that rough little second inning he had, but really those were the only two runs he should have given up if the Yankees defense had simply remembered how to catch a pop up.

Either way, Sabathia out pitched Josh Beckett by a mile. Beckett was tagged for a career high in home runs, five, as the Yankees attacked him early in the count to avoid seeing any of his nasty breaking pitches. Not much else you can really say about it except that Beckett didn't adjust to the Yanks new strategy, although I'm sure he will have a completely new attack plan by the next time the Yanks see him.

The other star of the game and perhaps of the series (excluding Saturday's performance) was Hideki Matsui. Matsui had his knees drained in Seattle last weekend and every since he has been back to his mid-season form. He slammed four homers this series and has quietly been a big force in the middle of the Yankee lineup.

Obviously Matsui is near the end, but right now he is a big part of the Yankee lineup and he can still make pitchers pay for mistakes. Keeping him healthy for the playoffs will be a priority for Girardi down the stretch.

This win was big for the Yankees. Sure they would have still been safe with a 5.5 game lead, but taking two of three really buts another dagger in the division race and prevents the Sox from gaining any downward momentum towards the Yankees. It also keeps them looking over their shoulder at both the Rays and The even closer Rangers. It will be an interesting final month for the Sox to say the least.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Boston Fights Back

With a 20-11 loss the night before and Junichi Tazawa facing A.J. Burnett Saturday afternoon, I was certainly pessimistic about the immediate future of the Red Sox. However, they broke out the sledge hammer and scored 14 runs in defeat of the Yankees yesterday. Tazawa, being a young pitcher with which the Yankees have no familiarity, baffled the bombers who ultimately scored only one run. The Yankees have such problems with these young pitchers, it makes you want to wheel out a new pitcher every time you play them.

Tonight we get to watch what we've all been waiting for; the match up between C.C. Sabathia and Josh Beckett. They have remarkably similar stats this season. In 24 starts and 162 1/3 innings, Beckett is 14-4, 3.38 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, 149 K. Sabathia is 14-7, 3.58 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, 140 K in 26 starts and 178 2/3 IP. Both pitchers have pitched well lately save Beckett's last start at Toronto; although, Beckett seems to play better in big games. In any event, these teams have combined for 46 runs in the past two games and today should be much, much different.

Although I am biased, I give the advantage today to Beckett. He loves the big stage, the Sox are at home, and the game means much more to Boston than it does to New York. I don't suspect the Sox will be a real threat in the division from here out, but a cushion in their wild card lead is of the utmost importance.

I will probably watch the game with the sound off though. I cannot bear Joe Morgan and Jon Miller. The last time they did a Boston vs. NY game they talked for 30 minutes without acknowledging the action on the field at all. In fact, ESPN wouldn't even show the field while they were talking. Baseball catered for the casual fan is absolute torture for those of us who actually follow the game.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Yankees Slaughter Sox

I was starting to feel a little encouraged after the Sox sweep of the Blue Jays in Toronto. Granted, Toronto is a team that is reeling right now, and in game one, ace Josh Beckett couldn't hold any of the three leads he was handed. But in one of those wins, Clay Buchholz out-dueled Roy Halladay of all people, and the Boston Bats did there part smacking around the Cy Young candidate for 5 runs. Jon Lester continued his dominance earning his 10th win in game three.

But last night's game seemed like SSDD for the Yanks/Red Sox rivalry of late. You had to know that it would be a high scoring game with Brad Penny and Andy Pettitte on the hill. Unfortunately it was New York who struck early and often in their 20-11 win. Brad Penny is just the kind of pitcher that the Yankees usually feast on. He's got a really small margin for error and the Yankee hitters are too patient and too good for the likes of him. I'm already looking forward to Sunday quite honestly. The Beckett vs. Sabathia match up should be riveting regardless of the standings.

On happy note, last night marked Jerry Remy's return to the booth after a near season long recovery from cancer surgery and subsequent fatigue and depression. He will likely miss some road trips the rest of the way, but it was nice to hear his familiar Massachusetts accent over the airways. I guess we'll just have to suffer Dave Roberts saying "right there" about 1,000 times or Frank Viola's idiocy on the road a bit longer. Many will disagree, but I will miss Dennis Eckersly's self-deprecating humor during home games. Anyway, welcome back Remy. Red Sox broadcasts now sound as they should.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Yankees Finish Off A's, Aceves Continues Slide

Coming into this series in Oakland the only match up the Yankees didn't like was last night's between Brian Anderson and Chad Gaudin. Gaudin was roughed up during his last appearance against Seattle, but with Sergio Mitre struggling and the Yankees needing extra arms to protect Joba's innings Gaudin was gonna get the ball to start the game.

Gaudin was effective despite five walks. He managed to get around those free passes by only allowing one hit and striking out five. Alfred Aceves bailed him out of a jam in the fifth, but Aceves gave up a couple of runs in 2.1 innings of work. If Joe Girardi has abused any arms in his bullpen this year Aceves is that arm.

Since the Yankees spot started him against Minnesota back in July, his numbers have gone from great to awful. He has worked 18 innings and given up 14 runs over 10 games. Part of that abuse is that Girardi likes to run Aceves out there for 2-plus innings on many occasions. 10 of his 31 relief appearances have gone for more than two innings including three that have topped the four inning mark.

Aceves has been a big piece of the puzzle for the Yankee bullpen and it would do Girardi well to take it easy on him and get him right before the stretch run and postseason.

Part of that plan should involve giving Phil Hughes more innings out of the pen or working in the newly reliable Dave Robertson or Brian Bruney into the late inning mix. With the off day today everyone should have been available with the possible exception of Robertson who had pitched a labored ninth inning the night before. The question begs to be asked as to why Girardi would attempt to stretch Aceves out for three innings?

Last year Girardi did an excellent job at managing the pen, perhaps with a division title on the line he finds himself converting to Joe Torre-like desperation to preserve leads. He needs to use a plan to protect Aceves the rest of the way.

When the rosters expand in September some of these more reliable relievers should get extra days off. Until Alfredo Aceves' shoulder beware, Joe Girardi is looking at you with ill intent.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Absolutely Disgraceful

Disgraceful. Red Sox fans hearts were warmed this evening. If Brett Tomko can make the Yankees look stupid, hell teams should just start tossing little leaguers on the mound. I mean, seriously, you just got shut out by BRETT TOMKO and assorted relievers. I don't care how mad Tomko was that the Yankees cut him nobody with so little talent should be able to do that to this line up.

Think I'm overreacting? Tomko has a career ERA of 4.69 with all but 86.1 of his 1766.2 career innings being accumulated in the National League. I can almost guarantee he gives up 5+ runs in his next start regardless of the opponent.

It's not just that they lost to Tomko, but that they wasted a perfectly good start by A.J. Burnett who took the complete game loss. Burnett had one bad inning where things seemed to fall apart. Other than that he was better than good and was surprisingly efficient.

I'll be steaming over this for the rest of the day, and I am also anticipating a rough start to tomorrow's game as well. Vin Mazzaro gave them trouble the first time through the order back at the Stadium in July. They will need a big effort from Sabathia as this team may have hit a wall during this long stretch of games. You could see them dragging a bit at the end of the Seattle series and now with this abysmal effort against one of the worst teams in the AL.

Hopefully tomorrow brings a better effort and better results.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Yanks Take Three of Four in Seattle

Yesterday's loss was frustrating. It was frustrating because of Joba Chamberlain's poor effort, and the Yankees inability to square up Doug Fister's 86 MPH fastball.

But when you just won five in a row and 12 of 13 it's pretty easy to brush off a defeat, especially when the Red Sox lost earlier in the day.

I want to be hard on Joba, but it is hard to come down on a kid who is getting inconsistent rest in between starts which could lead to him getting out of rhythm when he finally does get on the mound. It is essential, however that the Yankees protect his arm and limit his innings especially if they envision him as their fourth starter in the playoffs. The regimen they have him on will probably lead to some clunkers, but its is easier for the team to endure such bad outings when they have a 7.5 game lead with the Red Sox seemingly unable to put together a run.

I imagine that the Sox will make a run at some point, but it is amazing to watch them right now. I never envisioned that they could be this bad for this long. Of course that's what happens when injuries force you to endure the likes of Brian Anderson in right field and Alex Gonzalez at short stop.

It is off to Oakland now to take on the lowly A's again. Tonight it is A.J. Burnett vs. our old friend Brett Tomko. This game has blow out written all over it, although I would not be surprised if Tomko put up a fight in the early going considering how upset he was with his dismissal from the Yankees.

It would be nice if they took two of three from the A's before heading back east for yet another Sox-Yanks series.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Sox vs. Rangers

Game one was a great comeback that saw the bury the Rangers under an avalanche of runs in the top of the 9th. Boston's hitting in that inning with two out was phenomenal. Boston batted around and scored 6 in the frame, not only completing the comeback but putting the game out of reach.

Game two on the other hand was a travesty. The Rangers stole 8 bases. This also happened earlier in the season. That was the game in which Carl Crawford stole 6 bases on his own. Coincidentally, Brad Penny was the starting pitcher in both games. Ya think he's a little slow to the plate? Last night's game continues a disturbing trend of teams running all over the Red Sox. I for one have always thought that it's actually extremely hard for a catcher, any catcher, to throw out a good base stealer. However, Sox catchers are only throwing out about 10% of runners attempting to steal. Jason Varitek on his own has only caught 9 runners out of 101 attempts!

As I write, the Sox are up 1-0 on Texas. Junichi Tazawa was in big trouble in the first. He was saved by a double play when Dustin Pedroia caught a line drive and threw immediately to first with the runner already far off the first base bag. Right now the difference in the game is a David Ortiz solo shot. Oops, wait. Ian Kinsler just took Tazawa deep. Cripe. Maybe I should watch Discovery Sunday instead.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Despite Better Play, Sox Lose Ground

Again a return to Fenway acted as a elixer for the road weary Sox. But even taking 3 of 4 from Detroit did not prevent Boston from losing ground in their pursuit of the Yankees. Nor did it prevent the Rangers from narrowing the gap with the Sox in the wild card race.

The Yankees blistering pace can't last forever, but I'm starting to doubt that the Sox will be within reasonable striking distance when it ends. Of course that all can change if they have a good showing when the Yankees return to Fenway on August 21st.

More importantly, the Sox must put some more distance between them and the Rangers during this weekend's series in Arlington. This year's play against the Rangers has not been encouraging as the season series stands at 5-1 Rangers. Fortunately, Boston has Jon Lester going tonight, who has been a beast of late.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Walking Away With A Win

Well it took 11 innings and a few casualties, but the Yankees persevered and finished their homestand with a victory. The win gave the Yankees a 6-1 homestand and nine victories in their last 10 contests.

But the price might be a steep one for the Yankees. Derek Jeter got plunked on the foot in the first inning by a Ricky Romero curveball and you could tell from his run from first to third on Johnny Damon's single that he was not right and after his next at bat Girardi pulled the plug.

X-Rays were negative, but you would have to imagine that the Yankees will play it safe and probably sit Jeter for tomorrow's opener in an attempt to protect his health down the stretch. That could be detrimental to our other HBP victim today.

In extra innings A-Rod came to the plate and after falling behind 0-2 Toronto reliever Shawn Camp plunked him on the elbow. In spite of his protective gear A-Rod dropped like a sack-o-potatoes. He managed to stay in the game and perhaps the ball just caught his funny bone, but we all know that A-Rod needs to rest that troublesome hip. Jeter's foot contusion will complicate that rest schedule.

Even without the Captain the Yankees rode home runs from Johnny Damon and Robinson Cano. Before A.J. Burnett wild pitched away his two-run lead. The bullpen came on and kept a weak Toronto lineup on the mat for the three more innings. Chad Gaudin came on for his first appearance as a Yankee in the 10th, and after two solid innings of relief and the always rare Cano hit with runners in scoring position, he collected his first win as a Yankee.

Gaudin could be very important for the Yankees going into this stretch run. No matter what Girardi is hoping for, his old friend from the Marlins Sergio Mitre is not long for the rotation. Gaudin could step in for Mitre in the five spot or, what is more likely to happen, he can step into the bullpen and assume Alfredo Aceves role while Aceves transitions into the rotation.

It is a minor flaw with the Yankees to quibble over, but the more games they win now the sooner they can start controlling Joba's innings to keep him fresh for the post season and even continue to rest the regular starters aside from A-Rod as the Yankees endure these final two grinding months they are scheduled for.

Youk Loses Mind

Kevin Youkilis has been hit by pitches one too many times in the past week, and some one had to pay last night. The recipient of Youk's rage was Detroit pitcher Rick Porcello. Charging the mound and throwing his helmet resulted in a five game suspension for Kevin.

This is going to be a significant problem for the Sox once that suspension goes into effect. Mike Lowell hasn't had to play five days in a row in the field in a long time. And although he hit two HR's once coming into the game for Youkilis, Lowell's hip is always a big concern. Youk has dropped his appeal; the suspension starts tonight.

A bright spot in the game was the play of Junichi Tazawa. After a first inning in which he looked over matched and gave up three runs, he settled down nicely. All told he pitched 5 innings, giving up just the three runs, and managed to strike out 6 in the process. If you told the Red Sox that would be his final line, I'm sure they would be pleased.

Taking Care of Business

After a slight hiccup on Monday night against the Blue Jays, the Yankees came back in dramatic style to down Toronto for the eighth time this season. The Yanks are 8-3 against the Jays and aside from when Sergio Mitre gets the ball, every game feels like a game the Yanks are going to win.

Even with Mitre in the rotation the bats have been on fire of late and with the new stadium playing like a launching pad, they are always in the game.

Heading to the mound today is A.J. Burnett, who is coming off of what could be considered his best start as a Yankee. Sure he has had a couple where he struck out more and had shut outs for just as long, but this start was the most important in his young tenure as a Bomber. He shut down the Red Sox for 7.2 innings during that 15 inning marathon game, matching Josh Beckett zero for zero.

With a 5.5 game lead over the Red Sox the Yankees need to keep the pressure on them and even on the Rays who continue to slide back of both the division and wild card races. Right now the Yankees have a commanding lead on the division but they cannot relent yet.

These final home games become more important when you look at the imposing schedule that the Yankees have over the last two months of the season. The schedule looks daunting. It seems ludacris that someone making the baseball schedule would have the Yankees making three trips to the West coast, including one in the middle of September, but it is what it is and it makes their home games all the more important.

After today's game the Yankees embark on their second of the three trips to Cali before they return to the east for yet another series versus the Sox.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Yankees Sweep the Sox

A four-game sweep was just about the only way that the Yankees were going to able to erase the stinging memory of eight straight loses to the Red Sox and that is just what happened this weekend in the Bronx. Add on 31 1/3 scoreless innings by Yankee pitchers and 0-8 seems like a distant memory.

Now the Yankees have opened up a 6.5 game lead in the East as the Red Sox are struggling to stay ahead of the Rays and the Rangers. The Yankees cannot relent though, as the coming months could still find both the Rays and the Red Sox getting a groove. But aside from that the Yankees are sitting pretty right now.

The biggest thing to take out of this weekend series is the performance of the big three: Burnett, Sabathia and Teixeira.

Each had their moment where they lifted the Yankees above the Sox and earned their very large pay checks. Burnett and Sabathia combined to throw 15.1 innings of scoreless baseball and Teixeira hit .353 with two dingers and three RBI over the course of the series.

It was a solid team effort for all four games. Hell even A-Rod managed to step in the big moments, hitting his game winning jack in the 15th and then tagging Jon Lester to start the scoring in the 7th of last night's game. A-Rod looks like he has grown up a little as he has yet to open his mouth in a negative fashion and has yet to shy away from a big moment this season.

The only disappoint for the Yankess was Joba's bad start and he got the win in spite of himself. It's hard not to feel good about the Yankees right now. They have the best record in the game and seem to be clicking on all cylinders. they have a good mix of young and old players, plus a solid bench for Girardi to work with. They even have great chemistry.

None of that matters in the post season, but it does mean that they are in a great position to put together one final run and lock up that post season berth.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Buchholz Pitches Well, But Not Well Enough

Clay Buchholtz went 6 and only allowed 2 runs, but the Sox bats remained ice cold as Boston was shutout for a second straight night. They've now gone 24 consecutive innings without scoring a run. I give all due credit to C.C. Sabathia, who had everything working for him last night. The fast ball topped out at 98 and the slider looked filthy. He went 5 innings before allowing a base runner and 6 before allowing a hit. The Sox hitters looked totally lost. Hopefully Jon Lester will be able put a tourniquet on this hemorrhage tonight. But as we've learned, the Sox have become quite good at wasting good pitching performances.

On another note, the ejection of Ramon Ramirez was completely uncalled for. Hitting A-Rod in the 7th was clearly accidental. Why would he intentionally throw at a batter in the late innings of a 2-0 game with a runner on base? I know Yankees/Red Sox can get a little testy, but pitchers have to be able to pitch inside without fear of being ejected.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Red Sox Reeling

Two games up and two games down in this four game set, as the Yankees have defeated the Red Sox in two straight, insuring at least a split in the series. The Yanks blew out the Sox in game one then outlasted them in 15 innings last night. Game two was especially demoralizing because the Sox bats continued to struggle as they wasted 7 shutout innings from Josh Beckett and 7 more from the bullpen.

The Sox just can't seem to hit with RISP. They're not stringing hits together to get any rallies going. The Yanks simply outlasted them until the Sox had to throw out AAA call up, Junichi Tazawa. He would have lost the game earlier in the 15th if not for a highlight reel catch by J.D. Drew. Then with two out and Alex Rodriguez at the plate, well that just wasn't fair for the poor rookie.

Meanwhile, the John Smoltz experiment seems to be over in Boston. The future HOFer was designated for assignment today. There's still a chance that the Red Sox may bring him back as a reliever if he decides to take a pay cut. I'm not sure if that would work. I feel bad for Smoltz, not just because he wasn't much of a help to Boston's rotation, but because he's had a great career and this is no way for him to go out. Seldom do athletes, hall of fame caliber or not, get to retire on their own terms.

As of now, Boston's plight is this. They are 4.5 back of the Yankees and need to salvage a split in the series to even have a chance at the division going in to September. In the rear view mirror lurk the Texas Rangers, who are now only a game back of the Sox in the wild card. They sent a starter down to minors that they were depending on for the stretch now that Dice-DL is out of the picture for the moment. Oh, and they've forgotten how to hit. Yeech. And might I add, blarg!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Yanks Sweep Jays, Welcome Sox

The Yankees will finally come home on Thursday. They finished off a nine-game road trip tonight with a sweep of the Jays. The Yanks finished the trip with a 5-4 record, a respectable record when you consider that it was goof enough to maintain their 2.5 game lead over the Red Sox who are in the midst of their own nine-game trip.

The Yankees bats protected Sergio Mitre tonight, who was far from good, but not nearly as bad as he has been. With the help of Alfredo Aceves he held the Jays down long enough for the Yankees to get to Marc Rzepczynski and create a comfortable enough lead that they could avoid using Mariano.

While the sweep is nice, especially considering they beat Roy Halladay in one of those games, but the Yankees now welcome in one of their biggest series of the season to date. The Red Sox roll in and the first match up will be young vs. old: Joba Chamberlain vs. John Smoltz.

Joba has been great from the start of the second half. He has a different presence on the mound now, not thinking as much and keeping a better rhythm rather than delaying every pitch.

Smoltz on the other hand has been far from good since he returned to the Red Sox. It's mostly the home runs that have killed him recently. He has given up six in his last 16.2 innings after not throwing up a single long ball over his first 20 innings. His velocity has been good though, giving the indication that he could be a step or two away from finding his groove and going on a run. With the way things are going for the Yankees against the Sox that groove is probably due to start tomorrow.

I wouldn't go so far as to say the Yankees have to win the series against Boston, but they need to at least split with them and put up a crooked number in the win column against Beantown.

Six of the eight games the Yankees have lost to the Sox have been at Fenway so the Yankees need to capitalize on their home games. Seven of the final 10 will be at the Stadium including three in late September.

Anyway, get the antacids ready. These games are always long and messy, plus you have to deal with Fox and ESPN broadcasters for half the games. These four-game sets can be just brutal.

Yankees Get to Halladay Again

The Yankees managed to get to Roy Halladay for the second straight time and with the Sox extra inning defeat at the hands of Evan Longoria the Yankees moved ahead of the Sox by a 1.5 games, ensuring they will be in first when the Sox come to town on Thursday.

The Yankee game was stressful to watch, as the Blue Jays managed to come back and make the game interesting twice against Andy Pettitte and Phil Hughes. Mariano Rivera managed to shut the door, but he made it interesting too, giving up an RBI double to Vernon Wells and singles to Raul Chavez and Marco Scutaro.

Although Mariano has allowed some inherited runners to score over the past few outings, he has still been very good for the Yankees since his ugly outing against the Rays on June 6. He has a 0.40 ERA over the 22.2 innings since then and has a 1-0 record and 19 saves over that time period.

While the Yankees were holding off the Blue Jays, the Red Sox and Rays were gripped in a 13 inning affair that was what every Yankee fan was hoping for when these two teams clash. The Sox and Rays combined to throw 440 pitches over 25.2 innings. The Red Sox got good news at the same time they got bad news. After missing two games against the Orioles, J.D. Drew started against the Rays, but Boston lost Jason Bay to a mild strain of his hamstring.

With the Sox getting a little beat up the Yankees need to bounce out of their recent slump before Boston gets to town. The Yankees have one more game, but Yankee fans are looking at Thursday (especially with Sergio Mitre pitching tonight) and the Red Sox train that is going to roll into town.

The bats will have to carry the Yankees tonight and hopefully the Yankee pitching will be up to the task for this four-game set. At some point the Yankees have to win a game against the Red Sox right?

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Successful Debut for Martinez, Sox 1/2 Game Back

Victor Martinez had an RBI single and scored a run in his Red Sox debut, while Josh Beckett continued his Cy Young caliber season in Boston's 4-0 win vs. Baltimore.

I like the Martinez move, although I think it's a move that will really pan out for next season. With all due respect to Jason Varitek, I think Martinez will be behind the plate next season. Youk will move to 3rd and the Sox will push hard for a big bat at first base.

Beckett, who pitched 7 shut out innings, was helped by double plays in the 6th and 7th. Other than that, he faced little trouble. He now has an AL leading 13 wins and sports a 3.27 ERA. Many wondered who was the real Josh Beckett, the horse from 2007 or the floundering, banged up pitcher from last season. So far he is proving he is the former.

The Sox now stand 1/2 a game back of the Yankees and I'm sure the division lead seesaw will continue until the end. Now Jason Page can shut his pie hole about the Yankees standing pat at the deadline because they have a certain World Series contender. They do, but like all the teams in the race the Yanks have holes. A winning streak prior to the deadline perhaps will lead you to turn a blind eye to those weaknesses. Or perhaps New York just didn't see anything they were thrilled about. The reason I hate Page so much (in addition to his ineptitude behind the mic) is that he's such a Yankee homer and claims to be objective. Anyway, the race is on, and if we're honest with ourselves, we all like it that way.