Saturday, May 01, 2004

You Can Lieber Hat On 

A beautiful day and a beautiful game. Jon Lieber was tight in his first regular season start since August 2002, pitching into the eighth on just 91 pitches, 76 percent of them strikes. He didn't walk a batter all day and allowed just three runs on five hits. He was actually better than that, as he gave up a single to Benito Santiago in the eighth before being taken out of the game. Santiago later scored on a single and a double allowed by Paul Quantrill, who was quickly pulled in favor of Tom Gordon. That means through seven full, Lieber allowed just two runs on four hits.

Lieber confessed to some nerves in the first inning. Indeed, the first two batters he faced reached base (infield single by the just activated Angel Berroa, double by Carlos Beltran). Berroa went to third on Beltran's double and scored on a groundout. After that Lieber allowed just three more hits, one of them a home run by Matt Stairs that accounted for the second Royals run.

The Yankees, meanwhile, beat the tar out of the Royals pitchers. In his debut, Eduardo Villaces lasted just 3 1/3 innings surrendering five runs on six hits and four walks without striking out a batter. Awful. Shawn Camp followed and allowed two more runs on five hits and a walk in 2 2/3 innings. Nate Field worked a perfect seventh, but then, down 4-7 Tony Pena gave Curtis Leskanic the ball in the eighth. That didn't go so well. After Bernie flied out, Rodriguez worked a nine-pitch walk. Giambi then hit the first pitch he saw for a ground rule double to put runners at second and third. Sheffield then worked a seven pitch walk (likely semi-intentional as there was already one out) to load the bases. Hideki Matsui followed by grounding to Mendy Lopez, who got the start at third today. Lopez booted it and instead of turning an inning ending double play, everyone was safe, including Alex Rodriguez at home, and the bases remained loaded. Lopez may want to steer clear of Leskanic in the clubhouse for a day or two because that brought Ruben Sierra to the plate. Sierra had hit a three-run homer, his first of the year, of Villaces earlier in the game. This time, after fouling off one 2-2 pitch, he again creamed a shot into the right field stands, this one for a grand slam. 12-4 Yanks. Huzzah!

Forgotten man Scott Proctor closed it out in the ninth, facing just three batters, despite a Giambi error. It's interesting to note that with Randolph managing in Torre's place Giambi was not removed for a pinch-runner in the eighth nor for a defensive replacement in the ninth. One might say that the Yankee lead was large enough that replacing Giambi might have seemed unsporting. I have two things to say to that: 1) in a game with no clock, no lead is ever safe, you can burn the unwritten rulebook; 2) in a game that's not close, you're less likely to need Giambi's bat in extra innings, so it actually makes more sense to use a pinch runner or defensive replacement in those games to help avoid injury.

Some other evidence that Willie (who was technically co-managing with Stottlemyre, but I'm sure Mel handled the pitchers and Willie the hitters) hasn't been paying attention: Bernie in center and Enrique Wilson at second. In a game in which the Yankees had 23 baserunners (14 hits, 7 walks, 2 errors), Bernie, Enrique and John Flaherty (making the day game after a night game start) were the only Yankees not to reach base more than once. Flaherty and Williams were the only Yankees who didn't score or drive in a run (Enrique hit a sac fly in the fifth with the Yankees already up 6-1--his only hit came of Leskanic after Sierra's grand slam in the eighth). Enrique also made an error on a slow grounder to second.

Tomorrow Moose faces Jeremy Affeldt-a-blister-on-my-finger to try to give the Yankees their second consecutive sweep and run their winning streak to six games. I'll be there and will have a full report, as usual.

posted by Cliff at 5:03 PM

4 in a row . . . 

The Yanks took the first game from the Royals tonight 5-2 and finished the month of April with a 12-11 record, setting a major league record for consecutive winning Aprils at thirteen. They are 7-5 at home and 5-6 on the road thus far this season and finish the month in third place in the East, four games behind the Red Sox and one behind the Orioles.

The story of tonight's game was Javy Vazquez, who allowed just three baserunners (on two hits and a hit-by-pitch) in eight innings, throwing just 91 pitches, 71 percent of them for strikes. Amazingly, two of his three baserunners scored. Ken Harvey creamed a high curve in the fifth for a solo home run. He hit the ball so hard that he practically toppled over in his follow through. It was the exact same count (0-2), and, according to Vazquez after the game, the exact same pitch as Manny Ramirez's home run in Javy's last start. The only other hit off Vazquez was a Mike Sweeney double to lead off the seventh. Sweeney moved to second on a Matt Stairs fly out to right and scored on a sac fly from Harvey.

Brian Anderson pitched his best game of the year, but was no match for Vazquez. Rodriguez and Sheffield made good on a lead-off Bernie Williams walk in the fourth. A one-out walk to Jeter in the fifth also came around to bite Anderson, who wound up loading the bases with a pair of intentional walks (Jeter walk, Bernie double--Jeter to third, A-Rod intentionally walked to load the bases, Giambi groundout moves 'em up and scores Jeter--two outs, Sheffield intentionally walked). With the bases intentionally loaded and two outs, Anderson then walked Posada on five pitches to put the Yankees up 3-1.

With the Royals back within one on Harvey's sac fly, the Yanks gave Mo some breathing room in the bottom of the eighth. They loaded the bases on a Posada walk (Anderson walked seven Yankees!), a Matsui single and a Cairo walk (that one courtesy of Jason Grimsley). Jeter grounded out to score Posada and Bernie doubled to score Matsui.

Mo got into a bit of trouble in the ninth with a Beltran single and a Sweeney walk, but then struck out Stairs and Harvey to end it.

Torre stuck to his new and (somewhat) improved line-up with Jeter getting a lead-off single to start the game (his only hit of the night), Bernie going 2 for 4 with a double 2 RBI and a run scored as the DH, Matsui roamed center (single, run scored), Sierra played left (double in four trips), and Cairo manned second (single, walk in four trips). In the ninth, Joe pushed Matsui to left and stuck Bubba in center and Tony Clark at first. It seems to be working.

Not sure what we'll see tomorrow. Torre will be at his daughter's confirmation and is leaving Randolph and Stottlemyre to manage the team. I'm always happy to see a man put his family before his profession, but I think Joe's lucked out that the team is on a winning streak when he's taking a day off.

One thing we will see (or you will, I'll be attending to some family business of my own), is Jon Lieber's first start. As expected Alex Graman is being demoted to make room for Lieber and to resume regular work in the Clippers' rotation. No decision on Travis Lee yet. Torre claims he's still available as a pinch hitter, but likely that's just talk to keep Tony Pena honest (not that he's got any lefty relievers anyway--there are no matchups for him to play). Lee will probably go on the DL when Lofton, who has moved his rehab to Trenton, is activated in Oakland on Tuesday. Torre has said that Lofton will start in center once he returns. That should push Sierra to the bench. Let's just hope Joe bats Lofton at the bottom of the order.

As for the Royals, they're going with righty Eduardo Villaces tomorrow. The 24-year-old Villaces will be making his major league debut and is being promoted all the way from double-A. Villaces put up some pretty impressive numbers in AA (2-0, 2.41 ERA, 18 2/3 IP, 13 H, 2 BB, 14 K, 1 HR). He throws a fastball, changeup, splitter and curve. The fastball has some "skip" to it according to Royals GM Allard Baird. I wouldn't be surprised to see Villaces be very effective against the Yankees who are getting a first look at him.

The Royals are also expected to activate Angel Berroa tomorrow. Mendy Lopez, David DeJesus and Justin Huisman are all likely dreading the resulting roster moves, though Darrell May could wind up DLed, thus saving Huisman for the time being.

posted by Cliff at 12:17 AM

Friday, April 30, 2004

The Royals 

The Yankees have an excellent opportunity to clinch a winning April (which would set a major league record as it would be their thirteenth consecutive) and extend their season-best 3-game winning streak with the sub-.500 Royals coming to town. Just one year removed from being a surprise contender, the Royals are back down at the bottom of the AL Central standings with a 7-13 record, which puts them even with the Devil Rays and above only Toronto, Seattle and the Expos in all of baseball. Here's our usual look at who the Royals are bringing to town:

Kansas City Royals

2003 Record: 83-79 (.512)
2003 Pythagorean Record: 78-84 (.481)

Manager: Tony Pena
General Manager: Allard Baird

Ballpark (2003 park factors): Kauffman Stadium (113/112)

Who’s replacing whom?

Juan Gonzalez replaces Raul Ibanez
Benito Santiago replaces Brent Mayne
Matt Stairs replaces Michael Tucker
Tony Graffanino replaces Carlos Febles
Kelly Stinnett replaces Mike Difelice
Dennys Reyes replaces Jose Lima
Scott Sullivan replaces Sean Lowe

The Royals's current roster:

1B - Ken Harvey
2B - Tony Graffanino
SS - Desi Relaford
3B - Joe Randa
C - Benito Santiago
RF - Juan Gonzalez
CF - Carlos Beltran
LF - Aaron Guiel
DH - Mike Sweeney


L - Matt Stairs (1B)
R - Mendy Lopez (IF)
R - Kelly Stinnett (C)
L - David DeJesus (OF)


L - Brian Anderson
L - Jeremy Affeldt
L - Darrell May
L - Jimmy Gobble
L - Dennys Reyes


R - Mike MacDougal
R - Jason Grimsley
R - Curtis Leskanic
R - Scott Sullivan
R - Nate Field
R - Shawn Camp
R - Justin Huisman


R - Runelvys Hernandez (60-day, out for the season)
R - Miguel Asencio (60-day, out for the season
L - Kyle Snyder (60-day, out for the season)
R - Kevin Appier
R - Angel Berroa (SS)

The Royals primary line-up:

R - Tony Graffanino (2B)
S - Carlos Beltran (CF)
R - Mike Sweeney (DH)
R - Juan Gonzalez (RF)
R - Joe Randa (3B)
R - Ken Harvey (1B)
R - Benito Santiago (C)
L - Aaron Guiel (LF)
S - Desi Relaford (SS)

No, there's no typo there. The Royals have an all-lefty rotation and an all-righty bullpen. Part of the reason for that is the three righty starters on the DL. Lefty starters Reyes and Gobble have worked out of the pen a total of three times this season (when righty Appier was healthy and in the rotation), as has lefty Jamie Cerda, who's currently in triple-A.

As would be expected from a team that plays in a ballpark as hitter friendly as Kauffman Stadium, the Royals are hitting like crazy and pitching like crap. As it was last year, the Royals pitching is a mess. Scott Sullivan leads the team in wins with two, despite the fact that he's a relief pitcher with a 6.00 ERA. Their best starter thus far has been 22-year-old Jimmy Gobble, who hasn't pitched more than six innings in any of his four games (three starts plus one relief appearance in which he threw six shut-out innings after Appier left with pain in his elbow), and gave up 7 runs (5 earned) in five innings in one of them. Still, his 2.82 ERA looks mighty nice compared to the rest of the rotation (Reyes' 4.73 is the second best). The bullpen hasn't been much better. In fact, it's the youngsters that supposedly make up the back of the pen (Nate Field and rookies Shawn Camp and Justin Huisman) who are the only KC pitchers other than Gobble to throw multiple innings and still have ERAs below 4.00.

At the plate, Carlos Beltran and Ken Harvey are tearing things up. The difference being that Beltran, a megastar in the making, has a solid chance to maintain his .320/.442/720 pace (to go with the league lead in homers and seven stolen bases in seven attempts), while Harvey is hitting well over his head with a .400 average. Mike Sweeney and Joe Randa are also hitting well, though for some reason Sweeney, who has missed some games with a sore wrist, hasn't been walking much at all thus far. Juan Gonzalez and Benito Santiago aren't doing as well as I expected pre-season, but Kelly Stinnett has performed well off the bench, as has Matt Stairs, who gets regular spot starts (is that an oxymoron?) at DH and right field.

The biggest disappointment for the Royals thus far has been last year's Rookie of the Year, Angel Berroa. Berroa got off to an awful start (.196 GPA) before hitting the disabled list with migranes. To make things worse, by the time Berroa hit the DL, Desi Relaford was already there nursing a hamstring injury, forcing the Royals to call up 20-year-old infield prospect Andres Blanco to take at bats away from opening day hero Mendy Lopez (.138 GPA). Relaford came off the DL yesterday, going 1 for 4 from the nine spot and there's a possibility that the Royals could activate Berroa, who has been on a rehab assignment, tonight.

Meanwhile, with two starters out for the season and Appier out for 4-6 weeks, the Royals have had to scratch Darrell May from Saturday's start against Jon Lieber due to tightness in his groin. Triple-A starters Jamey Wright and Kris Wilson, both of whom pitched for the Royals last year, have been mentioned as possible replacements, though the team may be looking outside of the organization to put a bigger patch on their crumbling rotation.

posted by Cliff at 4:01 PM

Yankees Sweep A's Three Aces! Jeter Homers!  

Hot diggity dawg, now we're cookin'!

Kevin Brown wasn't dominating last night, but after surrendering a 2-run first inning home run to Eric Chavez he retired the next eleven A's he faced before running into trouble again in the sixth. He eventually relinquished the game to Paul Quantrill with none out and men on second and third in the seventh. Quantrill allowed one run to score on a ground out before striking out the next two batters to get out of the inning. In the eighth, Quantrill gave up a lead-off double, which scored when Tom Gordon gave up a single to the first batter he faced. Gordon then got the second out of the inning (Gabe White got the first in between Ski-Doo and Flash) before giving up another single and giving way to Rivera who got the final out on one pitch before picking up the save in the ninth. Amazingly, the Yankee bullpen has been so strong this year that this qualifies as a shaky outing by the pen. I'll take it.

As for the Yankee bats. Derek Jeter erased his 32-at-bat 0-fer by launching Barry Zito's very first pitch into Monument Park. He then proceeded to ground out, fly out and strike out. Derek Jeter is now on a 0 for 3 streak. Heh.

Joe Torre got creative in the outfield last night, putting Matsui in center, Sierra in left and DHing Bernie. Matsui proceeded to go 2 for 4, Sierra 1 for 3 before yielding to Bubba Crosby--who pushed Matsui over to left, broke his own 0-fer streak with an RBI-single in his only at-bat in the eighth and picked up his first major league stolen base--and Bernie went 1 for 4 with his first home run of the year and a very comical strikeout against Chris Hammond's Bugs Bunny changeup.

Alex Rodriguez also hit a solo home run, but the shot of the day came of the bat of the BRB's Official Yankee Second Baseman, Miguel Cairo. With Hideki Matsui and Gary Sheffield on first and third via singles and two outs, Cairo ripped a 2-0 pitch from Barry Zito over the left field wall for a three-run dinger that broke a 3-3 tie and gave the Yankees a lead they wouldn't relinquish. Huzzah!

In his three starts against Oakland, Cairo picked up key hits in two of them. The first a 2-RBI double on Tuesday that gave the Yankees their first sign of life after their dreadful series against the Red Sox, and the second last-night's three-run homer that clinched the sweep. Cairo scored two runs and drove in five more in this three-game series. Enrique Wilson, meanwhile has scored one and driven in two in the 18 games he's participated in this season. In less than half as many at-bats, Cairo now has four extra base hits and 11 total bases to Wilson's zero and eight. What's more, his nine RBI are one behind Jason Giambi's total in more than three times as many at-bats. Cairo's GPA is back up to .268. Bubba's hit gave him a bump to .238. Sierra's still on the interstate at .198.

Other fun stuff: The three Oakland Aces (Hudson, Mulder, Zito) haven't lost consecutive starts since the Yankees beat them, in the Bronx, on the same three days of April (27, 28, 29) in 2001. Jeter's 0-fer was the longest by a Yankee since Jimmy Wynn also went 0-for-32 in 1977, next on the list was Fritz Peterson, a pitcher, who went 0-for-35 in 1969. The Yankees haven't caught the Red Sox (who have been on a tear and lead them by 4.5 games in the east), but they did enter this series with a worse record than the A's and leave it with a better one. The A's have now lost six in a row to the Yankees and Angels, their worst streak since last April (but isn't that always the way with the A's?). Kevin Brown's fourth win puts him into a three-way tie for most wins in the AL with Esteban Loaiza and Jarrod Washburn. Jorge Posada entered this series tied with Jermaine Dye for the AL lead in homers with 7, and leaves it tied with Carlos Beltran for the AL lead in homers with 8. Beltran and the Royals begin a three-game series with the Yankees tonight. The Orioles are next on the slate for the Yanks, but their homer leader is Larry Bigbie with just 4. Lastly, the Yankees are back at .500 and need a win tonight to wrap up their thirteenth consecutive winning April, which would be a major league record.

posted by Cliff at 2:57 PM

Thursday, April 29, 2004


In my A's preview on Tuesday I wrote that Bobby and Bubba Crosby are brothers because I heard somewhere that they are. But they're not. My bad. By the way, Bobby was back in action yesterday because Marco Scutaro jammed a finger on his glove hand on a play Tuesday night and was unable to grip a bat yesterday (thus Frankie M. starting at second). Crosby and Menechino should comprise the A's middle infield tonight as well.

posted by Cliff at 12:50 PM

Now we're getting somewhere! 

The Yankees, behind (wait for it . . .) Jose Contreras defeated Mark Mulder and the A's 5-1 last night. Coming off a weekend sweep at the hands of the Red Sox, the Yankees have defeated Tim Hudson and Mark Mulder in consecutive games and taken their home series against the A's. That means the Yankees go into tonight's game with Kevin Brown taking on a thus-far shaky Barry Zito with a chance to nail down their first multi-game series sweep of the year and put together their first three-game winning streak of 2004. Following tonight, they'll have the newly activated Jon Lieber, Javy Vazquez and Mike Mussina going at home against the pitching-poor Royals. Things have taken a sudden turn for the still sub-.500 Yankees, who now stand on the precipice of turning their season around.

As for last night's game . . . Much to my shock and delight, Jose Contreras set down the first six batters he faced in order on nineteen pitches, including a three-pitch strikeout of the hot-hitting Jermaine Dye. Even more surprising, after giving up a lead-off home run to the back-in-action Bobby Crosby in the third, he managed to keep a lid on things and pitch around a single and a walk to get out of the inning without further damage. Contreras allowed just one more baserunner over the next two innings (though it took him 29 pitches to get through the fourth), then again managed to keep himself together during a shaky sixth inning that started with an infield single by Bobby Kielty, who moved to second on a wild pitch. That wild pitch pushed the count to 2-0 on Jermaine Dye with one out and a man on second. El Titan then rallied to strikeout Dye on his next three pitches and retire Scott Hatteberg on a weak grounder to end the inning. Paul Quantrill and Tom Gordon came on to blank the A's through the final three innings.

On the other side of the ball. No, Derek Jeter did not get a hit (0 for 32). He walked, reached on a throwing error by Crosby and hit a "foul home run" about four seats to the right of the right field foul pole. Chants of "Let's Go Jeter" grew with each at-bat, the last of which came with the bases loaded in the eighth--a chance for Jeter to get off two schnides (zero career grand slams) at once--but it was not to be. Instead, the Yankees were once again powered by Jorge, who hit his league-leading eighth home run to dead center off Mark Mulder in the third. Actually, Jason Giambi was the star of this game. G-Bomb went 3 for 4 with two singles and a moon shot homer to the right field bleachers off of old Yankee whipping boy Arthur Rhodes in the eighth. He also made a diving stab of a line-drive off the bat of Eric Chavez to get Contreras out of that shaky third inning. Meanwhile, the Yankees put together another parade of singles in the first (Jeter groundout, walk, single, single, single, walk, sac fly) to stake Contreras to an early 3-0 lead.

Victory sure makes all of my line-up concerns seem petty, but here's the breakdown from last night. The Miguel Cairo experiment continues, but with less success than Tuesday night (0 for 4 with 3 Ks, 2 looking). To hear Joe Torre speak, it sounds as if Enrique has officially lost the job to a hot-hand platoon: "My guess at this point is that it will take both of them. I'll take it on a day-by-day basis." Torre now considers the two to be equal defensively. Ah, the light.

Ruben Sierra's game-winning double from Tuesday night earned him a start last night in which he went 1 for 3 with a walk and a sac fly RBI (believe it or not, just the third sac fly the Yankees have hit this season). Sierra's GPA is now .195, still a highwayman. Speaking of which, Bubba Crosby got the start in center (for reasons we'll get to in a moment). Hitting ninth, he too went 0 for 4, though he continues to make every ground out much closer than it should be. Between Jeter smelling base-hit on every routine grounder and Crosby trying to out hustle hustle itself, I don't think I've ever seen two players bust it down to first harder than those two last night. Bubba also made the routine plays in the center actually look routine, a huge relief after Bernie's adventures on Tuesday night. Crosby is now 0 for his last 8 and his GPA is now down to .211. He remains 0 for his major league career against left-handed pitching. Oh, and since I'm updating the part-timers, even with his 0-fer last night, Miguel Cairo's GPA is still a sufficiently replacement-level .245.

As for the reason that Crosby got the start in center, Bernie Williams tweaked his left knee--the same knee that required mid-season surgery to repair its torn meniscus last year--on Tuesday night while trying to avoid a pitch from Tim Hudson. Bernie asked for an MRI on the knee, but there was no damage detected. Torre and Williams both claim it's just a slight strain and that Bernie should be back in the line-up tonight. Still, this is yet another reason why Bernie should be anchored to the DH spot.

In other injury news, Travis Lee may be on his way back to the disabled list. Lee's starting to feel pain in his left shoulder during batting practice and is on his way to see Mr. Fixit, Dr. James Andrews, in Alabama. I'll let Travis tell it:
"I want to go down there and see him again before anything else happens. I was never 100 percent when I came up, but I thought I could get through it. But to have five more months of this, I don't know if I could do it. I don't feel like it's me out there. I'm 50-60 percent out there."

Meanwhile, Kenny Lofton and Orlando Hernandez have boarded the rehab train in Tampa. They'll see their first game action tonight. Lofton is expected back next week. If all goes well, he'll replace Lee on the roster. El Duque's still a late-May/June consideration.

Lastly, looking ahead to the Royals series, despite Joe Torre's initial inclination to give Javier Vazquez an extra day's rest to make up for starting him on short rest on Sunday, Vazquez will take his turn on normal rest on Friday. That means that Jon Lieber will make his Yankee debut on Saturday against Darrell May. As I said yesterday, expect Lieber to replace Alex Graman on the 25-man.

posted by Cliff at 11:17 AM

Wednesday, April 28, 2004

I went and bought myself a ticket and I sat down in the very first row-oo-woah-oo-woah 

Good news, Yankee fans! Joe Torre is going to start Miguel Cairo tonight and tomorrow night against A's lefties Mark Mulder and Barry Zito. Of course, Cairo has been getting the starts at second against lefties recently, but after starting him against the righty Hudson last night, Joe Torre sounds like he's ready to give Cairo a legitimate shot at the second base job. Quothe Joe: "We'll give Cairo a shot. I'm just going to put him out there the next couple of days and see what it looks like. Enrique has had more of an opportunity to play than Miggy, so we're going to switch it up a little bit."

Ultimately, Cairo should only be a mild improvement over Wilson, but a mild improvement is better than nothing. The Yankees need to maximize the production from the players they have available, and to that end, this is a very important step. I'll be rooting extra hard for Little Egypt tonight at the stadium.

In less encouraging news, Kenny Lofton is down in Tampa ready to begin his rehab assignment and could return to the club as early as next week. That means Joe's got one week to give Bubba Crosby the shot in center that he's giving Cairo at second. Sadly, I don't think it's going to happen.

posted by Cliff at 4:27 PM

A pleasant surprise 

There's a lot to talk about regarding tonight's 10-8 Yankee victory over the A's. Let's start with the most overlooked aspect of the game: Mike Mussina's start.

Moose's line may not look particularly impressive (6 IP, 10 H, 5 R, 4 ER, 1 BB, 7 K, 110 pitches, 76 strikes) but tonight was the best I've seen him pitch this year. Note the walks and strikeouts in that line, season bests in each category for Moose, who threw 69 percent of his pitches for strikes today, also a season high for him. In the fifth he pitched his first 1-2-3 inning since the third inning of his April 11 start against the White Sox at the Stadium (a streak of 21 innings in which a runner reached base). Of course, that was his only 1-2-3 inning of the night, but he was consistently hitting Posada's glove, getting ahead in counts, and effectively fooling hitters with his breaking pitches.

Moose gave up his first run in the third on an 0-1 opposite field home run by Eric Chavez that came on a good pitch from Mussina. Credit Chavez, an excellent young hitter showing signs of greatness, don't fault Mussina. Staked to a 4-1 lead in the fourth, Mussina was victimized by his defense. After a lead-off single by Scott Hatteberg, Moose got ahead of Erubiel Durazo 1-2 before inducing a ground ball to second base. Rather than squaring up in front of the ball, Miguel Cairo attempted to backhand the ball to start a double play. The ball scooted past Cairo's glove for what was ruled a single, putting runners on the corners with one out rather than none on with two outs or, more likely, a man on second with one out. Mussina then worked even with Marco Scutaro 2-2 before inducing another ground ball, this one an even more likely double play candidate to the second base side, but Mussina dove full-out for the ball and tipped it away from Cairo, turning it into an RBI single and putting runners on first and second. Moose could have been out of the inning unscathed at this point, but instead had a run in, two on and no outs. A single, a run-scoring double play and another single allowed the A's to tie the game. An error by Tony Clark set up an insurance run in the sixth that was driven in with the help of some swirling outfield winds and some resultantly dreadful play in centerfield by Bernie Williams.

Let me take this occasion to say that I'm not sure I've ever seen anything more depressing on a baseball field than the site of Bernie Williams playing centerfield in late 2003 and 2004. Bernie's catching balls on the run that he should be camped under. Balls he should be able to reach are falling for outs. I wince whenever he throws, thinking of the deteriorating condition of his shoulder. There is no reason this man should be embarrassed like this. As someone with fond memories of the days, which seem not so long ago, when Bernie played unusually shallow in center because of his exceptional ability to go back on balls hit to center, I find it especially painful to watch. It's like watching a fish gasping for air, try as it might, it can't breathe on land, and the longer it's left there to gasp, the sooner it's going to expire. Or something like that.

Anyway, the big news from last night's game is that the Yankees scored ten runs. Ten runs!. As I just wrote yesterday, the Yankees scored more than five runs just three times in their first nineteen games. They scored six runs in the eighth inning last night.

It is no coincidence that the Yankees offensive outburst came on a night when Joe Torre kept highwaymen Enrique Wilson, Travis Lee and Ruben Sierra on the bench in favor of Miguel Cairo and Tony Clark. Indeed, the first time through the order Cairo and Clark keyed a four run third inning, following a lead-off single by Hideki Matsui with a pair of doubles, Cairo driving in both Matsui and Clark for the first Yankee runs of the game and later coming around to score himself on an Alex Rodriguez groundout.

Of course, Joe Torre couldn't quite stop himself in the Yankees' six-run eighth. With three runs already in and the Yankees trailing by just one run with one out and the bases loaded, Torre sent up highwayman Ruben Sierra to hit for Cairo. The move paid off, as Sierra doubled off the left field foul line to give the Yankees the lead, but on it's face it was a foolish move. With the bases loaded and one out, the Yankees simply needed a productive out to tie the game. Cairo, after doubling in the third, had flied out to right and grounded out to second base, exactly the kinds of outs that would have scored that run. On his career, Cairo has struck out once every 9.9 plate appearances and grounded into a double play once every 49.8. Sierra, on the other hand, strikes out once every 7.2 PA and in recent years grounds into a double play about once every 30 PA. Add to that the fact that both would be batting righty against the lefty Ricardo Rincon and that Cairo's been hot, three of his four hits this season being doubles, while Sierra's been cruising down the interstate with just one extra-base hit in 32 trips to the plate. Of course, Sierra's one previous extra-base hit came on Sunday, so maybe Sierra's starting to come around.

At any rate, despite the 10-run outburst, last night was not the sort of game that really gives one much hope for the slumping Yankee bats. Derek Jeter racked up yet another 0-fer. He's now 0 for his last 28, tying the longest Yankee 0-fers under Joe Torre's watch (by Tino Martinez in 2000 and Scott Brosius in 1999). Jeter attempted to bunt his way on leading off the game, but the attempt rolled foul and he grounded out to first instead. In his next at-bat he sacrificed Cairo to third, setting up the third Yankee run of the night. He grounded out to shortstop in his next two at bats, one of which was a pretty solid rip that Marco Scutaro (who apparently pronounces his name SKOO-ter-oh, rather than skoo-TA-ro) made a nice play on. With one out and runners on second and third in the Yankees 6-run eighth, Jeter came up following Sierra's double and was intentionally walked to set up the force. In his previous at-bat he came up with two outs and Matsui on second and was given a standing ovation by the crowd in an unsuccessful attempt to will him to get a hit. An intentional walk and a standing O, not bad for a guy who's 0-for-28.

The other highwayman in the line-up faired better. Bernie Williams hit a screaming liner to center in his first at-bat that just happened to be right at Mark Kotsay. He then walked and struck out looking before starting the Yankees eighth-inning outburst with a single. And this is why I say that, despite the ten runs, last night wasn't really a jump-start kind of night for the Yankee offense: other than the doubles by part-timers Clark, Cairo and Sierra, every Yankee hit was a single. Here's how that 6-run eighth developed: single, single, walk, infield single, single, walk, strikeout, Sierra's double, intentional walk, fielder's choice, fly out. All of the singles were ground balls through the holes in the infield. Hardly a dominating performance. The Yankees' 6-run inning against Derek Lowe in Boston, by comparison, included three doubles (all grounders as well): walk, single, double, single, double, strikeout, single, ground out, double, fly out.

Last night was a great win for this team. To come back from behind twice (down 1-0 and 8-4) in a game started by Tim Hudson is fantastic. But I'm not convinced that it was a sign of things to come. Rather I think it was just a night when things broke right for the Yanks, assisted to some degree by Torre keeping Wilson and Lee out of the line-up.

Jose Contreras faces Mark Mulder tonight. Mulder has pitched a minimum of six innings with a maximum of two earned runs in each of his four starts thus far this year. Methinks the Yanks are cruising for a bruising tonight. I'll be there with a group of my baseblogging brethren, so at least I'll have someone willing to listen to my complaining. Still, I think the Yanks have a legitimate shot to win this series on Thursday night with Kevin Brown facing a struggling Barry Zito. Stay tuned . . .

posted by Cliff at 12:57 AM

Tuesday, April 27, 2004

The A's 

Appropriate that I just graded the Yankees and now they've got a three game series with the "A's." Here's a look at the Athletics team that the Yanks will be facing tonight:

Oakland Athletics

2003 Record: 96-66 (.593), AL West Champs, lost ALDS to the Red Sox 3-2
2003 Pythagorean Record: 94-68 (.580)

Manager: Ken Macha
General Manager: Billy Beane

Ballpark (2003 park factors): Network Associates Coliseum (93/94)

Who’s replacing whom?

Bobby Crosby replaces Miguel Tejada
Damian Miller replaces Ramon Herndandez
Marco Scutaro replaces an injured Mark Ellis
Mark Kotsay replaces Chris Singleton
Bobby Kielty replaces Terrence Long
Eric Karros replaces Jose Guillen
Mark Redman replaces Ted Lilly
Arthur Rhodes replaces Keith Foulke
Chris Hammond replaces John Halama

The A's current roster:

1B - Scott Hatteberg
2B - Marco Scutaro
SS - Bobby Crosby
3B - Eric Chavez
C - Damian Miller
RF - Jermaine Dye
CF - Mark Kotsay
LF - Bobby Kielty


R - Eric Byrnes (OF)
R - Eric Karros (1B)
R - Frank Menechino (IF)
L - Billy McMillon (OF)
S - Adam Melhuse (C)


R - Tim Hudson
L - Mark Mulder
L - Barry Zito
L - Mark Redman
R - Rich Harden


L - Arthur Rhodes
R - Chad Bradford
L - Ricardo Rincon
L - Chris Hammond
R - Jim Mecir
R - Justin Duchscherer


R - Mark Ellis (2B) out for the year
S - Mark McLemore (UT)

The A's primary line-up:

L - Mark Kotsay (CF)
S - Bobby Kielty (LF)
L - Eric Chavez (3B)
R - Jermaine Dye (RF)
L - Scott Hatteberg (1B)
L - Erubiel Durazo (DH)
R - Bobby Crosby (SS)
R - Damian Miller (C)
R - Marco Scutaro (2B)

Some quick notes on playing time. Karros and Hatteberg are in a straight lefty/righty platoon at first base. With all righty starters, the Yankees should only see Hatteberg. Ironic, as Karros told the San Jose Mercury News yesterday, "There was no way I was retiring or ending my career before I played in Yankee Stadium or Fenway Park, one way or another. Not too many guys have played 14 seasons and didn't play in Yankee Stadium at some point."

The two Bobbies (Kielty and Crosby) got into a nasty collision in shallow left one week ago. Neither has played since, Kielty nursing sore ribs, Crosby a bruised knee. In their place, the A's have started Eric Byrnes in left, moved Marco Scutaro to short and started the recently activated Frank Menechino at second. Both players are expected to be in the line-up tonight, though it will likely be a game time decision made by the A's trainers for both of them. Menechino, meanwhile, was supposed to take over the starting job at second after being activated from the disabled list. However, the rookie Scutaro has played so well that Menechino will be benched in his favor once Crosby returns to shortstop.

Lastly, Adam Melhuse is expected to start in place of Damian Miller tonight, as Miller started a day game after a night game this weekend.

The A's are currently one game over .500 and one game behind the Rangers and Angels in the AL West. The big story of their young season is Jermaine Dye, who hit just .172/.261/.253 in an injury plagued 2003 campaign and is currently tied with Jorge Posada for first in the AL in homers (Carlos Beltran also has 7) and second in RBI (Rondell White is one in front of them with 19) while hitting .321/.384/.667. Here's a quick look at some of Dye's stats from last year compaired to this year:

256 PA, 38 H, 6 2B, 4 HR, 20 RBI, .181 GPA
86 PA, 25 H, 6 2B, 7 HR, 18 RBI, .340 GPA

Other key developments for the A's offense have been Eric Chavez's sudden plate discipline: 10.5 PA/BB and .346 OBP career vs. 5.4 PA/BB and .384 OBP thus far in 2004. Marco Scutaro, who was claimed of waivers from the Mets in October has proven to be a solid, league-average (.252 GPA) replacement for Mark Ellis, who went down with a torn labrum at the end of spring training. Damian Miller, league average on his career, is hitting well over his head with a GPA of .281. On the other side of things, rookie Bobby Crosby has struggled thus far with a GPA of .202.

On the mound, Hudson and Mulder are up to their usual tricks, but Barry Zito has struggled thus far, posting an ERA of 6.26. Concerns about his falling strikeout rates seem warranted as he's struck out just 5.48 per nine innings this year, down slightly from his career worst 5.67 in 2003 and well off his career rate of 7.11 K/9. A look at his game log reveals that the bulk of the damage to his ERA came in his last start against Anaheim, in which he gave up nine runs on ten hits and a walk in just four innings while striking out three, though his second start, this one in Texas, was also pretty rough. Arthur Rhodes is 6 for 7 in save opportunites, the blown save coming on April 11 against Seattle. The rest of the bullpen has been solid with the surprising exception of Chad Bradford, who has a 7.36 ERA, and a 1.77 WHIP. Bradford, however, has only allowed one baserunner in his last three appearances (spanning three full innings).

The Yankees won't see the back of the A's rotation this time through, but Mark Redman has been solid, with a bit of a rough outting in his start against the Angels on Saturday, while Rich Harden has struggled some in his two starts.

Tonight marks the first game that the A's will play outside of their division this year.

posted by Cliff at 3:42 PM

One-tenth (plus three), pt. 2: The Pitching Staff 

When I graded the Yankee hitters on Friday, I promised I'd follow up by grading the pitching staff. And so I will.


Mike Mussina - The only returning member of last year's postseason rotation, Mike Mussina was supposed to be money in the bank, good for 15+ wins, 180+ strikeouts, an ERA below 4.00, and fewer than 50 walks. Thus far he's 1-4 with a 6.67 ERA, 16 strikeouts and 13 walks in 28 1/3 innings pitched. Dreadful. He got off to an awful start, losing twice to the Devil Rays while posting a 11.00 ERA in his first two starts. That was somewhat expected as he was pitching on irregular rest after a short spring shortened even further by ten days missed on bereavement leave, and responded very poorly to the jetlag that came with the Yankees season-opening trip to Japan. But, he wasn't sharp in his third start either. In that start he recovered from a rough first inning to post a respectable line: 6.1 IP, 7 H, 3 ER, 2 BB, 6 K. Unfortunately, his next outing was actually worse. His most recent start, in Chicago, was similar to that third start, also against the White Sox, in which he struggled early, but settled down enough to last a full eight innings in a losing effort, while throwing just 104 pitches. Still, even in that start, Mussina's fastball was slow and his location was not sharp. Much like Derek Jeter and his hitting woes, it is widely assumed that Mussina will eventually snap out of his current funk. He'll get the opportunity to do just that tonight against the A's. His grade, however, is assessed based on his previous five starts. D+

Kevin Brown - If the Yankees were hitting, Kevin Brown would be 5-0. Instead he's 3-0, still good for second in the majors in wins. He is the only Yankee starter without a loss, and ranks third in the AL with a 2.12 ERA and third in the majors in innings pitched. He has allowed just one earned run in four of his five starts. A+

Javier Vazquez - Javy has a 2.63 ERA and opposing batters are hitting .208 against him. He's started four games, twice allowing just one run in eight innings. Take out one rocky start on excessive rest in Boston, in fact, take out just the first inning of that game, and Javy's been even better than the numbers I quoted above. Still, since I'm grading on performance, I'm going to have to dock him for that rough start. A

Jose Contreras - Contreras has started three games and the only reason he's not 0-3 is that Joe Torre pulled him after 2 1/3 innings in his second start, which just happened to be one of the three games this year in which the Yankee offense has scored more than five runs. In his last start he didn't make it out of the fourth. His numbers on the year make Mussina look like a Cy Young candidate: 10.64 ERA, 2.36 WHIP, .354 BAA. He's striking out a man per inning, but he's just two walks short of walking a man per inning as well. Behind the numbers, the Yankees suspect that Contreras has been tipping his pitches, his confidence seems completely shot, and I'm sure the fact that he is still unable to get his family out of Cuba is weighing on his mind at all times. Mel Stottlemyre continues to work with him on his delivery, but I would be very surprised if things get better without him coming out of the rotation at some point in the near future. F

#5 - Things haven't gone so well with the fifth spot in the Yankee rotation thus far. Jorge DePaula got the first turn and gave up five runs in his first two innings of work. He settled down from there and looked ready to improve on that start, but had a rocky relief appearance three days later in Boston, after which it was discovered that he's going to need Tommy John surgery and won't be able to pitch until spring training next year at the earliest.

Alex Graman was called up to take the next start in DePaula's place, which he did, allowing five runs on eight hits in 2 2/3 innings. The fifth spot was due up on Sunday, but Torre started Vazquez on short rest to avoid having to deal with it.

The good news is that Jon Lieber is expected to start Friday or Saturday against the Royals. Every report on his rehabilitation work in Tampa has been excellent. In his last start this past Sunday, he pitched seven scoreless innings while allowing just two hits and one walk. He threw 73 pitches followed by 15 more in the bullpen. He'll rejoin the team in the Bronx for the A's series, though likely won't be activated until his start comes due against Kansas City. Of course, Lieber has been facing A-ball hitters and hasn't thrown a regular season pitch in the majors since August 2002. Still, I'm optimistic. As Lieber's return changes things so drastically, I won't assign a grade here.


Before I get to the Yankee relievers one by one, it should be pointed out that the Yankee bullpen has lost just two games this season. One of them, a game in Boston that Kevin Brown left with a 5-4 lead, was tied on a pair of singles, one that didn't get out of the infield, and won on a "double" that Hideki Matsui lost in the sun. The other, a game that Kevin Brown left with a 2-2 tie, was also lost by a single run, which came in the twelfth inning after four shut-out innings by the bullpen and was scored on a double by Manny Ramirez and two productive outs. That is to say that the bullpen, on the whole, has been spectacular this season.

Mariano Rivera - Mo has allowed one run in ten games (0.82 ERA) and converted all five save opportunities. He's walking far more batters than he should (6 in 11 IP), but he's otherwise been unbeatable. A+

Tom Gordon - Gordon got the loss in Boston but it was Gabe White who let the Red Sox tie it up and Gordon who pitched out of his two-on, one-out mess. An inning later, the game-winning double should have been caught by Matsui for the second out. Still, Gordon got charged with both the loss and the earned run. Tough luck. In nine other appearances he's only allowed a run in one of them (a rough, three-hit, two-run inning against the White Sox at home) and only allowed a hit in two of them. That's seven hitless appearances out of ten. 2.31 ERA, 0.86 WHIP, .184 BAA. A+

Paul Quantrill - Quantrill has the other bullpen loss, the one that came in extra innings on Manny Ramirez's (legitimate) double. There was some concern over Quantrill's knee after a collision with Alex Rodriguez in the opening game in Japan. Those concerns didn't amount to much. He's not been as dominating as Rivera and Gordon, but he's done his job just fine. His batting average against (.273) is a bit high, but he's countered that by walking just one man in 11 1/3 IP, thus his excellent 1.15 WHIP to go with a 3.18 ERA. A-

Gabe White - As I mentioned before, White got off easy in the Yankees 5-4 loss in Boston on Patriots day. He entered the game with a one-run lead and a man on first with no outs. A single, strikeout and David Ortiz's infield single later, the score was tied, but the run was charged to Brown and Tom Gordon was brought in to pitch out of White's trouble. That's what's hidden in the fact that he's only given up one run in six innings this year, that run coming in the first of his eight appearances. Thus the stellar 1.50 ERA but less than spectacular 1.33 WHIP despite only two walks. Still, some pretty solid work. For a fly-ball pitcher it's good to see a goose egg in the homer category (though he's given up two triples already this year). A-

Donovan Osborne - Go figure. Thanks to a dreadful showing and a (possibly fabricated) finger injury on the part of Felix Heredia, Donovan Osborne has established himself as the second lefty in the Yankee pen. And he's done a decent job of it too. Osborne's one hic-up was giving up a home run to the first batter he faced when called on to relieve Jose Contreras with two on and one out in the fourth inning on Friday. Even with that, a 3.86 ERA, 1.29 WHIP and .269 BAA with 8 K and 2 BB in 7 innings ain't too shabby for the fifth guy in the pen. B

The Rest - Jorge DePaula is out for the season. Alex Graman could wind up getting another start should Contreras continue to struggle or something unfortunate happen with Jon Lieber, otherwise he should return to Columbus when Lieber is activated. Felix Heredia pitched just three innings and went on the DL with a bruised finger, an 18.00 ERA and a 2.67 WHIP. Scott Proctor has faired very poorly in both of his major league appearances. It seems that, while he throws very hard, he also throws very straight. Proctor would actually be my choice to go back down when Lieber is activated, but I assume that Torre will opt to option Graman, so that Graman can get back to starting. In actuality, the last man in the pen will rarely pitch, so in an odd way, it makes the most sense to send down the pitcher with more potential value.

posted by Cliff at 12:15 PM

Monday, April 26, 2004

Making the Hard Decisions: The Yankee Offense, pt. 2 (or One-tenth plus three) 

Before this weekend's series with the Red Sox I took a close look at the Yankees' struggling offense, assigning letter grades to each starter for their performance thus far. I figured that would sufficiently cover the subject for a little while, but with the Yanks scoring just four runs in three games while getting swept by the Sox this weekend, I think I need to take another look.

Thus far there have been 15 players who have come to the plate for the Yankees this season. Here are those 15 players, ranked by GPA* with plate appearances in parenthesis:

.362 - Tony Clark (15)
.356 - Jorge Posada (69)
.338 - Miguel Cairo (14)
.295 - Jason Giambi (74)
.277 - Hideki Matsui (78)
.277 - Bubba Crosby (14)
.268 - Gary Sheffield (80)
.267 - Alex Rodriguez (84)

.202 - Kenny Lofton (29)
.177 - Bernie Williams (70)
.166 - Derek Jeter (89)
.155 - Ruben Sierra (32)
.155 - John Flaherty (9)
.137 - Enrique Wilson (53)
.107 - Travis Lee (20)

Note the gap. There is a pretty obvious split here between the players who have been productive (league average GPA in the AL in 2003 was .255) and those who have not (the latter group I'll call the Highwaymen, as all but the disabled Lofton are cruising down the interstate). There are eight players who can be said to have been productive thus far, but only five of them (Posada, Giambi, Matsui, Sheffield and Rodriguez) have been starting. That means that the Yankee line-up has regularly included four Highwaymen. That'll kill an offense right quick. Especially when three of your "productive" starters are not producing at their established levels (Giambi: .324; Rodriguez: .317; Sheffield: .312 -- Matsui's .277 is actually nine points higher than his 2003 GPA) What needs to be done is to take the plate appearances that are being wasted on the Highwaymen and give them to guys who might actually do something with them.

The four positions currently being filled by Highwaymen are 2B, SS, CF and DH. Conveniently, the three productive non-starters slip neatly into those positions: Miguel Cairo at second, Bubba Crosby in center and Tony Clark at DH. Making those substitutions leaves Derek Jeter as the lone Highwayman in the Yankee line-up. That's just as well. Derek Jeter's not about to get benched. Nor should he, really. A desperate manager could drop Jeter to ninth in the order until he comes around. Yielding to Torre's established preferences: Cairo, Matsui, A-Rod, Giambi, Sheff, Posada, Clark, Crosby, Jeter would do the trick until Cairo and Jeter pass each other on their way to their career averages, at which point they could be restored to their rightful positions in the order.

Of course, things aren't quite that desperate. At least not yet. Still, letting Cairo start at second until he stops hitting is something that should happen immediately. Torre is already starting Cairo against lefties (which is ironic as Enrique Wilson's GPA is actually seventy points higher against left-handed pitching than it is against righties, against whom his GPA is a Travis Lee-like .115), which suggests that this could actually become a reality.

Playing Clark and Crosby is a bit more complicated, however, largely due to the fact that the likelihood of Bernie Williams being benched is only a wee bit better than that of Jeter being benched. That means that Bernie will remain in center or at DH and only one of our two remaining productive non-starters will be able to work his way into the line-up.

In an almost identical number of plate appearances this season (an admittedly miniscule sample size), Tony Clark has shown himself to be a more valuable hitter than Crosby, thanks primarily to his ability to draw walks. Bubba has yet to draw a major league walk, and there's little available evidence about his ability to hit left-handed pitching (something for which Clark also has an established proficiency). With that in mind it seems to make sense to play Clark over Crosby, thus leaving Bernie in center.

But there's more to this decision. According to this article on, Bernie's still having problems with the sore shoulders that have bothered him over the past few seasons. He had been working on strengthening his shoulders during the offseason, but his appendectomy cut his strengthening program short. As a result, his shoulders are not as strong as he had hoped they would be this season.

It seems to me that having Bernie play center and make throws from the outfield is only going to further weaken his right shoulder, much like it did Travis Lee's left shoulder in spring training. This seems particularly relevant as Bernie is a right-handed thrower, but a switch-hitter who most frequently bats left-handed. As one-handed wiffle ball batting and Walt Hriniak will tell you, it's the front shoulder that does most of the work in a batter's swing. When batting lefty (and 75 percent of Bernie's at-bats this season have come from the left side), Bernie's front shoulder is also his throwing shoulder. Considering Bernie's struggles at the plate thus far this season (oh and by the way, his GPA is about 100 points higher when batting righty with his non-throwing shoulder guiding his swing), I think it would behoove Joe Torre to ban Bernie from the outfield for the foreseeable future.

That means that the Yankees would have to make Bubba Crosby their starting centerfielder and keep the more productive Tony Clark on the bench. The hope here is that at DH Bernie will be able to build up the strength in his shoulders and will eventually find the exit ramp off the interstate. Crosby, meanwhile, will improve the Yankees' defense and as long as Clark gets the spot starts and pinch-hitting opportunities that have thus far gone to Ruben Sierra and Travis Lee, things should start to look up in the CF/DH/1B muddle.

In the meantime, since Jeter won't be, Bernie should be relegated to the bottom of the order until his bat comes around, so as not to clump the two remaining Highwaymen in the two most valuable hitting spots. I envision Joe Torre going with something like this: Jeter, Cairo, Rodriguez, Giambi, Sheffield, Posada, Matsui, Williams, Crosby, though a good desperation line-up might look like this: Rodriguez, Cairo, Posada, Giambi, Sheffield, Matsui, Williams, Jeter, Crosby (swap Cairo and Crosby if you like).

Of course, until Derek Jeter rights himself and Rodriguez, Giambi and Sheffield hit like they're supposed to, this Yankee line-up will continue to struggle, but those things are beyond the manager's control. In the meantime, Joe Torre should do everything in his power to keep Wilson, Lee and Sierra from getting at-bats. You can expect to read about it here if he doesn't.

*For you old-schoolers out there, GPA (obnoxiously named "Gleeman Production Average" by its creator, Aaron Gleeman) combines OBP and SLG much like OPS does, but weighs OBP and then adjusts the entire total to look like a batting average. The formula is GPA=[(OBP x 1.8) + SLG]/4

posted by Cliff at 6:47 PM

Sunday, April 25, 2004

One pitch 

The Red Sox beat the Yankees 2-0 today, sweeping them 3-0 in the series. Here's your ballgame:

That's Mark Bellhorn at first and Manny Ramirez at the plate with one out in the fourth inning. The white streak in front of Ramirez is a 0-2 curveball from Javier Vazquez. A few seconds later, that ball was in Monument Park and the Red Sox had a 2-0 lead.

And that's all there was today.

Pedro: 7 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 7 K, 105 pitches, 70 strikes
Javy: 6 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 1 BB, 8 K, 102 pitches, 68 strikes

Take away that one pitch and that's about as close as you can get. All the more credit to Vazquez that he turned in that performance (which included a season high in strikeouts) while pitching on three day's rest for just the second time in his career (this guy should be money in the postseason).

The bullpens were just as good:

Scott Williamson: 2 IP, 0 H/R/BB, 2 K
Yankee bullpen: 3 IP, 0 H/R, 3 BB, 1 K (Quantrill, White, Gordon and Rivera)

The Yankees haven't been swept by the Red Sox in a series since 1999. The only comfort in that stat is that the '99 Yanks were the second best team of the Torre era, and trounced the Sox in the ALCS while on their way to yet another World's Championship.

The best my inner optimist can do for this team right now is to say that they've got to hit bottom before they can climb back up, and perhaps a four game losing streak that includes getting swept at home by the Red Sox and shut out in the final game is them hitting bottom. After all, this is their longest losing streak in what has been a very disappointing April, and despite their season-long offensive struggles, they've managed to score a minimum of two runs in each of their previous 18 games.

Of course, I then turn my eye to the schedule and see that they'll be facing Hudson, Mulder and Zito in their next three games. I think Alex Rodriguez put it best:

"Is that who we get? Great news. I'll really enjoy my day off now."

[photo by your humble narrator]

posted by Cliff at 11:41 PM


The Yanks try to save face today against Pedro Martinez. They're sending Javier Vazquez to the mound on three day's rest. Javy's pitched on short rest just once in his career. That was way back in his sophomore season of 1999 when he was a 22-year-old, league-average pitcher. He went six innings, allowing five runs to the eventual NL Champion Atlanta Braves in that game.

Everybody and their mother knows by now that Enrique Wilson is 10-20 with four doubles against Pedro Martinez (most of the hits came last year, and he went 1 for 7 against Pedro in the playoffs), but did you know that Gary Sheffield is 7 for 21 off him with a pair of homers?

I'll be at the game, will have a full report tonight (unless they lose and I get all grumpy).

posted by Cliff at 9:23 AM

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