Monday, July 26, 2004

Out of Office 

Jose Contreras failed his test on Sunday night, though his 5 1/3 IP, 9 H, 8 R outing was by far his best career start against the Sox in just four tries (scary as that may be). Mo blew his second consecutive two-run save tonight against the Jays, though he did wind up with the win thanks to a pair of hits from Tony Clark and Jorge Posada (who hit a salami in the first to give the Yankees a lead through the first eight innings). Things have looked better, and they just might again starting this weekend when Kevin Brown--who had a strong rehab start on Sunday, albeit in AA with Staten Island--may finally return to the Yankee rotation.

There's also that pesky trading deadline thing at midnight on Saturday. Last year at the deadline, the Yankees dealt Brandon Claussen, Charlie Manning and cash to the Reds for Aaron Boone and Gabe White, then whipped around and dumped Robin Ventura on the Dodgers for Bubba Crosby and Scott Proctor. I don't expect the Yanks to pull off a comparable deal this time out. Brian Cashman has been very coy, as usual, suggesting that the Yankees have nothing in the works. I'll add my name to the list of people who don't think Randy Johnson will be in pinstripes on August 1, but I wouldn't be surprised to see Cash make a minor deal for a reliever (preferably a lefty) or a starter along the lines of Miguel Batista (who's starting against the Yanks on Wednesday at Skydome), a veteran who pitched well against the Yankees in the 2001 World Series and could swing into long relief if everyone already on the team can manage to get healthy and useful all at the same time.

Word from the Gammonses of the world is that Johnson will be an Angel if he moves at all (makes sense). More importantly, they anticipate some big deals going through waivers in August, trading deadline be damned.

Unfortunately, I'll be out of the country starting tomorrow and will be fortunate to catch whatever news there is to be had on the first before I return on August 2. This of course means that the BRB will go silent once again during these dog days of the baseball season. I promise more frequent posting when I return and my complete analysis of any moves the Yankees might make.

In the meantime, for those who missed it, the Yanks sent down Bubba Crosby, who had a total of three at-bats in July, and brought up Bret Prinz. A solid move as the bullpen was seriously taxed going into a Jose Contreras start at Fenway. Indeed, Prinz threw 2 1/3 scoreless innings in that game. The Yankee bullpen now includes three 27-year-old arms, which is nice to see. Even nicer is that the Yankees got these three men (Prinz, Proctor and Padilla--the killer Ps?) in dump trades for Raul Mondesi, Robin Ventura and Jesse Orosco. In Cashman (and the scouts) we trust.

Back on Aug 2.

posted by Cliff at 11:49 PM

Sunday, July 25, 2004

My Fist Your Face 

The last four games the Yankees and Red Sox have played against each other have been decided by a total of five runs with the winning run coming no earlier than the bottom of the eighth inning and two of the games ending in the home team's last at-bat:

June 30, Bronx: With a 2-0 lead in the seventh inning the Red Sox load the bases with no outs. Joe Torre calls in Felix Heredia who proceeds to retire Johnny Damon on a grounder and Mark Bellhorn on a shallow fly to left, bringing David Ortiz to the plate. Heredia falls behind Ortiz 2-1 before coming back to strike him out. The Yankees then tie the game in the bottom of the inning on an Ortiz error that looks a lot like the infamous Bill Buckner play. The Yankees take the lead in the bottom of the eighth and win 4-2.

July 1, Bronx: In what looks like a mismatch between Prince Pedro and rookie Brad Halsey, the Yankees take a 3-0 lead into the sixth. The Red Sox tie it up in the seventh. The Yankees load the bases in the bottom of the ninth with one out but fail to score. They get a man to third with two outs in the bottom of the tenth but fail to score. The Red Sox get a man to third with no outs in the top of the eleventh but fail to score thanks in large part to a fantastic 5-5-2 double play turned by Alex Rodriguez from his knees. The Red Sox get a man to third with one out in the top of the eleventh but fail to score when Derek Jeter snags a pop-up in no man's land behind third, his momentum carrying him on a full sprint into the stands. He emerges with the ball, dazed, his face bloodied and has to be taken out of the game. Miguel Cairo hits a lead-off triple in the bottom of the twelfth and the Yankees fail to score against a Red Sox defense that frequently features five infielders and two outfielders. With Jeter injured, they are forced take the field in the thirteenth with Gary Sheffield at third, Rodriguez at short and their DH, Bernie Williams, in the outfield. Manny Ramirez leads off the inning with a home run, putting the Red Sox up 4-3. With the tie finally broken, Curtis Leskanic retires the first two Yankees and rings up strike one on Ruben Sierra in the bottom of the thirteenth. But then Sierra singles. After falling behind 0-2 with two outs, Miguel Cairo then doubles Sierra home to tie the game and with the pitcher's spot due Joe Torre sends John Flaherty, the last man on his bench, to the plate. Flaherty also takes a first pitch strike but then works the count to 3-1 before doubling over Manny Ramirez's head to send Cairo home and win the game 5-4.

July 23, Boston: Trailing 2-4 after five, the Yankees score five in the sixth, four of them charged against Curt Schilling. The Red Sox then score one in each of the next three innings, two of them on Kevin Millar homers, to tie the game at 7-7. Gary Sheffield doubles with one out in the top of the ninth and is driven home by Alex Rodriguez, who was 1-for-17 in the Yankees' first series in Boston this year. Yankees win 8-7. Schilling weeps in the Sox dugout after the loss.

July 24, Boston: The Yankees jump out to a 3-0 lead. After a Sheffield double-play grounder scores the game's third run in the third inning, Alex Rodriguez is hit by a Bronson Arroyo pitch then gets into a shouting match with Jason Varitek. Varitek accepts Rodriguez's invitation to fight instigating a bench-clearing brawl. Rodriguez and Varitek are ejected. Yankee starter Tanyon Sturtze injures the pinky on his pitching hand in the fight and the Red Sox score two runs in each of the next to innings off of Sturtze and his replacement Juan Padilla to take a 4-3 lead. Boston manager Terry Francona is tossed in the fifth arguing a call at second base. The Yankees then retake the lead with a six-run sixth inning in which they send 12 men to the plate and score four of their runs with two outs. The Red Sox then send 10 men to the plate in the bottom of the sixth, scoring four runs. With the bases loaded and two outs and the Yankee lead down to one run, Scott Proctor strikes out Nomar Garciaparra on four pitches to end the Red Sox rally and preserve the 9-8 lead. Ruben Sierra homers to lead off the top of the seventh after which the Yankees load the bases with no outs on three consecutive Red Sox errors but fail to score. Mariano Rivera takes the mound in the bottom of the ninth with a 10-8 lead. Nomar Garciappara doubles and moves to third on a fly out by Trot Nixon that backs Gary Sheffield up against the right field wall. Kevin Millar then singles Nomar home and Bill Mueller deposits a 3-1 pitch in the Boston bullpen to win the game 11-10.

I don't think I need to add to that. That really says it all. Blood, sweat and tears, not to mention a few ghosts, some purpose pitches, and one spirit of '76 brawl.

Jose Contreras and Derek Lowe meet up in the Sunday night ESPN game tonight at 8:00 for the rubber game of this three-game series at Fenway. The Yankees still hold an 8.5 game lead on the Sox, but this isn't about the standings anymore. This is personal. It's also a huge game for Jose Contreras.

Contreras has allowed no more than two runs, and no more than one earned run in four his five starts since the arrival of his wife and daughters on American soil. That sounds impressive, but the one start I'm leaving out saw him give up seven runs in five innings to the Mets at Shea. It's also worth noting that those four strong starts came against three sub-.500 teams, the Mets, Tigers and Devil Rays (twice). The Tigers have an underrated offense (6th most runs scored in the AL, 8th in the majors), but the Mets and Devil Rays are pretty anemic. Thus far this year against the Red Sox, Contreras has a 12.71 ERA in two starts with just 5 2/3 total innings and the Sox hitting .407 against him. Last year he was even worse with a 24.92 ERA in two appearances (one start, 4 1/3 innings, .421 BAA) against Boston. Quite simply, Contreras has never had anything other than a disaster outing against the Red Sox in the regular season. On his side is a lack of opportunity (just four appearances) and the three solid relief outings he had against Boston in the ALCS. Of course, those were topped off by his complete meltdown in Game 6, pushing his ALCS to a still-ugly 5.79. But no matter how you shake it, Contreras's start tonight--on national television, in the rubber game of the series against the Red Sox, following those four heart-stoppers listed above--just might be the biggest start of his young major league career.

To add to the pressure, the Yankee bullpen is depleted after they got just three innings from Sturtze yesterday. Only Gordon didn't pitch on Saturday and that's because he needed the rest after throwing two high-pressure innings on Friday and one the night before. That said, Heredia, Quantrill and Rivera threw no more than 16 pitches each yesterday, but all three also pitched on Friday night. Meanwhile potential innings eaters Sturtze, Padilla and Proctor all threw a minimum of 36 pitches on Saturday. All of which means Contreras won't be able to get away with a five or six inning, three or four run outing. He'll either have to hold Boston for seven or eight or stay out there and get pounded. The good news is that Derek Lowe is still struggling, he enters the game with a 5.32 ERA at home, a 5.75 ERA on the season, a 6.86 ERA in July (in four starts) and a Contreras-like 9.22 ERA against the Yankees in three starts this season. Get out your Andy Pettitte Memorial Peek-a-boo Towels, this could be a doozy.

posted by Cliff at 2:04 AM

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

Site Meter