Game 71: Just how good is this Dickey guy, anyway? (Game Chat)

Tonight, the Yankees will turn to ace CC Sabathia to take the second edition of the Subway Series from their crosstown rivals; the Mets, in turn, will look to their ace R.A. Dickey to do the same. Wait, “ace”? What about Johan Santana? John Niese? Well, yeah, I do mean ace. Here are some of his season numbers: 11-1, 99.0 IP, 9.36 K/9, 1.91 BB/9 (amazing for a guy with a knuckleball as his primary pitch), .243 BABIP, 83.8 LOB%, 2.00 ERA, 2.73 FIP, 2.71 xFIP (all incredible). As my new colleague Josh (welcome!) eloquently put it:

Dickey has not lost since April, having won or received a no-decision in his nine starts since.  Having gone nine innings in three of his last four times on the mound, including two one-hitters in his last two outings, Dickey is not only a heavy favorite to start at Kauffman Stadium on July 10th, but also in great position to give the Mets their first Cy Young Award winner since 1985, when Dwight “Doc” Gooden took home the honors.

Yeah, he has been that good. Let’s see if the Yankees can make him look mortal tonight; if not, they might be in for a long game.

(And hello again! I’m back from Europe and getting settled in the States again, in case anyone missed me.)

(click “view full post for lineups and our live game chat)
Continue reading Game 71: Just how good is this Dickey guy, anyway? (Game Chat)

Cueto, Reds, Outlast Sabathia, Yankees In 5-2 Win

When Alex Rodriguez hits a fly ball, then flips his bat nonchalantly towards the dugout, while grinning intently, we all pretty much know what’s about to happen. There’s that obligatory eyes-widening phase, as the ball barrels towards the stands, then there’s the rush as it lands deep in the bleachers. Alex has already rounded second at that point, and he seems calm and satisfied. He rounds third, and, with a big grin on his face jogs home. Home run Yankees.

About half of that story played out Sunday afternoon, as Alex Rodriguez blasted a Logan Ondrusek fastball high into the Bronx sky. The bat flip, the long stare, the nonchalant jog. The Yankees were about to take a 3-4 lead into the top of the ninth, and grab a series win from the jaws of defeat. We’ve seen this script play out before.

But then something odd happened. A gust of wind caught Alex’s ball on its way towards the left field fence. It slowed down. It dropped out of the sky. And just as Alex rounded first base with a grin on his face, it settled into Chris Heisey’s glove. He stopped, gaping. And he slowly turned around and jogged to the Yankees dugout. He was pissed off; we were shocked. How many times have we seen that little bat flip-stare-grin combination immediately preceding an A-Rod home run?

I pumped my fist as soon as I saw the bat flip. I was convinced that ball was going out. And then it didn’t.

I wouldn’t call myself a huge A-Rod fan. I appreciate what he does for my team, enjoy his absurd character from time to time, but mainly I recognize that he’s a player that I’m going to have to live with–and take the good with the bad–for the next few years. But if there’s one thing I will say about Alex that I’ve learned from watching him these past years, it’s that when he gets a hold of a ball he knows it. And so do we. That’s what made this moment, in a pivotal eighth inning, so shocking. That was supposed to be a home run.

And I don’t say that because I think A-Rod comes through all the time in the clutch. I say that because I know what it looks like when Alex hits a home run.

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Game 41: Score Four (Or More)

The Yankees take on the Cincinnati Reds this afternoon in the Bronx (1:05 PM EST first pitch, on YES) in the rubber game of the first interleague series of the year. The Yanks left the tying runner on third base yesterday, as they fell 6-5 to Cincinnati; they’ll try to rebound this afternoon on the left arm of ace CC Sabathia. The Reds will turn to sometimes-ace Johnny Cueto; Cueto, who has had moments of absolute brilliance so far this season, is trying to rebound from his only bad start of the season last Tuesday, when he gave up five earned runs in four innings against the Braves. Prior to that, Cueto had allowed one run in 23 innings. Which is pretty, you know, good. 

Luckily, the Yankees have a history of being pretty good in interleague games. Prior to yesterday’s 6-5 disappointment, the bombers had been on a six-game winning streak, dating back to last season. Derek Jeter is the interleague hits leader, a weird title, while simultaneously holding an eight-game hit streak against NL teams (he’s 13 for 34 during the stretch).

And, in one of the less-important (and frankly, pretty obvious) statistics, the Yankees are 20-5 when scoring four-plus runs this season, and 1-14 when they score three or fewer. So…all they need to do is score four. Or more. And then let CC do his thing.

Some notes: Chris “I’m not CC’s personal catcher” Stewart is starting,  with Wise in left, and Eric Chavez at first. Mark Teixeira is getting the day off with “stopsuckingitis,” while Raul Ibanez will slot into the five hole.

Lineups: 

Reds (20-19)

Heisey, LF

Stubbs, CF

Votto, 1B

Phillips, 2B

Bruce, RF

Ludwick, DH

Frazier, 3B

Hanigan, C

Cozart, SS

SP: Cueto, 4-1, 1.89 ERA, 1.09 WHIP

Yankees (21-19)

Jeter, SS

Granderson, CF

Cano, 2B

Rodriguez, 3B

Ibanez, DH

Swisher, RF

Chavez, 1B

Wise, LF

Stewart, C

SP: Sabathia, 5-1, 3.77 ERA, 1.17 WHIP Continue reading Game 41: Score Four (Or More)

Previewing Yankees Vs. Orioles: First Of Two Quickies In Baltimore

Look me in the eyes and tell me that you saw this coming:

American League East Standings

Baltimore, .629
Tampa Bay, .600 (1 GB)
New York, .559 (2.5 GB)
Toronto, .543 (3 GB)
Boston, .441 (6.5 GB)

Apart from the whole Boston sucking thing, this table is pretty shocking. I know, it’s May. But hey, it’s not April anymore. Which, I admit is stating the obvious. (I also admit it is a little gauche to talk about standings at this point in the season). But I don’t think any of that nullifies my point: this Baltimore side, while it doesn’t probably have any real staying power—not in this division—is much better than we anticipated.

Well, it has been much better than we anticipated so far. Obviously, this could all be a mirage, an extended good play/lucky streak that will disappear with the summer heat.

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Missed Opportunities, Kevin Millwood Rain On Andy’s Parade As Mariners Down Yankees 6-2

Things were lining up for Andy Pettitte on Sunday afternoon: he was cruising through the weak-hitting Mariners lineup at light speed, surrendering only two walks over three innings. Montero, Ichiro, Ackley, Smoak (boy, not great if they’re the players that come to mind), all were flailing at Andy’s offerings, each fastball seemingly better-placed than the next. Unfortunately, the same could be said of Kevin Millwood, the Mariners’ starter, and early-2000’s Braves standout.

Only one of the two aging veterans would power their way to a win on the backs of an offense based on home runs (while limiting damage by inducing ground balls in tough situations); unfortunately for the Yankees, that man would not be Andy Pettite. It would be Kevin Millwood, doing his best Andy Pettitte impersonation, and throwing like it was 1999 all over again. Continue reading Missed Opportunities, Kevin Millwood Rain On Andy’s Parade As Mariners Down Yankees 6-2

Previewing Yankees Vs. Rays: Vengeance Is A Dish Best Served, Well, At Home, Apparently

If the Yankees are ever going to snap their almost half-year-long (seven game, but it makes it seem worse if I say “half-year” without adding that there was no baseball at all for a good chunk of that time) losing streak to the Tampa Bay Rays, this weekday series in the Bronx might be the best time to do it. And I did open this with “if” and “ever” because, well, our friends at various media outlets have been trumpeting the Rays “domination” of the Yankees (which, apparently has been going on for a long time, over six months of nonstop losing!!), and I didn’t want to be left out of the loop.

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Yankees Ride Hughes, Home Runs, To 10-4 Win Over Kansas City

The Yankees cruised to a 10-4 win over the Kansas City Royals behind a strong performance from much-maligned starter Phil Hughes. Suddenly-Philthy-again Phil threw six and two-thirds innings of 3-run, six-hit, seven-strikeout ball, as the Yankees offense staked him to a healthy 7-1 lead in the third inning. Everything seemed to be clicking today for Hughes, who managed to overcome a couple of well-hit balls in the first inning–he gave up one run–then find a groove in the third.

I was particularly impressed by the way he mixed his pitches (though we might give some credit to catcher Russell Martin there), always seeming to keep the Royals hitters off balance. Perhaps just as noteworthy as his ability to work counts and keep hitters guessing were the actual pitches he threw: there were almost no cutters Sunday afternoon, while he rode his fastball–which sat between 93 and 95 MPH all game–curveball, and changeup (which induced a couple of picture-perfect strikeouts). It was really good to see Hughes build on his last start, a mediocre (but hopeful) performance against Baltimore: he was aggressive, his velocity was there, and he seemed willing to throw the changeup and curve at any point in the count.

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Previewing Yankees Vs. Orioles: CC…And Who?

I’m just going to come out and say this up front: I’m stealing this title from a certain columnist who I openly mocked yesterday. I don’t go out of my way to instill panic in people–I don’t think it’s my job, and, even if it were, I think I could find better ways to do it (here are a series of headlines off the top of my head: “Robinson Cano: Slumping, Bad…Or Injured?” “Everyone In The Farm System You Like Actually Sucks, And They’re All Injured Anyways” “Andy Pettitte Experiencing Shoulder Weakness, Says Unnamed Source (Who’s Actually Dr. James Andrews)”…I could go on). Look: the Yankees host the Baltimore Orioles tonight in the first game of a three game series. Hiroki “Unlucky Loss” Kuroda will take on Jason “No Way He’s Actually This Good” Hammel, and, with some luck, we’ll be able to at least begin to put some of the “Yankees have a bad pitching staff” narrative behind us.

The reason I chose to go with that headline–over any number of Baltimore-related ones–is that I’m beginning to get fed up with some of this stuff. I know it’s the media’s job to find compelling narratives in a long season, and I know it’s especially hard to make people interested in their baseball teams in April. But the idea that the Yankees have suddenly transformed from a pitching juggernaut to CC and a bunch of nobodies strikes me as particularly far-fetched. Sure, Michael Pineda is done for the year. That hurts, and certainly weakens the rotation. But making a huge deal about Freddy Garcia‘s early-season struggles (which, I might add, were very predictable) is just piling on. And then extending that to the other three guys? Well, I just don’t think it’s fair (except for maybe Hughes, who has been pretty poor).

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