Wednesday Morning Food For Thought: The Little Things That Kill

Last night wasn’t fun.  There was a winning streak going, the team was feeling good, and they touched down in Detroit and reverted back to their usual ways and it all got stopped.  It felt like the Tigers dominated the game, yet they were only ahead by 2-3 runs for most of the time.  The Yankees let them have the game.  Once again, it was a combination of little things that killed their chances to win.

It was McCarthy being a tick off with his command.  It was McCann grounding into a double play to end the 1st inning 2 pitches after Jeter got on with a base hit.  It was Jeter going down looking with 2 on and 2 out in the 3rd and never once taking the bat off his shoulder.  It was Prado taking an 0-4 in the midst of a big hot streak.  It was nobody other than Ellsbury getting 1 extra-base hit.  It was Joe letting McCarthy come back out for the 7th.  …

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Game 130 Recap: DET 5 NYY 2

McCarthy vs DET II

Courtesy of the AP

What a bummer.  I was really looking forward to getting into this horse mask thing and now it’s over before it really got going.  That’s the biggest loss here tonight.  Not the ground in the Wild Card race or the ground to the team directly ahead of New York in the Wild Card race, but the loss of the horse mask mystique.

Brandon McCarthy‘s stuff has played up since coming over, but he was missing that sharpness to his game tonight and it showed in a variety of ways.  He gave up a couple of doubles to Torii Hunter and Miguel Cabrera, walked 2 batters and hit another in the 2nd and walked in the first Detroit run, and missed with a cutter with 2 outs in the 3rd to surrender a run-scoring hit.  There was going to be a night like tonight eventually for McCarthy.  Too bad it had to come tonight.

The lineup was doing exactly what they did last time against Porcello and getting plenty of hits off him.  …

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Game 130: A Return Date With The Tigers

The last time Brandon McCarthy faced the Detroit Tigers, he outpitched Max Scherzer to earn the W in a 2-1 victory.  The last time Rick Porcello faced the Yankees, he was the tough luck loser to Shane Greene in a 1-0 dual pitching gem 3 days later.  Since that unexpected series win in the first week of August, the Yankees lost 7 of 10 before rebounding with 5 straight horse mask-driven wins and the Tigers have sputtered along at 8-9.  They’re falling in the AL playoff race, trying to stay ahead of the Yanks in the battle for the second Wild Card spot, and looking to stop the bleeding back at home.

Mark Teixeira is back in the lineup tonight.  Brett Gardner is not.   Here are the other 8 fine gentlemen who’ll be joining Teix to support McCarthy:

1) Ellsbury- CF
2) Jeter- DH
3) McCann- C
4) Teix- 1B
5) Beltran- RF
6) Prado- 2B
7) Drew- SS
8) Headley- 3B
9) Ichiro- LF

First pitch is scheduled for a little after 7 PM, but it’s hot and humid in Detroit and there’s a good chance of showers and thunderstorms in the area.  …

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What to Watch For: Yankees vs Rick Porcello

The Yankees tonight begin a crucial three-game series against the Tigers, who are two games ahead of them in the Wild Card standings. Rick Porcello, who lost to the Yankees earlier this month, gets the ball in the series opener for Detroit.

The Tigers have three former Cy Young winners and the reigning league ERA champ in their (healthy) rotation, but that “other starter” – Rick Porcello – might be the most consistent pitcher on their staff this season.

Porcello owns a 3.10 ERA in 2014 and has seen that number drop each month, including a 2.53 ERA in August. He has yet to allow more than three runs in back-to-back starts this season and his three shutouts are tied for the most in baseball.

He held the Yankees to one run over seven innings in his only outing against them this year on August 7, a game the Yankees actually won 1-0 thanks to a more dominant effort by Shane Greene.…

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BREAKING NEWS: Shawn Kelley Is The Man

Forget what I said about the mysterious team meeting being the fuel for this current win streak fire.  It has nothing to do with that.  It’s all about Shawn Kelley wearing a horse mask.

“Last week, Kelley found himself ensnared in the spider web of when he came upon a horse head mask offered by a company called Accoutrements, which also peddles a pickle that yodels, bacon-flavored lip balm and an inflatable unicorn horn for cats. The horse head garnered more than 3,000 ratings and a 4½-star consensus. Kelley, a Yankees relief pitcher, needed no further convincing.

‘When I see those things, randomly in a crowd, it makes me laugh,’ he said. ‘So I figured I’ll do that, and it’ll make everyone laugh in the clubhouse.'”

Awesome.  Simply awesome.  Shawn Kelley just went up 100 life points in my book.  For somebody on the Yankees, the stuffiest baseball team in MLB, to think about and execute this idea, and for the team to allow it to happen is tremendous.  …

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Quick Hit: How Are The Giveaways Doing?

Yesterday I looked at the early SSS returns from the 3 position player deadline acquisitions.  As a whole, the production hasn’t been great, but it got me thinking.  What have the guys who the Yankees gave up being doing?

Yangervis Solarte- .281/.361/.386, 3 HR, 18 R, 15 RBI, 11.1% BB/10.4% K rates in 135 PA w/ SD

Kelly Johnson- .160/.160/.200, 40.0% K rate in 25 PA w/ BOS

Brian Roberts- .000/.000/.000 (has not signed with a new team since getting DFA’d)

When you factor in the improved defensive performance of Headley, Prado, and Drew, and consider that Johnson and Roberts have basically been wallpaper since the Yankees dumped them, they’re still coming out winners on the trade deadline moves.  We can even take it a step further by comparing Brandon McCarthy and Vidal Nuno.

McCarthy- 1.90/2.33/2.54 in 52.0 IP (8 starts) w/ NYY

Nuno- 3.54/3.81/3.92 in 53.1 IP (9 starts) w/ ARI

While Nuno has been much better in the NL environment than in the AL, McCarthy has been even better than that and much, MUCH better than what Nuno was doing when he was still in the Yankee rotation.  …

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Quick Hit: How Sore Is Gardner’s Sore Ankle?

Gardner K vs TOR

Courtesy of Getty Images

Apologies in advance if this was already covered somewhere else and I missed it, but how severe is Brett Gardner‘s sore ankle?  And how long has it been a problem?  He sat out a second straight game because of it last night and told reporters he was confident he would be back in the lineup tonight, but looking at the situation from a broader perspective, it seems like this might be more than your garden variety “sore ankle”.

On August 4th, Gardner’s batting line was up to .286/.364/.468.  That .832 OPS was the highest it had been since early April.  Since then, Gardner has gone 10-62 in his last 16 games with 4 BB, 11 K, and 1 stolen base.  That stolen base came on August 22nd against the White Sox, after which Gardner played the next day and then started his 2-game rest period.  His season batting line is back down to .269/.346/.435 and his August line is a paltry .200/.294/.307.…

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Pineda’s Slider Was Straight Up Disgusting Last Night

Given the situation and the small sample size from which to choose, it’s fair to say that last night was the best start of Michael Pineda‘s Yankee career.  Facing a hot team with a sneaky dangerous lineup, Pineda looked as good as he did in 2011 in spurts, flashing mid-to-high 90s fastballs with late movement and a hard, biting slider that he threw all over the zone.  KC really only put 2 good swings on him all night: on the Moustakas home run that he left up on a tee in the 3rd and the Perez double in the 7th on his final pitch of the night.

The fastball velocity, both in terms of the number and the sustainability, was really great to see.  The Yankees don’t have anybody in their rotation right now who can throw real smoke (maybe Greene kinda when he’s feeling good), so having Big Mike up there humming 95-97 is a good way to mix things up.  …

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Game 129 Recap: Yankees 8 Royals 1

Pineda vs KC

Do it, Big Mike. Do it. Courtesy of the AP

2 big guys, 1 big game.  Michael Pineda was the better man on this night, thoroughly outdueling James Shields and leading the Yankees to their 5th straight victory on their way out to a big 3-game Wild Card competition showdown.

Shields shot himself in the foot in the 3rd inning, throwing an Ichiro Suzuki grounder back to the mound away and putting him at second with nobody out.  Jacoby Ellsbury‘s speed was responsible for scoring the run, as he stayed out of 2 straight GIDPs to allow Ichiro to come around and score the game’s first run on a Derek Jeter RBI groundout.  Another Shields mistake, this one a belt-high fastball on a 3-2 pitch, led to the second Yankee run when Stephen Drew hit it for his second Yankee home run in the 4th.

Big Mike looked really, really good to me in the first 2 innings.  His fastball was snapping McCann’s glove, his slider was biting, and the Royal hitters weren’t putting a lot of good swings on anything he threw.  …

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