Saturday, October 8, 2011

Yankees Post Game and Post Series notes

Obviously these next few days are going to be spent looking back on what exactly happened this week, and what might happen going forward. For now, there was only disappointment around the Yankees.  They of course are a team that expects to win the World Series every year and if they don't it is a failure.  The Yankees this year had a great season in where they fought all the way to the end and finished first with home field advantage when most picked against them.  I think because of that this first round loss is a huge disappointment but they just didn't get the job done.  The Tigers deserve some credit as they pitched well and hit when they needed too. 

“It’s terrible,” Joe Girardi said. “We only accomplished one goal when the season ended. We had to fight like crazy to get there. It’s a really empty feeling. It’s an empty feeling for everyone in that room, and it hurts.”

The problem was the offense, but that was largely a problem of timing rather than raw production. The Yankees outscored the Tigers 28-17 this series, and 28 runs were the second-most in franchise history for a single division series. The Yankees scored at least nine runs in each of their two wins.  The Yankees score runs in bunches and that is my problem with them.  In the regular season you can get away with it because you are facing bad teams and bad pitching more times then not.  In the postseason there are no bad teams and you face a lot better pitching. 

Problem was, they scored a total of nine runs in their three loses. The Tigers won those three games by a total of four runs.  The Yankees just needed a couple of more big hits and they would of won the series. 

“I tell you every time you go to the playoffs, it’s about pitching,” Derek Jeter said. “You’re not going to sit back and hit home runs, score 10 runs. I mean, we scored a lot of runs two days ago, but it was really one inning. You don’t just come out here and take BP in the playoffs. Teams you’re facing have good pitching. That’s why they’re at this point. So you can get away with a lot of things in the regular season that you can’t get away with in the playoffs.”

As in, a team can get away with its fourth, fifth and sixth hitters going a combined 9-for-55 during a five-game stretch in the regular season, but that doesn’t work in a five-game series. The Yankees middle three hitters, Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira and Nick Swisher killed them and in the case of Teixeira and Swisher they haven't done a think in the postseason for three straight years now.  When those three failed to get a big hit with the bases loaded in the seventh inning, that was basically the turning point of the game and the story of the series.

“It was 3-1 and I said, ‘I’m going to get a pitch to crush right here,’” Teixeira said. “You almost start thinking about the bases clearing, the crowd cheering. I walked there, but it wasn’t enough. Not enough to get the job done… If we were one at-bat better, we might win the game. If we get one hit with the bases loaded, but every single game you play, there’s going to be five or 10 things you can look at and say, ‘If we did this’ or ‘If we did that.’ Unfortunately, we had a couple of those this series.”

 Ivan Nova said his forearm got tight in the second inning. He didn’t feel it at all during the first inning, so it was a non-factor on the home runs. “We didn’t like the way the ball was coming out of his hand,” Girardi said. “I think it was directly related to that. Some of his fastballs were cutting, and we never saw that. So I had to make a change, and I had to, you know, try to get our bullpen through it.”
 Nova was the first Yankees rookie to start a winner-take-all postseason game since Mel Stottlemyre in the 1964 World Series against St. Louis. “It’s hard,” Nova said. “We lost and we’ve got to go home now. You don’t want to be in this situation. You want to keep going, going to the World Series.”

Rodriguez hasn’t been productive since coming back from knee surgery, but he said health was a non-factor this series. “Everything this postseason is on me,” he said. “Let’s make that crystal clear. There’s no excuses for what happened these five games. I was healthy enough to do whatever I needed to do.”

 The Yankees went down in order in the ninth inning. Really, their last gasp was the ball that Jeter drove to the wall in the eighth inning. Off the bat, I thought he might have hit it out. It would have been a go-ahead, two-run homer with Mariano Rivera coming in to shut the door in the ninth. “I thought it had a chance,” Jeter said. “It was too high, but you never know here.”

CC Sabathia seemed especially dejected at his locker. He’d never pitched in relief and said he tried not to change his usual approach. “I try not to,” he said. “I tried to get ahead with the fastball, and that didn’t really work, so I went to my secondary pitches.”  He is a guy that takes his role very seriously and he knows the final month and into the postseason he was not at his best for whatever reason. 

 Sabathia had gone 370 consecutive appearances in the regular season and postseason before finally pitching out of the bullpen. Among the pitchers whose first career relief appearance came in the postseason, Sabathia had the third-longest streak. Mike Mussina went 400 starts before pitching in relief in the 2003 ALCS, and John Smoltz went 380 starts before his first relief appearance in the 1999 NLCS.

 Sabathia wouldn’t commit one way or the other about his opt-out. “I can’t even wrap my head around that right now,” he said. “I’m just thinking about what I didn’t do to help us win. In the next couple of days, next couple of weeks I’ll think about that and we’ll see what happens.”

 Robinson Cano set a Yankees division series record with nine RBI. The previous record was seven by Paul O’Neill. It’s the most RBI by a Yankee in a single postseason series — any round — since Hideki Matsui and Bernie Williams had 10 each in the 2004 ALCS.

Jorge Posada had a .579 on-base percentage this series. He batted .429, his third-highest single-series postseason batting average behind the 2006 ALDS (.500) and the 2001 ALDS (.444).

 Rivera lowered his career postseason ERA to 0.70, the lowest mark all-time for a pitcher with at least 30 postseason innings. This was his 96th career postseason game, passing Kenny Lofton for sole possession of seventh place on baseball’s all-time list (pitcher or position player).

Rivera threw eight pitches this series and got four outs. All of his pitches were strikes.  He continues to add to his legend and it is simply amazing. 

 Weird situation with Benoit and the band-aid on his face. Jim Leyland said it was an in-grown hair, and the band-aid was to keep it from being infected. Girardi asked the home plate umpire to have it removed. “I’m not trying to play a mind game or anything,” Girardi said. “But it was pretty big band-aid and it was somewhat distracting, I think. It’s hard not to look at. And I’m sure he had a legitimate reason, and it’s not something I necessarily wanted to do, but to me it would have been a distraction.”

 The final world of the night goes to Jim Leyland the Tigers manager.  “The Yankees are so good that I would be lying if I said it didn’t give me a little extra satisfaction to be able to do it here in the fifth game,” Leyland said. “I don’t mean that disrespectfully, I mean that respectfully. It gave me a great thrill to be able to do it here in Yankee Stadium in Game 5. Unbelievable. I was just talking to Dave Dombrowski, other than the American League pennant and that time in the World Series, this will be a game I’ll remember for the rest of my life.”

There won't be any Yankees game stories and there won't be any notes for a while, the Yankees will be on break and I will be on a Yankees break until after the World Series.  This is a very disappointing end to the season.  Baseball though is doing well and there are a lot of middle of the pack teams in terms of dollars.  It is good to see not just the big markets making it, but now some of the smaller ones, parity is at an all-time high in the sport. 

Friday, October 7, 2011

Yankees offense fails as they lose Game Five to the Tigers

The New York Yankees lost to the Detroit Tigers by the score of 3-2 on Thursday night. Ivan Nova started but the Yankees used almost their whole pitching staff to get through nine innings. Nova started off rough but he was pulled due to an arm injury. CC Sabathia even got in the game as a reliever for the first time. The story of the game is the Yankees offense or lack of offense. The Yankees had plenty of chances but just couldn’t get the big hit and that is why they are going home and not moving on to face the Texas Rangers in the ALCS.
Nova pitched two innings giving up two runs on three hits. He didn’t walk a batter and struck out three. Nova took the loss in the game. Phil Hughes pitched 1 1/3 innings giving up two hits and he struck out two, Boone Logan pitched 2/3 of an inning giving up one hit and striking out one and Sabathia pitched 1 1/3 innings giving up two hits and one run with two walks and four strikeouts. Rafael Soriano pitched 1 2/3 perfect innings with two strikeouts, Dave Robertson pitched a perfect inning with a strikeout and Mariano Rivera pitched a perfect inning.

Derek Jeter had one hit, Curtis Granderson had one hit and a walk and Robinson Cano had two hits and an RBI. Alex Rodriguez had a walk, Mark Teixeira had a hit, RBI and a walk and Nick Swisher had a hit. Jorge Posada in most likely his last game as a Yankee had two hits. Posada hit 429 in the series and was the Yankees best player in this ALDS. Posada will most likely retire but it will be interesting to see if he gets other offers and thinks about them at all. Brett Gardner had two hits. Teixeira had a double, Cano had a homerun. The Yankees were 2-9 with runners in scoring position and they left 11 men on base.

The Tigers got on the board right away in the first inning. They hit back-to-back solo homeruns on consecutive pitches. Don Kelly and Delmon Young hit the homeruns. In the fifth Victor Martinez had an RBI single to push the lead to 3-0 Tigers. In the bottom of the fifth Cano hit a solo homerun to make it 3-1. In the seventh inning Teixeira walked with the bases loaded to drive in a run and make it 3-2. It could have been a lot worse but Rodriguez and Swisher both struck out with the bases loaded. That score would hold up and the Tigers would celebrate after Jose Valverde their closer completed a 1-2-3 ninth inning.

Rodriguez for the second straight year made the final out of the season. Here is what he had to say about it. “It’s devastating, this is going to hurt for a long time. This one stings especially at home.” Detroit became the first team to celebrate clinching a series at the New Yankee Stadium. The Yankees will have an uncertain future as their ace Sabathia can opt out of his contract, their general manager has to sign a new contact, Posada most likely played his final game. The Yankees have a club option on Swisher who they may not want to bring back after another dreadful postseason. The best pitcher on the free agent market is C.J. Wilson who is no better then a number two starter. Nova was taken out of the game after two innings because of tightness in his forearm. There were a lot of critics of Girardi but the bullpen did a good job in the end and it was the hitting that failed. The Yankees had the same lineup for the whole series and maybe you can say why didn’t he start Eric Chavez or why didn’t he give Montero a chance etc. At the end of the day though he isn’t the one with a bat in his hands.

Sabathia had this to say, “The level of disapppointment is through the roof. We come into spring training with a goal to win the World Series every year. That’s not a goal for every team, but it’s a goal of ours. And we didn’t get it done.” Girardi said “Our pitchers threw as well as they could this year. I really believe that, they pitched their hearts out. Those guys have nothing to be ashamed of.” The Yankees left the bases loaded in the fourth and seventh innings and that is where the game was lost. The Yankees could of just hit two sacrifice flys there and they probably will win the game. A single in either situation and they win the game, they couldn’t even make contact, only scoring when they were walked. It is very disappointing and frustrating but there is nothing you can do but move on and hope that you can learn from it and get better. The Yankees will have a long winter ahead of them now before they start reporting down to Tampa in February for Spring Training. The Detroit Tigers will move on to play the Texas Rangers in the ALCS.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Yankees notes on an off day before Game Five

Here are some off day notes prior to Game Five which is tomorrow night at Yankee Stadium.  The game is at 8:00PM.  Ivan Nova will go up against Doug Fister, these are two young guys getting their first cracks at the postseason.  They pitched in game one, the suspended version.  Nova was terrific and Fister was pretty good in the beginning but the final results don't look so good.  It is an intriguing matchup.  The Yankees have a rested bullpen where they will surely use their main two guys for nine outs tomorrow and maybe even more.  The Yankees would love to get six strong out of Nova and then use their strong bullpen to finish it off and send them to the ALCS.  The Yankees of course will also hope that their bats have come alive feeding off their late inning magic last night. 

While Joe Girardi left no doubt that he expect CC Sabathia to be available out of the bullpen tomorrow, Tigers manager Jim Leyland said the exact opposite about his ace Justin Verlander. Leyland said Verlander will not be an available reliever for Game 5.  It is two completely different managers each at a different point in their careers.  Girardi is still towards the beginning and more cautious and Leyland has been around for a long time and just tells you whatever he has to say and doesn't worry about it. 

“That’s just the way it played out,” Leyland said. “I don’t think it’s disappointing. I’m thankful everybody got to see him. To be honest with you, our fans got to see that game that Verlander pitched. So it worked out pretty good. No problem.”

Of course, that’s easy for Leyland to say now. Hard not to wonder whether his opinion might change if he gets in a big spot tomorrow night. Regardless, it’s clear that Verlander’s impact on this series has been minimized.  It would be hard for me to not use Verlander if I was him but he is still young and you don't want to abuse the guy. 

“The one thing that you can’t predict is what would have happened in Game 1 if it was Verlander against CC,” Girardi said. “Who knows where we would have stood. So it is what it is. Is it a break? I don’t know, I really don’t, because we can’t go back in time and say what would have happened. ”

“When I say he’s laid back, I don’t mean there’s not fire inside of him,” Girardi said. “His personality is just not loud. It’s not boisterous. It’s not real emotional. He’ll show a little emotion on the mound, but not a whole lot. I love this kid’s determination. His determination to get better. His determination to be a part of this staff. To never go down again. To win. That’s what I see. He’s a very hard worker, and it’s paid off.”

 Nova on whether he feels pressure for tomorrow’s game: “I don’t see the reason to feel pressure. It’s another game. Of course, it’s the most important game of the season now, but that’s the game that right now a lot of people are waiting for. Everybody, like my family, everybody wants to see that game. Everybody want to see me do a really good job. Like I always say, if you get nervous, you’re going to be in trouble, because you can’t control yourself. You can’t control what you got to do. I don’t see the reason why.”

 Girardi said everyone is available out of the bullpen tomorrow, even A.J. Burnett if things get really crazy. “A.J. would probably be the one guy you would have to be careful,” Girardi said. “But I would say in case of emergency he’s available, too.”  I think you could see CC but the Yankees are hoping for six out of Nova, a lead and then to use Robertson and Mo to finish the game off.  The Yankees could even use Soriano and Logan earlier like in the sixth and CC if they have too. 

Jorge Posada leads the Yankees in batting average, on-base percentage and walks through these first four games. “Jorge has been through this so many times in his career,” Girardi said. “And (he) understands the magnitude of each at-bat and how to approach each at-bat. That’s why we went with him.”  It is amazing to see how he finished and turned what could of been a sad and unhappy ending into a nice finish to his career if this is indeed the end. 

Also making a big impact at the bottom of the Yankees order is Brett Gardner, who’s hitting .385 with some big hits in big spots. “I talked about that with my pitching coach this morning before we left,” Leyland said. “He’s done a great job. He’s been real pesky. I think sometimes you get through that big part of the order and all those big guys, and maybe you lose your concentration a little bit. He’s a bear-down guy. He’s a real hard-nosed player and everything. A real determined guy. We’re going to have to do a better job.”  I would agree with that, you kind of forget about him since you are so worried about Arod, Tex, Cano. 

 The middle of the Yankees order finally showed some signs of life last night when Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira and Nick Swisher all got hits during that big eighth inning. “When it’s the postseason, you’re supposed to get a hit every time,” Girardi said. “The superstars are supposed to do no wrong, and you’re supposed to be able to ride on their backs. But that’s not the way the game works… What happens is if you continue to have good at-bats, you’re going to get your hits.”  This was the biggest development for the Yankees in my opinion.  I think they will now relax in Game Five and if they are hitting watch out, it is a very hard lineup to get through and they could roll along in the playoffs. 
Leyland said he has Max Scherzer available tomorrow night, but ultimately his bullpen will be a little thin. “I would like to get through this game tomorrow with Fister, Coke, if necessary, Benoit and Valverde,” Leyland said. “There’s no secret to that. That’s what we would like to get through the game with.”
 Leyland announced that Don Kelly will be the Tigers starter at third base tomorrow night. Kelly will be the Tigers third different starting third baseman this series. Leyland said he would like to to shift Kelly to right field for late-inning defense, with Brandon Inge taking over at third.

Here is Girardi on tomorrows must win game: “This is what we fought so hard for during the course of the season. You have two very good teams playing tomorrow night. Unfortunately, one of us is going to go home. And that’s the hard part about this game, because your season is going to end so abruptly, in a sense. But we’ve worked hard to get to this point. We feel good about our starter. They probably feel good about their starter. And time is going to tell.”

The Yankees and Granderson catch the Tigers

The New York Yankees defeated the Detroit Tigers by the score of 10-1 on Tuesday night. The game got out of hand late but was a close game for most of the night. A.J. Burnett started and pitched into the sixth inning effectively. He almost didn’t get out of the first inning though, the bullpen was starting to warm as Burnett struggled. He didn’t start a game for ten days and maybe that had something to do with it but whatever it was he did settle down. The offense really came to life late in the game and Curtis Granderson was the hero with two amazing catches in center field that changed the whole game and probably saved the Yankees season.
Burnett pitched 5 2/3 innings giving up one run on four hits. He walked four and struck out three, one of the walks was intentional. Soriano pitched 1 1/3 perfect innings and only threw nine pitches to get the four outs. He struck out one batter, Phil Hughes pitched a perfect innings with two strikeouts and Boone Logan struck out the side in his one inning of work. Burnett earned the victory in the game.

Derek Jeter had a hit, two RBI and a walk, Granderson had a hit and an RBI and Robinson Cano had a hit, two RBI and a walk. Alex Rodriguez had his first two hits of the series and an RBI, Mark Teixeira had a hit and Nick Swisher had a hit. Jesus Montero had two hits and an RBI, Russell Martin had two hits and a walk and Brett Gardner had two hits and an RBI. Jeter and Granderson each had a double. The Yankees were 6-14 with runners in scoring position and they left 7 men on base.

In the third inning the Yankees took a 2-0 lead on a two run double by Jeter. In the fourth inning Victor Martinez hit a solo homerun to cut the lead in half and make it 2-1. The first inning for the Yankees could have been very bad and ended their season, Burnett loaded the bases by walking three men. One of the walks was intentional and then there was a deep drive to center field that just started to take off and Granderson leapt up in the air and snaired it. If Granderson doesn’t make that catch it is at least three runs and maybe an inside the park grand slam and the whole game changes. In the fifth Granderson hit an RBI double and Rodriguez had a sacrifice fly to make it 4-1 Yankees. The Yankees broke the game open in the eighth inning. There was a balk to score a run, an RBI single by Montero and an RBI single by Gardner. A wild pitch scored Montero and Cano hit a two run single. It was a 10-1 game at this point and that would be all the scoring.

The best of five series is all even now at two games each and game five will be Thursday night at Yankee Stadium. Ivan Nova will be starting against Doug Fister which was the game one matchup when the suspended game returned to play. The Yankees feel very good about playing at home and having Nova on the mound who has been their best pitcher the last couple of months. Derek Jeter had praise for Burnett, he said he got us to play on Thursday. Burnett did settle down after the first inning but Granderson deserves most of the praise, without his two spectacular catches out in center field who knows what would of happen and there would be a different story being told today. The winner of this series will move on to the ALCS to face the Texas Rangers who clinched their series over the Tampa Bay Rays on Tuesday afternoon. If the Yankees do win and advance it will be a rematch of last years ALCS which Texas won in six games.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Yankees lose game two and the series is even

The New York Yankees were defeated by the Detroit Tigers on Sunday afternoon by the score of 5-3. Freddy Garcia started the game and pitched pretty well. The Yankees offense couldn’t do anything with Max Scherzer though. They rallied late but left a couple of scoring chances out on the bases including to end the game.
Garcia pitched 5 1/3 innings giving up six hits and four runs with three of them being earned. He didn’t walk a batter and struck out six. Boone Logan faced two batters and struck them both out, Cory Wade pitched two innings giving up two hits and a walk with two strikeouts and Luis Ayala pitched one inning giving up a hit and a run. Scherzer pitched six innings giving up two hits and no runs with four walks and five strikeouts for the Tigers.

Curtis Granderson had a hit, RBI and a walk, Robinson Cano had a hit and a walk and Alex Rodriguez had a walk. Nick Swisher had a hit, RBI and a walk, Jorge Posada had two hits and a walk and Russell Martin had a walk. Andruw Jones had an RBI, Posada had a triple, Granderson and Swisher each had a homerun. The Yankees were 0-7 with runners in scoring position and they left nine men on base. Jeter made a throwing error.

The Tigers jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first inning. Miguel Cabrera hit a two run homerun. Garcia settled down after that. In the sixth inning Cabrera hit an RBI single and Victor Martinez had an RBI single. The Tigers had a 4-0 lead. The Yankees would get on the board in the eighth inning on a Granderson solo homerun. In the ninth Don Kelly hit an RBI single to make it 5-1 Tigers. Nick Swisher hit a solo homerun to make it 5-2 in the ninth and Andruw Jones hit a sacrifice fly to make it 5-3. The Yankees had a couple men on in the ninth but Cano grounded out to end the game.

The series is tied at one and now the series will shift to Detroit. The two teams will play game three on Monday night at 8:37PM. Justin Verlander will go up against CC Sabathia which started out as the game one matchup on Friday. The two aces didn’t throw a lot of pitches but coming back on three days rest will be interesting. I wonder if they won’t have the same stuff or if one might be affected more then the other one. CC Sabathia has pitched on three days rest before, I am not so sure that Verlander has. This could be one of those games where everyone is focused on the pitching and they don’t live up to the hype. Game three is pivotal as one team will head into game four facing elimination from the postseason. If there is a game five it will be on Thursday.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Yankees take Game One behind Nova and Cano

The New York Yankees defeated the Detroit Tigers by the score of 9-3 on Saturday night. It was a strange game one in that it started on Friday night and after it started pouring the game had to be suspended and resumed on Saturday night. The game picked up in the bottom of the second inning, it was strange to see the Yankees hitting first and Jorge Posada leading off the game but that is what happened. Ivan Nova started the game or relieved depending on how you look at it, he pitched extremely well in his first postseason action. He ran into trouble in his seventh inning which was the ninth inning and the Yankees had to use two relievers to get the final two outs. The offense was led by Robinson Cano who tied a team record with six RBI in the game.
CC Sabathia started the game on Friday night pitching two innings and giving up one run on one hit. He didn’t walk a batter and he struck out four. Nova pitched 6 1/3 innings giving up two runs on four hits. He walked four and struck out five. Luis Ayala pitched 1/3 of an inning giving up two hits and Mariano Rivera faced one batter and struck him out on three pitches.

Derek Jeter had two hits, Curtis Granderson had a hit and two walks and Cano had three hits and six RBI. Cano shares a record for most RBI in a Yankees postseason game with Hideki Matsui, Bobby Richardson and Bernie Williams. Alex Rodriguez had an RBI, Mark Teixeira had a hit and a walk and Nick Swisher had a hit. Jorge Posada had a hit and a walk, Russell Martin had a hit and Brett Gardner had a hit and two RBI.

The Tigers took a 1-0 lead in the first on Friday night on a Delmon Young solo homerun. The Yankees tied it in the bottom of the first on a Rodriguez RBI groundout. The Yankees took a 2-1 lead in the fifth inning with an RBI double that just missed being a two run homerun. The Yankees had a big six run sixth inning to break the game open and take a 8-1 lead. Gardner had a two run single and Cano hit a grand slam. The Yankees added a run in the eighth on another Cano RBI double. The Tigers scored a couple of runs in the ninth and made it a 9-3 game but that is how it would finish.

The Yankees took a 1-0 lead in this best of five first round series. The second game will be on Sunday afternoon at 3:07PM at Yankee Stadium. The pitching matchup is the crafty veteran Freddy Garcia against Max Scherzer. Scherzer is a fly ball pitcher and much better at home so this may benefit the Yankees. The Yankees also have their whole bullpen to pitch in game two since they only used Ayala and Rivera but very limited. The Yankees could have Garcia pitch five or six innings on Sunday and turn it over to the bullpen. The teams lost their travel day and will play game three on Monday in Detroit and if Game four is necessary it will be on Tuesday in Detroit.

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