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Yankees Take a Step Back, Touch Down in Bronx for Series Finale

Yankees lose.

Did anyone think that the Yankees would take three from Philly, in Philly, with Cliff Lee on the hill?  That fantasy is dispelled, and the defending champions have pushed the series back into the Bronx for a sixth and perhaps seventh contest.  Pedro vs. Pettitte starts just before 8pm on Tuesday. 

The Yanks scored in the first inning.  Johnny Damon singled with one out off the end of his bat.  Mark Teixeira went to 3-0 before Lee worked him back to 3-2 and induced a flyout.  Alex Rodriguez sized up a 1-1 fastball on the outer half of the plate and socked a line drive through the infield that took off into the right field corner for a double.  Damon was running on contact and came all the way around from first to score.  Nick Swisher walked.  Robbie Cano lined out to right field to end the inning, but the Yanks had touched Lee for the first time in the series.

Philadelphia fought out of the corner, attacking A.J. Burnett from the very first pitch.  The Phillies seemed bound and determined to sieze on any pattern that Burnett had used to shut them down with in game two, one of which was getting ahead early in counts with first-pitch fastball strikes.  Jimmy Rollins led off and swung wild at the first pitch, his hands coming forward before the ball even left A.J.’s hand.  The fastball sailed high and Rollins fanned through it, but it was clear from then on that it would be a rough night for the Yanks.  Rollins fouled off three more pitches, two of which were flat breaking balls, before lining a single through the box.  Shane Victorino squared around to bunt on the first pitch, and A.J. let one fly straight at him.  Victorino bore the pitch square on the fingers of his right hand with painful-sounding thwack, but the third base umpire ruled that he pulled the bat back in time and first base was awarded to him.  Chase Utley cooly stepped to the plate, and then jumped all over the first pitch, a fastball down the chute, bashing it deep into the right field stands and putting Philly on top 3-1.  Ryan Howard walked.  Jayson Werth struck out, A.J. showing signs of regaining some whip in his curve.  Raul Ibanez grounded hard to the right side, which Tex laid out to glove, and throwing from his knees, got the out at second.  Pedro Feliz grounded out to end the inning.  A.J. was shaking on 23 pitches.

The second inning went without scoring, Lee retiring the bottom of the Yankee lineup and Burnett issuing a two-out walk to Rollins before Victorino popped out, obviously still feeling a lot of sting in his right hand.  The Yanks went down quietly in the top of third, with Damon reaching first on a walk but not advancing.

The Phils issued the second big blow of the game in the third.  Burnett issued back-to-back walks to Utley and Howard, clearly waiting for their pitch and passing on all the rest.  The Yankee bullpen stirred.  A.J. hung a curveball to Werth, who lined a base hit to center to plate Utley.  A.J. tried the fastball on Ibanez, but left it up and over the plate and Raul lined a base hit to right to plate Howard.  Burnett’s night was over, as Joe Girardi lifted him for young Dave Robertson.  Robertson got Feliz to pop out, before inducing a Carlos Ruiz groundball to Jeter that wasn’t hit sharp enough to turn the double-play.  Werth scored, Phillies up 6-1.  Lee stroked a single, but Robertson sat Rollins down looking to end the inning.

Lee remained solid in the fourth inning, while Robertson kept rolling by retiring 2-3-4 in order.

The Yanks chipped away in the top of the fifth.  Jorge Posada replaced A.J.’s personal catcher, Jose Molina, but grounded to second.  Eric Hinske walked pinch-hitting for Robertson.  Jeter whacked the first pitch for a single through the right side, moving Hinske to third.  Damon nudged a 1-1 fastball off the end of his bat down the first base line, which would have went foul if the first baseman Howard at let it go – he fielded it and tagged the bag, but Hinske crossed the plate for an “excuse me” run.  Tex swung at the first pitch and flied out to center weakly to end the inning.

Alfredo Aceves came in held the score tight at 6-2 through the fifth and sixth, getting some help from Brett Gardner who tracked down a deep fly off the bat of Jayson Werth, slamming hard into the wall and getting the wind knocked out of him.  He would stay in the game.

The Yanks would again go quietly in the sixth and seventh.  The Phils would not.  Phil Coke came in to relieve the seventh inning.  Chase Utley once again took the Yanks deep, a solo shot on 3-2 to lead off the inning.  Coke bounced back to strike out Howard swinging through a 1-2 breaking ball and fly Werth out on a 2-0 fastball.  Phil couldn’t keep the ball down to Ibanez, who crushed a 2-1 fastball up in the zone for a solo home run to right.  Phil Hughes came in to silent the Phils, striking Feliz out looking at the curve, down 0-2.

The Yanks would get some back in the eighth and ninth, menacing and leaving the Phils with an unsteady win.  Damon singled to lead off the eighth by bouncing a ball up the middle that lodged itself in the webbing of Rollins’ mitt.  Tex lined a double to left, perhaps his first solid connection since the series with the Angels.  ARod followed up with a shot to the gap that knocked off the edge of a diving Ibanez’ glove, scoring two runners and closing the distance to four runs.  Chan Ho Park replaced Cliff Lee, finally knocked out of a game by the Yanks.  Nick Swisher argued over a first strike call that was clearly outside, but could only salvage a grounder to the right side to move ARod to third.  Robbie Cano lifted the second pitch to center which didn’t seem to be deep enough to score, but ARod ran hard and came across to score the fifth run for the Yanks.  Gardner popped out to end the inning, but the Yanks were inching closer.  Hughes retired the Phils on a double-play and a groundout and the Yanks came right back up swinging.  Posada cranked a double off the right field wall and moved to third when Hideki Matsui singled through the right side.  Derek Jeter, having a rough series, grounded into a double play that scored Posada but dimmed hopes.  Damon singled and advanced to scoring position on defensive indifference, but Tex struck out to end the game, the final score frozen at 8-6.

A good sign was that Cliff Lee showed signs of mortality, a bad sign was that Yanks have had a severe power outage driven by Cano’s listless at-bats and Tex’s sudden rash of whiffing.  Damon and ARod have been the offset there, but the Yankee lineup thrives on the multiple threats shown to opposing pitchers all through the lineup which can support a weak outing by a Yankee starter and pummel bullpens late in games.  There has been plenty of late pummeling, not quite enough of it last night to pick up Burnett’s meltdown, but all indicators suggest that the Yankee bats are anything but through.  Look to Matsui to tip the scales in the Stadium.  Mark and Robbie have two games to find themselves or wear the tin bell.  It’s November 3rd and Andy Pettitte has only so much stopping power left in him. 

 

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Written by Ryan

November 3, 2009 at 4:53 pm

Damon Dastardly, Jorge Hollerin’, ARod Slammin’, Yanks Up 3-1

Yankees win.

Cliff Lee can not throw on three days’ rest, and as a result, Joe Blanton found himself on the hill facing the nuclear-powered Yankee lineup.  In the end he kept his team in the game to the tune of four runs and seven K’s over six innings, but cracks were driven deep into the Phillie bullpen and Brad Lidge (or, “Ledge” as coined by Uncle Sal) lost hold of a 4-4 tie in the ninth.

The action started early.  Derek Jeter led off with an infield single on a bounding ball to the hole between second and first.  Chase Utley got to it with a dive, but slipped coming back to his feet and didn’t get a throw off.  Johnny Damon went 2-0 before rifling a double to right field, moving Jeter, who had taken a conservative secondary lead off first base, to third base.  Mark Teixeira swung hard at the first pitch and shot a slider down the first base line, snagged far behind first on a nice play by Ryan Howard.  Jeter scored, Damon moved to third.  Alex Rodriguez was plunked on the first pitch, drawing a pause as he looked into his own dugout in disbelief.  The umpires converged and a warning was issued.  Joe Girardi contested the warning, rightly assessing that an early warning would hamper CC Sabathia’s ability to pitch in.  (Joe would later say in the in-game interview that the umps told him they would make a judgement call if CC were to nail a Phillie – and that leaving such a decision to the umpires’ judgement was “a little scary”.)  Jorge Posada came through with his own retaliation by sac-flying Damon in.  Robinson Cano would end the inning by flying out to center.

As in his first start, CC was a bit unsettled in the first inning.  Shane Victorino doubled to left field with one out on a fly ball that didn’t hang long enough in the air for a diving Damon to make the play.  Utley, who has legitimately owned CC this series, batted Shane in by bashing a double off the right field wall.  CC bounced back, striking out Ryan Howard.  After homer-happy Jayson Werth worked CC to 3-1 prompting an intentional walk on the fifth pitch, CC struck Raul Ibanez out on three pitches to end the inning.

Both starters burned through the second and third innings, allowing no runners.  Into the fourth inning, Blanton was on cruise control, using plate umpire Mike Everitt’s wide and low zone to sit an unhappy Posada down looking and Cano down swinging.  Momentum shifted subtly to the Phils in the bottom of the inning, as Howard led off with a single up the middle and then stole second as Posada fumbled the transfer from the glove to his throwing hand.  CC would heave the next two batters off his shoulders, grounding out Werth and flying out Ibanez.  Pedro Feliz lined a single to left, fielded on an in-between hop to a handcuffed Damon who “fired” home on a hop.  The ball got by Posada, who was likely hearing those very heavy Howard footsteps.  The replay showed that Ryan flew over the plate without touching it, but no one on the field picked that up and play continued with the run effectively ceded.  CC backed up the play and fired to second, but Feliz had already reached safely.  Hot-hitting eight-man Carlos Ruiz was intentionally walked to set up a safe force at second or third, but CC struck out the pitcher to end the inning.  The game was tied at two.

The Yanks returned fire immediately to support their Big Engine.  Nick Swisher drew a walk to lead off.  Melky Cabrera bounced a ball up the middle that was, once again, as with Jeter’s infield hit in the first inning, gloved by Utley, who, again, did not make a play as an attempt to glove-toss for a force at second sailed high over the bag, leaving Nick in scoring position with no outs.  CC fouled a bunt attempt, but drew back the bat on a ball outside that he didn’t like.  Everitt liked it, however, and CC was called for a second strike.  Attempting to bunt and force the issue on two strikes, CC spun the ball back off the plate foul for a strikeout, cursing loudly in frustration.  (Let the fancy-pants strike zone meter show that Everitt’s eyes became a little bit clearer after that at bat.)   Jeter stepped up and grounded a solid single through the middle, plating Swisher and grabbing a 3-2 lead.  Damon met the ball and floated a pop to shallow right that seemed to die and drop in midair, falling between Werth and Utley.  Melky was running from second all the way, and charged through a stop-sign to come in standing as Werth’s throw was not dead-on.  A bit of a reckless run it was, but a run nonetheless.  Holding third with one out and Tex and ARod coming up would probably have been acceptable, as both flied out which could have sacrificed in the run. 

The Phillies sensed an opportunity to counterpunch but their efforts fizzled in the bottom of the inning.  Jimmy Rollins led off with a single on a ground ball that Robbie Cano seemed to overrun.  Victorino walked on five pitches.  Utley, CC’s nemesis, thus stepped up with first and second and no out.  CC mustered all he could, and bravely popped out Chase and his bashmate Howard on six pitches.  Striking out Werth, Sabathia untangled himself and got the Yanks out of the inning.

Neither team would threaten in the sixth, eking out a baserunner apiece but no runs.  Chan-Ho Park entered in the top of the seventh and picked up where Blanton left off, retiring three of four Yankees.  CC entered the bottom of the seventh approaching his pitch limit, but pitched two hard outs to Rollins and Victorino.  Working Utley to 1-2 on low sliders away, CC left one up in the zone and Chase pummeled it for a solo drive.  Girardi pulled Sabathia for the lefty Damaso Marte, who got Howard to fly out and end the inning, but the Phillies had narrowed the gap to one run.

The Yankees would attempt an answer in the top of the eighth.  After an ARod strikeout, Posada worked a walk versus Ryan Madson, the new pitcher.  Robbie Cano dunked a pop single down the left field line just passed the glove of a sliding Rollins, who grabbed the ball off the ground quickly and came up to his feet to hold Posada at second base.  Madson beared down and K’d a wrongly-guessing Swisher looking at a mid-90’s heater right down the middle.  Brett Gardner, in for Melky who grabbed his hammy after grounding out in the sixth, popped out weakly and the Yankees were left stranded.

Joba Chamberlain entered the game in the bottom of the eighth with a head of steam.  He struck out Werth swinging at the high heat, touching high-90’s, and then struck out Ibanez on the same pitch.  Pedro Feliz zoned in on Joba, though, and launched a 3-2 fastball in to the left field seats to tie the game.  Joba reset himself, coming back and K’ing Ruiz on four pitches.  The Phillies were not going quietly, and Joba had another hard lesson for his notebook.

The game seemed headed for extra innings as pinch-hitter Hideki Matsui popped out and Jeter struck out in the top of the ninth versus Brad Lidge.  Up stepped Damon, who had that run in his feet and waggle in his bat that seems to indicate when he’s about to do something special.  Damon fought hard, fouling off anything near zone, from down 1-2 to a full count.  On the ninth pitch, Johnny made good-enough contact to drop a single in front of Ibanez in left.  The infield shifted for Mark Teixeira, hitting from the left side, and third base was left open.  On the first pitch, Damon stole second.  Feliz, the third baseman covering the second base bag on the shift, tried to fake like the throw went through but as he turned, Damon popped up, sensed an opportunity, and kept running to third base, racing away from Feliz’s glove as the fielder turned and realized that no one was covering the third base bag.  The play happened so fast that Lidge was no where in sight.  The heads-up move by Damon stunned the crowd and the Phillies on the field.  Lidge plunked Tex on the third pitch, setting up a force at second.  ARod wasn’t having it, though, ripping the second pitch to left field and one-hopping the wall with a run-scoring double.  Jorge sealed the deal, lacing a 2-2 fastball into the gap and scoring Tex and ARod before hanging himself up before reaching second and walking away from the inning.  But, the Yanks had a 7-4 lead, and Mariano Rivera was warm.  The Phils would go in order, Rivera logging a broken bat to Rollins and saving the game on eight pitches.

The Phils are on the brink and turn to ace of aces Cliff Lee, who is rested on four days and wants to build a legend on his magnificent showing in game one.  The Yanks counter with A.J. Burnett, who has jumped at the opportunity to finally put his name in the books next to a historical W.  Tonight sets up to be a game for the ages, in any case.

Written by Ryan

November 2, 2009 at 12:01 pm

Yanks Smash Hamels, Pick Up Pettitte, Series at 2-1

Yankees win.

The Yanks looked pretty powerful last night, bashing three home runs.  To the surprise of the baseball world, these Yanks can actually put the ball out of the yard, away from the “friendly wind currents” of the New Yankee Stadium.  And, even more to the surprise of the baseball world, Andy Pettitte has enough left in the tank to keep his team in the game – after a long career of ups & downs, revelations and admissions, through victory and defeat.  Andy got the win last, his bar-setting 17th postseason victory in 26 decisions.

After an hour and twenty minute delay, the game started and the Phils took the initiative immediately.  Cole Hamels mowed through the top three hitters on ten pitches.  Jimmy Rollins singled on Andy’s first offering.  Pettitte battled through deep counts to Victorino and Utley while working hard to keep Rollins on first – which didn’t work – before Ryan Howard struck out to end the inning.

The Yanks were again bullied through the second.  Hamels beaned ARod on the right thigh to start it off, but the Yanks wouldn’t reach base any further in the inning and went down quietly.  Hamels seemed in stride.  Jayson Werth stepped up in the bottom of the inning, and after Pettitte worked back to a full count after starting out 3-0, Werth buried a solo shot in the left field stands.  Andy came right back to strike out Raul Ibanez on a slider away, but his footing in the strike zone wasn’t sure.  Pedro Feliz doubled against the right field wall – a deep drive to be sure that Nick Swisher shied off as he approached the wall.  Pettitte walked the eight-hitter, Carlos Ruiz, on five pitches to bring up first-and-second and one out to Cole Hamels.  Cole squared and dropped a bunt that seemed to outrun Jorge Posada who could decisively field it.  Bases loaded, top of the order for the Phillies.  As with Ruiz, Rollins was walked on five pitches to score Feliz.  Shane Victorino swung through the first two pitches before flying to left and plating Ruiz.  Andy woke up, just in time, to strike out Chase Utley looking at a slider and leaving the inning down 3-0.

Both sides went down in order in the third, and up stepped the Yankees in fourth.  Mark Teixeira drew a one-out walk.  Alex Rodriguez slammed Hamels’ 0-1 offering to right field, first ruled a double off the wall which was challenged.  The replay revealed that the ball caromed off an overhanging TV camera, Alex touched third and home and the Yanks got on the board.  Let the record books show that the play would be the first overturned ruling with replay in postseason history – clearly, let the record books also show the camera loves Alex Rodriguez, who also had the first replay home run in regular season play.

The Yanks weren’t finished, and Hamels lost his grip in the fifth.  Nick Swisher led off with a hot shot double down the left field line.  Cole struck out Melky Cabrera swinging, bringing up Andy Pettitte.  Andy swung at Cole’s first pitch curveball, looping the ball in to center.  Swisher read it well, taking off immediately, and sliding hard and straight into a close play at the plate he scored to tie the game.  The Yanks weren’t done.  Derek Jeter swung at the first pitch and, like Andy, looped it to center.  Victorino attempted to stop it from dropping but no avail, he slid past it and the Yanks had first and second.  Johnny Damon laced an 0-1 fastball into the right field gap to double and score Pettitte and Jeter.  Four pitches after Cabrera’s K, the Yanks were up 5-3.  Hamels walked Tex, but lined out ARod and popped out Jorge Posada to end the threat.

Andy kept battling with his lead, sitting the Phillies down 1-2-3 in the bottom of the inning before giving up a monster solo blast to Jayson Werth in the sixth, his second of the night.  Joba Chamberlain and Damaso Marte would combine to pin the Phils down in the seventh and eighth, Joba very notably hitting 94mph on the gun consistently.  Phil Hughes would yield a home run to Carlos Ruiz before Mariano Rivera would enter and finish the game, getting two outs on five pitches.

The Yanks tacked on insurance, scoring a single run in the sixth, seventh, and eighth.  Swisher, who has found his bat after Jerry Hairston started in his place the game before, blasted a solo home run.  Posada singled in Damon.  Hideki Matsui, in to pinch hit for the pitcher Chamberlain, socked an opposite field solo shot.  It was the final nail in game three.

The Phillies will see if their four-man rotation was a wise decision, tonight at 8pm.  CC Sabathia will again take the hill on three days rest, and hopefully the somewhat shaky-yet-gutsy performance in the first game simply was a slow turn before the charge through to the home stretch.  If nothing else goes right for the Yanks in Philadelphia, they will still come home to Yankee Stadium and the friendly currents.

Written by Ryan

November 1, 2009 at 2:19 pm

Highly Influential Pitching Great Tossed Aside; Yanks Win

Yankees win.

A.J. Burnett left the field last night in the bottom of seventh inning last night, his face showing focus and determination, as he had fought the Phillies to every batter and pinned them down for one barely earned run on four scattered hits.  This was nothing short of a clutch showing for the unpredictable two-man.  The line will show nine strikeouts (including four to RBI-monster Ryan Howard) and two walks (one of them issued intentionally to Chase Utley). 

Pedro Martinez left the field grinning at the raucous Bronx crowd in the the seventh inning, but any good card player would surmise that the smile was a tell.  The Yanks got to him good.

Burnett started off right, pounding a first-pitch strike to his first eleven batters with a knife-edged fastball.  The Phils scored in the second to take the lead.  Raul Ibanez dropped a two-out pop down the left-field line that landed on the chalk just passed a sliding Johnny Damon and kicked into the stands for ground-rule double.  Matt Stairs followed with a whizzing one hopper that Alex Rodriguez couldn’t glove – the scorer called it a hit, while the camera showed the hop grazing the webbing of his mitt and the footprints show that Alex barely had to move to his left.  The run clearly charged the crowd with a quiet tension, as the in eleven innings of World Series play the Yankees had yet to score an honest run and hold an honest lead.  That tension seemed to evaporate in the fourth inning, and it was the humble Jose Molina (who started for Jorge Posada because of A.J.’s comfort level with Jose) who deserves some credit.  Jayson Werth led off the inning with by lining a 3-2 fastball into right for single.  A.J. was clearly bothered by Werth’s presence, throwing over twice.  On 1-1 to Ibanez, A.J. bounced a curve in, which Molina gloved surely.  Jose came up suddenly, and snapped a throw down to first behind the head of the lefty Ibanez, who flinched in surprise.  Werth was caught way off base in his secondary lead, not imagining that Molina would take such a risk with Ibanez screening what should be the lane of the throw.  Mark Teixeira swept the tag into Werth, who didn’t even have time to think of getting dirty.  The crowd roared alive, and two outs on three pitches later, the Phillies would take the field to an atmosphere that no longer favored them.  Immediately, Mark Teixeira stepped to the plate leading off the bottom of the fourth, and jumped all over Pedro Martinez’ first offering, launching a solo drive into the back of the right field bullpen that the Phillies outfielders didn’t even bother tracking.  The sense of turnaround in the stadium was made even more tangible, because Tex had been quiet as of late, because so much had been made of Pedro being unstoppable, because they Yanks hadn’t sniffed a lead since Game 6 of the ALCS, and because the home run was such a blast.  Tex would later pay for the blast by getting plunked on the knee in the eighth, but he finished the game without evidence of serious injury.

The starters continued to duel through a 1-1 tie.  Pedro looked sharp starting off the bottom of the sixth, striking out Tex swinging over a 2-2 curveball and striking out ARod swinging through a 1-2 changeup.  He quickly went up 0-2 versus Hideki Matsui, who had also been quiet at the plate as of late, with two belt-high fastballs that Hideki passed on.  A changeup went low for a ball.  Pedro tried the back door on 1-2, but Hideki tracked the curve and fouled it off.  The next pitch curved down and in to the quiet slugger, and it landed in the right field seats just beyond the wall.  Yanks up 2-1. 

Yanks would add insurance in the seventh, when Jerry Hairston – who was inserted into the lineup because of his +.300 lifetime average versus Martinez – cued a single out to right.  Finishing the night at 1-for-3, Hairston was lifted for Brett Gardner.  Melky Cabrera faked a bunt on the first pitch.  On the next pitch, Gardner took off and Melky executed the hit-and-run, lining a single out to shallow right.  Brett dove into third before Werth’s strong throw bounced in.  Martinez was lifted for Chan Ho Park.  The next batter, Posada, pinch-hit a run-scoring single to grab a 3-1 lead.  After an inexplicable Derek Jeter two-strike bunt attempt that was fouled for an out, the Yanks could have piled on more.  A blown call on a Johnny Damon short-hop to Howard led to a double-play decision against the Yankees.  Clearly, two outs were robbed from the Yanks by shotty umpiring.  The hop to Howard was ruled a line drive caught, and Howard threw to Rollins who tagged Posada, who was standing on the base, rightly believing himself safe.  Girardi argued the call, made by the first base umpire Brian Gorman who was behind Ryan and out of a good line of sight, to no avail.

Mariano Rivera would come in and hurl 39 pitches for the two-inning save.  The Phils threatened briefly in the eighth inning, when Mo issued a one-out walk to Jimmy Rollins and Shane Victorino followed it with single.  Mariano battled Utley to a 3-2 count.  Phillies manager Charlie Manuel held the runners, wary of a potential double-up on a line drive (such as was just seen the inning before) with Utley hitting well and Ryan Howard on deck.  Utley hopped a shot to Cano, who wheeled and fired to Jeter at second, who leaped and threw and tumbled over Shane’s hard slide to complete the double-play.  The replay will show that Utley may have been wronged at first, but after the dubious double-play that ended the previous inning, perhaps umpire Gorman was feeling somewhat obliged to make a call the Yankees’ way.  In any case, the Yanks were out of the inning, and besides a two-out Ibanez double in the ninth, would threaten no more.

Notch up this win to A.J. Burnett, who could easily be written for seven innings and no runs.  Joe Girardi deserves credit for playing the binder with Hairston, and then when the parts clicked, acting on encouraging signs and making the right moves.  After the bullpen melted down in Game 1, it was a good sign.  The series moves to Philadelphia.  Girardi will need to wall off a hostile crowd, play the book, and keep his focus.

Written by Ryan

October 30, 2009 at 12:07 pm

Cliff Lee Is A Machine

Yankees lose.

CC Sabathia put in a noble effort, but Cliff Lee was unstoppable last night.  There is no way to understate the feat of dominance exerted by last year’s AL Cy Young pitching for the reigning champions.  It was a nine-inning masterpiece, a scattering of six hits and one late run versus ten strikeouts.  Lee riveted 3-4-5 to the wall, striking Tex and Posada out two times apiece and ARod thrice.  Only Derek Jeter seemed to maintain poise at the plate, rocketing a double down the right field line in his second at-bat and singling twice, finally coming around to score on an error in the ninth and averting the formalized embarassment of a shutout.

It was clear early on the Sabathia didn’t have his stuff, but as usual, the big lefty battled through to the late innings while only yielding two runs.  Twice CC worked Chase Utley to two strikes, twice CC missed a spot with belt-high fastballs over the inside part of the plate, and twice Utley pulled the ball out of the park.  Twice CC would bounce back to strike out the next batter Ryan Howard, but the Yanks would not recover.  Phil Hughes came in fresh for the eighth inning and immediately put runners on, walking Jimmy Rollins and Shane Victorino.  Joe Girardi brought in lefty Damaso Marte, who, surprisingly enough, struck Utley out looking and then induced a fly out to right from Ryan Howard, leaving first and third and two outs.  Girardi then went to rookie David Robertson, who walked the bases loaded and then gave up two runs on a Raul Ibanez single through the right side before grounding out Ben Francisco to end the inning.  Phillies up 4-0 in the eighth inning, the feeling that Cliff Lee would not give up much ground sank in to the Bronx faithful.  The Phils would tack on two more runs on three hits off Brian Bruney and a double off Phil Coke, who ended the inning when Shane Victorino was thrown out at the plate.  The Yanks briefly showed some fight in the bottom of the ninth as Derek Jeter led off with a single and Johnny Damon followed suit.  Mark Teixeira grounded to second but Jimmy Rollins’ DP throw sailed away from Howard, allowing Jeter to score.  Lee beared down yet again and struck out ARod and Posada swinging, killing the Yankee threat and ending the game, 6-1.

This game was all about Lee, who stalked the mound icily while fielding his position non-chalantly and skillfully, at one point snagging a Cano shot up the middle behind his back and tossing to first for the out, at another point letting a nubber fall into his outstretched glove for an out without moving a step from his follow-through position.  Let the videotape record for posterity that as he sat in the dugout in the top of the ninth inning, Cliff showed not a drop of sweat. 

Tonight, A.J. Burnett takes the hill with what should be a chip on his shoulder to face ageless veteran Pedro Martinez, who seeks to continue is postseason circus act and add another chicken feather to his cap.  The Yanks, at one point or another, need to give themselves a shave and a gut check.  They must come out swinging early, or A.J.’s pitch count will skyrocket and the iffy bullpen will forced to take on more than they would handle.  Tip of the cap to Cliff Lee, but with Pedro’s history and all the times he’s been faced, there is no reason the Yanks can not come together and figure him out.  Get in the game, fellas.

Written by Ryan

October 29, 2009 at 10:13 am

Yankees Take Stock; Lock and Load

It’s a turnpike series!  Expect lousy weather.  It’s the worse time of the year for baseball in the Northeast, half-warm, half-cold, windy, and soggy.  Kids, thank Bud!  Saving grace here is that the teams are seperated by just a three-hour busride up and down I-95, which, one would think, should make start times logical and reasonable to the fan.  We’ll see about that.

What gives the Yankees the edge, if there is one, against the awesome Phillies?  Throughout the playoffs, the Yanks held good-hitting opposition to less than three runs per game.  This is critical.  The starters, led by ALCS MVP CC Sabathia, had a combined ERA of 2.55 while working an average of 6 2/3 innings per start and striking out 7 batters per 9 innings.  These numbers are distorted by a bad first inning out in LA for A.J. Burnett – which is typical of the kind of unpredictability we know to expect from A.J.  The relievers, led by Mariano Rivera, were even stingier with runs to the tune of a 2.28 ERA and 8 K’s/9 innings.  The bullpen did bear the responsibility of the two losses, and tallied a 1.55 WHIP – perhaps showing weakness in keeping runners off the bases.  We’ve only seen three innings pitched by hot-handed David Robertson, while Joba Chamberlain and Phil Hughes have been anything but dominant.  It remains to be seen whether or not Joe Girardi can stoicly execute the right moves late in the game.

In the field, the Yanks have not made an error in eight of nine games (outside of when the cold, hard ground sparked 3-error flare-up for Cano and Jeter in game 2 of the ALCS, a game which was ultimately won) while the opposition has made a total of six.  There has been some sparkling play on the right side.  Robbie Cano has ranged out to the left and right to deliver pitchers from more than a few late-inning jams, while Nick Swisher was instrumental in capitalizing on the unusually high number of the opposition’s baserunning blunders with accurate and decisive throws.  Of course, there is always Mark Teixeira scooping, leaping, tagging, and stretching.  You can give an assist to Mick Kelleher, the infield coach, as the Yanks seem always to be in position to make a play with runners on.  Derek Jeter is Derek Jeter. 

At the plate, the big story is Alex Rodriguez shaking the monkey off his back but the box scores show a shared load, the Yanks delivering from many spots in the lineup and primarily using their multiple power threats to put runs on the board.  Johnny Damon, Mark Teixeira, and Robbie Cano have shown signs of life versus the Angels, while Hideki Matsui slumps.  Derek Jeter is Derek Jeter.  Melky Cabrera has been hot out of the bottom of the order, and is making Nick Swisher’s rough patch and the absence of Xavier Nady not so difficult to bear.  Hopefully, Joe Girardi will start using speed to his advantage – which he has yet to do.  The many times that he has pinch-run in late innings, it has either backfired or was not really leveraged to the fullest.  The Yanks are just 3-3 in stolen base attempts (that includes an Angels pitchout that nailed Brett Gardner), and did not even attempt to hit-and-run in the playoffs, which counters what we saw in the regular season over any given nine-game stretch. 

As we’ve known since last season, Girardi will have to occasionally put the clipboard down and use some common sense and intuition to summit the mountain.  He has shown a bit of rookie nerves, but ARod being hot and CC being money have picked him up.  How long that can stand versus a Phillies team that bangs at every level is anyone’s guess.  If anything will keep the Yankees firm, it’ll be the players – and if the players have a leader, it’s Derek Jeter, and if he has champion, it’s Mariano Rivera.  What else can be said.

Written by Ryan

October 27, 2009 at 12:21 pm

Yankees Take the First Pennant at the New Yankee Stadium

Yankees win.

World Series Schedule.

Tomorrow: series preview.

Written by Ryan

October 26, 2009 at 12:44 pm