June 2010

Expectations High, Results Higher…

 

Wow!…

 

 


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It was probably the most anticipated start in major league baseball for as many years as I can recall.  I don’t remember a time when a rookie was as hyped as Stephen Strasburg was this year.  I know the opponent was only the Pittsburgh Pirates, but it is still a team of major league players.  Strasburg was brilliant despite the incredible pressure of high expectations.  He matched the season high in strikeouts for any pitcher by striking out 14 batters (Max Scherzer of the Detroit Tigers struck out 14 on May 30th against the A’s).  It was also the highest strikeout total in a pitching debut since James Rodney Richard of the Houston Astros in 1971 and Karl Spooner of the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1954.  Strasburg went 7 innings until he was lifted for a pinch hitter, allowing only 4 hits and 2 runs.   Matt Capps closed out the game to give Strasburg his first major league victory in his first major league start.   I’d say expectations were met…

 

 

Washington Nationals starting pitcher Stephen Strasburg warms up before his major league debut against the Pittsburgh Pirates in a baseball game in Washington, Tuesday, June 8, 2010.

Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP

 

I am happy for the Washington Nationals and their fans.   The Expos/Nationals have historically been the Los Angeles Clippers of Major League Baseball.  Great baseball players have passed through the organization, but too often they achieved their greatest successes elsewhere.  However, they’ve finally started to collect good, young talent and are the new Tampa Bay Rays.  Their future is very bright, and Strasburg gives the team a leg up on everyone else.   Five years from now, when many current stars will be fading or retired, Strasburg should be at the top of the heap with the Nationals, with an outfield that include 2010 #1 overall pick Bryce Harper, and primed for championships.

 

I have to admit that I was a bit disappointed with the Yankees first round selection in the 2010 MLB Draft.  They selected a player that did not appear on any mock draft boards and wasn’t targeted to be selected until possibly the 4th or 5th round.  When his name was read, an internet search yielded nothing.  Cito Culver/RHP.  I was surprised that the Yanks would go for a high school pitcher, but later reports indicated that his name was actually Christopher Culver (Cito is his nickname) and he was drafted as a shortstop.  It’s possible that he may be Derek Jeter’s future replacement.  Before the draft, I had heard that the Yankees had intended to go for the best player available.  Given that Culver is a New York-area player, I am hopeful that the lack of praise for Culver is the product of a very astute Yankees scouting department and not simply a reach for a player with potential promise.  Time will tell…

 

 

Yankees draft table first round Gene Michaels Roy White

Mike Stobe/Getty Images

 

Oh yeah, the Yankees did play a game tonight.  Granted, the Yankees generally struggle against lesser teams but the next two series involving the Baltimore Orioles and the Houston Astros should serve the team well as they start revving up the momentum for interleague play which ultimately leads to Dodger Stadium.  Behind Phil Hughes, the Yankees defeated the O’s 12-7.  Hughes’ performance wasn’t quite Strasburg-like, but it was enough to win his 8th game of the season.  He only went 6 innings, giving up 9 hits but only 3 runs, and struck out 4.  Kevin Millwood (0-7) continued his no-luck pitching for the O’s in taking the loss. 

 

 

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Getty Images

 

If it is possible to blow a 9-run lead, Chad Gaudin did his best to try.  He allowed a two-run homer to Adam Jones in the 8th, and gave up a two-run scoring double in the 9th.   Personally, I thought that Manager Joe Girardi let Gaudin pitch too long and if it were up to me, I would designate Gaudin for assignment after the game.  Just like he did for Oakland, he has done nothing for the Yanks and is occupying valuable roster space. 

 

 

 

Unfortunately, both the Boston Red Sox and the Tampa Bay Ray won so no ground was gained in the AL East standings. 

 

Oh well, tomorrow is a new day!  J

 

 

Road Trip Blues…

 

Not that we need further evidence, but the Yanks are clearly better at home…

 

 


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Next to the Baltimore Orioles, the Yankees have the word road record in the AL East.  By salvaging the last game of the three game set with the Blue Jays in Toronto, the Yankees are 16-15.  By comparison, the Tampa Bay Rays hold a road record of 22-8.  The Yankees have the best home record in the division at 19-7 but they do need to figure out how to win on the road if they intend to be successful.

 

The Yankees had been playing great until their arrival in Canada.  Friday night’s loss was abysmal as the Jays battered their former teammate, A.J. Burnett.  Saturday, the problem wasn’t pitching as Andy Pettitte was great; it was the lack of hitting and scoring.  Credit Jays’ pitching but they kept the Yankees off the board in extra innings before they prevailed in the bottom of the 14th inning, 3-2.  Mark Teixeira had one of his worst games with 5 strikeouts.

 

 

Mark Teixeira, striking out, against Mets

Andrew Mills/The Star Ledger

 

The losses made Sunday’s game a “must-win” if there is such a thing in June.  After losing ground to both the Jays and the Boston Red Sox, the Yankees needed to turn the tables.  Early on, it was a stellar pitching duel between Toronto’s Brandon Marrow and New York’s Javier Vazquez. 

 

Javy had a no-hitter going into the sixth inning.  With two outs, he walked Adam Lind which brought Vernon Wells to the plate.  Wells homered in what would be the only hit off the day off Vazquez for a 2-0 Jays lead.

 

Vazquez breezed through the bottom of the 7th inning with three up and three down.  His day would be finished thanks to what would happen next.  In the top of the 8th inning, the Yankees broke through for four runs and their first lead of the game. 

 

Francisco Cervelli and Brett Gardner were both hit by pitches to start the innings (Cervelli by Morrow; and Gardner by Scott Downs).  Derek Jeter made the Jays pay for their miscues with a run-scoring double.  After Nick Swisher struck out, the Jays intentionally walked hitless Mark Teixeira (why?).  With the bases now loaded, Gardner scored on a Jason Frasor wild pitch.  After Alex Rodriguez struck out, Robinson Cano came up with the hit of the day when his single scored Jeter and Teixeira.  The Yankees would need those extra runs as the Jays would close the gap to 4-3 in the bottom of the frame when former Yank Jose Molina scored on a single by Fred Lewis.  Joba Chamberlain, who had started the 8th in relief of Vazquez, needed help from Damaso Marte to get out of the inning but it was Mariano Rivera and “game over” in the 9th.

 

 

 

Mariano Rivera

AP

 

The Yankees now head to Baltimore for a series against the Orioles at Camden Yards.  Since they last saw the O’s, the O’s have a new manager (Juan Samuel, replacing the fired Dave Trembley) and they are no longer mired in a long losing streak thanks to today’s 11th inning walk-off win against the Boston Red Sox.

 

Boston Globe

 

Hopefully, the Yanks can shake their road doldrums and end the current road trip on a high note.

 

Following the trip to Baltimore, the Yankees will return home for the continuation of interleague play.  They’ll see the Astros, Phillies and Mets before heading west for a trip down memory lane.  On June 21st through 23rd, they’ll be in Phoenix to face the Arizona Diamondbacks.  It is the scene of two of the worst baseball games I’ve ever personally attended, Games 2 and 6 of the 2001 World Series.  Then, in the climax of interleague play, they’ll be in Chavez Ravine on June 25th through 27th to confront old friends Joe Torre and Don Mattingly, and the Los Angeles Dodgers.  It should be a thrilling month, but PLEASE, work on the road record! 

 

 

Reuters

 

 

The Machine is Moving Again!…

 

When the season started, Andy Pettitte and Phil Hughes were 4th and 5th in the starting rotation.  It’s the 2nd of June, and both pitchers stand with 7-1 marks.  Given the struggles that Javier Vazquez has experienced and to a lesser degree, A.J. Burnett and CC Sabathia, Pettitte and Hughes are the primary reasons the Yankees are in the thick of the AL East chase.  With Vazquez starting to pitch much better and knowing that Burnett and Sabathia will come around, the pitching potential for the remainder of the year is very bright. 

 

Today’s game was an all-around team effort as most of the starters played a role in scoring.  Mark Teixeira was 0-for-5 but it was a success to have him on the field given the ball he took off the foot yesterday causing him to exit that game prematurely.  Hughes went 7 innings, giving up 6 hits while striking out 7 in the 9-1 victory over the Baltimore Orioles.  Chad Gaudin pitched 2 innings of scoreless relief. 

 

The game also marked the return of Jorge Posada who was penciled in at DH.  Posada was 1-for-3 with a run scored. 

 

The hitting star of the game was, of course, Robinson Cano.  Robby went 3-for-4 with 2 RBI’s.   He also hit his 12th home run of the season in the 7th inning.  He is batting .373 for the season and has been superb batting 5th behind Alex Rodriguez in the batting order. 

 

Both Boston and Tampa won again tonight?  Bummer! 

 

In a statement of the obvious, Armando Galarraga of the Detroit Tigers threw the third perfect game of the season even if the record books won’t show it.  Unfortunately, first base umpire Jim Joyce blew a call in the 9th inning when he ruled Cleveland’s Jason Donald safe at first even though Miguel Cabrera’s toss to Galarraga beat Donald to the bag.  Galarraga settled for the one-hitter, but it was the perfect game with the imperfect umpire.  “I just cost that kid a perfect game,” the ump said after the game. “I thought he beat the throw.  I was convinced he beat the throw, until I saw the replay.”

 

I was saddened to see Ken Griffey, Jr.’s decision to retire today.    Until he left Seattle for Cincinnati, Junior was on track to have a historic career.  Injuries took their toll on Griffey during the Cincinnati years and he was never the same.  He departs with 630 career home runs, but he would have been in the land of Ruth, Aaron and Bonds had he stayed healthy.  I wish Junior the very best in his post-playing career.  Thanks for the memories! 

 

Well, it is once again time for another wager with Julia of Julia’s Rants.  We had hoped for a Stanley Cup Final involving her Boston Bruins and my San Jose Sharks.  However, both teams fell victim to the number 4 in their respective conference finals.  The Sharks were swept 4 games to none by the Chicago Blackhawks, while the Bruins blew a 3 games to none lead on the Philadelphia Flyers.  Nevertheless, our respective NBA teams have made it to the finals so it gives us the opportunity to place another bet.  Besides Julia needs a team other than the Red Sox if she ever hopes to win a wager again!  ;)  Seriously, if the Boston Celtics win the championship, I will be the not-so-proud recipient of a Celtic championship t-shirt and of course proof will have to appear on my blog.   If the Los Angeles Lakers win, Julia will be seen wearing a purple and gold championship Lakers t-shirt.  For me, this is about revenge given the Lakers’ loss to the Celtics two years ago.  Kobe Bryant has had a tremendous career, but he needs a championship victory over Boston to add to his legacy.  So, here’s hoping that Kobe and the gang are victorious in their championship drive!  Let’s go Lakers! 

 

–Scott

Spell Vazquez with a W!…

 

It took a few times for the formula to work…

 

 


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Finally, the pitching combination of Javier Vazquez-Joba Chamberlain-Mariano Rivera proved to be an effective…and winning…one in the Bronx as the Yankees defeated the Baltimore Orioles, 3-1.  It was a great performance by Vazquez who picked up his 4th win in 9 decisions.  The defining moment came in the 7th inning when the O’s had the bases loaded with only one out.  Vazquez struck out Adam Jones, and induced a Julio Lugo ground out to end the threat. 

 

I did find it interesting when Yankees radio commentator Suzyn Waldman made the comment that Lugo wasn’t the player he was a few years ago when he was with the Boston Red Sox.  If memory serves correctly, Julia of Julia’s Rants was simply saying that Lugo wasn’t a player let alone the player he was.  At any rate, he proved his current ineffectiveness which is either a testament to the great start by Vazquez or his own ineptitude.  I’d like to think it was the former.  I’ve been down on Vazquez, but I am thrilled to see him have some success.  Granted, as Julia was quick to point out, it’s only the Orioles, but still, you have to start somewhere.  Hopefully, Javy is able to parlay this start and the few other good ones he’s had in the past month into something closer to his 2009 form with the Atlanta Braves. 

 

 

Javier Vazquez Yankees White Sox

Christopher Pasatieri/Newsday/MCT

 

Javy was the gracious beneficiary of an error by Miguel Tejada that led to two runs in the bottom of the 7th inning.  With the game tied at 1 after Vazquez escaped the bases loaded jam, his night was most likely done as Joba Chamberlain was warming up in the bullpen during the bottom of the frame.  So, the timely runs gave Javy the well deserved victory.   He struck out 7 batters, while allowing only 4 hits.  All-in-all, it was a great night for Vazquez. 

 

Fresh off Saturday’s disaster against Cleveland (when he allowed the Cleveland Indians to overcome a 6-run deficit), Joba Chamberlain was perfect in the 8th inning with three up, three down.  The final act, of course, was played by Mariano Rivera.  He did allow a single, but the runner never advanced beyond first base, and Mo left with his 11th save of the season.

 

Injury-wise, it was, once again, a costly win for the Yanks.  Despite Derek Jeter’s return after getting hit in the hamstring against Cleveland on Monday, Mark Teixeira left the game after three innings after he took a foul ball off his foot in the first inning.  Hopefully, he’ll only a miss a game or less. 

 

Curtis Granderson may not be able to hit lefties, but that didn’t stop him from hitting a homer off lefty Brian Matusz in the second inning.  Very nice! 

 

It was a good win by the Yankees, and they should be in good shape with Phil Hughes on the mound tomorrow against the O’s Brad Bergesen.   Failure is not an option.  At least not in the Yankees Universe!  J

 

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