Saturday, June 16, 2012

Girardi Fails to Kill Me, Yankees Win In 14


Perhaps I spoke too soon.  The National League East isn't THAT easy.  Especially the up-and-coming Washington Nationals.  (I won't say they've already come, because that would indicate they've made the Playoffs.  They may, but not yet.)

But just because they're making the Yankees work for it, doesn't mean it isn't getting done.

Last night, Phil Hughes refused to go veggie.  He brought the meat.  He pitched 6 innings, allowing 1 run on 6 hits and 2 walks, striking out 9.  Cody Eppley and Clay Rapada each pitched an inning of scoreless relief.

David Robertson, thankfully, returned from the Disabled List.  He was a little rusty, allowing a run, but that ended up not mattering.

Because the Yankees took the lumber to the Nation's Capital.  Curtis Granderson hit his 20th home run of the season, and he and Derek Jeter hit RBI doubles.  Yankees 7, Nationals 2.  WP: Hughes (7-5).  LP: Gio Gonzalez (8-3).

Actually, Gio, rumored to be a Yankee target last winter, didn't pitch all that badly.  It was Brad Lidge, who relieved him, who let the game get out of hand.  So perhaps the Phillies were right to get rid of Lidge, but wrong to get rid of Raul Ibanez.

*

Then today, Andy Pettitte took the hill, having turned 40 yesterday.  Funny, but he didn't pitch like an old man.  Not so much as one knuckleball.  Andy pitched 7 innings, allowing 2 runs on 5 hits and 3 walks, with 6 strikeouts.

But it wasn't enough, because, this time, not enough lumber.  The Yankees led 2-1 going into the bottom of the 8th, but Cory Wade blew Pettitte's lead.

The game went to the bottom of the 9th, and Joe Girardi trusted a tie game in the bottom of the 9th to Boone Logan.

I am 99 percent sure that Joe Girardi does not know I exist, or that this blog does.  So why is he trying to kill me?

Maybe he's not, because Logan, after being a disaster in 2010 and 2011, has pitched pretty well this year.  He got through it, and his ERA for the season is now 2.31.

Yes.  Boone Logan.

The game went on.  And on.  And on.  The Yankees went down 1-2-3 in the 10th.  And in the 11th.

In the 12th, with 2 out, Mark Teixeira reached 2nd on a throwing error.  This led the Nats to walk Robinson Cano intentionally to set up a force play and bring the pitcher's spot to the plate.  Remember, National League park, National League rules, no designated hitter, the pitcher must bat or you must bring up a pinch-hitter.

And who did Girardi bring up to pinch-hit? Chris Stewart.  A 30-year-old catcher from California.  Who had 54 major league plate appearances going into the 2011 season.  Whose lifetime batting average is .280.  Whose lifetime on-base percentage is .270.  Whose lifetime slugging percentage is .286.  Who's got 20 RBIs and 35 strikeouts.  For his entire freaking career.

Stewart struck out.  The pitcher he was pinch-hitting for, Cody Eppley, has made 28 big-league appearances and has come to the plate exactly zero times.  Would he have done any worse than striking out? No.  Theoretically, he could have grounded into a double play, except that there were already 2 out.

Joe Girardi, I know you can't make the National League give up their monumentally stupid aversion to the DH.  But if your options are leaving in a pitcher who's gotten 5 outs on just one baserunner (a walk), and bringing up a pinch-hitter whose best season in pro ball was SEVEN YEARS AGO IN DOUBLE-A, damn it, leave the pitcher in.  Sure, Eppley COULD have struck out.  But Stewart DID.  And the odds were every bit as much against him as they would have been against Eppley -- maybe more so, since we have ABSOLUTELY NO IDEA of what Eppley can do at the plate, since he's never been there.  He literally could not have done any worse!

At any rate, the Yankees also went down 1-2-3 in the top of the 13th.

Ah, but the bullpen did pretty well.  Once Wade gave up the run that tied the game in the 8th, just 5 more baserunners -- 3 hits, a walk and an error -- were allowed the rest of the way.  Logan pitched the 9th.  Clay Rapada and Eppley did just fine in the 10th.  Eppley got through the 11th.

Then came the move that got a lot of Yankee Fans more nervous than bringing in Logan.  Since Girardi pinch-hit for Eppley, he had to bring in someone new to pitch the 12th.  And it was Freddy Garcia.

This was actually a good move, since Garcia is a starter, and hadn't pitched in 11 days, so he certainly wasn't tired.  If this game went another 6 innings, he could well have been just what the doctor ordered.  And he pitched 2 innings, with only an error (not his fault) in the 13th blotting his record.  That runner got to 3rd base with 2 outs, but Freddy got out of it.

Then came the top of the 14th.  And the Nats brought in Lidge.  Has it really been so long since, counting all 3 rounds of the postseason, he was 48-for-48 in save opportunities in 2008?

Apparently so.  The first batter he faced was Jayson Nixon, who beat out an infield single and stole 2nd.  Jeter singled, but Nix could only get to 3d.  Granderson struck out, but there was still 1st and 3rd with 1 out. All we needed was a fly ball.

Teix gave us more than that, sending a drive to right that landed for 3 bases (though only credited as a double, since he advance to 3rd on the throw to the plate).  Both runners scored.

Girardi sent Rafael Soriano out to finish it up in the bottom of the 14th.  He got Adam LaRoche to fly to left, but gave up a single to Jesus Flores, bringing the tying run to the plate.  Steve Lombardozzi -- if the name sounds familiar, his father, also named Steve, was the 2nd baseman for the 1987 World Champion Minnesota Twins -- singled Flores to 2nd.

Now the tying runs were on, and the winning run was at the plate.  And pretty much everybody was used.  The only pitchers on the roster who hadn't been used were starters: Hughes (who'd gone 6 the night before and thus had 21 hours' rest), CC Sabathia , Hiroki Kuroda, and tomorrow's intended starter, Ivan Nova.  With Mariano Rivera out for the season (and, if available, he would've been used earlier in the game anyway), it was Soriano or an emergency situation.  Not much of a choice.  Maybe Girardi should have left Garcia in.  After all, he let Garcia bat for himself in the top of the 14th, after the runs were scored, and he certainly wasn't injured.

After a mound conference, Soriano pitched to Danny Espinsoa.  Soriano got him to fly to right.  Two outs, but still a man on 2nd, the tying run on 1st, and the winning run at the plate.

And that batter was Bryce Harper, the most-hyped young player of the season.

Soriano got him to ground harmlessly to Cano.  Whew.

Ballgame over.  Yankees win.  Theeee Yankees win.  5-3 in 14.

WP: Garcia (1-2).  SV: Soriano (12).  LP: Lidge (0-1).

The series concludes tomorrow afternoon, with Nova starting against Edwin Jackson.  Then the Yankees come home, but Interleague play continues as they start a series with the Atlanta Braves.

*

No, the Yankees didn't have it easy.  But they've now won 8 straight, all against NL East teams, and 17 of their last 21.

The Yankees now have the 2nd-best record in baseball, trailing only the Los Angeles Dodgers.  Going into games played tonight, they lead the American League Eastern Division by 2 games over the Baltimore Orioles, 3 over the Tampa Bay Rays, 6 1/2 (7 in the loss column) over the Toronto Blue Jays, and 8 over the Boston Red Sox.  And since the worst record of these teams is the Sox being just 2 games under .500, the Yanks have not achieved this against an easy schedule.

The Magic Numbers to eliminate the other teams are: O's 96, Rays 95, Jays 91 and Sox 90.

Derek Jeter now has 3,173 career hits.  Alex Rodriguez has 2,839 hits, 161 away from 3,000.  He still has 639 home runs, 61 from 700 and 129 from a new record.  He has 1,924 RBIs, 76 from 2,000 and 374 from a new record.

*

Days until the Red Bulls play again: 1, tomorrow night, at the Chicago Fire.  They got knocked out of the U.S. Open Cup, our equivalent to England's FA Cup, in the 4th Round.  I guess they didn't care enough to try.


Days until the Red Bulls next play a "derby": 8, against D.C. United at home, a week from tomorrow night, on Sunday night, June 24. They next play the New England Revolution at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts, on Sunday night, July 8. They next play the Philadelphia Union on Saturday afternoon, July 21, at Red Bull Arena.
Days until the next Yankees-Red Sox series begins: 20, on Friday, July 6, at Fenway Park in Boston.  Under 3 weeks.
Days until Chelsea play Paris Saint-Germain at Yankee Stadium: 36, on Sunday night, July 22.  A little over 5 weeks.  Although the old Stadium hosted plenty of soccer games, concluding with the North American Soccer League's New York Cosmos in 1976, this will be the first match in the new Stadium.  They had trouble fitting a football field in there, so I don't know how they're going to fit a "football pitch."
Days until the 2012 Olympics begin in London: 41, on Friday night, July 27.  Under 6 weeks.
Days until the Red Bulls play Tottenham at Red Bull Arena: 45, on Tuesday night, July 31.  I won't call this preseason match a "friendly," because it's The Scum.  At least I won't have to watch Harry Redknapp twitching in shorts, like I did when they visited for the 2010 New York Football Challenge.
Days until AC Milan play Real Madrid at Yankee Stadium: 53, on Wednesday night, August 8.  Unlike Chelsea vs. PSG, I really would like to see this one, but will so many Italian-Americans in the Tri-State Area, and probably more of them being fans of Milan than of any other Italian club, this may be tough to get a ticket for.
Days until Arsenal play again: Unknown, as the Premier League announces its schedule -- sorry, forgot to "speak English" there, releases its fixture list -- for the upcoming season this Monday, and the new season always starts on the 2nd Saturday in August -- meaning that they next Arsenal match (excluding preseason friendlies) will probably be on August 11, which is 56 days from now.  Exactly 8 weeks.  Though it could turn out to be the next day, Sunday, August 12.
Days until the next North London Derby: Unknown. As I said, the fixture list hasn't been released yet. But it almost certainly won't be in the opening game. "Derbies" rarely lead off a season.

Days until Rutgers plays football again: 77, on Saturday September 1, at the Superdome in New Orleans against Tulane University. Not exactly a rivalry game, although Tulane was founded by a Princeton man. And thus, in 11 weeks, will begin the Kyle Flood Era. Good luck...

Days until East Brunswick High School plays football again: 83, on Friday, September 7, home to South Brunswick.  Under 12 weeks. I'm glad it's a home game: It's always good to open the season at home, and South Brunswick is particularly tough to get to: Despite the distance, it's not close to public transportation. But that's the only thing I have against them: Though they are neighbors, they are not rivals.

Days until the U.S. National Soccer Team plays again: 87, on Tuesday night, September 11, against Jamaica, at Columbus Crew Stadium in Ohio.  Under 3 months.  Sadly, by then, Jurgen Klinsmann will still be the manager.  Which is a bad thing, because he cannot pick a lineup! Sack him, Sunil Gulati! Better yet, let him get the vacant job at Tottenham! I know they hate him there, because of his poor play there in the 1990s, but, screw it, they deserve each other!
Days until the Devils play again: Unknown, as the 2012-13 NHL schedule has yet to be released. Opening Night will most likely be the first Friday in October, which would be the 5th, so it can't be any sooner than 111 days from now.
Days until the Devils play another local rival: Also unknown, due to the schedule not yet having been released.
 
Days until the first Nets game in Brooklyn: Unknown, as the 2012-13 NBA schedule has not yet been released. The season usually starts in late October, so we're talking about 130 days or so. A little over 4 months.
Days until the 2012 President election: 140, on Tuesday, November 6.  Under 5 months. Register to vote... and on November 6, vote!

Days until the next East Brunswick-Old Bridge Thanksgiving clash: 159.  Under 23 weeks.  Come on you Boys in Green! Beat those Purple Bastards!
Days until Alex Rodriguez collects his 3,000th career hit: 410 (estimated around August 1, 2013).  Presuming he doesn't get hurt, less than 14 months.
Days until Super Bowl XLVIII at the Meadowlands: 596 (February 2, 2014)  Less than 20 months.

Days until Alex Rodriguez hits his 700th career home run: 688 (estimated).

Days until Alex Rodriguez hits his 756th career home run to surpass all-time leader Hank Aaron: 1,523 (estimated).

Days until Alex Rodriguez hits his 763rd career home run to become as close to a "real" all-time leader as we are likely to have: 1,568 (estimated -- estimating 28 home runs a year, and he might get it by the close of the 2016 season, maybe around October 1, at age 41).

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