Thursday, August 22, 2013

Ichiro, Sori & Huff, Good; Nix's Hand, Bad

There was bad news for the Yankees last night: Jayson Nix, the previous night's hero, was hit by a pitch and got his left hand broken.  He could miss the rest of the season, thus taking away his occasionally good bat, his frequently good speed, and his reliable defense.  (Translation: Losing Nix means more Eduardo Nunez.  That's NunE6 or NunE5.)

The pitcher who hit him was R.A. Dickey.  A knuckleballer.  With no history of hitting batters on purpose.  And with no history of animosity with the Yankees.  So I think we can reliably call this an accident.

Of course, Dickey has another problem, one he didn't realize with the Mets in his Cy Young Award season last year, but that the Toronto Blue Jays' other 2 big acquisitions from the National League have also realized: Pitching in the American League is hard.

The Yankees made it 3 straight over those pesky Blue Jays, coming through with 2 runs in the bottom of the 8th to win, 4-2.

With yesterday having a rainout-forced doubleheader, the Yankees needed an emergency starter.  Adam Warren, normally a reliever, pitched the first 3 innings, and was a little shaky, allowing 2 runs on 4 hits and 2 walks, including a home run to Josh Thole, who also came to Toronto in the Dickey deal, and hadn't hit a home run since April 29, 2012, and had a grand total of 7 in 1,118 career plate appearances before that.

(The Dickey deal got the Mets 4 players, 2 of whom, John Buck and Travis d'Arnaud, are helping them at the moment.  Not much, because the Mets still stink, but those 2 are doing their part to clear the smell.)

David Huff came in, and pitched innings 4 through 8, and allowed no runs on just 1 hit -- albeit with 4 walks.  If a single starter had done what Warren and Huff did -- 8 innings, 2 runs, 5 hits, 6 walks -- we'd have gladly taken it.  Huff got the win (1-0), and if this is what he's capable of, maybe we should consider him for the rotation.  (Today is his 29th birthday, so he's not really a "prospect" anymore.) At the very least, we should consider making him our regular lefthanded reliever, so that we can finally give Boone Logan the unconditional release he has so richly earned.

Dickey didn't pitch badly, getting into the 8th having allowed just 2 runs, on an Austin Romine sacrifice fly in the 2nd and a Curtis Granderson single in the 3rd.  But with 2 out in the bottom of the 8th, Cano singled, and Alfonso Soriano blasted a home run.  (His 26th of the season, his 9th in just 101 plate appearances for the Yankees.) When Mariano Rivera came in and slammed the door for his 37th save, it made a losing pitcher out of Dickey (9-12).

Notable in this was a single in the bottom of the 1st by Ichiro Suzuki.  It was the 2,722nd hit of his major league career, moving him past Lou Gehrig on the all-time list.  Combined with what he did in Japan, that's an even 4,000.

Granted, the level of play in Japan is about at America's AAA ball, but, still, this makes Ichiro only the 3rd player ever to reach 4,000 hits combined between such a level and the major leagues.  The other 2 are Ty Cobb and Pete Rose, and they weren't exactly good guys.  Ichiro is as close as you can come, outside of Mariano and Derek Jeter, to being universally admired in baseball.

When he started out in North America, with the Seattle Marinres, he was hyped like crazy, and I said he wouldn't last.  I called him "Fluky Suzuki." Boy, was I wrong: His lifetime batting average is .320, he topped out at .372, broke George Sisler's single-season record with 262 hits, 5 times has had at least 224 hits in a season, has a career OPS+ of 112, has stolen 470 bases, including 5 seasons with at least 40 steals, topping out at 56 in his rookie year, and has won 10 Gold Gloves.

They may not elect Hideki Matsui to the Baseball Hall of Fame based on his combined effort in America and Japan.  With Ichiro, such a combination is not necessary: He's in based on what he did here.  (Unless, of course, they find out he used steroids or that he bet on games.  Both of those are incredibly unlikely.)

The 4-game set with the Jays concludes this afternoon, with Andy Pettitte starting against J.A. Happ, whom you might remember from the 2009 World Series against the Phillies.  This will be Andy's 45th career start against the Jays, the most against any team.  After the game, the Yankees head down to Tampa to take on the future Orlando, Carolina, Norfolk, Utah or Portland Rays.

Come on you Pinstripes!

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