Monday, June 16, 2014

David Phelps' Pitching Was the Weekend's Highlight. No, I'm Not Kidding.

If you had told me before the Yankees' weekend series away to the Oakland Athletics that they would win only one game, I might have believed it. If you told me it would be the one started by David Phelps, I would have said, "Go home, you're drunk." Yet that's exactly what happened.

On Friday night, Phelps was brilliant, holding the team with the best record in the American League, in their own house, to no runs on 2 hits and 3 walks for 6 2/3 innings. Dellin Betances and Jose Ramirez were perfect the rest of the way.

But no matter how good your pitching, you need runs. The Yankees led off the game with a single by Brett Gardner, another by Derek Jeter, another by Jacoby Ellsbury, and a sacrifice fly by Mark Teixeira. 2-0. In the 2nd inning, Brian Roberts singled, Kelly Johnson walked, and Gardner singled. 3-0.

It was still that close in the 8th, but then the Yankees put it away. Teixeira and Brian McCann singled. Carlos Beltran hit a sac fly that got Teix to 3rd. Ichiro Suzuki beat out a hit that scored Teix. Roberts singled home McCann, and reached 2nd on a mishandled play at the plate that allowed Beltran to score. Johnson closed the scoring by singling home Roberts.

Yankees 7, A's 0. WP: Phelps (2-4). No save. LP: Sonny Gray (6-3).

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Unfortunately, that was the highlight for the Yankees. On Saturday, the Yankees got only 3 hits: A double by Johnson, and singles by Gardner and McCann. They couldn't do much against Met castoff Scott Kazmir, who has seen his career turn around this season.

Meanwhile, Hiroki Kuroda is looking more and more like a pitcher approaching his 40th birthday (which he is). He didn't get out of the 5th inning.

A's 5, Yankees 1. WP: Kazmir (8-2). No save. LP: Kuroda (4-5).

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And then it was the Vidal Nuno show. A comedy -- if you're a Yankee-Hater. Nuno had been better lately, but he stunk it up yesterday: 8 runs in 3 innings. Ramirez allowed 2 more in the 4th. 10-0.

I've seen the Yankees come back from big deficits before, including a 9-0 game against the Texas Rangers in 2006, that they won 14-13. But it was not to happen this time, in spite of home runs by Beltran (his 6th of the season) and Gardner (his 5th).

The only good thing I can say about this game is that Shawn Kelley, Adam Warren and Matt Thornton were good in relief, between them pitching 5 innings and allowing no runs, 1 hit and 1 walk. If we had gotten that kind of pitching in the first 5 innings, we probably would have been all right.

A's 10, Yankees 5. WP: Jesse Chavez (6-4). No save. LP: Nuno (1-3).

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And so, with 11 weeks gone in the 26-week baseball season, here's how the American League Eastern Division looks:

Toronto Blue Jays 41-30
New York Yankees 35-33, 4 1/2 games back
Baltimore Orioles 35-33, 4 1/2
Boston Red Sox 31-38, 9
Tampa Bay Rays 27-43, 13 1/2

The Division has been turned upside-down. The Jays' Playoff run that so many predicted for last season has come true this season. While the Yanks, O's and Rays (especially the latter 2) are struggling.

In spite of this, the Yankees are still only 3 games back in the All-Important Loss Column.

The Yankees have a travel day today, and come home to start a big 6-game homestand, with 3 each against the Jays and O's. Taking 4 out of 6 could be a key to getting back on track. Anything less, and our hopes for postseason play will take a big hit.

Come on you Pinstripes!

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