Friday, June 6, 2014

Tanaka Keeps Yankees Going, Big Roadtrip Ahead

Yesterday's finale of the homestand, an afternoon game at The Stadium Mark II vs. the Oakland Athletics, seemed to prove what Connie Mack, manager of the A's in their Philadelphia days, tried to teach us: "Pitching is 75 percent of baseball."

In 1985, Billy Martin led a team whose staff was Ron Guidry, an old but still effective Phil Niekro, Dave Righetti, and 9 pitchers named Dennis Rasmussen to 97 wins. When reminded of Mack's words, he said, "Connie Mack lied."

No, the Grand Old Man of Baseball didn't lie. But he did neglect to mention how important the other 25 percent is. If you don't score more runs than your pitcher, however effective, allows, you will lose.

Masahiro Tanaka has been the difference, thus far, between the Yankees being just over .500 and the Yankees being well under .500. With him, the Yankees can rebound and make a Playoff charge; without him, we would be royally screwed, at least until CC Sabathia and Michael Pineda can come back (if, indeed, they can come back this season, as we still hope).

Tanaka went 6 innings yesterday, allowing 1 run on 5 hits, including a 1st-inning home run by John Jaso. Pretty effective for 2/3 of a game.

But he threw 104 pitches over those 6 innings, and Joe Girardi, instead of thinking for himself and saying, "He's pitching well, leave him in," did it by the book -- the book being his binder, and said, "He's thrown too many pitches, I have to take him out."

No, he didn't have to take Tanaka out. But, once he'd done that, he did have to bring in the other pitcher who has pretty much kept the Yankees afloat so far: Dellin Betances. Betances pitched a perfect 7th inning.

Then Girardi turned to Adam Warren, who has been very inconsistent. Warren did well, though, pitching a scoreless 8th.

But you gotta score runs. If your pitchers allow 1 run, you gotta score at least 2.

It helps to get a break from your opponents. With 1 out in the bottom of the 2nd, and the A's already leading 1-0 on Jaso's homer, Brian McCann singled to left, and Brandon Moss bobbled the ball, enabling McCann, as slow as he is, to get to 2nd. Alfonso Soriano, perhaps realizing that a strikeout would not be the end of the inning, instead actually hit the ball, and singled McCann home to tie the game. And Brett Gardner led of the bottom of the 3rd with a home run, his 4th of the season.

David Robertson has been a bit sketchy lately, and with a 2-1 lead over the team with the best record in the American League at the moment, there was reason to worry. But he dispelled that reason, and slammed the door in the 9th.

WP: Tanaka (9-1). SV: Robertson (13). LP: Drew Pomeranz (5-3, who pitched pretty well, and if he were pitching against anyone other than the Yankees, I'd say he deserved a better fate).

The Yankees now begin a long roadtrip: 4 games in Kansas City, 3 in Seattle, and 3 in Oakland. They won't play another home game until June 17, by which point the World Cup will be underway, the NBA Finals may be over (Game 6 would be played on June 17), and the Stanley Cup may well have been awarded (Game 7 would be played on June 18).

Twelve days, 10 games -- and Tanaka can only start 2 of them.

Time to suck it up: If we can get through that series having won 6 of 10, we'll be in good shape. We'll need it, as the next opponent is those pesky Toronto Blue Jays, currently leading the AL Eastern Division.

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