Thursday, August 20, 2015

Yanks Sweep Twins, Greg Bird Is No Joke


The Yankees sent Nathan Eovaldi out to face the Minnesota Twins in the finale of a 3-game home series yesterday afternoon. "Nasty Nate" lived up to his name for 5 1/3 innings, allowing no baserunners, and leading some Yankee Fans to think "no-hitter," or even "perfect game."

It was not to be. He allowed 3 runs in the top of the 6th, giving the Twins a 3-2 lead.

The Yankee runs came in the bottom of the 4th, on the 1st major league home run by rookie 1st baseman Greg Bird. Yankee radio announcer John Sterling could have gone with, "The Bird is the word!" Instead of early rock, he went with slightly earlier Broadway: "Bye, bye, Birdie!"

Sterling really has to get with it. We've got players who aren't old enough to remember when Derek Jeter wasn't the Yankee shortstop.

Fortunately, Twins manager Paul Molitor brought our old friend Eduardo Nunez back in the bottom of the 6th, doing a rare quadruple switch, moving Nunez to shortstop, Eduardo Escobar from there to left field, Shane Robinson from there to right field, and Eddie Rosario to center field, where Aaron Hicks had been, and putting Nunez in Hicks' place in the batting order.

What Molitor did not do was replace starting pitcher Ervin Santana. He got the 1st 2 outs, but then he walked Carlos Beltran.

Up came "the Birdman of New York," another early 1960s reference for John Sterling. And up, up and away went his 2nd major league home run. 4-3 Yankees, which held up as the final score.

WP: Eovaldi (13-2). He's won his last 10 decisions, and aside from that 6th inning, he allowed just 1 baserunner. SV: Dellin Betances (8). LP: Santana (2-4).

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After the game, Santana, the 1st major league player who ever followed me on Twitter, and still the only one -- why, and whether he still will after he reads this, only he can say for sure -- made a complaint that others have made, that Yankee Stadium II is too much of a hitter's park.

He blamed himself for Bird's 1st homer, but, of his 2nd, he said, "The other one was a very good pitch, out and way, and he just hit it very good. I know, probably in another park that's a double. But here, it's a joke."

Now, technically, he didn't say The Stadium itself was a joke. Rather, he implied that it was a joke that the particular drive becoming a home run was a joke.

He's a major league ballplayer, and he's certainly entitled to his professional opinion.

Bird's 1st homer went 384 feet. His 2nd went 420 feet. Either would have been a home run in just about any ballpark in the major leagues.

Frankly, I'm not sure why he was complaining about the longer homer. Wouldn't it have made more sense to complain about the shorter one?

I could point out that, for 21 years, the Twins played at Metropolitan Stadium, which was very hitter-friendly; and that, for the next 28 years, they played at the Metrodome, which was so hitter-friendly it was known as the Homerdome. This is their 6th season in Target Field, and, guess what? It's a hitter's park, too.

According to this chart by ESPN, Target Field favors hitters more than pitchers by 1.4 percent. This makes Yankee Stadium only 6 percent more hitter-friendly. Coors Field in Denver is rated as the best hitter's park in the majors (favoring hitters by a whopping 38 percent, due to the city's high elevation), Progressive Field in Cleveland as the best in the American League. AT&T Park in San Francisco is rated as the best pitcher's park (favoring pitchers by 21 percent), with Angel Stadium in Anaheim as the best in the AL.

Fenway Park in Boston, Camden Yards in Baltimore, and Globe Life Park in Arlington are also rated as hitter's parks; Safeco Field in Seattle, the Oakland Coliseum, and Petco Park in San Diego are rated as pitcher's parks. None of those is surprising. Wrigley Field in Chicago is rated as a pitcher's park, which is surprising until you remember that, half the time, the infamous Wrigley wind blows in.

The one caveat I have about the chart is that Citi Field is rated as a hitter's park, favoring hitters over pitchers by 3 percent. Since it opened in 2009, it's nearly always been described as a tough park in which to hit. (Unless you're the Yankees. They seem to hit fine there.) Other than that, it looks accurate to me.

At any rate, it says Yankee Stadium favors hitters by 7.4 percent. I'm fine with that. And it's not like this was a secret when Santana took the mound yesterday. He knew going in that the place favored hitters. Maybe next time, he'll remember this, and adjust his pitching accordingly, throwing more off-speed stuff to induce grounders instead of fly balls.

And it appears, for the moment, that Greg Bird is no joke. Maybe he'll become a great Yankee, or maybe he'll flame out quickly like Steve Whitaker, Dan Pasqua, Kevin Maas and Shane Spencer. For however long he lasts as a big name on the Yankees, I'm going to enjoy it.

Despite my jealousy. This guy is young enough to be my son, and he already has 2 more home runs in Major League Baseball than I'll ever have.

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So the Yankees swept the series, and with the Philadelphia Phillies beating those pesky Toronto Blue Jays last night, the Magic Number to clinch the American League Eastern Division drops to 40. The Baltimore Orioles shocked the Mets with a walkoff win at Camden Yards last night, so their elimination number remains 39. The Tampa Bay Rays, 35. The Boston Red Sox, 30.

The Yankees remain at home. Tonight, they start a 4-game series with the Cleveland Indians. Ivan Nova starts against Josh Tomlin.

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