As I charted the pitches Josh Beckett threw tonight, one thing stood out as the game went on: The Yankees weren’t showing much patience.
Five at-bats were over in one pitch. Four lasted two pitches and seven were over in three pitches. In all, 16 of their 33 plate appearances against Beckett were over in three pitches or less. They drew no walks for only the fifth time this season.
This is most uncharacteristic of the Yankees, who are second in the AL in walks, first in pitches seen and third in pitches per plate appearance. They are usually a very methodical team.
Joe Girardi tried to pass it off as coincidence. But several players said it was the team’s strategy to attack Beckett early in the count, particularly his fastball. Beckett tries to get ahead with his heater then uses his excellent secondary pitches to put hitters away.
The Yankees had to try something different. Beckett had thrown 13 shutout innings against them in his last two starts.
Derek Jeter hit a first-pitch fastball for a home run to start the game. Hideki Matsui did the same thing in the second. Jeter’s single in the third inning that sparked a two-run rally came on the first pitch. Mark Teixeira’s RBI single in that inning was on the second pitch.
The five homers Beckett allowed were the most ever. “An ass-whipping,” he said several times afterward.
Hitting coach Kevin Long smiled when I asked him about the strategy and politely declined comment. They Yankees could face Beckett again next month and maybe again in October and he didn’t want to give too much away. The cat-and-mouse game between these teams never ends.
But the division race may be over. The Yankees lead by 7.5 games with 38 games left to play. They are Secretariat at this point. The only race left is with the Angels for home-field advantage.
A few other notes and/observations:
• CC Sabathia is 5-0, 2.65 in his last five starts. He has fanned 39 and walked five in his last 37.1 innings. If you have any further questions about his being an ace, keep them to yourself.
• The Yankees are 37-28 on the road and have won 10 of their last 13 away from the Bronx. That suggests a mental toughness that will serve them well in the playoffs.
• Jeter has 2,701 hits. He needs 21 to break the franchise record held by Lou Gehrig.
• You certainly know that the Yankees lead the majors in home runs. But as Joel Sherman of the Post pointed out on Twitter tonight, the Yankees lead the majors with 84 on the road. It isn’t all Yankee Stadium.
• The Yankees have won 15 of their last 17 series, 10 of 11 since the break.
• This seems impossible to be true. But before hitting four home runs this weekend, Matsui had only two in 41 previous regular-season games at Fenway Park.
• I’m joking, of course. But the Yankees should consider jaking it against the Rangers this week. Wouldn’t you rather face the wild-card Rangers in the first round of the playoffs than the Central Division champs? The Tigers and White Sox have much better starting pitching.
That’s it for now. The team has a day off tomorrow and I’m going to follow suit. There will be a few posts but nothing too involved is planned. Thanks for the turnout this weekend.