Pitching: LHP Andy Pettitte (14-7, 4.11)
Pitching: RHP Jeff Niemann (12-6, 3.94)
TIME: 7:08, YES.
WEATHER: Other than a few cowbells and bird noises, pretty temperate.
STATE OF THE STRIPES: The Yankees look to keep Andy Pettitte and A.J. Burnett in top form after Friday’s night rough start for CC Sabathia (2.2 IP, 9 R, 8 H, 5 BB). Pettitte takes the ball tonight. Pettitte has lost just once since July 25.
HIGH TEIX: Mark Teixeira, who is tied for first in the AL with 39 HR and first in RBI with 121, is only the third first-year player in club history to reach those power totals. You may know the others: Babe Ruth (54 HR, 136 RBI) in 1920 and Jason Giambi (41 HR, 122 RBI) in 2002.
THE 900 CLUB: The Yanks now have 902 runs, marking the 16th time in franchise history they have scored 900 or more. It’s also the third time this decade.
DELIGHTING IN THE LONG BALL: Juan Miranda jacked his first homer of his career last night. It also happened to match a team milestone. The homer was No. 242 for the club, matching its previous high set in 2004. It is their ninth 200-homer season this decade. That said, Elias Sports Bureau says the Yankees haven’t ended a season as MLB’s outright home run champ since 1961 (read: Maris and Mantle).
(FADING) RAYS OF LIGHT: The season is almost over for last year’s darling, but Friday night was a record-setting one for the Rays. The otherwise disappointing B.J. Upton went 5 for 5 with six RBI and hit for the cycle. He was the first player in franchise history to hit for the cycle; tied the club record for hits; and set a career-high for RBI. … The Rays also became the eighth team in MLB history to win 180 games over two seasons after losing 180 the two seasons before.
HANDICAPPING THE AL CENTRAL: In the Who-Plays-The-Yankees race, Detroit sends rookie Alfredo Figaro (1-2, 5.74) against Chicago’s Freddy Garcia (2-4, 4.78), while the Twins, down a game, send Nick Blackburn (11-11, 4.08) on three-days rest against Kansas City ace and future Cy Young winner Zack Greinke (16-8, 2.06).
UPDATE, 6:27 p.m.: Wow, things are getting awfully tight in Minnesota, where the Twinkies squandered a 4-0 lead on the Royals. This much you cannot dispute: If they throw away a four-run lead against Zack Grienke and lose, they may want to forget about tomorrow.
Down here in St. Pete, as the Yankees await their opponent, pregame news turned to Joba Chamberlain, who will likely pitch out of the bullpen tomorrow, Joe Girardi announced today. Is it in preparation for serious October bullpen work or an audition to prove he warrants a postseason roster spot? And are those two mutually exclusive or one in the same?
Stay tuned. Audio to follow shortly.
UPDATE, 6:40 p.m.: Girardi pregame audio has arrived. It’s 13 minutes long, and about eight minutes in he talks about deploying Chamberlain out of the bullpen tomorrow and what it would mean for the coming week:
UPDATE, 6:42 p.m.: Twins win, 5-4. It won’t be decided today — or without Justin Verlander.
UPDATE, 7:18 p.m.: Just want to set up a few things to expect personnel-wise tonight.
Pettitte is on the same 85-90 pitch count that Sabathia was on yesterday before ineffectiveness changed things. … Also, Girardi would like to use Aceves and Gaudin tonight after pitching the majority of his key relievers on Friday. … Expect many of the regulars in the lineup to take two or three at-bats before heading to the bench. … Robertson will almost certainly pitch tomorrow. He has felt healthy since returning but has yet to pitch twice in a three-day span. “I want to see how he bounces back,” Girardi said. “He’s had no issues, which is good, but you want to make sure.”
Two more quick items: Although it seems set in stone, Girardi said he wants to see which opponent the Yanks will face before deciding on his Game 2 starter. Obviously the Twins are much more left-hand dominant than the Tigers. … Also, the audio may be tough to hear at times. That’s because the workout was attended by a few dozen minor leaguers, who were in Tampa for a workout today and were invited to the game by the club. Several (if not most) of them had pictures taken with players, especially Jeter and A-Rod. Girardi received plenty of love, too.
UPDATE, 8:22 p.m.: Are you worried about Johnny Damon? He has not homered since Aug. 30th and has now whiffed 18 times in his last 83 AB. He told us today he has taken his walks (14 over that same span), but the hits have not been there.
Damon mentioned the expanded strike zone the Yankees have seen in these recent meaningless games, which has led to him swinging at pitches he simply shouldn’t swing at. But how long has this been a factor? Maybe a week, tops.
That said, Damon is an experienced October hand who, if healthy, may find himself invigorated by postseason baseball. After all, he has 180 postseason ABs already, more than both A-Rod and Matsui.
Anyway, here’s what Johnny said: “I’ve been in this situation before. It might be a blessing that this slump is going on right now. Hopefully that means a lot of hits are coming my way, hopefully on Wednesday. I feel great (physically). I’ll just keep plugging and try to get that perfect swing again.”
UPDATE, 9:05 p.m.: The line on Pettitte — 4.1 IP, 6 H, 5 R, 3 ER, 4 BB, 1 K. He left in line for the loss, which would be his second in three starts. His last — on Sept. 21 in Anaheim — is his only loss since July 25.
Pettitte threw 95 pitches, a few more than Girardi said he would. He probably didn’t deserve to allow five runs (thanks to a bad throw by Aceves), but Pettitte struggled with location. He walked four and threw just 54 pitches for strikes.
UPDATE, 9:53 p.m.: So I’ve been working on the story about Joba for tomorrow’s paper. Question: Because he has pitched so well in relief (48 Ks, 9 BB, 23 H in 35.1 IP — 1.02 ERA) would you trust him in the playoffs?
I think it’s interesting because fans have very fairly deemed him untrustworthy as a starter. Any faith he can flip that switch?
UPDATE, 10:13 p.m.: White Sox win, AL Central is tied.
What a collapse by Detroit. Verlander must save the day.
In other news, Yankees drop their third straight, lose 5-3 to the Rays. Nothing too exciting happened, but I’ll have plenty of postgame tidbits to report. Check out for news updates on Twitter at LoHudYankees.