Pregame notes: Planning for the next four • 09.19.10
Joe Girardi created today’s lineup with an eye toward next week. The Yankees come home to a four-game series against the Rays, and then a three-game set against the Red Sox. Girardi did not want to play Alex Rodriguez 13 days in a row, and he wanted to give Mark Teixeira as much of a break as possible. Today, he said, seemed like the best day to give them a break, even though it meant losing two big bats at once.
“You have to be able to separate each guy,” Girardi said. “If you get caught up in not being able to separate each guy, that’s how you can get into trouble. You look at each case individually. Sometimes you have to do it. It’s hard, but as I said all along, you have to be smart about this and make sure these guys are healthy.”
Teixeira has been hurt for a long time now, and Girardi said it’s actually the bruised hand more than the broken toe that worries him.
“I’m hoping to not have to miss any more,” Teixeira said. “I think that’s why we’re giving it today.”
Rodriguez came off the disabled list exactly two weeks ago. You could argue that Rodriguez is hitting really well, which means Girardi is being too cautious. Or you could argue Rodriguez is hitting really well, which means Girardi’s plan is working.
“My thought process is we need him to be healthy, so we have to be smart about it,” Girardi said. “It’s hard to sit him because you want to see him out there every day, but right now that’s not something we can do, and we understand that. The big thing is that we keep him productive when he’s in there, and healthy.”
• Nick Swisher has another game at DH. “We’ll shoot for getting him in the outfield some time this week,” Girardi said.
• Andy Pettitte is scheduled for 80 to 85 pitches. “If we can get six innings out of him I would be thrilled,” Girardi said.
• With Pettitte back, the Yankees seem to have their five-man rotation for the rest of the year. “We’ll let the season dictate what we’re going to do,” Girardi said.
• As of right now there are “no plans” to have Phil Hughes skip another start.
• Although he’s been able to mix-and-match at the back of the bullpen, Girardi acknowledged what was becoming fairly obvious: He has a new setup man. “They’ve kind of settled in a little bit,” Girardi said. “We’ve been using Woody mostly in the eighth. The other guys are kind of interchangeable in the sixth and seventh, including Boone in there.” Girardi said he Kerry Wood as his eighth inning guy will “probably” continue from here on out.
Associated Press photo of Rodriguez
Postgame notes: Yankees finally bounce back • 09.15.10
This was shaping up to be perhaps the most deflating loss of the road trip. The Yankees six-run lead had disappeared in one disastrous fifth inning. They’d come back to tie in the sixth, but they’d also stranded the bases loaded that inning. They hadn’t had a base hit in the past three innings, and they’d already burned through those reliable setup men they were missing on Monday.
“If you lose the game, yes, it could have been tough,” Jorge Posada said. “But we won.”
Curtis Granderson made his diving catch to end the ninth, then Posada came off the bench to leadoff the 10th with a fly ball that no center fielder was going to catch. B.J. Upton gave chase for a few steps, then stopped and watched.
“On a road trip when we’ve had some real disappointing losses, that’s a huge home run,” Joe Girardi said.
It’s a little hard to believe the last time Mariano Rivera pitched was that blown save in Texas. Rivera allowed the lead-off single to Carl Crawford, but Posada very nearly threw Crawford out stealing second. Instead, the big throw belonged to Greg Golson, who nailed Crawford trying to go second-to-third for the final out of the game. Alex Rodriguez lifted his glove in the air, Brett Gardner started jumping up and down and Robinson Cano ran out to right field to high-five a September call-up.
In the end, it was that kind of night. After all of the disappointment of the past four days, this was euphoria: A brilliant catch, a clutch home run, renewed perfection from the game’s greatest closer, and an unbelievable throw a guy who spent most of the year in Triple-A. On a road trip when everything had gone wrong for the Yankees, things finally went right.
Here’s Girardi’s postgame.
• The New York Post was the first to report that Mark Teixeira has been playing with a broken toe in his right foot. “It’s just pain,” Teixeira said. “I think the biggest thing for me is I haven’t been able to work out. I haven’t been able to do extra work. More defensively, moving side to side is a little tough.”
• Teixeira broke his toe on August 31 against Oakland. Doctors have told him it won’t get better until after the season. “I didn’t think we would have him the next day,” Girardi said. “He said, ‘No I’m fine. I’m ready to go.’”
• I’ll admit, I never thought Granderson had a chance to catch that ball in the ninth. Not once. Not until it was in his glove. “At the last minute it’s the only way I’ve got a chance to make a play on it, I’ve got to leave my feet,” Granderson said. “It was good to go ahead and end the inning and get out of that.”
• Rivera had perhaps the funniest take on Posada’s home run: “That’s a good shot. That’s a big shot. It was one run only. Too bad.”
• Golson said he never though Crawford would tag up on the fly ball to right, but he heard Granderson yelling, “He’s tagging! He’s tagging!” As Girardi said, you have to give a lot of credit to Rodriguez for making the great scoop and tag, but it’s ultimately the throw that made it happen. “Everybody in the dugout is pulling for the same thing,” Golson said. “Especially the past few days, we want to pick up a little bit of momentum. To be able to help out any way you can, that’s huge.”
• Boone Logan gave up the big home run in the fifth. After that inning, the bullpen went five innings, allowing only the Crawford single off Rivera. They walked one and struck out seven. Chamberlain-Wood-Robertson is really a dominant right-handed trio.
• Speaking of the pen, Kerry Wood pitched today despite pitching three of the past four days. According to Girardi’s rules, Wood shouldn’t have been available. “Kerry’s a little bit more experienced,” Girardi explained. “He’s a little bit older. He’s been through more. He’s more mature.”
• Girardi said Logan was available because he faced one hitter yesterday. “I’ll check with Booney, but I probably won’t use him tomorrow,” Girardi said. “That’s just the nature of the game.”
• Ivan Nova said he lost some focus in the fifth inning. “After the home run I started thinking, I’ve got to be more perfect,” he said. Nova had been terrific for four innings, but his night fell apart in a big way. “I thought he got caught up with the runner at second a little bit,” Girardi said. “He just lost his location a little bit. He was so good for the first four innings and he got in trouble in the fifth and he couldn’t seem to get the third out.”
• Girardi on why he didn’t bring Boone Logan to face Matt Joyce: “The choice is Nova vs. Joyce or Boone vs. (Sean) Rodriguez because they’re going to pinch hit Rodriguez. I liked what (Nova) did the first two at-bats against him and went with that. He got kind of a jam shot on a fly ball to left field that Kearns almost caught, and I decided to make the change after that.”
• Andy Pettitte’s final rehab start: 5 IP, 6 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 4 K. Girardi didn’t quite commit to Pettitte starting on Sunday. “That’s something we’re going to have to discuss and see how he feels on Thursday, which would be his throw day,” Girardi said.
• Some more picture from tonight are in our daily Yankees online gallery.
Associated Press photos
The first five Orioles reached base tonight. Aside from one walk — when Felix Pie swung at two of the first three pitches — none of those at-bats lasted more than three pitches.
“They were just aggressive, swinging early and it kind of took my aggressiveness away,” CC Sabathia said. “(I was) trying to be aggressive in the strike zone, and they were swinging early. They put some good swings on some balls.”
Of course, there’s a way to adjust to that aggressiveness, but Sabathia had trouble making the change.
“Just try to get them to chase a little bit more,” he said. “Throw some offspeed pitches early in the count. I pitch off my fastball, and I just wasn’t able to get offspeed pitches over for strikes early in the count.”
Most of the early hits were pretty weak, but as Sabathia said, the Orioles hit some balls hard off him too. Bottom line, Sabathia didn’t have it tonight. You don’t expect it from a guy like him, but it happens. No. 20 will have to wait.
“Sometimes when you give some hits off the end of the bat, it can be just not quite exactly where you want it,” Joe Girardi said. “I didn’t think he threw terrible, I didn’t feel that. I just felt it wasn’t quite down in the zone as much as we’re used to seeing.”
• Sabathia had not lost a game at Yankee Stadium since July 2 of last year, a streak of 21 undefeated starts. He remains tied with Whitey Ford for the longest undefeated streak of starts by a Yankee at any stadium.
• This was Sabathia’s second career loss against the Orioles.
• Lance Berkman matched his season high with three hits. He reached base to leads off three innings but scored only once. He’s 8-for-16 since coming off the disabled list. “We liked the way he was swinging the bat right before he got hurt, too,” Girardi said. “I think he just started to get comfortable before he got hurt, it was unfortunate that he got hurt and I think he’s just kind of carried it over.”
• Alex Rodriguez is hitless in 11 career pinch hit appearances.
• Girardi on the decision to not let Rodriguez play the field: “I hadn’t planned on putting him in the field. I just wanted to make sure he was OK after he came out. I had talked about him pinch hitting and that would be it tonight. I didn’t pinch run for him just in case his spot comes up again in the inning. He’s not the tying run. At that point, we still have some runs to get.”
• Girardi on the goofy seventh inning that saw a 6-4 force out and a 5-6-4 force out: “I don’t fault our base-runners. I think you have to be smart about it. You get a popup that’s probably going to be caught most of the time and it’s not caught. You can’t have Curtis (Granderson) being doubled up the other way. You have to play it somewhat cautious. Then you get Alex hitting a line drive to the third baseman that he doesn’t catch. It’s just some bad luck on our part.”
• Girardi and Derek Jeter were both actually happy with the way the Yankees hit against Jake Arrieta. Girardi said the Yankees hit into some bad luck. “Early on we hit a lot of balls hard, but a lot of balls right to some people,” Jeter said. “After that, he seemed to settle down. He worked quick, threw strikes and we couldn’t get much going.”
• Curtis Granderson is the Yankees nominee for the Roberto Clemente Award for sportsmanship and community involvement.
• As you’d expect, Sabathia said the idea of reaching 20 wins never entered his mind today.
• Kerry Wood. Still really, really good since coming to the Yankees. He’s allowed one earned run and struck out 20 in 16.2 innings.
• Two more hitless innings from Chad Gaudin. The guy who was cut in spring training has been pretty good in that long role.
• The Yankees are the only team in the Majors that has not lost four straight games this season.
• Jeter on the Yankees three-game losing streak: “We’re right back here in a couple of hours. There’s ups and downs and you ride them out. Hope that the highs last a while and the lows are over quick. We don’t have much time to think about this one.”
Associated Press photos of Sabathia and Berkman
Familiar questions resurfaced this afternoon, but the Yankees seem to have moved on to bigger and better things. The questions are the same — Will there there be even more changes to the rotation? Should there be? — but the questions seem less pressing when the team has won eight in a row.
The lineup is producing, and that’s obviously crucial, but the Yankees bullpen has been just as important, making up for many of the rotation’s inconsistencies.
“The guys are fired up,” Mariano Rivera said. “There are ready to go. It doesn’t matter the situation. They’re just happy to be there.”
Since July 27, the Yankees bullpen has a 1.57 ERA with 98 strikeouts and a .183 opponents batting average. That’s more than a month of dominance, during a span when the rotation was in flux. Rivera has been his old self, Boone Logan has been a revelation and both David Robertson and Joba Chamberlain have clearly picked up their games since shaky beginnings to the season.
But it seems little coincidence that this run of success coincides almost perfectly with Kerry Wood’s arrival. He gave the Yankees another hitless inning this afternoon and has allowed just one earned run in 16 innings since coming over from Cleveland.
“Our scouts had filled us in,” Joe Girardi said. “We had seen him a little bit this year. I was somewhat familiar. I watched tapes of him. I think until you actually see him on a daily basis you’re not going to know exactly what he has… He seems to be getting better and better for us.”
Here’s Girardi’s postgame.
Speaking of Girardi’s postgame: He spoke quite a bit about today’s fifth-inning bullpen decision.
On his decision to turn to Dustin Moseley over Javier Vazquez with the lead on the line, when just three days ago he had decided he’d rather have Vazquez as his starter: “I was going with the fresh arm. That’s why I made the decision.”
On his decision to use Moseley instead of Boone Logan to face left-handed hitter Lyle Overbay: “Nope (never considered Logan). There’s a guy also behind Overbay that crushes left-handers.”
That guy behind Overbay was John Buck, who ultimately made the final out of the inning. Also of note about the Overbay decision: Overbay was 1-for-4 in his career against Logan, 0-for-7 against Moseley. His left-right splits are minimal this season.
• Turns out Austin Kearns is out with a thumb injury, which helps explain how Marcus Thames wound up playing the field. “(Kearns) took some extra BP and bruised it a little bit,” Girardi said. “He’s day-to-day. I asked him after yesterday, are you feeling OK. He said it’s a little sore so I decided to give him a day off. We’ll see how he is tomorrow.”
• Thames knew what to expect when he went to the plate in the seventh. “Slider,” he said. “They threw me all sliders all day. The first one (of the at-bat) I got out in front of it a little bit. I knew he was going to throw me one so I sat slider on the next pitch and didn’t miss that one.”
• Speaking of home run sliders, both Blue Jays home runs were on mistake sliders from Vazquez.
• And speaking of Thames, the Yankees should have Alex Rodriguez back tomorrow, and Lance Berkman is hitting pretty well lately, but Girardi said he’ll find ways to keep Thames and his hot bat in the lineup. “Oh, we’ll find at-bats for Marcus,” he said, and it was definitive.
• Jose Bautista took great exception and was ejected for arguing a called strike three against Joba Chamberlain in the seventh. “I thought it was a good pitch,” Chamberlain said, with a smile. “That’s what we were going for.”
• The Yankees are now 19-6 in their past 25 games against left-handed starters. They’ve won eight of their past nine against lefties.
• After his two-run double in the third inning, Robinson Cano is hitting .600 with three doubles, two home runs and 23 RBI in 15 bases-loaded at-bats.
• Francisco Cervelli is hitting .600 in his past three games. Today was the first two-double game of his career.
• Brett Gardner has walked in his past nine games in which he’s had a plate appearance. According to Elias, that’s the longest such streak by a Yankee since Jason Giambi in 2006 (also nine games). Elias also made a note that Gardner has now tied five others for the longest such streak in the majors this season.
• Since making those mechanical changes in Texas, Curtis Granderson is hitting .414 with three doubles and two home runs against lefties.
• Chamberlain got his second win of the year, and his first since May 14 in Minnesota.
Associated Press photos of Cervelli, Vazquez and Thames
Today’s win felt pretty routine, which is kind of amazing given the players who were not involved. Alex Rodriguez is still on the disabled list, Nick Swisher is dealing with a sore knee, Derek Jeter had the day off and the Yankees starting pitcher didn’t pitch out of the fifth inning.
All should be cause for concern, but the Yankees are used to filling holes, and they’ve come to trust the bullpen completely.
“There’s a lot of talent on this club,” Joe Girardi said. “Guys are stepping up and playing well. Our team is deep and guys are finding a way just to get it done.”
Brett Gardner and Curtis Granderson filled in at the top of the order, and they combined for four runs and four RBI. Ramiro Pena and Eduardo Nunez filled the spots at the bottom of the order, and they each had two hits. Mark Teixeira, the guy who was so awful through the first two months, collected his 99th RBI.
After Ivan Nova was lifted with two outs in the fifth, Boone Logan, Dave Robertson, Kerry Wood and Mariano Rivera got the Yankees through the final 4.1 without allowing a hit. Logan has been up and down from Triple-A, Robertson struggled earlier this season and Wood was with Cleveland six weeks ago.
“Mo was Mo,” Girardi said.
But all of it felt routine, just another day in a seven-game winning streak when the Yankees have learned to depend on different people on different days.
“We were in a little funk a few weeks ago,” Gardner said. “The last week or so, we’ve been hitting the ball pretty well and scoring some runs. That’s what we’re supposed to do.”
• Girardi said the decision to lift Nova had nothing to do with the weather – it seemed he might have been expecting a rain-shortened game and wanted to make sure they were leading after five – and instead had everything to do with the situation. “Sometimes a game can hinge a little bit earlier than the seventh, eighth or ninth inning,” Girardi said. “I just felt it was time to go to Booney there… Whether it’s a veteran (starter) or not, I still might make the move.”
• Nova seemed disappointed in himself more than Girardi. Obviously he wanted to stay in long enough for the win, but his stuff wasn’t as sharp today and he knew it. He said he had trouble working inside.
• After a two-homer game yesterday, Granderson had two RBI doubles today. He must be feeling pretty good at the plate, right? “Not at all,” Granderson said. “That’s the thing. Part of hitting is being lucky at times and being able to put the ball in play and see what’s going to happen. That’s what’s been happening for the last couple of games now.”
• Speed at the top of the lineup really helped the Yankees today, especially Gardner who tripled in a run and scored from first on a fairly routine double. “To score from first base on the ball that I hit down the line,” Granderson said. “There’s not too many people in the game that could do it, and he did it with a pretty good-throwing right fielder out there.”
• Alex Rodriguez should be back in two days, but the Yankees have gotten solid contributions from Nunez and Pena while he’s been out. “They’ve really come up with some big hits, and some two-out RBIs too,” Gardner said.
• Wood has made a huge difference in the bullpen. Girardi said he didn’t want to use Joba Chamberlain today, but he still had two legitimate setup men to turn to in Wood and Robertson. “It allows you to use two of the three every day, usually,” Girardi said.
• Girardi remains optimistic that Rodriguez will be ready on Sunday, despite Rodriguez’s more cautious optimism. “The last time in a live situation, ran out of the box and he felt it,” Girardi said. “I understand him being cautious, but I feel pretty good about how the rehab went. We’ll find out a lot more tomorrow.”
• Wood has allowed one run in 15 innings and got his second win with the Yankees. He has a 0.60 ERA since coming to New York.
• Gardner has now walked in eight consecutive games in which he’s had a plate appearance. According to Elias, that’s the longest streak by a Yankee since Johnny Damon in 2007.
• Pena has a hit in nine of his past 12 starts, batting .282 with six RBI in those games. He’s started against Toronto three times this season and has multiple hits every time.
Associated Press photos of Rivera with Posada, Nova and Granderson
Hard to believe the difference between the first game of this series and the last. On Friday, the Yankees were in trouble. The team had lost three out of four, Joe Girardi was talking about shaking up the rotation and the road trip had the potential to be the Yankees worst of the season.
This afternoon, the mood was light and upbeat. Andy Pettitte had come through a strong bullpen, Lance Berkman was heading for a rehab assignment and a 23-year-old kid had the game ball sitting in his locker, having just pitched his way to a one-run win that was his first in the big leagues.
“We’re asking a young man to step up and that’s exactly what he’s doing,” Girardi said.
Ivan Nova said he felt no nerves, “just emotions” when he went to the mound today. It was 92 degrees at first pitch, the stadium was packed for Frank Thomas Day and the Yankees were in the thick of a pennant race. Nova had exactly one big league start under his belt, but he struck out seven, walked one and allowed just one extra-base hit.
“Maybe you guys never had an opportunity to see him in the minor leagues, but he’s always been the same way,” Francisco Cervelli said. “That’s what we try to do. It’s nothing different. Just a couple thousand more fans.”
Two starts into his career, it’s Nova’s poise that stands out. He’s been comfortable mixing all four pitches, and the curveball he promised would be better this time, was in fact better. Girardi waited only seconds into his postgame interview to announce that Nova would be making a third start.
“I’m ready, of course,” Nova said. “All the time.”
Here’s Girardi’s postgame. All the bangs and clangs you hear in the background is the truck being loaded with all of the Yankees bags and equipment.
• Big game for Cervelli. He came into the game with three hits this month, then went 4-for-4 for the first time he can remember, but he and Girardi each said Cervelli’s biggest moment was throwing out Brent Lillibridge trying to steal in the eighth inning. “I think every manager watches numbers, the percent of my throws,” Cervelli said. “It’s low, so they’re going to do it. I was ready and I had a good throw. That’s it.”
• Asked to remember his last four-hit game, Cervelli thought for a moment: “I think… never.” he said. Then he tried again to come up with a four-hit game he might have had in the minor leagues somewhere, but he again came up blank. “No chance,” he said. “Just three, that’s it.”
• I would imagine there are now a lot of Marcus Thames fans out there. He has a hit in 13 of his past 14 starts, and now has a home run in four straight starts. Five of his nine homers this season have come off righties.
• The scouting report on Thames is that he hits fastballs. At this point, he said, he’s used to getting nothing but breaking balls when he comes to the plate. “I’m just trying to get a good pitch to hit,” Thames said. “If they hang something, I get it.”
• Nick Swisher went 5-for-13 this series and is hitting .385 against the White Sox this year. Think he likes playing his old team?
• Brett Gardner hit .333 this road trip, including an RBI single that stood as the decisive blow today.
• One night after the bullpen was a little shaky, Boone Logan, Kerry Wood, Joba Chamberlain and Mariano Rivera combined for 3.1 scoreless. Wood has a 0.71 ERA over his past 11 appearances.
• Girardi pulled Nova after 88 pitches because he thought Nova was starting to get up in the zone. “I decided it was time to make a change,” Girardi said.
• Mark Teixeira is day-to-day and wasn’t able to do much this afternoon. He said his bone bruise did not feel significantly better, but he’s hopeful a day of treatment will do him some good. “It didn’t feel good so I figured best to give it a rest and hope for the best tomorrow,” he said.
• Lance Berkman said he has still not been officially told he’s going to Trenton tomorrow, but he’s heard that “through the grapevine.” Girardi confirmed it during his pregame session, so you can count on Berkman being there tomorrow for a short two-game stint.
• A glimpse into Berkman’s personality: When the group of reporters asked him how quickly he thought he could be back, Berkman immediately went to his brand of self-deprecating humor. “I’m sure fans can’t wait for me to resume my pursuit of the Mendoza line,” he said.
Associated Press photos of Cervelli, Jeter and Thames
The Yankees don’t have a definite plan for Andy Pettitte continued rehab from a strained groin. They have only the basic outline of a plan, and a rough idea of when he might be back. “You’re talking about a couple of weeks,” Joe Girardi said.
Right now, the plan is for Pettitte to rest for a few days and play catch early next week, probably on Tuesday. He will then need to throw some sort of side session, either a bullpen or a simulated game. It’s possible he’ll need a bullpen and a simulated game. A rehab start would come next.
“Patience has to takeover for a few days,” Girardi said. “We’ll see where he’s at in probably three or four days, then we should have a better idea of a timetable… When there’s inactivity, and you’re resting, and you’re not doing a lot, and you’re not stressing any area, of course it’s going to feel better. But until you actually go through what you have to go though, you’re not going to have good idea whether you’re ahead of schedule or not.”
Pettitte said the trainers have told him he might have pushed a little too hard during those days in New York. He was running a lot to build stamina, and that might have been slightly more than he needed. That said, he feels good today.
“I just didn’t feel real comfortable (yesterday),” he said. “I didn’t feel that I could really completely push when I wanted to. I also feel like, if I pushed it too hard yesterday, that I would be really sore today, but I’m not. I don’t know if I’m scared to push, and I should push. I want them to check me out and test my strength in there and see what maybe we should do. I don’t want to shut it down if I don’t need to shut it down for a few days.”
• After his hitless two innings yesterday, Alfredo Aceves will make another rehab start on Tuesday. He’s throw three innings or 30 pitches. “This is really spring training for him,” Girardi said. “I don’t think we really need to build him up beyond 40 pitches, but it might be a situation where he gets another one after that, where he only gets a day or two days off.”
• Damaso Marte is scheduled to throw off a half mound tomorrow.
• Girardi said he feels comfortable using Kerry Wood in back-to-back games down. He didn’t want to do that initially.
• Just a standard half day of rest for Alex Rodriguez. Girardi said he’ll have to give Derek Jeter a day to rest — either a DH day or a full day — some time soon.
• Just making small talk with Ramiro Pena pregame, he said he was planning to run on the pitch when he was nearly picked off last night. I told him it seemed Royals shortstop Yuniesky Betancourt misplayed the rundown — I thought he came way too far off the bag — but Pena said Betancourt played it correctly, it was just a late throw that let him slide in safe. It was clearly either a late throw or bad positioning. I thought it was the later. Pena said otherwise, and he knows a lot more about playing shortstop than I do.
• This has nothing to do with the game, it was just a funny moment: Just as Girardi’s session with the media was wrapping up, his cell phone rang and Girardi said he needed to take it. His kids were back home arguing about who should sit in the front seat, and the manager of the New York Yankees had to play moderator. Pretty cool.
UPDATE, 6:17 p.m.: Royals lineup
Gregor Blanco CF
Jason Kendall C
Billy Butler 1B
Wilson Betemit 3B
Kila Ka’aihue DH
Alex Gordon LF
Yuniesky Betancourt SS
Mitch Maier RF
Chris Getz 2B
Associated Press photos of Pettitte and Rodriguez
Joba: “We understood we had to get better” • 08.14.10
Late last night and into the early hours of this morning, the Yankees needed a run more than anything else. They never got one, and that was the difference in the game.
But the bullpen gave them every possible chance.
I’ve written it before, but it seems more and more true every day: The Yankees bullpen has really become a strength.
Mariano Rivera can put the go-ahead run at third base and retire three all-stars in a row. Dave Robertson can struggle out of the gate, battle through a tough at-bat and get a strikeout to close out a win. Chad Guadin, Kerry Wood, Boone Logan and Joba Chamberlain can combine for 3.2 hitless innings after more than two hours of rain.
“We just take pride,” Chamberlain said. “We understood we had to get better, and that was from top to bottom. Having Mo out there as our leader, it’s great. I think bringing Woody in, the fact he’s been there and he’s done that, it kind of gives us a different perspective of success and understanding how to do things and handle it the right way.”
It’s hard to say it was absolutely Wood who made the difference — Robertson had been awfully good before Wood showed up, Logan had been terrific since the all-star break — but it must be hard for him to believe that this team really needed relief help at the trade deadline. He’s seen these guys pitch very, very well.
“You start feeding off each other,” Wood said. “That’s when things kind of click and come together. I think we all know we’re throwing the ball pretty well right now. We just try to feed off each other and pick the next guy up when you go in. Just go out and put up zeroes. Just try to keep it as simple as we can.”
Associated Press photo of Wood
Charging out of Texas • 08.12.10
Last night seemed to belong on last year’s schedule. The Yankees haven’t had many emotional wins like that one this season, but last night had it all: Winning against two dominant pitchers, rallying in the late innings, chipping away until finally a big hit and of course the three straight outs against three great hitters by the great Mariano Rivera.
“We have not had as many walk-off wins this year, there’s no doubt about it,” Joe Girardi said. “But we still have 70 wins. The big thing is that you win games, but those walk-off wins can be great momentum builders.”
The Yankees got some production from the bottom of the order, and they got some huge hits from fill-in No. 3 hitter Marcus Thames. After a night like that, though, you can’t forget about Sergio Mitre and Kerry Wood. They never let the night get out of hand. It was very nearly out of hand, but as the Yankees cut the lead with a run here and two runs there, Mitre and Wood kept the Rangers from pulling away.
It was a big win — an emotional win — and I don’t remember the music ever playing louder in the clubhouse after the game.
“We are capable to do this and tonight we showed it,” Rivera said. “I have seen it for many years, not only this year or last year or the year before. We had the opportunity to chip in, chip in and in the end we scored two or three, and we were back in the game.”
The Yankees expected big things from Mariano Rivera this year. They expected small contributions from Marcus Thames. In so many ways, both have done more than the Yankees could have hoped.
One night after taking his first loss since May 18, Rivera was perfectly not perfect. He gave up a lead-off triple in a one-run game, then retired three all-stars in a row. Austin Kearns made a nice catch against Michael Young, Josh Hamilton chopped an inside pitch back to the mound and Vlad Guerrero grounded to third.
“I’m thinking, we’re in a tough spot here, but if anyone can do it, Mo can,” Joe Girardi said.
Thames was hitting third for two reasons: 1. Mark Teixeira is gone and 2. The Rangers had a left-handed starter on the mound. Thames biggest hits came after that lefty was gone, when Thames was the best option against right-handed relievers.
“I know my role,” Thames said. “But if I’m in there against a righty late in the game, I’m going to grind it out and try to have a good at-bat, try to do something to help the team… I’m not going to put any pressure on myself and go out and try to be Tex.”
• Girardi said nothing has changed regarding Teixeira. Barring some unexpected change, Teixeira will be with the team in Kansas City.
• Rivera on his reaction to the lead-off triple: “I don’t think about it. I just have to focus on the guy at the plate. That’s the one that’s going to do damage, not the guy at third base.”
• Good job by pinch runner Curtis Granderson to getting to third base on that wild pitch in the ninth. “That ball came off the wall hard,” Girardi said. “Without that speed, that’s probably a different play.”
• Javier Vazquez admitted being frustrated by his lack of velocity, but his fastball was slightly higher than it was in his last start, which Girardi called encouraging.
• Girardi on the misplayed rundown in the fourth: “We just botched it. I don’t’ know any other way to describe it. We messed it up. One late throw. Jorge held onto it just a second too long.”
• Cliff Lee seems to pitch a complete game every night, but the Yankees got him out after 6.1 innings tonight. He’d thrown a complete game in two of his previous three starts against the Yankees, and he’s lasted at least eight innings in his past 10 starts overall. “You start looking at his pitch count,” Girardi said. “His pitch count was starting to get up there, it was hot and you start wondering, maybe he’ll make a few mistakes and maybe we can get him out of there.”
• It will go largely overlooked, but the Yankees bullpen — even before Rivera — was terrific. Sergio Mitre gave them 1.2 hitless innings, then Kerry Wood went 2 scoreless.
• The Yankees truck out 17 times, tying a franchise record.
• Neftali Feliz blew a save for the first time since May 11, ending a streak of 20 consecutive save opportunities.
Associated Press photo of Rivera and Brett Gardner