Exclusive negotiating window closing • 11.06.10
This is the Yankees last day of exclusive rights to their own free agents. The negotiating window closes at midnight. At 12:01 Sunday morning, the frenzy begins. Already the Yankees have bumped Chad Guadin off the roster, and Royce Ring has declared free agency.
Much bigger decisions are looming.
In his radio interviews on Tuesday, Hal Steinbrenner was already preparing the fan base for the possibility of a lengthy negotiating process with Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera. No one seems to expect Andy Pettitte to make a decision any time soon.
Assuming those three aren’t going to sign in the next few hours, the Yankees immediate decisions are limited to two players who had as many as 70 at-bats this season.
In some ways, he makes sense: Right-handed hitter in a left-leaning outfield; can play both corners plus center field in a pinch; probably won’t cost a lot. That said, he was bad enough in 2008 and 2009 that he accepted a minor league deal this offseason, and although he hit a little bit for Cleveland, he did next to nothing for the Yankees.
If the Yankees could get him on the same deal as this season — minor league contract with an invitation to big league camp — he would be a no-brainer, but Thames had a good enough year that he should certainly test the market for a Major League contract. He was terrific this season, but given the Yankees need to keep the designated hitter spot open, he might not make much sense this time around. Probably best for both sides to explore their options before entering into a quick agreement.
Associated Press photo of Thames
The Yankees have four more days to negotiate exclusively with their own free agents, but that might not mean much.
Unless Derek Jeter or Mariano Rivera sign much sooner than expected, those two are going to hit the open market at 12:01 Sunday morning. Andy Pettitte is certainly going to reach that point.
I’m honestly not sure whether the five-day exclusive negotiation window applies to players who had an option declined, but I don’t think it matters in the case of Lance Berkman, Kerry Wood or Nick Johnson. Those three either don’t have a place on next year’s Yankees or would be better off testing the market.
The Yankees could use this time to negotiate with Javier Vazquez, but I can’t imagine that happening.
That leaves the Yankees to potentially use this window to talk to Marcus Thames about resuming his role as a platoon designated hitter, or perhaps talk to Austin Kearns about playing a cheap bench role, but ultimately the exclusive negotiating window doesn’t seem to mean much for the Yankees the year.
Associated Press photo of Kearns
The year’s best Yankees costumes • 10.31.10
Happy Halloween! To celebrate, here’s a list of the best Yankees costumes this season.
Yes, it’s a cheap blog post gimmick, but it kind of works.
as Hideki Matsui
The heart of the Yankees order was missing one of his reliable bats. They had more than enough hitters to fill the bottom third, but someone had to step into that No. 5 hole and produce behind Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez. That’s where Cano came in, establishing himself as an option not only in the five hole, but maybe at three or four somewhere down the line.
as Andy Pettitte
Since Pettitte broke onto the scene in the mid-90s, the Yankees have looked for another reliable, homegrown starting pitcher without much luck. Chien-Ming Wang played that role for a while, but injuries took their toll. Now it’s Hughes turn. So far, so good.
as Nick Swisher
Over the winter, it was Swisher who met with Kevin Long to tweak his swing and add a third dimension to his game: He always had patience and power, this season Swisher was able to hit for power as well. Mid-season, Granderson followed suit: He still has the power and speed, but down the stretch he was making more consistent contact and hitting pretty well against lefties.
as Phil Coke
When Damaso Marte was hurt last season, it was Coke who stepped in and gave the Yankees a legitimate left-handed reliever, capable of facing more than one or two batters when necessarily. This year it was Logan, who rejoined the big league bullpen after the all-star break and established himself as a reliable, late-innings relievers.
as Brett Gardner
An underrated part of Nunez’s game is his speed. Granted, he’s not actually as dynamic a runner as Gardner, but he was 5-for-5 on stolen base attempts, and that was after he led Scranton/Wilkes-Barre in steals. Nunez can hit a little bit, he can play three positions, and it turns out he can run.
as Eli Manning
You remember the game, don’t you? Ninth inning. Blowout in Cleveland. Pena was already in the game at shortstop, and there was no sense risking injury to Alex Rodriguez, so Thames stepped in as the late-inning replacement at third. He made a nice backhanded stop, then made one of the worst throws across the diamond any of us has ever seen. “I threw like a quarterback,” he said that day. “I was trying to find Andre Rison on a slant or something.” You might think of it as a bad costume, but the Yankees won that game and the play was hilarious. I thought about making this one the winner!
Associated Press photo of Cano
What’s left for the Yankees? • 10.30.10
One week ago, Brian Cashman said re-signing Joe Girardi would be the “first order of business” this offseason. Now that it’s done, the Yankees can get to work on the rest of the list.
1. Re-sign Derek Jeter
Have to get this one out of the way. It’s going to be a story as long it lingers, and it’s going to get done eventually, might as well do it quickly and move on. Chances are, it’s going to be for more money and more years than Jeter’s age and numbers suggest he’s worth. Thing is, that’s the way it works. Players like Jeter are underpaid when they first get to the big leagues, and they’re overpaid as their careers come to an end. All a team can hope for is to get equal value in the middle. When’s the last time a player a signed a 10-year deal, during which he never seemed overpaid.
2. Solidify the rotation
Obviously, this is where Cliff Lee comes into the picture. Going into the season with CC Sabathia as the No. 1, Phil Hughes as the No. 3 and A.J. Burnett as the No. 4 or 5 is a pretty good start, but it only works if the Yankees get a reliable No. 2 starter.
3. Re-sign Mariano Rivera
Because he’s not The Captain, Rivera’s free agency won’t hang over the Yankees the same way as Jeter’s. But it’s still a deal that needs to get done. It might happen before the Yankees land a starter, but I’d say it ranks third in terms of priorities.
4. Make a decision in the outfield
Brett Gardner showed a lot this season, Nick Swisher took a significant step forward and Curtis Granderson turned a corner in the second half. The Yankees have a good outfield. If they want an insanely good outfield, they could make a push for Carl Crawford or Jayson Werth. If not, they still need to find a fourth outfield who can fill-in at either corner.
5. Gauge the market for Joba Chamberlain
My friend Wally Matthews made a list like this one and included more or less this very same item. It’s not that I believe Chamberlain is finished – he’s still young with a big arm – but he’s heading for arbitration, which means he about to make real money, and it’s clear the Yankees no longer view him as a potential front-line starter. If another team does, he might be more valuable to the Yankees as a trade chip than as an eighth-inning candidate.
6. Find a pitching coach
I don’t see any reason to let any other member of the coaching staff go. I’d love to see the Yankees find a spot for Dave Miley or Butch Wynegar, who have big league experience and have done great things in Triple-A, but it’s hard to find that kind of opening. Instead, they just need to find a pitching coach. If it’s Scott Aldred, great. If it’s someone outside the organization, great. Just fill the spot and tell him to look up A.J. Burnett’s house on MapQuest.
7. Don’t lose Kerry Wood’s phone number
Chances are, Wood is going to find a job pitching the ninth inning for some other team. I’m not even sure it’ll be a bad team. A contender could easily come calling offering at least a shot at the ninth inning, which is something the Yankees can’t offer him (unless No. 3 on this list goes terribly wrong). But, just in case, I’m sure someone in the front office will hold onto Wood’s number. If he’s not available, another late-inning arm would be a good idea.
8. Big bat, small ego
For the time being, the days of a fulltime, Matsui-type DH are over. But the Yankees still need a guy who can fill that spot fairly regularly, and they need him to be OK sitting fairly often as well. If he can play the field in a pinch, all the better. It’s a role Marcus Thames played very well this season. The Yankees need to find another one of those.
9. Make minor assessments
Next season, it’s entirely possible – if not likely — the Yankees will have Ivan Nova, Andrew Brackman, David Phelps, Hector Noesi, D.J. Mitchell, Lance Pendleton, Dellin Betances, Manny Banuelos, Jeremy Bleich, Adam Warren and George Kontos jockeying for starts at Double-A or higher. That’s 11 legitimate prospects, and that’s only counting the guys who actually got as high as Double-A this year. Depth is absolutely essential when it comes to pitching, but the Yankees have such a surplus of nearly ready arms that they could prioritize and begin looking for alternatives uses, either in trades or in the bullpen. Does anyone miss Zach McAllister right now?
10. Come up with an Andy Pettitte contingency plan
One way or another, the sooner the better when it comes to Pettitte. If he wants to come back, great. Lock up a one-year deal and consider the middle or bottom half of the rotation complete. If he doesn’t want to come back, at least the Yankees know what they’re up against. Knowing Pettitte, this decision might take a while, and the Yankees need to have a Plan B either in place or in the works.
As an aside, I mentioned that Wally Matthews published a similar to-do list immediately after the ALCS loss. I read it earlier in the week, but intentionally didn’t look back at it until after I’d finished my own. The only thing I remembered about his list was that he suggested trading Chamberlain. Our lists are very similar, mostly because the Yankees offseason needs are pretty straightforward. Frankly, we’ve been talking and writing about most of this stuff since at least the middle of the season.
Also, I came up with this list before Cashman mentioned yesterday that he values a left-handed reliever as a significant priority. I don’t see it as that big of an issue. Cashman does. I’m betting the Yankees will stick with Cashman thoughts on the matter.
Associated Press photos
Marcus Thames has odd career numbers against Cliff Lee. Thames is a career .147 hitter with 15 strikeouts against the Rangers ace, but of his seven hits, three have been home runs and two have been doubles. Thames has a career .500 slugging percentage against Lee.
There is a lot of good and a lot of bad in those numbers, and in some ways, that makes Thames exactly the kind of hitter the Yankees want in the lineup tonight.
“The guy’s got good stuff, but when he’s made some mistakes, Marcus has got him,” Girardi said. “We talk about a guy that, when he makes mistakes, you’ve got to get him. Marcus is that type of guy.”
The Yankees have a patient lineup. Brett Gardner is off-the-charts patient. Nick Swisher is patient. Girardi singled out Alex Rodriguez and Jorge Posada as hitters who show quite a bit of patience from time to time. Against Lee, Girardi said, those hitters need a slightly different approach.
The Yankees plan to be more aggressive tonight. Not aggressive to the point of always swinging at the first pitch, but to the point of always being ready to swing at the first pitch.
“We have guys that will go up, take a pitch and try to work the count,” Girardi said. “When we say ‘Be aggressive,’ it’s being ready to hit the first pitch. If it’s not your pitch, don’t swing at it. But just be ready to hit the first pitch… Chances are you’re not going to get (a seven-pitch at-bat) off of him.”
The Yankees came from behind against Lee back in August. The rallied a little bit against him in Game 5 of last year’s World Series. How did they do that?
“We had good at-bats,” Girardi said.
• Girardi has not decided who will catch A.J. Burnett tomorrow. “We’ll worry about that tomorrow,” he said.
• Any chance he changes his mind about the Yankees Game 4 starter? Girardi laughed. “We are on rotation is probably the easiest way for me to put it,” he said.
• Lance Berkman is a career .375/.375/.625 hitter in eight career at-bats against Lee, but Girardi said he never considered taking Thames out of the lineup. “Marcus has been our DH against lefties this whole time,” Girardi said. “He’s done a good job. I don’t see any reason why we would change.”
• While he stood by his decision to go with Burnett in Game 4, Girardi said A.J.’s somewhat wild sim game might have been a product of his time off. “I think it played into it,” Girardi said. “The only thing he had done was some light bullpens. He couldn’t really get the work he would normally get in between starts because he was active in the bullpen for us. He couldn’t throw a 35-40 pitch side session, because he wouldn’t have been available the next day for us.”
• Ron Washington said he went with Mitch Moreland at first base today, “Simply because of the at-bats he’s been giving me, how he’s been hanging in there.”
• Washington, doing his best John Sterling impression: “You are very reassured that you have a guy like Cliff Lee, but as I said, it’s tough to predict baseball. You can have your very best out there and things don’t go your way. You can always do things right in this game, and you still get bad results.”
• The Yankees have been pitching very carefully to Josh Hamilton ever since Hamilton homered in his first at-bat of this series. “We all know the numbers he put up against right-handed pitchers,” Girardi said. “He hit over .400 from June to August, and those three months are probably as good as any player has ever had. You have to be careful.”
• Girardi talked pregame with Hal Steinbrenner. He said the conversation was nothing out of the ordinary, just a general chat about the state of the team. “It was a good conversation,” Girardi said.
• Have the Yankees always had the POW/MIA flag, the Purple Heart flag and the City of New York flag at the top of the stadium in right field? They’re there now, which seems new, but I might simply have never noticed them.
• Tino Martinez is here to throw out the first pitch.
Associated Press photos of Cano, and of Martinez with Reggie Jackson
On May 1, 2007, Phil Hughes pitched in this ballpark for the first time. You probably know the story: It was his second Major League start. He was eight outs away from a no-hitter. He tried to throw a big curveball to Mark Teixeira and pulled his hamstring.
“I remember coming into that game, coming off my debut (which) wasn’t great,” Hughes said. “I still wanted to prove something, and I remember coming into that game and feeling really good. Everything was working. I came out early and was able to throw strikes. And then you know — it seems like a distant memory now — but obviously it didn’t end too well. That was certainly disappointing. Family and friends know not really to bring it up, just because it’s not one of my best memories. But at the same time, it was my first Major League win, and that certainly is still special.”
Hughes has since pitched twice in this stadium. One start, one relief appearance, and a total of three hits allowed. His success in Texas is one of the reasons the Yankees pegged him for Game 2 of the ALCS. Despite the less-than-perfect beginning, Hughes said he feels “pretty comfortable” in this park. His only appearance here this season was an inning of relief to stay sharp between starts.
It’s a strange road that brought Hughes to this point — premier prospect, strange injuries, up-and-down big league starts, back to the minors, big league reliever — but he lived up to all of the Yankees hopes and expectations in the division series. Now it’s time to take his show back on the road. For the second Saturday in a row, Hughes will make the biggest start of his career.
“I had to go through a lot in those first couple of years,” he said. “You know, coming up and feeling good about things, and you know, having those few years in the Minor Leagues where I didn’t really have too many hiccups. Then having to do the whole rehab thing, getting re-injured during my rehab, really not pitching for the entire season, coming back and then getting hurt the next year. It was a tough couple of years for me. But I really feel like that kind of shaped me into what I’ve been able to do so far, you know, just having to deal with that adversity and getting through it. I always try to take it as a positive and feel like it helped me get to this point.”
• TBS announced that more than 8.1 million viewers watched Game 1. It was the most-watched (based on total viewers) LCS Game 1 ever on cable, supplanting last years NLCS opener. The game drew a 13.9 rating in the New York market and a 21.9 rating in Dallas/Fort-Worth.
• Nick Swisher bunting last night: “Actually that was a play that we put on,” Joe Girardi said.
• Girardi said the Yankees still plan to have CC Sabathia pitch Game 5. He pulled him after 93 pitches last night because, “He just had worked extremely hard.”
• Girardi said he wasn’t surprised that the Rangers let a lefty pitch to Marcus Thames last night. “I had Berkman ready to go,” Girardi said. “He also knows Lance Berkman is a very good hitter too.”
• Speaking of Thames, despite all the talk about an open competition during spring training, Girardi said today that Thames was never really in danger of not making the team. “That’s where our scouts and our front office play an important role, knowing what Marcus can do,” Girardi said. “Going out and getting him and saying, he’s going to hit against left-handers.”
• Late in last night’s game, Girardi was trying to prepare himself for any situation. “We had a couple of guys up,” he said. “We didn’t have enough (bullpen) mounds.”
• The eighth-inning pickoff by Kerry Wood was actually called from the Yankees bench. “We are no different from any other club,” Girardi said. “You have a coach that gives signs and you do your homework where guys try to run. And you watch the baserunner. We are in clear view of the baserunner, what he’s trying to do if he’s trying to time it. And we try to hold the runners close. Kinsler broke and Kerry picked at the right time. It’s something where you do spend a lot of time going over it, and Tony (Pena) spends a lot of time. Tony was a catcher and understands the running game, and what teams are trying to do to us and we discuss it and it worked out for us.
• Ron Washington on trying to bounce back from last night: “I addressed my team after the game, and of course, it was positive. We did a lot of positive things last night. The only one thing we didn’t do was win the ballgame. But you know, after I addressed those guys and I talked with my staff, took a shower, got something to eat, went home, got up and came to the ballpark ready to do it again. It’s a 7-game series. We probably let one get away. My guys are resilient. They will show up today and they will go out and fight as hard as they did last night. I would like to be in the same position again and see what happens. I would like to get in the position of just having to get six more outs, and next time, we’ll probably get it done. We didn’t get it done last night, and we all take credit for that.”
Elvis Andrus SS
Michael Young 3B
Josh Hamilton CF
Vladimir Guerrero DH
Nelson Cruz RF
Ian Kinsler 2B
David Murphy LF
Bengie Molina C
Mitch Moreland 1B
Associated Press photos of Hughes and Girardi
Tonight was a reminder of everything the Yankees have done, and everything they’re capable of doing again. This stadium was loud, a rowdy Texas crowd celebrating the first ALCS in franchise history. The Rangers were young team that had knocked out CC Sabathia after four innings and had C.J. Wilson dealing against the mighty Yankees. Why shouldn’t this stadium have been rocking?
In all of that bedlam, the visiting dugout was calm. The Yankees knew the situation. They’d been in this hole before, and they knew the way out.
“Coming over here from spring training on and them talking about going to the World Series last year and winning it, one of the things they talked about was just never giving up,” Dustin Moseley said. “Always playing every out, playing the game the right way. We came out and did that today.”
The Yankees reestablished themselves as the team to beat in these playoffs. They did it with Robinson Cano, their MVP candidate, driving in the tying run. They did it with Derek Jeter, their veteran shortstop, putting to bed an early 0-for-3 to double in his last two at-bats. They did it with Marcus Thames, their last man on the roster in spring training, driving in the game winner on a broken-bat single.
And they did it with Moseley, the Triple-A call-up, getting the win on his wife’s birthday.
“I know the attitude in there,” Joe Girardi said. “They stay on each other about grinding out at-bats. That’s what they talk about, and chip away. You know, there’s a talented group in there that plays the game with a lot of passion. So like I said, I’m never really surprised, but I am thrilled sometimes.”
As Thames said, this stadium “got a little quiet” after his go-ahead single. It was the end of seven straight Yankees reaching base, more than had reached base in the first seven innings combined. The game changed and the series changed, but the Yankees never did.
“You don’t concern yourself with one or two at-bats or any given play,” Alex Rodriguez said. “You’re looking for one or two moments to make an impact in the game, and for me, that was bases loaded, no outs. You obviously wanted to keep the line moving. We had three or four good at-bats before me, and we talked about keeping the line moving… They have got to get 27 outs. And until that last out is recorded, we have the utmost belief that we are going to win every game.”
• The play that jump-started that five-run eighth was Brett Gardner’s sprint and dive on an infield single. Gardner’s hand paid the price, and he was OK with it. “I knew when he stepped on my hand that my hand was on the base and his foot got there after the hand,” Gardner said. “So that was a good feeling.”
• Speaking of paying the price, Thames guessed that he broke three bats today, none bigger than the one that cracked on his go-ahead single. “My bat died a hero,” he said. “I’ll take that any day.”
• CC Sabathia was not sharp. He said he felt strong, he just couldn’t throw his fastball where he wanted. “I just had no command,” he said. “You have a game plan that you have a way that you want to attack the team, and you can’t even get to it because you can’t throw the ball over the plate.”
• Ultimately, that play at the plate in the first inning made a huge difference. “When it comes up and he’s got dirt all over, you worry,” Girardi said. “But if there is a collision at home plate, CC is going to win most of them.”
• Sabathia on the Yankees rally: “I think I was more nervous in here watching that eighth inning than anything. The way these guys came back and battled was incredible.”
• Big game from Moseley, who pitched two perfect innings with four strikeouts. “I don’t know the last time I struck out four batters in two innings, if I ever have,” he said. “I had a good fastball working. I had command of all four of my pitches, so it worked well.”
• Of course, the win was kind of the icing on top of the cake for Moseley. “It’s my wife’s birthday today, so what a great gift for her. And I haven’t seen my son in about a month. I got to see him last night, so this has been wonderful.”
• Girardi said pulling Sabathia in the fourth inning was not a decision based on a possible Game 4 start: “Not necessarily, no,” he said. “I think he had 92 or 95 pitches through four. He worked extremely hard, so we thought, I had Joba up (for) if I needed Joba to get him out of the fourth inning, and that’s why I went to Joba in the fifth because he was hot. I wasn’t going to sit him down and not use him. Mo did a good job, Woody did a good job, big pick off move with Kinsler. Our bullpen was great.”
• In 40 previous ALCS matchups, the Game 1 winner has gone on to win the series 24 times. In six of the past 10 ALCS, the losing team in Game 1 has gone on to win the series.
• The Yankees have won 10 straight playoff games against the Rangers, tied for the second longest winning streak of one team against one opponent behind Boston’s streak of 11 straight wins against the Angels, a streak that ended in 2008.
• This was the largest deficit the Yankees had ever overcome in an ALCS game. The last time the Yankees overcame a five-run deficit in the playoffs was Game 1 of the 1997 ALDS against Cleveland.
Associated Press photos. The bottom two are Teixeira and Cano.
Phil Hughes had a plan. Of course he had a plan. This is a guy touted for his maturity, known for his willingness to work and prepare. He wasn’t going to make the biggest start of his career on a hunch and a prayer.
Hughes came into Game 3 knowing he was facing a lineup full of lefties, and believing he would need an effective changeup to neutralize them. Instead, pitching coach Dave Eiland said, Hughes threw his changeup a total of three times.
“The last couple of times out I threw a ton of changeups,” Hughes said. “I thought that was going to be the same plan going forward tonight, but they were swinging the bats early and I really didn’t get into too many deep counts so I just attacked with my fastball. Got ahead and from there I just did what I had to do. I thought it was going to be a different game as far as my pitch selection, but it went differently and I’m happy it did.”
Instead of his changeup, Eiland said it was Hughes fastball command that made the difference. Arguably his biggest pitch of the night — the one that generated a rare fist pump from Hughes — was the fastball that struck out Jason Kubel to end the sixth.
“I just really put everything I had behind that fastball hoping he either popped it up or missed it,” Hughes said. “Once I saw that he swung through it, it was just some emotion coming out.”
It was one of only two times Hughes was tested. He came back out for the seventh and sent the side down in order on nine pitches, not one of them the changeup he expected to need.
“He’s very smart,” Eiland said. “He’s a very wise pitcher. (The changeup) is there if he needs it, but he follows a scouting report. Jorge called an outstanding game behind the plate. Just because he has it and we want him to throw it doesn’t mean he’s going to throw it 10, 15 percent of the time every game.”
To put it even more simply: “He was outstanding,” Joe Girardi said.
Here’s the champagne-soaked Hughes from the middle of the Yankees clubhouse.
• Just to get it out of the way: Girardi said the Yankees have not discussedan ALCS roster and Eiland said they haven’t discussed an ALCS rotation.
• The Yankees are the first team to advance this postseason. “You don’t want to give anybody hope,” Derek Jeter said. “If you have a chance to close it out, you want to do it. We’ve taken the approach that every game was Game 5 and we had that feel today. It’s good to get it over with. It feels good but we still have a long way to go.”
• The Yankees have now won nine straight playoff games against the Twins. This is the first of the bunch in which they never trailed. “We had a great game plan,” Swisher said. “Watched a ton of film on Duensing the last couple of days. Obviously huge hits, that’s obviously the big thing.”
• Of the Yankees 33 hits this series, 10 were for extra bases. Marcus Thames hit the first career postseason home run, Swisher hit his second.
• The Yankees pitchers held the Twins to 2-for-18 with runners in scoring position this series, including an 0-for-14 stretch prior to Denard Span’s RBI single in the eighth.
• Hughes is the third Yankee to throw seven scoreless innings in his first postseason start joining Orlando Hernandez and Waite Hoyt. He’s the first Yankees starter of any kind to go seven scoreless in the playoffs since Mike Mussina in Game 3 of the 2001 ALDS.
• Jeter has reached base in his past 19 postseason games dating back to Game 4 of the 2007 ALDS. He had a hit in 18 of those 19 games.
• Joba Chamberlain was not used this entire seires. “It was just matchups,” Eiland said. “Matchups where, for example, guys hit sliders better than they hit curveballs. Things like that. Joba’s going to play a big part in this thing before we’re finished this year, and he understands that. He’s all in and so is everyone else.”
• The Yankees will take Sunday and Monday off. Their next workout will be Tuesday at Yankee Stadium. “We’re not young any more,” Jorge Posada said. “So we need a couple of guys to get a couple of days off and go get them on Friday again.”
• CC Sabathia usually thrives on short rest, but he’ll get extra rest once again, this time eight days. “I’ll take the rest,” he said. “I’m going to have to get used to it. It’s always good when you can close a game out here, first chance.”
• Swisher was asked when he knew Hughes would be alright tonight: “I got here this afternoon at 3:30,” Swisher said. “At 3:33 I saw Phil, and he was just chill, man. Cool as a cucumber. Obviously everybody knows in the postseason your emotions and everything can kind of get the best of you, but the way he went out there and pitched today for us, hats off man. He’s been doing it all season long, and very, very deserving for him.”
• Hughes was asked if this is a start he’ll always remember: “I hope not,” he said. “Hopefully it’s a World Series win that I’m remembering.”
Associated Press photos of Rodriguez, Hughes pitching, and Jeter celebrating on the field with Cano.
When CC Sabathia walked off the mound tonight, he wasn’t yelling at home plate umpire Andy Fletcher, but he was certainly having a conversation. Sabathia’s last pitch had been a bases-loaded walk that brought in the go-ahead run, and Sabathia wanted to know where it missed. It seemed even he couldn’t believe what had just happened.
“I thought it was a tough pitch,” he said. “But I went and looked at it and he made the right call. It was a ball.”
The Yankees took a two-run lead into the sixth inning, and had Sabathia on the mound. That’s usually a pretty good situation for the Yankees, but Sabathia just wasn’t good in that inning. His night fell apart in a big way, and the Yankees fell with him.
Joe Girardi pointed to the at-bats that came after the infield single that drove in the first run — “He started getting into long counts and that’s when he got into trouble,” Girardi said — but Sabathia didn’t seem happy about any part of that inning. The fact he walked the No. 9 hitter to let the Rays take the lead pretty much tells the story.
“Tonight I definitely felt bad because these guys battled and scratched some runs across, and I’m supposed to be able to go out there and put up some zeroes. I wasn’t able to do that in the sixth… I feel like I kind of deflated the team at that point.”
Here’s the bulk of Sabathia’s postgame. It was absolutely a case of not having a lot to ask the guy. He knew what happened. We knew what happened. There wasn’t much to be said.
• Even more bizarre than Sabathia walking in a run? How about Javier Vazquez hitting three batters in a row, two of them with curveballs. It was in his first inning of work, and Vazquez was trying to prepare himself. “Coming in from the pen, I started the inning from the stretch,” he said. “That’s something that coming from the pen I was trying to work on, just working from the stretch every time out. After that I went to the windup again.”
• Girardi’s take on Vazquez: “Very uncharacteristic of Javy to have control problems like that. In all the years, I’m not sure I’ve ever seen Javy like that. Just strange.” After that, Vazquez actually settled in and pitched pretty well.
• Vazquez is the first Yankee ever to hit three consecutive batters, and he’s the eighth major leaguer to do it. Jeff Weaver did it most recently with the Dodgers in 2004.
• The Yankees had the bases loaded in the fifth and again in the sixth. In the end. Might have been a different game if they’d taken advantage of either situation.
• Sabathia hasn’t been especially sharp in his two starts since that eight scoreless innings battle against David Price in Tampa Bay. Has Girardi seen any lasting impact from that game? “I know he threw about 120 pitches that game in Tampa, but not necessarily, no,” Girardi said. For what it’s worth, Sabathia said he physically felt good, just had a bad night.
• Jorge Posada was high on Sabathia. “I thought he did everything possible to give us the win,” Posada said.
• The big hit of the game was B.J. Upton’s double off Joba Chamberlain, who said he was trying to get Upton to roll over a fastball and hit the ball on the ground.
• Doubled checked with Brett Gardner after the game. He’s fine. Just got a day off against a lefty.
• Speaking of that day off, big day for his replacement Greg Golson who doubled off Price in the fifth inning and finished 2-for-4. Nick Swisher and Robinson Cano also had two hits.
• Derek Jeter has a 12-game hitting streak.
• Mark Teixeira was hitless in his last 19 at-bats before his third-inning double.
Associated Press photos of Sabathia on the mound and Marcus Thames with Cano
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