Think back to the glorious 2009 season for a second. On May 15, Brett Gardner hit an inside-the-park home run, starting what would be a 5-4 come-from-behind win over the Minnesota Twins – a win which this author attended.
What most people didn’t know (until after the game) was that he had visited a hospital during the day and met with Alyssa Esposito, a young lady who was set to undergo a heart transplant. She had given Gardner a bracelet, telling him that if he held onto it he would hit a home run.
God must have been working his will that night. It was an incredible story.
Here is what she had to say to me:
I watched both of your videos and I just want to say that you inspire me to be just as confident as you are.
I can finally write my book now that both brain tumors are gone. You inspire me to write and be more confident in myself that I can accomplish anything. You do what you need to do and do what makes you happy.
I love that you put your all into your work and make it your best. And I love how honest you are.
No one expects you to be perfect. You are original and stay that way. You have such passion for what you do, if only everyone was like that. I’ve grown to love baseball. It’s all I think about. It makes me calm and happy.
There is no other feeling like being in a stadium and soaking in every second. I want to learn everything there is to know about baseball.
This really made me feel wonderful. In reality I am only writing and doing what I love to do, but for someone who has been through so much – a heart transplant and multiple surgeries – I can’t help but think about my problems (and yes, recently I have been going through some stuff, nothing as serious as a heart transplant, however).
My problems (and trying to overcome them) don’t even measure up to the challenges Alyssa has faced and triumphed over. It really made me think and put some of my feelings (lately) into perspective. For her to say such nice words and go as far as calling me an inspiration really touched my heart.
I never thought when I began this journey called “Yankee Yapping” in July of 2009 that it would make such an impact on so many people; that it would evolve into what it is today.
Since I have started this blog, it has been featured on MLB.com twice. Yeah, twice guys…twice! If you’re going to feature me why not hire me to work for you? Oh sorry. I forgot. You’re more interested in the Fan Cave and paying guys to do nothing…
But I digress.
I made my aunt smile when my uncle passed away, ESPN’s Buster Olney re-tweeted my little investigation from back in February, I was able to publish an interview with a major leaguer, and now I am an inspiration to a young lady who has gone head-to-head with unbelievable obstacles – obstacles that I could never even fathom.
At this time I would just like to thank Alyssa for her kind words.
Most people look at their parents, their heroes, and their friends for inspiration. I never would have guessed I could have inspired someone with my attitude and my work – much less a person who has been through as much as Alyssa.
And I think I learned something, too: you don’t have to be rich and famous to inspire someone. You just have to have an attitude that someone admires and looks up to.
Me an inspiration? It’s the first time I have ever heard it. I just hope it won’t be the last.
Funny Story About Last Night…
I went to the Yankee game with my good friend Micheal Robinson last night. The Bombers nearly capped a huge comeback in the bottom of the ninth. Down 6-3 entering the last frame the Yanks pulled the Oakland Athletics to within one run, a 6-5 game.
With the bases loaded and two outs, Nick Swisher skied a long fly ball deep to center, nearly crushing what would have been a game-winning grand slam to win it.
Unfortunately the ball died on the warning track and the game ended. A loss for the Yanks.
Along with thanking Alyssa for her kind words, I want to thank Micheal for taking me to the game and getting such great seats behind the left field wall.
Thanks buddy. Now for the funny story…
I met Micheal at the stadium, as I took the train down. While I was waiting for him to get to 161st St., I sat on a bench outside the Metro North station. A group of kids, probably in their first years of college, congregated around the bench and began talking about the tremor (or earthquake) that occurred yesterday afternoon.
“Did you feel it,” one of them asked his friend.
“No, I was in Rockland and I didn’t feel anything,” his friend replied.
I subconsciously started nodding my head, because I had felt it. I had been napping in the afternoon when all of a sudden my bed started to shake. I had no idea what was happening, because I knew I wasn’t dreaming. I thought back to the scene in the movie “The Exorcist” when the girl’s bed started to violently joggle up and down.
Was the movie coming to life? That was my best guess.
One of the kids asked me where I was, so I told him.
“Westchester County – Yorktown Heights,” I said.
A young lady who was with them said, “Yorktown? Do you know the Scott sisters?”
Unbelievable. The Scott sisters are two young ladies from Yorktown High School that play lacrosse – I covered them several times over the course of the last few months working for the local newspaper. Both of them were seniors this past year and are playing lacrosse at UNC next year.
It turns out the young lady who asked me if I knew them played lacrosse with them.
I love how even at Yankee Stadium they find me; random people that know people I know.
Life is funny. That is my conjecture.
The Yankees started and ended last night’s game the same way they did Tuesday night’s game: They let the Red Sox go ahead 3-0 in the first inning and Alex Rodriguez made the last out of the game. The Bronx Bombers once again lost to their hated rivals, the Boston Red Sox, 11-6.
I could go on all day about the mistakes the Yankees made and the bad luck they were handed. Francisco Cervelli’s throwing errors, Brett Gardner not running on the wild pitch, and Derek Jeter grounding into a 5-4-3 with the bases loaded and one out which did not just kill the rally, but beat it up it and then left it for dead.
Joba Chamberlain is going to the disabled list with a strained flexor in his right elbow and Russell Martin’s back locked up, forcing him out of the lineup…it was horrible. I, like any other self-respecting Yankee fan, would rather just forget yesterday’s game vs. Boston ever happened.
What I am writing about today is what happened before yesterday’s loss.
Apparently every year the Yankee beat reporters play the Red Sox beat reporters in a game of baseball. The writers play two games every year: one at Yankee Stadium and the other at Fenway. Before the ugly 11-6 loss, the Yankee reporters played the Boston reporters, and I believe they won.
I’m unsure of the official scoring; I’m not sure if they keep records of such games.
From what I read, last year the Yankee writers and Boston writers split the series, with each team winning on the road – meaning the Yankee reporters lost at Yankee Stadium and the Red Sox writers lost at Fenway.
I am sad I missed this.
What I would like to do is propose an All-Star voting for the Yankees-Red Sox media game, and personally add Yankee Yapping as a write-in vote. I am ready to begin a campaign.
Slogan: If your team is crapping, send Yankee Yapping!
I know, it’s a little cheesy, but it might win me the vote.
Technically, I am New York media – and I cover the Yankees with this blog. In fact, my blog was in the top 10 on MLBlogs for the month of May.
Although for work I only cover high school sports, I was issued a press pass, which is sanctioned by the New York Press Association. Yet, as I said, with this blog, I cover the Yankees, which (on a technicality) makes me New York Yankees media.
As far as my baseball skills go…well, I have blogged about that in the past. I played organized ball for five years, three of which were on the high school level, giving me experience when it comes to the game.
By trade I am a right fielder, but I can sure pick it at second base.
In order to send Yankee Yapping to the media game, re-tweet this blog post to the Yankee beat writers. Facebook it to the writers’ accounts and the YES Network.
Help send me to the Yankees-Red Sox media game. Vote for Yapping!
My campaign promise is this:
If the Yankees can’t beat the Red Sox, as a player on the Yankee media team, we will win by the mercy rule. My baseball skills can give us a huge win over the Boston press.
We will win, and we will win big. That I can promise.
Think back to the movie “Cool Runnings” for a second. Irv Blitzer, John Candy’s character, scolds his bobsled team after they failed in their first Olympic heat. His team had proven they were good enough to be in the Olympics, but buckled under pressure, showing that even though they have the talent and skill, they lost.
“You choked. It was yours for the taking, and you choked. You were ready, and you choked. You know the turns. You know everything there is to know about this sport. I’ll tell you something: you had all better find a way to stay loose out there. That’s something I can’t help you with. I’ll see you tomorrow on the hill.”
Yankee Manager Joe Girardi needs to say something like this to his team. The Yanks have proven they are a lot better than how they have been playing, yet they are not showing it. The Bronx Bombers have now lost six games in a row and they are 3-10 in their last 13 games. The last time the Yankees won a game was a week ago today on May 10; a 3-1 win over the Kansas City Royals.
Since then, it has been a dark time to be a Yankee.
There are so many guilty parties to consider in terms of this losing skid. Collectively it has been the whole team that has been struggling – there is plenty of blame to go around. But a number of players stick out. I’ll start with…
On Friday May 13 Joba Chamberlain came into the game in the top of the seventh, in relief of Bartolo Colon – who had given the Yankees six innings while only allowing two runs. Chamberlain proceeded to give up a three-run home run to Kevin Youkilis, giving Boston a 5-2 lead.
The Yankee offense, scuffling, managed to score two runs but could not come back to tie the game or win it. New York went on to lose, 5-4.
Two days later Chamberlain was just as ineffective.
With the Yanks trailing 6-5 in a tight series finale with the Red Sox, Chamberlain surrendered a solo home run to Jarrod Saltalamacchia – a player who had not homered all season up until that plate appearance. Saltalamacchia is currently batting .217, and has 24 strikeouts in 83 at-bats this year.
It’s almost impossible to give up a homer to him. Chamberlain did the impossible.
That tater gave Boston a 7-5 lead and they won by the same count.
Although Chamberlain’s current numbers don’t necessarily reflect a poor season (2-0, 4.05 ERA, 17 strikeouts and 16 hits in 20 innings pitched, and only three walks) he has given up 10 runs, nine of which have been earned.
It’s safe to say he has been a part of this losing streak, even to a small capacity.
We all know about the controversy. Jorge Posada took himself out of the lineup because he was batting ninth and he didn’t want to bat last in the order. His wife mentioned he had some back stiffness, but in the end he wasn’t injured; he just didn’t want to play on Saturday against the Red Sox.
Whatever. It’s over. I, for one, was glad he didn’t play. Has anyone else seen his numbers?
Posada is batting .165 this year, the worst in baseball among everyday players. In a big situation you cannot expect Posada to come up with a big hit because nine times out of ten he is probably going to disappoint you.
Case in point: Wednesday May 11 vs. the Royals, the night the losing streak began.
Eduardo Nunez (more from him later) stole second base, tied 2-2 in the bottom of the ninth inning. Nick Swisher was intentionally walked, setting up Posada. The 39 year-old DH had the perfect opportunity to silence his critics and regain some of that pride everyone talks about him having.
So with two runners on and a chance to win the game, what did he do?
He struck out swinging on a 3-2 count. Posada whiffed at a low slider that barely had the plate.
Since Saturday Posada hasn’t been in the starting lineup, although he has been used as a pinch-hitter. The media has made it seem that Posada has been left out of the lineup because he has been having a hard time with left-handed pitching – and since Saturday, the Yankees have only been facing southpaws.
Tonight however, a righty (James Shields) is taking the ball vs. New York. If Posada is in the starting lineup, we can assume everything is alright and that everyone is over his actions from Saturday. If he is once again left out, then get ready for another soap opera.
On Thursday May 12, Ivan Nova took the ball hoping to get the Yankees back in the win column. Nova failed at playing the role of stopper, getting shelled for eight runs on ten hits in just three innings pitched. He walked two batters, struck out two, and served up two homers.
What made it worse for me: I was there to witness it. I sat in the right field bleachers of Yankee Stadium to watch Nova blow the game and the Yankees lose, 11-5.
It was only one bad start for Nova, but it was a big one. If he could have managed to come out strong and win the game, the Yanks may have been able to gain some momentum heading into the Boston series. Instead they were reeling, it carried over, and as we all know Boston swept them.
Up until that point Nova had been on a little bit of a roll; he had won his previous two games against Texas and Toronto. But somehow he unraveled against the Royals.
Nova has to be able to get into a groove; he will be in for a long season if he keeps going up-and-down. Tonight he will once again try to play the role of stopper against the Tampa Bay Rays.
If he can stop the bleeding, he will be known as the guy who played a major role in ending this run of misery. Yet if he falters again, goes out and gets beat up the way he did against Kansas City, he will be considered a huge part of why the Yankees are losing.
Mark Teixeira & Alex Rodriguez
If anyone has seen these two, please call the NYPD. I don’t know where they have disappeared to, but I am reporting them missing.
Throughout this losing streak, Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez have practically been non-existent in the Yankee batting order; we might as well rename them Casper and Slimer, because they have been ghosts.
The number three and number four hitters are there to provide power, and most often intimidate opposing pitchers. At this point, every opposing pitcher is probably comfortable facing Teixeira and Rodriguez.
During this six-game skid Teixeira has one RBI, just four hits, no home runs, no runs scored, and he has struck out four times. His season batting average has plummeted to .250.
Teixeira looks off-balance and hasn’t been swinging the bat well.
Rodriguez hasn’t been much better, although he has been a bit more productive in recording four RBIs and hitting a home run (on May 12 vs. the Royals) during the losing streak.
However it doesn’t change the fact that A-Rod is hitting .242 on the season and he is fouling out an awful lot. The follow-through in his swing doesn’t look normal and as a result, he isn’t getting around on a lot of pitches, popping them up for outs.
Rodriguez also committed a costly error on defense in Sunday’s game, letting a ball go through his glove and allowing Dustin Pedroia to score.
The Yanks cannot expect to win when both of these players aren’t hitting. When one or two people are struggling, the other players are supposed to rise to the occasion and produce; it’s what baseball is all about, picking each other up.
Teixeira and Rodriguez always pick each other up. But when both of them are slumping, who picks them up?
Right now nobody, unless you count Curtis Granderson, who has been the only player on offense that has been hitting.
But Granderson can’t hit in all nine spots in the batting order, nor can he pick up every single hitter on the team. Teixeira and Rodriguez need to help him out and start swinging their bats.
When they get hot, the team gets hot. And right now they are about as cold as Antarctic ice.
I can’t exactly knock what Eduardo Nunez has been able to do at the plate. For a bench player he hasn’t done poorly on offense, hitting .304 on the year (7-for-23) with only two strikeouts. Nunez has also proven his worth on the bases, stealing four bags and getting caught just one time.
But that’s his offense. On defense…well…
For a bench player, he’s done well. For a backup shortstop, he has failed.
At shortstop he has committed five errors in six games. He played one game at third base and in that game, committed an error. That gives him a total of six errors this season at two different infield positions.
On May 5 in Detroit Nunez botched two throws filling in for Derek Jeter at short, helping the Tigers overcome a strong start by A.J. Burnett. In fact, Burnett had been no-hitting the Tigers into the sixth inning. Even with that strong of a start, the Yanks lost.
If Nunez could field the ball, he would be a genuinely good bench player; a good hitter and a good fielder. But his defense kills him; it only makes him a threat on offense and a below average defender (and saying he’s below average is being generous).
I could probably rant on all day about how poor the Yankees have been playing.
I could point out other struggling players like Brett Gardner, who is supposed to be a speed threat and has been caught stealing six of the 11 times he has tried to swipe a base this season.
I could touch on how Burnett had a chance to end the losing streak, and how once again he fell flat on his face, giving up five runs in the sixth inning of last night’s game to blow it.
I could mention how Russell Martin hasn’t been swinging the bat well and is carrying a .252 batting average, with only three RBIs and seven strikeouts over the last 10 games.
I could go on forever about how useless Rafael Soriano is, with his arm problems and inability to pitch.
But it’s not necessary because everyone knows it. The world knows the Yankees are scuffling and these Yankees that we see playing in front of us are not the real Yankees at all.
The real Yankees don’t choke.
The real Yankees know what’s theirs for the taking and don’t choke.
The real Yankees are ready, and don’t choke.
The real Yankees know how to hit, field, and pitch.
The real Yankees know everything there is to know about this sport.
I’ll tell them something…
These Yankees need to find a way to stay loose out there, which is something their coaches and manager can’t help them with.
We’ll see them tonight at Tropicana Field.
A lot to feel good about tonight for the Yankees, as they routed the White Sox 12-3 to a series split.
Already leading 2-0 heading into the fifth, the Yankees’ bats came alive and they scored six runs in the frame. It began with a home run by Brett Gardner and it all snowballed from there.
Curtis Granderson tripled, Nick Swisher and Robinson Cano both singled, Alex Rodriguez doubled, Eric Chavez was intentionally walked, Russell Martin singled and Jorge Posada reached base on a walk. They sent 12 batters to plate in the fifth, which lasted 32 minutes.
The brightest sign for the Yanks was Swisher, who went 3-for-4 tonight with a home run (his first of the year), four RBIs, and three runs scored. The right fielder was 0 for his last 19 coming into the game, but came out of his slump with a solid night at the plate.
CC Sabathia gave the Yanks a nice outing: seven innings pitched, seven hits, three runs (none of them were earned), one walk, and six strikeouts. For his efforts, he picked up his second win of the year and the big man lowered his ERA to 2.25.
Sabathia was countered by Edwin Jackson, who no-hit the Yankees through the first four innings.
But don’t let the words “no-hit” fool you. He didn’t have it.
Jackson walked four straight batters in the third inning to give up a run, followed by allowing a sacrifice fly to Cano to give the Yankees a 2-0 lead, despite not giving up a hit.
Gardner’s homer to start the huge fifth inning was the Yanks’ first hit.
But enough about tonight’s squash of the ChiSox and onto the reason I am writing.
In the first inning of yesterday’s game, White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen was run by home plate umpire Todd Tichenor after arguing a questionable called strike three on Paul Konerko; the ball was low and inside but the ump rung Konerko up.
The Chicago skipper argued, was thrown out, then continued to scream at the ump as he walked off the field and into the tunnel on the way to the clubhouse.
What did he do next? Well, he tweeted. Twice. First:
This one is going to cost me a lot of money. This is patetic.
Today a tough guy show up at Yankee Stadium.
Major League Baseball is now reviewing his tweets, as they maintain a policy that prevents employees (including players and coaches) from making disparaging remarks about umpires.
And here is where social media and networking can get ugly.
When I first heard about Twitter, I had absolutely no desire to create an account. I was only interested in Facebook as a means to connect with my friends, family, and classmates. A friend of mine kept telling me about all of the celebrity activity on Twitter as well as all of the famous athletes who have verified accounts.
He kept nagging me and nagging me until I finally gave in and created a Twitter. At first I had no idea how to use it; I just started following all the celebrities and athletes I like, not knowing how to communicate using Twitter.
Finally I got the hang of it and figured out how to use the @mention function.
When I did get to know how to use Twitter, I tried to garner some attention. It worked, a little bit. I tweeted a Yankee Yapping investigation to ESPN baseball insider and former Yankee beat writer Buster Olney, and he re-tweeted it, in other words posting it for his followers to see.
Another former beat writer and current YES Network analyst Jack Curry is another person who has re-tweeted me; I asked him some questions and he responded to me.
During a tweet-driven Q & A session with Yankee catcher Russell Martin, I asked him what his walkup music is when he comes to bat. He answered me, saying he hadn’t yet chosen it and he would let the fans choose the song soon.
I even got a re-tweet from Comedy Central comedian and TV show host Daniel Tosh. In terms of reaching out to (and possibly hearing back from) celebrities and pro athletes, Twitter can be pretty cool.
Yet, like in Guillen’s case, it can hurt you. Anything negative you post on the internet or in an open forum, such as Twitter or Facebook, can be damaging to your reputation. There are people who have gotten fired from their jobs because of content posted on the internet. Kids have gotten in trouble in school for things they have posted on such sites.
The bottom line is, you have to be careful in terms of what you post. There are ways to protect your tweets and posts, but obviously Guillen didn’t and now it will cost him.
Another aspect about Twitter I find fascinating (and in a lot of ways scared of) is how often reporters tweet. Every Yankee beat writer tweets before the game, during the game, and after the game. They usually talk about what’s happening in the clubhouse, what’s going on with daily news, injury updates, and numbers.
All of this raises the question: is this hurting or helping the journalism industry? Is this what’s in store for the long future? Instead of game recaps and numbers from the box score, are we just going to be reading old tweets?
It’s pretty scary to think Twitter could impact the sports journalism industry in a huge way.
Even right now, in the high school sports reporting game (in which I’m currently playing), Twitter is a huge commodity. Sometimes I’m asked by former editors to tweet them the final scores of the games I’m covering, just to get them out there. I can only hope by the time I start covering professional sports I am not being asked to just tweet the game. I would rather show off my unique writing skills than my tweeting skills.
Also as a reader, I would rather read an educated game recap and be taken through the game than simply look up old posts on a writer’s Twitter account.
Not saying it will come to that, but you never know. In this ever-changing environment and the dominance of digital and social media, who knows what the future holds for sports writing.
If you want to follow me on Twitter, my username is @AJ_Martelli.
I oftentimes tweet about the Yankees; that should come as no shock. However, I tweet whimsical sayings, movie and TV quotes, and lots of phrases that have absolutely no context if you’re not with me when I tweet them. And in doing that, I garner the attention of random people.
So be forewarned.
Before this season began, many folks called the Yankees’ starting rotation “comically thin.” Those same folks praised the Yankee bullpen, calling them dynamic and strong. Rightfully so, considering they have Mariano Rivera, and they bolstered the ‘pen with the signing of Rafael Soriano, who led the American League in saves last year with 45 for the Tampa Bay Rays.
Right now, it’s almost as if everyone had it backwards.
A.J. Burnett, Ivan Nova, Bartolo Colon, and Freddy Garcia have been pitching great, giving the Yankees length and quality. Each of the starters, who everyone thought were going to pitch terribly, are doing their part. The bullpen on the other hand has been faltering and failing.
Case in point: tonight.
With the Yankees leading 2-1 in the eighth, Soriano plunked Carlos Quentin, who was quickly replaced by pinch-runner Brent Lillibridge (more from him later). The next batter, Paul Konerko, pulled a home run over the left field wall, giving the White Sox a 3-2 lead.
The Yankees tried to stage a comeback in the ninth; Derek Jeter singled, Curtis Granderson sacrifice bunted him over to second, and then Mark Teixeira walked.
Then it became the Lillibridge defense show.
Alex Rodriguez took a pitch to deep right field, all the way to the wall. On his horse, Lillibridge ran and tracked the ball down at the wall for the second out.
Robinson Cano, as the Yanks’ last hope, lined a falling blooper to right, again setting up another excellent play for Lillibridge; he dove, caught the ball, and ended the game.
The only two runs the Yankees generated were by solo home runs, off the bats of Cano (in the second inning) and Brett Gardner (in the fifth).
As a team the Yanks only had four hits tonight and two of them went over the wall. The Yankees collectively have 38 homers, and it’s evident they are relying heavily on the home run.
And as they say: if you live by the home run, there’s a chance you can die by the home run.
Tonight, that was the case.
But it probably should not have come to that in the first place. The Yankees brought Soriano to New York to fill the void in the eighth inning. He was meant to get big outs in the eighth inning; to hold close leads late in the game and set up Rivera, but so far he hasn’t done much of that.
In fact, Raphael the Ninja Turtle seems to be doing more for the Yankees than Rafael Soriano.
He is 1-1 with a 7.84 ERA and he has more walks (8) than strikeouts (7). He left a bad taste in a lot of people’s mouths last night, not going for that popup behind the mound. Tonight he blew a tremendous outing by Nova, who pitched 6 1/3 innings and gave up one earned run on five hits.
Nova walked two and struck out three, the longest outing of his young career.
It was unfortunate for Nova, because if he had won he would have moved to 2-2 on the year. Instead Soriano blew the game and his chance at his second win of the season. Soriano’s body language has also been rubbing certain people the wrong way.
When he surrendered the home run to Konerko, he didn’t look fazed; he remained stoic and it didn’t look as though he cared he had blown the lead. There are some pitchers who do not show emotion, but with the way Soriano has been recently pitching, it wouldn’t kill him to look a little upset with himself.
Yet as poor as Soriano has been pitching, he isn’t alone. Rivera has blown his last two save opportunities, both after good performances from the starters.
On April 19 in Toronto, Burnett gave the Yanks a great outing, turning in 5 1/3 innings and only allowing two earned runs. Rivera blew a 5-3 lead in the ninth and the Blue Jays went on to win 6-5 in 10 innings. Fast forward five days later in Baltimore, and another quality start, this one by Garcia.
Six innings and no earned runs by the starter and Rivera came in and once again let go of the lead. The Yankee offense bailed him out, taking the game into extra innings to beat the Orioles 6-3 in 11 frames, but it still goes as a blown save for Rivera.
The Yankee bullpen, as dynamic and strong as it can be, is not doing the job.
The only bright spot seems to be David Robertson, who has five holds so far this year. Robertson is 1-0 and has not allowed a run in 8 1/3 innings pitched. Tonight he tossed 2/3 of an inning, struck out one, and did not issue a walk.
It’s nice to know we have one guy out there doing his job, but the rest of the relievers are ghosts.
Tomorrow night Colon (1-1, 3.50 ERA) will take the hill for the Yankees (12-8), looking to get them back in the win column. He will face Chicago ace Mark Buehrle (1-2, 5.40 ERA).
As for the bullpen, minus Robertson, I have one closing thought for you:
Act like you care. Get your heads in the game. Start doing work and taking care of business.
The Boston Red Sox were 0-6 coming into their home opener against the Yankees. Behind some weak pitching on the Yankees’ part, the Red Sox changed that. Boston captured its first win of the year, beating the Yanks 9-6 this afternoon. It was almost as if the simple baseball game turned into a fierce tennis match, both sides going back-and-forth with the scoring.
Tied 6-6 in the bottom of the fifth inning, a double by Jarrod Saltalamacchia brought home Kevin Youkilis; making the game 7-6 in favor of Boston. Bartolo Colon, who put up such a valiant effort in relief, gave up the go-ahead run but it could have been prevented. An error by Mark Teixeira allowed David Ortiz to reach base, and the inning continued.
Boone Logan came on in relief in the seventh and gave up two more runs on a single by J.D. Drew. Ortiz and Adrian Gonzalez came to the plate, Boston went up 9-6, and eventually they finished off the game.
There were plenty of things that went wrong for the Yankees today. Obviously the biggest story…
Two games for Phil Hughes this year, and both times he has gotten shelled. Today the 24 year-old righty was tagged for six earned runs on seven hits in just two innings. He didn’t strike anyone out and walked two batters. He threw 47 pitches, all of which lacked command, movement, and velocity. He did not trust his fastball, which topped out in the high-80s, low-90s, and tossed a lot of cutters.
Hughes’s day could probably be summed up with one pitch: the hanger he threw to Dustin Pedroia in the first inning. He hung a breaking ball a little too high and Pedroia pulled it over the Green Monster for a solo home run.
From there, he never recovered.
In his previous start, Hughes lost to the Detroit Tigers, pitching only four innings and giving up five earned runs on five hits. He walked two batters and struck out one, as many analysts noticed location and velocity were nowhere to be found in that start.
His season ERA after his first two starts: 16.50.
I got the feeling Hughes was going to struggle this season for a few reasons. First of all, go back and look at how he finished last year. He registered the loss in the 2010 All-Star Game for the American League and from there it all seemed to go downhill for him.
He lost two important games in the American League Championship Series to the Texas Rangers – and both losses were all on him. He pitched very poorly in both starts and it cost the Yankees in a major way.
In fact, Hughes gave up 11 earned runs on 14 hits in those final two games last year.
Now fast forward and look at how he performed in Spring Training this year. His record wasn’t indicative of any failure (he was 1-0) but he gave up 10 earned runs in just five games. He also gave up four homers, his ERA was 4.09, and he pitched 22 innings giving up 24 hits.
It may not look like it in the box score, but he got knocked around all spring.
I had said on a few occasions that Hughes might have a year this year like A.J. Burnett had last year – not pitching effectively and thus ending the season with a lopsided win-loss record and a sky-high ERA. While it is early – extremely early – in the season, it looks as though my thought could be well-founded. Hughes is already 0-1 and pitched as if he should be 0-2 – the offense scored for him and got him out of a loss today.
Last year Hughes had the best run support of any pitcher in the American League, the Yankees averaging almost eight runs per game on days he took the mound.
But he can’t live off that forever; eventually it will come back to bite him, like it did today. Hughes was lucky that John Lackey pitched just as poorly as he did, throwing five innings and giving up six earned runs on seven hits.
Lackey walked two batters and struck out two, but notched the win because the Red Sox were able to scrape across that run in the fifth while he was still the pitcher of record. All in all Lackey was lack-luster, but the Boston offense got it done for him – which was the story of Hughes’s 2010 season. He would give up runs, but the Yankees would score for him to get him off the hook and most times, get him a win.
And like Hughes, Lackey might not be so lucky his next time out.
After Hughes’s departure, ESPN insider Buster Olney tweeted: “You’d have to think that the Yankees will talk about replacing Phil Hughes in the rotation. For whatever reason, he has no weapons.”
All true. None of Hughes’s pitches are working for him.
Right now, replacing Hughes in the rotation seems like a novel idea, especially since he admitted after the game that his arm strength is not where it should be.
And with the way Bartolo Colon pitched in relief (4 1/3 innings, two hits, two runs, one earned run, one walk, five Ks) he would be the obvious choice, although there are other options. Mark Prior is a pitcher they could call up, and Kevin Millwood isn’t far behind.
Heck, if the Yankees think about it, they still have Dellin Betances waiting in the wings.
What Hughes is showing right now reminds me of how Chien-Ming Wang pitched to start 2009. Wang struggled in the worst way and lost the faith of the Yankees. There’s only one thing that Hughes and Wang don’t have in common about their poor pitching in the early-going:
When Wang struggled, it was because he was hurt. There isn’t anything wrong with Hughes.
Yankee manager Joe Girardi confirmed after the game that there is nothing physically wrong with Hughes and that he just needs to command his pitches better. Wang was injured and eventually landed himself on the disabled list following his subpar start in ’09.
At least Wang had a reason for his struggle. Hughes just hasn’t been pitching well.
Hughes’s next start is supposed to be on Wednesday at home against Baltimore – a team atop the AL East right now, playing exceptional baseball. However, the Yankees have an off-day on Monday and could work around Hughes, pushing him back.
The likelihood of Hughes being skipped (I would say) is pretty high right now. So far he is only proving that he has a dead arm, he has nothing behind any of his pitches, and he isn’t doing his job as the Yankees’ number three starter.
I still have faith in Hughes. I think if he physically gets himself back to where he was during the first half of last year, he can be as dominant as any ace in the league. But he needs to get there.
He needs to get his fastball back up to the mid-90s, blowing hitters away and not letting them catch up to it. He needs to get his breaking ball working again, fooling hitters with its movement. He needs to locate his pitches, and get them down in the strike zone – not leaving them up for hitters to feast upon.
If he does that, he will be fine. If not, it will be a long season for Hughes.
Another Guilty Party
What is this guy doing on the team? Does he even have any business here in New York?
He is in the bullpen to be the Yanks’ lefty specialist, and so far he is not proving he is a lefty specialist because he isn’t getting any left-handed hitters out. Logan is only proving he doesn’t belong here, as he gave up a two-run single to Drew in the seventh. At that point the Yanks were only down by one run and still had two innings to scrape a run across and tie it up.
I think once Logan gave up those runs, the Yanks’ bats just gave up and never recovered.
Logan was part of the Yanks’ meltdown on Tuesday to the Twins, and was even tagged with the loss in that game. Right now the reliever is 0-1 with an ERA of 13.50.
I know he is only filling in for Pedro Feliciano, who is on the DL with shoulder soreness. I hope Feliciano comes back soon, because the Yankee bullpen could sure use a lift.
And we could all use a break from Logan.
Bright Spots of the Day
Although it was a bad day for Hughes, Logan, and the Yankee team, there is some good to take away from it. Here are some things the Yankees did right today and some things we learned:
· We now know Bartolo Colon can thrive in a long relief role. Despite the two runs (only one was earned) he cleaned up Hughes’s mess quite nicely.
· Alex Rodriguez homered today, his fifth career round-tripper off John Lackey. He now has three homers on the year and he is hitting .304.
· Curtis Granderson went the other way, slapping a double into left field. It’s good to see Granderson, a traditional pull-hitter, go oppo and hit to left field instead of right.
· Derek Jeter had a hit and an RBI. He’s now 68 hits away from 3,000.
· Brett Gardner had a triple, his first of 2011. He also stole a base, once again showcasing his Sonic the Hedgehog-like speed. A walk is as good as a double when it comes to Gardner. He can fly on the bases.
· Robinson Cano, a lifetime slugger at Fenway Park, was 2-for-4 with two doubles and two RBIs. Cano seems to be heating up. Look out opposing pitchers…
Today is done and there is tomorrow afternoon to look forward to. Ivan Nova (1-0, 4.50 ERA) will look to get the Yankees back in the win column. He is facing Clay Buchholz (0-1, 5.68 ERA).
The Yankees had a rare game on Tuesday – a complete meltdown of the bullpen, taking a 5-4 loss to the Minnesota Twins. Yesterday’s game was rained out, making this afternoon’s game a rubber game. The Bombers came out on top, beating the Twins 4-3 in the series finale.
The Yankees and Twins will make up Wednesday’s rainout in September.
A three-run fourth inning by the Yankees gave them the lead, which they never gave up. Down 2-1, Andruw Jones blasted a double to score Alex Rodriguez, tying the game up at two. Russell Martin then grounded out to first base, allowing Robinson Cano to come to the plate.
Jones came home on a bloop single by Brett Gardner, finishing off the scoring in the frame.
The Yankees built a run in the bottom of the third, with Gardner ultimately coming home on a sacrifice fly to right field by Nick Swisher.
Speaking of Swisher, he took out Twins’ second baseman Tsuyoshi Nishioka in the seventh, sliding hard into second base to break up what would have been a Mark Teixeira double play.
Swisher broke it up, but in the process, fractured Nishioka’s fibula. The Yankees’ right fielder looked visibly disappointed in himself after Nishioka was removed from the game. He is headed to the disabled list.
Next time the Yankees meet the Twins…watch your back, Swish. (Although Swisher did apologize after the game. Will the Twins will get back at him? We’ll have to wait and see).
In another storyline, Derek Jeter had two hits and he passed Rogers Hornsby and Jake Beckley for 33rd place on baseball’s all-time hits list. The Captain now has 2,931 hits, just 69 base hits away from 3,000.
The Twins scored two in the top of the fourth receiving RBI doubles by Jim Thome and Jason Kubel. They plated their final run in the top of the seventh on a groundout by Denard Span to score Alexi Casilla.
A.J. Burnett pitched for the Yankees and turned in a good performance. The lanky right-hander tossed six innings and gave up two earned runs on five hits. He walked two batters and struck out five, mixing pitches and using his curveball with confidence.
He was backed by the combination of Joba Chamberlain, Rafael Soriano, and Mariano Rivera who put the Twins away in the seventh, eighth, and ninth, respectively. It was certainly an improvement over Tuesday’s collapse. The only blemish was a run given up by Chamberlain – Span’s groundout to score Casilla was on him.
Burnett improved to 2-0 on the season and he is now 7-0 in 12 April starts as a member of the Yankees. He leads the Yankee staff in wins this year.
Rivera has saved all four games the Yankees have won this season, as the Bombers are 4-2.
Now they will head into Boston for the weekend, where things have not gone according to plan. While the Yankees have a winning record, the Red Sox have started the season 0-6, losing their first three games to the Rangers and their next three to the Indians.
Boston has only started two other seasons at 0-6 (1905 and 1927) and statistically it’s the worst start they have ever seen since 1945. Baseball analysts are asking themselves, “What have happened to these guys?” After all, many experts predicted the Red Sox to win it all this year, considering their huge off-season acquisitions. They added Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford to help bolster an already-potent lineup.
Although the BoSox are scuffling, they cannot blame Gonzalez. He is hitting .304 with five RBIs and he has a home run. Crawford on the other hand is not producing, hitting .174 with no extra base hits, only one RBI, and six strikeouts.
Jacoby Ellsbury, who is Boston’s leadoff hitter, is only batting .167 and has struck out seven times this year. Kevin Youkilis, one of the Red Sox main RBI producers in the middle of the lineup, is hitting a meager .105 with just one RBI and five strikeouts. Dustin Pedroia is batting .227 with no extra base hits and no RBIs.
After their 1-0 loss to the Indians today, Pedroia said he was going to go home and his wife was going to tell him “he stinks.”
Yet, it isn’t just the dead offense. Boston’s pitching hasn’t been much better.
John Lackey, who will start tomorrow afternoon against Phil Hughes (0-1, 11.25 ERA) was shelled in his first start of the year against Texas. He tossed only 3 2/3 innings and surrendered nine earned runs on ten hits. He walked two batters, struck out three, and served up two homers. Lackey’s ERA right now is 22.09.
On Saturday the Yankees will send Ivan Nova (1-0, 4.50 ERA) to the hill to face Clay Buchholz, who was touched up for four homers in his first start of the season against the Rangers. He pitched 6 1/3 innings on the way to a loss in Texas, as he is 0-1 right now with a 5.68 ERA.
The series will conclude on Sunday night with CC Sabathia (0-0, 1.38 ERA) squaring off against Josh Beckett – once the Boston ace, now throwing out of the number four spot in the rotation. Beckett only tossed five innings in Cleveland on Tuesday, giving up three earned runs on five hits. He walked four batters and struck out four, on the way to his first loss of 2011.
Look at it this way: tomorrow is Opening Day at Fenway Park. The Red Sox fans are going to be excited and hoping their team can put the abysmal 0-6 start behind them with a win over the Yankees. During the opening ceremonies, the fans will be cheering and going wild for their players, new life and rebirth fresh in their heads.
If the Yankees jump all over Lackey for a few runs early on, they might turn on their team and get angry. The Boston fans might be getting restless, witnessing their team – that everyone thought was going be dominant – struggle so mightily in the early-going.
And with the way the Yankees have been going ahead early, getting on base, and putting pressure on the other team, it could make for a long weekend for the Red Sox.
As the people in Boston continue to scratch their heads and wonder what is wrong with the Red Sox, New York would love nothing more than to keep the ongoing Boston Massacre alive.