Game 31: NYY vs. COL — A rainy loss in Denver has me thinking…

In a rare trip to the Mile High City, the Yankees began a pitching duel in the pouring rain. Starting pitcher Hiroki Kuroda pitched a strong 7 innings, only a minor slip in the 6th inning allowed a single and a 2-run home run to put the Rockies on top 2-0, what would become the final score. His replacement Shawn Kelley pitched a scoreless inning, allowing only a single hit.

There were a couple of good defensive plays on both side of the field, but really tonight’s game once again come down to the pitching. And with the rain pouring and the threat of lightning for most of the game, it was rather a dramatic flourish to tonight’s game. In fact, the stadium requested those seated in the upper decks to take cover for a few innings as the worst part of the storm passed through the area. Maybe the one stadium that actually needs to be a dome is Coors Field, as they’ve had a few postponed games due to really bad weather, including a blizzard last month.

The strangest part of tonight’s game (at least to me) was seeing Kuroda hit. It threw me for a second as I remembered the National League’s lack of a Designated Hitter. I suppose fans of a National League team are used to seeing their pitchers swing the bat, but for a lifelong American League fan (born after the creation of the DH in 1973), it’s a little disconcerting. And up until a few years ago, the only time AL pitchers would bat was during the World Series, which was always almost laughable. But now that interleague play is more common (due to the way the teams have shifted around the leagues), I guess I will have to become more accustomed to pitchers hitting.

Maybe I’m a little old school, but I liked it when the teams in each league never met until the Series. And really old-school traditionalists hate the DH because they feel it takes away from the original spirit of the game. But much like the evolution of fielding gloves, batting helmets, baseball bats, injuries, player development and salaries, roster sizes, and the RBI and other statistics, perhaps the evolution of including the DH (and I must then conceded interleague play) is the right thing for the sport.

Change is a natural part of life, and I don’t think allowing for natural evolution of a game will ever deter from the spirit and heart of the sport as a whole. In fact, I think it may actually strengthen it. Think about the safety regulations, which are also constantly evolving as technology and science continues to explore options to make the sport safer and reduce injuries, something we Yankees fans should be welcoming with gusto after a quick glance at our DL. The invention of batting helmets, for instance, which became the norm in professional baseball in the 1960s and continued to evolve in shape, size, and with flaps, until just this year the MLB adopted the latest technology of batting helmets and made it a rule across the league that all batters must wear the new helmet. The new helmet can apparently withstand a hit by a 100 mph pitch and not injure the batter, which is a vast improvement over the former style which could only withstand a pitch at 70 mph tops. I don’t think they’ve stopped developing the helmet, and I don’t want them to.

Honestly, this post has evolved to change my perspective on things, and as the Yankees continue their first interleague series in a NL park, I can look at the game as an ever-changing sport with the motivation to make things better in this old game that we love.

Go Yankees!

Who’s on first… naturally

I was writing yesterday’s post and it reminded me of a funny part of baseball history, if you can call it that. As I was writing it out on the blog, I realized there was more that I had to say that didn’t really fit nicely as part of a blog. And now, I’m fortunate enough to have an off day to talk about it.

Before diving into it, I want to add that the Tampa minor league complex was abuzz this morning. All sorts of players on the DL showed up for their rehab assignments — Teixeira, Granderson, Cervelli, Pineda, Youkilis, Nova, and Rodriguez. The sidewalk gang of reporters is back at it again as well, waiting for quotes, stories, photos, and more from the baseball stars on the mend.

Now, while the names are in Tampa and the actual team is on its way to Denver, it just continues to remind me that it’s been rather fun to watch what being a Yankee can do to anyone and how the team continues to win no matter who’s on the DL and who’s on the starting roster. But it’s been a constant surprise to see who’s playing which position each game. And I guess it reminds me a little of the old Abbott and Costello routine, “Who’s On First?” Enjoy…

You see, sometimes, when I’m talking to people who aren’t as familiar with the team, I feel a little like Bud Abbott where no one seems to understand what I’m telling them and which players are good or playing where and why. But there are times that I’m Lou Costello and I don’t have a clue what’s going on and who’s where. (And to follow the joke, Who should be on first… naturally.)

Perhaps, we all feel that way at certain times in our lives. Sometimes we feel like we’re talking and no one understands anything we’re saying, and sometimes we’re the ones walking around desperately trying to understand but never really comprehending a thing. I suppose both sides can get rather frustrating as if the whole communication has broken down. But it doesn’t affect the game in the long run. There’s still a game to be played, and Who, What, I Don’t Know, and I Don’t Give A Darn will still make an impressive infield. And while you may not have a clue what’s going on, you can still watch the same game that Abbott and Costello watched over half a century ago. There is something almost comforting about the traditions and continuous legacy of this sport.

Apparently, the comedy skit was usually performed as part of the duo’s radio series at the start of baseball season, again proving that baseball is so embedded in the American heart that comedians have been trying to keep the ball rolling (so to speak) for since the invention of the sport.  And once, it began with Costello getting a telegram from DiMaggio asking him to take over in right field (the only unidentified player on the team, though it’s usually considered “Nobody”).

Also, in honor of the famous skit’s 75th anniversary ESPN did a variation of the skit this March during Spring Training with current baseball stars (mostly Red Sox and Rays, but still quite humorous). Enjoy…

Go Yankees!

Game 30: OAK vs. NYY — A losing rally is still fun to watch

A 6th inning offensive rally by the Yankees tied up today’s game 4-4 until a solo home run in the 8th allowed the Athletics to jump ahead and win 5-4. Starting pitcher Andy Pettitte struggled today in his 100 pitch 5 innings, giving up 2 home runs, 4 total runs, 3 hits, and walking 4 batters. Preston Claiborne, the recent call up to replace the injured Joba Chamberlain, threw 2 scoreless innings today for his strong major league debut. As it was Boone Logan who gave up the winning home run to the A’s, it was Logan that earned the loss today.

The first run Oakland scored was due to a throwing error in the top of the 3rd inning by Robinson Cano trying to finish a double play. Cano tagged 2nd in the force out but then threw to 1st very wide which allowed the runner at 1st to easily tag home. However, Cano proceeded to redeem himself at the bottom of the inning with an RBI single to score Gardner. Pettitte gave up a solo home run and 2-run home run in the next two innings, for which the Yankees responded in the 6th with Ichiro Suzuki’s RBI double and Lyle Overbay’s 2-RBI single to tie it up.

After loading the bases in the bottom of the 9th, including intentionally walking Cano, the Yankees struck out swinging to end the game and give the Athletics their 2nd victory of the series before the Yankees leave for a rare interleague trip to Coors Field in Denver to play a series against the Rockies beginning Tuesday.

Eduardo Nunez came out of the game today with “tightness in the rib cage”, which he first thought was a reaction to something he ate. But when the stiffness didn’t go away, he was pulled from the game. While not a call for the DL, Nunez will be put on rest and seen as day-to-day until he’s feeling better. The Yankees have 11 players on the DL, the most in the league. The Marlins and Dodgers have 10, followed by Toronto and Atlanta with 9 each.

But there is good news: a good chunk of those on the DL are due back within the next month or so (at least according to official reports) — Joba Chamberlain, Curtis Granderson, Ivan Nova, David Robertson, Kevin Youkilis, Michael Pineda, and Mark Teixeira. Four players on the 60-day DL (Cesar Cabral, Francisco Cervelli, Derek Jeter, and Alex Rodriguez) are due back sometime around the All-Star break in July. This means by the July 31 trade deadline, we could see a fully healthy Yankees roster. (Fingers crossed on the rest of the team staying healthy.)

All that being said, we are still continuing to wish well all those struggling to stay or get healthy on the Yankees.

Go Yankees!

Game 29: OAK vs. NYY — A rather nice Saturday for a win

Today I was split in several directions. First, there was the Yankees game against Oakland, or should I say the really fantastic win in the Bronx, which I had to keep track of via my phone at the wedding of two friends this afternoon. It should be noted that the Yankees sealed their victory today in the middle of my friends’ ceremony. Then a long-standing tradition in my family was to watch the Kentucky Derby (my choice today got 3rd), but as we were at a wedding today, we were relegated to calling up my brother who was watching it and getting the play-by-play via again my phone. And now, I’m enjoying the rest of my Saturday by first sharing all this information with my readers. Honestly, what would we ever do without our phones anymore? Because of it, I was able to enjoy the game, wedding, and Derby and not miss a crucial moment of any of them. Thank you, technology.

So the game…

Let me just say that Phil Hughes today was honestly the best I’ve seen him in a long time. He went 8 full innings, allowing only 4 hits, walking 2, and striking out 9 batters. He kept Oakland scoreless through 8 innings. I should note that last year in his 32 games, Hughes pitched 191.1 innings and gave up 196 hits and 101 runs (35 were home runs) — which averages out to 6.13 hits, 3.16 runs, and 1.09 home runs during 6 innings per game. He was really impressive today, earning his first win of the season, against a team that can hit and be dangerous offensively when they face a lesser pitcher.

Offensively, the Yankees were also outstanding collecting 8 hits and scoring 4 runs. Two of those runs were homers. Chris Stewart hit his in the 3rd just barely to the right of the left field foul pole, and Lyle Overbay (quickly becoming an offensive favorite) found the right field 2nd deck with his 5th inning shot. Following a Cano double, the ever reliable Travis Hafner hit Cano in with an RBI single in the 6th. And his example was copied in the 7th by a Gardner RBI single to score Nunez.

The bullpen faltered a bit in the 9th, and Rivera wasn’t as sharp as he usually is allowing 2 RBI singles (1 runner was inherited) to finalize the score at 4-2 Yankees. But overall, today was a great game. In the field, there were phenomenal plays made, including a nice double play in the 4th inning and a snazzy grab by Ichiro Suzuki to deprive the first batter of the game from what should have been an easy home run.

And in lieu of my usual commentary, I’m just going to wish everyone a wonderful Saturday. And a happy wedding day to Robyn and Sean — both your teams (Mariners and Cardinals, respectively) won today too, for you I’m assuming!

But I still say…

Go Yankees!

Game 28: OAK vs. NYY — Shutout at home

Tonight in the Bronx, it was a tight game against Oakland. Starting pitcher CC Sabathia gave up a first pitch home run to the Athletics, but held them off scoreless until an RBI single in the 6th scored the other run for Oakland in a 2-0 shutout against the Yankees. Overall, Sabathia allowed only those 2 runs off 8 hits in his 6 innings, striking out 6 batters, low for his usual outing but mildly effective in general. Adam Warren came in to close out the evening and put in a solid 3 innings, keeping the A’s scoreless and only giving up 2 hits.

The Yankees didn’t fare too well against the A’s pitching staff, only getting in 6 hits and a walk off their starter. There is a lot to be said for the team that made “Moneyball” (and its biggest supporter Oakland GM Billy Beane) a household name in professional baseball. It, however, took nearly a decade for the full effect to blossom, after much trial and error and league-wide acceptance, before Oakland itself had a rising team. Last year, they achieved the great feat of winning the AL West over (what everyone seemed to think were) stronger teams like the Rangers and the Angels. They had the great misfortune of having to play the Tigers in their ALDS, who happened to be on a hot streak that suddenly went cold after sweeping the Yankees in the ALCS and having to face the Giants in the Series. Based on their performance already this year, they could really have a stellar year, but once again, they are in a hot division and the Rangers and Angels aren’t going anywhere any time soon.

There were some minor moments of drama during the game tonight. During the 3rd inning, Sabathia got a little angry with himself for missing a strikeout moment, which the home plate umpire briefly misinterpreted as anger directed toward him. Catcher Chris Stewart tried to mediate with the umpire, as Girardi had a moment with his pitcher. Sabathia proceeded to strike the next batter out to get out of the inning with no further damage. In the 6th inning, there was a minor disputed call. The A’s batter hit a ball into deep right field, which Ichiro played off the wall and got the runner out on the throw to 2nd base. The A’s manager thought a fan might have reached over and trying to catch it, interfered with the ball which is usually ruled a home run. Upon reviewing the play, the umpires declared the play and the out were called correctly.

Well, it is what it is. I wish I had more to say tonight, but I’m saving opinions for when I feel a little better. The hardest part about a daily blog is that sometimes your personal life interferes with work. And tonight, it’s some sort of food poisoning or something. And while the men in pinstripes often play through bouts of all sorts of sicknesses and injury, I commend their tenacity to do so with grace and dignity. And so tonight, I leave you with that image — our Bronx Bombers weathering all circumstances (tonight’s loss included) to live to fight another day, play yet another game, brave yet another team fighting for their next victory. Because, like we Yankee fans know oh so well, the Yankees will do so once again and again and again and again.

Go Yankees!

Another one bites the dust…

For a good portion of the country today, they are bracing for snow. And as we all take a moment to check our calendars, we are quickly reminded that it is indeed May 2nd. Is this because the only Canadian team in baseball is really horrible right now? Canadians are known to hate losing, so it’s the only logical conclusion that they have now sent a wave of their spring snow down into the heart of the country. (Sorry, it’s a Canada=snow=bad joke kind of day.)

So today, I get to borrow my title from a Queen song by what’s becoming a weekly injury report.

  • Joba Chamberlain has been placed on the 15-day DL with slight oblique strain; Cashman hasn’t revealed who will replace Chamberlain temporarily in bullpen while he’s on recovery.
  • Last night, David Robertson tweaked his knee on his last pitch and had an MRI on his knee; it’s apparently not a DL situation, so they have him on day-to-day watch.
  • Alex Rodriguez has been cleared to resume baseball activities and will begin his rehab workouts in Tampa next Monday.
  • Curtis Granderson continues his extended spring in Tampa, which is a little threatened this week with the lovely Florida thunderstorms, a normal part of summer afternoons for Floridians, but not exactly good for outdoor sports.
  • No new reports on Mark Teixeira, who is still cautiously working his way back into his rehab stint with, or Derek Jeter, who won’t be cleared for his rehab until his ankle bone heals completely in about a month.

And for those watching the AAA Scranton and other prospects on the farm, pitcher Chien-Ming Wang is getting good results from his time with the team in Scranton, Michael Pineda threw 95 mph fastballs during his rehab this week, and Ronnier Mustelier has been added to the Scranton roster coming off his deep bone bruise from his March collision with the press pen.

To compensate for the loss of a good portion of the infield, the Yankees acquired recently released Rockies infielder Chris Nelson for cash or a player to be named later, picking up a much needed right-handed batter. To make room for him on the 40-man roster, Corban Joseph was optioned to AAA Scranton, which unfortunately removes him from the 40-man roster but keeps him playing for the Yankees in their farm system. How Girardi plans on utilizing Nelson on the field and in the batting order is yet to be determined, but Nelson has proven himself a decent offense (he’s batted .242 in April with 16 hits, including 2 triples) and consistent defense that I really don’t understand the full reasoning why the Rockies GM would let him go. It will be interesting to see what donning pinstripes does for him, as it seems to be doing wonders for his new teammates who have only donned a Yankees uniform just recently.

And so while half the country seems to be doomed for this freak May snowstorm, we await good things as the 2013 Yankees continue to develop and get healthy again, some of them fortunate enough to do so in the sunny normal weather of Florida in May.  Get healthy and stay healthy, gentlemen!

Go Yankees!

Game 27: HOU vs. NYY — Fancy footwork for the win

A lead-off triple by Ichiro Suzuki started the Yankees strong tonight. He was knocked in by a Jayson Nix single and put the Yankees up 1-0 by the end of the 1st inning. In the next inning a sacrifice fly by Stewart allowed Hafner to jog his way into home plate putting the score at 2-0, and 2 solo home runs in the 3rd (by Robinson Cano and Ben Francisco) had the Yankees sitting pretty at 4-0 going into the 4th inning. And that’s when starting pitcher David Phelps lost his solid outing. A single, a double, an RBI single, and two back-to-back hit-by-pitches got 2 runs before a 2-RBI single tied up the score 4-4 before the inning was mercifully over.

In the bottom of the 6th, Ichiro grounds into a double play of sorts that still manages to score a run to punch the final tally at 5-4 Yankees for the win; this last play was due in part to Overbay’s fancy base running that allowed time for Nunez to score before the Astros got Overbay out for the 3rd and final out of the inning. Also worth noting, Brett Gardner stole as many bases as he did in April in the 8th inning tonight (two). He seemed to really struggle in getting on base in April to make an effort to steal those bases, but perhaps tonight snapped his streak.

I was reading articles earlier today about where people are now predicting teams and players to be as we go into May (or Month 2 of baseball season). And honestly, the biggest surprise to everyone (except maybe a handful of people, myself included) is how great the Yankees are doing this year. What they cannot seem to fathom is how a team hit so hard with injuries that 7 of its regular players are out on the DL can basically have one of the best records in all of baseball (tied for 2nd with Texas and Atlanta, behind Boston) as of right now.

Curtis Granderson and Mark Teixeira are making strides to return back to their regular spots by the end of the month (for Granderson) or shortly thereafter (Teixeira). And the naysayers are all scrambling to back-peddle their doom and gloom about our Pinstripes because as good as the team is now, they’re already crunching the numbers of what the team could be like as the regulars come off the DL and start playing regularly. That’s right, for all the anti-Yankee stuff we’re used to seeing, the same people are practically in awe of what a fully healthy Yankees roster would be like — the word I saw was “unstoppable”.

As of right now, the Yankees statistically are on track to win 101 games this season. This is the team that was supposed to be “lucky” to win 85 when their stars were back and healthy. The last time they won over 100 games in the season was 2009 (103 games) and any Yankee fan knows what happened that year.

It’s like I’ve been saying all along on this blog. There’s something that happens in the Bronx that’s almost magical. It’s something that when everything is just clicking, it doesn’t just work for this team, it soars to greatness. Maybe it’s the history, maybe it’s the legacy, maybe it’s the remnants of the dynasty George Steinbrenner so meticulously created, or maybe I’m just overly nostalgic this Wednesday night. But there’s something that fans of other teams just don’t get; it’s why they hate the Yankees. That mystique that somehow against all odds, even when there’s no chance for victory, the Yankees just win. It’s teamwork, it’s talent, and it’s character. But mostly, (at least for Yankee fans) it’s a whole lot of fun!

Go Yankees!