Friday, July 30, 2010

Yankees 11, Cleveland 4

. . . with the kid, Hughes, holding down a 2-0 lead in the sixth.

And maybe Berkman on the way.

In Blackjack, this would be a double-down moment.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Yankees 8, Indians 0

A walk in the sopping-wet park for AJ, but the Rays come back against the Tigers. Still two games.

Indians 4, Yankees 1

Like getting nibbled to death by a suck. CC gave up a little here, a little there, some pitcher in diapers--how often does this happen?--stifled the boys.

Rays win, and New York goes to 2 up over Tampa, 7 over Boston.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Yankees 3, Indians 2

Cleveland, always tough. Nice to see Vazquez picking up the slack; with Lee and Haren now spoken for, whom shall our nation turn its lonely eyes to? Lilly? Ugh.

Oswalt is too pricey and just not the right fit.

Swisher has gone from team mascot to indispensible piece. Tex, still gaining speed. And Lord, what a terrible call in the fourth.

I've always defended major-league umpires, with very few exceptions (come on down, CV Buckner, Angel Hernandez, Joe West, Gary "they've come to watch me throw out superstars" Darling, and let us never forget Eric "Strike Zone As Wide As My Ass" Gregg), are the best in professional sports. Going back to the end of last season, these heirs to Jocko Conlan, Steve Palermo and Doug Harvey have done everything to prove me wrong.

Rays win. Three up.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Yankees 12, Royals 6

Okay, no sweep: three out of four. Phil Hughes goes to 12 wins. 3 up on Tampa.

Royals 7, Yankees 4

And we get to spend the next month going, "This is Lefty's spot."

Friday, July 23, 2010

Yankees 7, Royals 1

Sun Devil Joe writes, "They should sweep this." As they should.

Best news of the day? AJ, of course, and I don't care if it was the Royals. As they showed Thursday, whatever they can't do (yielding 17 runs in 16 innings?), the Royals do have some guys who can hit.

Rays lose. 4 full games up.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Yankees 10, Royals 4

From a few weeks before: these messy games are the ones the Yankees have to win. However they got there, a two-run lead late, over the Royals, with CC on the mound--yeah, gotta close these ones out.

PLay of the game was neither A-Rod's homer nor Swisher breaking it open, but earlier--with Posada having thrown the ball away down third and inches from hitting the Daily Double, Texeira leapin as high as Tex can leap, to save maybe two runs.

The Royals tie, who knows. But Tex brought the ball down and made the play.

Three games up.

Watch Minnesota.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Angels 10, Yankees 5

Standing in a room away from the TV, heard Kay shout, "Home run, Matsui!", cheered up, and then went, "Oh."

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Two starts, two injured lefties

Oh, Andy. Oh, no.

But did I mention that Dave Robertson will have as much time as he needs to warm up?

The Yankees came out of the break facing 23 games against the Red Sox and Rays. Two slots available for the three teams.

Twenty games to go, with the Yankees money ahead.

As for AJ: when you have a temper tantrum, you punch the wall with your glove hand. Though right now, who would know the difference?

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Yanks 5, Rays 4

Nick Swisher: ties it in the eighth with a homer, wins it it in the ninth with a two-out single.

This is what Reggie used to do, and Munson, and O'Neill and Bernie. Before them, Mickey and Yogi and Joe D, Tommy "Old Reliable" Henrich and "King Kong" Keller, and Johnny Mize and Country Slaughter, the two late-season pick-ups that would serve as the twin protoypes of a couple of dozen moves by The Boss, David Cone and Cory Lidle and all the rest. This is what Ruth and Gehrig did, what Jeter still does.

Remember Swisher was brought in last year to be no more than a fourth outfielder, to hit and run behind Xavier Nady in right and Damon in left.

Now he's not only an All-Star on the reigning World Champions; with Girardi managing like a point guard feeding the hot hand, he's batting third.

One thing that was overlooked by a lot of people in remembering George Steinbrenner--overlooked by most everyone except, significantly, Derek Jeter--was that The Boss was forever foremost a football man. Lose three baseball games in a row, you order a double. Lose three football games in a row, you slash your wrists. Steinbrenner was upset when the Yankees lost exhibition games--remember that?--and a three-game sweep at the hands of the Red Sox or Orioles would send him flying into a rage.

Just by way of saying: the greatest compliment Steinbrenner could pay a baseball player was to say, "I'd love to have him on a football field." Rafael Santana comes to mind.

Nick Swisher was a football player, recruited by Notre Dame to play free safety.

Allow me to state, as a USC Trojan For Life, I'm glad Nick Swisher chose baseball.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

The Boss

Wow. Stunner. And he died with his team as reigning champs, and in first place.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Yankees 8, Marlins 2

Oh, what a lovely game.

Reminded me how often Mussina would seem to pitch on a Sunday afternoon, with the sun so intense you could count the stitching on his cap.

Tex, Jeter, Swish, Cano--all stock up.

Plus with Tex, the ball lost in the sun, and his resultant double, meant more than any resulting scoring.

It meant: run your ass off, bush.

The winners during my lifetime would step on your throat for one inch of an advantage. Bill Russell, Bobby Orr, John Havlicek, Dave Cowens, Jo Jo White, Thurman Munson, Graig Nettles, Sparky Lyle, Larry Bird, Dennis Johnson, Magic, Michael Jordan, Lou Piniella, Ron Guidry, David Cone, Paul O'Neill, Tino Martinez, Scottie Brosius, Derek Jeter, Tom Brady, Paul Pierce. Oh, and Mariano Rivera.

Let us have at least this partial honor roll, and add to it Big Tex, who plays hard on every play and runs out every ball. It shouldn't be a big deal, but it is.

Mariners 4, Yankees 1

Oh, my. Oh, Joba.

Backpage headline on nypost.com: "LOST AT SEA"

Never mind the grand slam. The game was over when Joba's wild pitch stopped rolling at the backstop.

Runners advance. Now Joba has to be fine around the plate with Branyard, who had been mystified against Vazquez.

Joba misses his spots, count goes to 3-1. Now he has to walk Branyard. Bases loaded.

And then . . .

The eighth, biggest shame of all, absolutely tore up and burned Vazquez's best start of the season, a no-hitter until Ichiro's comebacker/Vazquez's body-block/rushed throw/infield hit/error--it wasn't anyone thing. Maybe three players I know--Ichiro, Brett Garnder, Michael Bourn--cause Vazquez to rush the throw like that. Ninety-nine times out of a hundred Tex digs out even such an in-between throw. And a scorekeeper in the Bronx scores the play as an error.

Any one of five things goes differently, no hit.

So Vazquez keeps the no-hitter alive. So Girardi has to sent Javy out for the eighth. Where he at least does a better than Joba.

Friday, July 09, 2010

Yanks take 2 from Mariners

All the fun stuff happens when I'm asleep or at the office.

Woke up this morning to--huh?--Cliff-Lee-to-the-Yankees.

Where, for the moment, he would be the number-four starter, behind CC, Pettitte and Hughes. Yeaqh, yeah, for the moment. So now, deep in the shadows of the LeBron debacle, Lee goes to the Rangers.

What is it about the Rangers that always keeps me from taking them seriously? Is it the ten playoff games they played against the Yankees in the nineties, when they succeeded in winning all but nine of them? The slotting of Best Team Plays West Team to a 9-1 record between '96 and '99 drove Ranger owner Tom Hicks to demand that the Wild Card rule of separating division rivals until the Championship Series be junked. Which, of course, would have meant the Yankees and Orioles, or the Yankees and Red Sox, in a first-round best-of-five matchup with only one weekend game. Uh, no.

There is the notion that these Rangers are the New England Patriots, pre-Brady/Belichek, in reverse. For a quarter-century, from the Red Sox's Impossible Dream season of 1967 until the Tuck Bowl in 2002, the Patriots ran a poor fourth in a city where the Red Sox were the religion, the Bruins the passion, and the Celtics the winners. When Doug Flutie was at Boston College in the early eighties, the Pats ran fifth.

Now the Rangers . . . you may have heard about some other sports teams in Dallas. The Cowboys are King, Earl, Duke. The Mavericks are good for passing the time from February to the start of OTAs. The Rangers get the crumbs. Lee? He beat CC twice last October. He would have to do so again for the Rangers to have a chance against New York.

Oh yeah, the Yankees just won their second game in a row; the pitchers they'll have to settle for just held Ichiro and the gang to 2 runs over 18 innings.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Yankees 6, A's 1

Never mind A-Rod, at least for now.

Starting pitching is what gets you championships.

CC, Pettitte, Vazquez stock: up.

Hughes, Burnett: no worse than holding pattern.

I remember standinjg in a restaurant last October, waiting for my take-out order and watching Pettitte pitch against Chone Figgins, with the Yankees up in games 3-2 and one win from the World Series.

First pitch was a slider, outside corner. Strike One.

Second pitch was a cutter, hitting the flea on the flea on the flea on the outside corner. Chone flinched but didn't bite. Strike two.

"Oh MAN," I announced to the bar, "You Angels are in trouble tonight."

And so they were.

Monday, July 05, 2010

Yankees 3, A's 1

Vazquez, Tex--now this was a game.

Yankees 7, Blue Jays 6

One of the great cliches of baseball: Every team (except such as the '62 Mets) will win 54 games in a single season. Every team (except such as the '98 Yankees) will lose 54 games in a single season.

Baseball comes down to those other 54 games.

Slide this one into column number three, boys.

Mariano Rivera blows a save--his era skyrockets to 1.11. And they win.

And Brett Gardner could have busted it out faster, but hey. There are inside-the-park homers. And then there are standing inside-the-park homers. Had Manny Ramirez hit that ball that Wise played into a (let's be fair here) four-base error, Torre and Mattingly would be shoving Manny out of the dugout as the ball rolled to the wall, hoping he reached to first and doesn't erase the single run scoring from second.

Still.

500 at-bats per season. Let's say you strike out a hundred times. You hit, say, 35 atom-balls, line-drives that are caught in the first second or two. Over 25 weeks, that leaves 14.48 times per week you put the ball in play--a little more than twice a day you're asked to run ninety feet. Baseball is making Phil Mushnicks out of all of us.

Sunday, July 04, 2010

About yesterday's 11-3 wake-up

My hope was that Brett Gardner might develop into more than a better-hitting version of Paul Blair, whom the Yankees kept for years despite his Mendoza-like stick because of the various deficiencies of their regular outfielders. As we all remember, Reggie could run but couldn't catch, Pinellia could catch but couldn't run, and Mickey Rivers and Roy White could run and catch, but couldn't throw.

People complain about Johnny Damon's arm. Next to Rivers, Damon was Jim Edmonds.

So Blair, who could run, catch, throw, and bunt--who could, it seemed, do everything on earth except the tiny little skill we know as "hit the ball out of the infield"--made a decent living for a number of years, mostly as late-inning defense. (He did get a game-winning hit in the World Series, thus joining both the illustrious Jose Vizcaino and the immortal Luis Sojo for that laurel.)

Until this year, you looked at Brett Gardner, you thought: white Paul Blair, plus a half-dozen extra hits per month, make it .240 instead of .200.

Now? Is there All-Star talk? It appears.

He won't get there, not with Pettitte, Hughes, Mo, and Cano getting there on merit alone, and A-Rod and Jeter or both on reputation. But what heady times.

Saturday, July 03, 2010

Much more like it

From the New York Post:

Yankees third. Gardner singled to right. Jeter walked on a full count, Gardner to second. Swisher singled to left, Gardner to third, Jeter to second. Teixeira doubled to left, Gardner scored, Jeter scored, Swisher to third. A.Rodriguez grounded out, shortstop Ale.Gonzalez to first baseman Overbay, Swisher scored, Teixeira to third. Cano singled to right, Teixeira scored. Posada flied out to center fielder V.Wells. Granderson infield single to second, Cano to second. Huffman was hit by a pitch, Cano to third, Granderson to second. Gardner homered to right on a full count, Cano scored, Granderson scored, Huffman scored. Tallet pitching. Jeter walked on four pitches. Swisher walked on a full count, Jeter to second. On wild pitch by Tallet, Jeter to third, Swisher to second. Teixeira walked. A.Rodriguez doubled to left, Jeter scored, Swisher scored, Teixeira scored. Cano lined out to right fielder J.Bautista

Jays 6, Yankees 1 (11)

Now it can be told: For the past decade, whoever brought in Chan Ho Park for big money at the beginning of that year (Dodgers, Rangers) was, I knew, one team nobody had to worry about.

That was the joke. If Chan Ho was the answer, what was the question? Ugh.

Friday, July 02, 2010

Yankees 4, Mariners 2

Lessons?

1. It's a long season. CC is now 10-3. It is one of the hallmarks of a team that plays together that the starting nine comes out, and the bullpen is ready, for some kind of landmark game for a treasured teammate. In retrospect, it matters less that CC failed to get to 20 wins last year (Greinke was getting the Cy Young anyway) that, last year, without prompting, with a volunteers' willingness to go over the hill, the Yankees, having secured the division, went out--with the starting eight, with Hughes and Mo and the rest of the front-line bull all set to go, if needed--to try and get CC number twenty. They failed. But the fact they tried meant so much. CC is big, he improves in the heat, he takes the ball on short rest, and he'll knock down two of yours if you mess with one of his. It's taken me all this time to get to a) he's a warrior and b) I love him.

2. Playoff rotation. CC, Hughes, Lefty?

3. I had an A-Rod moment to go with my seoncd-greatest moment on a ballfield. My softball manager decided to play me, a lefty, at second. Man on first. Ball in the hole, I dive in the grass, flip the ball in the general direction of second. Our shortstop plucks it in midair, steps on the bag, fires to first, double play. I jump up, touch gloves with the shortstop, start trimphantly off the field. Uh, Joe. That's still only two outs.