The Yankees Are Having Fun Again

Anyone that watched the postgame celebration of the Yankees 3-2 victory tonight probably can’t deny that the Yankees look like a team that is enjoying playing the game of baseball.  The mobbing of Robinson Cano at 1st base was a great sight.  Melky dumping water on Robbie during his interview was priceless.  The smiles and jubilation of winning a one-run extra-innings affair was exactly what the Yankees need. 

When I left class tonight I checked the score on my phone and learned that the Yankees were trailing 2-1 in the bottom of the 8th because of a throwing error by none other than Kyle Farnsworthless.  I also saw that the Red Sox were losing to Kansas City 8-1.  I was all set to write a post about how tired I am of wasted opportunities.  Since the Arod "Ha" game against Toronto, the Yankees are 26-15.  Now, that’s not bad baseball.  But the Red Sox are 20-22.  That’s not good baseball.  And while the Yankees struggled in Colorado and San Francisco, the red Sox were a mere 1 1/2 games better.  That was a time full of wasted opportunity.  When Boston lost the first game to Toronto last week, the Yankees lost their only game to Tampa.  But the Yankees made me eat my planned words with an exciting comeback victory.

Accardo’s balk in the bottom of the ninth was good stuff.  For the Yankees, at least.  Before, when the Yankees were playing poorly, I joked about how many different ways can the Yankees find to lose a game.  Beth pointed out that they could lose on a balk.  Well, it hasn’t happened to the Yankees, but tonight it happened to the Blue Jays.  Usually when a balk occurs I’m not entirely sure what the pitcher did wrong.  But tonight his flinch after bringing the ball and glove together but before stepping off was blatant.  Even Damon and Melky were jumping up and down at it.  It was definitely a moment worth cheering out loud, although I’ve got to admit that’s a tough break for Accardo.  Oh, well.  I’ll take what I can get, I suppose.

Whenever Robinson Cano comes to the plate I instruct the opposing pitcher to throw the ball anywhere that’s somewhat remotely close to the plate because Robbie will swing even at pitches above his head.  Tonight, Cano swung at the first pitch as expected.  Only it was a hittable pitch.  Note to pitchers opposing the Yankees: to get Robinson Cano out, do not throw anything near where his bat can make contact.  But how great the hit was!  And how great was Alex Rodriguez nearly bowling over Larry Bowa like he was Pedro protecting himself from Don Zimmer.

Speaking of Larry Bowa, what was he thinking sending Cairo home on Melky’s single?  And not only that, but what the hel1 was he doing trying to slide into home behind Miguel?  I hope Cairo’s alright.  He’s been a huge piece of the puzzle of late.  Since he was able to go out and play the field, I’m guessing his neck or shoulders or whatever will be fine with maybe a day or so of rest.  He’d probably get that time off anyway.

So, the Yankees managed to NOT waste an opportunity.  And they managed to NOT waste another strong Andy Pettitte start (although they didn’t exactly help him out much, either).  One thing that they DID manage to do is gain a game on Boston.  They now stand at a mere 8 games back.  They’ve been this close before, hopefully they don’t blow it again.  Two more against Toronto including starts by Roger Clemens and Chien-Ming "Cool Hand Luke" Wang.  I like the Yankee chances for the sweep.  If Clemens can rebound from his rough start in Tampa, things will be good.  And then Moose will have his necessary 5 days of beauty sleep, putting him in a good mood for Friday.  It’s the gross double header lineup of HKP and the Prince of Pennsylvania that worries me.  We’ll see how it goes.

For now, as usual, I’m just going to be happy the Yankees picked up a big and timely win and await tomorrow.

Go Yankees!

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Yankees 6, Blue Jays 4

Well, despite the triple, Mo was Mo and he secured a win for his 14th save of the year.  The Yankees managed to survive another outing by the not-so-great Hong Kong Phooey.  Believe it or not, by giving up 3 runs in 5 innings (not an incredibly BAD outing, I’ll admit), Igawa was able to lower his ERA.  He’s now floating just under 7 (6.97).  Awesome. I’m not sure HKP is even worth discussing further.  He’s gone as soon as Phil Hughes heals up at the end of the month.

On a good note, the Yankee bats are still full of power.  4 of their 6 runs came on homeruns, including A-Rod’s 32nd (and his 89th ice cream).  Robbie Cano hit his 7th, another good sign from the young second baseman.  Like I wrote before the break, we keep hearing about his power but he hasn’t really shown it to us yet.  He’s put it on display in July, hitting 4 homeruns and 2 doubles.  Not exactly a dramatic month, but better than we’re used to (he hit 1 in each previous month, including a homerless streak of June 1-July 3).  If he could just learn to take some pitches, he might be everything he’s cracked up to be (he’s struck out 3 times more than he’s walked this month).

On a less good note, Johnny Damon cannot continue to lead off.  I’m not sure who would be a better choice, but Damon is simpy not working out.  His average is at .241 after tonight’s 0-for-4.  His OBP is around .340 (lower after tonight, I think).  Johnny Damon is simply not on base enough to be leading off and a lead off man that isn’t on base is scarcely a leadoff man at all.  He’s already been taken off of centerfield duty because he’s not really performing well there either.  I think if the Yankees are going to make a trade, this is where they should focus.  While a decent bullpen arm would be nice, a backup catcher would be great, what about someone that can lead off?  And maybe even play first?  Just throwing that out there.  Rumor has it Dan Johnson in Oakland is a possibility.  He’s not on base much more than Damon, though (and less than Andy Philips who is batting over .300 and picked up the game winning RBIs tonight).

This post is feeling kind of negative.  I’m not entirely sure why, it’s just what I wanted to talk about.  Unfortunately, the Red Sox won, but the night wasn’t a complete wash.  The Indians lost, moving the Yankees within 7 games of the Wild Card.  Minnesota is off and Seattle is losing.  When you’re having a season like the Yankees are, gaining any ground is a positive, even if it’s in the Wild Card race.

Go Yankees!

Despite their efforts, Yankees win game

The Yankees wanted to lose this game.  They tried and tried, but fate woul not allow it.  Nor would the Devil Rays.  Two baserunning errors by Tampa Bay kept the Yankees in the game early, especially Brendan Harris in the first inning.  I think that mistake kept the Rays from scoring at least 1 more run, maybe 2 or 3.  Then later the guy (I forget who) that was thrown out trying to stretch a single into a double.  Again it probably saved a run.

Yankee pitching gave up 16 hits.  That’s a ton of hits.  But Mussina wouldn’t let the Yankees lose, either.  He let 13 guys get on base (11 hits), but only 3 could manage to cross the plate.  When the chips were down, Mussina was at his best today.  He didn’t have his best stuff.  He didn’t even have very good stuff.  But he had enough to hold down the fort for 6 innings.   And if it weren’t for bullpen ineptitude, he could have had the win. 

The bullpen tried perhaps harder than anyone to lose the game.  First Villone pooped the bed giving up the two-run homerun.  Then Farnsworth showed why he really is honestly and completely worthless.  Two doubles while recording one out is not good.  Then, Dioner Navarro came to the plate.  Already 2 for 2 on the day, Navarro was probably feeling like a stud.  Unfortunately for him, he’s not a stud.  In fact I heard Thursday or Friday during the game that he has the lowest average in the major leagues for those over 200 at-bats.  I haven’t looked it up to confirm, but it doesn’t mater if the fact is accurate.  He’s hitting .179.  And it was worse before today.  Farnsworth, however, had given up an RBI single to right to the guy.  Andy Philips, however, refused to let the Yankees lose.  He made a GREAT play, snaring the hard liner.  Then, with Cano’s prompting, made a heads-up throw to double off the runner.  It is this play, the play that made it possible for the Yankees to win, that puts Andy Philips into the Mile High Yankees Club.  Oh yeah…did he mentioned he had an RBI triple to go with it?  And is now batting over .300 again?

Philips Andy Philips
July 15, 2007
2-4
2 Really Big Ice Creams
Awesome play in the 8th to preserve the win.
Yankees win 7-6

Even Jorge Posada tried to lose the game with his catcher’s interference in the ninth.  But, as usual, Mo would not allow it, inducing the double play and then the popup to save his 13th of the year.  The Yankees climbed back over .500 for the first time since Colorado.  They won the series, their 3rd consecutive.  And, most importantly, they gained a game in the standings as Toronto was able to earn a split with Boston.  9 games back is better than 10, and I think this was a good start to the second half.  The Yankees head home to face Toronto for 4 and then the Rays for 4 more.  It would be great to see them take 3 of 4 in each of those series(es)…..we’ll see.

Go Yankees!

Mini-Streak #3

The Yankees now have their third straight mini-streak going.  They lost following the first two (2 vs Minnesota and 1 each against Minnesota/L-Triple A).  This one bridges the gap between the Angels series and the second half opener in Tampa.  I have a pretty strong feeling, though, that after tomorrow we’ll be able to call this one an actual winning streak.

I was only able to catch the end of tonight’s game, but the boscore tells a pretty good story.  The Yankees managed to puut togethr double-digit hits, including at least one by all of the starters except Kahn-Yo.  The highlights, of course, were the Bombers three homeruns, including A-Roddasaurus’s 31st and 87th RBI.  The reason I am most excited/interested in the homeruns is because it shows that the break didn’t really interrupt the power rhythm the boys got into last weekend.  I had a bit of concern that the offense would disappear with 3 days off.  Thankfully, it didn’t.  It’s still around.  And despite the chance of sounding too confident, Tampa Bay is the team to start against to make sure it gets well re-established.

Speaking of offense, Bobby Abreu was tonight’s main offensive star with 3 hits, 3 RBIs and his 6th homerun.  So far in July, Bobby is batting .483 with 2 homeruns.  If the Yankees are going to make a run (and I think they can), they need his bat to stay hot.  He was hot in early June, the Yankees were too.  He’s hot in early July, the Yankees are too.  He’s a huge piece of the puzzle.

I have to say that I’m a big fan of tonight’s lineup.  It’s dangerous top to bottom.  Even Andy Philips has a hot bat.  His average is sitting at .310 right now.  It’s not the huge bat one might want from a first baseman, but it’s a number that’s tough to shake a stick at.  I like Abreu down in the lineup, and I like him following Posada.  If Abreu continues to hit, Posada will consistently see some decent pitches and will be able to keep up his impressive first half numbers.  And I like My Boy Melky! near the top.  If Damon continues to struggle, having Cabrera in the 2-slot might provide some backup table setting.  If Damon can’t Melky can.  If Damon gets it done, maybe Melky can move him for Jeter (who can hit anywhere).  Melky is the leadoff man of the future, let’s get him towards the top and leave him there.

Pettitte didn’t have his best stuff tonight, but he had enough.  5 2/3 isn’t great, but it’s a step forward following his previous 2 starts.  One thing I noticed is that 2 of the Rays’ 3 runs came from sac flies.  To me, that indicates that Andy wasn’t allowing the big hit.  A sac fly is far superior to a single with a man on 3rd, most obviously because you record an out.  He only walked 1 and struck out 4, so pettitte’s command was good, although he did give up 6 hits and wasn’t very economical with his pitches.  Since I wasn’t able to actually see him pitch I can’t really give any other comments on his performance, but I’m pleased with the result. 

I’m definitely pleased with the result of the bullpen’s performance, especially Mo’s 2 strikeouts.  I was able to see what he had tonight and it was nothing short of typical Mariano Rivera.  Two shattered bats in a single at-bat, 2 strikeouts and a groundout.  A perfect inning.  Too bad it wasn’t a save situation, but he’s only going to improve with work and that was some work for him.  Vizcaino continued to perform well while under Mariano’s tutelage, and even Farnsworth managed to put up a zero, despite allowing a leadoff walk and a single.  He came back strong and recorded a strikeout.

The Yankees moved ahead of Toronto tonight.  I was doing some thinking and decided that as long as the Yankees win this series, it’s really a no-lose situation.  They will either jump ahead of Toronto (done) or gain ground on Boston.  Or both.  Both things need to happen eventually, why not now?  I think best case scenario (trying to be realistic) might be a Yankee sweep and a Toronto-Boston split.  They would gain 2 games on both. 

Whatever happens the rest of the weekend, Yankee fans can rest easy for tonight.  Good stuff happened: a win, moved into sole possession of second place, gained 1/2 game in the wild card.  A detroit victory would tighten that Wild Card race a little more.  I’ll take it.

A Series Win! Against the Angels!

Series wins against the Angels are few and far between for the Yankees.  But they got one when they needed it the most.  Well, maybe not as much as they needed the two in the playoffs…but still pretty darn important.

New blogger Chien-Ming Wang proved once again why he’s the Yankee ace, throwing 6 1/3 shutout innings with only half of a finger.  OK, that’s an exaggeration of his finger problems.  But the truth is, he gritted through it (again) and gave us a quality outing (again).  He now has 9 wins on the season and could very well put together another 18 or 19 win season.  And all of the doubters thought it was a fluke.  I knew it was a fluke and Wang was here to stay.  The guy’s awesome.  His ERA is back down to 3.36, very near where it was during his string of 5 consecutive quality starts before he and the rest of the team hiccupped on the road trip.  He’s got 6 days off.  Hopefully the extra day or so of rest will help improve the state of his finger, although I fear it’s a condition he’s going to have to battle all season.

While the pitching from Wang and the bullpen was awesome, the real story was, of course, the offense.  The Yankees won 12-0.  They were (re)fueled by 3 3-run homeruns, including another Cano blast.  He’s hit 3 homeruns in the last week.  Is Robinson Cano finding the power stroke we’ve always been told he would have?  If he is, then the Yankee lineup just got a lot tougher.  If he’s not…well, I still like Robbie Cano and will be happy to have him in pinstripes.  Matsui hit a blast in the 1st.  And maybe it was my eyes playing tricks, but it looked like he was smiling as he rounded the bases.  I love to see baseball players smiling because it shows that they’re having fun.  And one of the many lessons in Little Big League is that having fun is the key to winning baseball games.  At least when you’re a 12 year old owner/manager. 

Let’s not overlook Alex Rodriguez.  Although his awesomeness is becoming so commonplace that it’s easy to ignore, today Alex got himself 4 more ice creams and another homerun and continues to lead the major leagues in both categories.  He is also now alone at 22nd all-time in homeruns and over the weekend joined Lou Gehrig and Joe D. as the only Yankees to have over 80 RBIs before the All-Star break.  If A-Rod is not in pinstripes next summer I think I might go into depression.  Michael Kay and John Flaherty today talked about Alex’s place in history and where that place will be if he leaves New York.  It’s not that you can’t have a legacy if you’re not a Yankee, but if he leaves the Yankees and spends 4 or 5 years somewhere else, what is he?  A Mariner?  A Ranger? A Yankee? A whatever?  I thought it was an interesting comment, because when you think about all of the great players, they may have played for more than 1 team, but they’re attached only to one.  Roger Clemens may be an exception, but you can bet he won’t be remembered as Blue Jay or an Astro.  I even have trouble thinking of Nolan Ryan as anything but a Houston Astro, although he had great years in other cities.  As a side note, did you know Nolan Ryan won 20 games only twice in his 26-year big league career?  Anyway, the Yankees need to make sure they hold onto Alex Rodriguez. 

So the 1st half ends on a positive note, taking 5 of 7 from Minnesota and L-Triple A.  At 1 game under .500, the Yankees aren’t exactly where they’d like to be.  But look on the bright side, they could be Tampa Bay.  Since winning 2 of 3 against the Mets on June 17, the Yankees are 7-11.  Not a good record.  But during that time, they’ve lost just 1 1/2 games in the division standings.  Once again the Red Sox had the opportunity to really put the Yankees (and Blue Jays for that matter) away for good.  Instead they have floundered.  10 games is a huge lead, but it’s not insurmountable.  The Red Sox have played right around .500 ball since June 1.  Their offense is struggling and their rotation is a bit of a question mark.  The Yankees CAN make a move and get back into the race.  Will they? I don’t know. If it’s going to happen, July is when it should.

After the break, the Yankees play 4 against Tampa Bay, 4 big ones against Toronto (in New York), 4 more against Tampa Bay, 4 against Kansas City, 3 against Baltimore, plus the suspended game, and close the month at home against the White Sox.  Barring rain, they’ve got 21 decision coming their way before August.  I see no reason why they can’t win a minimum of 15 of those 21 games.  They already have a 2-run advantage in one of them.  During that same span, the Red Sox have 4 against Toronto, 3 against Kansas City, 4 against the White Sox, 4 against Cleveland, 3 against Tampa Bay, and 1 against Baltimore.  That’s 19 decisions.  Playing like they have during the last month, let’s say the Red Sox win 10 of them.  The Yankees would go into August just 6 games back with 2 months to go.  Can it be done?  Sure.  And it’s not even asking for an insane hot streak…15-6.  And it’s not asking for much from Boston either, just keep playing like you have…10-9.  And suddenly it’s a race.  Or at least more of a race than we have right now.  I suppose I could be greedy…and expect the Red Sox to play those 19 like their last 19.  They’d go 9-10 and it’s only a 5 game deficit.  With 7 Yankee-Red Sox games to go.

Here’s to hoping….

GO YANKEES!

Another Mini Streak

Robinson Cano has just caught the final out, and the Yankees have another mini-streak going.  Last time they couldn’t turn it into an actual streak, and I’m not entirely conifdent they can do it this time either.  But for now, I’m just going to enjoy tonight’s win.  It was a good one.

Every Yankee had a hit.  Every Yankee had an RBI.  The bullpen was great, especially Scott Proctor.  Proctor came in with 2 on and 1 out and after a wild pitch settled down to strike outGary Mathews, JR. and Garret Anderson.  He then worked a perfect 8th, adding a third strikeout.  His tough performance in the 7th inning, keeping the Angels off the board with 2nd and 3rd 1 out was a key part of the game.  I know that the Yankees came back and scored 2 runs in the 8th, but if Scott had allowed just one hit, the game would have been 12-11 and had a different complexion.  My hat goes off to Scott.  Maybe there was something to the burning of his stuff.

Offensively, there’s almost so much to say that I don’t know what to say.  19 hits and 14 runs were both season highs.  I’ve already mentioned that everyone had a hit and an RBI.  6 guys had more than 1 hit.  A-Roddasaurus showed us that his hamstring isn’t hurting him too badly, with a couple of nice plays in the field and 3 hits, including his 29th homerun.  The homerun put him in company with Lou Gehrig and the Crime Dog at 22nd place all-time, just 7 away from 500.  He also now has 82 RBIs on the season.  Even though his hamstring is apparently OK (although he said it was sore in his postgame interview), I still hope that he doesn’t play in the All-Star Game.  The last thing this team needs is someone to get hurt or aggravate an injury playing in something as worthless as the All-Star Game.  Take the time off and play with your kid, Alex.  Go to the club, Derek.  Reflect on your awesome first half, Jorge.

The main concerning thing was Andy Pettitte.  I think this is Andy’s second consecutive rough outing.  After the stress of being the only pitcher that could get outs, but still not getting any run support, I think Pettitte is in dire need of a rest.  Hopefully Torre gives him at least a full week off, holding him until the 3rd game of the D-Rays series after the break.  And also hopefully, in the meantime, the Yankees keep on winning, giving Pettitte a little mental break from having to continually be the savior as he has been throughout the entire first half.

Tomorrow Roger goes for win #351 against John Lackey.  While Clemens was vintage in his last performance, I’m not sure how he’ll handle the Angels.  Despite winning tonight, this is not a team I feel comfortable with.  They just play too well against the Yankees.  Lackey so far is 11-5 with a 3.04 ERA.  Which is pretty darn good.  In his last 3 starts, however, Lackey is 1-1 with an ERA of 5.40.  And, of course, the Angels are riding a streak in which they’ve lost 7 of their last 10.  The Yankees have won 4 of 5, including a great outing from Clemens last time and huge offensive performance tonight.  The Yankees have momentum on their side.  They’re going to need it.

Go Yankees!

P.S. Thanks to Mark for giving the Chien-Ming Wang blog the attention he deserves and posting the info on the MLBlogs homepage. Wang Rules!

Yanks Win a Series, Wang Has a Blog

The Yankees won their first series since way back on June 17 by taking 3 of 4 from the Minnesota Twins.  That’s great news.  The Yankees need to be beating teams of the caliber of the Twins, who right now sit about 2 games ahead of them in the Wild Card race.  Hopefully winning the series will give the boys a little momentum going into this last series before the break.  Because with the Angels coming to town, they’re going to need as many good vibes as they can get.

The Yankees WANTED to lose yesterday.  They tried as hard as they could.  They put Igawa on the mound, blew a 3-run lead, and Rivera even made it interesting by giving up a run in the ninth.  But in the end, the forces of good prevailed and the Yankees came out on top, thanks to Matsui’s 8th inning homerun. 

I have to say that I was really happy to see Cano and Melky hit their homeruns, especially Cano.  Everyone keeps talking about he’s going to be able to hit for both average and power, but we really haven’t seen the power side and the average side has been MIA this season.  He’s only got 5 homeruns on the year, but two of them have come during his last 3 games.  It would be great if he were to find his power stroke.  It’s greatly needed right now.

I read over at Bombers Beat that Phil Hughes is throwing BP and is ikely to start some rehab games in the near future, putting a probable return sometime in early August.  Unfortunately, barring a near-miracle, that will be too late to do much good.  However, having those two full months to pitch at the big league level without a lot of pressure will most likely help him out when it comes to next season.  I’m not sure what the timetable is for Rasner or Karstens, but it would be good to be able to see them sometime in August or September as well.  Although I think Rasner may be done for the season.

One thing that the series win over Minnesota has done is give Yankee fans another miniscule glimmer of hope.  The Yankees can either build on it this weekend with a good showing against the Angels, or they can break out hearts yet again with a sad performance.  I’m not going to make any predictions on the series.  But I will say that winning tonight is going to be the key to winning or losing the series.  Bartolo Colon has struggled this season and Andy Pettitte has been pretty good.  If Pettitte can actually get some run support, the Yankees have a chance.  But if he doesn’t, the Yankees chances of winning the game (and the series) are minimal.

On a more exciting note, my Taiwanese hero has his own blog here at MLBlogs.  Now I haven’t been checking the site as dilligently the last few days, but I didn’t see any amazing fanfare or pomp and circumstance surrounding the arrival of the blog like we did with, say, Kevin Youkilis.  But he’s listed at the top of the active roster list.  Wang has only made one post and did not leave comments open.  But I’m looking forward to reading what he has to say and hopefully being ble to leave him some comments in the future.  Refueling Chien-Ming Wang!