29 May 2008

Yankees Beat Baltimore, but Still Struggling

Sometimes things just work out.

Everything went to plan for the Yankees in Baltimore last night. After a couple of demoralizing losses to the Orioles, the good guys managed to salvage a game from the birds and avoid a 3-game sweep, which would have been the Orioles' first over the Yankees since 2005.

In the first game of the series, Darrell Rasner again pitched brilliantly, allowing only one run in six innings, but took the loss anyway when O's starter garrett Olson didn't allow any in seven. The Yankee bullpen (hawkins and veras) gave up 5 more runs in their two combined innings, putting the game out of reach.

In Game 2, Ian Kennedy struggled, as I had suggested he might, allowing 4 runs in three innings, and leaving the game with a pulled lateral muscle. Ross Ohlendorf relieved him, trying to protect an 8-4 lead, and did fine his first inning, but then he allowed a single to Brian Roberts and homers to Melvin Mora, Luke Scott and Kevin Millar in the 5th, which tied the game. He did strike out Nick Markakis, Aubrey Huff and Ramon Hernandez, so technically, he struck out the side.

Don't you hate when announcers say that, when it isn't true? He struck out the side. I mean, can we really say that anytime a pitcher gets three strikeouts in an inning? "Struck out the side" should mean that he struck out the first three batters, not just any three batters that came up that inning. What the hell difference does it make if he struck out the side when he also gave up three homers, allowed four runs to score, blew his cushy lead and put the game in jeopardy? If that's the way we're going to look at it, well Ohlendorf also homered the side, except that doesn't really sound right. And I think they's throw John Sterling off the air if he ever said something as goofy as "Ohlendorf allow-homered the side."

On the other hand...Hey, Sterling, I've got a suggestion for you...

Anyway, a series of relievers for both teams continued to put up goose eggs into the 11th inning, when a 2-out single by Hideki Matsui made it 9-8. But then, disaster struck. Not satisfied with having put the previous night's game out of reach, LaTroy Hawkins came in to protect a 1-run lead in the bottom of the 11th (Mariano had just pitched 2 innings), Hawkins came in and gave up a single and a double to tie the game, then, after two intentional walks to load the bases (not his fault, really) he allowed another single which lost the game.

At least Pettitte pitched well, as he seemingly always does against Baltimore. Indeed, Andy's 24-6 against Baltimore in his career, which is far more wins than he has against any other single team. For that matter, it's more than any active pitcher in the American League has against any other team (Mike Mussina's got 23 wins against Toronto, but nobody else is really even close.) In the NL, Tom Glavine and Greg Maddux also have 24 or more wins against at least one team. Heck, Maddux has that many or more against nine different teams.

Anyway, Pettitte pitched well, Chamberlain followed suit, and Mariano Rivera, a day after he had tossed 31 pitches in two shutout innings, added a near-perfect 9th (A-Rod committed an error on a grounder) for his 13th save of the year. The Yankee offense got a few key hits, with three singles from Johnny Damon, and two doubles each from Hideki Matsui and Melky Cabrera. They also got a single, a homer and two RBIs from Jason Giambi, who has quietly returned to respectability. His batting average has gone from a low of .150 on May 4th to .244, as he has hit .382/.507/.818 with 6 doubles, 6 homers, 11 Runs and 13 RBIs in that span. Not that I expect him to keep it up or anything, but I did think that early-season accounts of his demise were greatly exaggerated. Or at least premature.

Kennedy's placement on the DL before yesterday's game necessarily speeds up the timetable for putting Joba Chamberlain in the rotation. Joba relieved Andy Pettitte in the 7th and threw 28 pitches in 1.1 innings of work, plus another 25 or so in the bullpen before and after his game-work, so he's making progress toward having the necessary stamina to start, but he really should get another week or more of throwing longer stretches in games.

For that matter, I don't really understand the logic of taking him out of last night's game in the 9th. The Yankees had a 2-run lead that that point, and Chamberlain was doing well. he's supposed to be getting more work anyway, and they just had him go back to the bullpen to do some more throwing in the 9th anyway.

Why bother? Why not leave him in, give him another inning of real work, and a chance to protect a lead? He's going to have to get used to pacing himself, and pitching in tight spots as a starter anyway. Mariano was already warmed up, so they could have brought him in if they saw Chamberlain getting himself in trouble. And if not, then he's got 2.1 innings of work, and those other 20+ pitches he threw actually counted for something. Seems silly to me to send a guy who's pitching well, who you want to "stretch out" back to the bullpen to do that while another pitcher comes in to actually try and get batters out, simply because it's the 9th inning and you've got a lead of 3 runs or less.

Overall, it would have been nice to win 2 out of 3 from baltimore, which would have gotten the Yankees over .500 and out of last place. As things stand now, they'ye 26-27, half a game behind the Orioles, and I doubt that they're taking any solace in the fact that they're the best last-place team in the major leagues.

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