By Jon Lane
Admittedly, I borrowed the headline from Peter Abraham, author of the LoHud Yankees blog. Pete, incidentally, begins his new job as Red Sox beat writer for The Boston Globe next week. We at YESNetwork.com wish him the best. He did great things for The Journal News and he’ll reach new heights in Beantown.
Based on the amount of Joba Chamberlain content on YESNetwork.com and various columns in today’s papers, it is Jobamania in the Bronx, though by no means is it running wild. Jobamania hasn’t been Hulkamania in nearly two months. Instead he’s been the jobber – in layman’s terms enhancement talent – old-school wrestling promoters feed to their established stars for a pounding.
It wasn’t supposed to be this way. If you’re already calling Chamberlain “Joba the Bust,” get real, but the right-hander is 0-4 with an 8.42 ERA in his last eight outings. His start Sunday in Seattle was a complete embarrassment (seven runs, three innings), which left Joe Girardi to say – if you read between the lines – “Step it up, or else.” Pulling no punches, Bob Klapish writes that “the clock is running out on
this immature underachiever who threatens to take down the Bombers’
Simply put, there is no more polarizing figure in New York at the moment, perhaps in all of sports. Jim Kaat questions whether “The Joba Rules” are helping or hurting the right-hander. In today’s New York Daily News, Anthony McCarron gathered viewpoints from a few baseball experts. Former Mets and A’s pitching coach Rick Peterson believes the Yankees accomplished their team goals, but sports psychology consultant Dr. Jack Llewellyn told McCarron that any limits “might cause him to try to pitch better instead of just letting himself
pitch. It sounds like just words, but there is a big difference, and
the toll it takes is mentally. It just saps your energy when you’re trying to make yourself do things.”
To sum up, Chamberlain must pitch well tonight, at the very least keep the Yankees in the game. Another implosion and, unbelievably, Chad Gaudin may be your Game 4 ALCS starter.
Hidden within Jobamaina, here’s what you need to know for tonight and this weekend:
? The Yankees’ magic number is five. The only way they win the AL East is by sweeping the Red Sox. Otherwise the party will be on hold until next week against the Royals.
? Considering Chamberlain’s opponent, it’s even more urgent he pitch well. Jon Lester (14-7, 3.33 ERA) is 11-2 with a 2.13 ERA in 20 starts since May 31 – the third-best ERA in the Majors over that span – and 3-0, 1.90 in six career starts against the Yankees. In that same stretch. Alex Rodriguez is 2-for-13 (.154) and Robinson Cano 2-for-18 (.111) facing the left-hander.
? This season, Mark Teixeira is 3-for-9 (.333) with a homer against Lester. In their careers, Derek Jeter is 8-for-23 (.348), Melky Cabrera 6-for-16 (.375) and Jose Molina 5-for-11 (.455).
? CC Sabathia starts Saturday against Daisuke Matsuzaka. The Yankees’ ace was moved up a day to provide him with extra rest before the playoffs. Andy Pettitte – his shoulder his fine, folks – opposes Paul Byrd Sunday afternoon.
By Jon Lane
I wrote in this space after the Yankees’ took two of three from the Red Sox last month at Fenway Park that the men from the Back Bay aren’t dead yet. Alas, the Red Sox are winners of seven straight games and 10 in a row on Yawkey Way.
There won’t be too much suspense these last few weeks. The Yankees’ magic number for clinching a playoff berth is four, which means you seriously do not have to worry about a Mets-like September collapse. But homefield advantage throughout the postseason is far from wrapped up, even if New York leads Boston by 6 ½ games in both the AL East and the right to host that extra DS and LCS game.
Red Sox-Yankees at Yankee Stadium next weekend now has some intrigue. The Yankees’ AL East magic number is 11, and the way the BoSox are playing you figure the Bombers will spray champagne in their own clubhouse either that weekend or the following week when the Royals are in town. This brings up a question, writes Pete Caldera. Do you celebrate clinching the playoffs with the big champagne party, or wait until you clinch the AL East?
Nothing ever seems to go right for the Angels when they play the Red Sox. They’ll arrive to Fenway for the finale of a three-game set tonight still steaming over controversial calls that they perceive cost them Wednesday’s game. Closer Brian Fuentes actually wondered whether the men in blue were too “timid” or “scared” to make a decision that riles the temper of Red Sox Nation.
“Especially here and some other places, they seem timid to make calls,” Fuentes said after twice failing to get a third strike called on Nick Green before walking him with the bases loaded score the tying run. “I’ve heard it from other guys that come in here and say that. That’s either because it’s a mistake, or they’re scared.”
Barring any late comebacks, the clubs will meet for a third straight time in the first round of the playoffs, where in the last two Octobers the Red Sox have eliminated the Angels, who are 1-9 against Boston in the postseason since 2004.
Updating you on two of the Yankees’ potential playoff opponents, the Tigers rallied from a three-run deficit Wednesday to snap a three-game skid on the night they honored the iconic Ernie Harwell, while the Twins completed a sweep of the Indians to take a four-game win streak to a showdown with the Tigers this weekend, three of seven remaining games between the clubs this season.
Detroit leads Minnesota by 4 ½ games entering today and is trying to hold on with a pitching staff of Justin Verlander and fingers crossed. (I initially didn’t mention Edwin Jackson, but the Royals are currently lighting him up and, like Rick Porcello, we’ll see how they respond with the season on the line.) Jarrod Washburn has given up at least three runs in each of his last five starts and a bum knee has bumped him from his scheduled start on Sunday. I’m just sayin’.
By Jon Lane
The Yankees aren’t clinching the AL East this week, their magic number is 16, though the way they’re playing the question has become not if, but when. Yes, I’ve written in this space that stranger things have happened, it’s not over until it’s over, blah, blah, blah. But to win 100 games minimum, they’d have to go 11-12. At 89 wins the Yankees have already matched their win total from last season and their division lead is a season-high nine games, I doubt very seriously we’ll see a Flushing-like choke job.
Storylines and subplots will be changing, but here’s what’s going on right now:
? That Red Sox-Yankees series September 25-27 at this rate will be relegated to playing for pride – unless the magic number isn’t at zero by then.
? More importantly, New York leads the L.A. Angels by six games in the race for the league’s best record, which means homefield advantage throughout the postseason.
? The Yankees pounded Rays pitching for 24 hits in their two-game sweep yesterday – but not one came from Derek Jeter. At 2,718 hits, Jeter remains three away from Lou Gehrig’s franchise record. He’s faced tonight’s starter, David Price, twice and walked once. The Rays start Jeff Niemann Wednesday night, who allowed a double to Jeter the first and only time he’s pitched to the Captain.
? Jeter did reach another milestone. He played in his 2,117th game as a Yankee to pass Yogi Berra for third all-time.
? One more race to watch: Carlos Pena is out for the season with a fractured index and middle finger. He finished with 39 home runs, which leaves Mark Teixeira (35) in pursuit. Jeter, Teixeira and Joe Mauer make for a nice MVP debate, but what about Mariano Rivera? He’s 1-2 with a 1.75 ERA and returned from groin stiffness to earn his 34th straight save in Game 1. You can make a serious case that Rivera is the Yankees’ most indispensable player. That’s serious value in my book.
? He said it: “It’s great to have Gardy back – the fastest white man in America.”
It was good to see the Bronx’s version of Brett the Jet back with the Yankees. Brett Gardner raced to Swisher’s territory in right field to rob Fernando Perez with a tremendous running catch. Gardner will provide Melky Cabrera a much-needed blow and that lightning-like speed that will be critical come the postseason.
By Jon Lane
The Yankees have little time to bask in the glory of their four-game destruction of the Red Sox with a game tonight against the Blue Jays, and a seven-day West Coast trip without a day off until August 20, but the facts and figures generated from this Boston Beatdown are extraordinary:
? The Yankees completed their first four-game sweep of the Red Sox in 24 years; their pitching held Boston’s offense scoreless for 31 innings, the longest streak in 35 years.
? The Red Sox were 3-for-38 with runners in scoring position in the four games.
? The Yankees are 4-8 against the Red Sox this season, but from their perspective that’s more beautiful than a supermodel. Consider: Since the All-Star break, the Yankees are 18-5, the Red Sox 8-14. New York is also 18-3 in its last 21 home games and 56-27 since Alex Rodriguez made his season debut May 8. The Yankees have won seven straight and hold a commanding 6 ½ game lead in the AL East, the Red Sox’s largest deficit since October 1, 2006, with 51 games left.
It remains too early to tell if this will finish off the Red Sox like the Yankees’ five-game sweep at Fenway Park did in 2006. And unlike the past four days, the Yankees’ famous sweep in 1978 put the Red Sox down, but not out as Boston rallied down the stretch to force a one-game playoff, the day Bucky Dent broke hearts all over New England. But a comparison of other numbers lends credence to this being Boston Massacre III:
1978: Yankees 42, Red Sox 9
2006: Yankees 49, Red Sox 26
2009: Yankees 25, Red Sox 8
Does this mean the season is over? Absolutely not. But as Steven Goldman writes, the success of the past four days have the Yankees in a very good place.
By Jon Lane
Yes it’s August 6 and this series will not decide the season, but whenever the Yankees and Red Sox hook up, it means something. So much so that Muhammad Ali will be in the house tonight. The Yankees will pay tribute to the three-time World Heavyweight Champion during a pregame ceremony when Ali and Joseph Cinque, President of the American Academy of Hospitality Sciences, will present Yankee Stadium and Hal Steinbrenner with the academy’s “Six Star Diamond Award,” for excellence in hospitality.
The hype machine has been churning all morning talking about the teams’ first meeting since June 11. The Yankees lead the Red Sox by 2 ½ games and barring a collapse on either side, this will go down to the wire (and don’t write off the Rays either).
In the event you’re visiting from Neptune, the Red Sox are 8-0 against the Yankees this season. Yankees fans are tired of hearing it and so are the players. Back in June, they flew to Fenway 8-3 in their last 11 games after taking a rain-shortened series from the Rays confident that the results would be different. The Red Sox took Game 1, 7-0, and won the next two each by one run. Most disturbing about the last loss was the Yankees’ inability to hit Brad Penny.
If you disagree with the theory that the Red Sox own a psychological advantage, consider that they’re 2-13 at Tropicana Field — and played like it the past two nights. This team is beaten up. Jason Bay re-aggravated his hamstring, which means you could be looking at an outfield of J.D. Drew, Rocco Baldelli and Jacoby Ellsbury — and the rotation is so tattered the Red Sox signed Paul Byrd out of semi-retirement to a Minor League contract.
After Sunday, the Red Sox will be anywhere from 1 1/2 games up to 6 1/2 games back. One fan who called into WEEI-AM took a pessimistic stance: “We have lots of holes. We acted hastily on [cutting Julio] Logo. We’re gonna get slaughtered.
Tonight’s result will be telling. A Red Sox win and Yankees fans will panic. A Yankees win and they’ll be 3 ½ games in front, and 1-8 won’t look so bad. I’ll be on location with Jerome Preisler later today for full coverage from both sides. In the interim, a few more storylines to get you ready:
? How will Yankees fans react to Big Papi? Tonight is David Ortiz’s first game at Yankee Stadium since the revelation that he was one of the infamous 104. The big guy has yet to discuss it in great detail. Will he speak tonight or the next three days or hide from the phalanx of cameras, microphones and notepads? Chris Shearn pleaded with Yankees fans to not sink to Red Sox Nation’s level and its treatment of Alex Rodriguez. Will they comply? And will Ortiz kill the Yankees again in a big spot? Despite his shoddy overall numbers (.225-15-61), he’s .321-2-8 against New York this season with a .679 slugging percentage. There’s something about seeing him at-bat with runners on base, the game on the line and facing Mariano Rivera. How Phil Coke and/or Phil Hughes (unavailable tonight) or Alfredo Aceves fares in this situation will be their toughest challenge this season.
? Joba Chamberlain is pitching on seven days rest. He’s been the Yankees’ best starter since the All-Star break (0-3, 0.83 ERA in three starts), but is also on that undisclosed innings limit, a situation that will continue to be scrutinized. If he shuts down Boston tonight and continues this run, can the Yankees continue to consider pulling him from the rotation? Or is asking a 23 year old (24 next month) to tread deep waters risking either injury or a severe drop in production (see Fausto Carmona)? One thing not to worry about is his mettle. Despite an 0-1, 4.09 ledger in two starts this year, Chamberlain has succeeded against the Red Sox before and you know that he can deliver in the clutch.
? How much does John Smoltz have left? His ERA is 7.12 — 1-2, 9.18 since the break — and has pitched into the sixth inning (but no further) in only three of his seven starts. The Yankees’ potent lineup and Coors Field East may spell early disaster.
By: Joe Auriemma
To say that I went off the grid for a little bit is an understatement. On June 12th, I got married to my lovely wife Kelly. I’m quickly learning to say things like that in the early stages of married life. However, the week leading up to the wedding and then the honeymoon thereafter has made me lose touch with the team that I not only have been covering for the last eight seasons, but watched faithfully since I was a little boy.
Before I left, the Yankees again got swept by the Red Sox but were still in decent shape in the division — even after the Fenway massacre. I would try and get some sports updates in Aruba, but I was lost. It wasn’t until I came home and watched the team lose to Atlanta 4-0 and saw Chien-Ming Wang fall to 0-6 on the season that I realized how much trouble the Yankees could be in soon. The Red Sox are now five games up in the division, the Yankees still have not beaten them, and they are losing series to the Nationals and the Marlins. No offense to the Nationals and Marlins, but the Yankees that were rolling along in May wouldn’t have had that much trouble with any team.
Are the Red Sox still in their head? Will the offense start to show up again? How long are they going to go with Wang continuing to lose and not give them length in his starts? What happened to that powerhouse that we all saw in May winning day in and day out?
Over the last 13 games, since the beginning of the Sox series, the Yankees are 4-9 and the offense has sputtered. They are averaging four runs per game while hitting .240, and have hit one home run per contest over this span. To make things worse, A-Rod’s batting average is now down to .207. The previous 29 games before this 4-9 stretch, the Yankees were 21-8. Over that time the Yankees were hitting .279, scoring 5.8 runs per game and hitting 1.8 home runs per contest. The numbers speak for themselves.
This team is at a crossroads right now and it could start spiraling out of control sooner than later. I still think this team is good enough to compete for a championship, but they need to start answering some of the questions surrounding them and move on.
Well I’ve finally given in and I have my own Twitter account. You can follow me at https://twitter.com/JoeAuriemmaNYY. I’ll update it as much as possible, but I’m still on my Facebook kick. I’ll catch you next time.
By Jon Lane
Okay, the Yankees are 0-8 against the Red Sox and losers of nine straight to their rivals since last season, the longest such streak in nearly 100 years.
Terrible, no doubt. And no question the Red Sox hold a psychological edge over the Yankees; whatever could go wrong did during those three nights at Fenway Park. Blame A.J. Burnett, Chien-Ming Wang, the bullpen and Joe Girardi all you want, but 3-for-26 with runners in scoring position in the past two games is hideous.
But if you look at the big picture, the series means nothing.Consider.
- Today is June 12, 2009. The Yankees are two games out of first with 102 to play and 34-18 against the rest of the league.
- The teams do not meet again until August 6 at Yankee Stadium, the first of 10 remaining between the clubs. The last three are September 25-27 at the Bronx. Trust me, those games will be far more significant.
- For a historical precedent, I think back to 1988. Yeah, the Mets and Los Angeles Dodgers aren’t bitter division rivals, but the Mets took 10 of 11 games from them during the regular season. The Dodgers beat them four games to three in the National League Championship series en route to winning the World Series. In 1999, the Yankees went 4-8 against the Red Sox – and beat them 4-1 in the ALCS.
Moral of the story. Put this to bed. Tonight begins another Subway Series. It’s overhyped and six games are too many – it’d be better if the teams met three times once a year, but that makes less money – but it still generates a buzz amongst fans. I’ll be there later keeping a diary of pregame activity and the vibe around the Stadium. Being that we haven’t seen the sun all week, we’ll have to keep close eyes on the weather.
Back soon with more.
By Jon Lane
Not since 1974 have the Red Sox won six straight
games against the Yankees in one season, when they ran off seven
consecutive victories over their rivals. At that time the rivalry was
simmering before exploding later that decade. Dating back to 2003, this
has been at another level, and another chapter will be written starting
tonight. You can catch the game on My9, and tune into YES for complete
pre and postgame coverage starting with Yankees Batting Practice Today at 6 p.m.
Here’s where the teams stand:
Yankees are in the AL East penthouse, one game ahead of the Red Sox,
and are a much different team than the one that dropped five straight
to them in the early going. Alex Rodriguez has since returned to the
lineup and New York has been on a 21-8 run. A-Rod may be batting .248,
but has eight home runs in 29 at-bats. More important is that his mere
presence alone has had a major impact Mark Teixeira, who is is batting
.364 with 13 homers and 36 RBIs hitting ahead of A-Rod in the lineup.
Teixeira, incidentally, now leads AL first baseman in All-Star voting.
starters are 12-2 in their last 24 games while limiting opponents to
three earned runs or fewer in 18 of 25 starts. Leading the way is CC
Sabathia, who has pitched at least eight innings in six of his last
eight starts (4-1, two no-decisions). The burly lefty starts Thursday
night against Brad Penny.
- Big start tonight for A.J. Burnett,
4-2 with a 4.69 ERA and seeking his third straight win after going
winless since April 14. Burnett leads the Yankees with 65 strikeouts
and is seeking redemption both team-oriented and personal. His last
time pitching at Fenway Park, Burnett blew a 6-0 lead on April 25,
allowing eight runs on eight hits in five innings of a 16-11 loss.
“We owe them a couple,” Burnett said.
start for Chien-Ming Wang Wednesday night. Everyone is well aware of
Wang’s early-season troubles and terrible track record at Fenway (3-3,
5.11 ERA in seven starts). Wang returned to the rotation last week and
while he was far from great, it was something to build on
considering what he’s had to endure. However, you’d think his leash
will be short. Many are speculating (including me) that Phil Hughes
will be summoned almost immediately if Wang digs himself a hole.
you also know, David Ortiz is in the throes of an awful season. Big
Papi, who’s made his living killing the Yankees and rivaling Tom Brady
and Adam Vinatieri as Boston’s greatest clutch performer, is batting
.197 with two homers and 22 RBIs in 51 games. He visited an eye doctor
on Monday and his vision checked out well, which has left the Back Bay
mystified as to what has happened to him. Leave to Red Sox Nation to
panic. A few callers phoned into WEEI-AM saying he “stinks” and needs
to be relegated to part-time duty. Good line from Dale & Holley
though in response to Joe Girardi’s complaint about the Yankees playing
nine straight games in National League cities: The Red Sox played 50
games without a DH, the Yankees can play nine.” Ouch.
By Jon Lane
Back blogging after a few days out of pocket and it figures I return to a mess. It’s not my job to clean up, but I can weed through what’s going on with the Yankees and do my part to calm the waters.
Right now, fans have a right to be angry. Granted, there’s an absurd injury epidemic, but the Yankees are 0-5 against the Red Sox and stand at 13-13 coming off two hideous defeats.
Aside from the Red Sox’ ownership of the Yankees, how is this different from any of the past few seasons? For the fourth time in five years, the Yankees are at or below .500 in May – and chasing their competition. On May 6, 2005, the Yankees were 11-19 and two games out first, and won the AL East. Two years later, with team executives breathing down Joe Torre’s neck, the Yankees were eight games below sea level and 14 ½ back on May 29, but made it above .500 on July 14 and snuck into the postseason as a Wild Card.
Think Joe Girardi is having it rough? The 2005 season was when George Steinbrenner made his infamous “enough is enough” statement when the campaign was just 12 games old. In 1985, the last time the Yankees lost five straight to Boston, Yogi Berra was fired after 16 games. And be sure to catch the re-runs of “The Bronx is Burning” or buy the series on DVD to see how vintage Steinbrenner handled any time the Yankees were on a losing streak. Yet we’re at the point where fans chanted “We Want Torre!” in the ninth inning Tuesday night. Chris Shearn speaks out about how New York is suddenly in love with Torre again. What’s the next solution, purchasing Casey Fossum’s contract?
The big problem here is that while the Yankees were given an expensive face lift, they have failed to avoid the slow start that is threatening to force them to piece together another miraculous run, which will leave this veteran team out of gas for the playoffs. The Yankees are winless against the Red Sox and 3-8 against the AL East. Spending $400 million on people will have you judged against ridiculous standards. Floundering against your chief competition and getting outscored 38-23 by your hated rivals leave you open to criticism – which like it or not is fair.
“It’s not any fun. It’s frustrating,” said Girardi, thus far spared by Hal Steinbrenner and working with a roster with six key players on the disabled list and a bullpen underbelly nothing short of a complete disaster.
Think Joba Chamberlain still belongs in the bullpen? Yes, he was the losing pitcher. No, the total effort wasn’t outstanding due to a miserable first inning when he allowed four runs. But instead of folding, Chamberlain gave his team a chance to rally and looked damn good doing it, whiffing 12 batters in 4 2/3 innings after the rough beginning. His last eight outs came via the strikeout until Girardi removed him after 108 pitches.
The crowd protested, but Girardi did the right thing. Chamberlain is a 23-year-old prodigy more important for tomorrow than today. David Cone brought up Dwight Gooden during Tuesday’s telecast. At age 19, Dr. K threw 218 innings. The next two seasons, 276 2/3 and 250, and he was never the same again. The point is that organizations are being more and more protective of their young arms, especially when you have one in Chamberlain’s that destined to be special.
“Physically, you can’t do that to him,” Girardi said. “It’s a tough spot if we let him keep going and he gets hurt. That’s the real tough spot.”
Besides the lousy bullpen and Jason Bay taking Chamberlain deep for a three-run shot in the first, here’s why the Yankees lost Tuesday night: Trailing 4-3 they put runners on second and third with one out against Josh Beckett in the sixth, getting a bad break when Melky Cabrera’s double bounced into the stands and forced Nick Swisher to stay at third. Still, elite teams find a way to overcome bad luck. Ramiro Pena and Jose Molina, both playing thanks to injuries to Alex Rodriguez and Jorge Posada, failed to bring anyone home.
Beckett scattered 10 hits but limited the Yankees to three runs. The Yankees were 1-for-5 with runners in scoring position – 1-for-12 in the two games at Yankee Stadium – and are 8-for-54 (.148) against Boston in those situations. On the season, New York is batting .254 with RISP, .244 with two outs. You can have Bob Gibson, Sandy Koufax and Walter Johnson leading your rotation, but even the all-time greats have gotten outpitched and if you don’t score runs in the clutch, you’re not winning. Period.
Don’t think I’m letting the rotation off the hook. Andy Pettitte and A.J. Burnett are tied for the team lead in wins – two. Burnett’s ERA is 5.40 and CC Sabathia 4.85. You certainly hope the sleeping giant awakes from his annual spring hibernation, because the returning A-Rod will do nothing to help the pitching.
By Jon Lane
Remember Alex Rodriguez? If Cody Ransom’s .170 average, or February installments of “As A-Rod Turns,” hasn’t reminded you that he’s one of the top-five players in baseball who’s off-the-field melodrama overshadows his worldly talent, here’s something fun to check out while awaiting Yankees vs. Red Sox.
Gordon Edes, former Boston Globe columnist now penning for Yahoo! Sports, wrote a fictional account of what life in Boston would be like if the MLBPA had not shot down an A-Rod to the Red Sox trade in 2004, which led to the Yankees acquiring his services.
I’m not in Boston, but Kimberly Jones is there and Jerome Preisler will be on location for tomorrow’s A.J. Burnett-Josh Beckett matchup. Jerome’s Deep in the Red column appears regularly on YESNetwork.com and his “Short Hops” feature offered unique perspectives of Yankee Stadium. Julia’s Rants also looks at the long history between the Yankees and Red Sox.
Back later with the lineups.