Results tagged ‘ Cliff Lee ’

Still one more for No. 27

burnett_300_110309.jpgBy Jon Lane
Of course, there’s uproar over the fact that the Yankees actually lost a game, this one Game 5 to the defending World Series champions, and Joe Girardi’s decision to start A.J. Burnett on three days’ rest instead of Chad Gaudin.

Take your imaginary scale and place it in front of you. Then weigh these options in a potential World Championship-clinching game: Burnett or Gaudin? Gaudin or Burnett?

I addressed your comments in my previous entry – great feedback, by the way, so keep it coming. Girardi’s over-managed at times and has made some strange moves, but I stand by him in this case. You win and lose with your best. Burnett didn’t lose that game because he pitched on three days’ rest. He lost because he’s an enigma and the Phillies were bound to bust out. I also refer to what Robin Roberts told a Philly reporter before Game 5: In his days starting on as little as 24 hours rest was nothing.

Yep, the Yankees are in serious trouble, just like when they were ahead 3-2 against the Angels in the ALCS after losing Game 5 and everyone had flashbacks to 2004. Chill. The Yankees took two of three in Philadelphia against the champs and have two chances to win it at home. They still need one win to win it all and have Andy Pettitte – owner of the most series-clinching wins in history – likely going in Game 6. You’ll take that, right?

Short rest or not, you like the Yankees’ chances, even against the amazing Pedro Martinez. Pettitte is 4-6 with a 4.15 ERA in his career working on three days’ rest. The last time he did it was 2006 in Houston (1-1, 3.79.).

Last I checked Burnett was 4-0, 2.33 prior to Game 5. Studying the numbers helps one make a decision, but in the big picture they mean nothing.

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Here’s yet another reason why it’s not 2004 – or even 2003. The Yankees’ winning percentage at home was a league-best .704. They outscored opponents by 101 runs and hit 136 of their 244 home runs in the new place. You’d also have to go back to September 11 and 12 (Orioles), and June 17 and 18 (Nationals) for the last times they lost two straight at Yankee Stadium.

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arod_200_110309.jpgIf the Yankees wrap it up Wednesday night, Derek Jeter, Johnny Damon and Alex Rodriguez are, for my money, the team’s top MVP candidates. Jeter’s double-play grounder in the ninth was one of the final nails of Game 5, but he’s still batting .364 in the World Series. Damon is batting .381 and his two stolen bases in Game 4 is another part of Yankees lore. And since starting his first Fall Classic 0-for-8 with six strikeouts, A-Rod homered in Game 3 and totaled four RBIs in Games 4 and 5. One more big hit in Game 6 can seal it for the Yankees’ third baseman.

What Rodriguez is doing is more remarkable considering that Mark Teixeira has been terrible. Teixeira is 2-for-19 with seven strikeouts, including his game-ender as the tying run Monday night. In the postseason, Teixeira is batting .172 (10-for-58) with 16 strikeouts.

More troubling is Robinson Cano’s .167 average, which is tied with Nick Swisher for the team low, and his ridiculous struggles with runners on base have continued (1-for-10, one RBI). Swisher was benched for Jerry Hairston Jr. in Game 2. As one reader suggested, does Girardi gulp and bench Cano, a .320 hitter in the regular season, for Ramiro Pena, added to the World Series roster on Monday?

I wouldn’t, but Bill Madden reminded us of 1978 when the little-known Brian Doyle replaced the injured Willie Randolph late in the season and batted .438 against the Dodgers.

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Chase Utley is the Phillies’ MVP to date; his five home runs is tied with Reggie Jackson (1977) for the World Series record. But despite the Game 5 win, the Phillies have issues.

If Martinez can get them through Game 6, the big debate in Philadelphia is who starts a Game 7: Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels or J.A. Happ? Hamels has taken some unfair flack for his “I can’t wait for it to end. It’s been mentally draining. At year’s end, you just can’t wait for a fresh start.” (Disclaimer: He said this after saying he’d want the ball in a potential Game 7.) However, the city – and reportedly Brett Myers – is down on him and, let’s face it, Hamels has been hideous. Happ hasn’t started since September 29 (more perspective to the Burnett-Gaudin debate).

Lee would pitch on two days’ rest, but Thursday is his scheduled throw day, so my guess is the Phillies got with their ace left-hander and empty the bullpen from there.

Furthermore, who’s Charlie Manuel’s closer? Ryan Madson started the ninth inning of Game 5 with Brad Lidge on the bench. Madson got it done, but barely. Neither inspire confidence in big spots.

Game 1 wrap

By Jon Lane
Not much you can say about tonight. Cliff Lee was that good. There
was nothing the Yankees could do. The teams from 1927 and 1961 wouldn’t
touch the Phillies’ lefty on this night. Think back to Sandy Koufax
knocking the bats out of the hands of the ’63 team.

“I kept it simple tonight,” said Alex Rodriguez (0-for-4, 3 Ks). “He
kept it even more simple. He threw the ball well. When a guy throws
like that, you tip your cap and move on.”

A-Rod is still batting a healthy .388 in the postseason. Mark Teixeira
(.186), meanwhile, is back on the skids. After compiling five hits in
the final three games of the ALCS, Teixeira went hitless in four
at-bats. He evaded questions on what went wrong, deflecting all credit
to Lee.

“I think Tex is going to be fine. You take tonight out of it. With the
exception of [Derek} Jeter, we didn’t have any good swings at all.”

Any other night, CC Sabathia might have emerged victorious, but he
admitted he wasn’t at his sharpest (113 pitches/70 strikes). For the
fifth time in his playoff career, Sabathia allowed a pair of homers in
one game, the third time to one batter (Chase Utley).

“I felt pretty good,” Sabathia said. “I had three walks but I was behind a lot of guys. It was just one of those days.”

Phil
Hughes’ postseason troubles continue. He walked the first two batters
he faced to begin the eighth before getting the hook Both came around
to score. And while Lee put the game away a long time ago, those
insurance runs essentially quashed any hopes for the patented Yankees
comeback.

“He missed with his fastball a little bit tonight,” said Joe Girardi. “We’ll continue to talk to him. I mean, he’s been great for us all year. He walked two guys and ended up hurting us tonight, but we still believe in him.”

Hideki Matsui on facing Pedro Martinez:
“He’s always had good command and throws a wide variety of pitches,”
Matsui said. “I don’t know what to expect, but what’s going to be
important is to make sure we have a plan at the plate and make sure we
execute that.”

The Turnpike Tangle

worldseriespainting.jpgBy Jon Lane
Yankees vs. Phillies. Phillies vs. Yankees. Not baseball’s two best teams record-wise, but unquestionably the game’s finest. The 2009 World Series pits baseball’s most storied franchise against the defending champions, a team looking to be the first to repeat since the Yankees from 1998-2000 and the first National League team to do so since the Cincinnati Reds in 1975-76.

Johnny Damon will face his old teammate and friend, Pedro Martinez. Martinez will battle the team he tormented while he worked in Boston – and vice versa. CC Sabathia and Cliff Lee, the two pitchers who competed in the first regular-season game at the new Yankee Stadium when the latter threw for the Indians, will match wits in Game 1 Wednesday night – and both southpaws are at the top of their games.

While it’s not New York vs. Boston, there is no love lost between The Big Apple and The City of Brotherly Love. Giants and Eagles fans hate each other; ditto loyal followers of the Rangers and Flyers. The cities are separated by an hour-plus drive up and down the New Jersey Turnpike.

For many reasons, this World Series is wholly appropriate.

“The fact that we have to go through the world champs to become champs, and they have their chance to defend it. Not too many teams get that opportunity,” Damon said.

Fans, talk-show hosts and scribes from each city aren’t as civil. Celebrity bets have already been wagered, writes Sam Borden. The trash talk has started and will continue until one team is declared World Champions in seven games or less.

To quote Jim Kaat, this is East Coast passion. The teams stand toe-to-toe in terms of firepower, so look for this series to go deep and come down to pitching, where you can make the case the Yankees have the edge in the rotation and especially the bullpen, though it became clear down the stretch and in the NLCS that Martinez still has plenty of magic left.

A snapshot look at the regular season matchup and respective team leaders:

Records
Yankees: 103-59
Phillies: 93-69

Season Series: Phillies took two of three Memorial Day weekend at Yankee Stadium.

Memorable Game
May 23: Melky Cabrera’s walk-off single off Brad Lidge in the ninth won Game 2 for the Yankees, capping a three-run rally that started with Alex Rodriguez’s two-run home run.
 
“Right now, I’m probably the happiest .200 hitter in baseball,” said Rodriguez, who was batting .204 at the time.

Old Friends
Miguel Cairo (played for the Yankees 2004 and 2006-07)
Pedro Martinez (Who’s your daddy?)

Team leaders
Batting
Yankees: Derek Jeter (.334)
Phillies: Shane Victorino (.292)

Home Runs
Yankees: Mark Teixeira (39)
Phillies: Ryan Howard (45)

Runs Batted In
Yankees: Mark Teixeira (122)
Phillies: Ryan Howard (141)

Wins
Yankees: CC Sabathia (19)
Phillies: J.A. Happ, Joe Blanton, Jamie Moyer (12)

ERA
Yankees: CC Sabathia (3.37)
Phillies: J.A. Happ (2.93)

Strikeouts
Yankees: CC Sabathia (197)
Phillies: Cole Hamels (168)

Saves
Yankees: Mariano Rivera (44)
Phillies: Brad Lidge (31)

Projected Pitching Matchups
Game 1 (Wednesday, 7:57 p.m.): Cliff Lee (7-4, 3.39) vs. CC Sabathia (19-7, 3.21)
Game 2 (Thursday, 7:57 p.m.): Pedro Martinez (5-1, 3.63) vs. A.J. Burnett (12-9, 4.10)
Game 3 (Saturday, 7:57): Andy Pettitte (14-7, 4.11) vs. Cole Hamels (10-11, 4.32)
Game 4 (Sunday, 8:20): Chad Gaudin (6-2, 3.43) vs. Joe Blanton (12-8, 4.05)

A-Rod or CC for MVP?

arod_300_102109.jpgBy Jon Lane
Disclaimer: The ALCS is not over. Someone this morning asked me if I’m feeling good with the Yankees ahead three games to one. My answer: “No.”

It takes four games to win the LCS, the Yankees have won three. The last two ALCS have had teams with 3-1 leads and both went to Game 7. Two years ago, the Red Sox rallied to defeat the Indians en route to winning the World Series. Last year, Boston came back again, but fell short in Game 7 against the Rays.

Furthermore, Suzyn Waldman had a good line during Tuesday night’s broadcast on the Yankees Radio Network: “We’ve seen plenty of (Angels) rallies here. We saw rallies before the Rally Monkey existed.” I also don’t need to remind you what happened in 2004.

That said, the Yankees bashed the Angels, 10-1, and kept the monkey grounded in Game 4 led by outrageous performances by both Alex Rodriguez and CC Sabathia. If the series had ended last night, writers would have had to make a snap decision on an ALCS MVP. It’s very close between A-Rod and Sabathia. Here’s the breakdown:

A-Rod’s five home runs have him tied with Reggie Jackson (1977, all in the World Series) for the second-most by a Yankee in a single postseason (Bernie Williams clubbed six in 1996). He’s batting .375 with three homers, five RBIs and five runs scored in the ALCS, and .407-5-11, nine runs scored in the postseason. His slugging percentage in the DS and CS, respectively are both 1.000. Absolutely remarkable.

Sabathia, pitching on three days’ rest, neutralized a good Angels lineup over eight innings for the second time in the series, this time allowing only a run on five hits with two walks and four strikeouts. He’s 3-0 with a 1.19 ERA and took another big step towards completely erasing his prior October track record (4-3, 5.45).

It’s a tough call, but Mike Lupica makes his case for Sabathia, of whom he writes “continued to be the kind of star ace pitcher in games such as these that he was
hired to be, that he was paid a fortune to be. And clearly relishes
being.”

In addition, Sabathia has matured to where he is now a polished pitcher, says John Flaherty during a Podcast after Game 4.

If the Phillies close out the Dodgers tonight, and the Yankees eliminate the Angels tomorrow or Saturday, it’ll likely be Sabathia against Cliff Lee in Game 1 of the World Series. How’s that for a pitching matchup? But until then, there’s a lot more work to do for the Yankees to win their 40th pennant. Figure on the choice for MVP to be either Sabathia or A-Rod. Who’s yours?

Next ….

By Jon Lane
Cross Ian Snell off the Yankees’ wish list. The Pirates right-hander touted by Steven Goldman was dealt to Seattle with shortstop Jack Wilson for SS Ronny Cedeno, Triple-A catcher Jeff Clement and three Minor League pitchers.

This business with Roy Halladay, starting today against the Mariners, will resolve itself probably by 3:59 and 59 seconds Friday afternoon. I had the Blue Jays and Phillies settling any reported differences and Halladay headed to the City of Brotherly Love, but that was before the Phils and Indians completed a trade for Cliff Lee, writes Gordon Edes. Make that two off the list.

Many teams are apparently turned off by Halladay’s price tag. Perhaps his price now drops.

As for the Yankees, I think they’ll do something. The New York Daily News reported a possible interest in outfielder Josh Anderson, recently designated for assignment by the Tigers but 13-for-15 in stolen base attempts. That would make him a nice fill-in for Brett Gardner, out of action with a broken thumb for at least the next couple of weeks. Left-hander Jarrod Washburn, on the team’s radar last season and having a great year in Seattle, is a free agent this winter. Barring a steal of a deal for Halladay, Washburn is the Yankees’ best option, writes Glenn Giangrande.

Part II of Ray Negron’s diary on the Yankees mourning the loss of Thurman Munson is on-line.

Washburn: The most economical choice

By Glenn Giangrande
In the wake of Tuesday night’s reports of Chien-Ming Wang being done for the season, the Yankees need another starting pitcher, especially if they intend to hold firm on Joba Chamberlain’s innings limit.

I’ve championed the idea of acquiring Roy Halladay, but it does not appear that Blue Jays GM J.P. Ricciardi will budge from his lofty asking price. The cost of the Indians’ Cliff Lee may also be prohibitive. If neither of those front-line starters can be obtained, it might be time to go to Plan C: Jarrod Washburn.

washburn250_072909.jpg

If you recall, Washburn was heavily linked to the Yankees at the 2008 trading deadline, but no deal was made between the Yanks and Mariners. Now Washburn is in the final season of a four-year contract. He’s having a fantastic season, posting a 2.64 ERA and a .223 BAA, both dramatically lower than his numbers through July 27, 2008 — a 4.50 ERA and a .289 BAA.

Mechanical adjustments, plus a couple of new pitches, appear to have made a big difference for the soon-to-be 35-year-old lefty. He’s pitched in big games before, having been a key cog in the Angels rotation earlier this decade.

Seattle is in no position to ask for a ransom. The Mariners have fallen onto the fringes of playoff contention and their farm system is still depleted following the Erik Bedard trade prior to last year. Young pitching seems to have vaulted the Rangers past the Mariners in the AL West pecking order. A couple of mid-level Minor Leaguers would have to be viewed as a good haul for Washburn. He’d be the most cost-effective move.

One caveat: As of Tuesday, Washburn ranked fifth among American League pitchers in the number of outs he’s recorded through the air. Some of those balls might turn into homers in Yankee Stadium as opposed to spacious Safeco Field. However, CC Sabathia and the aforementioned Lee are also among the leaders, two pitchers doing just fine, so it’s not the end all, be all; just one of the only downsides to a pitcher who’d be an economical acquisition. 

Munson, Arroyo, rumors and more

munson_250.jpgBy Jon Lane
Sunday
marks the 30th anniversary of the tragic death of Thurman Munson, one
of the most gritty and popular players to ever wear a Yankees uniform.
We’re taking this week on YESNetwork.com to honor the captain with a
diary Yankees senior advisor Ray Negron kept during those five days in
August when the team mourned the loss of their teammate and friend.
Negron was the Yankees’ batboy in the 1970s and for the first time
shares his thoughts in the first of a five-part series.

I’m
spending this week compiling and producing a series of tributes to No.
15, including one of my own using interviews from Munson’s teammates
and associates, which will run on Sunday, August 2, while at the same
time keeping tabs on a Yankees team that’s 10-1 since the All-Star
break and 23-6 in its last 29 games. Not only do the Yankees have a
chance to bury the Rays, with a little help they can put some distance
between them and the Red Sox before their showdown at Yankee Stadium
next week. The Red Sox trail the Yankees by 2 1/2 games in the AL East
and have already made two deals before Friday’s non-waiver trade
deadline.

You wonder if, as well as the Yankees are playing,
whether they’ll make a move be it minor or a blockbuster, maybe not fix
what’s not broken, or perhaps do something in response to what the Red
Sox end up doing. In this time of trade talk, believe everything you
see and half of what you read, but the latest rumors in Beantown is the
cultivation of a mega-deal that would import both Cliff Lee and Victor Martinez from Cleveland.

Late
yesterday, word circulated that the Yankees were interested in
acquiring veteran right-hander Bronson Arroyo from the Reds provided
that the Reds pay the bulk of the $17 million he’s owed by the end of
2010. A baseball source told the New York Daily News there’s
nothing to that. You figure that the Yankees would not invest any
serious dollars into what would amount to their fifth starter, since
Sergio Mitre has fit the job description through two starts. But if the
Reds were willing to eat Arroyo’s salary – I seriously doubt it –
Arroyo would be a nice addition, a battle-tested vet who’s pitched in
big games (see ALCS, 2004).

Furthermore, if Arroyo would become a Yankee, Alex Rodriguez would have to learn his first name. It’s not Brandon.

Another
name being floated is Ian Snell, though Snell is a big if. The
27-year-old right-hander is 2-8 with a 5.36 ERA for the Pirates, who
appear willing to give him away if a team would take on his guaranteed
$4.25-million salary for next season. The Daily News added that
any sort of deal for Snell is possible given that the Yankees and
Pirates have worked out trades for Xavier Nady, Damaso Marte and Eric
Hinske. If that happens, you’d think it’d cost the Yankees
next-to-nothing in prospects, only $4.25 million to bet on the
change-of-scenery theory.

Steven Goldman encouraged the Yankees to deal for Snell last week, citing the best is yet to come from the right-hander.

Memo to Wang: Take a step back

By Jon Lane
As we begin a new week, the top storyline in Yankeeland is the alarming situation surrounding Chien-Ming Wang. I wrote last week that Wang didn’t suddenly forget how to pitch and afforded him until mid-May before drawing any conclusions. Little did I know that Wang would surrender eight runs on eight hits in 1 1/3 innings on Saturday that saddled him with an ERA of 34.50.

Suddenly, someone who entered the season with 54 wins in 97 big-league starts could find himself being skipped over his next start, scheduled for Friday night in Boston. You can’t throw Wang out there, you just can’t. Study the pitching lines of his first three outings:

April 8: 3 2/3 IP, 7 ER, 9 H
April 13: 1 IP, 8 ER, 6 H
April 18: 1 1/3 IP, 8 ER, 8 H

Not a pretty picture. Neither is Wang’s career 5.11 ERA in seven starts at Fenway Park. And when the idea of sending Wang to the Minors to follow the path of Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee, two aces who had to go back to the beginning before evolving into Cy Young Award winners, Joe Girardi clarified why that’s not feasible.

Wang is out of options and cannot be sent down without exposing him to waivers, which means it’ll take about the average time Wang has lasted in his three starts for another team to scoop him up. Since Wang, Girardi and pitching coach Dave Eiland continue to insist the right-hander is healthy, the only alternative to exposing him to the Fenway wolves is giving him a good nine days to repair his mechanics and confidence.

Our Kimberly Jones guesses that Wang will throw a simulated game either on Thursday’s off day or Friday, perhaps in Tampa. She also shared a suggestion from Brian Bruney which raises an excellent point. Like Wang, Bruney recovered from a Lisfranc injury and he believes that Wang has not re-gained the trust of his push-off foot, the same foot that was injured last June in Houston. What bothers me the most is how Wang said yesterday that after watching video he believes there are no mechanical differences from this season to last season, which went against what Girardi said. Denial is worse that any physical ailment. The first step to figuring out why you’re not pitching well is to admit something is wrong.

Wang, 29, is a major investment for the Yankees today and tomorrow. Taking the next nine days to figure out some sort of solution won’t hurt the team as this stage. A.J. Burnett can be slotted into Wang’s space on Friday with the rest of the starters on their regular turns until the Yankees need a fifth starter April 29 in Detroit. If the sabbatical fails to work, you’re looking at the increasing likelihood of Phil Hughes being recalled from Triple-A Scranton and Wang serving as the long reliever the Yankees decided not to take up north.

Back later with tonight’s lineups.