By Jon Lane
If the Yankees can defeat the Angels one more time, they will have the ultimate challenge ahead of them. The Philadelphia Phillies pounded and blasted Joe Torre’s Dodgers into submission Wednesday night to become the first team to reach consecutive World Series since Torre’s Yankees in 2000-01 and the first to capture back-to-back pennants since the Atlanta Braves in 1995-96. The last team to repeat as World Champions were also Torre’s Yankees when they won three straight from 1998-2000. The Phillies have a shot at becoming the first National League team to repeat since the Cincinnati Reds in 1975-76.
The Phils smacked four homers off Dodgers pitching, two from Jayson Werth. Bottom line, this team can bash and Yankees pitching will have to raise it to the highest of levels to get past Werth, Ryan Howard and that lineup.
But first things first. The Yankees have to win one more game; it takes four games to win the pennant, the Yankees have won three. A.J. Burnett gets the ball tonight (pregame on YES at 6:30, first pitch on FOX at 7:57 p.m. and YES will have an hour-long postgame show immediately after the last pitch) and the right-hander looked relaxed and confident during Wednesday’s media session. He has a firm grasp on what he has to do, and the Yankees are cognizant about the need to step on the Angels’ throats and make them tap out. Too many teams have rallied from down 3-1. One blew a 3-0 LCS lead. Guess which one?
Benjamin Kabak from River Ave. Blues wrote something I’ve been thinking about since yesterday: Joe Girardi refused to confirm it, but you know Jose Molina is catching Burnett tonight. In Burnett’s prior two postseason starts Girardi has left Jorge Posada on the bench while going with Hideki Matsui as the designated hitter.
That needs to change. To echo Kabak’s take, Posada is batting .308 with a .471 on-base percentage and .615 slugging percentage, compared to Matsui’s .286/.412/.357. The former not only looks more comfortable at the plate – his eighth-inning homer tied Game 3 before the Angels won it in the 11th – he owns better numbers against Halos starter John Lackey. Posada is 12-for-29 (.414) with three walks, a homer, and three RBIs against the big Texan, compared to Matsui’s .286 average, though he does have seven RBIs versus the Angels right-hander.
How Girardi will handle pinch-hitting/pinch-running duties with regards to Posada and the risk of losing the DH, we’ll find out if the game is close and late. The Yankees don’t want it to get that far. It won’t be easy, but they’ll have to get to Lackey early and cash in on the opportunities they missed against him in Game 1. Batting Posada behind A-Rod gives them their best shot.
By Jon Lane
I, like many, am still trying to comprehend Joe Girardi’s decision to pull David Robertson after he used 11 pitches to get two clean outs in the 11th inning.
Alfredo Aceves was the eighth pitcher used in Game 3. Girardi also employed eight men, including the starting pitcher in Game 2 as well as Game 2 of the ALDS. All that amounted to was playing with fire and getting away with it, because until Monday the Yankees were unbeaten in postseason play. But on Monday, Girardi finally got burnt, and at the worst possible time. His whole bullpen except for Chad Gaudin was burned with CC Sabathia today going on three days’ rest.
Girardi and pitching coach Dave Eiland cited matchups and declined to elaborate further when presented with the fact that Howie Kendrick, who greeted Aceves with a single to set up Jeff Mathis’ walk-off double, was 1-for-2 lifetime against Robertson and had never faced Aceves. (And in case you wondering, Mathis had never faced Robertson and was 0-for-2 with a strikeout against Aceves.)
“We have all the matchups and all the scouting reports,” Girardi said. “And we felt that, you know, it was a better matchup for us.”
Three at-bats to me doesn’t seem like a concrete body of work to make such a critical decision. These numbers would have worked out a lot better. In the second half, Robertson was 1-1 with a 3.00 ERA and 29 strikeouts in 21 innings pitched. Aceves was 5-0, but with a 4.65 ERA and 33 Ks in 40 2/3 IP. Robertson’s ERA in the first half was 3.57, while Aceves’ was 2.49. I also don’t need to explain how big Robertson has been since the start of the playoffs.
Oh, Aceves also allowed a run on a hit with two walks in 1 1/3 innings in Game 2.
Aceves made a serious impact as a swingman when he was promoted to the Majors in May, but hasn’t been the same pitcher since another one of Girardi’s strange decisions: when he made a spot start against the Twins on July 9 after Chien-Ming Wang was lost for the season due to injury rather than call up a stretched-out Sergio Mitre to fill the void.
Of course, people are calling for Girardi to be fired immediately. Chill. Girardi’s Yankees won 103 games and own a 2-1 lead in this series, and you know what they say about momentum being as good as the next day’s starting pitcher. Girardi is also not to blame for the Yankees leaving 10 men on base and going 0-for-8 with runners in scoring position.
A team that scored a league-high 915 runs are 0-for-16 with RISP with 22 stranded in its last two games. The Yankees need to get it going against Scott Kazmir, who has pitched well against them, or another loss evens the series with A.J. Burnett opposing John Lackey on the road in a swing game. I’m not crazy about those odds.
By Jon Lane
CC Sabathia, officially named the Yankees’ Game 4 starter on Sunday, met the media before Game 3 in Anaheim. The big lefty is going on three days’ rest, which he made a habit of last season. This year though, with the Yankees affording the luxury of providing him extra rest down the stretch, there’s a lot more in the tank.
The plan has worked to perfection. Sabathia is 2-0 with a 1.23 ERA in his two postseason starts. While he admitted that when working on shorter rest you may not have your best fastball, it’s about how you approach the game mentally, and Sabathia has said more than once that the extra rest last month left him energized and recharged.
“You know that going on certain rest that you’re not going to have like your best fastball,” Sabathia said. “So you’ve just got to stay under control and make sure your my delivery is good, and make sure I go out there and throw strikes.”
Someone asked on whether Sabathia feels any different the day after pitching in cold weather. He doesn’t citing all those years pitching in Cleveland.
Other comments from the press briefings:
Joe Girardi on Chad Gaudin’s role going forward:
“He’s more of a long guy for us,” Girardi said. “We had him up in Saturday’s game. [David] Robertson was done, and Gaudin was warmed up, so by having Chad down there it allows us to mix and match more in our bullpen, being able to use maybe a couple guys in an inning and not worry if you go extra innings or a long game.”
You can watch Girardi’s full conference here.
Angels Game 4 starter Scott Kazmir was asked about opposing Sabathia, he summed it up by saying he knows he has to be very good, and facing Alex Rodiguez the way he’s been hitting.
“Anyone that’s seeing the ball as good as he is, it’s tough,” Kazmir said. “You know, you can just tell when hitters are comfortable out there. When they start hitting the ball hard to the opposite field, they’re really seeing the ball good and really feeling comfortable out there. So like I said, you’ve got to attack the strike zone and just get them in defense mode. If you get behind hitters like that, especially how good he’s seeing the ball, he’s going to hurt you.”
By Jon Lane
It’s cold (again) and rain – lots of it – is threatening the New York metropolitan area (again), but the Yankees are taking batting practice in preparations for Game 2 of the ALCS.
Courtesy of STATS Inc., the Yankees, Angels and MLB, here are a few nuggets to know and what to watch for.
First and foremost, the weather report: Weather.com’s hour-by-hour forecast pegs a 40 percent chance of showers at 8 p.m. and 55 percent by 9. We were supposed to get soaked last night, but it held off and CC Sabathia was awesome. In the event of a rainout, the current speculation has the teams playing here tomorrow at 4:30 and flying to Anaheim afterwards to play Game 3 Monday at 1 p.m. California time.
Starting lineups: As expected, Jose Molina is catching A.J. Burnett and batting ninth. For the Angels Maicer Izturis (2B) and Mike Napoli (C) are in for Howie Kendrick and Jeff Mathis, respectively.
Pitching matchup: A.J. Burnett (13-9, 4.04) vs. Joe Saunders (16-7, 4.60)
Burnett finished his first season in pinstripes very strong. Since September 18 he has 34 strikeouts and a 1.80 ERA. Joe Girardi this afternoon reiterated why Molina is in and Jorge Posada is back on the bench. “Molina caught A.J. in the last round,” Girardi said. “Sometimes you have to make sacrifices and our players have done that all year long.” Throwing to Molina, Burnett gave up a run in six innings in Game 2 of the ALDS and was 5-2, 3.28 in 11 starts as one-half of this battery. His final six starts of the season were all caught by Molina (3-1, 2.92).
And still wondering why Burnett and not Andy Pettitte is Girardi’s Game 2 starter? He was 5-3, 3.51 at Yankee Stadium and the Yankees were 12-4 in those starts.
Saunders went undefeated over his final eight starts (7-0, 2.55) and the Angels are 42-19 in his last 61 regular season starts, but hasn’t pitched since October 4 (five innings in a season-ending 5-3 win).
Historical precedents: Game 1 winners have won the ALCS 23 out of 39 times (59 percent). Since 1985 and the advent of the seven-game series, 12 of 23 (52 percent) have advanced to the World Series. However, the team losing Game 1 in six out of the last nine ALCS have rallied to win the league pennant. Since 1999, the Bombers have not lost Game 2 of an LCS, going 5-0 in that span. Their last LCS Game 2 loss came to Cleveland in a 12-inning game in 1998.
Stalled: A big storyline coming into the ALCS was the Yankees controlling the Angels’ feared baserunning. The best way to do that is keep the top of their order off the bases. Chone Figgins and Bobby Abreu are two of the Angels’ best players. However, their one-two punch combined to go 0-for-8 in Game 1 with three strikeouts. Figgins is 0-for-16 in the postseason. Somehow the Angels swept the Red Sox in three games, but it’s imperative they get their sparkplug re-ignited.
Throwing out the first pitch: Tino Martinez.
On the Stadium jukebox: Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean,” Aerosmith’s “Sweet Emotion,” Metallica’s “Wherever I May Roam,” Jacko’s “The Way You Make Me Feel.”
Highlights from Girardi’s press briefing: Look for roughly a 45-minute time limit for Burnett to sit around in the event of an in-game rain delay. If it gets past that, Girardi will go to the bullpen early. “You have to be smart about it,” he said.
On having any advantage over a warm-weather team at this time of year: “I don’t think it’s such a huge advantage because they do play in cold
weather cities in April. And we were fortunate — two of the teams in
our division (Blue Jays, Rays) that you play early have domes, and one of them is actually in
a warm place. And when we went to Boston earlier it was 80
degrees. It was one of our hottest days, so I really don’t think it’s
much of an advantage.”
Game 3 starter Andy Pettitte is still with the club. The team had not yet decided to fly him west ahead of time.
Back with a lot more later. On the field working pregame, Chris Shearn chatted with Kevin Long, Phil Hughes and Michael Kay.
7:21 p.m. So far, so good for an on-time first pitch. The grounds crew is prepping the field while fans slowly file in. Some reading material while you wait: Chris Shearn does his best Joe (9=8) Maddon.
7:41 p.m. Weather update: Chance of rain downgraded to 10 percent at 8 p.m., 20 at 9 and 30 at 10.
7:45 p.m. Beautiful rendition of our national anthem by NYC firefighter Regina Wilson.
7:49 p.m. Tino Martinez throws the ceremonial first pitch to Jorge Posada.A minute later the Bleacher Creatures applauded A.J. Burnett as he left the bullpen flanked by Jose Molina and Dave Eiland.
7:57 p.m. Nick Swisher salutes the Creatures with a fist pump. Burnett’s first pitch is a strike to Chone Figgins. Game time temperature is 47 degrees.
8:05 p.m. Torii Hunter earned himself a cheap two-out double when he fisted a blooper that landed just inside the right field foul line, but on his next pitch Burnett got Vladimir Guerrero to ground out to short. Nice start for A.J. Sixteen pitches, 13 for strikes.
8:19 p.m. Take away a couple a pitches low and a tad outside, Burnett looks sharp. He froze Kendry Morales on a breaking ball to open the second and needed only nine pitches total to work a clean frame.
8:30 p.m. 1-0 Yankees on Robinson Cano’s triple. Those two-out walks (this to Nick Swisher) kill you every time.
8:46 p.m. The natives were getting restless, but Burnett survived a two-out walk to Chone Figgins to retire Bobby Abreu on a fly ball to center.
8:52 p.m. Derek Jeter – again. HR to right field, the first of the ALCS. 2-0, Yankees. Jeter’s second of this postseason and the 19th of his career. He passes Reggie Jackson and Mickey Mantle for sole possession of third place on the baseball’s all-time list.
9:04 p.m. Teixeira is having an amazing defensive game. First he does his best Henrik Lundqvist impersonation, saving A-Rod from a throwing error. Then he stretches to his left to catch Jose Molina’s throw to first after Guerrero’s swing and miss hit dirt and ricocheted off his leg.
9:07 p.m. Burnett in four scoreless IP: 12 of 15 first-pitch strikes.
9:41 p.m. Good A.J. electrifies an audience. Bad A.J. sucks the life out of it. A bases-loaded wild pitch just tied the game. David Robertson is getting warm. Guerrero’s ground out mercifully ends the top of the fifth, but Burnett threw 33 pitches and started every batter except one with a ball. He’s thrown 90 in the game and Molina is due up second. If we see Posada, that’s the cue Burnett’s night is over.
9:45 p.m. Nope, Molina is batting. Watch Good A.J. return to retire the side in the sixth.
9:52 p.m. Replays show Jeter was safe on his double-play grounder. Another impeccable job by the umpires this postseason.
10:01 p.m. What did I tell you? Three up, three down in the sixth. That’s 105 pitches for Burnett. It’s looking like Joba Time in the seventh.
10:08 p.m. Not a good past two innings for the Yankees. There was the never-ending fifth, and in the sixth Teixeira reached first on a throwing error, but A-Rod flied out and Hideki Matsui grounded into an double play.
10:12 p.m. Burnett is starting the seventh. Hang on a second. Andy Pettitte is yanked from Game 3 of the DS with 81 pitches in 6 1/3 superlative innings and Burnett is still in this game – AND he’s facing a lefty hitter after retiring the righty Napoli. Someone please explain.
10:14 p.m. Phil Coke now coming in to face Figgins. To give Burnett credit, there would have been two out if not for Cano’s error. Burnett gets a nice ovation and responds with a tip of the cap.
10:26 p.m. Joba Time: Loud applause as Joba enters to “Shout at the Devil.” Nice job by Coke rebounding from his walk to Figgins to strike out Abreu, a professional hitter. Joba Chamberlain to face Torii Hunter with two on and two out in the biggest confrontation of the game.
10:37 p.m. Save the Joba to the bullpen debate for the offseason. That was a great job whiffing Guerrero with a nasty slider to leave the bases loaded and the game tied at two. It has been a nail biter, just ask Kate Hudson.
10:53 p.m. The Yankees are morphing into the Twins. A sure inning-ending double play ball is booted by – of all people – Derek Jeter. That would have restored faith in Phil Hughes, whose ALDS ERA was 9.00.
10:59 p.m. Faith restored. Hughes fans pinch-hitter Gary Matthews Jr., but Girardi isn’t fooling around. Mariano Rivera is in the game with two out in the eighth to face Erick Aybar with runners on first and second.
11:01 p.m. Mariano the Magnificent. The Angels have stranded 10 runners and are 2-for-10 with RISP.
11:11 p.m. Figgins can’t buy a hit. Johnny Damon robs him with a stumbling catch to open the ninth.
11:16 p.m. Hey Yankees fans:
Your team led the Majors with 15 walk-off wins and had one in Game 2 of
the ALDS. Teixeira, A-Rod & Matsui in the ninth.
11:45 p.m. Amazing. What was supposed to be a double-play is instead one out and the winning run at second because Aybar straddled the bag and failed to step on it. The Angels are putting Jeter on intentionally for lefty Darren Oliver to face Johnny Damon. Fans are already chanting Damon’s name.
11:53 p.m. Does anyone want to win this game? The teams are a combined 2-for-15 with runners in scoring position and have left 17 men on base (11 by the Angels). Teixeira is 0-for-5 and hasn’t hit a ball out of the infield.
12:01 a.m. From the impeccable timing department: It begins to rain four hours after first pitch and Chone Figgins snaps a hitless streak of 19 at-bats with an RBI single off Alfredo Aceves to put L.A. ahead 3-1. Damon has no arm in left and Aybar can fly, but the throw was closer than you’d expect. Still, this is shaping up to be another galling loss to Scioscia’s Angels unless the Yankees can summon that walk-off magic one more time.
12:11 a.m. Unbelievable.
12:17 a.m. Onto the 12th of an endless game and it’s raining a bit harder. Bellow all the A-Rod superlatives you want, but Aceves and to make it stand and someone has to make it count.
12:22 a.m. Memo to Marte: You have one job. Get it done.
12:25 a.m. He got it done. David Robertson coming in. Chad Gaudin the last man in the pen, just like last Friday.
By Jon Lane
raining (yet), but it’s windy and cold; I feel like I’m Canada. But the
bunting is draped, and a couple of Yankees are playing catch on the
infield. One of them is Alex Rodriguez, who is now taking fungo
grounders at third base.
Joe Girardi just met the media and A.J.
Burnett is chatting about the Angels and his Game 2 start. I’ll have
briefs from Girardi and Burnett, as well as Angels manager Mike
Scioscia and Saturday’s Halos starter, Joe Saunders, before first pitch.
already a buzz and the gates are opening in mere minutes. Memo to rain:
You’re not invited. Go away and stay away until Sunday.
No surprises in the Yankees’ lineup.
Johnny Damon is in left field with Melky Cabrera in center. Damon comes
off a 1-for-12 performance in the Division Series. You wonder if he
can’t get it going, or especially the Yankees are on the losing end
tonight, whether Girardi will replace Damon for Brett Gardner in Game 2.
around for much more from yours truly, and our multimedia team of Chris
Shearn and Joe Auriemma. I have a hunch there will be baseball tonight,
the first of many wars of attrition between these two clubs that both
can make the “team of destiny” claim.
5:20 p.m. Joe and
Chris are on the field working pregame. Chris did an interview with
Brett Gardner for a Stadium Spotlight that will be posted later.
Gardner, like everyone, was asked about this December weather. In
essence he said this is New York weather and this is what you have to
deal with at this time of year if you want to still be playing baseball.
Pena had to attend to business, but spent a few minutes talking off
camera. He lamented that it was 97 degrees today in his native
Dominican Republic, but added “When you play this time of year, you
have to play in this.”
Before I headed back inside I felt the
slightest of raindrops. No steady showers yet. Here’s hoping the rain
received my you’re-not-invited memo.
From there I stopped by the
Hard Rock Cafe. Three hours before first pitch and you could barely get
around the circle bar. Yankees fan Greg Parker was seated in a
tableless chair in the back of the restaurant. I asked him who do have
winning and why. “Yankees in 6 – because this is New York and they’ve
won 26 World Championships.” Sometimes “expert” analysis isn’t
necessary. The simplest explanations are the best.
5:42 p.m. Highlights from A.J. Burnett’s and Joe Girardi’s pregame breifing with the media:
On fitting in this season whereas past newcomers have struggled to get acclimated early:
pies aside, I’m a pretty quiet individual during the game and stuff,
aoft spoken guy. I don’t know, it just didn’t matter really who I met
or who I ran into. I just joked with them from the get go and getting
on them from the get go. It’s not hard to blend in with guys like this.
It’s a good group. The main thing is you can be yourself there in that
clubhouse. I think that’s what a lot of people have learned this year
is that they can be themselves.”
On having more of a comfort level pitching in the postseason after his debut last Friday:
know a little what to expect, crowd-wise and everything. It’s still
going to be a crazy and exciting and emotional game. By all means I
know how important my start is. I have the least amount of postseason
experience, but I’m looking forward to it. We’re going to hopefully get
this win in tonight and follow CC. He’s going to come out with a bang.”
On why Nick Swisher [5-for-43 lifetime against John Lackey and 1-for-12 in the ALDS] is in the lineup:
watched his at bats. Sometimes when you give a guy a day off, you look
to give him a day off against a guy that maybe he struggled against a
little bit. But we watched his at bats the last couple of years, and
he’s hit some balls really hard. He does see pitches on John Lackey,
which is extremely important. And that’s why he’s in there.”
On whether it’d be better if the regular season is shortened and if off days added into the postseason are unnecessary:
interesting. Every year that I had a chance to play in the playoffs
here, the weather was great. So I don’t remember having a day like
this. I mean, this is what baseball is. It’s a 162-game schedule. It’s
a grind, you know, if you shorten it by six games, the way it used to
be, well then you fall into this is the World Series week, and the
weather is not so good right now. It wasn’t great in Colorado. You
know, I don’t know what you do. You pray that Mother Nature blesses you
this time of the year and sometimes it doesn’t.”
5:48 p.m. Latest from Weather.com – 10 percent chance of rain by 8 p.m. and 20 percent by 9. This is down from 60 percent this morning.
7:13 p.m. Some tidbits gathered while killing time:
The elevator to the press box has been down for the last couple of hours. The long and frequent hikes make for good exercise.
about stopping by the Hard Rock? Prepare to wait. There are lines to
get in and for a table, at least a couple of hours from what I was told.
Pedro Martinez allowed two hits over seven shutout innings
during Game 2 in Los Angeles, but was stuck with a no-decision. Many
here watching, including yours truly and Yahoo! Sports’ Gordon Edes,
who covered Pedro in Boston for years, believe he’s the best pitcher of
this generation. The Dodgers took a 2-1 lead on Andre Ethier’s
bases-loaded walk in the eighth and Jonathan Broxton closed the deal to
even the NLCS at 1-1.
7:49 p.m. The national anthem was just played and I see sprinkles. So much for a future as an amateur weatherman.
props to readers checking in from Hawaii and Regina, Saskatchewan.
(Yes, I know of the area. Years ago in Las Vegas I played blackjack
with two guys from Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. Once I brought up Bret
“Hitman” Hart winning his first WWF Heavyweight Championship there I
Nice ovation for former Yankee and current YES analyst
David Cone, who threw out tonight’s first pitch. It was low, but
Right now blaring over the Stadium sound system: AC/DC’s “For Those About to Rock (We Salute You).
7:55 p.m. Facts & figures with a creative twist from Chris Shearn.
7:58 p.m. First pitch 7:58 (strike). Game time temperature is 45 degrees.
Sabathia gets through the first allowing only a two-out single to Torii
Hunter, though he got a break from plate umpire and crew chief Tim
McClelland, who punched out Bobby Abreu on a backdoor curveball that
from the view of many here was way inside.
Johnny Damon, 1-for-12 in the DS, singles to left field and advances to
second on the throw. Derek Jeter at third with Alex Rodriguez at the
plate after Mark Teixeira flied out to shallow left swinging at a 3-0
pitch. Lackey’s in trouble early, you can afford to be selective and
wait for something to drive.
8:21 p.m. These Yankees have been good and darn lucky. Hideki
Matsui popped up between short and third, except Erick Aybar and Chone Figgins, who called for it, looked at each other and said, “Do you want it?” Instead of an
inning-ending out, the ball dropped in front of Aybar and Damon scored
the Yankees’ second run. Good line from a writer seated to my right: “When did the Angels become the Twins?”
A-Rod’s sacrifice fly gives him seven postseason RBIs, one shy of his career-high eight set in 2004.
8:57 p.m. The Amazing A-Rod now batting .462 in the postseason, but it was up to Matsui to make it count. Alas, a ground out to first ends the third. Matsui’s average has dipped to .182 (2-for-11).
9:24 p.m. 2-1 Yankees entering the fifth after Lackey whiffs Jeter with two on and two out. Both Lackey – incidentally wearing short sleeves – and Sabathia are showing why they’re not only good, but tough.
9:35 p.m. Damon is 2-for-3 tonight with a double. Now the Yankees have to cash in.
9:45 p.m. Cha-ching! Matsui breaks his drought with an RBI double, but A-Rod is thrown out at home as he got aggressive upon seeing Juan Rivera lose his footing in left. Nice job by Jeff Mathis to survive the collision, but a 3-1 lead is pretty good the way Sabathia is working.
Lackey has thrown 96 pitches.
9:54 p.m. Nice sliding grab by Damon to rob Abreu of a leadoff single. The next pitch Hunter tried bunting his way on but Teixeira stretched to snare Sabathia’s throw at first base. Scioscia is arguing passionately with Laz Diaz, claiming Texieira’s toe came off the bag when the ball met his glove. Even if there was instant replay in baseball, that would be one of those inconclusive plays wouldn’t be overturned.
Sabathia, who has taken over this game, fans Guerrero to end the top of the sixth. He’s retired seven in a row and has thrown 80 pitches.
Metro NY’s Larry Fleischer with a good observation: For the first time in a long time, the Yankees are winning a playoff game with pitching and defense.
10:05 p.m. The Los Angeles Twins of Anaheim give away another run. After Cabrera moved to second on Lackey’s throwing error, Jeter singled him home and advanced to second on Hunter’s error. Lackey’s night is done. He battled, but I’m very surprised on what I’m seeing from what’s normally one of the most fundamentally sound teams in baseball.
From Larry the stat guru: Tonight is the first time the Angels were charged with three errors in a postseason game since Game 2 of the 2005 ALCS, also the only time this has happened in the Scioscia Era.
10:16 p.m. Robinson Cano, ski mask and all, robs Howie Kendrick of a hit that would have put Angels on first and third with one out. Pitching + defense = playoff victories.
10:21 p.m. Sabathia has worked seven, breaking his postseason high set just last Wednesday (6 2/3 IP). His seven strikeouts are one short of his high also set last Wednesday.
10:45 p.m. Sabathia (98 pitches) out to start the eighth and nobody warming in the bullpen. Could he go the distance? *Alas, soon as I hit save Phil Hughes started throwing.
10:54 p.m. Sabathia works a clean eighth and at 113 pitches it looks like Girardi will go to Mo in the ninth. Tremendous performance by the big lefty; 49,688 people were chanting “CC! CC!” And this comment from Girardi before the game was appropriate:
“CC is one of those guys that’s relaxed on the day he pitches. And I admire that.”
11:08 p.m. Exit Sabathia. Enter Sandman. A perfect blueprint.And FYI, Brett Gardner in center and Cabrera moves to left. Assuming Rivera is Rivera, I’ll check back with you after working the clubhouse.
By Jon Lane
These Yankees have proven to be a victorious concoction. The psychology of winning has been contagious not only to the team’s young, homegrown prospects, but veterans who have yet to experience the postseason.
Everyone has risen to the occasion, especially Alex Rodriguez, which has Chris Shearn and Joe Auriemma feeling good about the Yankees’ chances in the ALCS. You can listen to their breakdown in an all-new Off the Wall Podcast. Known in the YES circle as “The Godfather of YESNetwork.com,” Joe offers more takes on the latest Pinstriped Podcast.
Joe Girardi is taking a chance starting CC Sabathia on three days’ rest in Game 4, but it’s the best option, writes Steven Goldman. Of course, Mother Nature rules all, even Goldman, Girardi, Sabathia, the Steinbrenners, mystique and aura. The forecast beginning today through the weekend stinks; heck today it’s 20 degrees below normal for this time of year.
If there’s a rainout Friday or Saturday, Chad Gaudin will likely get the call for Game 4. As far as logistics and scheduling, well ….
The teams lose the off day on Wednesday and would play straight through Thursday before a break on Friday if the series reaches six games. However, there’s a scheduled off day on Sunday for a couple of reasons. First, the Dodgers and Phillies play Game 3 of the NLCS Sunday night. The Yankees and Angels could play Sunday afternoon, but FOX is covering this series and there’s a conflict with the NFL. A game Sunday night would compete with Dodgers-Phillies and, worse, force the teams to take a red eye to California and play a 1 p.m. (PST) game the next day.
Another thought: Move the games up a day. Play Game 1 on Saturday (again, rain rules all) and Game 2 in New York Monday afternoon, and then fly west for Game 3 which would be bumped to Tuesday night at 5 p.m. California time. Games 4 and 5 (if necessary) are played Wednesday and Thursday, and you’re back on track. Of course, television will have a say in that.
Here’s a take from Mark Feinsand: Push Game 3 to Tuesday and make Monday an off day. Games 3-4-5 then eliminates Wednesday’s off day. Furthermore, Feinsand writes that if Game 1 is postponed, those tickets would be used for Saturday and the Game 2 tickets would be good for Game 2, whenever it is.
Moral of the story: I hate rain.
By Jon Lane
A picturesque day here at Yankee Stadium for the first of two workouts as the Yankees prepare for Game 1 of the American League Championship Series Friday night against the Angels. Of course, as timing has it, rain is in the forecast for Friday and Saturday night, the scheduled dates for Games 1 and 2, which means the best-laid plans of Joe Girardi and his crew will be altered if there’s a rainout.
Judging from yesterday’s comments, Girardi is seriously considering going with a three-man rotation in the LCS, which lines up CC Sabathia to start Games 1 and 4 and if needed Game 7. But if there’s a rainout the teams lose an off day, and Girardi will have to decide on starting Chad Gaudin in Game 4 in Southern California or pulling Joba Chamberlain out of the bullpen.
Chamberlain and Gaudin provided their takes on the potential situation, and how each are staying prepared. Chamberlain said “As of 12:42 on Wednesday, that’s where I’m at. We’ll just approach it from there.”
Gaudin added, “The only thing I know right now is be ready Friday. That’s what I’m going to do. I’ll get ready to pitch on Friday. When they tell me otherwise, I’ll be ready to go. I can’t control it, can’t change it. I have to keep it simple as I can.
“I don’t in go pitching as a starter or reliever, I go in pitching trying to get outs each time. If it happens to be seven innings, it’s seven innings. If it’s two innings, it’s two innings.”
Jose Molina and Mark Teixeira shared their experiences from playing with an Angels team that’s been an annual contender since Molina was there in 2002 and become a World Champion. I’ll have more on this in my ALCS preview to run on Thursday.
Johnny Damon also reported on day after taking optional batting practice. Damon went 1-for-12 in the Division Series, including no hits in his last 10 at-bats with four strikeouts in Sunday’s clincher. Girardi said yesterday that Damon remains his everyday left-fielder and Damon knows it’ll be time to turn it around.
“I just wanted to get some work in,” Damon said. “There are so many days off during this time of year it’s better me coming in instead of sitting around the house.”
“It’s very easy to put it behind you when you win three games to nothing. The fact that we won the series and a few of us really didn’t contribute too much. For us to continue to be successful, we need to continue to pitch like we did, but also we need to get my bat going as well as a couple of other guys.”
Damon is well aware that one or two good swings can get him back on the beam. His postseason average bottomed out at .056 in 2004 before he went 5-for-11 with three runs scored, six RBIs and two home runs (the last a grand slam off Javier Vazquez) in Games 6 & 7 as the Red Sox completed a comeback from down 0-3. In the World Series Damon went 6-for-21 (.286) to help Boston to its first World Championship in 86 years.
“That’s why I’m not going to beat myself up over what happened in Game 3,” Damon said. “I felt like I had a chance every time I stepped up to the plate. Unfortunately it didn’t work out that way, but my teammates picked me up and they helped us get a big win and helped us get to this part.”
Back with much more later.
3:33 p.m. As expected, no decisions regarding the ALCS roster or even a Game 1 lineup. Girardi and his staff met this morning to discuss various scenarios, including matchups and the bad weather in the forecast beginning Thursday afternoon. For that reason, the Yankees moved up their workout to Thursday morning.
“We still have a couple of days,” Girardi said. “We still have some things we want to look at. We still have a good 48 hours before it’s game time.”
The Angels worked out today in Anaheim, are flying to New York tonight and will also work out tomorrow at Yankee Stadium. John Lackey is expected to oppose CC Sabathia in Game 1.
Girardi isn’t concerned about the slumping Damon, among the hitters who showed up at the Stadium on Tuesday for extra batting practice.
“He had great at-bats yesterday,” Girardi said. “I know it’s not a real-game situation, but it’s as close as you’re can get without playing games. All hitters have gone through times they haven’t gotten hits. There was a thing about was Derek Jeter pressing when he was around Lou Gehrig’s record. I feel really good about Johnny this time of year because Johnny has played this time of year and has played at a very high level.”
“It might be just what they needed,” Girardi added on the extra days of rest earned by the Yankees’ sweep of the Twins. “The four days off might help them, and then if they don’t swing the bat well then someone says the rest didn’t. You really don’t know until you get into it.”
Like Damon, Nick Swisher had trouble against Twins pitching, batting 1-for-12 with four strikeouts in the Division Series.
“I thought for me two days off was too much,” Swisher said. “Right now the body doesn’t really need to rest that much because every time you take the field in front of this crowd in the postseason, it takes everything away.”
That’s it for blogging today. Tonight I’ll have a feature on how the Yankees’ homegrown youngsters and a veteran like Jerry Hairston Jr. have adopted to the organization’s philosophy of winning, and how it’s taken their games to new levels.
By Jon Lane
Joe Girardi gave indications during a conference call with beat writers that the Yankees may go with a three-man rotation during the ALCS. That would mean CC Sabathia would start Game 4 on three days’ rest. Not only did Girardi point out a lighter Sabathia workload compared to last season with the Brewers, and the eight days he has between Friday and Game 1 of the ALDS, off days will have Sabathia available on regular rest if the series extends to a seventh game.
“Not getting him to 250 innings during the regular season allows us to consider that,” Girardi said. “We’ve told him, though, to concentrate on Game 1. That’s the most important game, and we’ll go from there.”
Furthermore, Joba Chamberlain and Chad Gaudin would remain in the bullpen. We’ll know more over the next day or two – the Yankees will work out at Yankee Stadium tomorrow and Thursday – but it sounded like Girardi wants to again carry three catchers, which means the lone roster change could be Brian Bruney or Freddy Guzman for Damaso Marte.
By Jon Lane
Key points from Joe Girardi’s pregame press conference:
On the debate of whether Hideki Matsui or Jorge Posada would DH:
“Matsui has been our DH most of the year and is familiar with that role. That is not a role that Jorge has done a lot in his career. If there’s a left-hander on the mound maybe you think a little bit different. But Matsui, I mean, he’s been great against left-handers, so it wasn’t much of a decision because of what Matsui has done in the DH role.”
On the temperature of the clubhouse given the talk about Posada’s reaction to sitting:
“Clubhouse is great. I watched the guys go through practice yesterday. They were loose; guys were having fun. They enjoyed being around each other like they always do, so I think our clubhouse is great.”
On why he believes A.J. Burnett will be successful:
“I’ve always found that A.J. has liked the big stage. I talked about his success that he’s had coming into here as an opposing player, the success before this year he had going into Boston, some of the games. We were 0-2 to start the year and he got our first win in Baltimore. I think A.J. likes it and I think A.J. likes pitching in this ballpark. That leads me to believe that he’s going to have a good game.”
Twins manager Ron Gardenhire also discussed Carl Pavano starting Game 3, a potential elimination game:
“He’s been great for us, a veteran pitcher. The leadership you get from a guy who’s been there and done it has been very, very important. And then watching him go out on the mound, when he’s throwing the ball, how he works hitters and works the zone when he’s got his good stuff. He’s in and out and using all his pitches and can pitch backwards if he has to. That’s something that some of our younger pitchers need to learn to do, so he’s been very important for us.
By Jon Lane
First pitch: 6:07 p.m. at Yankee Stadium; gates open 3 p.m.
Pitching matchup: A.J. Burnett (13-9, 4.04) vs. Nick Blackburn (11-11, 4.03)
Forecast: Cloudy with a slight chance of showers in the evening; showers likely with a slight chance of thunderstorms after midnight. (They could play through “showers,” but “thunderstorms” will force a delay and put everyone in one big I hate rain bad mood.)
If there’s a rainout: Game 2 moves to tomorrow night (TBD) and the teams lose the travel day. Games 3-5 will remain Sunday, Monday and Wednesday. If the series then goes the distance, the Yankees would be faced with a choice of starting Burnett on short rest, Chad Gaudin or Joba Chamberlain.
Throwing out the first pitch: “Mr. October” Reggie Jackson. Incidentally I heard a replay of Reggie’s appearance on “The Howard Stern Show.” His weekly Tuesday night show on Sirius 123 was plugged, but the rest of the details are for mature audiences only.
The big story: Joe Girardi’s decision to sit Jorge Posada and start Jose Molina.
Before Game 5 of the 1977 ALCS in Kansas City, Billy Martin made the most courageous decision of his career when he benched Jackson, George Steinbrenner’s $3 million man. It’s apples and oranges compared to Posada and Molina, but hang with me. Jackson was 1-for-15 in the series and numbers against Royals starter Paul Splittorff so poor that when asked, Catfish Hunter told Martin that Jackson “can’t hit him with a paddle.” That left Martin, who felt if the Yankees lost he would be fired anyway, to convince Steinbrenner and Gabe Paul why he had to bench Jackson.
Posada owns three World Series rings and was .285-22-81 this season, while Molina can’t hit even if attempted to put paddle on beach ball, so obviously this is different. But what’s similar is the manager’s guts. Ian O’Connor writes it’s E-2 on Girardi, but Sam Borden commends Girardi for making the requisite tough decisions.
There is something to chemistry between some pitchers and catchers. Andy Pettitte had it with Jim Leyritz – and not Girardi – in 1996, so did Greg Maddux with Eddie Perez. You can’t discount that Burnett went 5-5 with a 4.96 ERA and .270 opponent batting average in 16 starts with Posada and 5-2 with a 3.28 ERA and .221 opponent batting average in 11 starts with Molina catching, including 3-1 2.92 in his last six.
Molina showed a knack for keeping Burnett’s emotions in check and in a cohesive enough pace to not made desperate mistakes during crisis situations. And during the time of season where pitching rules all, you do whatever you believe is best to shut down the opposition, especially if Nick Blackburn suddenly morphs into Jack Morris. And it’s not like Posada won’t be available to pinch-hit or enter the game immediately after Girardi finds an opening. And it’s certainly not like the rest of the Yankees lineup can’t hit. Blackburn was 11-11, 4.03, so the odds are long that he’ll pull a Morris and good that the Yankees offense will knock him out early.
Of course, if Burnett is razor-sharp and the Yankees win, Girardi is a genius. If he’s blasted, Girardi is stupid, Burnett is a whiner, boos will be heard from Jersey and Posada would be given carte blanche to scream, “I was the problem?” Yankees fans, in a panic, will declare the series over and demand that Girardi is shown the door.
That’s the nature of sports. It’s also the nature of sports to stop debating, hang up the phone after your favorite sports talk station leaves you on hold for an hour, quit crunching numbers, and sit back and watch. It’s why the games are played. We’ll see if this issue is either buried quickly or linger like a thunderstorm of biblical proportions.
Memo to Mother Nature: Hold off on the showers until after midnight. Too much going on tonight in the Bronx.