By Jon Lane
Derek Jeter and Mark Teixeira were named AL Gold Glove winners this afternoon. Jeter’s range improved from last season and Teixeira was a godsend at first base, making plays not seen in the Bronx since Tino Martinez followed in Don Mattingly’s footsteps.
The duo shared their thoughts through the Yankees in separate statements:
“I’ve said it time and time again, playing championship-caliber baseball starts with pitching and defense, and I think those two components were certainly the foundation for our success in 2009. I’ve always taken a great deal of pride in my defense, and being honored with a Gold Glove is an accomplishment I will never overlook.
“I also want to congratulate and recognize Mark Teixeira on his well-deserved achievement.”
“Solid defense is the most underrated component of winning baseball, but it is something I have always taken pride in. Winning a third Gold Glove means a lot to me, especially when good defense helped our entire team reach the ultimate goal of a World Championship.”
Other AL winners include Torii Hunter (OF), Ichiro Suzuki (OF), Evan Longoria (3B), Adam Jones (OF), Mark Buehrle (P), Joe Mauer (C) and Placido Polanco (2B). National League winners will be announced tomorrow.
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
“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.”
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
“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
By Jon Lane
Since the Yankees opened the Division Series battle against the Twins on October 7, they’ve had eight days off over the past 17 days – 20 if you include the time between their regular-season finale and Game 1 of the ALDS.
Thanks to Mother Nature, make that nine. For one of the rare times this month, the forecast for rain was correct, baseball’s luck with the weather ran out and Game 6 of the ALCS was postponed until 8:20 Sunday night at Yankee Stadium.
Andy Pettitte will remain Joe Girardi’s starter; the manager resisted the temptation to go for the kill and start CC Sabathia on normal rest to have him ready if there’s a Game 7.
“Who else would you want for a Game 7 if there is a Game 7?” Pettitte said. “I never thought they would not throw me tomorrow.”
Physically, Pettitte admitted that his body has appreciated the extra rest. Since the Yankees skipped one of his starts in mid-September due to shoulder fatigue, he’s been allotted an extra day’s rest between starts. As an younger player, Pettitte said that would set him back, but because he’s 37 years old, he admitted it’s “probably great for me.”
That didn’t mean he was happy with the rainout, however,
“The worst part of it is just the wait,” Pettitte said. “This was the longest day ever. You realize it’s a rainout – get ready to do it tomorrow – but it’s just frustrating from the standpoint it’s just such a long day, when you’re so ready and so anxious to get the game going.”
As I noted earlier, minutes before the game was called, MLB officials were conferring with
Yankees pitching coach Dave Eiland. The look on his face essentially
said there was no way he was having Pettitte warm up. Furthermore, last thing the manager or pitching coach on both sides wanted was their starters to have to start the game, stop due to a delay and fire it up again if the game were to be resumed.
“I don’t think any of us are exactly sure when the rain is going to get out of here, how late it’s going to be, so I respect the decision that they made,” Girardi said. “I’m sure both clubs would have loved to have played. The weather is not permitting.”
“If it’s good enough to play a game, I think any ball team wants to — if you’re going to start a game, just have a fair amount of confidence you’re going to be able to finish it, and not have it be so disjointed and segmented because of weather,” agreed Angels skipper Mike Scioscia.
Besides the pitchers, everyone is affected playing in the slop and mud, no matter how state-of-the-art Yankee Stadium’s drainage system is compared to the building across the street.
“You don’t want anybody to get hurt,” said Mariano Rivera. “It’s bad weather out there. Waiting another day isn’t going to kill us.”
Good line from Jerry Hairston: He and Mark Teixeira were discussing the inordinate amount of off days while in the indoor batting cages when, according to Hairston, Teixeira told him, “I have a new respect for utility players.”
“I just started laughing,” Hairston said. “I said why don’t you give me
part of that [pay check] you got there.”
Teixeira is in the first year of an eight-year contract that’s paying him $180 million. Hairston re-signed with the Reds for one year and $2 million in January and was acquired by the Yankees at the non-waiver trade deadline. Mother Nature, though, doesn’t discriminate between the rich and the filthy, dirty rich.
“That’s the life of a baseball
player,” Hairston said. “You’re going to have your rain outs, but we don’t make excuses.
You have to go out and play.”
Game 7 is “if necessary,” but the media could not help asking about a potential Game 7. This was supposed to be A.J. Burnett’s day to throw a side session, but he
did not. The thinking was to ensure he’d be available for long relief or
if it’s all hands on deck in an elimination game. Burnett said he’d be ready in an emergency for both Games 6 and 7.
“If I need to come out and help, I’ll be ready,” Burnett said. “I’ll be ready for anything.”
Scioscia was asked about it, but did not confirm yet another one of those worst-kept secrets. If the Angels win Game 6, John Lackey is starting Game 7. Bet on it.
“If there was a seven, Lackey’s going to pitch,” Hairston said, mockingly. “They can say no, no … if you look at John’s reaction getting taken out of [Game 5], you think he’s a man that he’s not going to pitch a Game 7. They can sugarcoat it, but we’re concerned about Game 6 and we’re trying to win that game.”
Scioscia was asked if he’s in favor of the added off day built in this week. In a word, no.
“Taking us almost 20 days to play eight games, I think that’s the wrong template for baseball,” Scioscia said.
One person not complaining is Nick Swisher, 3-for-29 with 10 strikeouts in the postseason and who popped up Brian Fuentes’ 3-2 pitch with the bases loaded to end Game 5.
“You hear a lot of guys who say, ‘Man I wish we didn’t have all these
off days,’ but then again if you have bangs and bumps, and this and
that, it’s nice to have another day off,” Swisher said.
Swisher remained Girardi’s starter in right field and the manager doesn’t anticipate any changes tomorrow night. Swisher has taken advantage of the down time by working extra hard with hitting coach Kevin Long. A player fueled by emotion, Swisher was texted something once said by Babe Ruth:
“It’s hard to beat up a guy who never
quits. It’s going to turn, it’s got to. You have to have a positive
attitude about it.”
Girardi stuck with Johnny Damon after a 1-for-12 Division Series. He’s doing the same with Swisher despite considering inserting Brett Gardner in center field and shifting Melky Cabrera over to right.
“It’s amazing,” Swisher said. “Skip’s such a great guy. He’s the best manager I’ve ever played for, no doubt. You have to keep battling and keep grinding.
“I never lost any confidence. I’m frustrated, but Skip has faith in me and my teammates do. I just turn it up, strap it on a little tighter. I had a run like this during the regular season and no one seemed to care. But it’s at that point now when it’s on the biggest stage. You want to go out there and do sooo well. Maybe I’m just pressing a bit too much.
“Skip told me the other day, ‘Be yourself. You had a great year, just keep doing the things you’re normally used to doing.’ I’ll be ready to go tonight when I go to sleep. I’ll be ready to go tomorrow when I wake up and it’s going to be a lot of fun.”
As I wrap up blogging for the evening, it’s 8:02, five minutes after what would have been first pitch. It’s raining and raining hard. Unless Major League Baseball wanted to wait and play at midnight, there was no way this game was being played. MLB made the right decision to benefit both the players and the fans.
Talk to y’all tomorrow.
By Jon Lane
The inevitable comparisons are in full force. One victory from a World Series the Yankees drop a winnable Game 5 and are back home with two chances to grab that elusive ‘W’ with both hands and hold tight.
In the event you lived on Mars five years ago and are back on Earth: The Yankees blew a 3-0 ALCS lead to the Boston Red Sox in 2004, starting when they were three Mariano Rivera outs from a four-game sweep and the right to play the St. Louis Cardinals in the Fall Classic.
Watching Game 5 of Yankees-Angels, my colleague and friend Jerome Preisler couldn’t help but compare Phil Hughes to Tom Gordon, the latter one symbol of that epic collapse. I covered the 2004 ALCS from start to finish and sure there are similarities. Like these Angels, those Red Sox never quit. They had heart, soul, pop, clutch hitting and pitching, and some good luck. I remember specifically Game 5. The Yankees took a 4-2 sixth-inning lead on Derek Jeter’s three-run double off Pedro Martinez and had the bases loaded with two out. Hideki Matsui laced a liner to right field. If it drops, the game is broken open and we’re not talking about the 2004 ALCS.
Alas, Trot Nixon made a sliding catch to end the inning. Looking back at the series, Joe Torre called that the turning point, the first time when he told himself, “Uh oh.” David Ortiz homered off Gordon to begin the bottom of the eighth and Jason Varitek’s sacrifice fly off Rivera tied the game at four. Fate, by the way, also smiled on the Red Sox in the ninth when Tony Clark doubled off Keith Foulke, If the ball doesn’t bounce over Fenway Park’s short right-field fence, Ruben Sierra scores from first. Instead, Clark and Sierra had to stay on second and third. Miguel Cairo popped out and David Ortiz finally won the game in the 14th.
The moral of the history lesson: 2009 is a different time with a different team. These Yankees had it within them to pull out 15 walk-off wins and two in the postseason. Andy Pettitte and not Jon Lieber (to be fair, Lieber pitched very effectively in the ’04 postseason) is starting Game 6 Saturday night. And if there’s a Game 7, the season will be on CC Sabathia’s back, not our old friend Kevin Brown.
Furthermore, there are glaring differences between Joe Girardi’s lineup to what Torre had to send out for Games 6 and 7 five years ago:
2004 – Kenny Lofton/Sierra
2009 – Matsui
2004 – Cairo
2009 – Robinson Cano
2004 – Tony Clark (John Olerud’s bruised instep kept him from starting Games 5-7)
2009 – Mark Teixeira
Cano instead of Cairo; Teixeira instead of Clark (who struck out to end Game 6 as the winning run at the plate). Here’s hoping you’re reassured. Now all this lineup has to do is score runs off two very good pitchers, Joe Saunders and Jered Weaver.
By Jon Lane
Game 163 for the Tigers and Twins will finally decide the AL Central and who plays the Yankees in the ALDS either Wednesday or Thursday. Probable starting pitchers are for the Tigers rookie Rick Porcello (14-9, 4.04 ERA) and Scott Baker (15-9, 4.36) for the Twins, who went on a 16-4 run since September 13 and a three-game sweep of the Royals to get to this point.
Because the Packers and Vikings are playing at the Metrodome Monday night, Tigers-Twins is Tuesday at 5 p.m.
Also on Tuesday, the Yankees will hold a workout at Yankee Stadium, where CC Sabathia, Joe Girardi and Mark Teixeira will meet the media in formal press conferences.
By Jon Lane
What to watch for this week:
? Yankees games meaningless only to the standings. The AL East may be wrapped up, but Joe Girardi will be resting regular players (read: Alex Rodriguez) while evaluating who may grab the last couple of ALDS roster spots (read: Brian Bruney, Freddy Guzman). Peter Abraham had a funny line looking ahead to who may comprise tonight’s batting order: The Hangover Special.
? Whether Mark Teixeira can become AL home run champion. Teixeira’s 38 home runs are one behind leader Carlos Pena, out for the season with a broken hand.
? One last chance for Teixeira, Derek Jeter and Joe Mauer to convince voters they deserve to be AL MVP.
? CC Sabathia’s first and only shot at his first 20-win season (he’s a two-time 19-game winner) Friday night against the Rays in St. Petersburg. Sabathia is a top contender for the Cy Young, though Royals ace Zack Greinke may have sealed it after holding the Twins to a run over seven innings on Sunday. In five September starts (Twins, Red Sox, Tigers, Indians and Angels), Greinke has allowed three runs (two earned) in 33 innings.
(Before I get to the Twins, allow me to digress. From this person’s point of view, Mariano Rivera belongs in the Cy Young conversation and deserves a place in the top three. His 44 saves are his most since 2004 . He has two blown saves and allowed only two runs since June. There’s Jeter, Teixeira and Sabathia, but where are the Yankees without Rivera? Would there have ever been that last dynasty if not for Rivera?)
? Twins vs. Tigers in a four-game set that will likely decide the AL Central champion and the Yankees’ ALDS opponent. Three weeks ago, the Tigers had a seven-game lead. That’s down to two with Detroit on an 8-11 skid and Minnesota on its typical late-season surge (11-2). The Twins are also winners of nine out of 14 against the Tigers this season.
Let’s rewind to 2006: The Tigers led the Central by 10 1/2 games on August 7. The Twins won the title on the final day of the season while the Tigers settled for the Wild Card. Minnesota was swept by Oakland in the ALDS. Detroit dropped Game 1 of the DS to the Yankees before winning their next seven to capture the AL pennant. Go figure.
Nick Blackburn opposes Rick Porcello tonight at Comerica Park. It’s Brian Duensing against Justin Verlander Tuesday, Carl Pavano (yes, him) against Eddie Bonine Wednesday, and Scott Baker and Nate Robertson conclude the set on Thursday. Something tells me it’ll be Twins vs. Yankees next week. What do you think?
Every Tuesday, YES Blog takes the pulse of New York on the hottest
topics being talked about right now in the world of sports. What’s your
take on the below issues?
By Jon Lane
If you’re a Yankees fan, Dave Roberts still gives you nightmares. You remember, right? Game 4, 2004 ALCS, the Yankees three Mariano Rivera outs from sweeping the Red Sox on their turf and going to the World Series. Alas, Rivera walked leadoff hitter Kevin Millar, Roberts entered as a pinch-runner, stole second base, scored the tying run and a few things happened along the way ….
Despite subsequent seasons brimming with optimism and marked by late-season surges, the Yankees haven’t sniffed the World Series since and is one year removed from missing the postseason party entirely. That won’t happen this time – their magic number for clinching the AL East is 12 and a playoff spot a mere seven – but depending how the Yankees perform in the postseason, the 2009 season will be looked back as either one for the ages or a wholly disappointing, complete and downright disaster. That ’04 team won 101 games, but bring up that season and you’ll hear sob stories about Roberts, David Ortiz, Tom Gordon, Curt Schilling, Kevin Brown and Javier Vazquez. In the Bronx, like it or not, fair or unfair, it’s win or else.
One reason why confidence is high this year will be different: The Yankees have their version of Roberts, Brett Gardner. Peter Abraham, author of the popular LoHud Yankees Blog, created the moniker “Gritty, Gutty Brett Gardner.” I look at him as a hot sparkplug, one that provides the speed and intangibles that wins many battles before their fought.
Take Monday night, when Gardner broke the Angels’ backs in the Yankees’ 5-3 win at Yankee Stadium, scoring the winning run on a double steal and a throwing error. It started with a bold decision by Joe Girardi, the type of gut-and-conscience tugging choice you need to make in the playoffs, when he pinch-ran Gardner for Mark Teixeira.
You read that correctly: Mark Teixeira, a top contender for AL MVP who was 3-for-4 and a home run from the cycle. Millar was far from MVP material in ’04, but still wielded a big stick (.297-18-74) and Terry Francona removed him with the season on the line, again a choice that must be made in October.
Girardi was aware the Angels are in striking distance for homefield advantage with three games still to play next week out west. He also knew that Gardner on the bases plants bugs in the respective minds of a battery. A pitcher looks over his shoulder like he’s being chased. A catcher is already thinking what if Gardner runs. And when Gardner took off for third, Mike Napoli was affected, so was third baseman Chone Figgins, who was playing off the line and could not corral Napoli’s low throw, one that skipped into left field and allowed Gardner to score.
The Angels seem to bring out some finesse in the Bronx Bombers, writes John Harper. For one night they brought out their best. The Yankees are six games ahead of a team that owns a 32-17 regular season record and two ALDS series wins against them. The last time the Yankees were in Anaheim, they were swept in the final three games (July 10-12) before the All-Star break. All they’ve done since is go 42-15, and now with Gardner and perhaps Freddy Guzman, they may finally have that edge.
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
Chris Shearn’s entertaining rant got me thinking.
While this year’s Yankees won’t match the legendary team from 1998,
like 11 years ago, they’ve been playing out of their minds. Here’s a snapshot comparison of where the 2009 Yankees currently stand to the 125-win team of ’98:
Record on August 31
Games ahead in first place
Team leaders (hitting)
2009: Average – Derek Jeter (.335); HRs – Mark Teixeira (32); RBIs – Teixeira (101)
1998: Average – Bernie Williams (.339); HRs – Tino Martinez (28); RBIs – Martinez (123)
Team leaders (pitching)
2009: Wins – CC Sabathia (15); ERA – Sabathia (3.56); Strikeouts – Sabathia (158)
1998: Wins – David Cone (20); ERA – Orlando Hernandez (3.13); Strikeouts – Cone (209)
2009: Sabathia, A.J. Burnett, Teixeira, Nick Swisher (acquired for Wilson Betemit)
1998: Chuck Knoblauch, Scott Brosius, Hernandez, Tim Raines
2009: Mariano Rivera
1998: Mariano Rivera
2009: Joe Girardi
1998: Joe Torre
Tests of character
2009: Twelve walk-off wins, to date their highest total since 1978 (13); 41 comeback victories
1998: Seven walk-off wins; 50 comeback victories; Rallied from 2-1 ALCS deficit to defeat the Indians in Game 4. The Yankees did not lose another postseason game.