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Aceves High
2008-09-09 20:19
by Cliff Corcoran
Note: The Bronx Banter blog has moved to bronxbanterblog.com.

Last night's game started off a lot like Monday night's 12-1 humiliation. Bobby Abreu erased a Derek Jeter single* with an inning-ending double play in the first. In the second, the first three hitters reached on a single, a hit-by-pitch, and a double resulting in a run and putting men on second and third with none out, but Ervin Santana struck out Hideki Matsui and Robinson Cano before getting Chad Moeller to line out to end the threat. In the third, Abreu delivered a two-out single, but was promptly thrown out stealing second with Alex Rodriguez, who had singled to lead off the previous inning, at the plate. The Yankees stranded another two-out single in the fourth and went down in order in the fifth.

What was different was Alfredo Aceves. Making his first big league start in front of 31 friends and family members and 43,011 strangers, Aceves worked quickly, mixed his pitches, threw strikes, and made quick work of the Angels. Pitching to contact, Aceves got into just two three-ball counts all night, both of them full counts, one of which ended in a strikeout of rookie Brandon Wood, and didn't walk a batter. He consistently got ahead early, throwing first-pitch strikes to 20 of the 26 batters he faced, and after three of his first four outs traveled a fair distance in the air, he got ten of his last 17 outs on the ground and two more by strikeout.

To be sure, the defense behind Aceves' helped out. The first out Aceves recorded came when Robinson Cano made a great sliding stop to his right, then spun to his feet to throw out the speedy Reggie Willits. Alex Rodriguez made several nice plays at third base including eating up a hard hopper in the second and making a nice backhanded play on a shot down the line in the third.

Robinson Cano made another nice play in the fourth with a diving stop to his left that he tried to turn into a 4-6-3 double play, but Derek Jeter let Cano's throw clank off his glove as both runners reached safely. That came after the runner on first had reached by lining a ball off the right wrist of a diving Jason Giambi. Though both plays would have been exceptional, they should have been made. Undeterred, Aceves took matters into his own hands by reaching across his body to stab a comebacker and start an inning-ending 1-6-3 DP. Aceves has a face of stone on the mound, but after escaping that jam he pumped his fist and shouted a few words in Spanish.

With the score still 1-0 entering the sixth, the Yankees finally gave Aceves some insurance. Derek Jeter led off with a deep fly into the gap in right center. Gary Matthews, who had just been put into the game in place of Torii Hunter, whose back was acting up, got to the ball, but had it clank off his glove for what was initially ruled a triple (later changed to a three-base error). Bobby Abreu followed with a five-pitch walk, and Alex Rodriguez cashed it all in with a three-run jack that made it 4-0.

Those runs came just in time as Aceves appeared to be fatiguing a bit in the bottom of the sixth. Though he had thrown just 60 pitches through the first five frames, allowing just a trio of scattered singles, his pace slowed in the sixth. Reggie Willits took five pitches to ground out to Cano. Garret Anderson then worked a nine-pitch at-bat (just the second three-ball at-bat of Aceves's night), eventually winning the battle with a groundball single in the gap past Cano. Mark Teixeira followed by lacing a high fastball into right center for a double, pushing old man Anderson to third. Aceves then got Guerrero and Matthews to groundout, but Anderson scored in the process.

Given two more insurance runs in the seventh thanks to a Chad Moeller single and a Johnny Damon dinger that drove Santana from the game, Joe Girardi sent Aceves out for the seventh. Six pitches later, Aceves was back in the dugout getting congratulated on seven strong innings of one-run baseball against the team with the best record in the majors.

Aceves didn't blow anyone away last night, and he didn't show any particularly overwhelming pitches, but, as advertised, he mixed his pitches to a dizzying degree. Aceves throws a fastball, a cutter, a changeup, and a curve, but seems to have a variety of breaks and speeds on each one. His fastball topped out at 93 miles per hour and tended to sit around 91, but he threw some 92 mile per hour pitches that dove like sinkers and some 88 mile per hour pitches that almost looked like splitters, as well as cutters in that same range that stayed level but moved side to side. His changeup sat in the mid-80s, but seemed to have a curve-like hop to it. Later in the game, he threw back-to-back straight changeups at 81 and 78 mph to get the final out of the sixth. His curve tended to be in the high 70s and have a moderate break, but in pursuit of the final out of the fifth, he threw Sean Rodriguez a 76 mph back-door yakker that was a called strike (a generous strike zone from home plate ump Ed Rapuano also worked in his favor), then got Rodriguez to groundout on a less-severe 78 mph curve.

All totalled he gave up one run on five hits (four of them singles) and no walks in seven innings while striking out two and throwing just 89 pitches, 71 percent of them strikes. Save for the lack of strikeouts, that's a near repeat of his line from his two relief appearances. Dig:

RP: 7 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 2 BB, 7 K
SP: 7 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 0 BB, 2 K

As for the rest of the game, Damon added a solo homer off Justin Speier in the ninth and Brian Bruney and Damaso Marte slammed the door without incident. So the day after taking a 12-1 whooping, the Yankees dropped a 7-1 score on the Halos, who came no closer to clinching as the Rangers beat up on Felix Hernandez to beat the M's 7-3.

In the other notable out-of-town game, the Rays, leading Boston by just a half game, took a 3-2 lead into the bottom of the eighth at Fenway only to have Dan Wheeler give up a two-run homer to Jason Bay and hand Jonathan Papelbon a 4-3 lead in the top of the ninth. Joe Maddon sent Dan Johnson, who had just been called up before the game, in to pinch hit, and Johnson greeted Papelbon with a game-tying homer over the Red Sox's bullpen in right center. After a Willy Aybar lineout, rookie Fernando Perez, who had pinch-hit in the seventh, doubled to left and then Dioner Navarro doubled him home to make it 5-4. Troy Percival then walked the leadoff man in the bottom of the ninth, but struck out Jason Varitek, and got David Ortiz to fly out. With two outs, pinch-runner Jacoby Ellsbury stole second and went to third on Navarro's throwing error only to have Coco Crisp pop out two pitches later to end the game and inflate the Rays' lead to 1.5 games.

*Jeter's first inning single moved him past Babe Ruth into second place on the Yankees' all-time hit list behind Lou Gehrig. That's pretty cool, but the YES Network treated it like he had tied Pete Rose, and have been doing so for the better part of a week as he's approached Ruth's mark. Let's get a few things straight: Ruth still has 444 more home runs, 1,042 more walks, 968 more RBIs, and 500 more runs scored as a Yankee than Jeter, and Ruth picked up another 355 hits with the Red Sox and Braves. I don't mean to diminish Jeter's accomplishment, but fercryingoutloud, he's now second in team history in hits for a franchise that has never had a 3,000-hit player, whose three greatest home-grown hitters had their careers shortened by a combination of injury, illness, and war, and whose greatest player spent seven years playing for other teams. Yes it's impressive, but it's hardly a great moment in baseball or even Yankee history. {/grinch}

Comments
2008-09-10 02:12:18
1.   tommyl
I said this before but Aceves reminds me of El Duque. Not the windup, but the pitching style. All kinds of funky pitches, all kinds of speeds, thrown in every count. He also has that same stone faced tough look on the mound. Its early, small sample size and all, but me likey. I do hope they call up Hughes after the AAA playoffs to take a few starts from Ponson. I just don't see the point of trotting him out there anymore, and we can get Phil a few more innings and some valuable experience at the major league level. Cliff, others, what do you think?
2008-09-10 03:20:12
2.   williamnyy23
I agree with your point about Jeter passing Ruth, but (a) it is Babe Ruth; and (b) it is the YES network. I obviously enjoy the Yankee-centric programming, but the network isn't one to shy away from propaganda.

Speaking of passing Babe Ruth, while Arod is become a great bet to topple Bonds, it seems near impossible for him to pass Ruth on the Yankees all-time list. Arod needs only 212 to pass Bonds, but trails Ruth on the Yankee list by 453 (as well as Mantle by 330 and Gehrig by 287).

2008-09-10 05:12:49
3.   Just fair
Yikes. Howz about some more love for the Captain. C'mon guys. Do you seriously think we'll see anyone pass Jeter in our lifetimes? I don't. What we've witnessed since that opening game in Cleveland has been pretty damn special. And this has been posted ad nauseum, but if a name is found next to, in front of, or between Ruth and Gehrig, well, what else needs to be said. Nice work, Derek. : )
2008-09-10 05:35:45
4.   williamnyy23
3 Fair enough, but you don't often countdown to #2. When Jeter passes Gehrig and reaches 3,000, it will be worthy of drawn out anticipation. Having said that, I agree that the name Babe Ruth does add something to the accomplishment. Also, considering that it has taken the Yankees over 100 years to have a player amass 3,000 hits, no, I don't expect to see another one in my lifetime.

Now that I think about it, maybe I shouldn't jinx Jeter. It is pretty amazing how so many Yankee superstars have had their careers shortened prematurely.

2008-09-10 05:49:15
5.   rbj
I'd say it is a great moment in team history, simply because of the names involved.

I went to bed after A-Rod's AB in the second. Now maybe it's just me, but I don't recall very many such battles (compared to previous years) by the hitters this year, fouling pitch after pitch until you get a good one.

Am I wrong?

2008-09-10 06:19:18
6.   Knuckles
Enjoyable game last night. If we're out of contention, I at least want to see some nice crisp wins down the stretch.
A rookie with their first ML start gets the win, solid D, and Arod's jack was a thing of beauty- hit the ball where it was pitched and just crushed it the other way. He's got the strength to do that anytime; I really wish he'd remember this rather than pulling his head up and trying to rip everything to left sometimes, especially when that so often leads to topping the ball to 3B/SS or swinging over it.
2008-09-10 06:20:25
7.   Chyll Will
And also remember that YES will be facing their first "crisis" this off-season with no post-season productions. That will put a bit of a wrench in their marketing pitch, plus advertisers will not being paying quite as much to be associated with an otherwise non-contender. Let's face it, the hype that's going about now will be nothing compared to what's to come as they desperately try to maximize incentives in a losing situation.

But yeah, I doubt we'll see another young Jeter on this team in this lifetime, so his accomplishment is much respected >;)

2008-09-10 06:23:00
8.   Chyll Will
7 No post-season "play"... they'll likely have productions, but not involving this year's playoffs.
2008-09-10 06:28:01
9.   williamnyy23
7 I think that is a little overblown. For starters, YES never has any games, only pre and post games. Also, the Yankees have been bounced early the last three years, so it's not like they'll have that much of a void.

Furthermore, with the new Stadium coming, I am sure the advertisers will still be lining up for next season. Now, if the Yankees finish in 4th place again, then I can see some pullback.

2008-09-10 06:39:50
10.   Chyll Will
9 Careful William, your optimism is showing >;)
2008-09-10 06:49:42
11.   williamnyy23
10 I just re-read a post I made here in March about how good the Yankees offense was going to be. I am going to re-post it every time someone call's me a pessimist.

I nailed Arod and Giambi's OPS+ and predicted a better season from Damon, but was pretty much off base everywhere else, especially with these gems:

Jeter: I think you can pencil him in for another 120-125 OPS+ season.

Cano: His increasing maturity and obvious athletic talents are justification enough for rosy predictions, but his 2nd half OPS of .953 makes me feel even better about my optimism. I think Cano could have a very big year.

Melky: Personally, I think he will improve considerably, especially if he can get off to a better start and maintain his strength at the end of the season.

And the very best one:

Bench: With Betemit, Ensberg, Duncan and Molina a possible bench configuration, that group easily projects to be MUCH better than Phillips, Cairo, Phelps and Nieves.

In my defense, the post also mentioned that I thought the Tigers would fall well short of the projections for their offense and possibly see a decline.

2008-09-10 06:50:22
12.   3rd gen yankee fan
Hee hee, Papelyuck was all over the place last night. It was a beautiful thing. 'Course I thought Percival was almost going to blow it too, he had me a little concerned.
2008-09-10 07:56:56
13.   pistolpete
4 >> It is pretty amazing how so many Yankee superstars have had their careers shortened prematurely. >>

One could actually make that case for both Ruth and Gehrig — Gehrig because of the obvious and Ruth because he took care of his health in the same way that Tony Soprano did...

11 Yeah but how long did that optimism last, a week? ;-)

2008-09-10 08:00:02
14.   williamnyy23
13 Just long enough for reality to set in! I think by May I had a very strong sense that this team would be mediocre. The second half win streak revived my hopes a little, but the 1-0 loss to the Angels later that week was really the point where I felt sure they weren't making the playoffs.
2008-09-10 08:17:00
15.   williamnyy23
Another flawed article from Goldman: http://tinyurl.com/6qhpcb.

It seems as if Goldman roots for the Yankees more than he would like to admit. The main gist of the argument is that Cashman was slow to react because he didn't replace Posada's bat behind the plate quickly enough. Of course, Goldman doesn't even offer one potential candidate who could have been acquired.

2008-09-10 08:45:37
16.   Chyll Will
13 Ha!

11 For the record, I didn't call you a pessimist, though I see where it could be implied. On record, I have called you and defended you as a realist. But optimist tendencies are not a bad thing; I have them all the time, but mine has more of a lunatic fringe that blends with my shoes and knit cap (it's Fashion Week, after all >;)

2008-09-10 10:23:29
17.   thelarmis
cliff, i love the Iron Maiden reference in the title of this post! : )

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