Or as Alex would likely title it ". . . and ya don't stop."
The Yanks won their tenth straight last night behind a dominating complete game shutout by Meat Pavano against the very same Mariner team that beat him bloody last week in New York. Here's his final line:
9 IP, 5 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 7 K, 68 percent strikes
Pavano allowed just six baserunners all game, a full third of them in the ninth inning. Meat hit Bret Boone with a pitch in the second, gave up consecutive singles to Richie Sexson and Raul Ibanez in the fourth and a single to Boone in the seventh. Pavano did not allow an extra base hit, did not walk a batter, and did not allow a runner past second base. His seven strikeouts tied his season high and 15 of the 20 outs recorded by his defense came on ground balls. Seattle never had a shot.
The only concern in all of that is that Pavano threw 133 pitches, two more than Mussina needed for the shutout that started the current Yankee winning streak. Pavano's previous high this season was 101. His season high last year was 125 on June 16 (a complete game shutout of the White Sox). He has not passed 120 pitches on any other occasion in the past three seasons. The good news there is that his low pitch counts overall should allow him to absorb one long outing, as he seemed to do after that shutout last year allowing just four runs in fourteen innings in his next two starts combined. Meanwhile, if his post-game comments are to be believed, Pavano may have reinforced some good habits (not rushing the ball to the plate and in turn keeping it low in the zone) on the mound last night.
The Yanks scored six runs for Pavano, five of them against spot-starter Julio Mateo. Two came in the second on singles by Matsui, E-Rod, Posada and Giambi (the last a pop up to no man's land in shallow center). A walk by Tino, an Olivo passed ball, and another Giambi single (this a hard grounder through the far right side of the shift) added another in the fourth. A Sheffield infield single and a no-doubter E-Rod dinger, his major-league-leading 13th and the first allowed by Mateo this year, tacked on two more in the fifth.
The final run came on a sixth-inning Giambi homer well into the seats in right. That gave Jason a 3 for 4 day with 3 RBIs, but I still found it a bit troubling. Giambi's first RBI single was a pop up on an 0-2 count. His next was a ground ball on a 1-2 count. The homer came on an 82 mile per hour breaking ball after Jason had failed to catch up with a 92 mile per hour fastball. Why reliever Matt Thornton didn't stick with the heat, I'll never know.
I still do not believe that Giambi can catch up with the high heat. My concern is that poor teams will continue to give up big hits to him on breaking stuff (or worse, hanging breaking stuff) and when the Yankees need him most they'll be facing a team that knows to challenge him with the fastball and he'll go back to being a non-factor. I will continue to doubt Giambi until he can make teams pay for challenging him with fastball strikes. Of course, it still appears that no one has figured out to do so yet. In the meantime, his increase in production is certainly welcome, but if Bernie can hit a grand slam on a mid-90s fastball that Giambi simply cannot make contact with, isn't Joe Torre playing the wrong guy?
In the interest of ending on an up note, the Yankees current ten-game winning streak is their longest since July 1998 when the won exactly ten against the Phillies, Orioles and Devil Rays from June 30 to July 12. That ten-game streak was the longest enjoyed by that 114-win club.