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Winning Ways
2005-08-22 16:01
by Cliff Corcoran
Note: The Bronx Banter blog has moved to bronxbanterblog.com.

Forgive me if I refuse to join the pity party that commenced after the Yankee offense failed to compensate for Randy Johnson's atrocious fourth inning yesterday, but with the Yankees having already taken the first two games of the series from the AL-leading White Sox, I can forgive them the failure to sweep. Of course, that might also have something to do with the fact that I didn't suffer through yesterday's game as I refuse to watch Jose Contreras pitch.

Still, rather than dwelling on what the Yankees did (or didn't do) yesterday, I'm more inclined to look back at what they've done over their previous forty games. Why forty? Because that is the exact extent of what I had previously dubbed (via Steven Goldman), the "punishingly difficult" portion of the Yankees' schedule.

So how'd the Bombers do against the best the league has to offer? Pretty darn well. The Yankees went 24-16 over the last forty games against the Red Sox, Angels, White Sox, Indians, Twins, Rangers, Blue Jays, and Devil Rays. That's a .600 winning percentage against six of the seven AL clubs above .500 (including all three division leaders), the fallen AL West challengers (Rangers), and the home nine's 2005 bugaboo (D-Rays).

Over that stretch, the only teams against whom the Yankees posted a losing record were the AL West leading Angels (3-4) and those pesky D-Rays (1-2). One could argue that they got fat on the collapsing Rangers (6-1), who now have the fourth worst record in the league, but emerging from that stretch of schedule with a .600 winning percentage, especially considering the fact that their starting rotation was in ruins for the bulk of that period, remains a remarkable accomplishment.

Looking to the next forty games (as that is all that remains of the regular season), there are just three .500 teams left on the Yankees schedule, the Red Sox and A's, the two teams the Yankees are chasing in the playoff hunt, and tonight's opponent, the Toronto Blue Jays.

Hanging in just five games off the A's Wild Card pace, the Blue Jays remain the most overlooked team in the American League, and the Yankees face them more times than any other team over the remainder of the 2005 season. Starting with this week's three-game series in the Bronx, the Blue Jays and Yankees play ten times over the remainder of the season, meaning these two teams will be playing each other over a full fourth of the remaining schedule.

Thus far, the Yankees are 5-3 against the Blue Jays, going 4-1 in Toronto, including a 2-1 series win a little over two weeks ago. The Blue Jays did take two of three from the Bombers in the Bronx to finish April, but they did so behind the pitching of Roy Halladay (in a fantastic first game) and against the pitching of Mike Stanton (in an awful third game), two pitchers who are unlikely to appear in the remaining ten games between these teams (Halladay having encountered numerous complications on his way back from a broken leg suffered just prior to the All-Star break).

Absent Halladay, I just don't think the Blue Jays have the pitching to beat the Yankees consistently (reliever Pete Walker got the win in the other two Blue Jays victories against the Yankees this year, both games in which the Jays scored 8 runs to outdistance the 5 and 6 spots put up by the Yankee bats). Indeed, looking at the men the Blue Jays have lined up for this series (Scott Downs, Josh Towers, Dave Bush, and Mr. Gustavo), I think the Yankees fate is in the hands of their pitching. If they can keep the Jays from dropping an eight spot on the board, I think they've got an excellent chance to make some major hay against the Jays.

Tonight, Scott Downs will be opposed by Jaret Wright, making his second start since being activated off the DL. Wright is pitching on six days of rest thanks to Thursday's off-day and the fact that Joe Torre elected to pitch Randy Johnson on normal rest yesterday, swapping him with Wright in the rotation. One hopes that decision, which went largely unnoticed, wasn't in response to Wright experiencing discomfort following his excellent start against the D-Rays a week ago. Much as I was rooting against him when Chein-Ming Wang (who continues to make progress, by the way, recently moving up to throwing batting practice in Tampa) was cruising, a healthy and effective Jaret Wright could be the difference in the Yankees' season at this point. We'll know more after tonight.

Comments (53)
Show/Hide Comments 1-50
2005-08-22 16:14:43
1.   singledd
Hey Cliff,
"...as I refuse to watch Jose Contreras pitch."
Why is this? I, for one, was pissed when they traded him. As frustrating as he was, I thought he had nasty stuff and was worth keeping. Who did we get for him again?
2005-08-22 16:19:56
2.   Cliff Corcoran
Esteban Loaiza, who's doing just fine in Washington (3.66 ERA):
http://sports.espn.go.com/mlb/players/profile?statsId=5368

The think is, with Contreras pitching for another team, there's no way to win. Either he dominates and it drives me nuts because he never did with the Yankees, or he doesn't and I'm forced to watch him sweat and twitch and lookee scared, which just brings back too many bad memories. I just can't bear it.

2005-08-22 16:26:53
3.   Rich
How can anyone claim that Torre isn't a terrible manager when he has a player with these stats (/242/.271/.271) leadoff?
2005-08-22 16:30:17
4.   sam2175
Rich,

I am usually with you, but seems today there was no natural candidate for lead-off spot. They all stink at 1 or 2.

I dont see what a bench of Escalona, Womack, Flaherty and Crosby accomplishes. Very definition of black hole. Need at least one bat with some pop.

2005-08-22 16:31:53
5.   Rich
But the leadoff hitter gets the most ABs. Why give that to one of the worst players in MLB? It makes more sense to have someone with a high OBP leadoff. Speed is immaterial if you can't get on base.
2005-08-22 16:31:58
6.   sam2175
Wright suffering from Leiteritis by the way, not having found the strike zone.
2005-08-22 16:38:54
7.   rilkefan
Putting W in the leadoff spot will encourage him not to swing for the fences. Also, he won't hit into a lot of DPs or whiff with RISP.
2005-08-22 16:43:03
8.   Rich
I will give Torre credit for this: He did a good job of defending A-Rod. Other players are jealous.
2005-08-22 16:55:35
9.   rilkefan
Ok, so with two outs and 2 RISP, W grounds out, avoiding a DP or a K.

Blech.

2005-08-22 17:02:29
10.   singledd
I'm watching on MLB.TV. It's a home game... yet I'm getting Toronto's announcers. Is this weird or par-for-the-course? Although these guys aren't bad.

Also... I am a certified member of the 'behead Womack' club, but Torre can't afford to be. He needs to try and get the most out of his 25 guys. With Jetes out and all things considered, giving W an atta-boy by leading him off may be a good 'personel' move.

2005-08-22 17:05:45
11.   Rich
Bubba should start over Woemack. At least he can field.
2005-08-22 17:08:02
12.   randym77
The good news is that the Yankees are past the toughest part of the schedule. The bad news is that they have to play the Devil Rays six more times.

And if Kansas City sweeps them again, I'm going to slit my wrists... :-P

2005-08-22 17:16:50
13.   rbj
Nice post Cliff. I hadn't realized that the Yankees' record of late was that good.
2005-08-22 17:25:46
14.   Rich
Woemack may have one of the worst swings I have ever seen outside of Little League.
2005-08-22 17:27:54
15.   rilkefan
W finds new ways to make my sarcastic comment 7 above look dumb.
2005-08-22 17:46:25
16.   randym77
I can't help wondering if the Yankees' recent record is so good =because= they've been playing tough teams. As many have noted, including the YES commentators, the Yankees have a better record against good teams than against bad ones. On August 4, Pride of the Yankees posted this stat:

"We wondered about the Yanks record versus teams that are currently above .500, thinking it would reflect badly on them. But we were dead wrong: the Yanks are a surprising 34-27 against teams that are right now currently above .500. But what that translates to is the scary fact that they are a miserable and disappointing 22-22 against sub-.500 teams."

Wonder what those numbers are now? Bet it's not too much different.

2005-08-22 18:03:33
17.   jkay
Since the 11-19 start, they have been playing .610 ball. Lots of ups and downs since then but very steady of late as noted on your post. With the pitching coming around, they should be able to grind out a playoff spot.
2005-08-22 18:07:07
18.   sam2175
Good to see Wright actually giving a crap about earning his money. Seems like he can actually bring on that mid-nineties heat late in the game.

Hope he keeps it up.

2005-08-22 18:07:19
19.   singledd
Saaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay.... who is that young fella we got pitching for us?
2005-08-22 18:08:33
20.   Cliff Corcoran
A valid point, randym77, that's something I plan to take a look at going into this weekend's series with the Royals.
2005-08-22 18:19:35
21.   sam2175
Bases loaded for A-Rod, no one out.

Any predictions?

2005-08-22 18:21:26
22.   sam2175
Ouch! A-Rod K's.
2005-08-22 18:26:10
23.   randym77
But Godzilla came through!

Matsui seems to hit better under pressure.

2005-08-22 18:31:59
24.   JVarghese81
ALl right, good stuff, way to come through from Matsui & Giambi - now, I can't see the games but if Gordon, Sturtze or Rivera are warming in the pen, let me know so I can stab myself repeatedly. Thanks.
2005-08-22 18:31:59
25.   Cliff Corcoran
Gotta love the comedy of Tino pinch-running for Giambi. Great contact by Giambi and Escalona, Schoeneweis isn't fooling anyone.
2005-08-22 18:33:06
26.   Cliff Corcoran
Was Embree and Sturtze last I saw, but that was before these runs. Embree with a 2-0 lead in the seventh. Stab. Stab. Stab.
2005-08-22 18:33:33
27.   Mattpat11
Who's this speedster Martinez that they put in?
2005-08-22 18:34:38
28.   Cliff Corcoran
Looks like Embree for the eighth. Up 6-0, that's just fine by me. Get Small up to back him up.
2005-08-22 18:36:15
29.   JVarghese81
What's so funny Cliff?
Just the other day, I saw Tino race and BEAT an old man in a motorized scooter! It was close but still...I deny any comments stating that he has lost that blazing speed of his yester-years.

Hopefully, Giambi's ankle heals correctly...or he gets over moping over losing his trainer to USC...or he finds that magic he had for a while there...whatever it is, I hope he gets hot soon, if only to stop some of the "juicing again" rumors...

2005-08-22 18:42:02
30.   Cliff Corcoran
I can excuse using Sturtze here. He's had a stiff shoulder, so he's had the last four days off. Torre needs to know if he's sharp enough to use in a tight game. That said, he should not be used in the ninth. Give him one inning to show his form and get him out of there.
2005-08-22 18:42:45
31.   Rich
Why would any rational manager use Sturtze here?
2005-08-22 18:44:17
32.   JVarghese81
If Embree cannot get out ONE batter...WHY IN GOD'S NAME IS HE ON THE ROSTER?

OR...

How can you not trust any body but your Big Three to get 6 outs with a 6 run lead?

THIS is why I get annoyed at Torre.

2005-08-22 18:45:08
33.   JVarghese81
P.s. I'm not annoyed at putting in Sturtze, Cliff makes a good point, my issue is the use of Embree for one batter.
2005-08-22 18:46:33
34.   jkay
Womack is the rally ignitor!
2005-08-22 18:48:14
35.   singledd
You would think with a 6 run lead that Torre would put Bubba in for Bernie. Man, Bubba must have spit on someone's grave.
2005-08-22 18:48:33
36.   randym77
My issue is the use of Embree at all. (Buddy Groom, come back, all is forgiven.)
2005-08-22 18:50:07
37.   Rich
Sturtze is still hurting. He needs to rest. F-Rod is still on the team, right?
2005-08-22 18:51:53
38.   vockins
Tony Womack with double number eight for the year. That's why he makes the big bucks.

I wonder what it feels like to give up a double to Tony Womack.

2005-08-22 18:52:21
39.   JVarghese81
Keep in mind that Leiter goes tomorrow...so we need as many RPs as possible...
2005-08-22 18:55:49
40.   Rich
Small will shadow Leiter.
2005-08-22 19:04:13
41.   Cliff Corcoran
That explains why Joe went to Proctor and not Small in the 9th. I think he did a solid job with this game. I would have liked to have seen Embree get a second batter, but overall, no complains with the bullpen management.
2005-08-22 19:04:45
42.   JVarghese81
That didn't work out so well the last time they attempted that. I would prefer just starting SMall but hey, what do I know? I'm neither a Proven Yankee...nor a Proven Veteran.
2005-08-22 19:04:48
43.   Shaun P
Nice to see Proctor pitch well. I think if Embree is around, its to be a LOOGY. He didn't get the lefty out, so taking him out was the right move.

C'mon, how many potential LOOGYs has "Torre ruined" in the past, by leaving them in to pitch to righties?

2005-08-22 19:05:42
44.   randym77
"I wonder what it feels like to give up a double to Tony Womack."

Dunno, but it's gotta feel better than giving up homers to Iguchi, Rowand, Konerko, and Widger. :)

Yankees win! And it was never really close.

I suspect tomorrow's game with Leiter will be a lot more, er, suspenseful.

2005-08-22 19:07:11
45.   JVarghese81
that should have read True Yankee - just like me to get my comment messed up - good win for the Yanks. With Cleveland mashing people again - they are a scary team with bats, youth, depth, and actually pretty good pitching - that's probably the team the Yanks will have to go win for win with (and I haven't checked their upcomging schedule to see what it looks like for them).
2005-08-22 19:08:40
46.   rabid stan
Just checked in on Gameday. What's with Womack having a multi-hit game, and a double(!)?
2005-08-22 19:12:26
47.   rabid stan
I should also ask why he's leading off, but it's stupid to ask questions to which there are no good answers.

Not that there aren't answers, what with there being no really good lead-off man on the roster, just that there aren't any good ones.

2005-08-22 19:19:53
48.   randym77
Womack's not that bad. He's no A-rod, but lately he's been hitting better than Giambi or Cano. :-/
2005-08-22 19:27:15
49.   sam2175
Womack, if exposed to the baseball field beyond a reasonable period, will be bad beyond any reasonable level. If the first half did not prove that, nothing ever will.

That said, I will always root for him to get that elusive HR. I wonder how the guy at the mound will react.

2005-08-22 19:46:24
50.   singledd
Celevland has a dream schedule left. 6 against Minn, 3 against Oakland and 3 against White Sox. The rest is basically TB, KC, Detroit and Toronto.
Show/Hide Comments 51-100
2005-08-22 21:42:53
51.   mikeplugh
singledd said:

"Celevland has a dream schedule left. 6 against Minn, 3 against Oakland and 3 against White Sox. The rest is basically TB, KC, Detroit and Toronto."

I'm concerned too, but I look at it this way. Tampa Bay has one of the better records in baseball since the All-Star break and aren't nearly the pushovers they would lead you to believe. Toronto, likewise, is capable of taking 2 out of 3 from anyone in baseball if they are clicking. Detroit isn't good but they have a few impact players that can win a game or two in a pinch. I won't even attempt to stick up for KC. (They did sting Oakland last week). Damn, I did it didn't I?

So....Cleveland is good and has a mixed schedule of tough and not so tough. I would argue that they have a tougher schedule on the field than they do on paper.

The Yankeeas have a mixed schedule too. I like the fact that we have 6 against the Red Sox late in the year. We could win 4 out of 6 and dig into the AL East a bit. There's a fighting chance until the end for both the wild card and the division. Hard to believe with the shit baseball we've seen for long stretched this year.

2005-08-22 22:38:30
52.   Max
Cleveland is a weirdly streaky team, but I do fear them more than Oakland (I mistakenly said yesterday that they were a game behind the Yanks, but they're actually tied, though one back in the loss column).

The Tribe is in the middle of a stretch where they play 12 of the next 15 on the road. Good news, right? Well, it just so happens that outside of the White Sox, they have the best road record in the AL...in fact so far, they've been substantially better on the road (37-25) than at home (32-31).

Other odd notes: both the Yanks and Red Sox have losing records against opponents in their own division, and are considerably stronger at home than on the road. Much has been made of the Red Sox having the easy road with 24 of their final 36 at home, but they have to show they can handle the likes of Toronto and Baltimore at Fenway, to whom they've lost 3 of 5 and 4 of 6 respectively at home so far.

Of course, the Yanks have to find a way to handle the real nemesis within their division -- Tampa Bay -- for six more games in September.

2005-08-22 22:51:31
53.   Max
Oops, that's what I get for posting this late at night/early in the morning. The Tribe have a great road record overall, but it's padded considerably by their substantial success in interdivisional play...which this year was against the sub-.500 house of horrors that is the NL West.

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