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Smells like...Victory
2007-09-13 05:23
by Alex Belth
Note: The Bronx Banter blog has moved to bronxbanterblog.com.

It is brisk and chilly in New York this morning. As I walked to the subway I couldn't help but think of playoff baseball. It's not cold enough for a frost, so we'll probably get local tomatoes and corn for one more week (the last, delicious reminders of the summer), but the leaves are starting to turn here and there, and the kids are back in school. The Yankees are not a lock for the post-season yet but they are getting there...

When Melky Cabrera reached second base with two out in the ninth inning, he slapped his hands together, nostrils flaired. Perhaps he was amped because his ground ball double play helped squash a Yankee rally in the fourth inning. As it was, his double was only the team's fourth hit of the night (A fifth hit--a single to center by the next batter, Johnny Damon--was nullified by an extremely poor call by the second base umpire, Jim Wolf). The Yankees, however, had the lead and won the game, 4-1. An 8th inning error by Alex Rodriguez put an end to Joba Chamberlain's scoreless inning streak, but Mariano Rivera got the last four outs of the game, and that was that. The Tigers (Mags) and Red Sox (Ortiz) and Mariners also won, so there was no change in the playoff standings as far as the Bombers are concerned (the Tigers did gain a game on the Indians who lost).

Hideki Matsui has been slumping but in the first inning he drove a fastball on the outside corner to deep left for an RBI. The YES broadcast showed side-by-side replays of Matsui's RBI single with an at-bat from the previous game where he was pulling off the ball, his head jerking up in the air toward first base. Last night, he kept his rear and his head steady and drove the pitch. (Matsui also walked twice later in the game.) Rodriguez--who reached base on a check-swing walk (he got a favorable call on that one)--then scored on a wild pitch by Dustin McGowan. Robinson Cano added a two-run single in the fourth which was all the runs the Yanks would need.

Mike Mussina was not vintage, but nobody expects to see the old Moose again. He was effective enough, pitching into the sixth inning. According to Tyler Kepner in the New York Times:

When Mussina is off, he describes his pitches as being stale, simply reaching the plate instead of arriving there crisply, with action. He induced only two swinging strikes among 87 pitches Wednesday, but his stuff was better, and the late life helped him get eight of his first nine outs on grounders.

"The ball had some movement at the end; whether it was my release or whether my body had more life to it, I don't know," Mussina said. "But the ball at the end seemed to have some movement to it. There has to be a reason I got those ground balls today because I'm not a ground-ball pitcher. I was able to throw whatever I wanted to throw for strikes, pretty much."

A fine fielding play by Robinson Cano and Jason Giambi helped Mussina's effort. The veteran pitcher left the game with runners on base in the sixth, but Edwar Ramirez, after issuing a walk, got out of the jam. Chamberlain breezed through the seventh but labored some in the eighth. Yet with two men out and two out he got the ground ball he needed. Rodriguez, who robbed Alex Rios of a base hit earlier in the game with a diving stop, fielded the ball cleanly, but shanked the throw to first.

It was another winning night for New York, their seventh consecutive victory. For the Jays, it was their fifth-straight loss. It wasn't an exciting game--home plate umpire Jim Joyce's strike calls, which sound like a car horn sound effect from the old Warner Brothers cartoons, was the only thing keeping me awake at certain points--but it was a win. And I ain't complainin, as the Yanks will face a hot pitcher in A.J. Burnett tonight.

"It was a long game for not a whole lot of action," Jays manager John Gibbons said of the three hour 18 minute game. "That's how they whip you, that's how they beat you. They make you bring it over the plate and when you're forced to do it (enough times), they kill you. The (Boston) Red Sox do the same thing."
(Toronto Sun)

Roger Clemens will throw today. In the Post, George King reports:

"[Today] will tell a lot," Clemens said yesterday. "I feel good." Clemens, 45, worked in the bullpen Tuesday and said afterward he has ligament damage.

"It's more important," Joe Torre said of today's test. "[Tuesday] was a good workout but not all out. This time it will be a shorter version with more effort."

Just a couple more things. Mariano Rivera's ERA is now under 3.00 for the first time in a loooong time. It's 2.95 to be exact. Several weeks ago I wrote about how this is Rivera's worst season since becoming a closer. However, his strikeout and walk-ratio is excellent, better than it has been in several years. So while it's been an off-year for him in terms of ERA, it's still not horrible is it?

Also, has anyone else noticed how tired Derek Jeter's body looks? He made a nice diving play in the field last night, but his bat looks slow and so do his legs. Jeter's worst month of the season, across the board, was in August (.301/.368/.398). In September so far--just eight games--he's struggling (.167/.306/.200). I wonder if his body will be able to bounce back this fall?

Comments
2007-09-13 06:33:39
1.   Sliced Bread
good call re: the ump's wake up calls, Alex.

My mind tends to wander during these games in Toronto. A half-empty Canadian stadium in mid-September is hardly the setting for compelling baseball. But you know what always captures my attention, anytime of the year, regardless of the AL East standings? The fine-looking waitresses in the black shirts who work the primo seats behind home plate. Call me a pig, (happily married at that) but they make the Toronto tilts perhaps my favorite away games.

As for Jeter's sluggishness: Cap just needs to get back to NY, hit the VIP room at 40/40, hang with Jay-Z and some lovelies and he'll find his October groove fast.

Nice to see 'Ziller coming around.

2007-09-13 06:35:05
2.   monkeypants
0 I hope they can clinch a play off spot quickly (not likely) so that Jeter can get 3 or 4 days off. The last time he sat for a day or two, he followed up with a multi-hit day (if I recall).
2007-09-13 06:42:45
3.   yankz
He actually just got 2 days off (9/9 vs. KC and 9/10, the off-day), but was hitless in his return. I'm guessing he won't be totally OK till next season.
2007-09-13 06:48:24
4.   Yankee Fan in Chicago
2 I'd like to see him get a week. We are 5 games up in the loss on Detroit after all. If the Yanks were smart they'd tell him to go on vacation last week in Sept. A few days in Hawaii or something before the playoffs sitting on the beach, rather than working out with the team but not playing.

Alex Ferguson often does that with a few of his star players over the winter in England. A guy like Ronaldo will miss a few games in Jan or Feb, spend his time on a beach somewhere, and get recharged for the Champions League knockout phase/2nd half of the Premiership season.

2007-09-13 06:53:01
5.   alasky
I'm pretty sure Mariano had is his ERA under three a few weeks ago for a little while before he went through that rough stretch against Cleveland and Baltimore, but no matter...
2007-09-13 06:59:06
6.   pistolpete
We're probably going to clinch the WC at some point soon, possibly with about a week left in the season. If I'm Joe, I'm sitting every starter I possibly can for that whole week.

If there's no hope of grabbing the division by then, that is.

2007-09-13 07:01:38
7.   Sliced Bread
4 not a bad idea, but Jeter would never do it.
The team could stage an intervention, demand that he gets rest -- or take it to the extreme: drug him, shackle him to a lounge chair in South Beach, and he'd somehow find his way back into that night's lineup.

No sleep til Brooklyn for Jetes.

2007-09-13 07:04:46
8.   rbj
Jeter's too much of a player to rest. If he isn't scoring on the field, he'll be scoring off it.

And once more, f'ing Devil Rays.

2007-09-13 07:05:28
9.   weeping for brunnhilde
Thanks, Alex. Great recap and really great title. Sent a little wicked frisson up my spine to wake up to such a headline.

I missed the game, unfortunately, but I'm thrilled about Hideki and Mike. Good job, both of them.

But maybe the biggest story is Edwar? Sounds like he came in in a tight spot and did the job.

That's gotta do wonders for his confidence.

I believe in this kid, so I'm really hoping he settles into some kind of solid role.

As for Derek, Joe should give him a day or two off a week, if need be. Use him to pinch-hit on those days.

What's our lead now, five? I think that's wide enough to at least try (and I mean really try) to get Derek some substantial rest so that he can go back to being Captain One-For-Three come October.

It's amazing that he was hitting between like .327 and .334 for months and months and then suddenly he couldn't maintain it and has fallen off a cliff.

Maybe someone should fly him to Bora Bora for a few days of R&R.

2007-09-13 07:06:43
10.   weeping for brunnhilde
2 Right, mp, exactly.

But I think Joe should address the situation before they clinch; the lineup's deep enough to take that chance with a five game lead, don't you think?

2007-09-13 07:09:06
11.   weeping for brunnhilde
4 Hawaii? Cheapskate. What's wrong with Bora Bora?

:)

2007-09-13 07:10:04
12.   weeping for brunnhilde
7 :)
2007-09-13 07:10:56
13.   weeping for brunnhilde
8 :)
Once more, indeed. Worthless excuse for a baseball team.
2007-09-13 07:19:29
14.   Joeg
With respect to resting everyone, I read something the other day that the playoffs this year have lots of off days. A team could get by with three starters and maybe three relievers. Seems that FOX wanted the World Series Game 1 to be on a Wednesday, so they'd get a weekend ratings boost. An LCS sweep leaves a team with a week to rest before game 1. Understand that Gammons and his ilk have already mailed in their "Does a long wait leave you rusty or refreshed?" articles.
2007-09-13 07:21:25
15.   Andre
If you want to see a sleep inducing game, try watching any game on Extra Innings. The signal is so compressed and grainy that everything looks slightly blurry and dim. It's like watching tv through gauze. A waste of my HD tv! It's extra frustrating because I know YES is actually broadcasting in HD and I pay for the HD package on cable. The HD signal is cropped for EI so sometimes the camera angles look really odd.

Not that I'm complaining ; ) It's still better than not being able to watch the Yanks, but it does strain the eyes sometimes.

2007-09-13 07:21:54
16.   Sliced Bread
Tonight's game has loss written all over it.

Burnett v Kennedy.
Day off for Posada.
Yanks on a 7 game roll.
Jays on a 5 game slide.

Here's hoping both teams find a way to continue their streaks.

It would be nice for the Yanks to arrive in Boston overnight with the smell of victory about them.

2007-09-13 07:35:19
17.   RichB
The Yanks are 5 games up on Detroit and 4 games back of Boston in the loss column. That is highly unlikely to change between now and the end of the season. But, mathematical clinching probably won't happen until Wednesday, Sept 26. Seattle & Cleveland play a double header that day and Detroit will only have 3 games left after that - seems like unless someone collapses or wins every game between now and then, the scenarios will be set by the end of that day.

So, a week off for anyone is fantasy, but Torre will probably get a chance to use his bench extensively on the final weekend.

2007-09-13 07:38:51
18.   mehmattski
5 You are correct, Mo's season low ERA is 2.77, on August 10.
2007-09-13 07:39:48
19.   RichB
14 Steven Goldman blogged about the playoff rest days the last couple days. See that here:

http://pinstripedblog.yesnetwork.com/

The upshot is that under one schedule, the Yanks will still have to use a 4th starter, but for the B schedule, they could actually trim down to 3 starters. Of course, position players would get extra rest as well.

2007-09-13 07:42:43
20.   RichB
Speaking of rest, ESPN is reporting that Torre suggested he might go with a 6 man rotation for the rest of the season to reduce strain on Clemens' elbow.
2007-09-13 07:49:55
21.   Chyll Will
9 Frankly, I'd like to see that title again... in October. And I want Torre to do his Robert Duvall impression while he's riding along the Canyon....
2007-09-13 07:58:24
22.   mehmattski
Looking ahead to the Yankees' probable ALDS schedule (assuming the team with the best record chooses ALDS Series B and the extra day off in the middle of the series), then the Yanks would be playing on 10/3, 10/4, and 10/6. This would mean that the starter who is set to go in Game 1 should start Friday, September 28 in Baltimore, and the Game 2 starter should go on Saturday the 29th. The game 3, starter, however, is assured to be pitching on non-normal rest, since there are six days between the last game of the season (September 30) and the third game of the ALDS (October 6). This could be an advantage for the Yanks if the Game 3 starter is Clemens; if it's Mussina, his chi will be all thrown off. Compounding this problem is that a fourth starter will also have to go on long rest if the series gets to Game 4.

ALDS Series B (the one with an extra off-day) may actually be disadvantageous for the Yankees' starters, because the starter for Game 2 (on 10/5) will want to start on the Yanks' last regular season game (9/30) to get normal rest. This will mean that the pitcher who goes in game 3 will have over a week off, and rust is likely.

2007-09-13 08:00:26
23.   RichB
No, Alex, it is not remotely a horrible season by Rivera. He was managed extremely poorly in April and had a 10.57 ERA that month. Since he got his first save on April 28, his ERA is 1.88 with 50 hits in 57 1/3 innings and a k/bb ratio of 11:1. Had he had that ERA for the full season, his ERA+ would be 231, making him the 8th best reliever in the league by that measure with Papelbon and J.J. Putz being the only closers ahead of him.

Any rumors of the death of Rivera's arm have been greatly exaggerated.

2007-09-13 08:04:29
24.   weeping for brunnhilde
21 Charley don't surf!
2007-09-13 08:16:48
25.   williamnyy23
0 Not that it matters, but I think the blown call was third base umpire Tim Tschida's and not Wolf's.

As for Mo, 14 of his 21 runs were given up in two, three game stretches, so the inflated ERA is probably a bit inflated. You can't take the bad games out of course, but I don't think Mo's 2007 has been anything less than great (albeit not off the charts).

2007-09-13 08:35:35
26.   yankz
7 Anywhere but South Beach! We don't need a guido revolution on the team.
2007-09-13 08:43:33
27.   Mattpat11
25 I think it tells you something about what even 80 percent Mo is.
2007-09-13 09:30:29
28.   OldYanksFan
The ONLY thing that will help Jeter's knee is rest. As he is now, I rather have Lugo at SS in th PS. If his BA dropped from .340ish to .315 over the last month+, what's he been hitting? .250? And 1/2 of that was against Boston. Meanwhile, anything further the 5' from his left is a hit.

I'm not down on ole Jetes, but he's hurt. I just don't think a poor fielding, .250 hitting SS is gonna help us much in the PS.

Outside of a collapse, we have the WC. Why not rest him? One JD in the lineup is enough.

2007-09-13 10:01:22
29.   Mattpat11
I'd like to think Jeter can hit better than Alberto Gonzalez.
2007-09-13 10:05:12
30.   Max
I'm not ready to rest anyone until we're done with the Sox series. We're in great shape, but I still think it's bad karma to be talking about playoff rotations and resting key players this early.

And I really want us to beat Burnett today. Just absurd that such a mediocre division rival has two pitchers that totally own the Yankees.

2007-09-13 10:06:53
31.   AbbyNormal821
Just my $.02 - even though it kind of bums me out to here people talking about Jeter and his slumpfest, it's definitely weird to see him struggling. (I was living out of the NY area during his '04 slump, so I didn't get to see it up close)

But y'all are right - and as mentioned, DJ's problem is he's too stubborn to admit to it. Dude, I love ya, but if the fans watching see it, and your coaches see it, why can't you see it? Pride is one thing, but not at the expense of not being able to come up in those clutch situations that he's been so, well...CLUTCH in.

On a side note, Happy New Year to my fellow Jewish Banterers (I think we'd just be called baseball 'yentas'!). I'll be sneaking peaks at the game tonight after enjoying mom's brisket and chicken marsala (hey, 'cause that's what the Jewish ancestors ate, right? HAHA!).

2007-09-13 10:09:29
32.   monkeypants
29 Would he hit better than Betemit, at least against RHP?
2007-09-13 11:37:01
33.   Raf
1 You should see the Ministry of Health babes they have working the 7th inning stretch...

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