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Chocolate Moose
2007-09-18 20:04
by Cliff Corcoran
Note: The Bronx Banter blog has moved to bronxbanterblog.com.

Mike Mussina didn't just pitch well last night, he turned in his best start of the season, holding the Orioles scoreless over seven innings while striking out six. After walking Brian Roberts to start the game, Mussina allowed just three singles, one of which didn't leave the infield, and didn't allow a man to reach second base until there were two outs in the seventh. Along the way, Mussina got nine of his outs on the ground, two of them on a double play he turned himself. Indeed, in addition to his great pitching, Moose put on a clinic in the field, making three assists (one a screaming liner at his face that he knocked down for an easy 1-3 putout) and two putouts. The one infield single he allowed came when he ranged far off the third base side of the mound to glove a grounder by Tejada and attempted something of a Jeter jump throw while falling toward the foul line. That came in the seventh inning in which the two other batters grounded back to the mound and the fourth struck out. Put simply, it was an outstanding night for Mussina, who had great movement on his fastball, which dove back over the plate after coming in on the lefties, solid velocity around 90 miles per hour, and a sharp 70-mile-per-hour curve. Moose will make one more start this season in the finale of the Yankees' series in Tampa Bay. It will likely take two great starts from Ian Kennedy and a complete collapse from Mussina his next time out for Moose's performance last night not to have earned him a spot in the postseason rotation.

While Moose was cruising, the Yankees were moleicesting Jon Leicester, dropping a six-spot on the Baltimore starter in the fourth inning with Doug Mientkiewicz delivering the big blow in the form of a three-run homer to the upper deck in left. The Yanks plated a leadoff walk by Posada in the sixth, then lept all over Cleveland castoff Fernando Cabrera in the seventh, scoring five more times against him and Rob Bell to put the final score at 12-0. Jose Veras and Ron Villone swept up, with a Alberto Gonzalez error leading to the only base runner, one quickly erased by a double play.

The Orioles seem to heal all the Yankees' wounds last night. Not only did Mussina have his best game of the year, but Hideki Matsui went 2 for 5 with a double and three RBIs, and even Melky Cabrera came up with a two-RBI single in the five-run seventh, which snapped his 0-for-16 skid. Melky also had a sac fly for three RBIs on the night. Elsewhere, Mientkiewicz drove in four, and both Derek Jeter and Robinson Cano went 3 for 4 with a double, while Shelley Duncan struck out in his first plate appearance since September 5 and Bronson Sardinha did the same in his second major league at-bat.

Oh, and the Red Sox and Tigers both lost, so the Yanks are 2.5 games back (two in the loss column) in the East (which is nice, but with just ten games left, likely meaningless), and have a 4.5-game lead (five in the loss column) in the Wild Card (which, with just ten games left, all but guarantees them a playoff spot), while the Indians will remain tied with the Angels for the second seed in the AL should the Angels hold on to their 2-0 lead against the Devil Rays.

Comments (70)
Show/Hide Comments 1-50
2007-09-18 20:52:11
1.   yankz
"moleicesting "- Nice.

No mention of Arod's slump, or is not long enough yet? I don't know, he hasn't had an XBH in almost 40 PA now. I'd give him the day off (but get Giambi in the lineup to compensate).

All right, I'm sleeping early for once. Go Yanks.

2007-09-18 20:58:55
2.   uburoisc
I am very happy for Moose; he has been too fine a pitcher over the years to go out like a broken down, has-been. I don't know how much he has left, but I think this game gave him the assurance that he can still go out there and shine. Bravo, Moose, now throw another one like that in the playoffs.
2007-09-18 20:58:59
3.   Cliff Corcoran
1 The Yanks win 12-0 and you want me to talk about Alex Rodriguez going 0-for-4? Are we back to that already?
2007-09-18 21:02:30
4.   Cliff Corcoran
1 How about this . . .

When I was in California, Alex Rodriguez hit .515/.579/1.273 with 8 home runs. Since I've returned, he's hit .200/.323/.200 with no extra-base hits and 9 Ks.

So who wants to pay for me to take another vacation?

2007-09-18 21:15:46
5.   joejoejoe
1 Westminster Christian High School grads draw from a finite pool of mojo.

I think going off the rails a bit put a bit of fear in Mussina like 'Whoa! I don't want this to be over.' and he found a new focus and another gear. He'll finish 12-10 and a 4.75 ERA and it won't look like such a bad season.

Q: How good were Mussina's fielding plays? The guy fields his cranky ass off.

2007-09-18 21:19:17
6.   Shaun P
2 I really hope he can keep it up too. When Moose is on, its a joy to watch him pitch.

I just realized that, of all the amazing pitchers the Yanks have had over the last dozen years, outside of Pettitte and Mo, no one has been on the Yanks longer than Moose. Not Coney, not Boomer, not Duque, not Rocket. Not Stanton or Nelson or Mendoza. Who'da thunk it?

4 And miss out on your must-read series previews and recaps? HA! A-Rod can bust out of his "slump" on his own.

2007-09-18 21:29:25
7.   joejoejoe
4 Send those numbers to Cashman and he might just buy you a place on the beach in Cali.
2007-09-18 21:31:05
8.   Mattpat11
Dane Cook just assured me that there's not muc fear in Fenway.

I disagree.

4 Wait for the playoffs. Take all of October off.

2007-09-18 21:34:22
9.   bartap74
Making up a 2.5 game deficit in 10 games is difficult, but hardly impossible with the way Boston struggling. If the Red Sox did lose the division, the psychological scars could last decades.
2007-09-18 21:40:16
10.   BklynBmr
0 "moleicesting Jon Leicester" — that's not even fair. Phrase turn of the month!

This was no small feat by Moose. Even though everyone says the Birds are a mess, etc. — they've been a splinter in our eye all season. A Moosterpiece and a 12-0 beatdown was exactly what we had to do.

6 "When Moose is on, its a joy to watch him pitch." Truer words never spoken. When all 32 of his pitches are crackin', it's better than watching a home run barrage. How about how he abused Freddie Bynum tonight? That was borderline illegal...

Everyone who's hit the skids for a while seems to be getting their groove back, and the timing couldn't be better. That stiff at third base is also due to carry his weight again, so I ain't too worried right now...

And since our magic number is 2, I'm lovin' the fact 'Big Game' Andy is going next, 'cause they all big games from here on out...

Yankee tradition! Mutts suck!

2007-09-18 21:44:02
11.   Mattpat11
10 Early in the year, my boss at school, who is a big Sox fan, was asking if I'd ever seen a pitcher with as many pitches as Matsuzaka.

"Yeah. Mike Mussina."

2007-09-18 21:45:15
12.   Marcus
9 I agree it would be a big blow, but even if the Yankees win the division, the Red Sox are still in the playoffs. It's an awesome symbolic blow, but if the Yanks then bow out in the first round, or worse, lose to the Red Sox in the ALCS, I probably won't be celebrating the division win.
2007-09-18 21:49:36
13.   BklynBmr
9 With RSN, on one level it's like '04 never happened. I have a Sawx fan buddy from Maine who is literally on suicide watch right now. They expected this. They didn't know what to do with themselves when they won, and deep down they may not want to go back to that place again. Just a thought ;-)
2007-09-18 21:51:30
14.   BklynBmr
11 Way to represent! I love it...
2007-09-18 21:54:19
15.   Mattpat11
14 To be fair, he is a very reasonable Red Sox fan and did in fact agree with my assessment.
2007-09-18 21:56:35
16.   Mattpat11
Utley singles off Maroth to start the 14th
2007-09-18 22:06:09
17.   Mattpat11
Philly takes the lead
2007-09-18 22:06:21
18.   BklynBmr
15 Having a rational discussion with a Sox fan is a cool thing. I know one or two myself, and it's baseball chitchat at it's best.

16 Thanks for the heads up, just tuned it in on EI. Let's go Phill-eees...

2007-09-18 22:10:39
19.   BklynBmr
7-4 Phils. Bottom 14 coming up...
2007-09-18 22:12:31
20.   rabid stan
14 What Sox fan wouldn't react warmly to Dice being compared favorably to Moose?
2007-09-18 22:19:01
21.   Start Spreading the News
Mets lead down to 1.5. Nice.
2007-09-18 22:27:35
22.   BklynBmr
20 You mean the $100M highly coveted, top of the rotation can't miss stud with 12 pitches, who can throw them at least 300 times per start, not to mention the mysterious 'gyro ball' — that everyone was so sold on back then? Compared to an aging, increasingly ineffective, cranky, third or maybe fourth starter for the hated pinstripers? You tell me...
2007-09-18 22:34:35
23.   weeping for brunnhilde
0 "Oh, and the Red Sox and Tigers both lost, so the Yanks are 2.5 games back (two in the loss column) in the East (which is nice, but with just ten games left, likely meaningless),"

Come on, Cliff, a little faith!

Can't you just taste it?

Come on, admit it!

Dare to dream!

2007-09-18 22:37:36
24.   weeping for brunnhilde
12 Nevertheless, it's a blow well worth the dealing of it, don't you think?
2007-09-18 22:54:45
25.   DadinIowa
You're right, Cliff. It would be very, very unusual for two teams to go 8 and 3 and 5 and 5 over a ten/eleven game span. But, whether or not they take the Division, they threw a scare into Boston, and ended up taking the season series.

The Yankees seem like a pretty cohesive group right now, and are playing well and seem to have the right attitude (we haven't won anything yet, .......wait until the games have all been played...etc.)

I'm very impressed with the combination of veterans and youth. In a rebuilding year, no less. Hopefully, this will be a winning combination come October.

By the way, will there be November baseball this year if the Series goes 7?

Keep up the good work.

2007-09-19 00:14:04
26.   Mattpat11
Tomorrow could be a glorious day. If we win, Toronto wins and Cleveland wins, we will gain yet another game on Boston, and basically bury Detroit.

And, despite the acquisition of Lyle Overbay, we would eliminate the Toronto Blue Jays from playoff contention.

2007-09-19 05:17:58
27.   Yankee Fan In Boston
most days, riding the train for 45 minutes is a hassle and completely unenjoyable.

today, however, whenever i looked up from my book, i was surrounded by this image:

http://tinyurl.com/2xtweh

i am doing my best not to get too excited, but it is nice to see the people around here sweat a little. i had been on the receiving end of a lot of trash talk all summer long.

it has been pretty quiet recently.

2007-09-19 06:02:59
28.   Sliced Bread
27 Funny, I enjoyed my 55 minute commute to NY today listening to Mets fans beating the panic pinata on talk radio.

Not a Met-hater at all, but it's fun to hear how irrational fans get when things are not going right (when it's not your team, of course). However, I take it more a little personally when they get on Willie Randolph. That's our guy you're beating on, Mr. Met, and maybe you don't deserve a winner like Willie.

On the Yankee side of the tracks, I'm doing my best not to get too excited myself.
All night, I'm watching Moose pitch this gem, and thinking, let's see him do this against a team that isn't playing out the string. Let's see him do this against a team of sluggers. Thankfully, the Tigers probably won't get another shot at Moose next month.

Like most pitchers, especially #4 pitchers, Moose is generally effective when there are no runners on, and he's ahead in the count.
But in stickier situations, and tougher lineups Moose isn't as lights out as he was last night. Not saying he can't win us a game in October, just saying I still think he can go either way in a Game 4 situation, same as all #4 pitchers.

2007-09-19 06:07:42
29.   OldYanksFan
RCNB:
...Arizona is 18 games over .500 while they have allowed 22 more runs then they have scored.
...2 teams are tied for the NL Central. Both are all of 6 games over .500
...The Yanks are 3.5 games ahead of the Mets. Boston is only 0.5 game ahead of both Cleveland and the Halos.
...The Yanks lead MLB in RS with 891. I don't think we will make 1000, but 950 looks reasonable
...Papi is making an MVP push, 2nd in OPS and only 31 pts behind a lost ARod.
... The great Sheffield and the slumping Matsui have basically identical season numbers (except for ABs).
... Surprisingly, the Yanks are 4th in the AL in FPct.
2007-09-19 06:14:18
30.   williamnyy23
29 Papi isn't really making a push. As a DH, he'd have to thoroughly outhit Arod. Also, when you factor in parks (OPS+), the difference is much greater than the raw OPS numbers.
2007-09-19 06:18:10
31.   OldYanksFan
30 Very true, but you know these dim-wits love big Septembers. ARod started HUGE, but has been terrible the last week+. I think he is HR happy. I also think after the last few years of Papi 'just missing', if the Sox take the division, Papi will certainly get a lot of consideration, deserved or not.

From a WW reader:
"My personal opinion is that Torre has done an absolutely superb job this year. Some may argue about the bullpen, but I see that as the pitching coach's responsibility, as much as the managers. The core job of a manager, in any field, is to keep his people focused, ready to compete, and to get the best out of them. Torre was the exact opposite of a quitter this year, and he calmly and resolutely infused that attitude into the players.
"

2007-09-19 06:19:54
32.   Sliced Bread
I couldn't care less if Alex wins the popularity contest.
2007-09-19 06:21:31
33.   mehmattski
29 Fielding Percentage? Pff. The Yankees are middle of the pack (16 of 30) turning 69.6% of batted balls into outs. Team Defensive Efficiency is where it's at.
2007-09-19 06:21:44
34.   Sliced Bread
I just hope Doug Out continues his tear, doesn't opt out of his contract, and enters the Hall of Fame as a Yankee.
2007-09-19 06:27:26
35.   buffalocharlie
6

According to baseball-reference.com, here are the career leaders in Wins for the Yanks :

1. Whitey Ford 236
2. Red Ruffing 231
3. Lefty Gomez 189
4. Ron Guidry 170
5. Bob Shawkey 168
6. Mel Stottlemyre 164
7. Herb Pennock 162
Andy Pettitte 162
9. Waite Hoyt 157
10. Allie Reynolds 131

Mussina's win last night gives him 102 career wins with the Yanks (w/ 147 wins as an Oriole).

Also, if Pettitte comes back next season, he should pass Gator and move into 4th place in wins for the Yanks, with a chance to pass Lefty Gomez in 2009.

2007-09-19 06:28:54
36.   RIYank
Moleicested: genius.

I can assure the non-New Englanders that losing the Division will/woud be devastating, even if the Sox coasted into the play-offs. It would matter. It would make it harder for them to win in the post-season. There's no doubt in my mind.

2007-09-19 06:36:26
37.   weeping for brunnhilde
10 Btw, I usually groan from the bottom of my soul at tortured puns.

"Moosterpiece" is not one of them. The coinage is sublime, indeed, a moosterpiece in its own right.

Moosterpiece.

Say it soft and it's almost like praying.

2007-09-19 06:38:01
38.   Yankee Fan In Boston
36 i'd love to test that theory.
2007-09-19 06:40:04
39.   weeping for brunnhilde
28 I feel the same way about Willie.
2007-09-19 06:41:42
40.   weeping for brunnhilde
34 Heh heh heh heh.
2007-09-19 06:46:59
41.   Count Zero
Is my memory flawed, or has Moose never had that kind of late movement on his fastball? I don't recall ever seeing his fastball tail that sharply, even when he was younger. I'm just curious whether he changed something in his grip on the two-seamer...
2007-09-19 06:48:29
42.   Sliced Bread
36 It's true to some extent. Boston dropping the division would mean no home field advantage for them, and no choice of opting for the extra day in the Division Series.
Good playoff perks, but that's about it.

The Cardinals and Tigers (who blew the division) crawled into the playoffs last year, and ended up in the World Series. For the players 'first place,' or 'wild card' status doesn't matter once the games start. Bragging rights for fans is another thing.

2007-09-19 06:49:20
43.   YankeeInMichigan
28 If the Mets dump Randolph, might we see him back in pinstripes next year?
2007-09-19 06:54:58
44.   Sliced Bread
41 I think the late movement is mostly due to a slight drop in velocity. His fastball used to be more like 91-92, instead of the 89-90 we're seeing now. The break is a little more dramatic. He might have loosened his grip, too.

I have no concerns about his stuff, but more about him losing his aggressive edge when runners are on, and the O's didn't challenge him at all.

2007-09-19 06:59:25
45.   Sliced Bread
43 I don't see Willie getting dumped, but you never know.

No question the Yanks would be interested in him, but I have no idea where he'd stack up against Torre, Mattingly, and Girardi on their managerial wish list.

I'd hire him in a heartbeat to manage the Yanks, but that might be the 11 year old 2nd baseman in me talking.

2007-09-19 07:23:07
46.   Raf
5 It appears that the extra rest to Mussina has worked well for him. Which kinda makes me wonder how they're going to approach putting together the staff next year. Even without Clemens, the Yanks have 6 starters in Wang, Pettitte, Mussina, Chamberlain, Hughes & Kennedy. Don't be surprised if Igawa gets another shot next year too.

11 And before Mussina, there was David Cone.

2007-09-19 07:28:11
47.   rbj
Personally I'd put Willie ahead of Mattingly & Girardi on my manager list. He's already proven that he can succeed as a manager in NY.

Great job by Moose, I think he was going through a "dead arm" period or something like that. Sure the Orioles are real bad right now, but the whole team did what they were supposed to do against real bad teams.

2007-09-19 07:28:32
48.   weeping for brunnhilde
43 I'd like to think there's always a home for Willie among the pinstripes. However, I'd not like to see him manage.

As protective as I feel about Willie when the Mets fans get on him, I also have to smile a "Welcome-to-our-world" kind of smile because his faults are the same ones Joe maddens us all with.

I love Joe, but when he goes, I'd like to see him replaced by a new sort of manager, not a disciple.

Then again, how invaluable is that steady hand, even-keeled approach of his?

Was 14 1/2, is 2 1/2.

2007-09-19 07:30:16
49.   weeping for brunnhilde
41 I was similarly struck by a fastball of Mike's that (if memory serves) tailed way in to a right-handed batter.

The movement was down and in, I think, and didn't seem a familiar part of Mike's repertoire.

2007-09-19 07:33:12
50.   weeping for brunnhilde
45 :)

I was an eleven-year old second baseman myself.

I began as a shortstop, and had a great glove and great range. Unfortunately, I had a weak-ass arm, and it was wild to boot.

Next season they moved me to second base, where I thrived.

Ah, happy days.

Willie was a big, big hero of mine, albeit a quiet one in a lineup with Mattingly, Winfield and Rickey.

Show/Hide Comments 51-100
2007-09-19 07:35:15
51.   Shaun P
49 Who says you can't teach an old Moose new tricks?

46 I was thinking El Duque, who doesn't actually throw that many pitches, but because of all the arm slot changes, hitters say it feels like he does.

2007-09-19 07:40:10
52.   weeping for brunnhilde
51 :) Indeed.

Don't bring up Duque.

It's such a raw nerve of mine. Why the fuck did we ever let him go?

We've had to suffer a parade of underachieving, Next Big Thing pitchers for years and years while letting Duque (and especially Andy) walk away.

We should have locked up Duque back when we had the chance and it infuriates me that he's gone on to have a fine career since.

At least I get to watch him pitch across town, I guess that's better than nothing.

But still, who the hell wouldn't want the guy on your team to hang around and contribute whatever he's capable of contributing?

Hmph!

2007-09-19 07:45:07
53.   nemecizer
37 Thank you! I posted that twice last night and didn't get no respect.

But to be honest, I stole it from NoMaas. They probably stole it from someone else.

2007-09-19 07:53:48
54.   Raf
52 Because he broke down in 2004, wasn't much to write home about in 05 & part of 06.
2007-09-19 08:00:56
55.   NJYankee41
52 Don't weep, I loved El Duque but I don't think it was a mistake letting him go at that time. He missed the following season due to injury. Then came back in 2004 and was awesome in the regular season but was nowhere to be found when we needed him against Boston in the ALCS. He pitched awful for Chicago in 2005, but made a few helpful appearances to help them win the WS. Then last year he did ok for the Mets only to miss helping in the playoffs and it looks like he may miss them again this year. He's good when he's healthy but he breaks down physically come October.

With that said I still won't forget what he brought to the Yanks in the playoffs pre-2004.

2007-09-19 08:02:22
56.   Shaun P
52 54 And he pitches over half his games in a division littered with pitchers' parks, in the easier league. No, something tells me that if Duque was still starting in the AL, he wouldn't be doing nearly as well as he did this year for the Mets. That sneaky stuff works fine in the NL, with pitchers hitting and weak-hitting up-the-middle players galore. As Moose has shown, it doesn't work so well in the mash-and-bash AL.
2007-09-19 08:11:49
57.   RIYank
Check out the Yanks' BP postseason chances now.

Division 10.22900 WC 87.16942 Post Season 97.39842

The Tigers have about 2.5% for the WC.

tinyurl.com/7gjwz

2007-09-19 08:24:57
58.   weeping for brunnhilde
All valid criticisms of Duque, of course, but the operative question is, compared to what?

Imo, you should hold onto a known quantity and take what he can give you.

I'm not saying he's a healthy pitcher you can pencil in 15 W to, but rather that, compared to the parade of duds we've had since, I'd keep him around for whatever he was able to offer, be it bullpen, spot start, the chance to shine in a key game, etc.

I think we'd have done well to keep him around as our fifth starter, is all I'm saying.

2007-09-19 08:29:42
59.   Shaun P
57 XM this morning said the Sox lead was their smallest since April 28th (or maybe it was 26th?). In any case, wow. If they lose tonight, and the Yanks win again, I wonder how much the division odds will go up?
2007-09-19 08:36:34
60.   RIYank
Kason Gabbard is flop for Texas, but check out David Murphy:

OPS = 1.001
OPS+ = 157

Small sample size, but still.

2007-09-19 08:39:58
61.   bp1
46 Yeah - and don't forget Pavano. He's still on the payroll (was gonna say sucking at the Yankee's teet, but thought that was low class).

Oh wait. Maybe we should forget about him, but then again, without his one win, the Yankees would be 3 1/2 games back in the division.

HA HA HA HA ... I jest.

I tell ya, the last two nights of baseball has done wonders for my mood.

2007-09-19 08:40:50
62.   RIYank
59 Good question. Well, BP must give approx. 25% to that happening. And if we were to pull even with the Sox, then the play-off chances would be close to 50-50 (not exactly because BP will think Boston's a better team, and the opposition will matter too).

I think our Division chance would go up to somwehere between 25% and 30% if we win and Boston loses.

2007-09-19 08:41:00
63.   Knuckles
59
Pretty sure it was April 21/22, during that series with the Sox...
2007-09-19 08:47:08
64.   Rob Middletown CT
I just want to say that I love me a good Top Secret reference.
2007-09-19 08:47:30
65.   Knuckles
Check the division race graphs at pennant-race.com

Look at the massive gap the Sox enjoyed most of the season, and the recent, steep narrowing of it...

If the Yanks win the division, I might just have to buy a print of it. Sure as hell would look better on my wall than most of the crap modern art that's out there these days- I'm calling YOU out, Rothko!

2007-09-19 09:07:12
66.   pistolpete
Great, thanks Cliff, now I have that 'Chocolate Rain' song stuck in my head....
2007-09-19 09:14:26
67.   Raf
58 Well, after 2004, RJ came on board. Good move, but was negated by the signings of Pavano & Wright. Wang was called up, lightning in a bottle was caught with Chacon & Small, and now we have the system paying off.

As much as Duque had done for the Yanks, I'd have let him walk after the 2004 season too, especially after his shoulder started acting up during the postseason.

That offseason was a mess anyway, what with letting Loaiza & Lieber walk, and not making a run at Pedro.

2007-09-19 09:22:32
68.   Kered Retej
57 Another neat thing is that after last night's games and for the first time since I have been checking, in all three versions of BP's Postseason Odds and the projection at Coolstandings, the Red Sox now have a higher probability of being the Wild Card team than the Tigers. That's pretty sweet.
2007-09-19 09:32:02
69.   Bama Yankee
0 "moleicesting Jon Leicester", brilliant. Good stuff, Cliff.

Certainly, Moose was great last night, but he was also getting the close calls from the ump which seem to have been going against him lately and causing him to get flustered. He even gave the ump a "thumbs up" and told him good job after he came out of the game.

Did anyone else see the MASN broadcast? Is it just me or does Gary Thorne us the word "literally" a little too much and in the wrong spots? IIRC (and maybe I misheard him), he said "Melky camps under the fly ball... literally". I expected to see a pup-tent getting pitched and a fire being built...

2007-09-19 09:37:06
70.   Mattpat11
46 No need to use the I word in mixed company.

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