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Jays Press On
2008-04-02 21:12
by Cliff Corcoran
Note: The Bronx Banter blog has moved to bronxbanterblog.com.

With a fake nail on the index finger of his pitching hand, A.J. Burnett was able to throw his knuckle-curve for strikes and dominated the Yankees for six innings last night. Mike Mussina had a decent curve himself, but not the yakker he displayed in some of his spring training outings. The result was a typical post-2003 Mike Mussina start: 5 2/3 IP, 4 R, 2 K. Though Mussina kept it close, it was obvious from the very start which way the game was going to go.

Moose gave up a hard-luck unearned run in the first. Scrappy David Eckstein led off the game with a sinking liner to the right side that Giambi knocked down, but didn't glove cleanly. When Giambi came up with the ball, he looked to flip to Mussina for the out, but Mussina, who had broken for the bag on contact, eased up when Giambi came to his feet expecting the big lug to take it himself. With no other option, Giambi did just that and his foot hit the bag at the exact instant that Eckstein's foot did. There is no official rule that the tie goes to the runner, but that's what happened. Giambi was charged with an error on the play, I assume for either his brief bobble or his apparent hesitation over what to do with the ball once he had it, but if Mussina covers, Eckstein's out. Giambi made another nice play later in the game, diving up the line with his foot on the bag to snag a Derek Jeter throw in the dirt for an out, and made a valiant but fruitless (and thankfully harmless) dive into the camera pit in pursuit of a foul pop. Back in the first inning, Eckstein was move to second by a well-placed ground-ball single by Shannon Stewart and plated by a flare over Robinson Cano's head by Alex Rios, though he would have been out had Jose Molina fielded Bobby Abreu's throw cleanly. In Molina's defense, he threw out both attempting Toronto base steelers in the game.

The Jays made it 3-0 in the third on a two-out walk to Rios and a two-run Vernon Wells homer to left on a hanging slider that Mussina said was his worst slider of the game. They then added on in the sixth, despite Johnny Damon snagging a would-be wall-scraping homer by Rios to start the inning. Wells followed that out with a single and was pushed to second when a Mussina changeup (Mussina called it a "lazy curve") appeared to nick the bill of Frank Thomas's helmet. Mussina then got Lyle Overbay to fly out for the second out and got ahead of Aaron Hill 0-2, but Hill singled Wells home on a fat 84-mile-per-hour fastball up in the zone, bringing Joe Girardi out of the dugout to make the first mid-inning pitching change of his Yankee career. LaTroy Hawkins got the third on out a fly ball with a single pitch to Marco Scutaro, proving that Girardi is a managerial genius. Unfortunately, the Jays added another run against Hawkins in the seventh when Rod Barajas hit a ground-ball double down the right field line, moved to third on an Eckstein grounder, and scored on a single by Rios.

Burnett, meanwhile, allowed just four singles through six innings and didn't walk a man nor allow a Yankee past first base until the seventh, when Bobby Abreu led off with a walk and Alex Rodriguez followed with a two-run bomb to dead center. That shot drove Burnett from the game, but Toronto relievers Brian Tallet (two perfect innings, 4 Ks) and Jeremy Accardo were no more generous. The Yanks made thingS interesting against Accardo in the bottom of the ninth when Derek Jeter and Bobby Abreu led off with singles to put men on first and second and bring the tying run to the plate, but Alex Rodriguez struck out at the end of a tense six-pitch at-bat, Jason Giambi hit a 390-foot fly out to the 399-foot sign in center, and Robinson Cano flied out to left on the first pitch he saw to give the Jays a 5-2 win.

Comments (55)
Show/Hide Comments 1-50
2008-04-03 00:36:32
1.   RustyJohn
My man Ohlendorf did a great job last night-once again, Farnsworth makes me worry.
2008-04-03 05:41:04
2.   Knuckles
Press on. Yuk yuk yuk.
You nailed it though Cliff- you could tell early on how the game was going to play out. A K and two flyouts in the 9th didn't make me too happy. I know you're down 3 and all, but some line drives would be nice. Robbie especially looked anxious to hit a 5 run homer.

That was a shot by Arod. I was none too pleased in an earlier at-bat to see him pulling off an outside fastball, but I guess when you hit .300 with 40 HR's every year, you're allowed to sit dead red and guess wrong every once in a while.

Back at 'em tonight- Phil time.

2008-04-03 05:48:25
3.   ChuckM
Someone may have added this in the comments on the previous post, but did anyone see Pete Abe's thing where he noticed Girardi had a copy of BP's 2008 annual in his office? I know the jury is still out on Joey G, but that's a definite plus for me...
2008-04-03 05:53:12
4.   OldYanksFan
No excuses here, but we have a long, COLD schedule ahead for the next 3 weeks. I don't expect our over 32 crowd to come up from Florida and play their very best baseball in artic conditions. I HOPE, but don't expect.

To me, the main question is Damon. Leading off, he makes a big difference when he hits. I hope he 'has something to prove', but he has to have a better OBP then Cano and Melky to stay in the leadoff spot.

If he's cold for a while, will Joe. G has the nerve to move him down inthe lineup?

2008-04-03 06:24:45
5.   williamnyy23
4 I don't think the cold weather will impact the Yankees anymore than their opponents. It wasn't the cold that hurt the Yankees last night...it was AJ Burnett's fastball and curve.
2008-04-03 06:37:53
6.   rbj
Cliff is definitely polishing his headlines.

Moose's outing was definitely not discouraging, which is good, I guess.

Was it Michael Kay who mentioned that Burnett has an opt-out clause after this season? If he does, should the Yankees pursue him and C.C. in the offseason: CC, AJ, Wang, Hughes, Joba, IPK?

2008-04-03 06:44:05
7.   yankeemonkey
6 Two words for you: Carl Pavano.
2008-04-03 06:51:46
8.   Bruce Markusen
It seems like we're all obsessed with Mussina's lack of velocity, but a guy like Schilling wasn't throwing a heck of a lot harder last October and was still getting people out. The difference? Schilling's control is so much better. He puts the pitch exactly where he wants it--and never walks anyone. In contrast, Mussina often seems to miss when he tries to hit the corners. Those two walks he issued last night were killers, particularly the one before Wells' home run.
2008-04-03 06:53:48
9.   wsporter
So much for 162 and 0. Damn!
2008-04-03 06:56:41
10.   horace-clarke-era
Burnett's a vg pitcher and will be better when healthy, if he gets healthy. He's very possibly the key to the Jays' season as they have an ace and two solid 3rd/4th starters.

It is WAY too early for major queries, but this is a microscope wielding Yankee site, so here's my question: is it me, or does the slimmed down, more limber Giambi get balanced by a bulkier and sluggish-looking (and thinking) Jeter? I am NOT harking back to his sleek youth (remember when DJ and Bernie looked like that?) but even to last year or two years ago. The odd thing is, bigger SHOULD mean more power, but ...

The cold, to my mind, WILL impact older guys more. Take it from an older guy.

2008-04-03 06:59:23
11.   Mattpat11
6 I really don't want to pay tens of millions for AJ's 24 games a year.

8 Mussina doesn't exactly walk people like mad either.

2008-04-03 06:59:34
12.   Cliff Corcoran
3 I got a big kick out of that seeing as I edited that book and actually wrote the Joe Girardi comment in it (not that the comment says all that much).
2008-04-03 07:03:52
13.   Cliff Corcoran
10 I don't see whatever it is you're seeing in Jeter. He made two nice rangy plays in the opener and physically looks the same as he has for the past several seasons.

11 Bruce does have a point about location, though. Moose isn't wild, but he doesn't hit the glove the way he did when he first came to the Yankees. All of those pitches he griped about last night were really balls and the fact that he couldn't catch the corner forced him to throw more hittable pitches. When Rivera's had his struggles in the last couple of years it's been a similar issue. Neither is wild, but neither has the pinpoint control of their youth anymore either. At least Mo still has his velocity, though.

2008-04-03 07:05:08
14.   Shaun P
7 See also: Jaret Wright.

Pitchers are risky enough as is. The Yanks should only sign free agent starters who have been healthy, and will likely stay that way. They should avoid the walking wounded, unless its a low-risk incentive-based deal, like the Sox did with Colon. Those kinds of deals should only be for depth, not for guys you're depending on to start 30 times.

2008-04-03 07:43:03
15.   JL25and3
Somehow, last night the team didn't seem as crisp and controlled as on Tuesday. Maybe it was just because they weren't hitting, but I don't think so. We'll have to see which one was the aberration.
2008-04-03 08:05:08
16.   JL25and3
One striking thing about the Stadium this year is the amount of advertising. There's way more than ever before, more than I would ever have imagined. There are ads everywhere, tons of them - it looks like NASCAR. They really thought of everything; on top of the outer wall in the outfield, where they have all the team pennants, they've snuck in an Adidas pennant as well.
2008-04-03 08:12:55
17.   dianagramr
12

Maybe Girardi will give you a usable quote for the back cover of BP09?

2008-04-03 08:18:16
18.   murphy
0 , did cliff refer to f*ckstick (eckstein) as scrappy JUST to get me all riled up? cos' it worked.

maybe if damon stays cold, we can just spin his growing mediocrity as "Scrappy" in an effort to placate ignorant fans. or does that term only apply to middle infielders?

2008-04-03 08:28:57
19.   yankeemonkey
18 No. See also: Erstad, Darin and Willits, Reggie.
2008-04-03 08:34:10
20.   JL25and3
19 Erstad's too tall to be "scrappy." I believe he's "hard-nosed."
2008-04-03 08:34:51
21.   williamnyy23
10 I am not seeing a sluggish Jeter either. If anything, he looked a little quicker in the field.

I really think the play in which he was thrown out at 2B is misleading. The replay shows Jeter look back and see the ball bounce away. What it doesn't show (and Jeter likely didn't see) was the amazing hustle of Rios. Most RF'ers wouldn't have been close on that play. Add in Rios' excellent arm, and Jeter had no chance.

I don't think that was so much abad play by Jeter as a great play by Rios.

2008-04-03 08:36:03
22.   williamnyy23
16 There was always an adidas pennant there. I didn't notice anymore advertising than the past. YS has been chock full of ads for several years now.
2008-04-03 08:40:00
23.   Cliff Corcoran
18 Yes I did. Seriously.
2008-04-03 08:51:42
24.   wsporter
First start on a cold April night. Moose looked pretty good to me or at least as good as he can reasonably be expected to at this point in the year. It's hard to get a feel for the ball when its that cold, especially early I think and he's a feel pitcher now more than ever. He got too much of the plate to Wells after allowing that walk (which I think was a walk). Where Moose was concerned that was the game. If that's the average start from our number 5 for the rest of the year we shouldn't be heard to complain to loudly about it.
2008-04-03 08:54:58
25.   mehmattski
Did anyone else see that Joe Girardi has a copy of Baseball Prospectus 2008 on his shelf? That makes me happy.
2008-04-03 08:59:29
26.   Shaun P
20 Surprising (to me at least), Damon and Erstad are the same height (6'2" - so says b-r.com). So I guess Damon has to be labeled "hard-nosed" too, instead of "scrappy".

b-r.com also says Damon barely outweighs Eckstein (175 lbs vs 170 lbs). That seems insane. I wonder how accurate their data on height and weight is? Do they update it?

2008-04-03 09:03:27
27.   Cliff Corcoran
26 Yeah, I think the B-R height/weight data is faulty. I've run into trouble with it before. The Yankees' official site lists Damon at 205 lbs, which sounds about right.
2008-04-03 09:04:14
28.   pistolpete
Moose gives up 3 or 4 early, other pitcher is dealing, guys start pressing and swinging at crap. Looked like a damn re-run of every frustrating loss we had in the last 3 seasons.

A-Rod with a meaningless HR for good measure too.

Only thing that seemed to be different was our bullpen performance, although starring in the role of Ron Villone this season is Latroy Hawkins.

2008-04-03 09:06:20
29.   murphy
speaking of height and weight: the other night at the stadium, my friend sitting next to me pointed to scutaro on first base and giambi standing near the bag and said something to the effect of, "gee it was nice of giambi to bring his son to the game."
2008-04-03 09:29:50
30.   JL25and3
Eckstein's officially listed at 5'7", 175. I'm guessing 5'5", 160 is more like it. Like Chuck Knoblauch was 5'9"...

22 OK, so I never saw the adidas pennant before. But I go there a lot, and there was definitely a lot more ads there: more on the facing of the decks, around the dugout, a big new billboard in right field, rotating ads in at least two new places so they could get several for the price of one, and so on.

2008-04-03 09:49:46
31.   Zack
Last night's game was boring and I never like loosing to d-bg like Burnett. Its like losing to Beckett. Just something about them, maybe its the awful facial hair, maybe its the attitude (maybe with Burnett its the Carl Pavno-ness in them), maybe its the fact that both were labeled stars before ever putting together even a complete healthy season, but it does seem that Burnett dominates the Yanks of late. A Burnett-Moose matchup is not one destined for success really..
2008-04-03 10:07:09
32.   horace-clarke-era
I think it is probably fair to praise Rios not blame Jeter but he was out by a LOT, guys. In other words, Rios didn't even have to hustle like a madman. That's partly what I meant by sluggish (mentally). Can call it aggressiveness, I guess. Make them make the play, etc. We can also blame the cold for his being nailed, again by a fair bit, on a steal, by a NOT good catcher. Giambi also saved him twice on throws ... but that's his job.

DJ has been my fav player for a long time, and this is two games. I know it.

28 Oh, please, not that again! I was hardly meaningless. You think we should basically QUIT when down 5-0 in the 7th?

2008-04-03 10:19:33
33.   williamnyy23
28 Meaningless? You mean besides the fact it allowed the Yankees to have three men come to the plate as the tying run in the 9th. I hope you were just joking.
2008-04-03 10:21:16
34.   williamnyy23
30 I guess I could be numb to them, but I didn't notice many, if any, more than last year.
2008-04-03 10:21:41
35.   ms october
24 agree - and it seemed like moose was blowing into his hand the whole game - way more than burnett seemed to - to me at least.

32 he was out by a mile and he probably could have run a little harder, but in addition to rios being in the perfect place and having a great arm, the ball landed in the perfect spot for him to make that throw.
i agree with some of the early commenters that he was moving pretty good in the field - his throws could certainly be a bit better.

2008-04-03 10:22:53
36.   williamnyy23
32 Rios didn't have to hustle a lot because he was already there! That's what made the play so great. Rios must have dashed in the moment the ball went off Burnett's glove.
2008-04-03 10:31:44
37.   Sliced Bread
12 congrats, Cliff, to you and your colleagues on BP '08 making it to Joe G's bunker! Cool beans, and kudos to Girardi for keeping it handy. Are you at liberty to reveal any other passages you wrote for the book? Any more of your comments in the Yankees chapter?
2008-04-03 10:32:48
38.   pistolpete
32 ,33 It IS meaningless when the rest of the team does squat to back it up.

It's hindsight to be sure, but it's a general feeling of malaise from the past few seasons that all came rushing back somewhere around the 6th inning.

2008-04-03 10:54:19
39.   cocorn
"Was it Michael Kay who mentioned that Burnett has an opt-out clause after this season? If he does, should the Yankees pursue him and C.C. in the offseason: CC, AJ, Wang, Hughes, Joba, IPK?"

Yes, and sign the top 3 free agent sluggers while they're at it.

Come on. This isn't fantasy baseball.

2008-04-03 11:00:03
40.   Rob Middletown CT
Burnett is nasty when he's healthy. That's really all it was. That and some sloppy fielding (Giambi, Moose on failing to cover 1st in the 1st, Jeter's awful throw that Giambi saved...). But basically Burnett >> Moose. Though Moose wasn't bad. Then again, he was facing an offense that should be a pretty good matchup for him (lots of righties, several lineup black holes...).

Anyway, shit happens. Go Phil!

2008-04-03 11:09:14
41.   Cliff Corcoran
37 Other than perhaps adding a word or two of detail or explanation as I edited, I wrote nothing else in the Yankee chapter. I might have written one or two other random comments throughout the book, but it all blurs together at this point.
2008-04-03 11:25:06
42.   JL25and3
38 Your original post sounded like, "Rodriguez hit a home run in a meaningless situation." There was nothing wrong with his homer; quite the contrary, as horace and william pointed out.
2008-04-03 11:25:56
43.   Sliced Bread
41 I don't have the book in front of me now, but I'm guessing you added the following words to the L'il Scrappy (Eckstein) comments:

active, alive, bold, bouncy, brave, bubbly, chirpy, courageous, energetic, enthusiastic, fearless, frisky, full of pep, game, gritty, gutsy, gutty, high-spirited, lively, peppy, plucky, scrappy, snappy, sprightly, spunky, vigorous, zestful, zippy.

2008-04-03 11:55:45
44.   pistolpete
42 I wasn't completely serious with my 'meaningless' comment, but it's frustrating nonetheless when it seems like he's the only one actually doing anything in games such as last night's...

The HR became 'meaningless' when his teammates failed to back him up.

2008-04-03 12:25:39
45.   JL25and3
43 He plays the game right. He gets his uniform dirty. He knows how to win.

Michael Kay was waxing rapturous yesterday when Barajas led off the seventh with a double and Eckstein advanced him with a grounder to second. That's why you want Eckstein on your team! He's the guy you want up in that situation! That's how he helps teams win!

Up to a point, I actually agree with Kay. If you've got a man on second with none out and one run will win you the game, Eckstein's probably the best guy to have up there. Of course, there are 600 other PA when he's, um, not the best.

Besides, with a four-run lead and the top of the order coming up, why would you want to play for one run?

2008-04-03 12:34:06
46.   Cliff Corcoran
45 Actually, playing for one-run makes sense when you're ahead late in a game as every extra run makes a comeback all the less likely. It's playing for one-run early in games or when behind by more than one that is the wrong thing to do.
2008-04-03 12:39:46
47.   Schteeve
As much as I get a kick out of the new defensive minded Jason Giambi, he's gonna be on the DL by the end of the week if he keeps running into the camera pit and doing the splits to save Jeter's bacon.
2008-04-03 12:42:37
48.   JL25and3
46 Obviously, playing for one run early is the worst. But in last night's situation you don't need the one run, and I'd be willing to risk that one for the chance to score more.

Weaver's Sixth Law: Don't play for one run unless you know that run will win a ballgame

2008-04-03 12:46:37
49.   wsporter
45 "Besides, with a four-run lead and the top of the order coming up, why would you want to play for one run?" It makes lead 'slam proof'.

The percentages are higher that you will score 'at least one run' with a man on second no outs if you move that man to third with one out. There's a pretty effective Markhov Chain analysis that runs through this. I've lost the link and don't have the time to find it. It's right there with the bunting stuff we posted here lasted year or the year before.

I think he's a useful guy and I do believe that those or similar situations occur a bit more often than every 600 ab's.

2008-04-03 12:51:13
50.   Schteeve
5 I think you are too easily discounting the effects of the cold on old dudes, and on the ability of the baseball to travel longer distances.
Show/Hide Comments 51-100
2008-04-03 13:09:14
51.   JL25and3
49 As someone said earlier, advancing the runner with an out definitely increases the odds of scoring exactly one run, but it decreases the odds of scoring more.
2008-04-03 13:17:00
52.   wsporter
51 Look at the wording "at least one run". That is O runs or 1 or more runs. I think we're saying almost the same thing.
2008-04-03 13:30:24
53.   JL25and3
52 Right, we're just focusing on different parts of the equation. As I said, I'd risk the one slam-proof run and try to break the game open.

If it's the bottom of the order coming up, I might feel differently.

2008-04-03 15:35:02
54.   horace-clarke-era
44 Okay, Pistol Pete Maravich (dating myself again?) you are excused THIS time.

But honestly, on your use of the term, Jeter's nailing Jeremy Giambi at the plate in Oakland (best play I ever saw, nothing close) was 'meaningless' because Mariano threw wildly to second base in Game 7 of the Arizona series, later.

We didn't win it all, so the play meant nothing? I'm stretching a point, but there was so much stupid dumping on Alex Rodriguez for 'meaningless' homers a while ago, I really, really didn't want to see it come back. 7th inning matters. Getting within two baserunners matters.

2008-04-03 19:26:40
55.   wsporter
53 Ah Markhov, a great little bunter in his day. :-)

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