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Don't Call It A Comeback
2008-05-25 15:36
by Cliff Corcoran
Note: The Bronx Banter blog has moved to bronxbanterblog.com.

Pitching on an extra day of rest due to a mild calf strain suffered in his last start, Chien-Ming Wang wasn't sharp this afternoon. Joe Girardi speculated that the sinkerballer may have been a bit too strong due to the extra rest. Jose Molina reported that there was almost too much movement on Wang's pitches. Indeed, Wang walked four men in his first four innings.

With the game tied at 1-1, Wang walked Adrian Beltre on five pitches to start the fourth frame. Kenji Johnjima hit the next ball to shortstop, but came away with an infield single when Derek Jeter's throw pulled Shelley Duncan off the bag. Wang then walked Richie Sexson on five pitches to load the bases. Alex Rodriguez kept the game tied by picking up a hard grounder off the bat of Wladimir Balentien and firing home to force out Beltre, but Yuniesky Betancourt followed with a single past Rodriguez that gave the Mariners a 2-1 lead and kept the bases loaded with none out. Ichiro Suzuki, who had homered into the right field box seats for the first Mariner run in the previous inning, then hit a grounder to second that Duncan botched, allowing all hands to move up safely, making it 3-1 M's. Two pitches later, Jose Lopez hit a shot right at Duncan, who dropped the line drive but recovered in time to start a 3-2-6 double play as Suzuki had to hold near the bag on the liner, thus allowing Jose Molina to gun him out at second base to end the rally.

Their initial run having come on a two-out Johnny Damon double and Jeter single in the third, the Yankees squeaked out another tally in the fifth when Cano led off with a walk, Jose Molina singled, and Melky Cabrera bunted the pair to second and third base. Although it came fairly early in the game, I didn't have a problem with the bunt, as moving up two runners like that is actually the highest-leverage bunt a manager can call for short of a squeeze as it puts the offense an out away from one run and a hit away from two. In this case, it set up that situation for the top of the order with the Yankees trailing by exactly two runs. Unfortunately, Damon and Jeter only managed the outs thanks to a diving stop of a would-be Damon double down the right field line by Richie Sexson.

Hanging in with a 3-2 deficit, Joe Girardi sent Chien-Ming Wang back to the mound in the seventh inning having already thrown 97 pitches. Betancourt hit a bullet all the way to Johnny Damon for the first out, but the next three men all picked up hits, the last of them plating the first two to drive Wang from the game at 112 pitches trailing 5-2. Edwar Ramirez held the line there, but the bottom of the Yankee order failed to mount a threat against reliever Sean Green in the bottom of the seventh. Melky Cabrera did single with two outs in the seventh, but I found myself rooting against that hit, preferring that the top of the order be given a chance to mount a comeback against J.J. Putz's set-up men with a clean slate in the eighth. As it turns out, Damon grounded out as well and that's exactly what happened.

Derek Jeter led off the bottom of the eighth by battling back from 1-2 to draw a walk off Green. Inexplicably, Mariner manager John McLaren then emerged from the dugout to remove Green and give the ball to Arthur Rhodes. I know McLaren was going for the lefty-on-lefty matchup against Bobby Abreu, but if there's one thing every major league manager should know, it's don't give Arthur Rhodes the ball against the Yankees. Rhodes faced three men without getting an out in Saturday's game and today battled Abreu for eight pitches before surrendering a booming double into the right-field gap that made it 5-3 Yankees. That seemed to shake McLaren out of his stupor as he then removed Rhodes, who thus failed to get an out in two appearances in this series, and brought in his closer, Putz. Facing Alex Rodriguez who represented the potential tying run, Putz walked the defending AL MVP on six pitches and struck out Jason Giambi looking.

Girardi then sent up Hideki Matsui to pinch hit for Shelley Duncan, who had started in Matsui's place against the lefty Washburn. Matsui took a bad swing at the first pitch he saw and tapped a lousy hopper to the right of the mound, but it was just far enough to the right to cause problems. Putz lept off the mound and snagged the ball on a dive, falling face first into the grass and likely breaking up an easy 4-3 putout in the process. Gathering himself as Matsui reached the bag, Putz then inexplicably threw to first from his stomach, firing over Richie Sexson's lofty head and allowing Abreu to score and Rodriguez to advance to third base.

With the tying run now just 90 feet from home and only one man out, Robinson Cano creamed a 1-1 pitch from Putz to deep right center for a game-tying sac fly that was deep enough to allow Matsui to tag from first and advance to second on Ichiro Suzuki's arm. Jose Molina appeared to hit the next pitch to the same spot, but on a higher arch. Everyone in the park, including Molina, though it was the third out, but apparently he got it just far enough around to right (and perhaps just enough of the late-afternoon sun got in Suzuki's eyes) that the ball dropped on the lip of the warning track for an RBI double that gave the Yankees their first lead of the game.

As Mariano Rivera began to warm in the bullpen, Melky Cabrera grounded out on just two more pitches. Giardi thus let Ramirez warm up for the ninth only to pull his should-be set-up man just before the official start of the inning. Rivera, old pro that he is, warmed in a hurry and came in to pitch a perfect ninth inning, striking out the third and fourth men in the Seattle order to finish the job and nail down the 5-4 win.

That win, which was the Yankees' second late-inning comeback in the last four days as well as their second of the season, gave the Yankees their second three-game sweep of the season (both of the Mariners at home), brought their overall record back up to .500 at 25-25, and moved them out of last place in the hyper-competitive AL East, a half game ahead of the Orioles, whom they just beat in two of three games at home and will face in a three game series in Baltimore starting tomorrow afternoon.

Edwar Ramirez got the win and still hasn't allowed a run in 12 2/3 major league innings this year, but has struck out 15 men in those frames. He should get some serious attention as a set-up replacement for the transitioning Joba Chamberlain, who will pitch again Tuesday or Wednesday.

Finally, it's worth mentioning that Derek Jeter's throws have been poor all season. It appears that he's been releasing the ball late, thus firing the ball into the dirt and to the outfield side of the bag, as was the case in the play described above. As for Duncan's misadventures in the field, Shelley also went 0-for-3 at the plate and is hitting .176/.259/.275 on the season. If he's not going to play a viable first base or contribute at the plate, he may be the player who loses his roster spot to Jason Lane this week. The positive indicators for Duncan are that he's hitting .258/.333/.419 against lefties and not striking out at an inordinate rate in general. That's not great, but it's a sign of life.

What the Yankees have done since Alex Rodriguez has returned from the disabled list, a 5-1 record to this point, is a far more encouraging sign of life. Sure it's come against one poor team and one awful one, sure today's comeback was the result of a few lucky breaks, but this team has needed something to remind them that they've been here for years. Last year, the Yankees were seven games below .500 and 13.5 games behind the Red Sox on the morning of June 1. This year, they could have a winning record and be within five games of first place when the calendar flips to June. Don't call it a comeback.

Comments
2008-05-25 17:38:34
1.   mehmattski
Three at Baltimore
Four at Minnesota
Three vs Toronto
Four vs Kansas City

Mark it here: as the Yankees leave for the West Coast on June 10, they will be within one game of first place. I was going to be more extreme and claim they'd be in first, but Boston gets to play Seattle 6 times in the next two weeks, and three vs Baltimore. Still, I say the Yankees at 35-29 on June 10.

Listen to the way I slay your crew!

2008-05-25 17:42:15
2.   tommyl
I just realized Edwar has yet to allow a run all year, minors or majors. Wow. PECOTA had him as the player with the highest (or very close to it) breakout potential. I really hope they were right, I love the kid and those goggles.
2008-05-25 17:57:45
3.   Zack
Another woeful showing by the Sox on the road. As long as the Yanks can keep thinking its the Mariners they are playing and the Sox can play on the road, things could break right!
2008-05-25 17:58:08
4.   Alex Belth
I BEEN HERE FOR YEARS!
2008-05-25 18:47:41
5.   RIYank
Head to Baltimore and do some
Damage (uh) damage (uh) damage (uh) damage (uh)
Destruction, terror and mayhem!
2008-05-25 21:54:28
6.   ny2ca2dc
4 There's our Alex.

Now lets lump up some girls from around the way.

2008-05-25 22:53:19
7.   Jeb
" Shelley also went 0-for-3 at the plate and is hitting .176/.259/.275 on the season. If he's not going to play a viable first base or contribute at the plate, he may be the player who loses his roster spot to Jason Lane this week"

Amen cliff amen! From what I'm told there's no viable alternative, but the wind from his bat. I know he's popular but I say let sandy go back to making wheat thin commercials and get anyone to replace him.
Even Jason lane would be better than this. Or just bite the bullet and bat giambi against righties.

2008-05-25 23:50:34
8.   Mr OK Jazz TOKYO
2 Didn't Tom Henke wear goggles? I know Big-Game James Worthy did...AND Kareem..

now Watch me bash this beat like a skull...

2008-05-26 00:25:21
9.   americanbear
It was not long ago we were all bashing Giambi and wanted to DFA him. I will be glad to see his $20 million come off the books after this year, but he is raking right now and we are not calling for his head.

Shelley has proven himself in the minors and we need to see if he can turn it around at this level. Jason Lane is a fine AAA ballplayer, but he is no major leaguer.

2008-05-26 05:55:14
10.   ny2ca2dc
I guess I understand the hand wringing over Shelly, he's hardly lighting the world on fire; but shouldn't Ensberg be the one to go? Shelly can at least play the outfield, and they're probably equally ugly at first. Ensberg has not looked viable at third at all. So I would think Shelly remains slightly ahead of Ensberg on the depth chart. Though as Cliff's pointed out, Shelly has options and Lane has that out, so maybe swapping them is worth a shot. But Shelly does have that whole mascot thing going for him, maybe that's worth something. And he's really the one who got the Bedard-mashing going.

I'll say it again, why can't a trade for Kevin Millar be swung. Reed Johnson or equal couldn't cost THAT much...

Also, I agree on Edwar, he's looked like a different pitcher this year, not pitching entirely off his change. Looks like that talking to Pedro gave him in the offseason helped!

7 Since when were homophobic taunts of the players par for the Banter?

2008-05-26 06:11:26
11.   Sliced Bread
What a game, and what a comeback (even if we're not calling it that, L.L)

Cliff, are you sure Mo was warming up during the bottom of the 8th (did they show that on TV)? Fans in my section noted there was nobody warming up when the rally finally ended. From where I was sitting (first base/upper deck) it looked like Mo didn't get up until after the 8th was over. Did Mo start to warm up, stop, and then resume? Everything happened so fast. I know I didn't think about Mo, or even glance at the bullpen until the comeback rally had ended.
As good as Edwar has been, we all knew he wouldn't throw a pitch in the 9th. Thank Mo Almighty.

Anyway, it was a glorious day at the park for me, my dad, and my sons. Perfect day to take the ferry from Hoboken.
I don't get to the Stadium more than a few times a year, and usually it's a spur of the moment deal. Yesterday was a day we circled on the calendar about 7 weeks ago. Dang, it's something better than great when a game you look forward to ends as well as yesterday's did.

2008-05-26 07:06:08
12.   Jeb
10 its a nickname not homophobic at all. If it were homophobic I'd be calling him gay which I'm not. Its no different than when people call pavano carol or when Jim Rome called Jim Everett Chris. I'm just suggesting he hits about as well as her.
2008-05-26 07:10:04
13.   OldYanksFan
10 I agree. Furthermore, Shelly MIGHT have a future with the Yankees, I can't imagine Ensberg has any future with any team. We do have the AG in AAA if we need another 3Bman/UIF.

While Shelly is probably not an MLB starter, I don't think you can totally judge his abilitiy until he plays on a consistant basis. At least a number of his outs have been hit hard. Remember Carlos Pena? What he got from the Rays that he didn't get from us, or the Sox, was playing everyday knowing his position was secure. That makes a world of difference with a lot of players.

While Shelly will probably never play that much with us, he still might have more potential then we are seeing. It's not that outrageous to think he could post a .250/.300/.450 line. Nothing to write home about, but at least not a total hole in the lineup.

Jason Lane is a career .770 OPS guy, with his last 3 year being worse then his career. I don't know anything about the guy but he looks like a Shelly type: a powerful guy with tons of holes in his swing. His MiLB numbers, an .830 OPS, don't come near Shelly's.

Maybe the Yanks just want to see if Jason miraculously returns to his best years where he posted all of a .810ish OPS. But we keep jerking Shelly around which can't help us get his best, whatever that might be.

I think there is something positive about a consistant lineup and squad. Trying different guys in limited playing time for a month doesn't really tell you much.

Tell Shelly he is our BU-1Bman and on the squad for the year. Let him know that although his playing time is limited, he will be a MLB player for all of 2008. Hoping that Ensberg/Lane/other bottom feeders will be better, and playing musical chairs at 1B, isn't doing the team any good.

If Giambi goes down for any length of time, we will need to go out and get a replacement. None of our alternatives are any good for any length of time, especially against RHP.

2008-05-26 07:12:26
14.   OldYanksFan
That Yanks are playing a day game today in Baltimore. Isn't that very unusual for a Monday? Is there a particular logic to this?
2008-05-26 07:31:25
15.   Jeb
13 I consider ensberg useless too and would ship him out too. Duncan's a far cry from a .250 hitter. He's hitting exactly 74 points less than that. I could live with him better if he was all-glove but he's not even a decent fielder either. He actually makes me miss Andy Phillips who had a better bat and a better glove.

14 yes there is.

2008-05-26 07:32:07
16.   Bruce Markusen
Rivera was definitely warming up in the bullpen during the eighth-inning rally. The broadcasters took note of it, as well.

In terms of Ensberg/Duncan, I'd prefer to see the Yankees stay with Duncan. He's younger, brings some enthusiasm to the team, and has good numbers against lefties. Ensberg looks like he might be done. He's 32, has looked stiff at the plate and in the field, and is light years from being the player he once was in Houston. Let's go with youth here.

2008-05-26 07:35:27
17.   Jeb
16 why is it an ensberg v. Duncan debate though? They both should go.
2008-05-26 07:57:48
18.   JimCobain
Well according to PeteAb, Ensberg stays and the Attorney General was sent down to make room for Wilson B.

Also, Shelly is starting today over Giambi. Guess they are going to give the kid a longer look as the Jason Lane deadline approaches.

I would assume the 1:05 start today has to do with the Memorial Day holiday. No need to play a night game when everyone has the day off and neither team really had to travel a long distance to get to Baltimore.

2008-05-26 08:16:47
19.   Mattpat11
Yankees.com is promoting a Jeff Karstens rehab start that I can watch on my computer.

Why the hell would I want to do that?

2008-05-26 08:24:38
20.   Jeb
19 I suppose you could look at our AAA hitters that way, right? (unless they only show karstens pitching).
2008-05-26 08:37:23
21.   Mattpat11
I may also be in the minority here, but if we have to lose Jason Lane, so what? Its Jason Lane.
2008-05-26 08:46:03
22.   Cliff Corcoran
21 I agree. But I feel the same way about Ensberg and Shelley, so why not give him a shot since the other two aren't contributing at all.
2008-05-26 08:46:07
23.   Jeb
21 At the end of the day, I don't really want Lane either. I don't want Ensberg or Duncan either. The problem is that they're all terrible players at this point. I think I'd prefer to just keep the AG and Betemit, play Giambi at first (with the occasional fill-in from Betemit) and find something out on the market.

I don't know what's out there right now, but my guess is that there's some team in the toilet that would make a deal. I'm not in favor of using prime prospects to land Ryan Howard and his 200 K's or Adam Dunn (who's really more of an outfielder now anyway). I'd be more in favor of a middle of the road player.

2008-05-26 09:08:21
24.   Jeb
2 Nomaas says Edwar has lowered his release point...
2008-05-26 10:43:51
25.   horace-clarke-era
Hmm. Shelley/Sandy, lame as it is (so was Carl/Carol) isn't homophobic as I understand it ... it is 50's era 'you throw like a girl' talk, and equally silly.

OYF, it is possible Duncan might be a decent platooning major leaguer but that he needs steady at-bats to establish it, but as you note ... it ain't going to happen. He will ONLY see southpaws and not all of them, I suspect. That means that part of what the Yankees are evaluating is how well someone can do with LIMITED at-bats, not how well they might do if given lots of time and confidence. Nor can you possibly give a guy under Mendoza's Mighty Line a blank check that 'you are our dude for the season'. NO one gets that, not in K.C., for sure not in N.Y.

Betemit still shows the best mix of versatility and upside, partly as a switch-hitter. The Shelley/Morgan/Jason L thing is pretty marginal as an issue, in fact. When JoPo comes back our lefty issues are gone (and in fact I checked and we are .500 vs southpaws, and .500 vs righties). There will be other injuries, people will go down and up. And yes, Andy Phillips was better than what we are getting. Still, it is marginal stuff, not core of team.

Boston, by the way, have played next to NO +.500 teams. Look it up.

2008-05-26 11:02:30
26.   OldYanksFan
Quiz for the day: Which Yankee has the FEWEST strike outs per AB? Who is second?
2008-05-26 11:11:39
27.   Jeb
25 Thanks. Some people just love to throw around "terms of service" "terms of service" I guess to be ultra sensitive and PC. with all due respect, most of the time I read that the person is being a bit holier than thou. It's my nickname for Duncan and I'm not asking anyone to endorse it, but I'm not anti-gay and the comment isn't either.

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