Baseball Toaster was unplugged on February 4, 2009.
I'm calling it now. Oakland is going to sweep the Yankees this weekend. I'll be pleased if I'm wrong, but before last night's game I predicted a Yankee win followed by a pair of weekend loses. After seeing the way they performed in the most favorable pitching match-up of the weekend, I would be downright shocked if they won one of the remaining two.
For those who were privileged enough not to witness it, here's what went down:
Meat Pavano wasn't on his A-game, but he got the job done against the struggling Oakland line-up. Despite throwing just 57 percent of his pitches for strikes and walking a season-high three men (a damn fine total for a season high in walks), Pavano gave his team a full seven innings of three-run baseball. The only A's runs in regulation came via a solo dinger by Eric Byrnes and a two run job by the hot-hitting Bobby Kielty (following a Scott Hatteberg walk, naturally).
Meanwhile, Barry Zito did bring his A-game, holding the Yanks to five hits and no walks through seven while striking out five and allowing just one run (a Womack single followed by a two-out Matsui triple that ticked off Mark Kotsay's glove in center).
The tide turned in the bottom of the eighth. After a tidy 1-2-3 top half by Buddy Groom, John Flaherty (starting due to his small-sample success against Zito, 3 homers in 12 trips) drew a seven-pitch walk. Robinson Cano replaced Flaherty at first via a fielder's choice. Derek Jeter then smashed a hot shot down the third base line on which Eric Chavez made a great backhanded stop, but bounced his throw to first, earning a hard-luck error and putting runners on first and third. Jorge Posada--who may finally be warming up at the plate (5 for his last 15 prior to last night with two doubles and a homer)--then hit for Womack and delivered an RBI single to move the Yankees within a run, put runners on first and second and driving Zito from the game.
With Octavio Dotel on the mound, one out, and a 2-0 count on Gary Sheffield, Jeter and Posada then executed a successful double steal, with Jason Kendall's throw going to second, but not in time to catch Jorge (who has eleven steals in his eleven-year career, including that one). Suddenly, after looking listless all game, the Yankees were a productive out away from tying the game thanks to a clutch hit and some successful agressive baserunning. On Dotel's next pitch Sheffield ground out to short, scoring Jeter and tying the game.
Suddenly it seemed the Yankees were having their moment. It was against the A's last year that, following a demoralizing sweep at home at the hands of the Red Sox, the Yankees reversed their losing ways via a late-inning rally which began and eight-game winning streak that launched them toward their seventh-straight AL East title. For those who allowed their thoughts to wander, it seemed this rally could have the same effect. Better late than never.
For some reason I (and Ken Arneson) fail to understand (or rather, we understand them--the force, the lefty/righty matchup, the clutch reputations of the players involved--but don't agree with them), the A's then intentionally walked the slumping Hideki Matsui to pitch to Alex Rodriguez, who is third in the majors in RBIs thus far this season, with the go-ahead run on second base. It was a moment of truth for Rodriguez, whose perceived failures in the clutch have come to define him as a Yankee. Dotel's first pitch to Rodriguez was a ball. His second was fouled off for a strike to even the count. His third went behind Rodriguez. It actually looked like the pitch hit Alex in the back, but instead it glanced of Kendall's mitt. Thinking the pitch had gotten further away from Kendall than it actually had, Posada took off for third only to be thrown out by a fair distance, taking a shoulder in the face from Eric Chavez in the process of getting tagged out to end the Yankee rally and leave Rodriguez at the plate with his bat in his hand.
Still, the Yankees had tied it up, erased Zito's strong performance, and vindicated Pavano's contribution. For the top of the ninth, Posada stayed in to catch, Tino Martinez took Flaherty's spot in the line-up at first base and Andy Phillips, who started at first against the lefty Zito going 1-for-4 with a double and a warning track shot to right that got caught in the swirling wind, moved left to replace Womack. Mariano Rivera made a rare appearance on the mound, signaling the fact that the Yankees were in this one for a change.
Mo breezed through the A's in the ninth, only to have Dotel return serve in the bottom of the inning. Then came the top of the tenth. Nothing good ever seems to happen after Mariano Rivera walks a lead-off batter, and that was again the case last night after he issued a full-count walk to the A's ninth-place hitter Marco Scutaro to start the top of the tenth. Still, it didn't seem that bad. Mark Kotsay failed to bunt Scutaro over, eventually striking out on a 1-2 count. Mo then got ahead of Jason Kendall 0-2. But Rivera's third pitch to the Oakland catcher hit him in the side, pushing the go-ahead run to second with one out and the heart of the Oakland order due up.
On another full count, Eric Chavez hit a sharp grounder toward the shortstop hole that Derek Jeter backhanded, but the ball was hit to deep for Jeter to force Kendall at second. All hands safe. Bases loaded. Still one out. That's when the roof fell in.
Scott Hatteberg pulled a 1-1 Rivera pitch up the line where Tino Martinez, playing near the line corralled it on a bad hop. Tino then took two steps toward first before firing home to try to force out Scutaro and preserve the tie. In the process, he appeared to step on first base for the second out. In reality, he neither stepped on first (which would have erased the force at home), nor got Scutaro out at the plate. The latter was true because Tino released late on his throw, bouncing the ball past Posada, allowing not just Scutaro, but Kendall to score as well, putting the Yankees down 5-2 with runners on the corners and still just one man out in the inning.
Charles Thomas, a defensive replacement for Kielty in the eighth, then grounded to Rodriguez, who threw out Chavez at home for the second out as Hatteberg moved to second and Thomas reached first. Erubiel Durazo followed by hitting another grounder to Rodriguez, this one glancing off his glove for another error, loading the bases. Rivera then issued another full count walk, this one to Keith Ginter, forcing Durazo home. He then struck out Byrnes to finally end the inning.
With the A's up by three, Ricardo Rincon took over for Dotel. Tino Martinez attempted to make good for his error in the top of the inning by drawing a four-pitch walk (after the game, a mortified Tino told the press he had cost the Yankees the game), but he was erased by yet another Cano fielder's choice and Jeter, who has finally cooled off with a .192 average in the first six games of May, and Posada went down in turn to Kiko Calero to end the game. 6-3 A's in 10 innings.
Before the game, Blez at Atheltics Nation wrote, "Don't let the Yankees fool you, this team is lying and waiting to awaken. Their lineup is still one of the best in all of baseball. And their pitching, though inconsistent, is capable of putting up Cy Young-type performances every night." That sentiment was reportedly echoed by Eric Chavez, who said that he and his teammates were apprehensive coming into the Bronx because no one wants to be the team the Yankees wake up against. Having now seen this team up close, I'm wondering if either would like to amend their comments. Mr. Arneson, for one, now understands.
Less than 12 hours from now, Old Moose will take on 24-year-old Joe Blanton, a product of the Moneyball draft, at the Stadium. At 6:00 PM, not long after the game wraps up, George Steinbrenner's Bellamy Road will run the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs. Yesterday Joe Torre's Sis City finished fourth in the Kentucky Oaks. I'm curious to see what happens if both Bellamy Road and the Yankees lose within hours of one another. Something tells me George won't take it as well as Joe did yesterday.
How many errors were there? Too many for this drunk to count, that's for sure. But to me and all the Yanks fans I was drinking with, it seemed like around 10,000. Jeets, A-Rod, Tino, Mo...was there any Yankee, "true" or otherwise, that came out of that inning looking like anything other than a rank amateur?
As a Sox fan, I'm almost ready to want the Yanks to improve, just so we have a worthy foe. Seriously, that 10th was the most depressing inning I've seen in along time. And I even caught parts of those D-Rays gamesHow could these guys be this straight-up EMBARASSING? I love nothing more than taking the air of the Yanks -- god how i loved seeing those 0-3 graphics come up in the first round of the NBA play-offs -- but this goes WAAAY beyond that. In my drunken state, it seemed like I saw half a dozen booted routine grounders. And when I came home slightly more sober and read the round-ups, my impression didn't seem that far off at all...
Oh, to Red Sox fan posting his "almost" sympathies. Whatever. I never felt any type of sympathy for you or your team during your years of futility and won't when your team starts to suck again.
Then the tenth inning, which was about as painful as it gets. As the game was about to end, there was nothing but sullen, angry looks on the Yankees' faces, and I have to admit, my face was red and long too.
Emily couldn't take the tension in the ninth inning but she pleaded with the Yankees, "Please win, so my boyfriend can be happy."
I'm glad Cliff had the stomach to put up a post, because I'm still in no shape to write anything articulate or coherent about that game. The way it ended still has me in shock.
My pal Alex Ciepley, a huge Cubbie fan, and I have been trading phone calls this week about which one of our teams is worse. Well, the Cubs lost in excruciating fashion yesterday, the kind of loss that you'd only wish on your very worst of enemies. But though it wasn't as dramatic, the way the Yanks lost was equally as painful. As least Alex and I still have something to debate.
As for the girlfriend reaction, Becky literally covered here eyes throughout the tenth.
It's 12:15 and it's not raining now...maybe they will get it in.
Steinbrenner: Gone are the mysterious Tampa people! Those men and women who, in relying on obsolete scouting methods, made me excited about players such as Tony Womack, Jarett Wright, etc. I no longer subscribe to the foolish notion that only veteran players (over the age of 35) are capable of playing in the intense atmosphere that is the Bronx Zoo. No, today marks the beginning of a new epoch in Yankee management. I will be accountable for my past blunders, I will give over the player personnel decision-making responsibilities to people like Brian Cashman, people who believe that statistical analysis is a key component in predicting player's future performance. If Cashman chooses to move on (and I can understand that the years of abuse might have taken there toll on him (for that, Brian, I am sincerely contrite and wish I could undo them)), I will pursue general managers who believe in statistical analysis as a guiding principle. On my short list would be Billy Beane, that nice Italian guy in Los Angeles, and Theo Epstein's twin brother who is secretly a Yanks fan and who secretly is jealous of his brother's success.
JohnnyC, you're right: while I'm as shocked as you are at how these Yankees are playing, you will get as much sympathy from this Sox fan as I got from Yankee fans after Boone's HR. (I wouldn't expect it any other way if the tables were turned.)
Besides, just because the Yanks are in last now doesn't mean they're gonna stay there. Even if those of you here don't believe in your team, there are a bunch of Sox fans that aren't sleeping soundly thinking NY will stay down with the Devil Rays...
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