Archive for May 16th, 2010

It took the baseball equivalent of a Big Bang for the Twins to finally beat the Yankees in New York. Trailing 3-1 in the bottom of the eighth, the Twins rallied for five runs off Mariano Rivera, who gave up a bases loaded walk and a grand slam. It was only the fourth time in his long career that Rivera yielded each adverse event, and the first time he surrendered both in the same game.

Mariano Rivera bites his lip after blowing his first save of the season.

The reason the Yankees were leading up until the eighth inning was because Sergio Mitre pitched one of his finest games in a Yankee uniform. In his five shutout innings, Mitre surrendered only one run on a homer to Justin Morneau. His strong pitching allowed the Yankees to build a 3-1 lead off Nick Blackburn, who scattered nine hits over seven innings. The biggest hit in the game for the Yankees was a two-out, two-run triple by Randy Winn in the second inning. The only other run was plated on a bloop single by Mark Teixeira in the fifth. The Yankees had an opportunity to tack on even more runs in that frame, but stranded runners on second and third with only one out.

Because Mitre was only able to go five innings, the bullpen was pressed into duty. The first man out of the pen was Dave Robertson, who turned in two scoreless innings despite working into and out of trouble in both the sixth and seventh innings. With that tenuous part of the ballgame successfully navigated, Girardi then turned the game over to Joba Chamberlain. Early tentativeness in the inning created a first and second jam (single to Span on three consecutive sliders and then a walk to Mauer) with only one out, but Chamberlain rebounded to strike out the dangerous Morneau and induce a soft liner to first by Cuddyer. The only problem was Mark Teixeira didn’t catch the ball. Instead, the ball dropped to his feet and Cuddyer reached safely when Chamberlain failed to cover the bag. Although not ruled an error, the play was one Teixeira makes routinely.

With the bases loaded, Joe Girardi summoned Rivera in the eighth inning, leading to the dramatic events that brought an end to the Twins 10 game losing streak at Yankee Stadium. It should be noted, however, that Rivera did have some help with his bases loaded walk to Thome. According to PitchFX data (see below), every single pitch but the first was in the strike zone. Thome got the benefit of the calls, however, and the rest was history, not to mention historic.

Even with all the stars aligned for their first victory in New York, the Twins still had to survive another mini-scare in the ninth inning. Singles by Winn and Ramiro Pena off closer Jon Rauch brought the tying run to the plate with no outs, but an awful at bat by Jeter seemed to stem the tide. After Jeter swung and missed on a ball in the dirt, Rauch bounced back to strike out Gardner and Teixeira to close out an improbable victory.

  • The last grand slam surrendered by Mariano Rivera was to Bill Selby in a game against the Cleveland Indians on July 14, 2002. His last bases loaded walk was to Keith Ginter of the Oakland A’s on May 6, 2005.
  • Before blowing the save in today’s game, Rivera had converted 51 consecutive chances at home, a record held with former Dodger closer Eric Gagne.
  • For the second game this week, an opposing closer recorded a save against the Yankees by striking out the side.
  • The Twins victory was their first at Yankee Stadium since July 4, 2007.

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Duck and Cover…those two thoughts come to mind when thinking about Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau hitting against Sergio Mitre. Truth be told, that’s pretty much been the way all Yankee pitchers have been treated by Minnesota’s version of the M&M boys. Since the start of last season, Mauer and Morneau both have an OPS of 1.2 against the Yankees, which makes the Twins recent lack of success against the Bronx Bombers all the more amazing.

Unfortunately for the Yankees, Mitre’s second start of the season was necessitated by the Tuesday night rainout in Detroit. Frequently labeled as unlucky because his FIP has historically been much lower than his ERA (which stands at 5.50 for his career), Mitre has never had anything close to resembling success. Yet, the Yankees have still seen fit to entrust him with the role of spot starter, leading to their predicament  this afternoon.

If Mitre’s presence on the mound isn’t enough to buoy the Twins spirits, then the Yankees depleted lineup might do the trick. With Jeter as DH and Nick Swisher unable to swing left handed, the bottom three in the lineup should provide a nice landing spot for Twins starter Nick Blackburn. In addition to a compromised offense, having Thames make his first start in RF also significantly downgrades the defense. In other words, if the Twins can’t beat the Yankees this afternoon, perhaps they never will.

Of course, it won’t really be that easy. The middle of the Yankees lineup has started to turn on the power and Blackburn has never had success against the Yankees (0-1 with a 5.89 ERA in four career starts). What’s more, Derek Jeter has enjoyed facing Blackburn in the past, so this might be the perfect day for him to break through one of the longest slumps of his career. If the big boppers come through and Mitre can somehow dance his way through 5 solid innings, the Yankees could still come away with the sweep.

vs. Nick Blackburn PA BA OBP SLG HR RBI
Derek Jeter DH 12 0.429 0.636 0.857 1 3
Brett Gardner CF 4 0.250 0.250 0.250 0 0
Mark Teixeira 1B 7 1.000 1.000 1.667 1 5
Alex Rodriguez 3B 9 0.333 0.333 0.667 1 3
Robinson Cano 2B 8 0.000 0.000 0.000 0 0
Jorge Posada C 0 0.000 0.000 0.000 0 0
Marcus Thames RF 7 0.000 0.000 0.000 0 0
Randy Winn LF 0 0.000 0.000 0.000 0 0
Ramiro Pena SS 0 0.000 0.000 0.000 0 0
Total 47 0.317 0.383 0.561 3 11
vs. Sergio Mitre PA BA OBP SLG HR RBI
Denard Span CF 0 0.000 0.000 0.000 0 0
Orlando Hudson 2B 9 0.333 0.333 0.667 1 1
Joe Mauer C 0 0.000 0.000 0.000 0 0
Justin Morneau 1B 0 0.000 0.000 0.000 0 0
Michael Cuddyer RF 0 0.000 0.000 0.000 0 0
Jim Thome DH 4 0.750 0.750 1.000 0 2
Jason Kubel LF 0 0.000 0.000 0.000 0 0
Alexi Casilla SS 0 0.000 0.000 0.000 0 0
Matt Tolbert 3B 0 0.000 0.000 0.000 0 0
Total 13 0.316 0.316 0.526 1 3
Yankees vs. Twins
Season: 2010 Season: 2009 Season: 2008 All-Time
NYY: 2-0 NYY: 7-0 NYY: 6-4 NYY: 1103-764

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In a very casual way during yesterday’s post game press conference, Joe Girardi announced that Javier Vazquez would once again have his spot in the rotation skipped. Girardi explained the decision by stating last Tuesday’s rainout created a “pickle”, resulting in Sergio Mitre having to take the ball today against the Twins. Of course, that line of reasoning does not explain why Girardi didn’t simply push everyone back by one day. Had Vazquez been pitching well all season, that’s undoubtedly the approach the Yankees would have taken.

Our guys have been throwing great and we believe we’re getting Javy back to where he needs to be,” Joe Girardi said. “Javy was supposed to start tomorrow. We got in a little bit of a pickle because of rain and things we had to go through, so Serge has to make that start now. And we’re just going to move Javy to Friday. – Joe Girardi, courtesy of LoHud Yankees Blog

A closer look at the schedule, however, reveals what may be the true motive behind the decision to push Vazquez back: delaying his next start in front of the somewhat hostile fans at Yankee Stadium. By moving him back to Friday, Vazquez will miss the entire home stand and instead return to the mound at CitiField. His next start after that would then be against the Twins at Target Field, meaning Vazquez won’t toe the rubber in the Bronx until facing the Orioles on June 1. By that time, the Yankees are probably hoping Vazquez will have three solid starts under his belt, at which point the home crowd might be more welcoming.

For many reasons, the logic behind the decision to skip Vazquez makes a lot of sense. Despite his strong outing in Detroit, Vazquez remains the weakest link in the Yankees rotation, so by slotting him against the Mets, Girardi was able to line up his four best pitchers to face the Red Sox and Rays. A poor outing at home against a division rival could have been a major back for Vazquez. Instead, he will now get the chance to build upon his recent success by pitching in the familiar surroundings of the National League against a heavily right-handed Mets team that has been struggling to score runs. If Vazquez can pitch well against both the Mets and Twins, his June 1 return to Yankee Stadium, which would be his first home start in exactly one month, will have a much more positive vibe.

Make no mistake about it…Javier Vazquez’ start is being skipped. The decision was not one borne of weather created logistics. In fact, the Yankee rotation would probably have benefitted by getting an extra day of rest. Still, this decision could go along way in effecting the complete rehabilitation of Vazquez’ season, even though it will undoubtedly be portrayed as another blow to his psyche.

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