Archive for September 24th, 2010

The conventional wisdom has been that the Yankees are at a distinct disadvantage coming down the stretch because the Rays schedule is significantly easier. And, on the surface, that seems to be the case. Factoring in home/road records, the Yankees opponents over the final 10 days are a combined 375-306 (.551), while the Rays will be facing teams that have gone 286-460 (.383). However, since September 1, the combined record of the teams left on the Yankees schedule is a less imposing 84-96 (.467), while the Rays remaining opponents are a more competitive 82-118 (.410).

In baseball, the schedule is not really about whom you play, but when you play them. For example, playing the Mariners when King Felix is on the mound is not the same as when his start comes the day before a series begins (as is the case with the Rays’ weekend series against Seattle). So, instead of breaking down the remaining schedule by team, it’s probably more useful to take a look at the pitchers each team is likely to face.

Yankees Remaining Matchups

Date Yankees vs. Pitcher IP ER ERA
24-Sep Red Sox Josh Beckett 115 73 5.71
25-Sep Red Sox Jon Lester 197    67 3.06
26-Sep Red Sox Daisuke Matsuzaka 140 2/3 76 4.86
27-Sep Blue Jays Mark Rzepczynski 51 2/3 33 5.75
28-Sep Blue Jays Kyle Drabek 11    6 4.91
29-Sep Blue Jays Shawn Hill 16    5 2.81
1-Oct Red Sox Daisuke Matsuzaka 140 2/3 76 4.86
2-Oct Red Sox John Lackey 201 1/3 101 4.51
3-Oct Red Sox Tim Wakefield 134 77 5.17
    Total 1007.1/3 514 4.59

Rays Remaining Matchups

Date Rays vs. Pitcher IP ER ERA
24-Sep Mariners Jason Vargas 182 1/3 76 3.75
25-Sep Mariners Doug Fister 159 2/3 68 3.83
26-Sep Mariners Luke French 78 2/3 37 4.23
27-Sep Orioles Brian Matusz 162 2/3 83 4.59
28-Sep Orioles Brad Bergesen 158    86 4.90
29-Sep Orioles Kevin Millwood 183 2/3 108 5.29
30-Sep Royals Zac Greinke 209 1/3 93 4.00
1-Oct Royals Bruce Chen 124 2/3 65 4.69
2-Oct Royals Kyle Davies 174 2/3 98 5.05
3-Oct Royals Sean O’Sullivan 58 2/3 47 7.21
    Total 1492.1/3 761 4.59

Although starting pitchers are subject to change, and certain assumptions were made (i.e., Clay Buccholz’ turn comes up on the last day of the season, but the Red Sox have reportedly been talking about shutting him down beforehand) in composing the charts above, it appears as if the Yankees and Rays will be facing the same level of starting pitching. Obviously, the teams on the Rays schedule have weaker offenses, but only the Mariners have had particular trouble scoring runs of late (2.6 runs/game in September). The other four teams on the two teams’ schedules have pretty much scored at comparable rates over the final month of the season.

September Runs

Red Sox 5.2
Royals 4.7
Orioles 4.7
Blue Jays 3.9
Mariners 2.6

The Rays definitely have an easier schedule, not to mention the tie breaker in their back pocket, but by no means has the battle for the AL East been decided, assuming of course that the Yankees are still committed to winning it.

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Sequels are seldom as good as the original, and last night’s rematch between David Price and C.C. Sabathia was no different.

C.C. Sabathia wipes his brow as the Rays sixth inning rally wipes away the Yankees 3-1 lead (Photo: Getty Images).

The Yankees took advantage of Price’s early struggles to build a 3-1 lead, thanks in large part to a two run homer from Marcus Thames, who continues to make a considerable impact despite limited playing time. The Yankees tacked on another run in the fifth inning, but also stranded the bases loaded with one out in the frame. In total, the Yankees stranded nine runners over Price’s six innings of work, which allowed the Rays to stay in the game.

Normally, three runs would have been enough for Sabathia. Entering yesterday’s action, the last time the Yankees scored at least three runs with Sabathia on the mound and lost was on May 29. Also, before his loss to the Orioles on September 7, Sabathia had pitched in 21 straight games at Yankee Stadium without a defeat.  After the Rays comeback victory, however, he has now lost two home games in a row.

The most jarring thing about last night’s game was not the loss itself, but the sudden way in which it transpired. Like Price, Sabathia was not on top of his game in the early going, but after a quick fourth and fifth, the big lefty seemed to settle down. That all changed in the top of the sixth. A single by Crawford and double by Longoria set the Rays up to tie the game, but in trying to pitch around the jam, it appeared as if Sabathia dug the hole even deeper. Once the Rays put the tying runners in scoring position, the big lefty abandoned his fastball in favor of the slider in an apparent attempt to go for the strikeout. What resulted instead were walks to the light hitting Kelly Shopach and Sean Rodriguez, which eventually forced Sabathia from the game.

Had Joba Chamberlain been able to limit the damage, the Yankees may have still had a chance to win the game, but a BJ Upton ground rule double and two run single by Crawford sealed the deal. The Yankees did mount one last threat when they again loaded the bases in the sixth, but as he did for most of the game, Price made the pitches he needed to turn the rally away. The last three innings were then played like a Spring Training game, as the Yankees unloaded their bench. Meanwhile, Javier Vazquez, who mopped up the remaining innings, unloaded on the Rays’ hitters, plunking three straight batters to tie a record last accomplished by Jeff Weaver.

When Sabathia took the mound with a 3-1 lead in the sixth, the Yankees seemed to be on the verge of sending the Rays out of town with a 2 ½ game deficit. Instead, the Yankees are now the team facing an uphill battle. By losing the game, the Yankees not only squandered their advantage, but also ceded the season series to the Rays. So, not only do the Rays have a decided advantage in terms of remaining strength of schedule, but they now own the division tie breaker as well. With only nine more games left in the season, the Yankees are running out of battles. Although the war has not be lost, it’s looking increasingly likely that the Yankees will have to win it on enemy territory.

Pitchers Who Have Hit Three Consecutive Batters

Pitcher Date Inn Team Opponent
Pink Hawley 7/4/1894 1 Browns (Cardinals) Senators
Pink Hawley 5/9/1896 7 Pirates Senators
Walter Thornton 5/18/1898 4 Colts (Cubs) Giants
Doc Ellis 5/1/1974 1 Pirates Reds
Wilbur Wood 9/10/1977 1 White Sox Angels
CJ Nitkowski 8/3/1998 8 Astros Marlins
Steve Sparks 5/22/1999 3 Angels Devil Rays
Jeff Weaver 8/21/2004 1 Dodgers Braves
Javier Vazquez 9/23/2010 7 Yankees Rays

Source: Baseball-reference.com and baseball-almanac.com

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