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Archive for the ‘Game Recap’ Category

For the first four innings of today’s matinee between the Yankees and Athletics, Oakland seemed well on its way toward sweeping it first series in the Bronx since June 2006. Then, the Yankees scored 20 runs over the next four innings, turning a 7-2 deficit into a 22-9 victory.

In order to effect the comeback, the Yankees hit two grand slams in successive innings. Robinson Cano belted the first one, which cut the deficit to one run in the fifth, and then, in the following frame, Russell Martin added the second. It was only the fourth time in franchise history that the Yankees hit two grand slams in one game. 

Yankees’ Multi-Grand Slam Games, Since 1901

Date Opp Score Stadium Batters
8/24/2011 OAK 22-9 Yankee Stadium Robinson Cano Russell Martin
        Curtis Granderson  
9/14/1999 TOR 10-6 SkyDome Bernie Williams Paul O’Neill
6/29/1987 TOR 15-14 Exhibition Stadium Don Mattingly Dave Winfield
5/24/1936 PHA 25-2 Shibe Park Tony Lazzeri (2)  


Source: Baseball-reference.com

Not content to merely tie a franchise and league record, the Yankees proceeded to load the bases again…and again…and again. In the seventh inning alone, the Yankees had six different plate appearances with the bases loaded, but the record breaking third grand slam proved elusive. However, after two more failed attempts with the bags juiced in the eighth, Curtis Granderson finally put an exclamation point on history by depositing a 1-2 fastball into the Yankees’ bullpen.

Yankees’ Grand Slams by Year, Since 1950

Source: Baseball-reference.com

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The Yankees’ have sorely needed more innings from their starters, but having Ivan Nova come out of the bullpen to pitch the 10th inning probably wasn’t the best way to go about it.

After a rough day, Travis Snider exults in his game winning hit (Photo: AP).

The late inning cameo by Nova was necessitated by Mariano Rivera’s rare inability to polish off a save. From the very pitch to Yunel Escobar, the Yankees’ closer, who was pitching in his league leading 10th game, seemed to be without his usual command. As a result, Rivera left several cutters over the plate, allowing the Blue Jays to string together four hits during a game tying tally. The most uncharacteristic part of the inning, however, was a rare four pitch walk to Jose Bautista, who came to the plate with one out and a runner on third. Despite only representing the tying run, Rivera seemed to pitch around the Blue Jays’ slugger, an approach that wouldn’t be advisable for a mediocre reliever, let alone the best to every play the game. Sure enough, Bautista eventually came around to score the tying run on Jason McDonald’s safety squeeze.

Before the climatic late innings, A.J. Burnett and Kyle Drabek pitched into and out of trouble, stranding several base runners along the way. Both pitchers wound up retiring after only 5 1/3 innings, meaning the outcome would be decided by the bullpens. Before Rivera’s misstep, which snapped a string of seven consecutive converted saves to start the season, it looked as if the Yankees were going to get the best of that battle, but the immortal closer proved to be the weak link in what has been, for the most part, Joe Girardi’s winning late game formula.

Most Consecutive Saves by a Yankee to Start a Season

Pitcher Start End SV IP ERA
Mariano Rivera 4/1/2008 8/7/2008 28 29.1 0.31
Lee Guetterman 4/12/1989 9/30/1989 13 23 0.00
Mariano Rivera 4/7/2004 5/9/2004 12 12.1 0.73
Marshall Bridges 4/27/1962 7/7/1962 11 13 0.69
Steve Hamilton 4/28/1968 8/27/1968 10 11.1 0.79

Source: Baseball-reference.com

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No Alex Rodriguez? No problem (at least for one game).

Mark Teixeira slides home with the go ahead run (Photo: AP).

Despite being without their red hot slugger, the Yankees lineup didn’t miss a beat. After falling behind early, the Bronx Bombers belted three more homeruns, pushing their major league leading total to 27. The decisive blow, however, wasn’t a long ball, but rather a clutch two-out RBI single by Eric Chavez, who was filling in for Arod at third. Chavez’ game winning hit in the eighth set up Mariano Rivera for another save and gave the Yankees a small ounce of redemption in the team’s ALCS rematch against the Texas Rangers.

The reason the Yankees had to come from behind to earn the victory was because of Adrian Beltre, who knocked in four runs in his first three at bats against CC Sabathia. If not for Beltre’s yeoman effort, Sabathia might have cruised through the Rangers’ lineup, but even with the third baseman’s outburst, the Yankees’ ace still left the game leading 5-4 with one out in the seventh. Unfortunately for Sabathia, Joba Chamberlain eventually surrendered the lead and cost the big lefty a chance to record his first win of the season.

Entering the game, Rangers’ starter Alexi Ogando hadn’t allowed a run in 2011. What’s more, he had only surrendered two long balls over the first 54-plus innings of his brief major league career. By the time the night was over, however, the lanky right hander had been victimized for three. Robinson Cano, Russell Martin and Curtis Granderson all belted their fourth home runs off the fly ball prone hurler, who seemed ill equipped to deal with the Yankees power. Ogando wasn’t alone in that regard, however. During the series, the Yankees hit six homeruns, while the Rangers only hit one.

After Chamberlain blew the lead in the seventh, Rafael Soriano and Mariano Rivera redeemed the bullpen by each throwing a shutout inning. For his effort, Soriano earned his first win as a Yankee, while Rivera earned his major league leading seventh save. However, games pitched might be the stat most worth monitoring. Both Chamberlain and Rivera now lead the league with nine appearances, while Soriano is right behind with seven. If the Yankees hope to maintain a strong bullpen throughout the season, that kind of workload can’t continue.

Most Used Bullpens in the Major Leagues

Team GP W L ERA SV IP
Mets 16 1 3 4.21 3 57.2
Giants 15 4 2 3.19 5 53.2
Padres 15 3 2 2.72 4 53
Royals 14 4 2 3.25 5 52.2
Yankees 14 4 2 3.42 7 52.2


 As of April 17, 2011
Source: ESPN.com

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Yesterday, the Yankees died by the double play. Today, it gave them new life.

Freddy Garcia was all smiles after recording his first Yankees’ win.

In a scenario eerily reminiscent of last Tuesday’s 5-4 loss to Minnesota, the Yankees took a substantial lead into the eighth inning, but watched as Rafael Soriano gradually frittered it away. With two runs already across the plate, Adrian Beltre lofted a long fly ball down the right field line that missed being a three run homer by about three seats. Disaster narrowly averted, Soriano escaped further damage by getting the Rangers’ third baseman to ground into an inning ending double play.

By escaping the jam, Soriano was able to preserve Freddy Garcia’s first victory as a Yankee. Over six strong innings, Garcia not only kept the Rangers off the scoreboard, but practically kept them off the bases altogether. Going into the game, there was some concern about how Garcia would respond to an almost three-week layoff (sans one relief inning), but the right hander featured a well located mid-80s fastball as well as a steady diet of even slower changeups and sliders to keep the Rangers off balance.  His effort was only the fifth quality start turned in by a Yankee, and it couldn’t have come at a better time.

Freddy Garcia’s Pitch Breakdown

Pitch Type Avg Speed Max Speed Count Strikes/% Swinging Strikes/%
FA (Fastball) 84.55 85.2 2 2 / 100.00% 0 / 0.00%
FF (FourSeam Fastball) 85.82 87.5 33 22 / 66.67% 0 / 0.00%
CH (Changeup) 78.33 83.7 24 16 / 66.67% 3 / 12.50%
SL (Slider) 78.83 81.5 16 9 / 56.25% 0 / 0.00%
CU (Curveball) 68.47 70.1 6 4 / 66.67% 0 / 0.00%
FS (Splitter) 78.67 82.7 3 2 / 66.67% 0 / 0.00%

Source: http://www.brooksbaseball.net

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Normally, a field full of Mariano Riveras would be a Yankees fan’s dream, but on a night when baseball honored Jackie Robinson by having every player wear number 42, the team’s series opener against the Texas Rangers turned out to be a nightmare.

Elvis Andrus turns one of the Rangers’ six double plays (Photo: AP)

Uniform numbers weren’t the only thing that had the Yankees seeing double. The team also tied an American League record by hitting into six double plays. Each time the Yankees seemed poised to break through against Matt Harrison, he was able to induce a groundball and escape the jam. Over eight innings, Harrison limited the Bronx Bombers to only two runs, pushing his record to 3-0 and lowering his ERA to 1.23. In his three starts this season, the lefty has thrown at least seven innings and surrendering only one earned run each time.

Strong pitching has been a hallmark of the Rangers’ early success. Not only does the Texas staff lead the majors with a 2.50 ERA, but the rotation has turned in nine quality starts in 13 attempts. The Yankees, however, haven’t been as fortunate. In the team’s first 12 games, only one starter has thrown as many as seven innings, while five games have featured a starter who was unable to go more than five. As a result, the Yankees rank near the bottom of the league with only four quality starts.

On a day when the Yankees put Phil Hughes on the 15 day DL with a “dead arm”, Ivan Nova compounded the Yankees’ starting rotation concerns by failing to make it out of the fifth inning for the second consecutive start. In fairness to Nova, the weather was miserable at the Stadium, which might explain why the lanky right hander struggled so much with his fastball command. Whatever the reason, Nova walked a career high five batters before taking an early shower.

Ivan Nova, Inning by Inning

  G IP ER ERA PA OPS
1st inning 10 10 1 0.90 40 0.568
2nd inning 10 10 1 0.90 39 0.328
3rd inning 10 10 7 6.30 44 0.741
4th inning 10 10 7 6.30 41 0.706
5th inning 10 7 2/3 14 16.43 48 1.206
6th inning 5 3 2/3 2 4.91 17 0.828
7th inning 1 1 0 0.00 5 0.800
8th inning 2 2 0 0.00 9 0.476
9th inning 2 2 0 0.00 9 0.819
Ext inning 1  1/3 1 27.00 3 2.500

Note: OPS does not include last night’s game.
Source: Baseball-reference.com

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When Phil Hughes walked off the mound to a smattering of boos in the fifth inning, a walk off victory for the Yankees didn’t seem likely. However, thanks to some late clutch hitting and strong relief, pie was back on the menu by the end of the game.

Nick Swisher celebrates the Yankees first walk off victory with a taste of pie (Photo: Getty Images).

In his first two innings, Hughes looked as if he had recovered some of the lost velocity that plagued his previous two starts. However, after topping out at 92 mph in the early going, Hughes’ velocity quickly dissipated and then his command betrayed him shortly thereafter. The signature pitch took place in the third inning, when the struggling right hander left a cutter over the middle of the plate to Nick Markakis, who planted it into the right field stands.  From that point forward, Hughes seemed unable to command the inside corner, and the Orioles took advantage by building a 5-0 lead over the next three innings.

Although there is likely to be some speculation about Hughes’ hold on his spot in the rotation, the Yankees really have no choice but to keep running Hughes out to the mound every fifth day with the hope that he’ll find his missing velocity. Bartolo Colon has pitched well as Hughes’ designated mop-up man, but it would be terribly short sighted for the Yankees to reverse those roles based only three games. Of course, winning helps facilitate rational decisions, so perhaps in some respects, the Yankees comeback saved Hughes more than just a loss.

Phil Hughes’ Pitch Breakdown

Pitch Type Avg Speed Max Speed Count Strikes/% Swinging Strikes/%
FF (FourSeam Fastball) 89.05 90.9 46 32 / 69.57% 2 / 4.35%
CH (Changeup) 80.9 82 6 5 / 83.33% 0 / 0.00%
CU (Curveball) 70.5 72.2 11 8 / 72.73% 2 / 18.18%
FC (Cutter) 84.91 86.3 7 6 / 85.71% 0 / 0.00%

Source: http://www.brooksbaseball.net

Three shutout innings from Colon gave the Yankees a chances to slowly chip away at the Orioles lead, but a defensive play by Joba Chamberlain in the seventh proved to be the real turning point. Upon entering the game with one out and runners on first and third, Chamberlain threw an errant pitch to Mark Reynolds that skipped past Russell Martin. Pinch runner Felix Pie bolted for the plate, but the ball kicked back to the Yankee catcher. As Pie and Chamberlain converged at home, the right hander received the throw from Martin and blocked Pie from the plate with his right leg. After recording the out at home, Chamberlain then struck out Reynolds with a 96 mph fastball to escape the jam.

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Buck Showalter’s new and improved Orioles left Yankee Stadium with the same old result: a loss.

Arod's first inning home run gave the Yankees a lead they never relinquished (Photo: Getty Images).

One pattern from past seasons that didn’t hold, however, was the performance of A.J. Burnett. Over the first two innings, the Yankee right hander struggled with his command and mechanics, but managed to pitch around trouble in each frame without surrendering a run. Instead of collapsing in the face of adversity, as had become epidemic in 2010, Burnett rebounded after his rough start to retire 13 of the next 15 hitters before running out of gas in the seventh.

Aside from his ability to overcome early setbacks, the most remarkable thing about AJ Burnett’s fast start has been the evolution in his pitching repertoire. According to Burnett, he threw 16 changeups in the game, or 14% of all pitches. Entering the game, Burnett had thrown a changeup 9.7% of the time, indicating that he is slowly gaining confidence in the pitch. For perspective, Burnett has never thrown more than 3.5% changeups in a full season as a Yankee, so if the right hander can continue to develop the pitch, his margin for error should increase.

Evolution of A.J. Burnett’s Changeup

Year Percentage Average Speed
2002 5.1% 83.9
2003 7.7% 83.2
2004 4.7% 87
2005 9.9% 85.9
2006 4.2% 88
2007 7.1% 88.1
2008 0.5% 86.8
2009 3.1% 87.8
2010 3.5% 88.4
2011 11.3% 88.4

Source: fangraphs.com and brooksbasell.net

The Yankees entered the game with several key figures in the lineup slumping, but Orioles’ starter Chris Tillman provided an early cure. In 1 2/3 innings, the tall right hander surrendered six runs on nine hits, including a first inning three-run homer to Alex Rodriguez’ and a two run double to Robinson Cano. More importantly, however, the first two innings also featured two base hits by Derek Jeter and Mark Teixeira. For Jeter, the pair of safeties helped move him into a tie with Barry Bonds for 31st place on the all-time list, while Teixeira’s two hits helped break a 0-18 slide that started to reintroduce whispers about the first baseman’s notoriously slow starts.

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