Results tagged ‘ Angels ’

Home Opener Thrills and Chills

F-18 Navy Hornets, gigantic American flags, player introductions, the Mayor and…

Kermit the Frog!

All the wonderful elements of the Yankees’ home opener this afternoon against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. What sweetened the whole deal? A 5-0 shutout of the Halos behind a brilliant outing from new Yankee Hiroki Kuroda.

The Japanese-born starter twirled an absolute gem, tossing eight-plus innings while not allowing a run. Kuroda allowed just five hits, walked two, and struck out six.

Talk about a fine way to introduce yourself to the Yankee faithful.

Kuroda probably would have finished the game had he not given up a leadoff infield single to Bobby Abreu in the top of the ninth, but he was at 109 pitches, therefore gave way to David Robertson.

Robertson got Albert Pujols to ground into a 6-4-3 double play before fanning Kendrys Morales for the final out.

Kuroda and Robertson were backed by a solid amount of run support, started by a bases-clearing double off the bat of Nick Swisher in the bottom of the first. The two-base hit plated Alex Rodriguez, Robinson Cano, and Mark Teixeira.

Up 3-0 in the bottom of the third, Rodriguez added a run with one swing. The slugging third baseman crushed a leadoff home run deep to centerfield, a shot that landed in the netting above Monument Park. With that homer, A-Rod tied his former Seattle Mariner teammate Ken Griffey, Jr. for fifth place on the all-time home runs list with 630 career round-trippers.

Curtis Granderson put the icing on the cake with a screaming line drive bullet home run over the right field wall in the fifth. Granderson’s solo blast gave the Yanks all the offense they needed to put the Angels away and boost their win streak to four.

Analysis:

Hiroki Kuroda

The Yankees couldn’t have asked for more out of their number two starter. The bullpen had thrown 11.1 innings in the final two games the Bombers played in Baltimore, and after an off-day yesterday, the relief corps basically received another day of rest.

Length was key, and Kuroda gave the Yanks more than enough.

It was a nice rebound start for Kuroda, having given up six runs in 5.2 innings in Tampa Bay last Saturday. He used his fastball to his advantage and his slider was dancing all over the strike zone.

Not even the mighty Albert Pujols could figure Kuroda out.

He didn’t utilize his split finger much, but he didn’t need to; he neutralized the strong hitters like Pujols and Morales without giving an inch.

In Japan, the best pitcher on the staff wears the number 18. Kuroda chose to wear number 18 upon his arrival in the Bronx and today he earned the right to wear that number. A crackling fastball, a moving slider, six K’s against a deep Angels’ lineup, and a win – that’s enough to sell me on him.

Now at 1-1 on the year, he will look for his next win Wednesday at home vs. the Minnesota Twins.

Alex Rodriguez

Manager Joe Girardi chose to bat Alex Rodriguez third in the lineup today. Having only collected three hits in the first five games of the season without knocking in a run or hitting a homer, it was clear A-Rod needed to move from the cleanup spot on account of lack of production.

All that changed today. The move clearly had an impact.

A-Rod went 3-for-4 this afternoon and belted his first home run of the year, a bomb that landed in Monument Park – not a cheap homer.

With the home run, Rodriguez tied his old buddy Ken Griffey, Jr. for fifth place on baseball’s all-time home runs list. It was A-Rod’s 630th career homer. He also raised his batting average from .174 to .259.

That’s the beauty of baseball: one day can turn everything around.

Nick Swisher

The Yankee right fielder is becoming a valuable asset to the team in the early-going. Nick Swisher has reached base in every game this season. He’s hit safely in six games and in the one game he didn’t reach base by way of a hit, he drew two walks.

Last Saturday against the Rays, it looked as though the Yankees were done in the ninth when Swisher stepped up to the plate. He proceeded to cream the ball for a home run to keep the Yankees alive, although they eventually lost 8-6.

In the series finale at Camden Yards vs. the Orioles, Swisher came up huge with what proved to be the game-winning home run, a two-run blast that gave the Bombers a 6-4 lead they held onto for the victory.

Today Swisher had the huge double in the first to clear the bases and give the Yankees an early lead and a ton of momentum.

So far this year Swisher has two homers, nine RBIs, has seven hits, has drawn five walks, and has scored three runs.

If there is a Yankee hero at this moment, it’s Swisher. Right now, he can do no wrong.

Honorary First Pitch

A special dignitary tossed out the honorary first pitch this afternoon: recently-retired catcher Jorge Posada. The Yankees stood behind the mound out of respect to their former teammate and watched as he threw out the ceremonial first pitch.

There was a lot of speculation as to what was going to transpire during this particular part of the Opening Day festivities. I had heard a rumor Posada was going to go to the mound, then one of his teammates would switch with him – and he would actually catch the honorary pitch rather than throw it, because that’s what he is most known for in Yankee lore.

But that didn’t happen.

While his teammates and family watched, Posada threw the first pitch to his dad who stood behind the plate to catch it. Following the first pitch, Posada emotionally hugged each of his Yankee friends.

It was a touching moment and Posada received a well-deserved standing ovation from the Yankee Stadium crowd.

Overall

It was a promising win for the Yankees. The Angels are the only team with a lifetime winning record against the Bombers and with the additions of Pujols and starter C.J. Wilson (who the Yankees will get a look at tomorrow afternoon) they only got stronger; more difficult to beat.

But they got beat today – stifled by a lights-out performance from Kuroda.

Curtis Granderson’s bullet home run marked the second year in a row he has gone yard in the Yankees’ home opener. He homered last year in the Yanks’ win over the Detroit Tigers at Yankee Stadium.

Phil Hughes toes the rubber tomorrow against the Angels, gunning for win number one on the year. Hughes threw the ball well in his first start on Sunday in Tampa Bay, but came up just short.

He will look to pick up his first win and roll the Yankees’ win streak over to five games.

…………………………………………………………………………………

On a side note, is anyone else growing tired of the promos for the new “3 Stooges” movie?

If the three stooges walked up to me and paid me $50 to see this abomination, I would hand them a $100 bill and simply say, “Let’s pretend this never happened.”

I understand it’s totally irrelevant to the Yankees, but the TV spot kept popping up during YES’ broadcast of the game this afternoon. I just know a bad movie when I see one – and I won’t be seeing the “3 Stooges.”

Breathing Down Our Necks

The 2012 MLB season is just about three weeks away. Players are currently in camp fighting for roster spots, getting in shape, and preparing for what will be a summer-long grind.

29 teams have the mentality of, “let’s put a good team together and have a fun season.”

The Yankees on the other hand have the mentality of, “when camp breaks we need to win the division, win the pennant, and then win the World Series.”

Good logic.

And as usual, it won’t be easy. A number of teams have bettered themselves during the off-season, and will pose huge threats to the Yankees bringing title number 28 home to the Bronx in October. A few teams will be breathing down the Yankees’ neck and they need to keep a sharp eye on them.

The top five are…

The Rays

When the Tampa Bay Rays first entered the league, they were almost a laughingstock; a joke that always finished at the bottom of the AL East. But in 2008 they came out of nowhere, capturing the division over the Yankees and the Boston Red Sox, and then going on to win the AL pennant.

Since then, the Rays have been pests; a team that won’t go away, no matter how many times a knockout blow is delivered to them. Last year they swiped the AL Wild Card from underneath Boston’s nose, and have been to the playoffs three of the last four years.

On offense this season, Tampa Bay might be under the microscope, at least a little bit. The Rays didn’t re-sign Johnny Damon in the off-season, but signed Luke Scott – who hit just .220 last year – to supplant him. After a year with the Chicago Cubs, Carlos Pena is returning to the Rays – and he only averaged .225 at the dish in 2011.

One of the only true powerhouses the Rays have at the plate is Evan Longoria, who only batted .244 last year, yet clubbed 31 homers.

With their seemingly thin offense, one might get to thinking, why are the Rays such a threat?

The answer is their starting pitching.

Number one man James Shields went the distance last year, tossing 11 complete games to lead the league in that category. He also threw four shutouts to lead the league, winning 16 games along the way.

Behind him is the pride of Vanderbilt, southpaw David Price. Last year Price compiled a 12-13 record; not the best numerically, but he was an All-Star and was coming off a season in which he won 19 games. He did prove to be a workhorse despite his uneven record, logging 224.1 innings and making 34 starts, which led the league.

Behind the 1-2 punch of Shields and Price is a supporting cast of excellent arms. 24-year-old Jeremy Hellickson is the reigning AL Rookie of the Year. He threw 189 innings in ’11, won 13 games, and notched an ERA of 2.95.

Jeff Niemann won 11 games last year, as did Wade Davis, giving the Rays five pitchers with double digit wins.

If a team has that kind of efficiency out of their starting five, they are going to be very tough to beat.

The Red Sox

Boston seems to be in a little bit of a state of flux. This off-season was busy in Beantown, as they let go of revered manager Terry Francona and signed on the ever-colorful Bobby Valentine to be their skipper. They allowed closer Jonathan Papelbon to walk, as he took his flame-throwing arm to Philadelphia to be the Phillies’ closer.

Two of their big-ticket starters, John Lackey and Daisuke Matsuzaka, have undergone Tommy John surgery. Lackey will miss the entire 2012 season and Dice-K will be out until at least June or July, leaving the Red Sox with Josh Beckett and Jon Lester as their top starters.

Other than Beckett and Lester, the Red Sox have a ton of questions marks as far as their rotation in concerned. How will Daniel Bard make the transition from the bullpen to the rotation? Is Clay Buchholz going to perform at a high level?

Will Felix Doubront be a factor? What about Alfredo Aceves, who has had back problems in the past?

The starting pitching is not the only part of the team under scrutiny. Boston signed Andrew Bailey to replace Papelbon in the closer role, and will insert former Yankee Mark Melancon into the setup spot, supplanting Bard.

How will Bailey handle closing in Boston as opposed to Oakland? Will Melancon rise to challenge of setting him up in close-game situations?

All of these questions won’t be answered until the season commences, but if the Red Sox score runs – and they are capable of scoring runs – it won’t be a problem. Although Boston got off to a horrendous start and a fatal finish, they still scored 875 runs, which was good enough to lead the majors in ‘11.

And they always seem to give the Yankees a hard time.

Last June Boston swept the Bombers in three games at Yankee Stadium, being led by Yankee killer David Ortiz. Big Papi smacked two homers in the series, and stirred up controversy when he flipped his bat in what many felt was a move to show up the Yanks.

Bottom line: Ortiz proved he still has it when it comes to making the Yankees’ lives miserable.

Along with Ortiz, 2008 AL MVP Dustin Pedroia will undoubtedly be swinging a hot bat this year, as will All-Star first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, who hit .338 last season with 27 homers and 117 RBIs.

Like the pitching, speedy left fielder Carl Crawford and butch third baseman Kevin Youkilis are question marks. Crawford is dealing with a wrist injury that many analysts say caused a decline in his numbers last year. Youkilis had season-ending thumb surgery last August.  

If Crawford and Youkilis come back – and return to form – the Yankees, and all American League pitchers for that matter, need to look out. These two sluggers have the potential to cause major problems for the Yankees when they are at 100%.

All things considered, the Red Sox will have a potent lineup. And no matter what anyone says, the Red Sox are always in the back of the Yankees’ minds. Always.

The Tigers

Last October the Detroit Tigers dashed the Yankees’ hopes and dreams of winning the World Series, eliminating the Bronx Bombers in five games in the ALDS. New York was forced to watch the Tigers celebrate on their soil, as the team from the Motor City proved to be too much for the Yankees to handle.

And it may have just gotten more difficult to beat them.

This off-season the Tigers signed power-hitting lefty Prince Fielder, who clobbered 38 home runs and drove in 120 runs last year. The hefty first baseman has twice averaged .299 at the plate (2009, 2011) and in 2007 Fielder led the National League in homers with 50.

It’s what you can expect from a big guy, but don’t let the size fool you.

Despite his heavy, 275-pound frame, Fielder is durable. He has played in all but one game since 2009, appearing in all 162 games in 2011 and 2009. He played in 161 games in 2010.

Fielder will join the likes of Miguel Cabrera and Delmon Young, two powerhouses who have already proven their worth in Detroit. Last season Cabrera led the league in doubles (48) and batting average (.344). Like Fielder he is also durable, as he appeared in 161 games in ’11.

Young dazzled in last year’s ALDS vs. the Yankees, punishing them with a .316 BA while clubbing three homers and posting a .789 slugging percentage. He collected six hits in the five game series and drew two walks, showing his worth when the stakes were high.

Detroit is obviously the front-runner to once again win the AL Central, and behind ace Justin Verlander – the reigning AL Cy Young winner and AL MVP – their chances of taking the central are high. The other teams in that division pose virtually no threat, and potentially the Yankees could face the Tigers in the ALDS again this year.

If a rematch is in the cards, the Yankees have to adjust accordingly. It didn’t work out for them in last year’s postseason.

The Rangers

It’s no secret that Texas is one of the prime teams to beat, as they have represented the American League in the World Series the past two years. The Rangers lost their number one starter C.J. Wilson to a division rival, the LA Angels, but something tells me it’s not going to matter. The Rangers’ pitching will still be top notch.

Colby Lewis won 14 games last year, as did Matt Harrison. If you were to ask manager Ron Washington, he would probably say both Harrison and Lewis possess the stuff to be number one aces.  Alexi Ogando went 13-8 last year with a 3.51 ERA and he’ll be another weapon in the Rangers’ rotation.

Throw Neftali Feliz and Yu Darvish into the mix, and you have quite a set of pitchers, although there are some questions surrounding Feliz and Darvish.

Feliz is making a transition from the bullpen to the rotation, so much like Bard in Boston, his performance depends on how well his stuff translates; how well he works being stretched out. If it goes well for him, and he throws as hard as he did working in the closer role, he’ll be a feared pitcher in the American League.

Like Feliz, Darvish is making a transition – but not from the bullpen. He’ll be making the switch from Japan to MLB. In his native country, Darvish was one of the finest and most revered pitchers. Last year alone Darvish struck out 276 batters over 232 innings of work, and won 18 games with a 1.44 ERA.

Those numbers can be deceitful, however.

Ask Matsuzaka, or Hideki Irabu, or Kei Igawa, or any pitcher who sparkled in Japan and fell apart here. Pitching in the states is much different than pitching in the Far East, so Darvish is basically going to be an enigma until we really see what he can do – and we won’t know what he can do until he logs some innings here in the good ol’ U.S.A.

As far as the Rangers’ offense goes, they won’t have many problems if Josh Hamilton stays healthy. Even if he spends time on the disabled list, they have plenty of power to make up for it. Mike Napoli, the Rangers’ catcher, smacked 30 homers and drove in 75 runs last year.

You know you’re going to be alright when you’re getting that kind of production out of the catcher spot.

Along with Hamilton and Napoli, there’s Ian Kinsler, Nelson Cruz, Elvis Andrus, and Michael Young – a perfect combination of veteran and youthful offense.

A message to the Yankees: when you’re in Texas, look behind you. ‘Cause that’s where the Rangers are going to be! (I couldn’t resist the cheesy/obscure Walker, Texas Ranger reference).

The Angels

In recent times the Angels have almost had the Yankees’ number, being the only team with a lifetime winning record against the Bronx Bombers. LA’s pesky hitting coupled with their stellar pitching are going to make the Halos one of the best teams in the league this season, if not the best.

And it starts with one of their gigantic off-season acquisitions.

The biggest, obviously, is first baseman Albert Pujols. The slugging 3-time NL MVP signed with the Angels on Dec. 8 – and, as if LA wasn’t hard enough to beat already, they just got that much more difficult; that much deeper.

Pujols adds a surefire power bat to the lineup that already includes scrappy, young hitters like Howard Kendrick, Erick Aybar, Maicer Izturis, and Mark Trumbo. Former Yankee Bobby Abreu gives the Angels a veteran presence, as do outfielders Torii Hunter and Vernon Wells.

Last year LA scored 667 runs. Expect that number to go up in 2012.

Along with their strong offense, the Angels have stacked the deck as far as their pitching is concerned. As noted, the Halos snatched the Rangers’ ace C.J. Wilson over the winter, and he will join Dan Haren and Jered Weaver – who were both in double figures in the wins category last year. Haren notched 16 Ws while Weaver put up 18.

Ervin Santana sealed 11 wins last year with an ERA under four. If he does the same working in the back end of the Angels’ rotation this year, they are going to win a lot of games.

The Angels are pretty much the team that has it all; the complete package. If you were to ask me for my World Series pick, on paper, it would be the LA Angels.

But as Yankee Captain Derek Jeter always says, “on paper doesn’t win you ballgames.”

True. But the Angels look awfully dangerous, and have eliminated the Yankees from the playoffs twice, in 2002 and 2005. The last time the Yankees and Angels met in October (2009) the Yankees came out on top, beating the Halos in six games.   

They may need to do it again if they want to win number 28.

A Look Ahead to 2011 and the Top 10 of 2010

 

Happy New Year

Happy New Year to all!

I apologize for not blogging in quite awhile. I have been busy with work and the holidays set me back, so I haven’t really had a chance to do a lot of Yankee Yapping.

Since my last blog entry, Cliff Lee signed with the Philadelphia Phillies, going back to the city of brotherly love for his second tour of duty. Am I upset the Yankees didn’t land him?

Bye bye Andy? :(

Yes, but only because he was really their only option. Andy Pettitte is expected to retire any day now and looking at things objectively, the Yankees have about two and a half pitchers in their rotation: CC Sabathia, Phil Hughes, and A.J. Burnett, who counts as a half a pitcher.

I checked out the free agent starters on the open market. There’s not much to look at, unless you count Carl Pavano and Ted Lilly as top-notch pitchers–both of whom have already faltered in pinstripes in the past.

Bottom line: the Yankee rotation needs help. And soon. The bullpen? Well…

Yanks got Feliciano

Pedro Feliciano is coming across town from the Mets. Who knows how he will do, but he better pitch well. Kerry Wood is headed back to the Chicago Cubs, which upset me. He was probably the best part of our bullpen towards the end of last season, outside of Mariano Rivera.

Russell Martin came over from Joe Torre’s Dodgers, and hopefully he will exhibit better skills behind the plate (at least in terms of throwing out runners) than Jorge Posada, who has already been named the 2011 designated hitter.


Russell Martin is a new Yankee 

Posada lost his starting catcher job. Sad, because more likely than not, this is his last year as a Yankee.

Reportedly, the Yankees were talking to Johnny Damon about a possible return. I hope he does come back because I have always liked him. It was a mistake to lose him to Detroit in the first place and I hope a deal can be reached. He would definitely improve the lineup, because everywhere he goes, the team gets better.

I really don’t know what to expect for 2011. I know the Red Sox have certainly improved, adding Carl Crawford, Adrian Gonzalez, and Bobby Jenks–joining the already dynamic group of players the Red Sox have, like David Ortiz (who can still hit for power) Dustin Pedroia (pesky little punk) Kevin Youkilis (annoying, strong hitter) and J.D. Drew (who can’t stay healthy with any team but Boston).

Buster Olney already compared the 2011 Red Sox to the Yankee Dynasty teams of the late 1990s. 

As much as that scares me, it doesn’t make sense. They haven’t played a game yet. Who knows what kind of team chemistry the BoSox will showcase, and if they will click or stay healthy, or even pitch effectively. I mean, they haven’t even played a game yet.

On paper, they are the best team in the American League. But as Derek Jeter always says, “On paper doesn’t win you ballgames.”

Still, Boston scares me. Their off-season reminds me of what they did prior to 2007 and they went on to win the World Series that year. They missed the playoffs in 2006 and came storming back with a great off-season and a Championship year to follow.

Are the Red Sox already the winners???

I get the feeling they can do that again, as much as I hate to admit it. Boston is stacked.

But enough about that. Now that I have outlined some of the dreadful thoughts for this upcoming season, and in the spirit of the New Year, I’ll review the top 10 Yankee moments/plays of 2010.

10) CC Sabathia and Phil Hughes Flirt with No-Hitters

CC Sabathia (middle) and Phil Hughes (right) came close to no-hitters in 2010

2010 was definitely the year of the pitcher. Perfect games and no-hitters were thrown by the likes of Roy Halladay, Ubaldo Jimenez, Dallas Braden, Matt Garza, Edwin Jackson…and almost by Armando Galarraga, but we all know what happened there.

On April 10, CC Sabathia took a no-hitter into the eighth inning against the Tampa Bay Rays. Through 7 2/3 innings, Sabathia shut down the Rays’ potent lineup until Kelly Shoppach lined a sharp single into left field to break it up.

So close. But the Yankees won 10-0 and Sabathia picked up his first win of the year–his first of 21 wins.

Fast forward to 11 days later in Oakland and Phil Hughes on the hill.

The Yankees played the Athletics on April 21, and Hughes nearly tossed a no-no of his own. The 23 year-old righty stud pitched 7 1/3 innings before giving up a come-backer to Eric Chavez–a hit that caromed off Hughes himself. He ended the night with 10 strikeouts, a career-high for him. He only walked two batters.

Although he did not get the no-hitter, the Yankees once again prevailed, beating Oakland 3-1.

9) Opening Day at Yankee Stadium

Yankees get their rings

I feel especially biased towards this day, simply because I was there to witness it.

On April 13 the Yankees celebrated their 27th Championship with a ring ceremony and a game vs. the Los Angeles Angels. It was a glorious day and it meant a lot to me, spending it with my friends and family.


My cousin got a BP ball on Opening Day 

My cousin Thomas got a batting practice ball, the Yankees got their 2009 World Series rings, and I got a whole bunch of memories that will last for the rest of my life.

The Yankees beat the Angels, 7-5.

8) Comeback vs. Boston

Thames wins it!

May 17 was a memorable night for all Yankee fans.

Down 9-7 in the bottom of the ninth, Alex Rodriguez clobbered a game-tying home run off Yankee pariah/ Red Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon.

Marcus Thames came up later in the frame and crushed a walk-off home run deep into the left field seats to end the game. Yankees 11, Red Sox 9.

Papelbon walks off in shame, Thames walks off the hero. And the Yankee fans go home with smiles on their faces.

7) Grand Ol’ Days

10 Grand Slams--THAT's what's up!!!

The Yankees smacked 10 grand slams this season, more bases-loaded home runs in one season than I can ever remember.

Alex Rodriguez had three: May 14 vs. the Minnesota Twins, May 31 vs. the Cleveland Indians, and July 7 at Oakland. Rodriguez now has 21 career grand slams, and he will tie Lou Gehrig for most career grannies (23) if he hits two slams next season.

Jorge Posada crushed two grand slams this year: June 12 and 13 vs. the Houston Astros. Two grand slams in as many games–now that’s impressive.  

Robinson Cano also hit two: May 28 vs. the Indians and Aug. 22 vs. the Seattle Mariners.

Curtis Granderson smacked a granny in Baltimore against the Orioles on June 8.

On July 3, Brett Gardner crushed his first career grand slam at home vs. the Blue Jays, a game my friends and I were going to attend. We opted instead to make a trip to Cooperstown to visit the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.

I was however at Yankee Stadium on June 20, when Mark Teixeira clobbered a grand slam off Mets’ ace Johan Santana.

It’s safe to say the Yankees did a number on opposing pitching when the bases were loaded in 2010. What’s more, the Bronx Bombers won every game they hit a grand slam in.

6) Derek Jeter’s Inside-the-Park Home Run

Jeter slides in to complete his inside-the-park home run on July 22

On July 22, Derek Jeter rounded the bases all the way for an inside-the-park home run in the Yankees’ game against the Kansas City Royals. It was only his second career in-the-parker, and ironically enough, his first also came against the Royals.

One could argue it was not exactly the prettiest inside-the-park home run, because center fielder David DeJesus had a play on the ball. He could not come down with it however, and he crashed into the plexiglass in right-center field. Jeter caught a break and was able to motor all the way around to tie the game at three.

DeJesus injured himself on the play and was taken out of the game. If he hadn’t fallen down, Jeter may not have been able to complete the home run.

In any event, it was one of the coolest home runs of the year. The Yankees went on to beat the Royals that day by a score of 10-4.

5) Joe Torre vs. The Yankees

Look out, Joe.

Former manager vs. former team. Teacher vs. his students. Joe Torre vs. the Yankees.

In June the Yanks met the Dodgers for a three-game series during interleague play and for the first time since 2007, the Yankees saw their old skipper Joe Torre. It was an interesting weekend; a turning point in the Yankees’ 2010 season.

The Dodgers and Yanks rekindled their old rivalry and traded victories in the first two games. Los Angeles handed the Yankees a decisive 9-4 win in the second game while the Bombers slipped past the Dodgers 2-1 in the first game.

The rubber game looked to belong to the Dodgers, as they led 6-2 in the ninth with flamethrower Jonathan Broxton on the mound. The resilient Yanks would not have any of it, as they rallied to score four runs in the ninth to knot the game at six.

An RBI double by Robinson Cano, a two-run double by Chad Huffman, and a fielder’s choice by Curtis Granderson, and the Yankees are back in it.

Cano came up in the top of the tenth, belting a long two-run home run to left-center. The Yankees went on to win 8-6 and beat their former teacher, winning the series 2-1.

I cannot speak for the rest of the Yankee fans, but to me, it felt SWEET to beat Torre. Sweet.

4) Mark Teixeira’s Big Day in Boston

Teixeira blasted three homers vs. Boston on May 8

Once, twice, three times the “Tex Message.”  

The Yankees visited the Red Sox on May 8, beating them 14-3. It was one of those great days to be a Yankee fan, to say the least.

Mark Teixeira accounted for a large amount of the scoring, hitting three home runs and driving in five runs on a total of four hits. He scored three runs and became only the second Yankee in history to hit three homers in one game off Boston–second only to Lou Gehrig.

I can remember watching that game with so much joy. Anytime the Yankees embarrass the Red Sox on a Saturday afternoon Fox Game of the Week, it’s a good day.

What also made it more enjoyable was what happened afterward.

Me on the YES Network!

The YES Network hosted their “Extra Innings” postgame show, where they ask the audience to write in their thoughts, ideas, or comments. If they like them they use them on the show.

I noticed how Red Sox third baseman Adrian Beltre had eight errors to that point in the season, and it was only May 8. I wrote in a comment and it made it to TV. The YES Network analysts said my name on TV and discussed my comment on the show.

There could not have been a better way to cap off a big Yankee win over the Red Sox.

3) The ALDS

Pop champagne!

October of 2010 was certainly different than October of 2009. They ended in different ways, but began in the same fashion.

The Yankees swept the Twins in the ’09 American League Division Series and did the same in 2010. This year the Yankees did not have home field advantage and had to win two games at Target Field before coming home to clinch the division.

In all honesty, I thought this year might be the Twins’ moment; I thought it may have been time for the Twins to get over the hump and finally beat the Yanks in the playoffs.

No such luck.

Another year, another early exit at the hands of the Yankees for Minnesota.

Although the ALCS was painful–unbearably, absoluteLEE painful–to watch, sweeping the Twins was a great start to October. After the Yanks swept, I thought history would repeat itself yet again. Unfortunately the magic vanished to the Texas Rangers.

But nothing can take away the feeling of beating the Twins. It was a great feeling.

2) 600

Really?

Alex Rodriguez, one way or another, is going down in the history books. Whether or not people recognize him as the greatest hitter of all-time, or just another major leaguer who tried to cheat the system, he will always be known and remembered.

On Aug. 4 A-Rod crushed his 600th career home run–exactly three years to the day after he hit his 500th home run. He joined baseball’s “600 Home Run Club” with the likes of Barry Bonds, Hank Aaron, Babe Ruth, Willie Mays, Ken Griffey, Jr., and Sammy Sosa.

A lot of folks, namely the New York Daily News, were quick to judge Rodriguez’s home run as a tainted accomplishment. Many people and baseball fans believe that because Rodriguez admitted steroid usage in his career, the feat means nothing.

Me on the other hand…well, I believe it still means a lot. I have offered my opinion on steroids and do not condone drug usage. However, I believe it takes more than steroids to hit 600 home runs. Plenty of players who were on the juice never came close to 100 home runs, let alone 600.

I still consider it a great moment for A-Rod and a great moment for the Yankee organization.

1) The Game for the Boss and Sheppard


For Bob and The Boss 

On July 13 the Yankees lost their principle owner. I used to refer to George Steinbrenner as “The Godfather” of the Yankees, and this season he lost his life at the age of 80.

Steinbrenner was the longest tenured Yankee owner in team history and he died just two days after the Yanks lost their longtime public address announcer, the legendary Bob Sheppard.

On July 16, the Yanks’ first game following the All-Star break–and more importantly their first game after losing their Boss (and only their second game after losing Sheppard), they dramatically rallied back to beat the Tampa Bay Rays 5-4.

The night started off in emotional fashion. The team could barely hold in their tears and Jeter, our fearless captain, could hardly keep himself together as he addressed the crowd during the pregame ceremony. There was a two-minute period of dead silence during the ceremony, and not one Yankee fan made a peep.

All that was heard throughout Yankee Stadium during those two minutes: the whipping sounds of the flags blowing in the wind and a passing subway train. That’s how much respect Sheppard and Steinbrenner commanded.

Mariano Rivera placed two long-stemmed roses over home plate in remembrance of their fallen comrades.

The Yanks scuffled a bit during the game, giving the Rays a 4-3 edge heading into the eighth. Nick Swisher had other plans, crushing a game-tying home run in the bottom of the frame before recording the big game-winning hit in the ninth, a single which plated Curtis Granderson.

We win!!!!

Yankees win an emotional game for Sheppard and the Boss.     

Later in the season, Steinbrenner was honored with a plaque out in Monument Park. The Yankees invited many of their former players and dignitaries, including Joe Torre and Don Mattingly. Everyone filed out to the area behind centerfield and another ceremony was held unveiling the plaque on Sept. 20.

For George

Unfortunately the Yankees could not capitalize and win their 28th title the year of Steinbrenner’s passing. However, it’s important to remember that when he passed away, the Yankees were reigning champions.

It is only fitting that Steinbrenner went out a winner.

 

 

Well, that about puts a cap on 2010.

May 2011 bring many more great Yankee memories, and hopefully the 28th World Series Championship.

Pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training next month!

The Joke’s on Washington, Sabathia, and Price

 

2010 MLB Awards. What a joke.

“What do a Momma Bear on the pill and the World Series have in common?…

No Cubs.”

I have heard some pretty funny jokes in my life. The 2010 Major League Baseball End-of-the-Year Awards, though, have probably been some of the funniest jokes I have heard over the last couple of days.

To begin with, Ron Gardenhire of the Minnesota Twins was named the American League Manager of the Year yesterday. It marked the first time Gardenhire won the award and he won it because…um…why?

I don’t have an answer. He won it because the Twins took on and defeated a weak A.L. Central? He won it for going 2-8 over the last 10 games of the season?

2010 AL Manager of the Year. Hahahahahaha!!!!!! That's a good one.

Or maybe the Twins’ skipper won the award for getting booted in the first round of the playoffs for the fifth consecutive time. Do any one of those reasons make any sense?

I thought not. In reality they gave the award to the wrong Ron.

The Texas Rangers produced the best manager in the A.L.; no questions asked. Ron Washington took his team to the World Series for the first time in their franchise history. To get there, they beat a potent Tampa Bay Rays team in the American League Division Series as well as the defending champion New York Yankees in the ALCS.

In addition to that, Washington managed Texas past the Los Angeles Angels, a team that is almost locked in every year to win the AL West. Los Angeles had won the West three straight years entering 2010, but Washington and the Rangers did not let it happen again this year.

The REAL Manager of the Year

Apparently that is not worth anything in the voters’ eyes. Instead they gave the award to the Twins’ skipper, who although is good, clearly did not deserve it. I do not wish to take anything away from Gardenhire, but Washington was the logical choice.

So the writers made a boo-boo. You wouldn’t think they would do it again in a matter of one day, right?

Wrong.                                                                                                    

Today it was announced that Felix Hernandez of the Seattle Mariners won the American League Cy Young Award.  The 24 year-old right-hander went 13-12 with a 2.27 ERA and 232 strikeouts in 2010.

13-12 and he won the Cy Young. Excuse me for a second…

(Laughs uncontrollably)

OK, I’m back.


You've got to be kidding me.  

I had every expectation that either CC Sabathia of the Yankees or David Price of the Rays would win the Cy Young this year. I understand Hernandez had a great ERA, the lowest among A.L. pitchers, in fact. But I truly feel that it comes down to which pitcher is the most valuable to their team.

After all, the award does say MOST VALUABLE PITCHER on it.

MV Pitcher. Not pitcher w/ the best ERA.

Was Hernandez valuable to the Mariners? Perhaps yes, but look at the team in question. By the All-Star break, were they even playing for anything? Does the fact that they were out of the playoff race long before the season ended mean anything to any of the voters?

I guess not, so the joke is on me.

Yet, I think it should. Sabathia and Price pitched like studs under extreme pressure in a heated pennant race down the stretch and into the final week of the season. Hernandez has never been in that type of situation–needing to win in order to keep his team alive.


The two most deserving candidates.There are many who are currently arguing that wins do not mean anything; that Hernandez did not receive a great deal of run support and his overall individual stats were far superior to the rest of the candidates.

I understand the run support argument. I get the idea regarding individual stats. But please, do not try to sell me on the idea that wins mean nothing. I am not buying it. Winning is the whole reason the game is being played, isn’t it? Why would you not consider the most important thing when making a decision on who wins the Cy Young Award?

Sabathia won 21 games. Price won 19. Hernandez won 13. And in my mind, that’s how the Cy Young Award should have played out:

Sabathia wins it. Price is the runner-up. Hernandez comes in third.

And believe it or not, the fact that I thought Sabathia should have won it has nothing to do with the fact that I am a Yankee fan. In my mind, he was just the most valuable to his team–a team that competed in a division where it was anybody’s to win. The Yankees, Rays, and Red Sox were all fighting for the AL East up until September whereas the Mariners were cooked by the middle of July.

No pressure whatsoever on Hernandez. But with every pitch up until the last day of the season, there was enormous pressure on Sabathia and Price. I’m sure both of them had the mentality of, “If I don’t pitch well, we won’t win. If we don’t win, we are not winning the division.”

There’s no telling what was running through their minds every time they took the ball.

Hernandez could have taken the ball and potentially thought to himself, “Well, if I don’t win it’s not a big deal. We are going to finish in last place anyway, so it’s not like it matters.”

There’s a huge difference in that regard in terms of mindset.

Last year, it was a little difficult for me to accept Zack Greinke winning the award. But there were a lot of variables to consider. For one, he won more than 15 games and was at least eight games above .500 (at 16-8). He also overcame anxiety-ridden circumstances, something that I know (first-hand) is difficult to deal with.

Zack Greinke overcame obstacles to get to the Cy Young.

And much like Hernandez, Greinke had the lowest ERA in the A.L.

Was Greinke on a particularly strong team? No, not at all. However his overall record and what he went through off the field to get himself back to prominence certainly means something. I would hope the writers took that into consideration when they voted for him last year.

In 2007 when Sabathia won it for Cleveland, I didn’t believe the right man won it. To this day, I still feel Josh Beckett was the best pitcher that year (and I am NOT a fan of his, so that really says something right there!) Beckett won 20 games, and as the ace of the Boston pitching staff he led the team to a championship. Again, he was the most valuable pitcher.

Should have won it in '07

Sabathia won 19 games and helped lead the Tribe to the postseason. Yet when it came down to nut-cutting time, Beckett was the man who got the job done. He was clearly more dominant than Sabathia when it mattered.

I’d really like to know why the writers voted Hernandez the winner this year. I am still mind-boggled by the whole thing. Seriously, I mean I am really stunned.

Why don’t wins matter to anyone anymore?

When did the idea of being a valuable commodity to the team become obsolete?

Why is everyone caught up in ERA, WHIP, and IP?

Why is a guy who just barely made it over .500 this year our Cy Young Award winner?

What were the writers even thinking when they made this decision?

I guess I’ll never know. What I do know is that if I ever make the Baseball Writer’s Association, I intend to consider wins and how valuable the pitcher was as the most driving aspect of the Cy Young Award. I’d certainly never give a first-place vote to a player who was one game above .500, that’s for sure.

Thief.

So on that note, congrats “King Felix.” You succeeded in winning an award that (in my eyes) you did not truly deserve. At all. Apologies to Mr. Sabathia and Mr. Price, both of whom were robbed of the Cy Young Award by a bunch of writers who don’t even think about winning, the whole reason baseball, or any game for that matter, is played.

Ron Gardenhire: 2010 A.L. Manager of the Year.

Felix Hernandez: the 2010 A.L. Cy Young Award winner.

Those aren’t award-winners. They are punch-lines.

ALDS Game Three

 

The ALDS is here.

Break out the brooms, the Swiffer Wet Jets, the dust pans, the mops…whatever cleaning device you prefer. Tonight, the Yankees beat the Minnesota Twins by a score of 6-1, completing a three-game sweep in the American League Division Series.

The Yanks will now vie for the A.L. pennant against either The Texas Rangers or Tampa Bay Rays.

Another sweep of the twins in the ALDS!The story of the night offensively was the work of Marcus Thames and Nick Swisher. Already up 2-0 in the bottom of the fourth, Thames blasted an opposite-field home run, a shot that landed in the right field stands. It marked Thames’s first career postseason home run and it put the Yanks up 4-0.

 


Marcus Thames clubbed his 1st career playoff home runSwisher followed suit in the bottom of the seventh with a solo home run, his second career postseason round-tripper, striking the proverbial nail in the Twins’ coffin.

Jorge Posada started the Yankee scoring in the bottom of the second with an RBI single, knocking in Robinson Cano. Mark Teixeira followed with an RBI single of his own in the bottom of the third to score Swisher, giving the Yankees their early 2-0 lead.

After Thames’s home run in the fourth, Curtis Granderson scored on a sacrifice fly by Brett Gardner, after stealing second and reaching third on an error by catcher Joe Mauer.

Phil Hughes made his first postseason start for the Yankees and he looked as sharp as a brilliantly crafted katana. Hughes tossed seven strong innings of work and gave up no runs on four hits. The 24 year-old right-hander only issued one walk and struck out six batters on his way to a win.

Hughes was a stud on the mound

The only blemish on the Yankee pitching was an RBI single off the bat of Orlando Hudson, which plated Danny Valencia in the top of the eighth off reliever Kerry Wood. With one out and the bases loaded, Yankee skipper Joe Girardi summoned Boone Logan and David Robertson to record the last two outs.

Logan and Robertson delivered, escaping the frame without another run allowed.

Mariano Rivera closed it down in a non-save situation, tossing a perfect ninth inning to secure an ALDS victory.

The Championship Series will begin on Friday, Oct. 15.

 


Bring on the ALCS!!!! 

 

 

Nick Swisher celebrates the Division title

It should comes as no surprise to me that the Yankees won this series. I’ll admit, I was somewhat skeptical coming into this year’s ALDS, simply because of what the Twins had going for them.

I stated in the preview that they had a tremendous record at home (53-28 at home, which I believe was the best in the A.L.). With home field advantage, I never would have guessed that the Yankees could take two from the Twins at Target Field.

In addition to home field advantage, I thought the Twins may have been able to handle Andy Pettitte, being that he had not won a game since July 8. However, Pettitte came up huge in Game Two and was arguably more effective than CC Sabathia in Game One.

I also made mention of Alexi Casilla, Denard Span, and Michael Cuddyer, all of whom I imagined would come up with timely hits in big spots.

Not even close.

Aside from Cuddyer’s Game One, two-run homer, they were ghosts.

I just do not have an answer. The Twins must be perplexed and probably frustrated. I guess they just weren’t meant to beat the Yankees. It’s not as though they have a bad team, either; I think that’s why manager Ron Gardenhire is so confused.

This season, Minnesota was able to beat out a competitive Chicago White Sox team and a fairly resilient team in the Detroit Tigers (at least up until late July-early August). They captured the A.L. Central for the second consecutive year and just could not maintain their bearings when the calendar reached October.

I thought that maybe the Twins could quell their postseason demons, meaning the Yankees. In my head I drew a comparison between the Twins this year and the Yankees last year. The Bombers just could not beat the Angels in the past, as they had been eliminated by them twice (2002, ’05).

Could the Twins, with a number of things finally working in their favor, beat the Yankees in the playoffs, the way the Yankees finally beat the Angels in the playoffs last year? Could the Twins, who just opened their new Stadium, win it all in their first season in their new Stadium the way the Yanks had last year?

No. It could not be done. The Twins fell victim to the almighty Yankees for the fourth time.

A clean sweep.

 


Pop the champagne! 

Inside the Series

·         The Twins were .111 in the ALDS with runners in scoring position. The Yankees hit .360 with men on second and third.

 

·         Curtis Granderson hit .455 in the ALDS, his first postseason series in pinstripes.

 

·         The Twins have now lost 12 consecutive postseason games. Nine of those 12 losses have come at the hands of the Bronx Bombers.

 

·         With his RBI single in the second inning tonight, Jorge Posada passed Mickey Mantle for ninth place on the postseason RBIs list.

 

·          Capturing the win in Game Two, Andy Pettitte now has 19 career postseason wins. No other pitcher in baseball history has as many.

 

·         Before Game Two of the ALDS, Twins’ manager Ron Gardenhire burned his uniform from Game One. Well. That didn’t work.

 

·         Heading into Game Two, lefties were hitting .292 off Carl Pavano. Lance Berkman hit a home run and a double off Pavano…from the left side of the plate.

 

·         Mariano Rivera now has 41 postseason saves and 600 all-time in his career (including the playoffs). Brad Lidge is second on baseball’s all-time postseason saves list with 16.

 

·         Rivera now also owns an all-time postseason ERA of 0.72.

 

·         The Yankees outscored the Twins 17-7 in the ALDS.

 

·         Phil Hughes picked up his first postseason win as a starter. He previously won a playoff game against the Cleveland Indians in 2007, coming on in relief of an injured Roger Clemens.

 

·         All-Star catcher and 2009 A.L. MVP Joe Mauer registered no RBIs in the ALDS.

 

·         Mark Teixeira led the Yankees in RBIs with five for the ALDS. Granderson knocked in four runs and Posada drove in three.

 

·         The Yankees became the seventh MLB franchise to win a World Series and then open the next postseason series with a sweep. The last time the Yankees accomplished the feat was 1998-1999, when they beat the Texas Rangers in the ALDS.

 

 

Once again, the ALCS will start on Friday Oct. 15 in either Tampa Bay or Texas, pending the outcome of the Rays vs. Rangers series. According to reports, Girardi will meet with his coaching staff to discuss the pitching rotation for the ALCS, needing to decide whether or not to utilize a three or four man rotation.

It all depends on A.J. Burnett’s focus and confidence level.

But that’s another story for later on in the week. Right now, the Yankees can rest knowing they will once again compete for a chance at their 40th American League pennant; they have another chance to once again represent the A.L. in the World Series.   

Rays? Rangers? We’ll soon find out. As for tonight…

I cannot say anything to the Twins. Residents of St. Paul and Minneapolis are probably shaking their heads right now, wondering what they need to do to beat the Yankees; what can they do to finally get over the postseason hump.

And maybe, just maybe…Twins fans are wondering if there’s even an answer.

I certainly do not have one.


Twins can't beat the Yankees. Plain & simple. 

Was Javier Vazquez Worth It?

Last December the New York Yankees made a trade to get a number four starter. Only using three pitchers in the postseason, and unsure of who was going to be the number five man, they got it done.

 

So long Melky Cabrera. Hello (again) Javier Vazquez.

 

 


Javier Vazquez returned to the Yankees this year 

Boasting a 15-10 record in 2009 with a minuscule 2.87 ERA and 238 strikeouts, some people were happy with the move. I, on the other hand, was not a proponent of this trade from the get go, remembering how poorly he had performed in his first stint in pinstripes. 

 

Vazquez, a member of the Yankees in 2004, was the losing pitcher in Game 7 of the 2004 American League Championship Series, surrendering the infamous grand slam to Johnny Damon–a blast that basically put the Yankees away.

 

Vazquez picthed in the Yankees' losing effort in the 2004 ALCS 

 

Back in pinstripes, Vazquez made his first start of 2010 on April 9. What happened? He picked up right where he left off in ’04 and got rocked. He tossed 5 2/3 innings, was charged with eight earned runs on eight hits, walked three, and struck out five.

 

Not the way he wanted to start the season, I’m sure.

 

His second start was a little better, but Vazquez still was not good enough to win. Against the Angels on April 14, he tossed 5 1/3 innings and gave up four earned runs on six hits. He walked two and struck out four. It certainly was not his best start, but it was a step up from his first.

 

 


Roughed up by the Rays.. 

Last Tuesday night in Oakland he got his first W of ’10 beating the Athletics in a 7-3 Yankee win. This time Vazquez made it through 5 1/3 innings, and gave up three runs on six hits. He walked three and fanned six.

 

Then we came to today…

 

Just when it seemed Vazquez was heading in an upward direction in terms of his pitching, he backpedaled and collapsed. He did not make it past the fourth frame, only giving the Yanks 3 2/3 innings of work. He served up five runs on five hits, walked three and struck out three. Not to mention he coughed up a three-run lead.

 

His pitching led to the Yankees’ first series loss of 2010, as they dropped two games out of three this weekend to the Halos. Yes–totally the opposite of cool.

 

 


Vazquez only pitched 3 2/3 innings today 

Right now, Vazquez is the weakest link on the Yankee pitching staff. He has not pitched past the sixth inning this season and has given up 20 earned runs in all 20 innings he has thrown. He has failed to locate with his pitches and has been hanging too many breaking balls.

 

Bobby Abreu was a clear example of that today.

 

In the third inning, the former Yankee blasted a solo home run to right off Vazquez, a bomb hit off a terribly executed breaking ball. Vazquez threw 78 pitches, 47 of which were strikes.

 

If you ask me, of those 78 pitches, probably 38 or 39 of them were off-speed. Vazquez has shown no faith in his fastball. It seems he overthrows his fastball too much and subsequently misses the strike zone because of it. He has issued eight walks this season, indicating his location problem.

 

So far this trade has not paid off and it’s looking like a bad one. I’m not concerned with his numbers from last year, his numbers from 2004, or any other year for that matter. What does matter is 2010 and how unproductive Vazquez’s outings have been.

 

At this moment, we as Yankee fans have every reason to disapprove of the trade.

 

His next time out will come at home against one of his former teams, the Chicago White Sox, on Saturday May 1. I am going to give Vazquez a month. If he is still struggling as mightily as he is now by June 1, I am going to go on a search for a starting pitcher to replace him.

 

 


Could Vazquez be gone before he gets setlled in New York? 

I will look far and wide; I will look at every stat from every Yankee minor league hurler, I will glance at every team in baseball who might need Vazquez–while at the same time finding a suitable replacement; a pitcher putting up numbers in accordance to a good number four starter.

 

Honestly, at this point in the season, the Yankees could probably throw their bat boy out there and he could do better than Vazquez. He is too inconsistent and does not seem to be moving in the same direction of the team. He is the only starter in the rotation with a losing record.

 

CC Sabathia (2-1), A.J. Burnett (2-0), Andy Pettitte (3-0), Phil Hughes (2-0)

 

Vazquez is now 1-3.

 

Before the season began, an analyst said Vazquez has the stuff to be a number two pitcher. While that may or may not be true, he is not showing that right now. He is only showing that he cannot do the job he was brought on board to do.

 

We’ll see what he is made of. He has until June 1. Then, if he has shown no improvement, I say the Yankees ought to dump him off. It’s not like he is under contract for 2011 as it is.

 

 

Other Notes

 

–Marcus Thames has got nothing on Brett Gardner in left field. He started this afternoon, only to misplay a ball out in left. There are some big guys who can move around pretty well in the outfield (like Nick Swisher)

 

Thames is a big guy who can’t move around well. If he had caught the fly ball, it would have been a whole different game today. Thames only started because he supposedly “wears down left-handed pitching,” a Scott Kazmir (a lefty) started for the Halos.

 

Thames did have a hit and a run scored, but that misplayed ball hurt big time.

 

–The Yankees only have to play the Angels twice more this season: July 20-21 at home in Yankee Stadium. Thank God for getting them out of the way in April! They are too tough to be playing down the stretch.

 

–As mentioned before, the Yankees are 5-1 in their first six series this season. This past series was their first losing effort. Still, it’s not bad to have won five straight to begin the year. Good start!

 

–Robinson Cano was hit by a pitch in the second inning. Jorge Posada came up to bat right after Cano and launched a two-run homer.

 

Message to the 29 other teams in the MLB: you hit the Yankees, they will hit back!

 

Cano also homered in this game, clubbing his fifth of the year, and he now leads the Yankee team in long balls.

 

–Mark Teixeira needs to get off the interstate and start getting some hits. He did draw two walks today, but he is supposed to be a big threat to the other team’s pitching. Currently batting .119, he poses no threat right now at all.

 

Wake up, Tex!

 

right or wrong? 

 

–Speaking of Teixeira , I really don’t know how I feel about him ramming the catcher Friday night. I’m not sure if Teixeira did it because he got hit with a pitch before it happened, but whatever the case, he mowed him down.

 

It is part of the game and many runners coming hard into home plate do it, but I felt sorry for Bobby Wilson. It’s happened to the Yankees before, in spring training prior to 2008. Elliot Johnson of the Rays broke Francisco Cervelli’s wrist that way.

 

It’s dangerous! The league should consider regulating collisions somehow, if it’s doable.

 

Teixeira really got him good (giving Wilson a concussion and an ankle injury) but at least he apologized and felt some remorse for the hit. That is the type of personality Teixeira has, but if I were him, I’d watch out in July. The Angels might want some retribution.  

 

And Justin Tuck better watch out. If the New York Giants need a linebacker or a defensive end, Teixeira might be their man. That hit was football-esque!

 

–On their day off tomorrow, the Yankees will visit the White House in honor of their 2009 World Series Championship. Message to Joe Girardi: tell Obama to fix the economy, create jobs for hard-working Americans who need work, and that his health care bill is trash and should be thrown away.

 

I think it’s nice that the President recognizes the nation’s sports titles and invites the Champs to the White House. It’s been happening for years and years; I know Clinton and Bush both did the same thing.

 

–On Tuesday the Yankees go to Baltimore to play the Orioles for three games. Phil Hughes, CC Sabathia, and A.J. Burnett will start those three games, respectively.

 

–Right now the Yankees are 12-6, in second place in the AL East, a game behind the Rays who are 14-5.

ALCS Game 6

“If I can make it there, I’ll make it….anywhere.”

 

 


Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira, and Derek Jeter come together after the clincher 

Well, it may not have been as dramatic as 2003, when Aaron Boone slaughtered the game-winning home run in the bottom of the 11th inning of Game Seven of the American League Championship Series to beat the Red Sox, but I’ll take it.

 

Last night, the New York Yankees clinched the American League pennant by defeating the Los Angeles Angels 5-2 in Game Six of the ALCS and will now make their 40th World Series appearance.

 

For the first time in six years, we Yankee fans know what it’s like to be going to the fall classic. And it feels WONDERFUL!

 

As for ALCS Game Six…

 

Well, Yanks’ starter Andy Pettitte looked awesome in the first two innings, but ran into some trouble in the top of the third. Ex-Yankee Bobby Abreu knocked in the Angels’ first run in the frame with an RBI single to give the Halos a quick, 1-0 lead.

 

I loved Abreu when he was a Yankee (and I still love him) for that reason; in a key situation when the team needed a run, he could always deliver. And that hasn’t changed. Abreu is still one of the best timely hitters in the league and he showed it in the third inning of Game Six.

 

He could never play the wall very well, but I still think Abreu was probably the best right fielder the Yankees had since Paul O’Neill. I still love you, Bobby.

 

The Angels’ 1-0 lead didn’t last very long as the Yankees came storming back in the bottom of the fourth. (Now to be honest, I didn’t think the game was moving along nicely and up until the fourth really was not a good game. I actually turned the Giants/Cardinals game on for a little while (which didn’t end well) but eventually made my way back to the Yankees)

 

The Yankees had been leaving runners on base through the first three innings, but finally stopped it and broke through. With the bases loaded, Johnny Damon pounded out a two-run single to put the Yanks’ ahead.

 

Later in the frame, Alex Rodriguez drew a bases-loaded walk to score Derek Jeter, giving the Yankees a 3-1 cushion.

 

Pettitte cruised throughout the rest of the game, finishing the night with a quality start: 6 1/3 innings, one earned run on seven hits, a walk, and six strikeouts. Typical for Pettitte, who is probably the Yankees’ best big-game pitcher. He has given the Yankees length and quality in each of his three postseason starts.

 

Joba Chamberlain also lent a hand, tossing 2/3 of an inning after Pettitte departed without allowing a run. I have to say, Chamberlain has not been bad this postseason, save for Game Three when he gave up the go-ahead run, but other than that, he has been solid.

 

Joe Girardi was not messing around, however; in the eighth inning, he called on Mariano Rivera to get a six out save. In my opinion, it was probably the best thing to do. There might be some fans that disagree, but a two-run lead against the Angels in an elimination game…he had to go to Mo.

 

Girardi had taken so much heat for the pitching decisions he made in games three and five (three when he took David Robertson out for Alfredo Aceves; five when he left A.J. Burnett in after a leadoff single in the seventh inning with a two-run lead) so really he had to do it.

 

The Sandman actually scuffled a little bit in the eighth, much to my surprise. Rivera gave up a run on an RBI by Vladimir Guerrero, making it 3-2 in the middle of the eighth.

 

But some costly errors by the Angels (Howie Kendrick dropped a ball on a bunt by Nick Swisher and Scott Kazmir lobbed the ball over the head of Kendrick on yet another bunt by Melky Cabrera) allowed the Yanks to plate three more runs, holding a 5-2 lead over the Angels going into the top of the ninth.

 

Down by three runs, top of the ninth, facing Rivera…you pretty much do not stand a chance. See you next year, Angels.

 

 


Derek Jeter celebrates his seventh pennant, the Yankees 40th World Series appearance 

Rivera mowed down the Halos in the ninth and the Yankees celebrated their 40th pennant. The happiest feeling a team and their fans can have, other than winning the World Series.

 

Champagne spraying, glee on the faces of the Yankees, happiness, and a pennant. A great way to end the ALCS.

 

 

The ALCS at a Glance

 

 


The Yankees beat the Angels in 6 games in the '09 ALCS 

The Yankees’ 2009 ALCS win marks the 40th time they have won the pennant. The Yankees have made it to the World Series more than any other team in baseball. The Dodgers have the second-most World Series appearances, reaching the fall classic 21 times.

 

With their ALCS win, the Yankees have finally gotten past the Angels, who had beaten and eliminated them in the playoffs twice before (2002 and 2005–both of those were in the ALDS, however)

 

Andy Pettitte captured his 16th playoff victory in Game Six. He is now the all-time postseason wins leader, breaking the tie of 15 with John Smoltz.

 

Pettitte also has the most playoff innings pitched, tossing a mind-boggling 237 1/3 innings. Smoltz is also second to Pettitte on that list with 209 innings pitched.

 

With the Game Six win, Pettitte has now pitched in five games which have given the Yankees a postseason series victory. That sets a new record and he is of course in first place in postseason wins (16) starts (38) and innings (237 1/3)

 

CC Sabathia won the ALCS Most Valuable Player Award for his record of 2-0, ERA of 1.13 and his 12 strikeouts in the 16 innings he pitched in the final round before the World Series.

 

The Yankee ace only allowed nine hits over those 16 innings pitched and just three walks. The Bronx Bombers have won all three of Sabathia’s playoff starts.

 

Sabathia is the first MVP of the ALCS since Mariano Rivera, who earned the honor in 2003. Game Six winning pitcher (Pettitte) won the award in 2001.

 

The last time the Yankees won a Game Six of a championship series was in 2000 when they defeated the Seattle Mariners in Game Six of the ALCS.

 

The Angels committed nine errors in the ALCS. The Yankees committed three.

 

The Yankees outscored the Angels 33-19 in the championship round.

 

Alex Rodriguez had nine hits in the ALCS, including three home runs. Overall this postseason, he has 14 hits, five homers, and 12 RBIs.

 

This will be Rodriguez’s first career World Series appearance.

 

Rivera now has 37 career postseason saves, which is of course the most by any closer all-time. (I think it’s safe to say Mo has put the record so far out of reach no one is going to be able to look up at it, let alone break it!)

 

Rivera did give up a run in the eighth inning of Game Six–that marked the first time he has given up a postseason run at home since the 2000 World Series.

 

 

Well, Yankee fans. It has been an incredible season. From steroid scandals and spring training to the 22-4 loss to the Cleveland Indians in April; from walk-off wins, winning streaks, and pies in the face all the way through the glorious, victorious summer months.

 

The Yankees turned the dog days into days where the beat other teams like dogs.

 

From winning the AL East in front of the Red Sox at home to winning the AL Pennant in front the Angels at home. It has been a wild ride.

 

And it’s not over yet!

 

The Yankees will face the Phillies in the '09 World Series 

 

The Phillies present a huge challenge to the Yankees in the World Series. They are the best-of-the-best in the National League and they certainly aren’t a pushover. They have a potent lineup, with players like Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley, Ryan Howard, and Jayson Werth.

 

It’s not going to be easy, but hopefully it will be fun.

 

The Yankees did play the Phillies during inter-league play this year, losing two out of three to their World Series opponents May 22-24.

 

The Phils beat the Yanks 7-3 in the first game, but the Yankees edged them in game two with a dramatic comeback and a 5-4 walk-off win. Game three belonged to the Phillies, as they won 4-3, but the Yanks put up a good fight in that game; they tied the score when it looked like they had no chance.

 

The last time the Yankees and Phillies met in the World Series, the year was 1950. The outcome? The Yankees swept the Phillies in four games.

 

While I don’t think it will be a clean sweep in 2009, I have a good feeling the Yankees will win. I could picture the Yankees accomplishing something similar to what they did in the ALCS; possibly winning it all in six games.

 

 


The Marlins beat the Yankees in 6 games in the 2003 World Series 

The Yankees have a totally different team this year than they did the last time they reached the World Series in 2003. In fact, most of the players from the ’03 squad are gone and some are even retired!

 

The 2003 ALCS was our World Series that year. I really think the Yankees were so exhausted from those marathon games (and maybe the physicality and fight) with Boston and having the ALCS go to seven games that they didn’t stand a chance in World Series vs. the Florida Marlins.

 

The pitchers were worn out, the hitters were flat–2003 was not our year. But 2009…well, it could very well be our year, no questions asked.   

 

Whatever the case, things are looking up on this day and it is a beautiful day to be a Yankee fan. I am so proud and my heart is overjoyed that my team has reached the World Series and we may very well be the last team standing…

 

I will be back after Game One of the World Series with some thoughts, highlights and analysis.

 

Until then, Go Yankees!!!

 

By the way: Let’s do some real damage…! (No Phanatics were hurt in the making of this blog)

 

 


Will the Yankees whack the Phillies in the '09 World Series...? 
 

 

ALCS Game 3

Why oh why? That was all I could say after today’s game.

 

In another nail-biting ALCS game, the Angels beat the Yankees 5-4 in 11 innings. Not such a great day to be a Yankee fan, or me in general.

 

I’ll start with one of the most horrible decisions Joe Girardi has ever made. David Robertson was pitching FINE! WHY would he pull him for Alfredo Aceves??!!

 

 


Joe Girardi made a questionable decision in game three 

Robertson made two quick outs in the frame, knocking Juan Rivera and Kendry Morales down first. Then, for no apparent reason, Girardi came out and pulled Robertson for Alfredo Aceves, the same pitcher who blew the lead in the 11th inning of game two.

 

What was he thinking?

 

Aceves gave up a single to Howie Kendrick and then the eventual game-winner to Jeff Mathis, who ripped a double to end the game.

 

Talk about a punch in the gut.

 

I know for me personally, this game hurt. I had a horrible day today and I wanted the Yankees to pick me up with a win. This morning I had seen an ex-girlfriend of mine (which didn’t make me happy) and later on during my ride home, another car almost hit me on the highway.

 

So for me, it was one of those “F.M.L. days.”

 

 


The Angels won game three of ALCS 

As for the good that came out of the day/game, I was pleased with a number of things the Yankees were able to do. First off, Derek Jeter. The Captain took Jered Weaver deep for a leadoff homer in the first inning, getting the Yankees off on the right foot.

 

It was Jeter’s 20th career postseason home run and he is now two behind Bernie Williams on the all-time postseason home runs list. The Captain is just doing his thing, that’s basically it. He knows how to perform when it matters and his leadoff homer was just another example of that.

 

 


Derek Jeter hit his 20th potseason homer in game three 

And then there was Alex Rodriguez, who continued his assault on October with another home run in the top of the fourth. It was his fifth career home run off Weaver and his second homer in the ALCS.

 

A-Rod has been awesome; a clutch hitter and a player who is helping to carry the team.

 

Alex Rodriguez has five homers off Jered Weaver 

 

Johnny Damon finally broke through with a postseason homer, crushing his first ’09 playoff home run in the fifth, again off Weaver. The homer gave the Yankees a 3-0 cushion.

 

Weaver was pulled after five innings because the Yankees hit him so hard; I had actually said, “The Yankees turned the dream Weaver into a nightmare.”

 

It made sense; they really gave him a hard time.

 

I was also happy with Andy Pettitte, who tossed a quality start for the second straight game. The lefty went 6 1/3 innings and gave up three runs on seven hits. He walked one and struck out two.

 

Really he only made two mistakes, one to Kendrick and one to Vladimir Guerrero. Kendrick took Pettitte deep in the fifth while Vladdy touched him up in the sixth. Other than that, I was happy with his performance.

 

I also have to hand it to Mariano Rivera, who was like Houdini being able to escape a huge jam in the 10th inning. The Angels had the bases loaded and one out, but with some help from Mark Teixeira was able to get out of it unscathed.

 

Now…back to the bad.

 

As I noted before, Girardi’s decision just did not make any sense whatsoever. Robertson’s numbers against Kendrick were barely anything (1-for-2 lifetime with one strikeout) so why in the love of God would you pull him? Especially since Robertson made two quick outs.

 

It made no sense. What was he thinking? John Flaherty of the YES Network said “Girardi has some explaining to do.” He has got that right.

 

Another unfortunate occurrence for the Yankees was their caught stealing in the eighth. Brett Gardner came in to pinch-run for Hideki Matsui, but was thrown out by 11th inning’s hero Mathis. I have to hand it to the Angels–they had Gardner scouted and they executed a good play. It was just bad for us.

 

Jorge Posada came up next and smashed a solo home run. The Yankees could have had two runs on the round-tripper, but great job by Posada tying the game. It was a big time home run in a key situation and it kept the Yanks in the game.

 

Plus, that homer was Posada’s 11th career postseason long ball.

 

A lot of folks will probably be quick to destroy Joba Chamberlain, as he gave up the go-ahead run in the seventh. But in all fairness, Chamberlain had been very good in game two and in the ALDS, so I am not quick to jump on his back.

 

Phil Hughes gave up some runs in game two of the ALDS vs. the Twins and I don’t remember anyone jumping on him. So I will not blame Chamberlain for his hiccup. He gave up a run, it happens. Just hope it doesn’t happen much more.

 

I also have to point out Nick Swisher and Melky Cabrera. Is it just me, or are these two really not doing much of anything?

 

 


Nick Swisher and Melky Cabrera left 12 men on base in game three 

In today’s game, Swisher left five men on base while Cabrera stranded seven. That’s not very productive if you ask me; both of their bats are just asleep and they need to wake up if the Yankees plan on winning.

 

Teixeira hasn’t been hitting either, he needs to break out of his slump (he was 0-for-3 today with two strikeouts) but at least he made up for it a little bit with his defense. Like I said, he helped Rivera of that precarious situation in the 10th with his D, but like Swisher and Cabrera, his bat needs to come alive.

 

Not to make it seem like I am bashing Swish, Melky and Tex; all three have done wondrous things this season to make the Yankee offense click. But when they aren’t clicking, the Yankees do not win.

 

There’s only so much Jeter and A-Rod can do.

 

Well, it’s difficult to win extra inning games on the road, and just as the Angels were victimized by it in game two, the Yankees were today. But that doesn’t mean the series is over for the Bronx Bombers.

 

Tomorrow night, the Yankees will send CC Sabathia to the mound to pitch against Scott Kazmir. The Yankees’ ace will be starting on three days rest and it will be the first time he is taking the mound on three days rest this year.

 

I don’t think it will affect him; Sabathia has been so dominant all year, what’s another day of rest? I have a feeling he’ll go out and do as he’s been doing all year.

 

Well, it was a tough loss, but keep your heads up, Yankee fans. The series is not over. The way I see it, it’s only just begun. And the Yankees will still be playing with a lot of confidence tomorrow, especially with Sabathia on the hill.

 

I’ll be back after Game Four with more highlights and analysis.

 

Until then, Go Yankees!!!  

ALCS Game 2

Wow. It seems I have been saying that a lot throughout this postseason.

 

Once again mystique and aura visited the Yankees at their new home as the Bronx Bombers defeated the Angels 4-3 in 13 wild innings in Game Two of the American League Championship Series.

 

It was one of those marathon games that just carried on and on, and was seemingly never-ending, but the Yankees once again came out on top. The game began at 8:00. Five hours and 10 minutes later, it ended.

 

I had been saying all night that when the Angels made mistakes, the Yankees cashed in. It didn’t seem to be working both ways. And really the story of the 2009 Yankees at home: other teams cannot beat them in the seventh inning or later in a tied or one-run game.

 

Winning at home in the late innings has been the story of the Yankees’ season and with the win, the Yankees maintained home-field advantage in the ALCS.

 

Miscues and the Winning Play

 

 


 
 
The Yankees won a thrilling game two of the ALCS 

Game Two was defined by missed opportunities on both sides. In plenty of instances, both the Yankees and Angels had chances to score runs and make big innings.  The amount of men left on base was just absolutely ridiculous.

 

The Angels stranded 28 runners on base, eight of them left on by Vladimir Guerrero, who seemed to be striking out in key situation after key situation. He was free-swinging, and struggling greatly with runners in scoring position.

 

The Yankees left 20 men on base, missing so many chances to win late in the ballgame. Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez both missed chances to end the game past the ninth inning, but wound up stranding a combined five runners on base in what could have been game-winning situations.

 

Errors also became a problem for both teams.

 

Robinson Cano committed two errors, mishandling what looked like two easy, routine grounders. Derek Jeter also committed an error, which cost the Yankees a double play.

 

The Angels committed three errors in game one, and in game two they added two more to the list. Both were throwing errors, one on Chone Figgins, the other on Maicer Izturis.

 

In all fairness to both teams, the weather was a huge issue; playing in 47 degree weather and in the pouring rain is difficult any way you look at it.

 

But Izturis’s error cost the Angels big time.

 

In the bottom of the 13th, the game tied 3-3, and Jerry Hairston on first base after a leadoff single, Melky Cabrera tapped a grounder out to second. Izturis fielded the ball, trying to turn a double play. He gunned the ball toward Erick Aybar covering the base, but the ball sailed away on an errant throw, allowing Hairston to turn on the jets.

 

Hustling as hard as he could as the ball trickled in between short and third, Hairston scored the winning run. A long night’s journey into day complete and a 4-3 game two Yankee win.

 

“When he first hit it, I thought it would go through for a hit, Jeter told the press after the game. “You have to give Jerry a lot of credit for running hard.”

 

I know it would probably be classified as a walk-off win, but in reality it was more like a “run-off win.” One of the craziest, sloppiest games I have ever seen and the second walk-off Yankee win of the postseason (the first walk-off came in Game Two of the ALDS; Teixeira of course won the game with a home run)

 

Because he scored the winning run, Hairston ate the pie-in-the-face.

 

Mark that the 17th walk-off win for the Yankees in 2009 and the first time the Bombers won the game on an error since June 12 when Luis Castillo of the Mets dropped a pop up allowing Teixeira to score for a Yankee win.

 

Not to mention the Yanks are on a six-game winning streak, including the win in Tampa Bay on the final day of the regular season. 

 

Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez

 

Derek Jeter hit his 19th career postseason home run on Saturday night 

 

Cano started the Yankees’ offense in the game with an RBI triple to score Nick Swisher in the bottom of the second, but one of the two moon shots in the game came in the bottom of the third.

 

Jeter smacked a solo home run to right field to put the Yankees ahead, 2-0. It was his second home run this postseason and his 19th career postseason round-tripper.

 

He now sits by himself in third place on the all-time postseason home runs list, putting Reggie Jackson and Mickey Mantle behind him.

 

So now the all-time postseason home runs list looks like this: Manny Ramirez (29) is the all-time leader, Bernie Williams (22) is in second place, and Jeter (19) is now in third. Jackson and Mantle (18) are now tied for fourth place.

 

I don’t know if there has ever been a better hitter in the postseason than Jeter. But right now Rodriguez is pushing him.

 

 
Alex Rodriguez homered in the 11th to tie game two at three 

 

With the Yankees down 3-2 in the bottom of the 11th, Rodriguez came to bat against Halos’ closer Brian Fuentes. Quickly falling behind in the count to 0-2, A-Rod smashed a wall-scraping, solo home run to tie the game. It was his third home run this postseason and all three of his homers have tied the game in the seventh inning or later.

 

Rodriguez seems to have a flair for the dramatic these days, and as I said a couple weeks ago, I think he learned the Heimlich maneuver–he is not choking, he is coming up big time in clutch situations.

 

Rodriguez has now knocked in a run in each of his last six postseason games, dating back to the 2007 playoffs.

 

When A-Rod went down 0-2 in the count, I was thinking game three. I felt that if Rodriguez did not reach base or hit a homer, the Yankees were heading out to Anaheim with the series tied, 1-1.

 

Hitting behind Rodriguez were Freddy Guzman and Brett Gardner, both of whom are very speedy but have virtually no pop. Plus, they’re both rookies. But the veteran slugger Rodriguez came up huge, once again proving that he is exorcising his postseason demons.

 

Congrats to both Jeter and A-Rod. You are both amazing players and clutch postseason hitters. And perhaps one of the two could be ALCS Most Valuable Player. I wouldn’t bet against it!

 

A.J. Burnett and the Bullpen

 

 


A.J. Burnett tossed his second straight quality start in game two 

The Yankee pitching had a tough act to follow, what with CC Sabathia tossing eight strong innings of work in game one. But for the most part, A.J. Burnett held his own, tossing his second consecutive postseason quality start in game two.

 

The lanky right-hander went 6 1/3 innings and allowed two earned runs on just three hits. He walked two and struck out four.

 

In the first four innings of the game, Burnett was basically set on cruise control; his fastball was dancing all over the place and his breaking ball was exploding through the strike zone. Nine of the first 10 batters he faced saw first pitch strikes.

 

Once he got to the fifth, things got a little tight for Burnett, as he allowed two runs in the inning. Aybar knocked in a run with a single in the frame while Burnett tossed a wild pitch, allowing Aybar to score.

 

The fifth may have been little stiff for Burnett, yet he still was able to get out of the inning with limited damage and come out and toss a quick sixth inning. Burnett’s teammates were so proud of the performance he gave them.

 

“A.J. threw tremendous,” Jeter said after the game. “Pitching sticks out and ours was good. We missed a few opportunities but our pitching really picked us up.”

 

Burnett was also pleased with how the game played out and expressed his happiness with his team in the postseason.

 

“I’m just happy to be a part of something special,” he said to the media.

 

“I am happy I am a Yankee. Afterward I was thinking a lot about the wild pitch and I expanded a little too far. But we’ve been saying all year that we’re a team that doesn’t quit and we didn’t quit tonight.”

 

The Yankees have now won the last five games Burnett has pitched, including his final three starts of the regular season.

 

I have to say, although Burnett is wild, he is so effective. He hit two batters in the fifth and of course walked two in the game, but the fact that he is wild doesn’t make him any less good at times.

 

In the fifth, Burnett hit Kendry Morales in the inset of his back foot. Yet Morales almost swung at the pitch! Jose Molina actually had to appeal at third base to see if he went around. Even though he can lose it a little bit, he still throws even the best hitters off their offensive game.

 

Burnett kept his team in the game, but the Yankee bullpen also deserves a lot of credit for how they pitched.

 

The Yanks’ ‘pen (seven relievers were used) tossed 6 2/3 innings and gave up one run on five hits. Together they walked three and struck out six.

 

The Angels scored their run off the Yankee bullpen in the top of the 11th. Alfredo Aceves gave up an RBI single to Figgins to score Gary Matthews, Jr. That gave the Halos a 3-2 lead, but the Yankees quickly answered the run on Rodriguez’s homer in the bottom of the frame.

 

 


David Robertsin earned the win in relief, his second postseason victory 

Aside from that hiccup, the bullpen pitched very nicely. David Robertson, the Yanks’ eighth pitcher, was awarded the win. It marked his second postseason victory this year.

 

“Just to win that game…wow!” Robertson exclaimed after the win. “It was nerve racking, but I was happy to be able to get some outs.”

 

Robertson pitched 1 1/3 innings, including a scoreless top of the 13th to earn the win.

 

It was another game with thrills and chills and yet another dramatic win in the Bronx. It’s not like we haven’t seen enough of it this year, but last night’s marathon was one of the best (and worst) I have ever seen.

 

I am just glad the Yankees were able to pull that out against a tough Angel team that never stopped battling. They fought and fought…but like I said, it’s tough to beat the Yankees at Yankee Stadium in a close game in the late innings. Not many teams have beaten them in close games in the Bronx.

 

Tomorrow afternoon the Yankees have a chance to take game three from the Angels.

 

Andy Pettitte will look to keep the Yankees hot and will face Jered Weaver. Pettitte is 6-1 lifetime in the ALCS and 15-9 lifetime in the postseason. Meanwhile Weaver owns a 2-1 career postseason record and has pitched very well at Angel Stadium. Nine of his 16 regular season wins came at home.

 

Well, it was an unbelievable game two. Hopefully game three will be as action-packed and fun as its predecessor. I’ll be back after game three with more highlights and analysis.

 

Until then, Go Yankees!!!

      

Fear Itself

 

 

The Yankees will face the Angels in the 2009 ALCS

With Game One of the American League Championship Series looming and the Yankees in a position they haven’t been in since 2004, the Bronx Bombers are set to square off with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim on Friday night.

And I have to admit, I am a little scared. But I suppose as a wise man (namely F.D.R.) once said, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” 

 

The Yanks eliminated the Twins in the first round of the playoffs twice before in recent years (2003-04) and history repeated itself in 2009. The Yankees also had the Twins’ number during the regular season, beating them seven times without losing.

 

It’s safe to say the history vs. the Twins proved that the edge went to the Yankees in the ALDS. But the Yanks’ history vs. the Angels for the ALCS…not so much in their favor.

 

In 2002, the Halos took care of the Yankees in four games in the ALDS while in 2005 they took out the Yankees in five games. Not to mention the Yankees are 44-56 vs. the Angels since 2000 and have only won four season series against the Halos since 1987.

 

The Angels have not been very kind to the Yankees in the past, that’s for sure.

 

Consider this: in 2002, the Yankees took game one of the ALDS from the Angels, but after that totally disintegrated. Andy Pettitte had one of his worst postseason starts in game two, and in game three Mike Mussina was beat up and smacked around, blowing a 6-1 Yankee lead.

 

The Angels had all the momentum after game three, just lit up David Wells in the fifth inning of game four, and went on to knock the Yankees out of the playoffs in the first round. It was also the first time the Angels won a postseason series and they went on to win the World Series in ’02, beating the San Francisco Giants.

 

There’s no questioning the fact that the Angels just walked all over the Yankees in 2002.

 

In 2005, the Yankees relied heavily on old and injured players, along with a little bit of an inexperienced outfield. After trading victories in the first two games, Randy Johnson gave up five runs in the first three innings of game three.

 

The Yankees made their way back to a 6-5 lead, only to have it squirreled away by relievers Aaron Small and Tom Gordon. The Bombers obviously lost game three.

 

Game four was a thriller; the Yankees won by scoring two runs in the seventh inning with RBI singles from Derek Jeter and good, old Ruben Sierra. Then it was time for the decisive game five.

 

In the final game, Mussina followed the lead of the Big Unit in game three, allowing five runs in three innings. Plus, center fielder Bubba Crosby collided with right fielder Gary Sheffield, costing the Yankees big time. Bad defense hurt the Yankees in game five and they were never able to catch up.

 

 


Bubba Crosby collided with Gary Sheffield, an error that cost the Yankees in 2005 

 

I’ll never forget the words after that series ending, 2005 ALDS game five loss; one of the announcers said something like, “The Yankees’ $hundred million payroll comes up just a couple bucks short.”

 

I hated that quote. It infuriated me.

 

But in all honesty, the Angels outplayed the Yankees in the ’05 ALDS. They outscored them 25-20, out-hit them 46-42, and the Yankees made six defensive errors in that series. The Angels only committed one.

 

I hate to say it, but the Yankees had no business winning that series.

 


In 2005, the Yankees were knocked out of the playoffs by the Angels in the ALDS 

If you check your calendar though, it’s 2009, not 2005. And only 11 players from those 2005 rosters remain with the Yankees and Angels.    

 

Along with the history, there are still numbers standing in front of the Yankees. Jeter has a measly batting average against two of the Angels’ four starters; against Scott Kazmir, Jeter owns a lifetime batting average of .111. Against Jered Weaver, the Yankee captain is .118.

 

That’s not very good, especially considering Jeter is the leadoff hitter, or “table-setter” for the Yankees.

 

And then there’s CC Sabathia, who will be making quite a few starts in this series since the Yankees have opted to go with a three-man rotation. If skipper Joe Girardi sticks with his idea of a three man rotation, Sabathia would pitch games one, four, and seven. (Game four he would be throwing on three days rest)

 

 


CC Sabathia will pitch on three days rest for the first time since 2008 

I think if the Yankees lose this series, everyone will jump on Girardi about the decision to go with a three-man rotation. It will be under heavy scrutiny, no matter what.

 

Sabathia is 0-2 with a 6.08 ERA vs. the Angels in 2009 and is 5-7 with a 4.42 ERA vs. LA lifetime. That’s not a promising sign, if you ask me.

 

But also think about some of Sabathia’s numbers against individual hitters. Gary Matthews, Jr. (one of the Angels’ key players) is 5-for-26 lifetime vs. the Yankee ace with 10 strikeouts. Vladimir Guerrero, another hitter who makes the Angels go, has not hit Sabathia well. Guerrero is just 3-for-15 lifetime against the big lefty.

 

Sabathia is also 7-2 with a 3.17 ERA at home this year, which is good because the Yankees have home field advantage in the ALCS. If the series reaches a game seven, he would make the start at Yankee Stadium.

 

Game two starter A.J. Burnett is 2-2 with a 4.43 ERA in six career starts against the Angels, and the last time he faced the Halos on Sept. 23, the tall, lanky right hander went 5 2/3 innings and allowed two runs while fanning 11 batters.

 

There’s a stat that works in the Yankees’ favor.

 

The Angels will most likely send Joe Saunders to the mound for game two. Although Saunders has not pitched since Oct. 4 (the last day of the regular season) he went 7-0 with a 2.55 ERA in eight starts after coming back in August from a shoulder injury.

 

Even though the Angels have dominated the Yankees in the past, the Yanks’ hitting has done some good work against the Angels in the past, too.

 

Although Jeter has not had much success against the Angels’ expected game three starter (Weaver) Alex Rodriguez has dominated him. In his career, A-Rod is 5-for-15 with four homers off Weaver. And Girardi should keep Eric Hinske in the back of his mind, as Hinske is 4-for-11 with a homer off Weaver.

 

A-Rod has four career homers off game two hurler Jered Weaver 

 

Game three will take place at Angel Stadium of Anaheim with Pettitte starting against Weaver.

 

Pettitte struggled this year, going 0-2 with a 7.84 ERA at Angel Stadium. Not good, especially since game three is in Anaheim. The Yankees also need to watch out for Mike Napoli, Erick Aybar, Guerrero and Matthews, who all own averages well over .300 lifetime vs. Pettitte.

 

 


Andy Pettitte is 6-1 lifetime in the ALCS 

On the bright side, Pettitte is 12-10 with a 4.70 ERA against the Angels in his career, six of those wins coming in Anaheim. Oh, and by the way, he is 6-1 with a 3.92 ERA in the ALCS. Pettitte is what everyone says he is: a big game pitcher in the postseason.  

 

Kazmir is expected to start game four and is 2-1 vs. New York this year, but the only loss came after he was traded from Tampa Bay to Los Angeles. He will obviously be facing Sabathia, in accordance to the Yankees’ three-man rotation.

 

Scott Kazmir is 2-1 vs. the Yankees this year 

 

So despite some negativity in history and numbers that work against the Yankees, there is some positive history and numbers that work for the Yankees.

 

This year the Angels and Yankees split the 10 games they played against each other; the Yankees won five against the Angels and vice-versa.  

 

But I’m sure Girardi and his Yankees are not thinking about the past or the history between their team and the Angels. They are focusing on the task at hand, which is beating the Angels and then reaching (and hopefully winning) the World Series.

 

It’s going to be tough. The Angels and Yankees were the two best teams in the American League all year, so I think it’s only fitting that they meet in the ALCS. There’s more margin for error in this series, it being seven games and all. But still, I hope to see the Yankees come out on top when the smoke has cleared and the dust has settled.

 

After all, the Angels finally stopped their playoff losing streak vs. the Red Sox, beating them in the ALDS. Maybe now it’s the Yankees’ turn to stop their playoff losing streak vs. the Angels in the ALCS.

 

“To be honest, I think they look down on us. They have had their way with us for some time and now we have something to prove to them. It’s not the other way around.”–Yankees’ GM Brian Cashman

 

Looks like even the Yankee management knows what’s at stake here.

 

Well, see you Friday for ALCS Game One (Weather permitting; Friday’s forecast for the Bronx: a high of 45 degrees with an 80% chance of rain…I hope they can get this game in!)

 

Until then, Go Yankees!!!

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