Sunday, July 27, 2008

Yankees Suffer Amnesia - Forget How To Lose

Well, winning 8 games in a row since the All Star Break is a nice way to get yourself back into the playoff mix. The Yankees have been kind to the Red Sox fans the past couple of years by starting off the season slow, sluggish, and appearing to be done for. They give Sox fans a chance to boast, thump their chest, and proclaim how the mighty Yankees have fallen and they are now the king of the roost. Then, the All Star Break comes around and the Yankees begin their attack. Remember how that 20+ game lead last year melted like butter left out in the sun?

Andy PettitteSo, what can you say about yesterday's game, a 10-3 loss at home? Well, it looked like it was going to be a Red Sox day when Big Papi drove in his first run since returning from the DL in the first inning. After 1 inning the Sox had a 2-0 lead, and it looked like Andy Pettitte was going to have an early day. But, Pettitte is no 20 year old rookie. He just took a deep breath, adjusted his approach a bit, and went back to work shutting down the Sox until JD Drew's solo home run in the 6th inning. The Sox offense, since the break, has looked no more potent than the lowly Devil Rays (Oh wait, that was just a habit. Change that to the Royals and let's keep going...). Since the break, the offense has only scored 4 runs once, and less than 4 in every other outing. They just cannot get a rally going! Part of that may be the slump of Jacoby Ellsbury who does a great job of clogging the bases, but overall, they get a hit here and a hit there only. In other words, "here a hit, there a hit", but never, "everywhere a hit, hit".

Tim WakefieldSo what went well? Not much. The Yankees were held in check for a spell, but continually put pressure on Tim Wakefield until he finally started to crumble in the 6th. Justin Masterson came in and threw some very nifty pitches with impressive movement on them. However, the Yankees fouled those off and waited for the ones that weren't as tricky to hit. Masterson faced 3 batters, gave up 3 hits, and took a seat.

So, yesterday we discussed whether or not Joba Chamberlain intentionally threw at Kevin Youkilis. I think we got part of the answer yesterday, specifically in the 8th inning. With two outs, and runners on 1st and 3rd, Alex Rodriguez stepped to the plate. If a team is going to throw at an opposing player in retaliation, and to send a message that they will not be pushed around, they will try to pick a premier player on the other team, right? Okay, A-Rod fits that criteria. They'll also tend to do it late in the game, especially if the score is out of control. Check. With runners on 1st and 3rd, a smart move might have been to walk A-Rod to take the bat out of their best hitter's hands and create a force play at any base situation. Well, if you are going to put him on base intentionally....

Alex Rodriguez Gets HitSo, with one ball and no strikes, Craig Hansen threw a 98 mph fastball right at A-Rod's arm (wisely not going right for the head like Joba did). A-Rod got nailed in the arm and hopped around in pain. Clearly an intentional pitch. So, what does a team do when their best player just got intentionally nailed by a 98 mph pitch in a game where all they are trying to do is play good, solid baseball? They get pissed off, the batter throws a few choice words out to the pitcher and begins marching out to extract his pound of flesh. The bench empties and the bullpen pitchers come running in to help. If no punches are thrown, there is at least some serious posturing, swearing, and shoving. Remember the situation with the Rays? Coco gets hit - fight ensues. You get the idea.

What happened yesterday? A-Rod winced in pain, shook it off, and took first base. The guys in the dugout never even flinched, and the guys in the bullpen remained seated. Two possible reasons for that. One is that the Yankees can't stand A-Rod and are glad someone plunked him with a pitch and wish they were allowed to do the same. I know, that could be the real reason. But, the second reason would be that they knew their guy was wrong throwing at Youk, and by allowing A-Rod to get drilled without even a nasty look is conceding that they were owed that one. And before you go commenting that a third reason might be that the Yankees are good sports and simply won't stoop to that level, don't embarrass yourself, that reason just would not fit.

Hansen did a fantastic job of plunking A-Rod (many pitchers completely botch the revenge pitch), but rather than firing him up, and got his knees rattling. Hansen went on to walk in a run, and then gave up a double to let the game get completely out of hand. So, if you need a pitcher to deliver a message, you can let Hansen do it, just pull him from the game after that.

The Red Sox ace of 2008, Jon Lester, takes the mound today to end the losing streak. A task Lester is definitely up for. The Yankees counter with beach brawler, Sidney Ponson. Ponson has a tough time at Fenway with a 2-4 record and a 7.16 ERA. Time to put a W on the board and get the ship pointed in the right direction again!

(Photos Courtesy of ESPN)


Fenway West said...

I love the title of your post. Since the Fenway mound was strong enough to hold Colon it should be ok for Ponson, as long as he doesn't eat too much at the pregame buffet.

Rooster said...

LOL! I think I joked about the Sox grounds crew having to strengthen the mound before Colon's first outing - hopefully they left the extra support in there.

If Ponson tries the old Sox trick of having a Jack Daniels before the game, it could be exciting - especially for the refs.