Monday, October 12, 2009

Game 3/Series Thoughts

* Andy Pettitte probably just earned himself another one year deal for next year, and at more than the $5.5million bargain bin price the Yankees got him for last season, if he decides he wants to come back after his performance last night. It was like watching Andy circa 1998 or '99; his fastball was lively and he wasn't afraid to throw it up, in, or both, and his cutter and off-speed stuff had plenty of bite on it. There were only a handful of good swings off him all night and in a regular season game there's no doubt he finishes the 7th and maybe beyond.

* It obviously wasn't the way I and many other Yankee fans envisioned facing Carl Pavano last night, but after thinking about it, it's almost better that they beat him the way they did. After saying he had something to go out and prove to NY fans, Pavano was lights out through 6 innings before getting a few balls up in the zone that cost him. In the end, he did prove something to the Yankees and their fans; he proved that even at his best he still isn't good enough to hack it for New York. It will be interesting to see which team gets blinded by the first 6 innings and decides to throw a 3-year contract at him which they'll end up regretting. My money is on the pitching-strapped Mets, who were practically picking people out of the crowd to throw at the end of the season.

* Funny how all the Nick Punto ball-sucking by Caray and Darling stopped after he got thrown out at third, huh? Guess the million intangibles he brings to the game don't include picking up your third base coach. My uncle brought up a great point while we were texting after that play that definitely warrants mentioning here; The reason A-Rod was so excited after tagging out Punto on that play was because he never would have thought to do that; he just doesn't think on his feet the same way Jeter does and he knows it. My money would have been on A-Rod making the play in the hole and trying to force the out at first, throwing the ball away in the process and allowing the run to score. It's those kind of plays (throwing home on Punto, calling for the ball to tag out Gomez at 2nd) that separate Jeter from his peers. There's no way to document them in the statistics, but those 2 plays had just as much to do with the Yankees winning than A-Rod's home runs did.

* The demons of bad starting pitching were exercised in this series as all 3 starters turned in solid performances that allowed the Yankees to score the runs they needed to win. Combined, CC, A.J., and Andy went 19 innings, allowing just 14 hits and 6 walks, 3 earned runs, and 21Ks for a 2-0 record, 1.42 ERA, and 1.05 WHIP. When you have a deep bullpen and get starting pitching like that, you don't need to score too many runs.

* And it's a good thing the Yankees didn’t need to score too many runs because they didn't. Take away Jeter and A-Rod and the Yanks were a combined 14-82 in the series (an awful .171 average) with 2 home runs and just 7 RBIs. They got the hits when they needed them, but the Yankees patience played into the Twins' strategy in this series as they were always swinging from behind in the count and not putting good swings on the good pitches to hit that they did get. An offensive output like that might not cut it against the Angels, whose 1-7 in the batting order is just as dangerous as New York's.

* Phil Hughes has finally come back to Earth in his first big-time playoff experience. 2 innings of work in the series, 5 hits, 1 walk, 2 earned runs, and 3 strikeouts on 60 pitches. I don't care who you are, 60 pitches in 2 innings of work is not good and it's been Hughes' inability to put guys away with 2 strikes and get out of the inning quick after getting 2 outs that has hurt him. He's been too picky out there with 2 strikes, trying to overthink the play instead of just attacking the hitters with gas like he has all season. The Yankees need to get him back on track for the next series.

* I can't say much about his ability as a late-game stopper out of the bullpen, but with that badass neck tattoo, Jon Rauch would certainly fit in as a member of the MC on "Sons of Anarchy."
* Looking forward, the Yanks are set up perfectly to have their rotation intact for the beginning of the ALCS and now that they have committed to Joba in the pen, it should be a no-brainer picking Chad Gaudin as the Game 4 starter. He was a better starting pitcher down the stretch for the Yanks anyway and if Joe can manage the bullpen and off-days as well as he did this past series, he can make sure he has plenty of arms available if Gaudin falters.

The most important thing, however, will be to get the offense going. Damon looked lost out there in this series, Melky looked overmatched, and Swisher was downright awful. I know he's pushing for another contract next season, but I would give series consideration to sitting Damon in favor of Brett Gardner for a game to try and get a spark if Damon continues to struggle. Otherwise, we could be looking at the beginning of the Austin Jackson Era next year.

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