Wednesday, October 20, 2010

ALCS Game 5 Preview: Backs Against The Wall

Pitching Matchup: Sabathia (1-0) vs. Wilson (1-0)


NY: Jeter- SS, Swish- RF, Cano- 2B, A-Rod- 3B, Thames- DH, Berkman- 1B, Posada- C, C-Grand- CF, Gardner- LF

TX: Andrus- SS, Young- 3B, Hamilton- CF, Vlad- DH, Cruz- LF, Kinsler- 2B, Francoeur- RF, Treanor- C, Moreland- 1B

3 Things To Watch For:

1) Whether The Yankee Lineup Will Finally Start Hitting

.198/.295/.321 team line for the series.  Those numbers get even uglier if you take out Cano.  'Nuff said.

2) Whether CC Will Bounce Back and Have a Strong Outing

10 IP, 7.20 ERA, 1.80 WHIP in 2 starts this postseason on long rest.  Back today on regular rest.  'Nuff said.

3) Whether The Bullpen Will Wake Up And Stop Getting Shelled

14 IP, 16 H, 8 BB, 11 ER, 7.07 ERA, 1.71 WHIP over 4 games.  Those numbers get even uglier if you take out Wood, Moseley, and Mo's 5 scoreless innings.  'Nuff said.

Player to Watch: All of Them

The Yankees are out of chances.  One more loss and everybody goes home to make vacation plans while we begin to fire up the offseason hot stove rumor mill and figure out how much they should offer Cliff Lee.  Save for the last few innings of Game 1, they have been thoroughly outplayed and outmanaged in every facet of the game by the Rangers.  The injury to Teix obviously left everybody shocked and disoriented and they never seemed to recover, but they have to shake that off and get focused on the task at hand, which is win tonight and force the series back to Texas.

In honor of all the "do or die," "back against the wall," "there is no tomorrow" cliches that will be thrown around tonight, we'll join in and get cliche as all hell with our musical intro.  So far the Yankees have had the eye of the schmuck.  Tonight they need to have the eye of tiger.  BOOM!!

ALCS Game 4 Thoughts And Afterthoughts- Part II (The Rest Of It)

- The top of the 1st went about as well as anybody could have hoped last night.  I was still sweating bullets when it was over, but at least A.J. helped to calm all of our nerves early.

- I don't know how I haven't noticed this yet, but how the fuck does Michael Young have a Gold Glove at 3rd over A-Rod???  Michael Young is a fucking TERRIBLE 3rd baseman and he's got a Gold Glove?!  Yikes.

- Good stat by TBS early last night: The last pitcher to win a postseason series with as much rest as A.J. had coming into last night's start was Red Ruffing in 1939.  Damn!

- Cano crushed that ball in the 2nd inning off of Tommy Hunter, but the fans definitely reached over and definitely interfered with Nelson Cruz.  I'd like to let my Yankee fandom override the facts, but I can't.  That home run shouldn't have counted.

- By the time the 3rd inning rolled around, it was obvious Hunter didn't have much.  He couldn't throw his curveball for a strike to save himself and the Yankees were just sitting on his fastball and cutter, waiting for him to make a mistake, a la the one he grooved to Jeter for his 3rd-inning triple.

- Unfortunately, the TBS crew was too busy talking about Hunter's odd physique, his family history, and his being a former US Jr. Olympic judo champion to focus on how shitty he was pitching.  After the Lee victory in Game 3, suddenly everybody in the booth was a big Ranger fan.  We've got Sager reporting on what their team psychiatrist told them before the game, EJ is going on and on about the Molina family history and how Darren O'Day became a side-arm pitcher.  It was like watching an episode of "SportsCentury."

- Beautiful double play by the Yanks in the 5th inning: great scoop and throw by Teix while avoiding a flying bat, great turn by Jeter, and great job getting over to cover first by A.J.  Big play and exactly what A.J. needed after putting the leadoff runner on again.

- After that, though, Jeter and A-Rod showed that they have no range left on that side of the infield on Andrus' bouncer through the hole.  If that thing bounced anymore and rolled any slower through that side, it would have fucking stopped and they still couldn't get a glove on it.

- to the fan trying to catch the foul ball and fucking up Gardner in the 5th: Are you fucking serious, dude????  You're a grown man!  You want a ball that bad, go to Sports Authority and buy one.  When the Yanks are in field, get the fuck out of the way and let them make the catch.  If Hamilton would have done something after that and that dude becomes the NYC Steve Bartman, I would have put money on him not making it out of The Stadium alive.

- The pitch A.J. made to Molina was terrible, but really, what do you expect?  It's A.J. Burnett.  It just sucked that he finally missed a spot up and in in that situation.  I still put all the blame for that on Joe.

- What the hell is going on with the bullpen?  D-Rob blows up in Game 3 then yesterday he's the only guy who can get an out without getting pelted all over the park.  Logan might be out of a job come next year because he's been terrible in this series, and Joba is another bad outing or 2 away from possibly being run out of town with him.

- I hate to do  it, but I have to hand it to Derek Holland for the job he did.  Tommy Hunter had nothing, the Yanks hit a lot of scorchers off of him but couldn't ever put him away with a big inning and Holland came in and shut the door on the Yankee offense, giving his team a chance to do what they did later in the game.

- Can we get Kevin Long to work with Brett Gardner before next year on swinging the bat with some authority?  I love Gardner, but this slap-and-run bullshit has to stop.  His speed is weapon, but it can be better utilized if he can get a little more oomph into his swing and start putting the ball into the outfield.  Start hitting for the gaps and he can rack up 20-25 triples a year.  Speed is good, but it don't mean shit when you can't get the ball out of the infield.

- Even after it got to 7-3, the Rangers still seemed hellbent on letting the Yankees back into it.  They walked the bases loaded in the bottom of the 8th and Swish definitely got hit by that pitch by Oliver.  As bad as the pitching has been, this series has been just as much about the Yankee bats not coming up big when they need to and take advantages of the opportunities given to them and last night was just the latest example.

- Just to put the offensive ineptitude into further perspective, the Ranger 7-9 hitters have 10 combined RBIs in the series.  The Yankees have only scored 11 runs as a team.

- Anybody see Boomer and Carton sitting behind the plate last night?  Good stuff right there.  I know I'm in the minority here, but I love Carton.  Dude is entertaining.

- The Conan promos on TBS aren't nearly as horrible as the Lopez ones from last season, but they are much more annoying after a late-game Yankee meltdown.

- I'm going a little Peter King on you here, but I love the E*Trade commercials with the talking baby.  Give me more of that and less shitty UPS commercials with the "That's logistics" song.

- Apparently the dude who got on the field last night was trying to attack A-Rod for dating Cameron Diaz.  Newsflash, dude: Diaz is a washed-up old slut and her vag is way past it's prime with the pounding it's no-doubt taken from some of Hollywood's finest over the years, not to mention A-Rod.  Get a new celebrity crush and get the fuck off the field.

- So what do you do about the lineup tonight without Teix?  I say it should look like this:

1) Jeter, 2) C-Grand, 3) Cano, 4) A-Rod, 5) Thames, 6) Posada, 7) Swish, 8) Berkman, 9) Gardner with Berkman at 1B and Thames DH'ing.

I know it's a lefty on the mound but Granderson has swung the bat far better than Swish and needs to stay at the top.  And since Cano has been the only one swinging with any consistency, you have to bump him up and give him a chance to drive in runs early.  A-Rod doesn't have much protection behind him, but when nobody is hitting that's what happens.

Play of The Game: Molina's 3-run HR in the top of the 6th

Took the wind out of everybody's sails: the players and the fans.  The KO punch that followed up the staggering blow that was the Teix injury.

Player of The Game: Bengie Molina

3-4, HR, 3 RBI, 2 R, including the go-ahead and eventual game-winning RBI.  Not to mention he caught a good game too.  Fucking asshole...

- Last one, I sure hope CC has it this afternoon because I won't be able to watch the game thanks to the early start and I can't stand to think about not being able to see the last Yankee game of the season.  As much as it sucks, if they are going to go down I want to be able to see it as a fan.  It would hurt more to not be able to see than it would to suffer through it.

ALCS Game 4 Thoughts And Afterthoughts- Part I

I'm still too shell shocked by what happened in the top of the 6th inning to really get into all the other analysis/quirky shit/lighter-hearted notes I took on the game last night so I'm just going to talk about the 5 things that cost the Yankees the game last night.

1) Cervelli in the lineup over Jorge

I don't give a fuck who A.J. prefers throwing to.  As horrible as he was in the regular season, he shouldn't get the right to influence the lineup, especially when that influence inserts a guy who had a .694 OPS in the regular season and hadn't had a single at-bat to date in the playoffs for a guy who had a .811 OPS in the regular season and happens to be one of the greatest offensive catchers of all-time.  And I know Jorge has swung a crummy bat in this series and looked awful against Lee in Game 3, but other than Cano who hasn't and who didn't?  Runs have been the Yankees' problem so far and I would still rather have the better bat in the lineup with a little pop than one that struggles to get the ball out of the infield on a consistent basis.

2) A.J. walking the leadoff batter (the # 7 hitter) and then promptly hitting the next batter who was trying to sacrifice (the #8 hitter) in the top of the 3rd

A.J. cruised through the first 2 inning perhaps easier than he had any other 2 innings all season.  He was getting ahead in the count, throwing both pitches for strikes, and getting swings and misses.  And then he came out to start the 3rd inning and promptly walked David Murphy, then drilled Bengie Molina in the back when he squared to bunt.  We all rolled our eyes at those two occurrences, but no one was really surprised.  That's what A.J. had done all year.  A.J. got ground balls from the next 4 batters, but because one was a sacrifice and one a cheap infield single, the Rangers had 2 runs in and the lead.  A.J. got what he deserved for letting the first 2 batters on without even having to swing the bat.

3) Yankees only get 1 run out of a bases loaded, 1 out situation in the bottom of the 4th

I texted both my friend and my dad after Berkman singled and said "that's not who you want coming up with the bases loaded," referring to Gardner and Cervelli.  Gardner is what he is, a slap hitter, and that usually leads to a lot of ground balls and grounds balls with the bases loaded leave the door wide open for double plays.  Gardner was lucky enough to not ground into one and unlucky enough to have Elvis Andrus make a fantastic play on his grounder in the hole at short.  Maybe a guy with a little more power or at least a little more authority in his swing (we'll get to that later) gets the ball through.  As far as Cervelli coming up next, refer to 1).

4) Yankees put 2 on with 0 outs in the bottom of the 5th and get 0 runs

Lost in the major bummer (sort of) of the injury to Teix was the fact that he failed to drive in a run with yet another weak hack with Jeter on 2nd, C-Grand on 1st, and Derek Holland on the verge of blowing up on the mound.  A-Rod followed that up with a tailor-made GIDP ball and that was all she wrote.  From being on the verge of breaking the game open to still holding a slim 1-run lead in a matter of 2 minutes thanks to the "heart" of your order.  Bullshit.

5) Joe deciding to intentionally walk David Murphy in the top of the 6th

This is the one that really took the cake in my book.  Joe getting caught up in his fucking binders and fucking matchup books and not just taking a second to watch what was happening on the field, assess the situation, recognize what was at stake, and make a simple logical decision.  A.J. had battled back from allowing a lead off single to Vlad to get the next 2 hitters out with Vlad still on 2nd.  But, A.J. had thrown 3 high-stress innings prior to the 6th, his pitch count was up, and he was starting to tire.  All pitchers start missing their spots when they get tired, it happens.  And with A.J., who has spotty control to begin with, the risk runs even greater.  I don't blame Joe for not wanting A.J. to pitch to Murphy in that situation.  But you don't, don't, DON'T, DON'T, DON'T put more runners on base in a 1-run playoff game.

That situation should have been real simple.  You either trust your guy on the mound to get the next batter out and get out of the inning, or if you don't, you go to your bullpen and you bring in your lefty.  You cannot give the opponent free baserunners in a 1-run game in the playoffs, especially when you're down 2-1 in the series and especially when it's the bottom of the fucking order that you're trying to get cute with.  Instead Joe kept his nose in his fucking binders, saw Bengie Molina's history against A.J., ignored the fact that Bengie Molina had pounded the fuck out of the ball all series long and all postseason long, and left his tired, erratic starter in to face arguably the other team's hottest hitter.  A.J. missed his spot, ballgame over.

And don't even try to make the "he was trying to save Logan for later in the game" argument because I'm not buying that for a second.  I have all the faith in the world that D-Rob in the 7th, Wood in the 8th, and Mo in the 9th can get lefties out just as effectively as Boone Logan.  That's why they have the roles they have to begin with.  The most important batter is always the next batter and that moment, with a runner in scoring position and a 1-run lead, was the time to go to your lefty if you didn't trust your starter to get him out.

Joe didn't do that and he cost his team with another decision made based on what he read in a book rather than what was happening on the field.