Monday, May 14, 2012

Joe Forgot The 1st Rule Of Using Clay Rapada Club

(This guy never forgets the rules.  Courtesy of Inside Out Night)

Well, OK, the second rule.  The first one is obviously "Do Not Talk About Using Clay Rapada Club."  But the second is far more important when it comes to the Yankees winning games, or at least staying close in games they're losing.  That rule, in case you've forgotten, is...

A Brighter Turn Through The Rotation

It hasn't exactly been smooth sailing for the Yankee rotation this year.  There have already been issues with quantity of innings pitched and the quality of those innings, and as of yesterday the rotation has been shuffled again to include the returning Andy Pettite, who had an up-and-down debut against Seattle.  It's still too early for anybody to say whether Pettitte is definitely going to be a better long-term option for the back end, but the performance of the 4 other guys in the rotation on the most recent turn through is a very encouraging sign and hopefully a sign that the Yankees won't have to spend as much time biting their nails over the 5th spot moving forward.

The combined line of Nova, CC, Kuroda, and Hughes from 5/8-5/12 looks like this:

- 29.2 IP, 25 H, 5 ER, 7 BB, 24 K, 5 HR, 34 GB, 4-0 Record

That works out to a 1.52 ERA and 3.43 K/BB ratio, and includes consecutive victories (excluding Phelps' outing in the middle) over James Shields, David Price, and Felix Hernandez in games where the Yankee starter outpitched his opponent.  There is a 4.48 FIP in those innings, driven up by the 5 HR allowed, but all 5 of those homers were solo shots and in a sample size this small I can live with that.  Eventually, the high HR rate will start to come down and guys' FIP lines will start to look better.

The important thing is that the Yankee rotation, at least on this most recent turn, started to look like the one we expected to see this season.  Guys are keeping runners off base, keeping the ball down in the zone, working efficiently and pitching deeper into games, and limiting damage by getting more groundball outs and big strikeouts when they need them.  Nova starts another turn tonight against Baltimore, a team he's already faced twice this season, once with good results and once without.  Hopefully he can continue this stretch of solid starting pitching performances and help inch his team closer to the top of the division.

Game 34 Wrap-Up: SEA 6 NYY 2

("I know, man.  Who doesn't score against Kevin Millwood??" Courtesy of The AP)

Everybody knows the backstory of this game.  No matter what the other storylines were or what was going on with the team, yesterday it was all about Andy Pettitte and his return to the rotation.  I wrote before the game that the expectations had come down a bit for Andy after his recent rehab starts and the improvements in the Yankee rotation, but it was still difficult to say whether or not he met or exceeded those expectations with his performance.

Game Notes:

- Pettitte got out of the 1st inning on just 11 pitches after a flyout, a walk, and a slick 6-3 double play turn by Derek Jeter, and he was off and running quickly and cleanly.

- Through 3 innings, Pettitte didn't allow a hit.  The only 2 baserunners he allowed were on walks and both were stranded.  Through a combination of good pitch location and some overaggressiveness on the part of the Mariner hitters, Pettitte worked through the lineup the first time on just 35 pitches and got 5 outs on the ground.

- Andy had been living a little more up in the strike zone than you'd like to see through 3, and he hung a slider to Justin Smoak in the top of the 4th that Smoak hit for a HR and a 2-0 Seattle lead.  That opportunity was created by a 2-out walk that Andy gave up, his third of the game.

- Kevin Millwood wasn't good enough to stick in the Yankee MiL system last year, but he made Yankee the offense look silly yesterday.  Millwood gave up just 1 hit through 4 (an Eric Chavez double) and struck out Curtis Granderson and A-Rod back-to-back on 6 pitches to open the 4th.

- Millwood started to lose his command a bit in the bottom of the 5th, and gave up a bases-loaded walk to Russell Martin to get the Yankees on the board, but got bailed out by a horrible first pitch-swinging GIDP by Derek Jeter to end the inning.  It was Jeter's second GIDP of the game and another example of the higher GB rate that's crept back up on him recently.

- Pettitte hit the wall in the 6th, giving up another 2-run homer and loading the bases on singles, but Joe left him out there and he manged to get out of the inning on another nice double play (Teix to Martin).

- Joe continued his recent trend of giving his starters a lot of leash, letting Andy get an out in the 7th before giving way to Cory Wade.  Wade and Clay Rapada gave up 2 runs in the 9th to put the game out of reach.

- Pettitte's final line- 6.1 IP, 7 H, 4 ER, 3 BB, 2 K, 94 Pitches (60 Strikes), 12 GB Outs.  All the hits and all the runs came in his last 3.1 IP.

- The only offense the Yankees could muster for the rest of the game was another bases loaded BB by Robinson Cano in the 8th.  It was an ugly day for the O- no run-scoring hits, 0-5 with RISP, and 9 strikeouts.