Thursday, October 4, 2012

Gardner Could Sneak Onto The Playoff Roster

It didn't get mentioned much with all the hoopla surrounding the exciting finish to the regular season, but Brett Gardner is back to resuming full baseball activities.  He got an at-bat in Monday night's game as an 8th-inning pinch hitter, and 2 more last night as late-game replacement, even getting a base knock and coming around to score a run.

Gardner hadn't had an official at-bat prior to Monday since April 17th, so in a small sample size of 3ABs it's hard to say he's "back" and much more likely that he's still very rusty when it comes to hitting against Major League pitching.  But Gardner would represent an upgrade over the potential bench OF options that Joe has to mull over in the next few days (Jones, The D); he's a better outfielder and baserunner than both of them and when he's right he brings good stuff to the table at the bottom of the order as a grinder and speed/sacrifice option.

Despite all my worrying, we haven't heard any more horror stories about Gardner's elbow starting to bother him since the Yankees started working him back in. It appears as if he's out of the woods now, and if he has come away from these first couple of ABs back without any pain in the elbow, he could very well find himself on the postseason 25-man as the 4th OF.

Game 162 Thoughts & Afterthoughts

(Best picture ever.  Courtesy of the AP)

Since there was a postseason atmosphere surrounding last night's game and we're now transitioning into the postseason, I figured it was time to dust off the "Thoughts & Afterthoughts" series to get into true playoff mode.  Now that I have the guaranteed ability to watch each and every game on TV, my ability to analyze and comment on everything is greatly enhanced and I usually expand said commentary to more than just the game itself.  If you're a long-time reader you know how this works; if you're new to the AB4AR crew, here's your chance to get familiar.  The game recaps from here on out will be in this free-flowing format, with the standard game recap awards coming at the end.  Enjoy.

Game 162 Wrap-Up: NYY 14 BOS 2

(I can't tell, is he smiling?  Courtesy of the AP)

It became very clear to me at around lunch time at the office yesterday that I really didn't give a damn what happened at work for the rest of the day.  My mind was already firmly focused on the game and the task at hand for the Yankees, and I wasn't even playing.  I imagine that feeling was even more intense in the Yankee clubhouse before last night's game coming off of the dramatic ending on Tuesday night.  They had full control over their American League destiny, Hiroki Kuroda on the mound, and a beaten down Fraud Sawx team with a soon-to-be-fired manager as the only thing standing between them and a #1 seed.  There was surely no desire on their parts to let this game drag on and they played like it, beating the Fraud Sawx into submission to lock up another division title.

Game Notes:

- I can't imagine swinging at 4 of the first 6 Matsuzaka pitches was in the game plan, but that's what the Yankees did in the bottom of the 1st.  Not surprisingly, that led to 3 outs and a quick inning.

- The patience still wasn't there in the 2nd, but the results were.  Robinson Cano singled, Nick Swisher drew a walk, and Curtis Granderson hit the first pitch he saw into the right field seats for a 3-run dinger and a 3-1 Yankee lead.

- Kuroda wasn't as great as he was mid-season, but he was good enough.  He gave up a run in the 1st but settled down after that.  His fastball was lively, and he threw enough good sliders and sinkers to keep his pitch count down and get plenty of GB outs through 4.

- The offensive barrage didn't stop after the 2nd, and it was all produced off the bat of Cano.  He hit a 2-run home run in the 3rd that looked like he was taking a BP swing, and then another 2-run BOMB in the 5th that looked even smoover.  Dude was SPITTING OUT SEEDS MID-SWING!!!  7-1 Yanks.

- Excellent outing for Kuroda; just what you want to see heading into the postseason.  His slider seemed to get better in the later innings, he got more Ks, and his fastball velocity stayed up.

- I almost feel bad talking about Cano this much, but he WAS the offense last night.  He's the one guy who you don't mind swinging early when he's on because you know he's going to do something good.  His 2-run single in the 6th was the perfect example of that and was pretty much the dagger in the Fraud Sawx's hearts.

- I said I wanted the Yankees to keep their foot on the gas in this game, and they did.  Up 9-2 after the Fraud Sawx scored another cheapie in the top of the 7th, they responded with a -run bottom half, punctuated by Ichiro's 2-run double to make it 12-2.

- Classy move by Joe getting as many guys involved late as he could.  With a 12-run lead it was more than safe enough to do that.  Brett Gardner got a hit, Francisco Cervelli got another appearance, and so did Freddy Garcia.

- 2012 AL East champions and #1 seed in the AL playoffs, the New York Yankees.  Damn that's fun to write!