Thursday, September 5, 2013

No Shortage Of Drama These Next Four Games

(Courtesy of Getty Images)

It feels like it's been a long time since the Ryan Dempster-Alex Rodriguez beanball incident took place.  In reality it's been less than 3 weeks, but as almost everybody hypothesized right after that fateful game on August 18th, the Yankees have used that moment and that game as a rallying point.  They've picked up 18 wins in the 26 games since and have been slowly marching their way towards the front of the Wild Card line.  This weekend's series is indescribably important as it starts an 11-game stretch away from the dregs of the American League and against tough AL East competition.  The Yanks need to go at least 7-4 to stay within striking distance of the Rays and keep their playoff hopes alive.

They also have a little score to settle with their rivals from that 8/18 game, a score they didn't get the chance to settle when Brian O'Nora went quick trigger with the bench warnings.

Tyler Austin Can Play For My Team Any Day

He didn't have the best season, but that's some badass shit from Tyler Austin in Game 1 of last night's Double-A playoffs, a game the Thunder won 6-5.  Not only did he talk trash about the opposing starting pitcher, top Mets prospect Noah Syndergaard, he backed it up with a 3-5 night at the plate with 2 doubles off Syndergaard and 2 RBI.  That's the kind of stuff prospect evaluations don't measure and that's why I'm still on board the Tyler Austin bandwagon.

Come out, talk some trash, whoop some ass, and raise a little hell.  If you're down with Tyler Austin, give me a hell yeah!

Gardner Swinging A Mean Bat Again

(Courtesy of the AP)

Maybe that extra rest Joe has been giving Brett Gardner, when he's been perfectly healthy and when he maybe hasn't, is starting to pay off.  After being below average for the better part of the last 2 months, Gardner has turned it back on in the last week plus.  He's 12-38 in his last 10 games (.316 BA) with 7 XBH, 8 R, 4 BB, and 4 RBI.  7 of those 12 hits have gone for extra bases (6 2B, 1 3B) and Gardner has 2 hits in 4 of his last 5 games, so the pop is definitely back in his bat.  Throw in 1 HBP and that's 17 times on base for Brett in 10 games.  That's good leadoff hitting.

The Yankees' turnaround in late August was due primarily to the return of the power to the middle of their lineup.  With Cano hitting like he was and Alfonso Soriano leading the AL in home runs, it was easy to overlook Gardner's offensive inconsistency at the top.  Whether he was or still is hurt or not, Joe recognized that something was amiss with Gardner, got him a few extra days off, and it appears to have done the trick.  With Gardner raking again in the leadoff spot, some of the pressure comes off the middle of the lineup to keep up their pace, which has slowed in the last week, and the team becomes more dynamic and flexible offensively.

Game 139 Wrap-Up: NYY 6 CHW 5

(Courtesy of Getty Images)

Not like I'm trying to toot my own horn or anything, but you're all welcome for sparking this turnaround.  On August 8th, you may recall, I wrote this post declaring the Yankees done and the season over.  Since then they've gone 17-8, changed the entire atmosphere around the team and the stadium, and pulled within 2.5 games of a playoff spot.  If you've been an AB4AR reader for long enough, you know I can jinx with the best of them and that's exactly why I wrote that post.  I jinxed the season being over, thereby reversing the fortune of said season and acting as a reverse jinx to get the team back into contention.  It was the AB4AR jinx at its finest and I'm glad I pulled it out when I did.  Just wish I knew how to use it to turn CC around...

Game Notes:

- White Sox starter Erik Johnson made a rookie mistake hanging a first-pitch curveball to Robinson Cano in the bottom of the 1st and Cano slammed it for a 2-out solo HR.  Johnson almost unraveled, loading the bases after the at-bat, but recovered to strike out Ichiro.

-  Sabathia, after giving up a run on a double and 2 walks in 1st, settled down and managed to work safely through the next 5 innings.  His command wasn't much better - he walked 4 batters total in the game - but he managed to work around potential trouble every inning.

- After not imploding in the bottom of the 1st, Johnson did in the 4th.  An error put 2 on and nobody out and Johnson gave up a run-scoring double to Lyle Overbay and a 2-run triple to Brett Gardner to make it a 4-1 Yankee lead.

- After working a 1-2-3 7th with 2 Ks, CC put 2 men on in the 8th and that was it for him.  A better outing, thanks in part to the White Sox sucking, than what CC's been giving this summer.  Good to see some GB outs again.

- A Cano RBI single and Alfonso Soriano sac fly to make it 6-1 seemed like enough to cruise to victory with D-Rob on in the 8th but Robertson struggled and only retired 1 of the 5 batters he faced after CC left.

- A 5-run lead evaporated into a 1-run lead and Joe went to The G.O.A.T. to finish the 8th and the 9th.  It was Mariano Rivera's first 4-out save since 2011 and he handled it without issue.