Thursday, April 10, 2014

Plenty Of Intrigue, As Always, To The First Yanks-Sawx Series Of The Season

(Courtesy of whoever did this originally.  Thing is baller)

The best rivalry in baseball heats up again tonight when the Yankees and Red Sox hook up for the first of what will be a 4-game weekend series.  Both teams are 4-5 to start their respective seasons and both teams have some disappointing and unexpected results that put them there.  The Yankees lost 2 of 3 to the Astros and lost the last 2 games at home to the Orioles heading into this series.  The Sawx got swept by the Brewers in their home-opening series.  Needless to say, neither of these teams is off to the start they were hoping for.

What adds to the importance (as important as an early April intra-league series can be) of this series is the vastly different offseasons each of these clubs had.  The Yankees are coming off a high-spending offseason in response to their failure to make the postseason in 2013, part of which included signing former Red Sock Jacoby Ellsbury to a very lucrative 7-year deal.  The Sawx had a relatively quiet offseason, losing more guys than they replaced externally and instead trying to re-up this year through prospects and returning internal young players.  They're still trying to find their footing, but they're also still the 2 big swinging dicks in the AL East, no matter what Tampa Bay has to say about it.  tarting tonight we get our first idea of how much each of them is still swinging...

P.S.- I'm really hoping somebody on the Yankee pitching staff remembers the A-Rod beaning from last year.  Last time I checked, they still owe Boston one for that nonsense.

Keith Law Scouts Double-A Trenton

This is almost a week old and I missed it initially, but Keith Law of ESPN attended the Opening Day game for the Trenton Thunder last week and filed a scouting report on some of the big name prospects playing.   Toronto pitching prospect Aaron Sanchez (not the "Chopped" judge) was the highlight of Law's report, but he also gave his takes on Yankee prospects Bryan Mitchell, Gary Sanchez, and Mason Williams.  The whole article is here and it's an Insider only piece, so here are the highlights for those without Insider access:

- Law isn't a big fan of Mitchell.  He liked his fastball velocity and believes Mitchell's cutter could eventually become his best pitch, but long-term he sees Mitchell as more of a relief prospect based on his lack of fastball movement and curveball command.

- Sanchez looked to be a little too much for Sanchez in 1 AB, but Law thought Sanchez looked pretty good behind the plate considering how often Mitchell was junking curveballs all over the place.

- Williams, despite hitting the ball hard a few times, still isn't showing enough maturity in his approach for Law's liking.  Law described Williams as "too aggressive for his own good" and said this is the year where we need to see some improvement in the finer points of Williams' game to match his tools.

Game 9 Wrap-Up: BAL 5 NYY 4

(Courtesy of Getty Images)

It was Tanaka Day for the second time of the 2014 season last night, and the first one ever to be held at Yankee Stadium.  After a rocky early going and a stellar finish to his MLB debut, Masahiro Tanaka took the hill in front of his new hometown fans looking to make a good first impression.  The first first impression may not have been the best one possible, but once again it was the finish to Tanaka's night that was the big story.

Game Notes:

- Tanaka worked around a leadoff double in the top of the 1st.  He wasn't so lucky in the 2nd.  A pair of singles put 2 runners on, and with 2 outs he hung a 1-0 slider that Jonathan Schoop clubbed for a 3-run HR.

- That early sting didn't face the lineup.  They came back with a pair of solo HRs in the bottom half of the inning, the first by Carlos Beltran (his first) and the second by Kelly Johnson (his second).

- Beltran got things started on the tying run in the bottom of the 4th with a leadoff double.  He moved to third on Brian McCann's sac fly and scored on a groundout by Alfonso Soriano to tie the game at 3.

- That early 3 was all the Orioles would get from Tanaka.  He allowed a measly 3 singles in his final 5 innings, striking out 7 batters for a total of 10 on the night and retiring the final 7 he faced in order.  He wasn't quite as sharp as his first start, but he was still very good.

- Unfortunately for him, the D-Rob-less bullpen couldn't repeat their Monday performance.  Thornton and Warren got through the 8th, but Shawn Kelley melted down in the 9th, giving up a leadoff double, 3 straight singles, and a sac fly to score 2 and put the game out of reach.

- The Yanks made it interesting by plating 1 run in the bottom of the 9th.  With a runner on 1st and 1 out, Yangervis Solarte came up and grounded into a heart-breaking game-ending double play.  Sucks.