Jobu reviews the Yankees three-game sweep of the Baltimore Orioles.
On Wednesday night, the Yankees beat the Orioles 6-4, closing out their second series of the season. Coming off of my last post the other day about how terrible the Yankees had started out in their series against the Rays (a three game sweep), I’m glad to say things are looking a little better for the pinstripes after the series sweep in Baltimore. What a difference a couple of wins make, right? On a side note, I think I hate Buck Showalter more than anyone in all of baseball (take note, Sox fans. we could have a common enemy). Anyway, on with the series review.
Game 1: Yankees 6, Orioles 2
The Yankees finally got in the win column (or “put one on the left side,” as Michael Kay’s ego would say), and it was thanks mostly to some solid starting pitching, great work from the bullpen and some key hits.
Iván Nova: The Stopper
Gritty. Gutty. Tough. That’s how I would describe Iván Nova’s performance in game four. Let’s face it, the Yankees needed a win, and the big righty sophomore went out and got them one. Did he pitch the best game of his life? No. Will we take what he did after how awful and lazy he looked in Spring Training? You bet’cha! The Starting Rotation performed so poorly against the Rays last series that any type of solid effort from Nova was going to look huge, but he more than held his own. Overall, the kid went seven innings, and two runs on ten (10!) hits, but didn’t walk anyone and had seven big strikeouts, many of them in big time situations. Nova may not have been as dominant as he was in the last couple of months of 2011, but he more than got the job done, and he picked up a very important win.
Ho Hum, the Bullpen
With Nova getting through seven innings, that meant the workload was rather light for the Yankees bullpen in this game. Joe Girardi still went to David Robertson in the eighth inning (because his face will melt if he pitches in any other inning), and got Mariano Rivera some work in the 9th in a non-save situation. Robertson worked around a couple of hits by getting two big Ks (what else is new?) and Rivera was hit relatively hard but no damage was done.
The Captain Surges On
Derek Jeter had his 41st career 4-hit game, Andruw Jones homered off of a right-hander (Darren O’Day), and Mark Teixeira even drove in a run in this win. The Yankees scored six runs (third time this season) on eleven hits, but the offense wasn’t as impressive as it would seem. They left ten men on base in the game, which is pretty unacceptable. However, they got off to an early lead and held on, and that’s all that matters. The runs were driven in by Jeter (1), Teixeira (1), Jones (2), Gardner (1), Martin (1) and Núñez (2), and Brett Gardner is now 49 steals away from 50 for the season.
Notable Offense: HR – Andruw Jones (1), RBI – Jeter (1), Teixeira (1), Jones (2), Gardner (1), Martin (1) and Núñez (2), SB – Gardner (1), 4 hits for Jeter
Game 2: Yankees 5, Orioles 4 – 12 innings
This was one of those really ugly games that are exciting, but nobody really enjoys watching. In the end, the Orioles made the last mistake, and it cost them the game. We’ll take it, but as a fan, I don’t want to see too many more games like that.
You Make Everything… Groovy
Eep. Eesh. Blergh… Those are the sounds I was making as I watched Freddy García pitch this game game. Freddy became the first pitcher to throw five wild pitches in a game since 1989 (oddly enough, that was Joe Girardi’s second game as a player), and it seemed like he had no idea where the ball was going the entire game. Freddy needed 98 pitches to get through just 4.2 innings, as he allowed four hits, three walks and even hit a guy. His wildness really almost cost the Yankees, as three (three!!) of the Orioles runs scored on wild pitches. Hopefully Freddy gets serious before his next start, because Andy Pettitte and Michael Pineda are looming.
Going into the season, we knew that the bullpen was going to be one of the greatest strengths for the Yankees, and they flexed some serious muscle last night. David Phelps (2.1 innings, 0 hits, 4 Ks), David Robertson (1 inning, 1 BB, 1K), Corey Wade (2.1 innings, 1 hit, 1 BB, 4 Ks) and Clay Rapada (0.2 innings, 1 K) held the Orioles completely in check before Mariano Rivera pitched a perfect 12th for the save. Don’t worry, I didn’t forget Boone Logan, but he gave up a hit to the only man he faced (although it was dinky), so he doesn’t count. Rivera showed his old form in the 12th, striking out two, including a nasty backdoor cutter to Markakis to end the game. Amazing performance by the bullpen all-around, but Phelps was the one who really stood out. All four of his strikeouts were of the browsing variety, and all four were with running fastballs that had the Orioles hitters looking befuddled. Kudos to Corey Wade for getting out of a big bases loaded jam late in the game as well.
More Offensive Woes, One Big Hit
Despite Freddy García’s complete lack of command, I’d still give the Yankees offense the award for ugliest facet of the game. Things got off to a very quick start. Derek Jeter took a Wei Yieng Chen fastball over the big boy fence in center to start the game and Nick Swisher followed with a booming double that also almost got out. Unfortunately, that was it. The Yankees vaunted 3-4-5 hitters (Cano, A-Rod and Teixeira) continued their putrid starts to the season and Swisher was left stranded. The Yankees wouldn’t score again until the 6th inning. In that inning, Buck Showalter decided that, like Girardi, he could leave a tiring starter in too long too! Chen finally broke, and the Yankees scored three times to tie the game.
Despite numerous opportunities throughout the rest of the game, neither team could scratch out a run. Both bullpens pitched well, but terrible offense also helped. Before the 12th inning, the two teams combined to go 1-24 with runners in scoring position. 1-24! The Yankees were the worst offenders (1-16), although at least they had one hit with RISP (thank you Brett Gardner). The Yankees finally got a clutch hit in the 12th inning, but for a while it looked like the game would continue into the 13th and beyond. Cano opened up the inning with a double, and A-Rod grounded out weakly to move him to third with one out. Mark Teixeira, the bane of my existence so far this season (last year too, actually), chopped weakly to the drawn in second baseman, and Cano held at third. The Orioles then intentionally walked Curtis Granderson to set up a force at second base, but decided not to walk Raúl Ibañez, despite the fact that the mosquito-batted Chris Stewart was on deck. Ibañez was completely overpowered by a couple of fastballs from Pedro Strop, before the hard-throwing righty inexplicably threw him a slider. Ibañez smacked it for a ground-rule double to right-center, and then the Yankees went to Mo’s for the save.
Notable Offense: HR – Jeter (1), RBI – Jeter (2), Jones (3), Gardner (2), Ibañez (6), SB – Ibañez (1), 3 hits for Cano, 2 for Jeter, 2 for Ibañez
Game 3: Yankees 6, Orioles 4 – 10 innings
Joe Girardi’s quizzical moves continued before this game even started, when the Yankees decided not to call up an extra arm for the depleted bullpen. They felt Sabathia could step up and give them some length, which would save the pen for another day. The Yankees got off to a quick lead in the first inning, but naturally, Sabathia had 50 pitches through two, and the game went 10 innings. Things ended up working out, as the Yankees got another clutch hit in the extra frame and won 6-4.
A Struggling Ace
There’s no way around it, CC Sabathia did not pitch well in this game. It was his second straight lackluster start, and the second time he’s really struggled with command. CC breezed through the first, but got in trouble in the second as soon as Matt Wieters singled and he had to pitch from the stretch. The big lefty threw over 30 pitches in the inning, and the Orioles put up a 2-spot on a Robert Andino 2-run single. CC just didn’t seem able to put any hitters away from the stretch, which continued throughout the game. I will give Sabathia this much, though. Once again, he turned a possible disaster into a gritty performance, managing to pitch 6 innings (112 pitches) before finally giving way to the pen. CC’s final line wasn’t pretty (6 innings, 8 hits, 4 runs, 2 BBs), but he managed to strike out 8 batters and kept the Yankees in the game on a night where he once again didn’t have his best stuff.
More Bullpen Dominance
Despite being completely taxed, the Yankees bullpen picked Sabathia up and gave the Yankees a chance to come back and win. After the Yankees tied it in the 7th, LOOGY Boone Logan came in and did something I didn’t really think he could do. He gave the Yankees 1.2 innings of perfect relief, getting out righties and lefties alike. After he struck out Mark Reynolds for the second out of the 8th, Girardi took him out (because no one can get Ronny Paulino out) and put in Rafael Soriano. Soriano pitched in (ah?) with 1.1 innings and escaped a two-out rally in the bottom of the 9th with a key bases loaded strikeout of Adam Jones to end the inning.
Because The Yankees hadn’t called up another arm before the game, Phil Hughes eventually made his way down to the bullpen just in case the game went long. As my good friend Tom said to me, Hughes is probably the one guy in the rotation you don’t want to mess with, so I wasn’t too thrilled with this. Luckily for the Yankees, they scored in the top of the 10th (more on this in the next section), and they went to Mo’s again for the save. Rivera seems to have really settled down after his shaky blown save in the season opener at Tampa, as he worked around a hit to notch his second save of the season.
Another Night, Another Game Winner Not by A-Rod, Tex or Cano.
This was another frustrating game to watch as far as the Yankees offense is concerned. While it wasn’t as bad as the night before, the Yankees clutch hitting continued to be almost nonexistent throughout this game. Curtis Granderson finally went big fly though, smacking a fastball from Orioles starter, Jake Arrieta, deep over the right field fence in the top of the first. The Yankees led 2-0, but they would need a little more to get them a win. After Sabathia let the O’s tie the game in the second, the Yankees re-took the lead in the top of the fifth on an rbi groundout by Jeter (it should be noted that they could have had more, but again failed with RISP). After the Orioles took the lead in the bottom of the inning (thanks, CC), the Yankees got a big clutch hit from Curtis Granderson with two outs in the 7th, which scored Russell Martin to tie the game.
The Yankees had their worst RISP fail of the night in the top of the 8th. Despite his best efforts, A-Rod squeaked a single through the right side to lead it off. Eduardo Núñez pinch ran and, after a useless fly ball by Mark Teixeira, stole second and moved to third on an error by second baseman Robert Andino. The Yankees were set up with a man on third and one out, needing only a fly ball to re-take the lead. Naturally, Swisher struck out looking, essentially killing the rally (although Russell Martin still technically had to strike out to end the inning).
Things stayed that way until the top of the 10th when Swisher finally redeemed himself. Cano started the inning with a ground ball out, which was followed by a single by Núñez. Núñez continued his love/hate relationship with fans by getting picked off (forehead slap!). Inexcusable. How long is he going to keep making these silly mistakes?Anyway, Teixeira came up next and tried really hard to get out, but the infield was shifted to the right side, so his useless popup to left field became a bloop double. Swisher then came up and hammered one into the right field seats. Finally! That did it for the scoring, and the game ended 6-4 after some quick work by Mariano.
Notable Offense: HR – Granderson (1), Swisher (2), RBI – Granderson 3 (3), Jeter (3), Swisher 2 (6), SB – Núñez (1), 2 hits for Granderson and Teixeira
Don’t get me wrong. I was thrilled to pick up three big wins in Baltimore, but there’s a lot to worry about right now with this team. Aside from Iván Nova, none of the starters have pitched particularly well through their first turn in the rotation (and CC’s second). The big-time clutch hits are not coming nearly as often as they should be. The Yankees could have easily blown the Orioles out the last two games, but instead needed extra innings to win both contests. They need to start getting those big hits more often, because teams aren’t going to let them off the hook like the Orioles did this week (the O’s also struggled mightily with RISP). Cano, Rodriguez and Teixeira, who have one combined RBI in the team’s first six games, need to get it going soon if the Yankees are going to play with the big boys of the AL East. It’s pretty remarkable that the Yankees have scored as many runs as they have (six runs four of their games) with their 3,4 and 5 hitters contributing as little as they have. It does make you think that, when those three guys get it going, the league is going to be in a lot of trouble.
I can’t say enough about how impressive Derek Jeter has looked so far. His timing is pretty much dead on, and he’s hitting almost everything up the middle and to the right side, which is where he hits the ball when he’s at his most effective. Granderson showed some signs of busting out of his mini-funk last night, hitting the 2-run homer and the rbi single, which should help everyone behind him gear up. The Yankees have shown a lot of patience at the plate so far this season, walking 31 times in their six games, which is why they’ve had so many chances to squander with RISP. I have faith that eventually the offense will click into gear and terrorize the league like it is capable of doing.
The bullpen is probably the best in baseball right now, and there’s little reason to think it won’t remain so. Rafael Soriano is looking for a bounce back from his ineffective and injury-riddled 2011 and has looked pretty great so far. David Robertson seems to be in mid-season form after a shaky spring, and the Yankees might have discovered a new valuable weapon in rookie David Phelps. Mariano, despite the yearly predictions of his demise, still notched two saves in the series.
Overall, the Yankees looked as good against the Orioles as they looked bad agains the Rays. The Sweep of Showalter’s birds got them back to .500 and has built some good momentum heading into the home opener later today. If they can just correct some of the problems they’ve been having, they should be good to go against Anaheim this weekend. We’ll be back with a series review on Monday. Until then, let’s go Yankees.
Featured image courtesy of: PATRICK SEMANSKY/AP
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