Jobu Reviews the Yankees sweep of the Atlanta Braves.
For some reason, the Yankees play the Braves twice this year. Not like, one two-game series, but two full three game series. That, coupled with the fact that the Yankees have now played the Reds two years in a row for no reason, leads me to believe the schedule makers don’t give a crap about interleague play anymore. Oh crap, we missed an interleague series for the Braves and Yankees? Eh, just make them play each other again! The kids will love it! We can pretend they’re still rivals from the late 90s. Ah?
Anyway, the Yankees came to Atlanta on quite the run after sweeping the Mets (hee hee. still feels good). They’d won six of seven, and thirteen of the last seventeen games. The Braves, meanwhile, had also been playing well, winning eight of the the last ten games they’d played. After tasting the bitter essence of collapse last September, the Braves are now second in the NL West behind the Nationals. Here’s how this throwback to the late 90s went down.
Game 1: Yankees 3, Braves 0
The Yankees had Iván Nova on the hill in this one. Nova was coming off of what was by far his best start of the season, against the Rays, and he was hoping to prove that that start was the new norm, and not just an oasis in the desert of fastballs down the middle that has been 2012 for the young right hander. The Braves countered with rookie Randall Delgado, who came into the game with four wins and a 4.26 ERA. In the end, the Yankees came away with a 3-0 win. Opening Salvos for everyone!
Great Nova? Great Nova…
If you look the boxscore, Nova pitched a great game to notch his eight win of the season (8!). He went seven innings and allowed no runs on five hits while walking only one and striking out six Braves. In reality, things were a little more difficult than that, although not much. Nova allowed the leadoff man to reach base in five of his seven innings, although two were erased on double plays (including a nice play by Nova on a liner back at him in the third inning) and only one reached second base (on a balk). There really isn’t much else to talk about when it comes to Nova’s 107 pitch night. You can nitpick about the leadoff men, but if nobody scores against you, it’s usually going to be a win.
Nova has now put together two very good consecutive starts, pitching 15 innings and only allowing one earned run to the Rays and Braves. Hopefully, this trend continues, and Nova pitches like he did down the stretch last season. Oh, how could I forget! He also laced a single to right in his first at bat. Good all around game for Iván. Girardi used as many relievers as he could to finish the last two innings (Eppley, Rapada, Wade and Logan), but they got the job done with Soriano on the shelf with a blister, and the Yankees won the game.
The Yankees built a picket fence in the early going of this game (stupid Michael Kay saying) by scoring one run in each of the first three innings. In the top of the first, A-Rod doubled with two out and Canó singled him in. It was a nice two out mini rally to salvage an uneventful inning. In the top of the second, Ibañez hit his tenth home run of the season (his first since May 19th) to give the Yankees a 2-0 lead. Ibñez is now first all-time in home runs by a player over 40 in a single season, which is pretty cool.
In the third, the Yankees pushed another run across for a 3-0 lead, although the RISP monster reared it’s ugly head again. After loading the bases with one out, they only managed one run. Ibañez struck out (I believe he’s now 0-10 with the bases loaded) and Swisher tried his best to blow it but Delgado threw a wild pitch that scored A-Rod. I love when the Yankees try to blow big situations and even the opposing pitcher feels bad enough about their RISP struggles to help them out a bit.
Notable Offense: HR – Ibañez (10), RBI – Canó (30), Ibañez (31), 2 hits for Canó
Game 2: Yankees 6, Braves 4
Talk about snatching victory from the jaws of defeat. The Yankees were taken to school by Mike Minor for the first seven innings of this game and CC Sabathia struggled once again with his control (at one point is he just having a bad year?), but the Yankees used some late inning, record-tying heroics to come roaring back in the eighth for their fifth straight win. The way they won this game was so dramatic and anti-2012 Yankees (except the last game against the Mets), that it really made me feel good about where the Yankees will be come September/October. It was uplifting to say the least.
Just Get Me Something to Drink!
As a clay-mation Rocky once said to a little clay-mated Burgeous Meredith in a Lipton Brisk commercial my friends and I still laugh about after fifteen years, “Nothing’s over, just get me something to drink!” I don’t know what it was that the Yankees drank before the top of the eighth, but whatever it was, it helped them obliterate the memory of the terrible game they were having through the first seven. They only managed five hits in those seven innings, and all but one were singles.
That all changed in the eighth. After Russell Martin led off with a fly ball to right, Jeter slapped a ground ball single to right, which chased Minor. The Braves brought in Johnny Venters, who has been one of the most dominant relievers in all of baseball over the last two seasons. So, after not scoring any runs on the second worst pitcher (by ERA) in the major leagues, the Yankees looked like they were ready to bow out and end the winning streak. Using reverse psychology (love the mind games), the Yankees instead slapped Venters around like nobody’s business.
Granderson welcomed him to the game with a single and Teixeira reached on a walk to load the bases for A-Rod. Alex worked the count full and fouled off a couple of tough pitches before getting himself a nice-a meat-a ball-a to hit, and he popped it over the fence for a game-tying grand slam. I immediately exchanged several profanity-laced text messages with my friend Tom and my brother (the happy kind of profanity). What a relief that was. Finally, a huge hit from A-Rod. Canó followed that with a single, and Venters was pulled in favor of Cory Gearrin to face Nick Swisher. Swisher didn’t waste too much time in giving the Yankees a 6-4 lead with a two-run jack to right. The comeback was complete, and the Yankees had the lead they would hold onto for the rest of the game.
Notable Offense: HR – A-Rod (10), Swisher (10), RBI – A-Rod 4 (29), Swisher 2 (39), 2 hits for Jeter, Granderson and Swisher
New Catcher Maybe?
No one really knows what’s causing Sabathia to pitch like (CURSE ALERT) a bit of an asshole so far in 2012. I’ve talked about it in my series reviews all season, and the question has been on the lips of every Yankees beat writer and reporter with a laptop or a pen. Is it the weight loss? Is he injured? Is he sad about something? Does he not like Chris Stewart anymore? Your guess is as good as mine on this one. CC struggled early again in this one and the Yankees found themselves down 3-0 after Matt Diaz‘s three-run double with one out.
I really think this must be something mental with CC. I’m not saying I don’t like what Stewart is doing behind the plate every fifth day, but maybe it’s time to try Sabathia with Russell Martin as his backstop again? Martin seems to have helped the rest of the rotation turn things around in the last few weeks, so maybe a couple of starts with CC will help The Big Lefty™ man up the next time out. Plus, Joe Girardi refuses to admit that Stewart is Sabathia’s personal catcher (despite the evidence from CC’s last X starts supporting the contrary), so it shouldn’t be a big deal to switch them up once right?
Sabathia settled in in the middle innings and ended up with his eighth win because of the huge eighth inning comeback by the offense, but he certainly wasn’t dominant. He ended up with the following line: 7 Ip, 10 H, 4 R, 2 BB, 6 Ks and 109 pitches. He really needs to step it up, before we all start conceding that he’s just going to have a bad year.
Game 3:Yankees 3, Braves 2
The Yankees entered this game aiming for their second consecutive series sweep. It was not, by any means, easy, They needed some gutsy pitching from Hiroki Kuroda, a huge clutch hit from Curtis Granderson and some stellar bullpen work to get this one done. At the end of the day, the 3-2 victory gave the Yankees the sweep, their sixth win in a row and their sixteenth win in the last twenty games.
Guts and Glory
Hiroki Kuroda definitely did not have his best stuff in this game. Let’s just put that right out there. In his defense, however, unlike CC Sabathia lately, he didn’t implode in any of his innings. He simply battled through with everything he had (and even some stuff he didn’t have) and managed to put together a solid game. The continuing reverse psychology I am convinced Girardi has been using all series made the Braves go just 2-13 with RISP, which helped a little bit too.
The only mistake Kuroda didn’t get away with in game three was a 2-2 fastball to Brian McCann in the bottom of the fifth. McCann crushed it, giving the Braves a 2-1 lead that they would not hold onto for very long. Kuroda eventually gave way to the trio of Logan, Eppley and Soriano (who notched his 11th save), and the Yankees won the game. LIke I said, Kuroda didn’t have his best stuff, but he managed the following line: 6 Ip, 9 H, 2 R, 2 BB, 8 K (season high), 110 pitches and his sixth win of the season. Kudos!
Minimal Offense, Maximum Results
The boxscore might not show it, Tim Hudson pitched a much better game than Kuroda. Jeter led things off with a double in the first and came around to scow on a one-out single by A-Rod, and then Huddy didn’t allow much until the sixth. In that sixth inning, after having just gotten the lead, Hudson made his only real mistake of the night. After Jeter singled to lead things off, Granderson got a pitch that caught a little too much of the plate, and he hit high fly ball that hooked around the foul pole in right. The Yankees had their 3-2 lead, and they wouldn’t give it up. Aside from those two hits, the Yankees didn’t do much of anything. They showed why pitching is way more important than hitting when it comes to winning championships.
Notable Offense: HR- Granderson (19), RBI – A-Rod (30), Granderson 2 (36), SB – Wise (5), 2 hits for Jeter
I haven’t done a “final thoughts” in a while, because I’ve just been enjoying all the winning, but this win gave me some thoughts, and here they are. The Yankees are playing, by far, their best baseball of 2012 so far. Their .800 winning percentage over the last twenty games is no fluke either. The starting rotation, which struggled so mightily in the first few weeks of the season, has really turned things around (except CC, although he technically turned things around because he wasn’t crappy before). Although the offense still struggles with runners in scoring position, they’re slightly better, and they’re getting late clutch hits to help them win games (twice in each of the last two series), so that’s something to be happy about.
Let’s see if they can keep things going against the Nationals, starting Friday!
Featured image courtesy of: Scott Cunningham/Getty Images
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