Jobu Reviews the Yankees Series against the Minnesota Twins.
I know this is a day late, but cut me some slack! I was at the stadium Wednesday and Thursday, while my laptop stayed at work. Anyway, let’s go. What seemed like an easy series for the Yankees turned out to be a pretty hefty challenge. The Twins weren’t playing their best baseball coming into the series, but you wouldn’t have known it from the way they played. In the end, the Yankees won a thriller in the fourth game to really earn the series split. Things could have been a lot better, but they also could have been a lot worse.
Game 1: Twins 7, Yankees 3
The Yankees came off of their series win against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim with some solid momentum. The Twins came into this game with just two wins on the season. Historically, the Yankees had dominated the twins under Ron Gardenhire (33-7 at home over the last ten seasons, 63-20 overall including the playoffs) coming into the game. Twins pitcher Carl Pavano came into the game with a 5.93 ERA, and the first two Yankees he faced hit home runs. So, naturally, he produced a quality start and the Twins won. That’s baseball, Suzyn. Onto the review.
In his first outing, against the Orioles, Freddy García threw five wild pitches and only made it through 4.2 innings before he was pulled. This time, he was a little better, but not much. At least Freddy wasn’t wild today. He didn’t throw any wild pitches, and he didn’t even walk anyone. Unfortunately, his pitches were very hittable at times. Five straight hits in the first inning led to two Minnesota runs. As bad as things looked, Freddy settled down nicely, retiring all nine batters he faced in the 2nd, 3rd and 4th innings. The fifth, however, was a different story. Not sure if Freddy was running out of gas, or if it was just that the top of the order had his number, but three more hits led to two more Minnesota runs. After getting into some more trouble in the sixth (including a home run by Justin Morneau), Freddy was pulled.
It wasn’t the worst outing I’ve ever seen from Freddy. He actually looked very good in those middle three innings. It’s still not rotation worthy if Pettitte and Pineda were to come back tomorrow (they won’t, but still). I’ll take it as an improvement on his first start, but Freddy still has a lot to show the Yankees if they’re going to leave him in the rotation when reinforcements show up (not to mention David Phelps).
Promising Beginnings, Bitter Ends
As a Yankees fan, I am not shy about admitting my hatred for Carl Pavano. He basically stole $40MM from the Yankees, and so any success that he experiences really rubs me the wrong way. Also, his mustache is stupid. So, Eff him. That being said, I was extatic when the Yankees put up a three spot in the bottom of the first. The Cap’n kept his hot streak going with a leadoff home run to right field (his second leadoff homer of the year) on the 2nd pitch of the game. Granderson then hit Pavano’s third pitch into the second deck in right to tie the game at 2-2. Later in the inning, Teixeira drove in a run for the second game in a row (I know, my TV has to be on the fritz, right? It’s not even realistic anymore), and the Yankees led 3-2.
Unfortunately, that was it for the runs. The Yankees only managed five singles the rest of the game, as Pavano completely shut them down after that first inning. Can’t win too many games when your offense doesn’t score after the first inning, and so the Yankees lost. Womp Womp.
Notable Offense: HR – Jeter (3), Granderson (3), RBI – Jeter (7), Granderson (6), Teixeira (3), 2 hits for Jeter, Granderson, Rodriguez and Teixeira
Game 2: Yankees 8, Twins 3
There was a time when I couldn’t build a fantasy baseball team without Francisco Liriano. Through the good and the bad, Liriano had been on my team every year since 2009. I didn’t get to draft him this season, and boy am I glad, because that’s who the Yankees lit up in this game (mostly). The Yankees gave CC Sabathia enough offense to allow him to work out some kinks and put up his best start of the young season so far.
Here We Go Again? Not a Chance
This game definitely started out a little shaky for Sabathia and the Yankees. The Twins’ Josh Willingham, who was named the American League player of the week last week, homered to lead off the top of the second. After the Yankees tied it up in the bottom of the inning, Sabathia coughed it up the very next inning on a Clete Thomas (I hope his full name is Cletus) RBI double and a Jamey Carroll RBI single, and the Twins led 3-1. The here we go again feeling hit me in the stomach like a hunger pang. When was CC going to start pitching well? When was he going to put on his “big boy” pants for the season? When??
It turns out he’d put them on the very next inning. CC allowed only two base runners the rest of the game, on his way to his first “quality start” of the season. In all, the big lefty ace went 7.1 innings, allowing just those three runs on four hits, while walking one and striking out seven on 112 pitches. He gave way to Robertson and Wade, who closed out the game without incident.
I know it’s just the Twins, but Finally! If CC can get things going, I know everything will be OK because the rest of the rotation will too. Well, except for Hughes. He’s the worst right now (but I get to see him live on Thursday wooooo!)
Keep Bats Warm
The Yankees scored eight runs in this game, and they did it over the course of five different innings. That’s the kind of offense you want to see from your team. It’s important to get a team down early and then tack on and on throughout the course of the game, and that’s what the Yankees did.
The Yanks’ biggest inning came in the bottom of the third, after the Twins had taken back the lead from a struggling Sabathia. It started innocently enough, on a ground ball single up the middle by Andruw Jones. Granderson then pulled a pitch over the first baseman’s head for another single, and Jones scampered to third. Eduardo Núñez then swung at a 3-0 pitch (a cardinal sin for a guy like him), but managed to beat out an infield single for an RBI. After a walk to Brett Gardner loaded the bases and brought up “no bat, all glove” Chris Stewart, the Twins probably felt ok about the inning. How hard could it be to get Stewart out? Naturally, Stewey, as he has now been dubbed, lined a single to left that scored two runs. Go Figure. That chased Liriano, and a Derek Jeter sacrifice fly later, the Yankees led 5-3.
The Yankees went on to score a run in the fourth on a home run by my boy Andruw, a run in the fifth on an RBI single by the Captain, and their eighth and final run on another RBI single by Stewey in the bottom of the 7th. That’s how you keep the pressure on and win ballgames.
Notable Offense: HR – Jones (2), RBI – Gardner (3), Núñez (3), Stewart 3 (3), Jeter 2 (9), Jones (4), SB – Gardner (2), two hits for Swisher, Jones, Núñez, Gardner and Stewart.
Game 3: Twins 6, Yankees 5
Due to a surprise set of tickets becoming available at the last minute, I was actually at this game. I got free Legends Suite seats from my good buddy Marc, which meant we were seven rows back on the home plate side of the Twins dugout (look out for a photo gallery this weekend sometime). Anyway, this game started out very ugly, and the Yankees almost made an unlikely comeback, but they ultimately fell short. My Luxury Suite experience, however, was tremendous. I almost didn’t care about the loss… almost. Onto the review.
Back to Reality?
The last time Hiroki Kuroda pitched, he pitched 8 shutout innings in the Yankees home opener. In this one, he couldn’t even get an out before giving up a run. The first inning was a complete mess. Denard Span singled to open the inning just shortly after we returned to our seats from the free carving station buffet set up in the Audi Yankees Club (free!). Back to back doubles by Jamey Carroll and Joe Mauer made it 2-0 before Kuroda finally got an out. Justin Morneau then came up and hit a bomb to right-center, and it was 4-0 twins. After a single by Chris Parmalee (my friend nicknamed him Chicken Parmalee, and we were still laughing about it in the 9th inning), Kuroda finally got a couple of outs to end the frame.
The Yankees got Kuroda right back into it in the bottom of the first, and Kuroda had a good second inning, so things looked like they might be settling down, but a Sean Burroughs (anyone else remember him from the Little League World Series?) drove in a run with a single in the fourth, and it was 5-3 Twins. Justin Morneau, clearly trying to get me to pick him up for my fantasy team, absolutely clobbered another home run in the top of the fifth. By the time he touched home plate to make it 6-3 Twins, he was on my fantasy team (sorry Adam Lind), and Kuroda was out of the game.
I’m not sure what to think of Kuroda right now. He’s looked pretty terrible in two of his starts, but then went out and pitched 8 scoreless innings against a very good Angels offense. Which one is the real Kuroda? It’s hard to hold too many players accountable for what they do in the early games of the season, but I’m definitely getting a little nervous about his ability to handle the American League, not gonna lie. I find it hard to believe switching leagues would have this kind of immediate impact on a pitcher’s skill set, although it could also be that Kuroda is now 38 years old. We’ll find out, because he won’t be leaving the rotation any time soon. Hopefully he’ll heat up as the weather does.
Bullpen Dominance Continued
The Yankees almost came all the way back in this game, and it had a lot to do with the bullpen. The Yankees pen has been dominant thus far this season, but in game three, they did it with the “B-team,” proving that a good bullpen should be able to rely on every piece to get the job done. Clay Rapada came in when Girardi took pity on the fans and pulled Kuroda. He walked the first man he faced, but settled in to pitch 1.2 innings. He allowed one hit and one walk, and struck out two. He was replaced in the top of the seventh by the Yankees’ other lefty, Boone Logan. He too walked the first man he faced, but got through two innings while allowing only that walk and one hit, and striking out four Twins. Alfonso Soriano worked around a walk and a hit in the 9th, bending but not breaking, and gave the Yankees a chance to come back in the bottom of the 9th, which they almost did. Overall, the Yankees bullpen pitched 4.2 innings, allowing three walks and three hits, striking out six and allowing zero runs. Not too shabby. If the Yankees had come back to win this one, the bullpen would have been the reason. Unfortunately, they came up a little short.
Too Little, Too Late
For the second time in three games, the Yankees scored three runs in the bottom of the first inning. Unfortunately, like in game one, the Yankees pretty much stopped scoring after that. The Twins had Jason Marquis on the mound, a soft throwing righty veteran making his 2012 debut. Predictably, they jumped all over him. Red hot Derek Jeter opened up the inning with a ground ball single to right and Curtis Granderson walked. Mark Teixeira hammered a ball to center that was caught by Denard Span (Tex hit the ball really well in game three), which brought up Robinson Cano. Cano laced a double to left-center, and the Yankees were on the board. Swisher then singled up the middle, which scored both Granderson and Cano, and suddenly it was 4-3 Twins. Raúl Ibañez singled Swisher to third, and a walk to Andruw Jones loaded the bases for Eric Chavez.
To me, this was the turning point of the game. Marquis got ahead of Chavez 0-2, and things looked bleak for the at bat. The next pitch was basically down the middle, and Chavez hammered it. Unfortunately, he hammered it right at Twins second baseman Alexi Casilla. The Twins had all day to turn the double play, and they did so, ending the rally and the inning. After that, Marquis really settled in (like Pavano did in game one). The Yankees only managed a solo home run by Cano (it too was an absolute bomb) before Marquis gave way to the bullpen.
Things got pretty boring the rest of the way. The Yankees didn’t really threaten, and when they did, the threats weren’t that serious, until the 9th inning. A-Rod pinch-hit to start the inning, which seemed a little stupid to me because, if he hits one out, it’s still only 6-5. Always a gentleman, A-Rod saved us from our arguments by grounding out to third. This brought up the Captain. Jeter work a pretty impressive at bat, filling up the count and fouling off several good pitches by Twins closer Matt Capps. He smacked the 10th pitch of the at bat into the Yankees bullpen in right-center for his fourth home run of the year, and the Yankees pulled within one.
Curtis Granderson then struck out swinging, which brought up Mark Teixeira. As I said earlier, Tex was really hitting the ball well in this game. He started the game by lacing two deep fly balls for outs (one in center, one in right). He smacked hard, line-drive singles in his next two at bats, which means he could have easily been 4-4 in this game, instead of the 2-4 that was on his scorecard when he came up in the 9th. After working a 2-2 count, Tex got a good pitch to hit. When he hit it, we all thought it was gone. Tex either hit it off the end of the bat, or the wind held it up, because Twins right-fielder Clete Thomas caught it at the front of the warning track to end the game. This was another solid offensive performance for the Yankees, but they simply couldn’t overcome the damage Kuroda did on the mound.
Notable Offense: HR- Jeter (4), Cano (1), RBI – Cano 2 (3), Swisher 2 (13), Jeter (10), 3 hits for Jeter, 2 for Teixeira, Cano and Ibañez
Game 4: Yankees 7, Twins 6
The Yankees came into this game having lost two of three to a Twins team that had been 2-7 coming into the series. Needless to say, a big win and a split were necessary. Once again, I was in the house to watch this game, although I had normal people seats in section 209, by the right field foul pole (in foul territory). No free buffets or candy carts for me on this night, but baseball is baseball, and I was hoping for a win as much as the Yankees were. After yet another rocky start (4 runs for the Twins in the first), the Yankees used the long ball to come back, and eventually win the game. Here’s how it all went down.
Phil Hughes Still Hates Me… Just A Little Less
While the horrors of the first inning weren’t all Phil Hughes‘ fault (Eduardo Núñez’s yips struck again), I’d still give him about 85% of the blame. Frankly, I think Hughes just doesn’t like me. As my brother said, “maybe he reads your blog and just plain hates you.” To that, I say fair enough, Phil… fair enough. My new least favorite player Jamey Carroll got things started with a single to right, which brought up Joe Mauer. Mauer hit a soft grounder to Núñez, who promptly muffed the throw, pulling Teixeira way off the bag and allowing Joe to reach first. After a strike out on a 94mph heater up in the zone by Josh Willingham, things looked like they were going to be ok. Naturally, Hughes remembered I was in the stands, and decided to give up and RBI single to Ryan Doumit and a two-run double to Danny Valencia. For the second straight game, the Twins led 4-0 after the top of the first. While the error meant none of the runs were earned, no one in the house was debating whose fault it all was.
Once the Yankees got him back into the game a bit in the bottom of the first, Phildo actually pitched pretty well. He only allowed three base runners over the next four innings, which gave the Yankees a chance to win the game. Things got a little hairy as Hughes began to tire in the sixth. He walked Morneau to lead off the inning, and Doumit crushed a home run into the third deck in right, which made things uncomfortable again. Hughes followed that up with a strike out of Danny Valencia, and that was it for Phildo.
Was it his best performance of all time? No. Did Phil settle down when he needed to and keep his team in the game so that they could erase the deficit he put them in in the first inning? Yes. Can he use this start to build some confidence for his next time out? Of course. Will these types of outings keep him in the rotation when Andy Pettitte is ready to come back? Absolutely not. Hughes ended up with 5.1 innings of six hit, six run (only two earned) ball, with two walks and four Ks. He still threw way too many pitches, leaving the game with 103. He has now used 286 pitches to pitch 13.1 innings this season, which is still ridiculous. He needs to be more economic, as the Yankees bullpen cannot keep having to bail him (and Kuroda) out every time out. Most importantly for Phil though, he ended up with a W. At the end of the day, those matter.
Beating the Dead Horse of Bullpen Dominance
At some point I’m going to have to stop writing about how awesome the Yankees bullpen is, because my readers will start hating me. Logan started it off in game four with 0.2 innings (1 hit), before giving way to Soriano. Now, I’m not going to claim Soriano was dominant. In fact, he gave up a couple of one-out hits that had us worrying in our non-cushioned, non-free food having seats (sigh). He recovered to strike out Morneau and Doumit to end the inning, and he struck out the side overall, so it wasn’t as bad as it seemed. Naturally, the best setup man in the league, David Robertson, pitched the 8th inning, working around a leadoff double (he really likes pitching with men on base, doesn’t he?) to get the ball to the greatest closer of all time for a perfect 9th inning. In all, the bullpen pitched 3.2 more scoreless innings, lowering their ERA to 1.82 for the season. It’s comforting to know that leads are probably safe after the starters exit late, and deficits don’t grow if a starter bails early.
Not Once, Not Twice, But Thrice!
Game four’s offense was brought to you by the numbers 1, 3, 5 and 6, and the letters H and R. In the first inning, the Yankees were facing a large deficit, before Curtis Granderson hit his first home run of the game. A few batters later, Mark Teixeira hit his first home run of the season, and the Yankees now only trailed 4-3. It was “dejavu all over again” in the second inning, as granderson followed a Derek Jeter RBI single by clobbering another home run, this one a 2-run shot into the second deck in right, giving the Yankees a 6-4 lead. Granderson was not done though. He came up again in the fourth, and laced a line drive over the short porch in right for his third home run of the game, and his sixth of the season. I was sitting in foul territory in right field, so i got a good look at all of the home runs. We didn’t think think the second one was going out at all. It was too high (who gives a s**t, it’s gone!). Then it landed in the second deck. Go figure. That last home run by Granderson ended up being the game winning run, and Curtis ended up with a 5-5 night after two singles later in the game. It was an awesome performance by Grandy, who came into the game hitting just .208 (ended it at .283). Yankees win.
Notable Offense: HR – Granderson 3 (6), Teixeira (1), RBI – Granderson 4 (10), Teixeira 2(5), Jeter (11), SB – Núñez (2), 5 hits for Granderson, 2 for A-Rod, Teixeira and Ibañez.
This wasn’t the prettiest series I’ve ever seen. The Yankees were down early in all four games, and other than CC Sabathia’s outing, the starting pitching left a lot to be desired. García, Kuroda and Hughes could not make it through the 6th inning (Kuroda was by far the worst of the three), which put a lot of strain on an already overused bullpen. Luckily for the Yankees, the bullpen continues to dominate, but how long can they keep pitching three and four innings three out of every five games? The Yankees need their starters to pitch deeper into games, otherwise the bullpen will soon become a weakness. The overtaxing of the bullpen actually has the Yankees down a position player now, because they brought up some more relief instead of an outfielder to replace the injured Brett Gardner.
Speaking of Gardner, the Yankees can’t continue to throw Raúl Ibañez and Andruw Jones in the outfield. Jones was once the best center fielder in the game, but those days are gone, and Ibañez is almost 40 and was never that great an outfielder to begin with. I really hope that the starters start pitching deeper into games so that the Yankees can bring up Chris Dickerson or Dewayne Wise, a couple of guys that don’t hit much, but won’t cost them any runs defensively either. Let’s hope that happens soon. As far as the rest of the offense is concerned, it seems like guys are starting to get it going. Granderson now has six home runs, and Cano and Teixeira have been hitting the ball a lot better the last few games. I see some good things coming in the next couple of weeks for them.
Overall, it’s hard to bring a lot of momentum from this series and into the Fenway series this weekend, but hopefully the Yankees can build on the big win in game four against the Twins.
Featured image courtesy of: (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)
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