Jobu Reviews the Yankees last series of the year against the Detroit Tigers.
OK so we’re getting ridiculous with these titles, but you try coming up with something clever for every series. Anyway, after finally netting a series victory against the Mariners, the Yankees traveled to Detroit to face Justin Verlander and the Detroit Tigers for kind of a big series for both teams. The Tigers had been playing very well of late, and were looking to get a leg up on the Angels and Athletics in that whacky double Wild Card race. The Yankees, meanwhile, weren’t that far ahead of the Tigers to begin this series so, if the worst happens and they blow the division, it would be nice to know they still have a good hold on one of those Wild Cards. Unfortunately for the Yankees, they ended up dropping the first two games, which left them scrambling to eek out the last two games and a series split.
Game 1: Tigers 7, Yankees 2
As I mentioned earlier, the Yankees were facing the great Justin Verlander in this game. You can’t ever really feel comfortable facing a guy like Verlander, but the Yankees have handled him the last couple of seasons (including in the playoffs), so I wasn’t chalking this one up as an automatic loss either. I guess I should have. Verlander dusted off his MVP form and didn’t allow any earned runs (two unearned) while striking out 14 Yankees. It also doesn’t help that the Yankees had Iván Nova on the mound, and he’s the worst.
I know I talked about this in my 2/3 Season Review post just a couple of days ago, but I can’t stress this enough: Iván Nova shouldn’t be in the rotation if he’s going to continue to pitch the way he has pitched for most of this season. Nova was tattooed yet again in this game, to the tune of seven runs on eleven hits. His monthly ERAs now read like this: 5.18 (March/April), 5.87 (May), 1.26 (June), 5.97 (July) and 11.81 (August). I don’t know what he was doing in June, but he should watch some game tapes or something, and quickly. I’m really not sure why he was left in after allowing three runs in the fifth, but maybe Girardi wanted him to allow two more runs before he was done for the night… His final line looked like this: 5.1 Ip, 11 H, 7 R, 0 BB, 5 K, 68 pitches and his sixth loss of the season (10-6). At least Joba Chamberlain was throwing in the mid-to-high 90s in relief in this one. Good to see.
Most Verlander Player
There’s not really much to say about the Yankees offense in this game. It stunk, but can you really hope for too much when you’re facing the reigning Cy Young and MVP Award winner? The Yankees managed to score two unearned runs in the top of the fifth inning. With Eric Chavez on second and two outs (he had doubled to lead off the inning), Verlander himself made an error on a ball hit by Curtis Granderson. Everyone was safe and then Derek Jeter and Robinson Canó hit consecutive RBI singles to tie the game at two. That would be all for the Yankees. We can talk about the Ks, we can talk about the RISP fail, but it simply came down to Verlander being Verlander.
Notable Offense: RBI – Jeter (34), Canó (64), 3 hits for Chavez, 2 for Jeter and Canó
Game 2: Tigers 6, Yankees 5
This loss was particularly frustrating for three reasons. One, the Yankees took and early lead and blew it. Two, Phil Hughes just wasn’t very good. Three, Joe Girardi has had his idiot hat on. What started as a pretty favorable matchup between Hughes and Rick Porcello (against whom the league was hitting almost .300 coming into the game), turned into another terrible loss. Sure there was that almost comeback, but did we really think they were going to tie the game?
It’s OK, Phildo
Hughes has been so good of late, that he was due for a bit of a stinker in this game, especially against a team with Miguel Cabrera on it. The guy kills the Yankees, and Hughes in particular, and there was nothing different in this game. Hughes basically eased through the first three innings but, when Cabrera tagged him for a leadoff home run in the bottom of the fourth, something changed. The rest of the inning was absolutely brutal. Hughes threw over 30 pitches in the inning and eventually allowed a game-tying double. While he limited the damage, that inning clearly wore him out. In the bottom of the fifth, he was clearly laboring and throwing about two or three mph slower than he had been earlier. That’s why, after the first two hitters singled and Omar Infante lined out, I found it unfathomable that Girardi left him in to face Cabrera again. That’s gotta be one of the biggest boners of the season, as Cabrera doubled in two crucial runs and chased Hughes. His final line looked like this: 4.1 Ip, 8 H, 4 R, 0 BB, 3 Ks, 102 pitches and his ninth loss of the season (11-9)
The bullpen wasn’t a whole lot better, as Cody Eppley and Chamberlain each allowed runs, which put the Tigers far enough ahead to withstand the Yankees ninth inning rally.
Too Little, Too Late
As I said earlier, the Yankees actually got off to a lead in this game. That happened in the top of the fourth, when Chavez hit an opposite field two-run homer. Unfortunately, they would not score again until the seventh, when Ichiro Suzuki doubled in Nick Swisher before being stranded at second base himself. The Yankees tried to put together some ninth inning magic against José Valverde (who I still contend might be the worst closer in baseball). With Chavez on first and two out, Valverde walked Raúl Ibañez, gave up an RBI single to Ichiro (multiple hit game!), and an RBI double to Russell Martin. This made the score 6-5, and many complained that Ichiro didn’t score on Martin’s double, but I think it was played well in left field by Quintin Berry and Ichiro would have been meat at the plate. It didn’t matter anyway, because Granderson popped up to end the game and the Yankees lost again.
Notable Offense: HR – Chavez (11), RBI – Chavez 2 (26), Ichiro 2 (32), Martin (31), 3 hits for Swisher, 2 for Teixeira, Chavez and Ichiro
Game 3: Yankees 12, Tigers 8
Desperate for a win, the Yankees sent their “Ace” CC Sabathia to the hill against one of the newest Tigers, former Marlin Anibal Sanchez. When they got off to a 7-0 lead, I felt pretty good. Good enough, in fact, to kind of stop paying attention to the game and go about the business of writing parts of this post. Next thing I knew it was 8-7, but the Yankees were able to tack on some huge runs in the top of the eight and ninth innings and nail down the victory. PHEW!
I’m actually not sure if I mean that sarcastically or not. The non-sarcastic part comes from CC’s first five innings, when he only allowed one run and had a 7-1 lead. Unfortunately, he forgot how to pitch in the sixth and seventh innings (OK so some shoddy defense certainly didn’t help). The seventh was the real problem. Austin Jackson led off with a single, but Sabathia rebounded to strike out Infante and got Cabrera to ground into an inning ending double play. Ohhh wait. Casey McGehee flubbed the double play, and the wheels came off. Prince Fielder came up and hit a soft grounder to first that Mark Teixeira bobbled. That split second bobble kept him from possibly getting Jackson at home, and the Yankees settled for the second out and a 7-4 lead.
That was all for Sabathia, as Girardi pulled him in favor of David Robertson, who was struck by some very bad luck and almost blew the game. With Cabrera at second and two out, Delmon Young hit an infield single and Andy Dirks blooped a single to left, which scored Cabrera. Brennan Boesch‘s infield single then scored Young, and Alex Avila followed with another soft liner into left field to make it an 8-7 game. Robertson finally got the third out of the inning on a ground out by Ramón Santiago, and the Yankees escaped with a lead. After the Yankees extended their lead in the top of the eighth, Robertson allowed a solo home run to Infante before Boone Logan closed out the inning. Rafael Soriano ended the madness with a 123 ninth, and the Yankees had their first win of the series. YEESH!
The Yankees came out firing on all cylinders in this game, and it took them only a few batters to nab the lead in the top of the first. Swisher walked and Teixeira was hit by a pitch before Chavez blooped a two-out single for an RBI. Granderson then followed with an RBI single of his own, and the Yankees led 2-0. Granderson took it upon himself to extend the lead with a three-run home run in the top of the third, and the Yankees added two more in the top of the fourth to take a 7-0 lead. After the Tigers scored two in the sixth, the Yankees answered with a run in the top of the seventh to make it 8-3. It soon got less comfortable, but the Yankees would tack on late runs to seal the deal.
They picked up two runs in the top of the eighth when Teixeira hit an RBI single and Chavez drove in a run with a groundout for a 10-7 lead. After that became a 10-8 lead, the Yankees finally put it away in the top of the ninth. New pitcher Brayan Villareal got the first two batters out before Jayson Nix and Jeter hit back to back singles. With men on first and third, Villareal balked, which scored Nix and moved Jeter to second. Jeter would score on the RBI single by Canó to give the Yankees a 12-8 lead, which is how the game would end. The Yankees ended up with 18 hits and 8-16 with RISP, which was a big relief to see.
Notable Offense: HR – Granderson (30), RBI – Chavez 2 (28), Granderson 4 (66), Swisher (56), Teixeira 2 (74), Ichiro (33), SB – Canó (3), 3 hits for Granderson and Canó, 2 hits for Jeter, Swisher, Teixeira and Chavez
Game 4: Yankees 4, Tigers 3
Game four… For my own mental health, I really needed the Yankees to win this game and even out the series. I think most Yankees fans felt the same way on this one. The Yankees had arguably their best pitcher, Hiroki Kuroda on the mound, while the Tigers, looking for the series win, countered with Doug Fister. We all remember Fister from his incredible run in the second half of last season, but he hasn’t been as consistent this year. Injuries and inconsistency have messed with his season a bit, although he has pitched well of late. In the end the Yankees got some clutch homers and the bullpen held on for another huge sigh of relief win, and a series split.
A New Ace in Town?
My distaste for CC Sabathia’s performance thus far this season has been pretty evident on this blog. I’m not going to pull any punches there. I really do believe though, that their best pitcher right now is Hiroki Kuroda. The man I have dubbed as the new Ace of the team wasn’t at his total best in game four, but he put up another quality start against a tough offense, which is all we can continue to ask for from him. Also, the terrible run support trend continued, as the Yankees only managed two runs during his 6.1 innings of work. As my brother said to me, if he had any kind of run support, Kuroda might be 16-2. Unfortunately in this one, the Yankees didn’t score much, and Kuroda ended up with a no-decision. The three runs he allowed in this game came on a two-run home run by Avila, and a controversial bloop double by Dirks. The ball was initially called foul by third base umpire Tim Welke, which made Girardi explode and get tossed. Anyway, Kuroda’s final line looked like this: 6.1 Ip, 10 H, 3 R, 0 BBs, 5 Ks, 102 pitches. Great job, good effort.
Can’t say enough about the job the bullpen did in this game. Clay Rapada relieved Kuroda to finish up the seventh inning against a couple of tough lefties with a runner in scoring position and got them both out. David Phelps then came in to face the Monster Mash™ (my brother’s nickname for Cabrera and Fielder) in the eighth, which was a big opportunity for him to make a name for himself. He got Cabrera to pop out after starting him 3-0, then allowed a single to Fielder before balking and getting the second out on a fly ball to Jackson. Tony Peña, who was managing because of Girardi’s baby tantrum, channeled his inner Joe Torre by bringing in Soriano for the patented four out save (seriously, I think managers have to pay Torre every time they do that). Soriano got out of the eighth on a scary fly ball to Jhonny Peralta, and put men on first and third with nobody out in the bottom of the ninth before regaining his composure and getting three softly hit fly ball/pop up outs to end the game. Yooge save, yooge win.
Doug Fister fought valiantly for the Tigers (and my fantasy team) in this game, but it simply wasn’t enough. Sure, he held the Yankees to just two runs over his 6.1 innings, but you could really see that he was struggling with his command. The Yankees scored both of those runs in the top of the third inning, when Chavez (who else) singled and scored on Ibañez’s triple (pffft) and Ichiro drove in Ibañez with a single of his own. That would be all for the Yankees on offense until after Fister was gone. Jim Leyland went to Joaquin Benoit to pitch the top of the eighth, and that proved to be unwise. Benoit got the first out before falling behind to Teixeira. Forced to throw a hittable pitch, Benoit threw a fastball down the middle and up a little, and Tex crushed it over the right field wall to tie the game. The next batter, Chavez (I mean really now) took him deep over the left field fence to give the Yankees the 4-3 lead they would not relinquish. An interesting note from Yankees announcer Michael Kay… 10 of the last 12 hits Benoit has allowed have been home runs. Chew on that, Joaquin!
Notable Offense: HR – Teixeira (21), Chavez (12), RBI – Ibañez (50), Ichiro (34), Teixeira (75), Chavez (29)
The fact that the Yankees managed to salvage a split of this series could end up being huge. Lets face it, this team needed a big lift and some momentum heading into the three game weekend series against the Blue Jays. Hopefully, the last two games of this series fuel them to a more confident playing level and they can go out there and crap all over Toronto. Unfortunately Iván Nova pitches game two of the series, so the Jays might hit a few dingers there, but they should be able to win the other two games… I hope.
Also, how great has Eric Chavez been since A-Rod went down with his broken hand? When the injury first happened I suggested that Chavez would not hold up to every day (or near every day) play, and I still feel that in my heart of hearts, but good lord has he helped us not miss A-Rod. Since the injury, Chavez is hitting .353 with 3 homers and 8 RBI, but he really exploded in this series against Detroit. Chavy went 9-15 with 2 homers and 5 RBI. He even hit Cody Eppley in the head with a ball to make us all laugh!
After causing a bit of a controversy by saying he was concerned about the Yankees recent slump, he went out and pounded the ball, willing his teammates to fight to save the season. Awesome. Unfortunately, the Yankees are facing three lefties against Toronto, so we might not see a lot of Chavy in the next series. At least that will help him stay healthy, right? Maybe McGehee can step up and have a big series?
Featured image courtesy of: Leon Halip/Getty Images
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