Items of Subway Series Interest - Primetime Edition

    Saturday, May 21, 2011, 5:10 PM [General]

    Today is May 21 and for the second year in a row on this date, the Yankees are playing the Mets. Last year, it was Javier Vazquez on the mound in one of his finest moments as a Yankee. Five years ago on this date, the Mets were winners over the Yankee at Shea Stadium when Carlos Delgado and David Wright hit home runs off Aaron Small.

    Small was like R.A. Dickey for the Yankees back then but the follow-up to a 10-0 2005 season did not end well, similiar to how Dickey had struggled until last night.

    Speaking of struggles, the Yankees have lost six straight home games and this is the second skid of that length since the 95-loss 1990 season. The other was during this in May 2003 when the Yankees dropped eight straight May 16-26, 2003, a stretch that included a four-game sweep to the Toronto Blue Jays.

    That time was a go for the bats and so has this stretch for the Yankees, who have dropped 11 of 17 overall, going from eight games over .500 to just three games over. The stretch has featured errors, poor situational hitting and occassionally poor pitching though you can't fault Freddy Garcia for his performance last night.

    Garcia will have a seat tonight as A.J. Burnett tries to keep that ERA below four. A year ago, it was at 3.83 but with another start like Monday's it could soar over four. That night in Tampa Bay, Burnett allowed season worsts of six runs and eight hits in 5 2/3 innings while blowing a four-run lead.

    Burnett is one of those who have played for both organizations though he never pitched in the major leagues for the Mets, who traded him three years after selecting him with their eighth-round selection in 1995.

    Burnett will face a Met lineup that has enjoyed mixed results. For example Jason Bay is 8-for-21 (.381) against Burnett, Carlos Beltran is 5-for-19 (.263) but Jose Reyes is hitless in 17 at-bats.

    In earlier posts this season, Burnett's changeup has been discussed. He has thrown that pitch 70 times but just 29 times this month and in starts against the Rays and Royals, it was thrown 16 and eight times respectively.

    If he does throw it, it might be because of what is contained in scouting reports showing what Met hitters do against changeups coming from right-handed pitching.

    Those reports might indicate that Reyes is a .227 hitter against that pitch. They might show that Bay hits .123 against the pitch and they might also indicate that Beltran is a .223 hitter off that pitch.

    Elsewhere with the Yankees, the topic of Robinson Cano was brought up. In recent games, Cano's defense has not been the greatest and his error last night was his fourth - one more than last night.

    But manager Joe Girardi said that was not a big deal and it's not right now because it could be one of those phases. But if that continues much like the situational hittinng issue that has plagued the team recently, it could be worth noting.

    That lineup will feature Alex Rodriguez as the DH, where he is a .296 hitter. Rodriguez is 7-for-18 in his last four games and will try to avoid hitting grounders to Reyes this time.

    The rest of the Yankee lineup will try their luck against Chris Capuano. Capuano's experience against the Yankees is limited and not very good. That was six years ago in Milwaukee when he allowed seven runs in four innings and that included a three-run home run to Rodriguez.

    At that time, the Yankees had dropped nine of 10. Their performance against Capuano was the first of eight wins in 11 games that culiminated with a 20-run performance at the Stadium against the Rays.

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    An Amazin climb to .500 for the Mets

    Saturday, May 21, 2011, 2:38 AM [General]

    A common conversation topic heard through various portions of Yankee Stadium last night probably went something like this:

    "The Mets have these no-name guys from Buffalo, how can they beat the Yankees. The Yankees are better than the Mets."

    For two hours, 55 minutes that topic was occasionally discussed. It was mentioned as the Mets opened the Subway Series by getting performances from three players who a year ago were not really key components.

    Player number one is R.A. Dickey, who made his first Met start May 19, 2010 and won 11 games to earn a two-year contract. Dickey had not had much on his knuckleball this year as he struggled with that pitch for five straight defeats but last night he found a way to confound the Yankee bats.

    "You've just got to fight through those little bumps in the road," Dickey said. "That was a big enough bump for me. I'm ready for the downhill. I'm ready for the descent."

    Also ready was Justin Turner, who a year ago was a minor leaguer, something he also was until a month ago. Then the original second base plans didn't work and Turner was up. Then the third baseman (David Wright) was put on the DL and Turner was moved from second to third.

    Wherever he has played Turner has thrived so far. By going 3-for-4 (and being robbed of a fourth hit by Mark Teixeira's range), Turner has a hit in nine of his last 10 games and 11 RBI during a six-game run with at least one RBI and getting consistently surrounded by media after games.

    "I don't mind it," Turner said of all the attention.

    Another player getting attention for various reasons is Daniel Murphy. Murphy arrived three summers ago in Houston and played decently in the outfield while being known for seeing a lot of pitches.

    The following year, he struggled in left field, then moved to first base. He led the Mets in home runs but then injured himself last year. After losing a four-man battle for the starting second base spot, Murphy made the team as a reserve but eventually made the starting lineup and now is playing first base until Ike Davis returns.

    Why the focus on these three?

    Simple, because that trio made the biggest contributions to the Mets reaching a place many thought to be impossible a month ago. That place would be the .500 mark, which is where Terry Collins' team presently sits.

    With a veteran knuckleballer pitching six innings, a 26-year-old who seemed destined to be in the minors for a while driving in one run and a player who freqently changed positions hitting a home run, the Mets opened the Subway Series with a well-played victory.

    Those well-played victories are something the Mets have enjoyed often in the last month. A month ago they woke up with 13 losses in their first 18 games but since that point, which began with a six-game winning streak they have won 17 of 26 games.

    "We've taken on the characteristics of our manager," Murphy said. "We play the game hard every day."

    That also applied to Jose Reyes, who made a diving stop on an Alex Rodriguez grounder to end the fifth inning. That also applied to Francisco Rodriguez, who seamlessly converted his 15th consecutive save opportunity.

    "People have always told me there's an underlying pulse about what bad thing will happen next to the Mets or that we have a bad vibe...but I sure don't see it."

    With the Mets, the outside world seems to sense the other shoe of negativity dropping at any time. It certainly might surface at some point this season, but right now the Mets are content to ride the wave and see where it leads.

    That was among the things said by Dickey and based on the series opener, it's difficult to disagree.

    "I don't know what to tell you," Collins said of his team that has six guys who opened the season in the minors. "You've got to be proud of the guys, the way they've played together."

    And if they can continue playing together, perhaps the summer will be interesting for fans of both New York teams.

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    Items of Amazin Interest - with Ed Coleman

    Friday, May 20, 2011, 5:59 PM [General]

    ´╗┐Today is May 20 and four years ago, Tyler Clippard was helping save the Yankees from the depths of a poor start. That night with the Mets looking for their second sweep of the Yankees (the other was July 2004), Clippard allowed one run and three hits in six innings of a 6-2 win.

    The Yankees slowly healed from the slow start, though they didn’t go over .500 for good until after the All-Star break and by then Clippard had pitched his last game in pinstripes.

    The Yankees are over .500 now and have slowly healed from that ugly six-game losing streak by scoring 13 runs, winning in 15 innings and getting two solo home runs from Alex Rodriguez.

    All of those events occurred in the last three nights for the Yankees, while the Mets continued recovering from the state they found themselves in a month ago. A month ago, a second home loss to the Astros dropped the Mets to 5-13 and it seemed like they were destined to become an embarrassment.

    Except it didn’t happen because the Mets won the next night and the start of a six-game winning streak is part of a run of 25 games that has seen a 16-9 record coming into tonight.

    The Mets are playing a Subway Series under their fifth manager and fifth general manager.

    This year’s edition has a new administration in GM Sandy Alderson and manager Terry Collins, who have shown a willingness to fix problems quickly when they occur and this edition is one game under .500 despite placing David Wright and Ike Davis on the DL within the last two weeks.

    To gather the feel of the Mets, I spoke briefly with WFAN broadcaster Ed Coleman. Coleman has been involved with Met broadcasts since 1990 and was took time from his pregame preparations to discuss the current state of the Mets

    Q: How would you describe the state of the team?

    A: Surprising is a word I’d use. They’ve been very resilient. They’ve pitched overall better than I thought they would despite losing Chris Young. The starters have been very good lately but the bullpen for the last month has been real good. But whenever they’ve need to stabilize a game, the bullpen has done that. That part of it has been better than expected.

    The hitting has come and gone. They haven’t really hit too much. They haven’t hit too much with runners in scoring position but then you look at the lineup and you wonder how the heck are they scoring any runs?

    Q: How has the team responded to opening this season with 13 losses in the first 18 games?

    A: Terry deserves a lot of credit. He’s a guy who has a lot of energy and I think one thing the players feel as a team is he’s with them, he’s part of them. When they were 5-13, he said, ‘look we’re not as bad as this, we could play better. What we have to is execute and get the job done and we haven’t done that’. I think the players really appreciate that

    Anytime you ask about his impact on the team, they all speak glowingly. So he’s done a very good job of keeping them upbeat, keeping them afloat. So I think he deserves a heck of lot of credit for what they done. That’s been a big part of it.

    They’ve gotten guys hot at the right time too like a Justin Turner – he’s been phenomenal in the last week or so. He’s a guy who was sent to the minors because he had options when they put (Rule Five pick) Brad Emaus on there. So they’re not afraid to wheel people around and make some changes. They don’t have a lot to draw from but what they have they’re going to try different combinations.

    Q: How does Terry Collins' managerial style compare to some of the previous Met managers, especially Jerry Manuel?

    A: Both guys were fundamental guys. Every manager preaches that. I think Terry is probably has gotten into their face a little bit more, but he’s had refresher things whether it’s out there on the field, getting things done or talking to people individually to make sure they execute.

    Sometimes you need a change, a fresh voice and Terry’s definitely that. He does a lot in a short amount of time.

    Q: Is it surprising that Jose Reyes is playing so well?

    A: Yes and no. Since he’s healthy and he’s been there every game, I’m not (surprised). Once I saw his legs were back, (I sensed he would play well). He still has drawbacks, hitting in a big spot with runners in scoring position. He gets too hyped up in that situation but for most part I’m not shocked. I think CITI Field is made for him. He’s a very exciting player and when he’s healthy he wants to show what he can do.

    He knows the situation. He’s 28 years old with free agency awaiting him. So he wants to stay healthy and be out there.

    Q: Is it surprising how well Beltran has performed after two injury-plagued seasons?

    A: Beltran to me is very surprising, number one that he has played as much as he has. I knew that at the start, they’d be playing him two games and resting him one game but I thought that would carry on for a while. But he has played what 21 straight games and he’s going to only DH one game here. So that was a little surprising that they didn’t DH him more here. He’s fine and he wants to play the outfield.

    Some of that is predicated on the fact that Wright’s not here, Davis is not here, you have to play Beltran. But he’s been good. He hasn’t raised his hands and said he’s needed a blow.

    The swing is back. I think he probably he probably has more power from the right side but the left side is starting to come around too. I think he’s always had more power from his right side than his left side but I think he hit well from the left side at the start.

    There’s still not going to be some balls that he’s not going to get to in the outfield but you have to live with that. But he has surprised me with some balls that he has gotten to.

    Q: Will Beltran and Reyes be on the team the entire season?

    A: I don’t think Beltran will be here but Reyes I don’t know. I don’t know how they’re going to play that.

    I think Alderson has probably been surprised at the connection that Met fans have had with Reyes. Maybe we all should be a little bit because it’s been a couple years since he’s been healthy and we haven’t seen that in a while. But when he’s doing what he’s doing, racing to third base the fans like that. So I think Alderson has been surprised at the connection.

    But that doesn’t mean he’s going to change his mind but I honestly can’t say. A lot of it depends on where they are. Alderson said in spring training that he believes this team can be a mid-80s win team.

    But he believes that and if they’re playing to that level or somewhere near that level, I don’t know if he’s going to break it down. He may want to proceed and see what happens after the season.

    Q: How many wins do you think this team is capable of?

    A: I thought coming out of Spring Training if everyone stayed healthy and everyone was healthy,  I thought they were somewhere like an 80 to 83 win team. Then again, that was based on the fact they wouldn’t be trading away everybody.

    You can be losing Beltran, you could be losing Reyes and you could be losing (Francisco) Rodriguez. Where you are after that is anybody’s guess.

    Q: How have the Mets have ignored distractions of numerous injuries?

    A: I think they have (done good jobs of ignoring it). I think last year they probably were waiting for some of the guys to get back. This year they haven’t really worried about that. They kind of know when guys are going to be back and when they’re not. They’ve just gone out and played.


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    All Together Now - Exhale and Enjoy 15 Innings

    Thursday, May 19, 2011, 3:26 AM [General]

    It was sometime after midnight when Yankee fans watching last night's game could finally take a few breaths and exhale. That was after the Yankees won what seemed to be a war of baseball attrition by scoring three in the 15th for a 4-1 win over the Orioles.

    We wish we could be as calm as Bartolo Colon pitching those eight innings (and you could have made the argument for Colon pitching the ninth even with Mariano Rivera). We wish we could be as calm as Hector Noesi making his major league debut by pitching four innings and surviving four walks and four hits. We wish we could be as calm as we know Rivera will be the next time he appears. We also wish we could be as calm as Chris Dickerson after making a great catch at the wall.

    Of course this isn't the first time the Yankees have played a 15-inning game, the drama just increases when a team has been struggling and when people have been going back and forth about the game online.

    If you've ever read this site, you know how much baseball history is enjoyed on here. So it seems appropriate to look up some of the previous 15-inning games and list them below (since I know you're just as curious as I am about how many 15-inning games or more the Yankees have played).

    1 - 8-7-2009 - Yankees 2, Red Sox 0 (15) - Chances are you remember this one. This was during the four-game sweep of the Red Sox in early August during a weekend that the Yankees essentially put the AL East away. On a night where Josh Beckett and A.J. Burnett combined on 13 strikeouts and held the opposing lineup scoreless, the Yankees wound up winning on an Alex Rodriguez two-run home run. Of course, they easily could have lost as Burnett walked six but the teams combined to leave over 20 men on.

    2 - 6-1-2003 - Yankees 10, Tigers 9 (17) - Roger Clemens was going for 300 wins that afternoon against the 119-loss Tigers. He seemed poised to get it despite blowing a 7-6 lead but then would have to wait after Sterling Hitchcock and Antonio Osuna blew it in the eighth. Eventually the Yankees won this five hour contest on solo home runs in the 17th from Alfonso Soriano and Jorge Posada.

    3 - 8-9-2002 - Athletics 3, Yankees 2 (16) - Later in August 2002, the Athletics put together a 20-game winning streak but that Friday night they managed to outlast the Yankees in a six-hour thriller. Neither team scored until the eighth and the Yankees were forced to go the bullpen early when Orlando Hernandez could only pitch the first. Jeff Weaver pitched the next 6 1/3 and did well. The Yankees responded to Oakland's two runs by scoring the tying run on Bernie Williams' double. Extra innings could have been avoided but Enrique Wilson was thrown out at the plate on a nice throw from Terrence Long.  Neither team did much until the 16th, the game was decided on an RBI single by Mark Ellis and settled when Robin Ventura struck out with two on.

    4 - 4-19-2001 - Yankees 6, Blue Jays 5 (17) - For five hours, 57 minutes there were 35 hits and 35 men left on base in Toronto. The Yankees rallied from a 5-3 deficit with two runs in the fifth on Dave Justice's home run. Then nobody crossed the plate for a while. The Yankees left the bases loaded in the sixth and eighth while the Blue Jays did the same in the ninth. The Yankees did nothing much until two outs in the 17th when Chuck Knoblauch walked. Two hitters later, Knoblauch scored on a Tino Martinez single.


    5 - 7-20-1998 - Tigers 4, Yankees 3 (17) - In the first game of a twi-night doubleheader, the 1998 Yankees lost one of their 48 regular-season games by blowing an early 3-0 lead, stranding 22 runners and going 1-for-18 with runners in scoring position. The Tigers tied the game on Joe Randa's single off Ramiro Mendoza in the seventh and eventually won it on another Randa single in the 17th. This actually was the fourth loss in five games for those Yankees but starting with a 4-3 win in the nightcap, the Bombers won 24 of their next 29 before their next losing streak.

    6 - 6-1-1997 - Yankees 11, Red Sox 6 (15) - The Yankees were three outs away from a 5-4 win in Fenway Park but it never happened. That was because Mariano Rivera gave up an RBI triple to Reggie Jefferson in the bottom of the ninth after a three-run rally off Heathcliff Slocumb and Jim Corsi. Rivera left the bases loaded by retiring Jeff Frye on a pop-up. Until the 15th, the Yankees stranded six runners but busted out against Kerry Lacy and Rich Garces. They took the lead on Paul O'Neill's RBI single, added another run on Scott Pose's single followed by Wade Boggs' three-run home run. Jeff Nelson finished a game that saw 33 hits and 28 men left on base when he retired Darren Bragg with two on.

    7 - 5-1-1996 - Yankees 11, Orioles 6 (15) - Yankee fans might remember this one as one of the nights the 1996 Yankees arrived and seemed like a championship contender. A night after a 13-10 win, the Yankees blew a 6-5 lead when John Wetteland gave up a run without allowing a hit. But after Roberto Alomar's sacrifice fly tied it, Wetteland struck Bobby Bonilla out and Jim Mecir stranded seven in the next three innings. Andy Pettitte pitched the 13th and ended it on a Manny Alexander double play. In the 15th, the Yankees exploded off Jimmy Myers after Kent Mercker put two on. The go-ahead run was a Tino Martinez grand slam and Gerald Williams added insurance. When Rafael Palmeiro grounded out. the Yankees left Baltimore with a 1 1/2 game lead.

    8 - 6-16-1991 - Rangers 4, Yankees 3 (15) - This was the second 15-inning game for this 91-loss team and was the final game of a six-game losing streak that had followed an 8-4 homestand. As the Yankee team plane waited for its journey to Toronto, the Yankees spent four hours, 24 minutes on this one. They could have headed to the airport with a 3-2 loss to Nolan Ryan but Kevin Maas led off the ninth with a home run. After Steve Farr retired the side in the ninth, the Yankees had the bases loaded after Goose Gossage hit Roberto Kelly but Matt Nokes grounded out against Kenny Rogers in the 11th. Four innings later, Texas had the final hit of a 13-hit night when Mario Diaz doubled in John Russell off Lee Gutterman.

    9 - 5-5-1991 - Mariners 5, Yankees 4 (16) - The 1991 Yankees began with seven wins in their first 21 games, losing nine times by three runs or less in that span.  This was one of them and it took five hours, 31 minutes to do so. The Yankees had a 2-1 lead into the seventh but Jay Buhner doubled off Farr and the game stayed tied until the 12th. In the 12th, Steve Sax scored on a Russ Swan wild pitch but Maas struck out and Mel Hall left the bases loaded. Eventually that cost the Yankees because of Harold Reynolds' RBI single off John Habyan. Four innings later, the Maas hit a solo home run off Bill Krueger but the Yankees left two on and it costed them when Greg Briley hit a two-run home run off Rich Monteleone.

    10 - 6-22-1990 - Yankees 8, Blue Jays 7 (15) - In 1990, it took the Yankees two managers and over two months to reach 25 victories. In the 65th game of a 95-loss season, the Yankees won their fourth in a row and improved to 25-40 by winning a game that saw them blow a 6-1 lead. That occurred in the eighth when John Olerud hit a three-run home run off Gutterman during a five-run inning. Nothing much happened until the 15th when the Yankees loaded the bases on a missed catch error by Nelson Liriano with two outs. Then Mike Blowers knocked in Jesse Barfield and Deion Sanders with a base hit and Dave Righetti retired the side after a George Bell home run.

    11 - 9-11-1988 - Yankees 5, Tigers 4 (18) - When the Yankees emerged from this six hour win, they were 3 1/2 games out of first place with 21 to play. This win completed a four-game sweep in a game that saw teams combine for 24 hits and strand 25. The Tigers tied the game on Alan Trammell's solo home run in the seventh off Neil Allen but left seven on until taking a 4-3 lead on a Torey Lovullo RBI single off Steve Shields. The Yankees weren't much better, stranding seven as well but won the game on Claudell Washington's two-run home run off Willie Hernandez.

    12 - 7-11-1987 - White Sox 5, Yankees 2 (15) - In the penultimate game before the All-Star break, the Yankees overcame an early 2-0 deficit but were 1-for-8 with runners in scoring position the rest of the game. They almost scored in the eighth but Rick Cerone was thrown out by left fielder Darryl Boston trying to score on Rickey Henderson's single. Eventually the White Sox broke through by scoring on Donnie Hill's RBI single and Carlton Fisk's two-run home run off Pat Clements.

    13 - 8-26-1985 - Athletics 3, Yankees 2 (15) - In a one-month span, the Yankees won 29 out of 33 games and made eight games up in the AL East. This was one of the losses as the Yankees went from the second until the 13th before scoring. They appeared to win the game when Dave Winfield scored on Mike Heath's error in the 13th but Bob Shirley gave up Dwayne Murphy's sacrifice fly. After Winfield hit into a double play in the 15th, the A's seized the chance for the win and won it on Dave Collins' base hit off Shirley.

    14 - 5-11-1984 - Mariners 4, Yankees 3 (17) - Imagine being a manager for two straight games beyond the 15th inning. In 1984, Yogi Berra faced that because the Yankees refused a 2-1 loss and sent the game to extra innings on a Ken Griffey RBI single. The game stayed tied until the 14th as Dave Henderson scored on Al Cowens' double off of Curt Brown but the Yankees kept the game going when Roy Smalley led off the bottom of the inning with a solo home run. As the game approached its fifth hour, the Mariners regained the lead on Jack Perconte's sacrifice fly and sealed the win when Steve Kemp struck out.

    15 - 5-10-1984 - Yankees 7, Indians 6 (16) - It took four hours and 53 minutes for the Yankees to sweep the Indians and complete their first series sweep of 1984. The Yankees blew a 5-2 lead in the sixth and it stayed that way until Kemp nearly cost them with an error that allowed Julio Franco to score. In the bottom of the 16th, Don Mattingly and Butch Wynegar hit RBI singles off George Frazier for the win.

    16 - 6-26-1982 - Yankees 4, Indians 3 (17) - This year was a struggle and the Yankees were one out away from losing until Jerry Mumphrey scored on Wynegar's single off Dan Spillner. Goose Gossage kept the game tied by working out of a bases loaded jam in the 10th and eventually the Yankees broke through with the bases loaded in the 17th on Griffey's sacrifice fly.

    17 - 8-2-1978 - Red Sox 7, Yankees 5 - Back in the 1970s a curfew existed for American League games and these rivals needed five hours and two days to complete a contest that saw the Yankees blow a 5-0 lead. The Yankees went scoreless after Chris Chambliss' RBI single in the third as they went 6-for-48 the rest of the way. In between two rain delays and a 1:16 AM suspension, the Red Sox tied it in the eighth and the next day won it in the 17th on RBI singles by Rick Burleson and Jim Rice off Ken Clay. This was part of a three-game losing streak but the Yankees then went on a 27-7 tear that included the four-game September sweep in Fenway.

    1973-1977 - The first four years of the Steinbrenner era saw the Yankees win five of seven games that went 15 innings or beyond. 

    1965-1972 - As the Yankees of the 1960s grew older and began losing during the CBS era, the Bombers split 10 games decided by 15 innings or beyond. One was a 20-inning 4-3 win over the Red Sox in 1967 decided on an Horace Clarke RBI single off Jose Santiago.

    1961-1964 - In the four years following Casey Stengal, the Yankees won the pennant each time and along the way the Yankees won five of eight games decided in the 15 or beyond. Among those games was a 22-inning, 9-7 win at Tiger Stadium on June 22, 1962 that was decided on the only home run off Jack Reed's career.

    1949-1960 - As the Yankees won the penannt in all but two years under Stengal and made the transition from Joe DiMaggio to Mickey Mantle, they played three games that went 15 innings or more. The first was an 11-10 loss in Boston on May 30, 1951 decided on Vern Stephens' home run off Spec Shea. The next was a 4-3 win over Detroit on July 28, 1957 decided on a Moose Skowron triple off Billy Hoeft, who pitched a complete game. The final game was a 6-3 loss to the Senators on August 14, 1960 decided on a Billy Consolo bases-loaded walk against Ralph Terry.

    1940-1948 - As the Yankees went to war and came back from war, they split two games that reached the 15th inning or beyond. The first was a 12-6 win at Detroit on July 20, 1941 that saw four hits from DiMaggio, Phil Rizzuto and Red Rolfe. The other was a 4-3 loss at Detroit in 17 innings.

    1919-1939 - The Yankees played 20 games into the 15th or beyond and went 8-12. Data before that year such as boxscores are currently unavailable.

    Based on available boxscores, the Yankees have won 34 out of 77 games that required 15 innings or more to complete. The longest game in terms of innings is the 22-inning game and this was the eighth instance since the Yankees began their present run of winning seasons in 1993.

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    Job Not Well Done

    Monday, May 16, 2011, 4:01 AM [General]

    Shortly before 1 AM after another marathon Yankee-Red Sox game, the police officers assembled on the mezzanine overlooking the tracks where the D train would take people away from Yankee Stadium.

    And what they heard from their commander was a job well done followed by applause.

    An hour earlier, the Yankees walked off the field up the stairs and across the street and probably did not hear the same.

    "It seems like when things are going bad," manager Joe Girardi said, "It goes bad."

    Bad would be a nice way to describe the events on the field after the Yankees had been swept by their biggest rival and then headed for a flight to play two games apiece in Tampa Bay and Baltimore with the hope they can figure out why their performance has been the complete opposite of those officers getting praised.

    While sporadic chants of Boston (stinks) went through the stadium, the truth was the home team stunk. They just didn’t stink against the Red Sox, the stench of bad baseball was present during two games with the Royals and the ever-increasing odor even goes back a few weeks.

    "We can talk about it over and over but the bottom line is we’ve got to play better," Alex Rodriguez said. "There’s too much talent in this clubhouse. We’re excited about turning the leaf and moving forward to playing good baseball."

    Good baseball is what the Yankees were sort of doing through April 23 when they had won 11 of their first 17 games.

    Most of the reasons for being six games over .500 had to do with an offense producing a .264 batting average, meaning that in the first 565 at-bats the Yankees had produced 149 hits.

    Since that point, the Yankees have won nine times but also lost 12 times and their team average has dropped 15 points. The decline has occurred because hitting consistently has stopped as evidenced by a .237 average and even that is a deceptive number because if you eliminate two games when the Yankees scored 12 runs apiece in beating the White Sox on April 28 and Texas on May 8, the number is worse.

    In those two games that featured Nick Swisher’s first home run and Derek Jeter’s only two home runs, the Yankees batted .387 (29-for-75). Throw out those two games, the Yankees are hitting .240 on the season and .218 since scoring 15 times off Baltimore pitching.

    Consider this as well. When the final out was made, the highest batting average belonged to Curtis Granderson at .281. Granderson hit the Yankees' 60th home run during the second inning and 25th since that night in Baltimore.

    After that night in Baltimore, the leading average on the Yankees belonged to Rodriguez at .370. His front leg wasn’t twitching like it is now and Rodriguez leaves town for four days with a .250 average due to having 14 hits in his last 78 at-bats.

    The second-highest average belonged to Russell Martin at .333. Now the new catcher has dropped by 90 points due to having eight hits in his last 53 at-bats and this weekend he had two passed balls on strikeouts to the same batter – Kevin Youkilis – and each time it led to a run.

    When a team stops hitting and stops preventing runs, this is what it looks like and for the Yankees and fans it’s a sight nobody wants to see – kind of like a D train making local stops.

    Like the local train late at night when a commuter rail connection is waiting, the season is a long and sometimes uncomfortable journey. And how much longer the Yankees make their fans feel uncomfortable about their performance is entirely up to the players.



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    Items of Interest - Light Levity Edition

    Sunday, May 15, 2011, 7:20 PM [General]

    Today is May 15 and 70 years ago today, Joe DiMaggio’s historic 56-game hitting streak began with a first-inning single off Chicago White Sox pitcher Eddie Smith in a 13-1 loss.

    That loss was the fifth in a row for a 101-win Yankee team that actually fell to 15-16.

    Chances are on that Thursday morning, DiMaggio might have faced some pregame questions about an 8-for-41 (.195) slump that dropped his batting average from .373 to .306. And perhaps manager Joe McCarthy might have faced some of the same line of questioning.

    Assuming he did, let’s guess that it wasn’t quite the sizable crowd that surrounded Jorge Posada’s locker eager to hear from the emotional Yankee catcher turned struggling designated hitter.

    To say that area of the clubhouse was tension-filled sometime around 11 PM last night would be an understatement. When Posada made his next public appearance there, it was an apologetic theme where he said things like it’s time to move on; I met with manager Joe Girardi.

    The mood besides being apologetic also contained some levity. When the crowd began trickling towards Derek Jeter’s locker, some of the small talk included asking the Yankee captain if he had checked the weather.

    To that Jeter, replied sarcastically along the lines of yeah first pitch will be 11PM and we won’t land in Tampa until 6 am.

    Then the crowd in front of Jeter became a full house and to that Jeter quipped: “What happened”

    For nearly 15 minutes, Jeter stood in front of his locker and stated things such as “obviously it’s frustrating, you try to be positive”.

    Probably the money quote if there is such a thing, was something along the lines of “He’s like a brother, if I felt he did something wrong, I’d be the first to tell him.

    Basically Jeter did not feel he was in a position to comment because he was not aware of Saturday’s events and also because he emphasized with someone who he was first a teammate of in Greensboro during the 1992 season.

    When Jeter was done, it was time to hear Joe Girardi confirm what Posada had said and say other things that would make columns, blogs and tweets. So a crowd of roughly 60 assembled with extreme eagerness except they would have to keep waiting because it actually was Terry Francona’s turn.

    And when Francona walked into the room some of the reporters walked out. When they returned midway through the session he quipped, “The B-Team just came in” right before answering a question about Carl Crawford.

    Eventually Francona offered his take as best as he could on Posada while mentioning what it was like for him and David Ortiz.

    "I know in our situation last year, we went through a tough thing and it doesn’t always work out the way you want. You’re trying to balance the team and you want everything to match and it doesn’t always do that. But I think what’s more important is how you get through it and where you go from there.

    "And David and I had to kind of slug it out, but we did, we came through and it got better for us."

    Eventually Girardi entered the room and it was lengthy as in nearly 20 minutes. Most was about Posada.

    Girardi’s session also came after Francona said winning is hard and it is just like dealing with an aging player who has done so much. But you find a way to get through it and when Girardi’s light response to a question about Phil Hughes was “I don’t know, I’ve had a busy day,” it signaled the end of the drama for now.


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    The Yankee Game Nobody Watched

    Sunday, May 15, 2011, 1:25 AM [General]

    Sometime between 1:30 and 2:00 yesterday afternoon as Jorge Posada and the Yankees were getting ready to appear for their Saturday night game against the Red Sox, the following songs appeared on Q-104.

    The classic rock station played “Under Pressure” by Queen with David Bowie. A few songs later “Alive” by Pearl Jam appeared and that was followed by “Badlands” from Bruce Springsteen.

    Obviously none of these songs pertain to baseball, but they could be in that context when the state of the Yankee hitting woes is mentioned, especially with the news as it pertains to Posada.

    By now you may have seen the numbers and you might be wondering are the Yankees feeling "Under Pressure" to do something with Posada. You might also be wondering when Posada's will come “Alive” and finally you might wonder if the Posada will emerge from the “Badlands” and perform better than his .165 average.

    About an hour later, Jim Morrison told Q-104 listeners to break on through to the other side and when the lineup was revealed there were some subtle changes to it, especially as it pertained to Posada.

    And when Posada reported for work, he found himself as the last man listed in the starting lineup, a place where he hadn’t been in exactly 12 years. At 4:00 he told the assembled media near his locker towards the back of the clubhouse the following:

    "I've put myself in this spot," Posada said. "It is not like I want to hit ninth. It is not like I want to hit a hundred and whatever I'm hitting, just a matter of really coming out of it."

    Two and half hours later an announcement came over the media public address system: Attention media, please note a lineup change for the Yankees. Now batting ninth, Andruw Jones and new lineup cards will be distributed.

    It was at that point, about a half hour before the first pitch that this nationally televised game between the Yankees and Red Sox morphed into the game that nobody in the press box watched because nobody knew what why Posada asked out with what he would repeatedly said was "insignificant back stiffness".

    Before that happened, the speculation was rampant.

    Was he hurt? Was he infuriated with batting ninth after all his years being a catcher with a good bat? Did the fact that he was batting ninth in a nationally televised game against the Red Sox?

    Simply put nobody knew, not on the FOX broadcast, not in the clubhouse (at least that's what Joe Girardi and Mark Teixeira said) and not in the press box.

    The announcement was made because of what Girardi said was a short conversation between manager and player in his office. The exact wording was not made public, though perhaps we might find out someday, but it involved a player asking for a "mental health day" - the kind of day we notify employers (if we're fortunate to have one or are not self-employed) that we won't be coming in for work.

    Except the only difference between the most of us, is that our employers are not presenting their work day on national television in front of nearly 50,000 people in a big office and paying a salary that many will not make in our lifetimes.

    So while the early stages of Posada's "mental health day” were going on, people kind of watched as CC Sabathia and Josh Beckett seemed destined for an outstanding duel of aces. Both pitchers escaped having two on and nobody out situations with strikeouts.

    Then at around 8:00, another announcement came over the airwaves:

    "Brian Cashman will be available in the print workroom"

    This was after Brian Cashman had spoken briefly to FOX and when that announcement was made, the print media emerged from their seats, left their stories and tweets and assembled into the room to listen to Cashman.

    What they heard was a preview of Posada and Girardi except with one major difference. At no point did he mention anything about an injury or physical problem. He simply stated that at 6:00 Posada walked into Girardi's office and asked to be removed from the lineup, nothing more and nothing less, just that fact.

    So when that announcement was made, print media people emerged from their seats and into the room to listen to Cashman say that at 6:00 Posada went into Girardi's office and asked to be removed from the lineup. There was not an injury and there was not a comment on anything else, other than that he expected Posada to address this after the game.

    Then came the more speculation, was he going to retire, was he upset at such a demotion? If it is the second how would the Yankees handle it?

    Since the media outlets (POST, Daily News) plus ESPN New York always brings out the heavy artillery for these games, they all huddled and planned their ways to attack a major story about a longtime Yankee, whose decline is being treated different than that of Derek Jeter.

    Eventually the speculation died down because what else could be done until Posada spoke and that wasn't coming until after the Yankees lost their fourth in a row and it was sometime after Derek Jeter made final out at 10:40.

    When he spoke, they all briskly walked to the elevator or stairs. Then they waited on a line of epic proportions even for a regular-season Yankee-Red Sox game.

    Their destination was set; the back locker on the left side of the vast clubhouse directly opposite the Yankee captain. When the group was assembled, they waited a few seconds as Posada made his way in front of the cameras.

    For roughly nine minutes, Posada spoke slowly though not necessarily with conviction. He talked about needing time to clear his head and that the group knew him better than that to be the type of person who would ask out of a game.

    When the topic of retirement was brought up, Posada offered an incredulous, "What".

    Eventually as the conversation to a wall of media humanity continued, Posada talked about a little disrespect from an organization taking away his catching responsibilities and was especially pointed when he found out that Cashman had spoken to the media during the game.

    When the conversation headed towards its conclusion, Posada offered this:

    "You guys know me better than that. I love to play the game, I love to be out there and today’s just one of those things. I couldn’t be there."

    Then the media moved across the room to hear Girardi, who seemed tense during a 9 1/2 minute discussion on a man struggling with a new job title.

    On it went.

    It was a short conversation, he was not made aware of his back; I'm not going to talk about this much; players go through difficult times and said he needed a day.

    If there was anything beyond those words, Girardi was not revealing and hoping to talk about the Yankees' 17th loss in 37 games.

    Except nobody wanted to talk about the events on the field (Josh Beckett dominating, CC Sabathia allowing a season high six runs, the lineup going 0-for-10 with runners in scoring position and 5-for-39 in the last four games, Adrian Gonzalez hitting a home run in his fifth straight game, Dustin Pedroia hitting .650 off Yankee pitching this year, the strike zone of Mike Winters that Girardi was sent to his office for disagreeing with).

    Nobody wanted to talk about those topics because it was the game nobody watched.



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    Breeze and a Miss for the Yankee bats

    Saturday, May 14, 2011, 2:52 AM [General]

    When Bartolo Colon threw his first pitch sometime after seven last night, the wind was listed at nine miles per hour. When the Yankees spent part of their Friday evening unsuccessfully trying to hit Clay Buchholz the wind velocity seemed to increase, especially because in the words of catcher Jarrod Saltalammachia, nothing stayed straight.

    Maybe the only things out of Buchholz's right arm that stayed straight were the three pitches that began the fifth inning when Jorge Posada lined a fastball into right, Russell Martin took a cutter over the wall and Brett Gardner lined a fastball up the middle.

    Other than those three pitches, the majority of Buchholz's 110 pitches were electrifying.

    Whether it was the two-seam fastball inside to right-handed hitters, the off-speed stuff or the cutter it all was good and created quite the breeze from the Yankee bats.

    "I thought Buchholz's movement on his fastball was as good as I've ever seen it tonight," Joe Girardi said. "He had as much sink as I've seen him have. When you're throwing sinkers like he is, it's tough to elevate the ball and put good swings on it. I thought his stuff was outstanding."

    That outstanding stuff generated quite the breeze - as in 16 swings and misses. It was 12 more than April 9 when the Yankees reached Buchholz for five runs and eight hits in 3 2/3 innings on April 9.

    "I thought he was tremendous," Terry Francona said.  "He was really good. He threw hard, down with movement. He started using his changeup and breaking ball, but the fastball had so much depth to it that, real good velocity. That was impressive."

    Here's the official breakdown according to pitch F/X, three swings and misses on the four-seam fastball, six on the changeup, one on the curveball, two on the two-seam fastball and four on the cutter and below is when exactly these swings and misses occurred:

    1 - On a 3-1 count to Derek Jeter, Buchholz gets the Yankee captain to swing at an inside fastball that just hits the corner.

    2 - On the next pitch to Jeter, Buchholz gets his first strikeout on a fastball that is slightly to the right of the first pitch.

    3 - On a 1-0 count to Curtis Granderson, Buchholz gets strike one by having the center fielder chase on the outer edge of the plate.

    4 - Two pitches later, Buchholz has his second strikeout when Granderson chases an inside curveball just below the knees.

    5 - On a 1-1 count to Mark Teixeira, Buchholz throws his first cutter and the location is a belt-level pitch that tails inside. That at-bat ends with a pop-up to third on a cutter.

    6 - On a 3-1 count to Alex Rodriguez in the second inning, Buchholz goes over the plate with a fastball except this pitch seems to dive down late and Rodriguez's swing is late and misses.

    7 - On the next pitch, Buchholz gets his third strikeout by throwing a belt-level cutter that just hits the inside corner.

    8 - On a 2-0 count to Nick Swisher, Buchholz throws another fastball that is over the plate but dives late and Swisher misses during an appearance that sees him walk.

    9-11 - On the first pitch to Granderson with two outs in the third, this is Buchholz's best sequence. Having already thrown the curve for a strikeout in the first, he tries a changeup that is clocked at 80. An inside cutter results in 0-2 and the at-bat ends with the same pitch but an outside location for his fourth strikeout.

    12 - With one out in the fourth and an 0-1 count to Robinson Cano, Buchholz throws an 81 mph changeup that is over the plate, knee level but somewhat towards the outside corner.

    13 - By now it appears that Buchholz is on to something with the changeup so with two outs in the fourth, he begins his encounter with Swisher with that pitch that is at the same location as the changeup to Cano listed above.

    14 - With the count at 0-2, Swisher fouled off a changeup slightly higher than the last changeup. The at-bat ends with a cutter that goes out of the zone after tailing inside for Buchholz's fifth strikeout.

    15 - With the Yankees having tied it earlier in the fifth, Teixeira reaches a 2-2 count on all fastballs. The at-bat and inning ends with Teixeira reaching across the plate for a changeup over the outer edge of the plate.

    16 - With a 5-2 lead to work with, Buchholz falls behind Jeter 2-1 and tries the changeup. The changeup is actually high but Jeter swings and the at-bat ends with a soft ground out on the cutter.

    Those were not even the biggest wave and a miss. That occurred in the eighth inning off Daniel Bard.

    The Yankees had scored one run and had runners at second and third with one out after a savvy double steal by Alex Rodriguez and Robinson Cano during Nick Swisher's at-bat.

    Swisher had the count at 2-2 and just missed putting the ball in play when he was late on a 98 mph fastball. The next pitch, he was delayed because his swing was occuring just as the outside 99 mph fastball was landing in Saltalamacchia's glove.

    With the stadium sound system malfunctioning the natural noise was loud and waiting for the moment that eluded them through four and a half hours Wednesday. It never happened though as Posada despite being ahead in the count at 3-0 wound up with a weak groundout to second.

    The noise hit the same decibel level again in the ninth with two outs as Jeter was down to his last strike before lining a high fastball to right field. It stayed that way when he scored from second on a Curtis Granderson single but then it ended with a weak swing and a weak pop from Teixeira, capping a weak night for the Yankee offense against Red Sox pitching.


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    Items of Crawfordian Interest - Red Sox-Yankees

    Friday, May 13, 2011, 5:17 PM [General]

    Today is May 13 and for the first time since moving to the Bronx in 1923, the Yankees have a home game with the Boston Red Sox. They have played them twice on this date in Boston (1965 and 1995) but never at home either in the Bronx, the Polo Grounds and Hilltop Park in Upper Manhattan.

    Today also happens to be Friday the 13th for you superstitious types and if you’ve followed the Yankees the last two nights, their performance can be assessed a slop fest of horrifying baseball.

    And because of that the Yankees are not a first place team for the first time in roughly a month.

    "Maybe it's what we need. Maybe we need the Red Sox to come in. Everything seems to get turned up, the coverage, the intensity of the games seem to take on a new flavor, and each at-bat seems to take on a new game of its own. Maybe it is the right time. I don't know, but I know we're capable of playing much better and we need to start doing that."

    That was Joe Girardi’s tone after last night’s 11-5 loss that probably many fans shut off or lost interest. Maybe it is because for some the season does not actually begin until the first Red Sox series of the year at Yankee Stadium.

    Regardless, the Yankees are better than the four bleeping unearned runs allowed last night and the 2-for-bleeping-16 they showed with runners in scoring position the previous night.

    And speaking of doing better, there’s an element of that surrounding the 17-20 Red Sox, especially Carl Crawford. Crawford hits for the 15th time and during those previous games, the Red Sox have won eight of 14 while Crawford is hitting .290 from that spot.

    Crawford had batted there 15 previous times in Tampa Bay and a majority of those have occurred during his early seasons with the Rays.

    "To be honest probably not,” Terry Francona said when asked if moving Crawford around the lineup has made an impact. "He’s too good a player. You can hit him anywhere you want and he’ll get hits."

    And in the eighth spot, that is accurate.

    Crawford takes an 11-game hitting streak and the man with the .356 batting average during that span was subject a media pack around him that simply couldn’t be avoided and was the subject of some good-natured ribbing from funnyman Mike Cameron, who hollered across the room the following sentiment:

    "Craw, they got you."

    And during that time, Crawford answered the obligatory questions about his first year with the Red Sox, the rivalry and other stuff. When it came to the hitting aspect of the discussion, he said that he didn’t like to think where he’s at but that he is trying to return to the numbers that generated a seven-year contract.

    There are numerous reasons for first-year players struggling when they get big contracts. It could be nagging injuries, adjustments to a new city or simply trying to justify why such a large portion of payroll is devoted to them.

    That is true somewhat especially if you consider what one of the easier ledes to write in a wire-service story is the following: “Performances like this are why the Red Sox Carl Crawford”. It’s a cliché lede but showed up occasionally when someone earning big money had a big game.

    As Girardi said, it happens with players who want to validate contracts but in the end you tend to base judgments on the players track record.

    Just look at the 2009 edition of Mark Teixeira, who joined the Yankees after signing for eight years and $160 million. He wound up leading the AL in home runs and RBI and that was after batting .200 over 70 April at-bats.

    Or look at the 2005 edition of Carlos Beltran, the player the Mets gave $119 million to for a seven-year contract after a monster playoff performance for the Astros. His first season he didn’t even hit 20 home runs but his fine the next three years even if Met fans won’t forgive him for Game Seven of the 2006 ALCS.

    You get the idea. Big money breeds big pressure in big cities and sometimes it starts slowly.

    Crawford will try to keep it going against Bartolo Colon, who is on the mound because Phil Hughes is not. Hughes threw 30 pitches from 50 feet as he completes his fourth week on the DL with a mysterious dead arm.

    Colon's last start against a Texas lineup missing Nelson Cruz and Josh Hamilton was not a good one. It was not a good one because as Girardi put it, he did not keep his hands on top of the ball and his fastball was missing bite on thirds of the plate.

    Of course Crawford is not the only big money player struggling. Alex Rodriguez hit a garbage-time home run last night and that ended a streak of 11 straight games without an extra-base hit.

    "We just went from one superstar to the next with the at-bats every day,"  Girardi said. "I thought they were better. I thought he had some of his better swings than what we had seen. Maybe one of the best swings I thought he had was the ball he popped straight up. It was just the ball was a little too high for him to swing at, but I thought the swing was excellent. Maybe last night is going to get him going."

    Maybe. Either way it's Yankees-Red Sox for the 2,047th time, so sit back, flip on the TV, grab a nice drink and settle in for three hours or so.


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    Items of Offensive interest - Royals-Yankees

    Thursday, May 12, 2011, 6:28 PM [General]

    Today is May 12 and that means it's Yogi Berra's birthday. Berra turns 86 today and on his 33rd and 34th birthday hit home runs in losing efforts to the Indians in 1959 and 1960. On his last birthday, the Yankees scored eight times in an 8-0 rout and that a doubleheader that saw them lose the opener 2-0 to Detroit.

    The Yankees have scored eight runs twice since April 23 when they began this stretch of .178 hitting. During the two games, April 28 and May 8, the Bombers have gone 8-for-28 with runners in scoring postion.

    On the eve of Boston's first trip here, the Yankees are in one of those funks that comes and for most teams that eventually evaporates. As Dustin Pedroia told the Boston media after the Red Sox dropped to 17-20 with a 9-3 loss in Toronto, "I ain't going to hit 2-bleeping-40."

    And the Yankees are not going to hit 1-bleeping-78 for the year and Alex Rodriguez is not going go stay at .259 and go 11 games without an extra-base hit.

    "I think there’s frustration," Joe Girardi said. I don’t think it’s normal not to have frustration when you’re hitting the ball like you’re used to. That’s the bottom line.

    "I think Alex has been through this enough to know you are going to come out on the other side, you’re going to get through this but while you’re going through it, it’s not necessarily fun.”

     Robinson Cano gets a chance to increase his .292 average after being checked out by doctors. Cano was last seen getting hit on the side of his helmet in the fifth inning last night but will sport a new helmet and the fifth spot in the lineup featuring Derek Jeter as the DH and Eduardo Nunez as the shortstop.

    Speaking of injuries, Rafael Soriano tested his tender elbow by playing catch and reported no problems.

    And also on the injury front, Eric Chavez revealed he might have been born with two broken feet. That came up when he was discussing the foot injury suffered a week ago in Detroit.

    "It’s got to be a genetic defect or whatever," Chavez said. "Basically, how I can explain it is the fractures, however they had happened, never healed completely. So there were two bones here that were semi weak. And when I hit the ground, one of them slipped and that’s where the irritation came from."

    Tonight Ivan Nova pitches and you might remember the time he last pitched here. That was May 1 against the Blue Jays when his curveball helped him get to the seventh inning. Nova did one better six days ago by going into the eighth in Texas.

    For the Royals, Sean O'Sullivan takes the mound. You might remember O'Sullivan as being the pitcher who faced the Yankees twice in five days during July. He faced the Yankees and won while with the Angels and then with the Royals the Yankees scored 12 runs in that game.


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    Four hours and lot of men on base

    Thursday, May 12, 2011, 3:24 AM [General]

    I have seen my share of four-hour Yankee games and a few of them have been of the memorable variety.

    There was an 8-6 win Dodger Stadium last June that took 4:02, which isn't so bad when you're physically in the Pacific Time Zone for a Sunday night game. That was a time when the Yankees decided to get to Jonathan Broxton and rallied from a 6-2 deficit in a game that until that point was somewhat boring and that was one of nine four-hour games last year for the Yankees.

    Two years ago, the Yankees played an epic 15-inning game with the Red Sox that took five hours, 33 minutes to decide and it's doubtful anyone complained about that one since A.J. Burnett and Josh Beckett pitched so well. And nearly nine years ago, the Yankees and Twins were part of an epic five hour, 45 minute contest that was decided on a 14th-inning grand slam by Jason Giambi.

    Let's just say that that the four hours and 31 minutes it took for the Yankees to lose to the Royals would not fall into that category. For a somewhat low-scoring affair, it was rather tedious especially when you consider that the Yankees saw 220 pitches and 121 strikes from six Royal pitchers (four rookies).

    So was it the case of impressive pitching by a quartet of four first-year pitchers or a case of bad hitting? Who knows, but it was tedious, especially since the Yankees were 2-for-16 with runners in scoring position and saw 67 pitches in those situations.

    For the third time since 1958, the Yankees lost a game when they outhit their opponent by at least eight hits. It also occurred July 4, 2004 against the Mets in a 6-5 loss when the Yankees went 5-for-8 with runners in scoring position but hit into three doubles.

    The other time was against the Indians on October 5, 1991 and that game was kind of like last night except that the Yankees were terrible and scored five runs in 12 innings. During that game which was played in 4:29, the Yankees stranded 18 and went 6-for-22 with runners in scoring position.

    Last night's game had the same score as one I remember being at July 19, 2008 against the Athletics. The Yankees wound up winning in the 13th when Derek Jeter scored the winning run as Jose Molina was hit by a pitch, ending an afternoon that saw them strand 21 and go 3-for-18 with runners in scoring position.

    "We still had a chance to win the game, " Joe Girardi said that day. "I think it's more frustrating when you lose, because you look back and look at all the opportunities that you had. But when you win a game, the bottom line is, we won the game."

    "It's frustrating that we didn't do better with runners in scoring position, but at the end of the day, big deal, we won," Brett Gardner said that day.

    And if the Yankees would have won 2-1 which they were six outs away from doing, then the runners in scoring position problem might have been pushed to the backburner. If that had happened, the big topic might have been A.J. Burnett pitching seven innings while surviving five walks and 13 three-ball counts.

    That would have been a more pleasant topic, but sometimes it doesn't work out the way it should just as in other aspects of life away from the ballpark.

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    Items of Interest - Gene Monahan edition

    Wednesday, May 11, 2011, 5:27 PM [General]

    Today is May 11 and at various points of his 49-year association with the Yankees, Gene Monahan has overseen medical treatment of Sparky Lyle, Reggie Jackson, Thurman Munson, Don Mattingly, Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez among others.

    Next year though will be different as Monahan announced that this will be his last season and that he will be retiring to North Carolina. Monahan, who described himself as quiet and reserved seemed humbled by holding a press conference and talking about himself.

    And that among the reasons he will be leaving the Yankees, the organization he served in spring training as a bat boy in 1962 and then in the minors in outposts such as Fort Lauderdale, Columbus, Binghamton and Syracuse, is because of the wakeup call he received from battling throat and neck cancer last year.

    While he talked about himself, Monahan explained how the occupation changed from trainers carrying around just two bags to six big trunks because of the evolution of diagnosing injuries.

    He also recalled the first time he walked into the Yankee clubhouse as a major league trainer. That was in 1973, a time when all the Yankee players had big boom-boxes. Sparky Lyle's radio was blasting "Elton John's, Get Back Funky Cat". Lyle looked at Monahan and approved.

    It was a decision Monahan recently made the players aware of. He said his did so while gathering them for oral cancer screenings.

    "It was very difficult for me," Joe Girardi said. "With Geno, he has been someone that I would call a close friend even though as a player he was responsible for keeping me healthy. Geno was someone I thought I could go to about anything. He has meant so much to getting people healthy and getting them back on the field. His sense of humor and love for the game, I'm going to really miss him."

    Five years ago, Monahan was treating Hideki Matsui, who fractured his left wrist in the first inning and because of baseball rules, saw his consecutive games streak end at 1,768 games (combined Japan and Yankees). After not being able to play for a 519th straight game, Matsui apologized for getting hurt, which is rare.

    Speaking of current health concerns,  Rafael Soriano is not avaiable tonight on the recommendations of Monahan and the team doctor. Soriano's MRI showed a little inflammation in the right elbow and the hope is he will return for the Boston series.

    That means Joba Chamberlain is the eighth inning guy. Chamberlain has a streak of six straight scoreless outings after needing just nine pitches in an electrifying eighth inning last night.

    Chamberlain spent part of last night attributing his improved results to a mechanical adjustment of consistently keeping his hands from the center of his body.

    "I just put them (my hands) back to my belt," Chamberlain said. "It was exactly where I put them when I first got called up. I don’t know what happened in the whole process of the last four years. It’s just coming back up.

    "So it’s something that I felt like would be a big adjustment for me because my hands were always kind of bouncing and traveling. So the less movement I have it makes it a little simpler."

    Chamberlain will have that opportunity if A.J. Burnett pitches well. Burnett is coming off a loss in which he took a no-hitter past the fifth in Detroit. Also helping Burnett has been the 6.31 runs per game in his start, which they will try to add to against New Jersey native Vin Mazzaro.


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