Maybe the Yankees bullpen doesn’t hate C. C. Sabathia, but they have a strange way of showing that they don’t. Sabathia didn’t pitch particularly well on Saturday afternoon, allowing 5 runs in 6 innings. But he did leave the game in the bullpen’s hands with the Yankees leading 10-5.
In an odd twist, Huff was struck 53 years after another Cleveland pitcher, Herb Score, sustained a career-altering injury when another Yankees infielder, Gil McDougald, hit a liner off his face.
The Yankees have had some tough times of late (and there was much rejoicing): The top of the lineup isn’t hitting, they aren’t fielding well as a team, and they aren’t catching many breaks. Hmm. So they are mortal, after all. Wish I could say I was sorry, but, I just can’t. Weep not, non-Yankee lovers, but just remember not to be too derisive all at once. After all, it would be much more satisfying to watch the Yanks slowly bleed out over the course of the entire season rather than suffer a massive collapse all at once.
Jesse at “Twinkie Town” calls it Deja Vu All Over Again. “First Pitch Strike” was more…deflated. I can’t really use the words to describe my feelings in this space since MLB wisely has profanity filters for blog postings. Let’s just say I’ve seen enough of A-Rod killing the Twins over the past two season to hurl wallpaper-curling profanities in several directions at once for about, oh, two months.
Speaking of A-Rod’s grand slam: I don’t blame the Twins for walking Mark Teixeira, because Teixeira has raked versus left-handed pitching so far this year. I don’t even blame them for bringing in a right-handed pitcher to face Alex Rodriguez, because he hasn’t hit them quite as well as he has southpaws. But Matt Guerrier? Are you kidding me? Guerrier is a reliable relief pitcher, but A-Rod was 4-for-7 against him in his career. All four of those hits were for extra bases, but three of them were home runs. When he fouled off an inside fastball, anyone with any sense of the desires of the baseball gods could tell what was coming. He destroyed the next pitch, another fastball that Guerrier decided needed to catch even more of the plate than pitch number one.
So the anger at Gardenhire is misguided. Not that you shouldn’t
be angry at Gardenhire; you’re just angry for the wrong reason. You’re one
plate appearance late. See, just before A-Rod came up, the Yankees had runners
on second and third with one out and Mark Teixeira at the plate. Gardenhire
chose to have Duensing walk Teixeira intentionally.
This is…well, idiotic. Obviously Teixeira is a very good
hitter, maybe as good as A-Rod is right now (and no, I don’t care at all that
he’s hitting .209 through his first 35 games). Nonetheless, bringing Guerrier
in to face Tex (who is a slightly better hitter right-handed than left) would
have been a hugely better move than walking him to face
A-Rod. Guerrier has good but not great control, and doesn’t have overpowering
stuff (average fastball is about 91 MPH, and about 90 this season). You might
not like your chances much facing an elite hitter with two on and one out…but
facing an elite hitter with the bases loaded and one out, in a one-run game? You’re
putting Guerrier in a situation in which he has to throw Rodriguez straight,
90-mile-an-hour fastballs, right down the middle of the plate. Which is what he
did, twice, and A-Rod didn’t miss the second one.
Look, it’s not a good situation. If you’ve got two runners in
scoring position with one out and Tex and A-Rod coming up, odds are very good you’re going to lose your one-run
lead. But there are ways to give yourself the best chance of hanging on to that lead, and
Gardenhire did pretty much the opposite of that.
Just don’t blame him for using Guerrier. Blame him for giving
Guerrier almost no chance to succeed.
Gardenhire removed Baker and brought in lefty Brian Duensing, who induced a harmless flyout from Brett Gardner.
Gardenhire ordered Duensing to intentionally walk Mark Teixeira, then summoned Guerrier to face Rodriguez.
There were two statistical warnings against doing so:
• Rodriguez, in his career, was 4-for-6 with three homers, a double and a walk against Guerrier. It’s hard to hit that well in batting practice or tee ball, much less against a quality big-league reliever.
• According to Stats Inc., Rodriguez was 3-for-3 with a walk, a sacrifice fly, a home run and 10 RBI in five plate appearances after Teixeira was intentionally walked ahead of him.
This is all quite the contrast to Twins broadcasters Dick Bremer and Bert Blyleven, who today, in the bottom of the first, before A-Rod drove in the first run for the Yankees, offered the following defense of Gardenhire’s decision: Loading the bases was gave the Twins the best chance to get two outs–via the double play–and get out of the inning, and Guerrier is the Twins’ best right-handed reliever.
I’m still in a “Damn Yankees” funk not really wishing to determine what, if anything, to pin the actual blame on, though I think Major League managers tend to hand out the intentional passes a bit too much. However, the previous clause is in no way intended to give Gardenhire a free pass for handing A-Rod lunch on a platter. Perhaps it is time to suggest that you should probably use your “stopper” in the pen at the point in the game when the other team needs stopping most, instead of only in ninth, but “accepted patterns” of bullpen use frown on that sort of thinking. That, however, is subject matter for another post, one concerning reliever usage and rise of the one-inning save.
Well, Yankees hitter recovered their bats, contributing a WPA of .602 in their 8-4 win over the Twins. Joe Mauer actually had the highest WPA in the game (.386), but with the Yankees trailing 3-4, Alex Rodriguez smashed a grand slam in the 7th inning (.359 WPA) putting the Yankees up for good.
Braden’s perfecto received an interesting challenge in the 5th, when Evan Longoria attempted a bunt (!) that rolled foul. Follow the link for an interesting discussion of the propriety of this move, though I think that the 5th inning is awfully early for the crowd to start booing an attempt to get on base. In the 9th, I get it, but in the 5th, come on, the man’s just doing his job.
So it could be argued that Braden did the Yankees a favor on Sunday, taking some of the luster off the terrific start Tampa Bay has had to the 2010 season, giving New York a helping hand in the American League East standings.
But he did himself a larger favor. The name Dallas Braden will no longer be primarily connected to the notion that “he was the guy who didn’t want A-Rod on his mound.”
For now and all the times to come in which baseball is played, Braden will be known as a man who threw a perfect game. As even Rodriguez said: “Good for him.”
Look, A-Rod is an *******. There’s not really any denying that. If anybody is going to be unaware of baseball etiquette, it’d be him. I imagine even Yankees fans are aware of his penchant for testing the limits of acceptable play, but accept him regardless, due to what he contributes to the lineup. It happens all over sports.