Friday, September 15, 2006

Rookies Step Up as Yanks Sweep Rays

Cano drives in 3 more in 7-4 win

With rain falling throughout the day, Yankee's manager Joe Torre decided to push scheduled starter Chien-Ming Wang back a day and pulled outfielders Johnny Damon and Bobby Abreu from the starting lineup. It didn't matter much as reliever Darrell Rasner threw 4 shutout innings and Robinson Cano drove in 3 runs as the Yankees completed a 3 game sweep of the Tampa Devil Rays with an 7-4 victory.

Jeff Karstens moved up a day in the starting rotation, but was not sharp for the first time. He gave up a pair of home runs and a triple to Rocco Baldelli as the Rays built a 4-1 lead. But Ray's starter Jamie Shields ran into a wall when he tried to retire the side in the 5th to make an official game. Hideki Matsui opened the inning with a walk and Aaron Guiel followed with a single to move Matsui to 2nd. Shields bounced back, striking out Kevin Thompson and Bernie Williams to set up a two-on, two-out situation for Derek Jeter. Jeter, who had extended his hitting streak to 23 games with a 1st inning single, singled to right to cut the lead in half. Robinson Cano then followed with a drive to deep left. Carl Crawford, who probably played the worst defensive series of his career, shied away as reached the left wall and the ball kicked off the heal of his glove for a gift 2-run double to tie the game. Shields escaped further trouble by getting Alex Rodriguez to ground out to third.

With a brand new ballgame, Torre pulled Karstens and brought in Rasner, who had been unceremoniously dumped earlier in the year by Washington. He was making his 8th appearance of the season and immediately rewarded Torre for using him by retiring the first 7 batters he faced. The Yankees then took advantage of the Ray's bullpen in the 7th.

Thompson and Williams stroked one out singles off of Ruddy Lugo to put runners on the corners. Shawn Camp came out of the pen to strike out Jeter for the 2nd out, but Cano came through with an RBI double to left-center. Cano has driven in 40 runs in the 36 games he's played since returning from the DL on August 8. A-Rod then singled through the right side to bring home 2 more to break the game open. Rasner did the rest, allowing just 1 hit over 4 innings, while striking out 5 and walking none.


Derek Jeter's 23-game hitting streak is the longest since Don Mattingly hit in 24 straight in 1987. Jeter momentarily took over the batting lead from Joe Mauer, but Mauer singled his final time up to take the lead back by a percentage point.

Gary Sheffield will NOT be activated this weekend despite speculation that it could occur. Torre will not do so until Sheffield is swinging at or near 100%.

Chien-Ming Wang will look for his 18th win tonight as he faces Josh Beckett and the Boston Red Sox in the opener of a 4 game series.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Around the Horn - 9/13

I'm not going to lie and say it's great to be back from vacation, but it's great to be able to get back to the information world. With no computer and newspapers that were published too early to even have 7 pm starts, it took a healthy, well maybe unhealthy, does of Baseball Tonight to keep up with things. That and wading through college football scores on the TV screen tickers.

- Ryan Howard - this guy is incredible. He's got 56 home runs entering today's play. The only other lefties in NL history to top 50 home runs in a single season are Barry Bonds and Luis Gonzalez. He has slugged 80 home runs in 870 at-bats of his brief career. He's also driven in 201 runs in 228 games. And he's only 26! Hopefully he's done this all clean and will one day eclipse Bonds's tainted single season record. He should become just the fifth player to top 60 home runs in a season, and the first to do it since Roger Maris without cheating.

- The AL East batting title is going down to the wire. Fellow MVP candidates Joe Mauer (.348) and Derek Jeter (.346) are separated by just 2 percent points entering Wednesday's play.

- Just how far can the KC Royals fall before they hit rock bottom? At the conclusion of last night's 3rd inning, starting pitcher Runelvys Hernandez and catcher John Buck exchanged blows. They both stayed in the game and Hernandez picked up the victory. What did Buddy Bell ever do wrong to deserve this?

- Can Jeffrey Loria please shut his mouth. That's not a request either. Do it. Of course when Joe Girardi is managing in Chicago next year, you can come up with some other reasons for your team's drop-off from this year and why you're playing in front of 10 of your closest friends. Idiot. Guys like you and Peter Angelos are Steinbrenner wannabes. Only difference is George "somewhat" wised up from his 1970-1980s days and the Yankees became consistent winners. You two are just consistent idiots.

- Talk about playing under the radar. In case no one has noticed, or possibly not cared, Barry Bonds has gotten hot in September. Recent injection or rub-on cream? Perhaps. Either way, Bonds not has 731 home runs after hitting 4 in the first 8 games of September. Now if they can only find a way to ban this scumbag in the off-season before he breaks Hank Aaron's record. You can bet Bud Selig is praying that George Mitchell can find something.

- How about Mike Piazza. Last night he belted his 21st home run, the most he has hit since 2002. More remarkable is that he leads all catchers in home runs.

- Eddie Guardado, Jason Isringhausen, Roger Clemens, Brad Radke...those are just a sampling of the major players that are hurting in September. Some are DL'ed, some are resting, either way they have a big impact on their team’s chances in September, and in some case, in October.

- The Minnesota Twins have to be worried. After throwing pain-free in his rehab start, Francisco Liriano had to leave his start against Oakland today after just 29 pitches due to elbow pain.

And finally, a speedy recovery and prayers sent out to the Red Sox's Jon Lester who is battling non-Hodgkins lymphoma.

Matsui Return Perfect, Yankees Roll 12-4

There aren't many nights when a hitter can knock in 7 runs and get overshadowed. But that's what happened to Bobby Abreu last night when Hideki Matsui played his first game in Pinstripes since May 11 as the Yankees pounded the Tampa Bay Devil Rays 12-4. Abreu drove in 7 runs, 6 in the 1st inning, but it was the return to the lineup of Matsui that really pumped up the paid crowd of 52,265. It started with a standing ovation his first time up, which resulted in a bloop RBI single and ended with another standing ovation when he left for a pinch-runner after going 4-4 with a walk. Matsui did all that batting 8th in an even deeper Yankees lineup.

The Yankees jumped all over Ray's starter Tim Corcoran, sending him to the showers before the first inning was even over. After a lead off single by Johnny Damon and a walk to Derek Jeter, Abreu crushed a Corcoran pitch over the right-centerfield fence for a 3-0 lead. It was Abreu's first home run at Yankee Stadium. An Alex Rodriguez walk and stolen base was followed by an RBI double by Jorge Posada. Consecutive singles by Robinson Cano and Matsui pushed the score to 5-0 and sent Corcoran home early. Reliever Brian Stokes didn't fair much better, allowing a single to Melky Cabrera to load the bases and then issued a bases loaded walk to Jeter to force in the 6th run. Abreu blew the game wide open when his fly to deep left-center was played into a 3-run double by Carl Crawford, who ran a poor route to the ball. Abreu's 6-RBI inning tied the AL record and is the 2nd highest total in MLB history.

Of even greater importance than Matsui's return was the effective, free throwing performing by starter Mike Mussina. Mussina had one ineffective start after returning from a groin injury and had his start pushed back from Sunday due to a sore shoulder. Moose retired the first 10 hitters before allowing a single to Delmon Young. He departed after 6 1-3 innings and 87 pitches, having allowed no runs, 5 hits, struck out 5 and walked none.

T.J. Beam threw a scoreless 1 2-3 innings, before Octavio Dotel got lit up for 4 runs in the 9th to end the shutout. But this game was about offense. Abreu added a 7th RBI on a sacrifice fly and narrowly missed a grand slam and 11 RBI. Now if only Gary Sheffield could pitch.


In a quirk of the official rulebook, Derek Jeter's 21-game hitting streak is still alive despite not getting a hit in 4 trips to the plate. That's because all 4 trips were not official at-bats. In addition to walking 3 times, Jeter was also hit by a pitch.

Gary Sheffield took live batting practice before the game, but swung lightly. Sheffield is hoping to return this weekend.

Mariano Rivera continues to feel better and is hoping to throw back-to-back bullpen sessions this weekend if he continues to progress.