Posted on: October 4, 2011 11:47 pm
DETROIT -- The scariest sentence of the summer for Yankees fans turned into the most surprising sentence of the year.
From "The season depends on A.J. Burnett" to "Good Lord above, look who saved the day!" in 81 pitches on a gorgeous night at Comerica Park for everything and everyone but the Tigers.
Mark it down. Burnett rides in on a white horse. The Yankees blast Detroit 10-1. This Division Series is headed back to New York even-steven at two games apiece, with the winner Thursday spraying champagne.
All hail A.J.
Maybe it was his 2009 World Series victory frozen in time inside of his laptop that spurred him. Perhaps it was getting kicked one too many times while he was down, getting taunted one too many times in public, getting spurned one too many times from the Yankees' brass.
Whatever it was, after a wobbly first inning in which he loaded the bases with walks -- including an intentional pass to Miguel Cabrera -- Burnett was, dare we say it, ace-like. He lasted 5 2/3 innings, the perfect amount for a bullpen that includes Rafael Soriano, David Robertson and Mariano Rivera.
And the thing is, after New York's six-run eighth, the latter two weren't even needed.
"You can't count me out," Burnett had said on the eve of his latest make-or-break start. "I'm going to bring everything I've got and just let A.J. loose out there."
Good thing for him, they let Curtis Granderson loose, too. That bases-loaded first inning? Two out, and Don Kelly smoked a screaming liner dead ahead to center field. Granderson broke in at first, then quickly recovered, scrambled back and made a leaping stab that ended the inning.
It was a spectacular catch made possible by an initial misread. Bottom line, it saved Burnett at least two runs and possibly an inside-the-park grand slam.
Granderson would make another sensational catch to end the sixth. But, by then, the Yankees led 4-1 and thanks to Burnett, they were out of the rough.
"I've been proving people wrong my whole career, it seems like," Burnett had said on Monday evening. "People are entitled to their opinion.
"Obviously, I give them reasons here and there do doubt."
In Game 4, Burnett gave them reasons neither here nor there to doubt. The dude was stellar, just in the nick of time.
Tuesday was a very, very good night for the Yankees also in that the blowout allowed Robertson and Rivera to watch idly from the bullpen and maybe get some crucial rest for what should be a terrific final act to what has been a riveting series.
Posted on: October 1, 2011 8:27 pm
Before we get too far away from the greatest regular season night of baseball ever, some quick reactions in the aftermath of Wednesday night. ...
FROM: James J.
Re.: Rays' final chapter in comeback story defies belief
You're not that naive are you? Seriously? Joe Girardi gave Tampa Bay that game! Leaving Luis Ayala in after walks/hit batters ... and following him with SCOTT PROCTOR? C'mon Scott ... you're more with it than this! If Girardi cared about this game, Mariano would've been in.
You could not be more wrong. Girardi's Yankees had clinched the AL East title. He had Game 1 of the playoffs in two days. His responsibility was to rest his key guys and make sure they're ready for the postseason. If Boston doesn't like it, the Red Sox shouldn't have been in the position where they needed the Yankees' help. Period.
FROM: Jim M.
Do you think it was right that the Yankees treated it like a spring training game? Get your two ABs then in go the minor leaguers. The Yankees need to develop some integrity. I am not saying they lost it on purpose, but they never played to win the game. Imagine the richest team in baseball just cheapened the game!
You could not be more wrong, either. Any other takers here?
You asked how did the Rays impossible comeback and miracle happen? I can tell ya how. I prayed on it. From the 7th when they were down 7-0, through the Longoria blast in the 12th, every pitch, every at-bat. I prayed them into the playoffs and into the World Series in 2008 as well.
Now I know who I'm going to turn to in times of crisis.
FROM: Tom H.
You are so right. Last night was one of those nights that I will always remember. All I can is, Wow. For those of us that love baseball, last night will live [forever]. I will always remember the emotional roller coaster of that night. It just doesn't get any better than last night. Thanks for capturing the emotion of the night!
Five days later, I'm still trying to catch my breath.
FROM: Daniel D.
Being a Yankee fan, I just loved way Red Sox folded! Tampa Bay played great down stretch!
At the very least, the Rays seized the opportunity.
FROM: Andrew T.
Re.: Charmed life continues for Tampa with remarkable triple play
Great story! The article emotes the excitement of the now! Thanks! Go Rays!
It's been fun! Let's keep watching! Rays are looking good! Thanks!
FROM: Wally B.
The team is the Tampa Bay Rays. Tampa is a city, Tampa Bay is the home of the Rays. Where is Tropicana Field? You need to know these things.
And the Sunshine Skyway goes over ... the San Francisco Bay, correct?
Likes: Kyle Chandler was waaaaay overdue for the Emmy he won for Friday Night Lights. Too bad Connie Britton didn't win for her portrayal of his wife on the best show that's been on television in years. So sad it's over... Razzoo's Cajun restaurant in Fort Worth, Tex. The crawfish etouffee and spicy shrimp and chicken gumbo are outstanding. ... The shrimp gumbo at Pappadeaux. ... Heritage Park in Fort Worth, great place to run.
Dislikes: Smokers who toss their cigarette butts out the car window as if the world is their ashtray. Happened again on a freeway in Texas on Thursday as I was driving from the airport to my hotel. Lady in front of me just flicked it out. Pig.
Rock 'N' Roll Lyric:
"Nobody on the road
"Nobody on the beach
"I feel it in the air
"Summer’s out of reach
"Empty lake, empty streets
"The sun goes down alone
"I’m drivin’ by your house
'Though I know you’re not home"
-- Don Henley, The Boys of Summer
Posted on: July 1, 2011 2:31 pm
OK, here goes: If I were to ask you coming into this season whose save conversion rate since July 31, 2007, is second in the game to Rivera's, whom would you say?
Yes, the answer is Soria, a two-time All-Star whose 92.4 rate since that date is second among all major-league closers to Rivera's 92.9.
Now, here's just one more piece of evidence that Rivera is superhuman: In late May, Soria suddenly fell into a hole and blew five of his first 12 save opportunities. It got so bad that after he blew consecutive save opportunities in late May, he admirably went to manager Ned Yost and essentially removed himself from the role. Something that in all of these years Rivera has never had to do.
Yost handled the situation superbly: He gave Soria a few days off to clear out his mind, eased him back into non-save situations in which he could pitch two innings at a time (to work on his fastball command) and then plugged Soria back into the ninth in early June.
The results, again, have been spectacular: Soria has worked 12 shutout innings in his past 10 games and is six-for-six in save opportunities, while holding opponents to an .098 batting average (4 for 41).
"It was not a big change at all," Soria says. "It was just a mind-set, getting my confidence back. Mechanics-wise, there was nothing to change. I looked at video, and I'm not doing anything different."
Soria isn't a closer with overpowering stuff, nor does he have one lethal weapon like Rivera's cutter. Instead, he throws all of his pitches -- fastball, curve, slider and change. Because he depends on location, problems can arise if he goes four or five days between outings.
"He's a command-guy closer," Yost says. "Command guys rebound so much better from that than stuff guys do.
"I've never had stuff guys who have gone through this rebound -- Derrick Turnbow, Danny Kolb, even Eric Gagne."
Soria, 27, right now is reinforcing Yost's history.
"Bad things make you stronger," Soria says. "If you've always been good, maybe you don't realize what it takes to be good until you go bad."
As for Rivera, who mostly has been immune to slumps throughout his Hall of Fame career, Soria, like everyone else, just marvels.
"He's the best," Soria says. "He's done everything in his career, and I don't think he's ever struggled."
-- Soria and Rivera have met once, at the All-Star Game in Yankee Stadium in 2008. But they did not exchange trade secrets. "We didn't talk about the game," Soria says. "We just talked about life."
-- Though they clearly could use reinforcements for a beat-up bullpen, and manager Charlie Manuel wants a right-handed bat (the Padres' Ryan Ludwick? The Twins' Michael Cuddyer?), the Phillies are telling teams that they they're tapped out financially. They're close to the luxury tax threshold and do not want to cross it. Of course, they were also telling rivals the same thing last winter before they shocked everyone by signing free agent pitcher Cliff Lee.
-- Emphasizing Philadelphia's need for a right-handed bat: The Phillies are hitting .196 in their past 13 games against lefty starters.
-- The Red Sox, too, say they do not want to push their luxury tax any higher than it already is, which suggests no pricey mid-season reinforcements. But recent history under general manager Theo Epstein also suggests the Red Sox get what they need and, right now, their internal discussions are centering on a hitter. They're not getting much out of right field, which led to the release of Mike Cameron this week.
-- Mariners officials are scheduled to talk via conference call next week to discuss final strategy leading into the July trade deadline. Though Seattle has done a nice job of staying competitive, the recent 3-7 tailspin could spur the M's to deal Erik Bedard. Though Bedard landed on the disabled list this week with a knee sprain, he could be a very good trade chip.
-- Thanks to Milwaukee's road woes, the Cardinals are back in a tie for first place in the NL Central entering the weekend. But one scout who has watched St. Louis recently remains unimpressed. "Colby Rasmus is so inconsistent," the scout says. "Sometimes it looks like he's not even there at the plate." Then there are the times when Rasmus looks like he is there, like when he homered Tuesday and Wednesday in Baltimore.
-- In St. Louis' defense, the Cards have been so beat up this year, but while Albert Pujols is out, at least third baseman David Freese has returned from the disabled list. "Daniel Descalso was playing third base when I saw St. Louis," the scout says. "And I'm thinking, 'These are the St. Louis Cardinals?'"
-- This is the Phillies' rotation we expected: Philadelphia starters compiled a 1.96 ERA in June. Which, according to STATS LLC makes the Phils the first team since July of 1992 to go a full month under 2.00. Both Atlanta and the Chicago Cubs did it back in July, '92.
-- Quietly, Padres outfielder Ryan Ludwick is resurfacing and showing why he will be in demand on the July trade market. He's at 51 RBIs in 78 games after finishing April with a .198 batting average and a .294 on-base percentage. That followed his miserable debut in San Diego last summer when he hit .211 with six homers in 59 games after his acquisition from St. Louis. There have been differences between this year and last: A calf injury nagged at him last year, while this April he was hitting the ball hard, just right at people. "I played terrible last year," Ludwick says. "I wouldn't say I've been playing great this year, but I've been doing what I've been known to do and what they brought me over to do. Drive in runs. Last year, every time I came to the ballpark I was stressed out, wondering if I was going to be able to make contact."
-- Know what's funny? The cover of Florida's media guide is a collage of small photos of historical highlights in Marlins history. And right there front and center, albeit at the bottom, is a photo of Jack McKeon in uniform. No need for updating there. Well, except he's wearing No. 15, and this time around, he's No. 25.
-- Angels manger Mike Scioscia, by the way, is still marveling about McKeon's enthusiasm for managing at 80. Scioscia and the Angels saw McKeon in his 2011 debut a couple of weeks back.
Likes: All-Star voting results coming soon, with the game soon to follow. ... Derek Jeter nearly set to resume his chase for 3,000 hits. ... Kerry Wood off of the DL and back in the Cubs' bullpen. ... From rocky NFL labor talks to rocky NBA labor talks to ... baseball labor talks still quiet and positive. ... The smell of neighborhood grills over the Fourth of July weekend. ... Modern Family boxed set, season 1. I'm just catching up to a show I haven't watched. Very funny. ... My sister's frozen key lime pie. Delicious.
Dislikes: Missed Jason Isbell coming through my town last week because of work commitments. His latest disc with his band, the 400 Unit, Here We Rest, is outstanding.
Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:
"Driving in to Darlington County
-- Bruce Springsteen, Darlington County
Tags: Albert Pujols, Boston Red Sox, Bruce Springsteen, Chicago Cubs, Colby Rasmus, Daniel Descalso, Derek Jeter, Erik Bedard, Florida Marlins, Jack McKeon, Jason Isbell, Joakim Soria, Kansas City Royals, Kerry Wood, Los Angeles Angels, Mariano Rivera, Michael Cuddyer, Mike Cameron, Mike Scioscia, Minnesota Twins, Modern Family, Ned Yost, New York Yankees, Philadelphia Phillies, Ryan Ludwick, San Diego Padres, Seattle Mariners, St. Louis Cardinals
Posted on: June 7, 2011 12:36 am
KANSAS CITY -- Exiled at his own suggestion after blowing five saves earlier this year, All-Star Joakim Soria is back as Kansas City's closer.
Manager Ned Yost told Soria after the right-hander pitched two scoreless innings and earned the win as the Royals snapped a four-game losing streak with a 3-2, 11-inning victory over Toronto at Kauffman Stadium.
Aaron Crow, who did not have a save opportunity while serving as temporary closer, will move back into his set-up role.
"That sets our bullpen up nice," said Yost, who thinks Soria needed to make a "mental adjustment" more than anything.
"Get back on the attack, get out and over on his front foot," Yost said.
Among Soria's struggles this season: His 16 earned runs allowed are three more than his season totals from both 2009 and 2010, and the five blown saves are the most of any of his five seasons.
He approached Yost following his fifth blown save of the season -- and second in two days -- on May 30.
"He's done it with a lot of class, a lot of dignity," Yost said of his two-time All-Star. "He stepped back when he felt he was hurting the team, and he stepped back when he had to make adjustments before coming back to help us."
Yost noted it was quick, "eight or nine days", but now he's again seeing "vintage Soria."
"He had two four-out innings where we made errors on ground balls when we should have made the out, and he's been fantastic," Yost said.
Entering this season, since becoming Kansas City's closer following the trade of Octavio Dotel on July 31, 2007, Soria had converted 122 of 132 save opportunities. His 92.4 conversion percentage during that time was second in the majors to the Yankees' Mariano Rivera (92.9 percent).
"I always felt good, but I'm in a better spot right now," Soria said. "I feel better in my command. I'll always be challenged in this game. I like challenges, and I put a challenge to myself to come back as quick as I can."
Posted on: December 7, 2010 3:53 pm
Edited on: December 7, 2010 4:42 pm
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Everyone is trolling the lobby for pitchers, and this side of Cliff Lee, what most teams want is bullpen help.
So why, then, has only one reliever signed with a new team on the free agent market so far?
The Benoit signing has put visions of sugar plums (and multi-millions) into the heads of middle relievers throughout the game.
And not all executives are ready to concede that type of contract to guys who will pitch the sixth, seventh or eighth innings for them.
"No way in hell am I going to pay a guy like that $5 million a year," one NL general manager said.
Among the dozens of relievers still on the market is Jesse Crain, who pitched very well out of the Minnesota bullpen for the past several seasons -- and sources say he's among a handful of relievers right now is targeting a contract similar to the one Benoit got from Detroit.
Aside from Benoit, only two relievers have signed so far this winter: Closer Mariano Rivera re-signed with the Yankees for two years and $30 million, and middle man Jose Contreras re-signed with Philadelphia for two years and $5.5 million.
Posted on: June 26, 2010 2:05 am
Edited on: June 26, 2010 2:12 am
LOS ANGELES -- The weekend's theme appears pretty well set after the Joe Torre-Alex Rodriguez Cold War continued on its icy path following the Yankees' 2-1 series-opening victory here Friday night.
Torre said he was "relieved" that the pre-game meet-and-greet with several of his Yankees friends was finished and that now he can move on to concentrating on baseball.
Except, he said before the game that he intended to shake A-Rod's hand as well during batting practice. And the two never got close enough to each other for that to happen.
And while he didn't seek A-Rod, the Yankees slugger was noticeably conspicuous in his failure to greet Torre as well.
"I don't look at that as disrespect," Torre said late Friday night. "I don't know what to say. I certainly don't want to dump on Alex that it was disrespect. He was over there stretching and I was talking to people. If we had come close enough. ..."
As far as Torre is concerned, he doesn't think there are any issues to solve with A-Rod.
"I'll say hello to him," Torre said. "I don't know what to iron out. I don't feel there's anything that keeps us from acknowledging each other.
"I'm comfortable with how my feelings are. If he chooses not to talk to me, it doesn't mean I'm not going to like him. I was around him a few years and I thought we got along well."
Down the hall and across the lobby, in the other clubhouse, Rodriguez downplayed what has had all the appearances of a tiff since Torre dropped him to eighth in the lineup in Game 4 of the 2006 playoffs against Detroit and then portrayed him in an unflattering light in Torre's 2009 book, The Yankee Years.
"I'm sure we'll get the opportunity to talk," Rodriguez said. "We're going to be here for three days. There's no rush.
"If he wants to talk, I'm more than willing."
Rodriguez pointed out that he wasn't around Torre as long as core players like Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, Jorge Posada and Andy Pettitte, but noted he learned several things during his time with Torre nonetheless.
"He was a good teacher of hitting," Rodriguez said. "One thing I use to this day, anytime I was struggling he'd say, 'I'm telling you the same thing I told Dale Murphy: Hit the ball into the right-field seats,'" Rodriguez said. "To this day, I can still hear his voice."
Posted on: November 1, 2009 5:44 pm
PHILADELPHIA -- As you're watching Game 4 tonight and playing along with the managers, here's one thing to watch for: Don't expect Yankees closer Mariano Rivera to collect a two-inning save, as he did in Game 2.
Yankees manager Joe Girardi says he doesn't expect to use Rivera for more than one inning tonight after Rivera threw five pitches in Game 3 Saturday night.
"I probably wouldn't ... tonight, either," Girardi said of the possibility of using Rivera for two innings, something the manager said he wouldn't do before Game 3, either. "Because he's thrown two out of three days.
"His workload a couple days ago was pretty heavy, so he probably wouldn't do any more than an inning."
In earning the save Thursday night in Game 2, Rivera threw 39 pitches, the most he's ever thrown in a World Series game.
Posted on: September 23, 2009 6:21 pm
Edited on: September 23, 2009 6:22 pm
ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Over the past 10 days, the Angels have played the Yankees and Red Sox seven times, with a very good chance that they'll be seeing at least one of those clubs -- and possibly both -- when the playoffs start in less than two weeks.
Advantage or disadvantage for a club to be playing high-powered potential playoff opponents so close to the start of the postseason?
"The schedule's a joke," manager Mike Scioscia says. "You should be playing within your division at the beginning of the season, at the end of the season and in the middle of the season.
"The fact that we were back east [playing Boston] last week and that [the Yankees are] coming out West doesn't make sense."
Perhaps the root of Scioscia's anger is sleep deprivation. The Angels started last week's trip east with one game in New York on Monday, a makeup of an earlier rainout.
Traveling from Southern California following a Sunday game, the Angels arrived in New York around 1:30 a.m. Monday.
Then, after that night's game, they arrived in Boston around 1:30 a.m. Tuesday for the start of a three-game series.
Following the finale in Boston on Thursday, another night game, the Angels arrived at their next stop on the three-city trip, Texas, around 3 a.m.
Wednesday's home finale against the Yankees marked the end of a stretch in which the Angels played 20 games in 20 days and 41 games during a 43-game stretch.
"I don't know if there's ever been an off day more needed for this team than our day [Thursday]," Scioscia says. "The East Coast trip was tough."
Their reward, though, is just around the corner. Entering Wednesday, their magic number was five to clinch a third division title and a fifth in six seasons. While Scioscia says the schedule has been "a grind" lately, he's also learned something about his club.
"I think the depth of our team has surfaced," he says. "It's gotten us through what, looking back, has been a grind."
Likes: Still love the Rally Monkey in Anaheim. He's timeless. ... Derek Jeter, Jorge Posada, Mariano Rivera and Andy Pettitte. The four Yankees who date back to 1996 remain class (and winners) today. ... Texas pitching Kevin Millwood to pitch the other night even though he was so close to it guaranteeing his $12 million option for 2010 was the right thing to do. ... Hey, with Minnesota chasing Detroit, we've got one race. Of course, the Twins have six games left with the red-hot Royals -- and are projected to face Zack Greinke twice. Hey, they wouldn't want to back into the playoffs, would they? ... President Barack Obama on The Late Show with David Letterman this week. Letterman remains the master of the late night. ... James Maddock's disc Sunrise on Avenue C has been a wonderful find. ... Big finish last week as the Monroe (Mich.) St. Mary Catholic Central Falcons held off New Boston Huron 20-19. Next victory for the Falcons: Friday night against Grosse Ile.
"Now the years are rolling by me
-- Simon and Garfunkel, The Boxer