Posted on: August 28, 2011 8:49 pm
Edited on: August 28, 2011 9:03 pm

3 to Watch: The Yankees start in Boston edition

Of all the pitchers who have ever made 90 or more career starts for the Yankees, A.J. Burnett has the worst ERA (4.82).

Of all the pitchers who have ever started 11 or more games in a season for the Yankees, Phil Hughes has the seventh highest ERA (6.46).

Good thing the Yankees don't really need to beat the first-place Red Sox this week, with Hughes and Burnett starting two of the three games.

Oh, they'll tell you that they do. They'll talk about the importance of winning the American League East, and of home-field advantage in the playoffs.

But the real importance of this week, and the real importance of every other week until the playoffs begin, is for the Yankees to figure out which of their shaky starting pitchers they can possibly hope to rely on in October. Boston is a good place to try to start figuring, in part because the Red Sox may be the team the Yankees eventually need to beat, and also because in 12 games against the Red Sox this season (10 of them losses), Yankee starters have a 7.54 ERA.

At the moment, Burnett would seem the least reliable, given his 11.91 ERA and 1.142 opponents OPS (Jose Bautista leads all major-league hitters at 1.092) in August.

In fact, with manager Joe Girardi once again promising that the Yankees will go from a six-man rotation to a five-man rotation after the series in Boston, Burnett is the leading candidate to be dropped.

The Yankees would like to think that Hughes is less of a concern, given that in five straight appearances heading into last week, he had a 2.08 ERA. Then Hughes was awful against the light-hitting A's (2 2/3 innings, six runs), and followed it up with the strange comment, "Hopefully I won't face the A's again for a while."

Instead, his next start is against the Red Sox, who lead the majors in scoring.

Hughes should know that; in three appearances against Boston this year, he has a 16.20 ERA.

Even when Hughes had good numbers, scouts weren't overly impressed.

"He was better," said one scout who watched him in a good performance. "But that's not the same Phil Hughes from when he was really good."

Hughes starts Wednesday night. Burnett, 0-4 with an 8.71 ERA in eight starts for the Yankees against the Red Sox, starts Thursday.

So the Yankees might want to win the first game of the series, behind ace CC Sabathia, on Tuesday.

And that, if nothing else, will make this feel just like a Yankee playoff series.

On to 3 to Watch:

1. The Diamondbacks ended the weekend with a four-game lead in the National League West (their biggest yet), which means they're guaranteed to enter September -- and next weekend's big series in San Francisco -- in first place. First, they'll play three games against the Rockies -- the team that was supposed to be challenging the Giants -- beginning with Rockies at Diamondbacks, Monday night (9:40 ET) at Chase Field. Monday's game also features Alex White, one of the two pitchers the Rockies got in the Ubaldo Jimenez trade.

2. At this point, it's probably worth pointing out that Sabathia is 0-4 with a 7.20 ERA in his four starts against the Red Sox this year, and also that his 4.95 ERA in August is easily his highest for any month this year. But there's no doubt that the Yankees trust Sabathia about 10 times more than they trust any of their other starters, so they'll expect him to win, in Yankees at Red Sox, Tuesday night (7:10 ET) at Fenway Park. Sabathia faces the unreliable John Lackey, with Josh Beckett and Jon Lester going against Hughes and Burnett the next two nights.

3. The Yankees talk about home-field advantage, and it's true that they're 41-26 at Yankee Stadium this year. But that's nothing compared to the Brewers, who have a 50-16 home record, with 17 wins in their last 19 games. That record has helped the Brewers turn the National League Central into a runaway, and has greatly diminished the importance of this week's series against second-place St. Louis. The Brewer record for home wins in a season is 54, and they could get close in the series that ends with Cardinals at Brewers, Thursday afternoon (4:10 ET) at Miller Park. Yovani Gallardo, who is 9-1 with a 2.51 ERA in 13 home starts, will be on the mound for the Brewers. One more thing about the Brewers: Despite playing in the smallest market in the majors, they'll sell their 3 miilionth ticket sometime this week.

Posted on: August 25, 2011 8:27 pm
Edited on: August 26, 2011 10:20 am

Everything's happened before -- but not this

NEW YORK -- Never happened.

It's the last thing you expect to hear.

Baseball has been played for more than 100 years. By this time next month, there will have been 200,000 major-league games.

In fact, if you believe the folks at baseball-reference.com (and I see no reason why you shouldn't), the actual number of games through Wednesday will be 199,589.

"Everything's happened," Russell Martin was saying Thursday.

Well, maybe now.

I have to admit, I never would have thought three grand slams in a game was a record. I guess I would have guessed that it tied a record, since it's hard to imagine a team hitting four.

But three? Yeah, that had to have happened, once in those 199,580 games.

Turns out it hadn't.

"Pretty amazing," Martin said. "This game has been played for a long time. Pretty much everything has happened."

It was easier to believe that no Yankee had 3,000 hits, until Derek Jeter did it earlier this year, than it was to believe that no big-league team had hit three grand slams, before the Yankees did it Thursday against the A's.

Robinson Cano hit one. Martin hit one the very next inning. And then Curtis Granderson hit one.

And when he did, the crowd went nuts . . . but not because anyone knew it was a record.

It wasn't until a few minutes later, when Granderson was already back in the dugout and the news appeared on the scoreboard, that the Yankees knew what they had just done.

"I was like, 'Oh, wow,'" Granderson said. "I was surprised it hadn't been done before."

It does seem crazy, but maybe it's not.

After all, the Yankees had only had three games in all their history in which they'd hit even two grand slams. They hadn't done it at all in 12 years, hadn't done it in this country in 75 years, hadn't ever done it at home.

Some teams go all season and don't hit even one grand slam.

Yes, Fernando Tatis once hit two in one inning, but some players go careers without hitting a grand slam.

Still, if I'd asked you Thursday morning whether any team had hit three grand slams -- in any of those nearly 200,000 games -- you'd have said yes. If you'd asked me, I'd have said yes.

"It's a pretty crazy accomplishment, if you think about it," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said.

I'm trying to think about it, trying to think about how memorable it makes an otherwise forgettable 22-9 Yankee win over the A's.

But I keep going back to those two words at the top.

Never happened.

"Definitely cool," Martin said.

He's right. It's pretty amazing . . . and definitely cool.

Posted on: August 25, 2011 6:54 pm
Edited on: August 25, 2011 7:06 pm

Yankees set slam record

The Yankees became the first team in major-league history to hit three grand slams in one game, when Robinson Cano, Russell Martin and Curtis Granderson all hit slams Thursday afternoon against the A's.

Cano's slam, off A's starter Rich Harden, came in the fifth inning, when the Yankees trailed the A's, 7-2. Martin's slam, an inning later off reliever Fautino De Los Santos, gave the Yankees a 10-6 lead. Granderson's slam, off Bruce Billings, made it 21-8 in the eighth.

It had been 12 years since the Yankees last hit even two grand slams in the same game, and 75 years since they did it a game at home.
Posted on: August 25, 2011 11:49 am
Edited on: August 25, 2011 3:13 pm

Yanks want Friday DH, O's say no

NEW YORK -- Concerned about a schedule that gives them just two off days the rest of the season, and about a weather forecast that puts Saturday and Sunday games in jeopardy, the Yankees wanted the Orioles to play a doubleheader Friday in Baltimore.

The Orioles refused.

"Absolutely no chance," one Orioles person said Thursday.

The Yankees and Orioles are scheduled to play five games in the next four days, with a day-night doubleheader scheduled for Saturday, but Hurricane Irene is expected to bring heavy rain through the area at some point over the weekend.

"I don't know what you do if you don't [play a Friday doubleheader]," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "I don't know if they would be made up in our ballpark. I don't know if you would make them up in December."

Hurricane Irene also threatens games in Philadelphia, New York and Boston. The Phillies have already announced that they will play Sunday's scheduled game as part of a day-night doubleheader Saturday. The A's and Red Sox are only scheduled for three games, but Irene could hit the New England area on Sunday. The A's are scheduled to play Monday in Cleveland, eliminating the chance of playing a makeup game that day.

Category: MLB
Posted on: August 24, 2011 11:37 am
Edited on: August 24, 2011 12:03 pm

So maybe it really isn't about the money

Players always go for the most money.

Except when they don't.

Except when Cliff Lee says, "At some point, enough is enough." Except when Jered Weaver says, "Could have got more. Whatever. Who cares?"

Except when Zack Greinke says, sorry Nationals, it's not your money, it's your team. Except when Roy Halladay says, "This is where we wanted to be."

There's a trend developing here, and it might be bad news for the Yankees.

The old rule of thumb was that free agents -- or even free-agents-to-be -- always signed for the biggest contract. And the Yankees always knew they could offer that biggest contract, if they wanted to.

But what if that's not true anymore?

What if the best players decide that once the money gets big enough -- $17 million a year, or $20 million a year, or $24 million a year -- an extra $1 million or $2 million or $30 million isn't going to buy happiness?

What happens is that Halladay gets himself traded to the one team he wanted to play for. What happens is that Greinke turns down a non-contending Nationals team (that offered him a big-money extension) so he can go to a contender in Milwaukee (under his current contract). What happens is that Lee turns down more guaranteed money, because he wants to be back in Philladelphia.

And what happens is that Weaver, as colleague Scott Miller details, bucks the Scott Boras trend. Instead of waiting for free agency (after 2012) and even bigger bucks, he tells Boras that "money really wasn't an option for me" and re-signs with the Angels.

Actually, two trends are at work here. With more money available throughout the game, more and more young aces -- Felix Hernandez, Justin Verlander and now Weaver -- never get to free agency. Hernandez and Verlander both would have been free agents this winter, if they hadn't signed extensions.

Imagine that bidding frenzy.

Or maybe not. Maybe, even if they had gone to the market, both would have signed for less than the last available dollar. Maybe both would have turned down the Yankees.

We always snickered when free agents said, "It's not about the money," before or after taking the biggest deal they could find.

But maybe there's a point where it really isn't "all about the money." And maybe now, we're reaching that point.

Posted on: August 19, 2011 12:27 am
Edited on: August 19, 2011 9:37 am

3 to Watch: The Verlander and the East edition

What's it worth to win the American League East?

Not as much as it would be if the Twins were winning the American League Central again.

The East winner will almost certainly play the Central winner in the first round of the playoffs. The East runner-up will be the wild card, and will play the Rangers.

And the complicating factor is Justin Verlander.

If the Tigers win the Central, they get the East winner in a best-of-5 series, with the possibility that Verlander could start twice. If he wins twice, the Tigers would need just one win in any of the other three games to advance.

That's exactly what happened in the first round last year. The East winner, the Rays, lost twice to Cliff Lee. The Rays won two of the other three games against the Rangers, but it wasn't enough.

Meanwhile, the wild-card Yankees swept past the Twins.

The Yankees always beat the Twins. They did it again Thursday night, their 20th win in their last 23 games against Minnesota, including sweeps in the last two Division Series.

The Red Sox have been nearly as good, with 15 wins in their last 21 games against the Twins.

The Twins don't have a Verlander, or anyone close. In the playoffs, the Twins have had no chance.

Maybe the Tigers wouldn't have a chance, either, even with Verlander. Maybe the Indians or the White Sox will get past the Tigers and win the Central (the Tigers lead the Indians by 1 1/2 games and the White Sox by four, with the Indians coming to Detroit this weekend).

Maybe it's worth it to win the East, anyway, because if the Yankees and Red Sox both advance to the American League Championship Series, the team that wins the division would have home-field advantage.


But it sure would be easier if the Twins were winning the Central.

On to 3 to Watch:

1. Someone asked me the other day who starts Game 2 for the Yankees. My answer? Whoever looks best the last two weeks of the season. Maybe that could even be Phil Hughes, who starts Game 2 of this weekend's series, Yankees at Twins, Friday night (8:10 ET) at Target Field. Hughes' 6.55 ERA is the third-worst in the American League (minimum 40 innings) behind the Royals duo of Sean O'Sullivan and Kyle Davies. But Hughes has gone six innings in three straight starts (and four of the last five), allowing two runs or less each time.

2. The first round of the 2008 draft produced Buster Posey, who helped the Giants win the World Series. It produced Lonnie Chisenhall, Gordon Beckham, Ryan Perry and Daniel Schlereth, who are all part of this year's American League Central race. It produced Brett Lawrie, who the first-place Brewers traded to the Blue Jays to get Shaun Marcum. And it produced Wade Miley, the 24-year-old left-hander the first-place Diamondbacks called up when Jason Marquis broke his leg last Sunday. Miley, who grew up in Louisiana as a Braves fan, makes his big-league debut in Diamondbacks at Braves, Saturday afternoon (7:10 ET) at Turner Field. Miley will face Brandon Beachy, who was also eligible for that 2008 draft. He didn't go in the first round -- or any round -- and the Braves signed him as an undrafted free agent.

3. Tiger manager Jim Leyland reworked his rotation to make sure Verlander pitched against the Indians last week, and Verlander's win kept the Indians from a three-game sweep. Leyland chose not to rework his rotation again this week, and that means Rick Porcello will face Ubaldo Jimenez in Indians at Tigers, Sunday afternoon (1:05 ET) at Comerica Park. The Tigers are 14-9 with Porcello starting, but in 12 starts since June 12, Porcello has a 6.35 ERA. Verlander, who last pitched Tuesday (beating the Twins) is scheduled to start Monday night at Tampa Bay.

Posted on: August 11, 2011 8:22 pm
Edited on: August 11, 2011 8:35 pm

Tigers on Granderson: It's not a surprise

CLEVELAND -- The Tigers watched on their clubhouse television as Curtis Granderson hit yet another home run for the Yankees.

"He's the best player they have right now," Magglio Ordonez said.

He might well be right.

According to research through baseball-reference.com, Granderson is the first Yankee ever with 30-plus home runs, nine or more triples, 20-plus stolen bases and 100-plus runs scored in the same season. He leads the major leagues with 93 RBI, and his 32 home runs are just one behind major-league leader Jose Bautista.

"It's not a surprise," Tigers hitting coach Lloyd McClendon said, pointing out that from 2007-09, Granderson tied David Ortiz for the most extra-base hits in the American League.

Tigers people speak about Granderson without surprise, and without regret, even though the three-team trade that sent him to the Yankees and sent Austin Jackson, Max Scherzer and others to the Tigers doesn't look nearly as favorable for Detroit as it did a year ago.

"He's having a monster year, an MVP year," manager Jim Leyland said. "It couldn't happen to a better guy."

While Granderson has already exceeded his career high in home runs, Tigers people rightly point out that the change in home ballparks is a big factor. Twenty of Granderson's 30 home runs in 2009 were hit on the road, and he had just 10 at Comerica Park. This year, 18 of his 32 home runs have been hit at Yankee Stadium.

"That place is made for him," Leyland said. "He's got lightning in that bat."


While no Yankee before Granderson has had 30-plus home runs, nine or more triples, 20-plus steals and 100-plus runs, that combination isn't unheard of in baseball. Carlos Gonzalez had it for the Rockies last year, and Troy Tulowitzki did it for Colorado a year before that.

Both Gonzalez and Tulowitzki finished with exactly nine triples. But even if you go to double-digit triples, assuming that Granderson will get at least one more, you only need to go back to Jimmy Rollins' 2007 season with the Phillies.

Granderson and Rollins are already two of only four players in baseball history to have 20 doubles, 20 triples, 20 home runs and 20 steals in the same season. Both did it in 2007. The other two to do it were Willie Mays, in 1957, and Frank Schulte, in 1911.


Here's a question I don't have the answer to:

Granderson batted eighth for the Yankees on opening day. What's the most home runs ever for a guy who batted eighth on opening day?
Posted on: August 4, 2011 9:09 pm
Edited on: August 4, 2011 10:16 pm

3 to Watch: The second wild card (now!) edition

The teams with the two best records in the American League meet this weekend, and it means next to nothing.

Baseball's top rivalry resumes this weekend, with first place on the line, except that in this case, second place is basically as good as first.

If commissioner Bud Selig has the best interests of baseball in mind, he'll forget about Alex Rodriguez's supposed poker games, and do the one thing that would make this version of Yankees-Red Sox truly important.

Can we get the second wild-card team added for this year?

I realize it can't happen. I realize baseball is heading towards adding the second wild-card team in 2012, and that's the best we're going to get.

But if you're one of those who still don't believe in the concept, just look at what the current system has done to a series that should be great.

The Red Sox and Yankees have been separated by no more than 2 1/2 games in the standings since the middle of May. The Red Sox have dominated the first nine head-to-head meetings, winning eight of them, but the Yankees have done better against everyone else.

The Red Sox have been winning like crazy, but so have the Yankees.

It's a great race, except for one thing: They're both going to the playoffs, and there's only a minimal reward for winning the division rather than the wild card.

In fact, if the season ended today, the division winner would play the Tigers, which means facing Justin Verlander twice in a five-game series. The wild card would play the Rangers, who may be better overall, but don't have a Verlander-like ace.

A second wild-card team solves most of this.

With a second wild-card, winning the division means avoiding a one-game play-in against a team like the Angels. It means not just an extra day of rest, but also the chance to save your best available pitcher for the first game of the Division Series.

Yes, the Yankees already want to beat the Red Sox, and vice versa. But in the current system, in a year like this, with both teams nearly guaranteed a playoff spot and little distinction between a division winner and a wild card, there's very little penalty for not winning the division.

And that's too bad.

On to 3 to Watch:

1. When the Yankees didn't trade for a starting pitcher at the deadline, general manager Brian Cashman suggested that Bartolo Colon would be as good a No. 2 starter as anyone he could acquire. So let's see how Colon matches up against Jon Lester, his mound opponent in Yankees at Red Sox, Friday night (7:10 ET) at Fenway Park. Lester has won both his starts against the Yankees this year, despite giving up seven runs in 12 innings. He's won his last five starts against the Yankees, dating back to last year. Colon has lost both of his 2011 starts against the Red Sox, despite going 10 1/3 innings and allowing just three earned runs.

2. One of those pitchers the Yankees passed on, and the only one who realistically could have slotted as a No. 2 starter, was Ubaldo Jimenez, who debuts for Cleveland in Indians at Rangers, Friday night (8:05 ET) at Rangers Ballpark. He faces Derek Holland, who has three complete-game shutouts in his last five starts, and also shut out the Indians in June at Progressive Field.

3. The Phillies broke their five-year string of trading for a starting pitcher at midseason, in large part because they knew Roy Oswalt was coming back from the disabled list. The Phillies also decided against trading for a reliever, in part because Oswalt's return means that either he or Vance Worley can move to the bullpen for the playoffs. Oswalt returns from the DL in Phillies at Giants, Sunday afternoon (4:05 ET) at AT&T Park. Tim Lincecum, the guy Charlie Manuel said was "good, not great," starts for the Giants.

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com