Monday, August 08, 2005

Dukin' El Duque/Week In Review

The Yanks and Mike Mussina beat Orlando Hernandez tonight, 3-2, at Yankee Stadium. Since Hernandez is one of my favorites, I'm glad that he lost a well-pitched game (the same will not be said of his Cuban countrymate Jose Contreras, who takes a turn tomorrow night).

The damage was done early--a two-run jack by Alex Rodriguez, scoring himself and Gary Sheffield in the first, followed by Tino Martinez scoring on a Derek Jeter grounder in the second. The Bombers only got four hits on the night, but that was all it took. The Yanks survived the Mike Mussina Inning(tm) with only two tallies against them, and after Mussina got through the sixth (allowing 8 hits, 2 runs, and 7 Ks for the night) the Troika (Sturtze, Gordon, Rivera) took over. Happy endings.

For the week that was, the Yanks went 3-3 against the Indians and Blue Jays.

On Tuesday, the Yanks lost a heartbreaker, 6-5. Al Leiter allowed the damage early, and was unable to escape the third inning. Scott Proctor, Felix Rodriguez, and Tom Gordon did an able job relieving Leiter, and the Yanks crept back into it, but the whole thing was too little, too late (this may prove the unofficial slogan of the 2005 Yankees). The Indians' portly closer, former Yankee Bob Wickman, shut the door in the ninth.

Wednesday, the Yanks did not survive the Mike Mussina Inning(tm)--mainly because this time, Moose gave up six runs. They bowed down to the Indians 7-4, followed by the season's forty-eighth team meeting, and its thirty-third Must Win Game.

Luckily, the Yanks won the MWG. What started as a pitching duel between Kevin Millwood and Shawn Chacon turned into a dramatic ninth inning win, as first A-Rod, and then comeback boy Jason Giambi blasted homers off Wickman to stop the slide.

Friday, the Yanks were powered by Aaron Small and Gary Sheffield, to paraphrase my friend Will Carroll. Small scored the Yanks' best start of the week, allowing only one run in 6 2/3 innings for the win, and Sheff rocked GUstavo Chacin with his 22nd dinger in the first inning, putting the Yanks up 2-0. The final was 6-2.

Sadly, Randy Johnson couldn't keep the good vibration going on Saturday, allowing six runs in four innings. In addition to pitching badly, the Unit aggravated his bad back covering first--leading to Dr. Torre diagnosing him with a "barking" back. I'm getting bad flashbacks of Kevin Brown. Hopefully, that's the last time I mention Brown this season.

On Sunday, Senator Al helped the Yankees salvage the week, and win the series at SkyDome, with almost six scoreless innings in another 6-2 win. In a more precise 5 2/3, Leiter allowed four hits, but the indicators that looked so nice in his first Yankee start, against the Red Sox were not there. This time it was four walks, only to strikeouts, but that was good enough to beat the Blue Jays, and keep Leiter in the rotation after unimpressive work in two out of his last three starts.

As last week's news items go, the biggest is that starting rotation. Word has crept out that Carl Pavano, twice penciled in to the Yankee starting rotation, is instead going to visit Dr. James Andrews in Alabama. Surgery would officially make the winter of 2004-2005 the worst off-season in Yankee history, roster-move wise. Possibly the worst concerted set of free agent pick ups ever. Even if Dr. Andrews doesn't get his scalpel, I think you have to write off Pavano as a factor this season, just as we've long written off Jaret Wright and K...I don't talk about that player anymore.

In dumber news, many have used Giambi's July/August power spike--and winning of the AL's Player of the Month honors--as an excuse to accuse him of getting back on the Juice. Someone has gone so far as to crank-call news outlets, claiming that Jason has failed a steroid test. Giambi would have to be the world's dumbest SOB to start with that stuff again, after what should have been a "scared straight" experience with pituitary cancer. I think that Giambi's feebleness last season was a storyline that fit our pre-conceived notions of steroid use--off the juice, Giambi turned into puny Dr. Jeckyll, unable to even get the ball out of the infield. We forgot that Giambi was dealing with very real health problems last season, and that he might recover.

I don't think that Giambi's juicing. I think that the folks who gnash their teeth and rend their clothes on the steroid issue really overstate the benefits of the drugs, with the effect of advertising them for teens and young athletes. That said, all this steroid talk is quite simply the price that Giambi pays for his drug use, going forward. No matter how often you test him, so long as Giambi does well, people will think he's using banned substances. No matter what Rafael Palmeiro says, some will doubt his five hundred someodd homers. Them's the breaks.

The other news of the week was Gary Sheffield, supposedly "blasting" Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez as not being leaders. All of which was greeted with a shrug and a "whatever". Turns out the most substantive complaint Sheffield actually made was being upset with the Yankees for not allowing wives on the team plane. If the worst thing that you can say about a guy is that he wants to keep his wife close to him (must...resist...R. Kelly jokes...) then you ain't saying much.

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