Week 16: July 16-22, 2007
Record for the Week: 6-2, 66 RS, 36 RA
Overall: 51-46, 6.5 games behind Cleveland, 3rd place for the Wild Card
7/16 -- Toronto 4, Yankees 6
Kei Igawa allowed 3 runs in 5 innings off 11 baserunners and two homers, and was still in line for the win until Scott Proctor blew it for him.
7/17 -- Toronto 2, Yankees 3
Andy Pettitte was masterful, Kyle Farnsworth was a no-pickoff-move-havin' punk, and Blue Jays closer Jeremy Accardo balked in the tying run. Lesson learned: Miguel Cairo isn't fast anymore, but he's one of the best guys at catching on when a pitcher isn't paying attention to him on the basepaths. He's stolen 21 bases and only been caught twice over the last two years, and his ninth-inning steal of second against Accardo (on what looked like a busted hit-and-run) helped discombobulate the young closer.
7/18 -- Toronto 1, Yankees 6
Roger Clemens gutted his way through six nine-hit innings, although he didn't figure in the decision with the Yankees getting their runs late. Again, the strikeout rate on the Rocket was low, three whiffs for the game. Lesson learned: The Yankees' two hottest hitters in July, Hideki Matsui and Robinson Cano, both went yard along with Alex Rodriguez, to finally give the Rocket the kind of artillery he thought he'd get when he signed up with the Yanks in May.
7/19 -- Toronto 3, Yankees 2
Once again, the Yankees have nothing against Dustan McGowan. It looked like they were well-positioned for the sweep when they scored a couple of runs in the first, but after that, the offense faltered, and then Chien Ming Wang stumbled in the seventh, giving up three runs keyed by an Aaron Hill triple that got past Melky Cabrera. Lesson learned: The Yanks aren't good in these get-away day games, even if they're not the ones travelling. Overall the team's 16-20 in the daylight.
7/20 -- Tampa Bay 14, Yankees 4
Back-to-back losses tend to trigger the "here we go again" reflex in Yankee fans. Edwar Ramirez's first appearance in two weeks is a disaster--he walks the bases loaded and then allows a grand slam to former Yankee farmhand Dioner Navarro. He's sent down on Saturday (which was the plan before he even took the mound Friday night). Lesson learned: If performances like this (4 2/3, 7 H 3 BB 5K 6 ER) is what the pitcher/personal catcher relationship between Mike Mussina and Wil Nieves nets the Yanks, then what use is it? Mussina's got a near-Hall of Fame track record and a seven-figure contract keeping him on the team. Wil Nieves? Not so much so.
7/21 -- Tampa Bay 3, Yankees 7
Kei Igawa doesn't set the afternoon on fire, but doesn't give up runs on anything but a couple of Igawa Specials--that's what we're calling solo homers now. Sadly, the five innings he pitched wasn't enough to get him the win. Andy Phillips had another timely hit in the Yanks 5 run 6th inning barrage. Lesson learned: Shelly Duncan's actual name is David Duncan--just like his dad, the Cards' pitching coach. Shelly's his middle name. Oh, and when he gets a hold of one, he hits it far--his two-run homer capped off scoring in the sixth.
7/21 -- Tampa Bay 5, Yankees 17
Matt DeSalvo didn't change anyone's worldview--the 4 runs he allowed in 4 2/3 innings made the Yankees' lead slightly uncomfortable, up until the Bombers cracked the game open with back-to-back 5 run innings in the 6th and 7th. Lessons learned: An entire generation who might be unfamiliar with their work got a big reminder that Jay Witasick couldn't pitch in New York, and Al Reyes could. Of course, by the time Al took the mound, it was already 17-5, in large part thanks to Jay.
7/22 -- Tampa Bay 4, Yankees 21
There was actually a moment in this game when someone--I think it might have been the Voice of Reason, Michael Kay--actually said words to the effect of, "This isn't fun anymore." Over two days, they'd eventually see the Devil Rays pitching staff allow 45 runs--that's 15 runs per game. Shelly Duncan hit two homers. Alex Rodriguez got his 34th homer, Hideki Matsui got five hits...it was unreal. Lesson learned: A ten-run inning takes a long time.
Player of the Week: With all the runs scored, it's easy to lose track of the pitchers this week. Andy Pettitte had two fine starts, and a 2.77 ERA for the week, Luis Vizcaino threw 5 2/3 innings of shutout ball, Mariano Rivera pitched in 3 2/3 of his own, with 5 whiffs. Sharing the honors with Pettitte is Robinson Cano, who hit .500 for the week (actually, .500/.528/.765) with two homers a double, a triple, and eight RBI. Righ behind him are Hideki Matsui (.400/.432/.743 and 4 HR), Shelley Duncan (3 HR in 14 PA this weekend), and Alex Rodriguez (.346/471/.808 with 3 HR and 12 RBI). Nice friggin week.
Dregs of the Week: The only hitter who really didn't have it going on this week was Johnny Damon (.167/.333/.292). He gets to share the stage with Mike Mussina's 11.57 ERA this week, and the footnotes go to Brian Bruney (4 ER on 4 H and 3 BB in 2 1/3--no strikeouts) and Scott Proctor (9 hits allowed in 4 2/3, 3 HR this week), for some undistinguished accomplishments in relief.
Story of the Week: The team fights back from the precipice, finishing up strong against the Rays after an awful series opener, and seems to make a statement that they consider themselves buyers for the next week, picking up the Lesser Molina, Jose, from the LA Angels of Anaheim (of USA, of Earth, of Milky Way). I heard (actually, read--I've taken to watching Yankee games with the volume off and closed captioning on) about the trade just as Wil Nieves, the outgoing backup catcher, was hitting his second double of the game, in what might have been the best offensive day of his major league career. Too little, too late. Molina's not a worldbeater, by any means (the Halos wouldn't be surrendering him if he was) but its's a marginal improvement over what the team had. Marginal improvements are what the Yanks should be in the market for, right now. Molina's a low-average, no-walks-type with a bit of pop. The big positive is his defense, which should be a touch up on what the Yanks were getting from Nieves...or from any other backup they've had for a number of years.
Another refreshing improvement was Shelley Duncan, finally added to a team that's been vulnerable to any southpaw takes the mound against them. I'm not too optimistic about his long-term prospects. Shelley's a minor league vet, and he looked like Pedro Serrano on a couple of breaking pitches this weekend. But still, he's a big guy (technically, somewhere between a lug and a galoot) and the power is something he's been flashing in the minors for the last couple of years. So for his sake, I hope he enjoys it while it lasts, and for the Yanks' sake, I hope it lasts a while. Likewise, I hope that Andy Phillips keeps it up (.306/.352/.435 since seizing the first base job late last month)...although, again, I'm not holding my breath.
The Yankees get a week on the road, next, Kaufman Stadium and Camden Yards, two places where it's been a while since .500. By the time the Yanks open their next homestand, A-Rod may have hit his 500th career homer, we'll have found out if the team is going to bring in a big-ticket item on the trade market, and we'll have a much better idea of where this season's going. If ever, now's the time to keep the fires going.