Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Grinding A Win

There will likely be a lot of chatter about what this particular win means for the Yankees. Is this the one that gets them over the hump, stuff like that. Most of it will be overstated. It's one game, let's see what the Yankees do with the next two. One thing I will say is I like the way the Yankees are playing the Red Sox. This really started last series. As much as it stunk to lose that Game 3, and thus the series, the way they did, they were playing good, tough baseball. Not as much of the sloppyness and meltdowns they were displaying vs. the Sox earlier in the season. There was more of a grind it out, find a way to win attitude. Tonight was more of the same.

Leading that charge was C.C. Sabathia. His start tonight was the epitome of grinding out a win. He had really good stuff (10 strikeouts), with a strikezone that could generously be described as tight. But the Sox were working him (10 hits, 2 walks, 128 pitches) the same way he was working them. Considering the way Sabathia has pitched against them this year, these teams' places in the standings, and the pitching matchups the next two nights, the Yankees just needed to find a way to win. And that is exactly what Sabathia did. When runners got on, he got nasty, as the Sox were 3/16 with runners on base.

I talked a lot after C.C.'s last start about how the Sox were all over his fastball. And I still see that as true. But Francona talked in the pregame about the way the Sox have been able to make him work, and there strategy in that respect was never more obvious than it was tonight. You almost feel, at times, that the middle-back of the order is less concerned with getting on base and more concerned with making Sabathia throw as many pitches as possible before the at-bat is over. It's almost like reaching base versus making out is secondary. Great strategy, and maybe that's why C.C. has cracked late in the game after being dominant early in 2 of his previous 4 starts against them. Tonight he stood up, emphatically ending 4 of the 6 innings he pitched with strikouts, and giving the Yankees 6 big innings on a night their bullpen was short (no Robertson) and his pitchcount wasn't really in a place to give them 6 innings on most nights.

The offense followed suit. It wasn't necessarily pretty. Jeter, Granderson, and Teixeira were 0-12. But they put a lot of balls in play, got guys on, and found ways to get guys home. They also got the big solo homer from an unlikely source, and even though it was a monster shot it felt scrappy because it came from a guy with only 1 homer on the season.

On that point, I don't blame Lackey/Boston for being ticked about Cervelli stomping on homeplate and clapping. If a Red Sox player had done that, I'd have been ticked too. But you have to find a better time and way to retaliate than giving the Yankees a free leadoff runner with the top of the order coming up in a 4-2 game in the 7th. As Girardi said in the postgame, every run in that park is huge, and that was a gift run for the Yankees, one they probably shouldn't have gotten. If it holds at 4-2, that changes the way the last two innings get played. Big difference between having a chance to tie every time a runner gets on base versus needing two runners on to tie. Also allows you to manufacture a run and be one solo homer away instead of two. Can't retaliate in that spot.

9 big, scoreless outs from the Yankees' bullpen tonight. Good spot out of them.

Now it's on the Yankees to find a way to win one of the next two games. This was a big win tonight, because it ensures that they leave Fenway no more than 2 back in the loss column. But it will be a bigger win if they find a way to win one of the next two, and get out of there in first place. Maybe one of the next two starters has a night where it's all clicking. And maybe they have a night where they need to dig down, find a way to win, and just grind it out. The way C.C. Sabathia and the offense did tonight.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

PF

In your last paragraph you mention the Yankees winning one of the next two games. All I'm hoping is that the Sox win one of the next two games. You can argue that Boston has the pitching match-up advantage in both games, but how often does that even seem to matter with these teams?

Cervelli seems like an excitable guy. If I watched more Yankee games (or if he played more, or if the Sox and Yankees meet in the playoffs this year) then I imagine I'd lump him right in with Miguel Cairo and Karim Garcia as guys who aren't good against anyone but Boston. I hate those guys. That said, your point is THE point--you don't hit him leading off the seventh in a close game. That's a dumb move for ANY pitcher--even the Halladay's and Sabathia's of the world. But for John Lackey? He's not good enough to make that play and live to tell about it. And he didn't.

On Lackey--he went 7 innings and gave up five runs, four earned. Here's the scary part--that's about as good as he can pitch. Every Sox fan who has watched him pitch since he game to Boston knows this and that's why Erik Bedard needs to be the 3rd starter. It's also why Clay Buchholz will be so sorely missed this fall.

Lastly--I do think that home field advantage matters. But I also think that having CC Sabathia strong and healthy for the playoffs matters even more. And having him throw 128 pitches--in SIX innings is probably not the most responsible move for the Yankees.

--the Gunn

Anonymous said...

Gunn,

I'm glad you brought up Sabathia's pitch count. I think the book on Sabathia is to take pitches and make him work throughout the game. Overall, I'm happy with how the Sox made Sabathia work last night- they just couldn't get that one to two hits to break open the game and knock it him out. They left a million runners on base. You definitely have to give Sabathia for pitching well under a lot of stressful situations.

For me though, I think one of the most interesting storylines the rest of the year in all of baseball hinges around this question: Will Sabathia being exorbitantly fat finally come back to bite him at some point later this year when it really counts, during the post season?

So much has been made by certain people on this blog about how great an athlete he is for his size. That's all well and good, but I'm hoping that at some point this fall he just totally falls apart in a big spot due to his lack of endurance, like he did in the 2007 and 2008 post seasons. If at any point the Red Sox get eliminated from the playoffs that really becomes my primary rooting interest.

Anonymous said...

gunn -

that's a really good point. last series the yankees won colon/lester, the sox won sabathia/lackey, and garcia/beckett came down to a mariano blown save...when everyone was predicting pretty much everything BUT those results. still, i'd be shocked if boston doesn't get at least one, and it's still likely they'll get both.

bandi -

an unfortunate downside of how consistently cleverly sarcastic you are is that you get to a recycle situation sometimes. this is probably the third time you've played the "critiquing sabathia is a good athlete for his size" angle. another unfortuante element for you here is that sabathia isn't a good athlete for his size. you dominate mid-level high school basketball games because you're a good athlete for your size. you don't get pac 10 football offers to play tight end because you're a good athlete for your size. cc's a good athlete by any sizer. it may not be the same type of athleticism as hussein bolt, but it's athleticism nonetheless.

at some point sabathia's workload over the last 11 seasons may catch up to him. but at this point, would it have anything to do with his size and or endurance? if anything, he's been one of the most durable pitchers in the majors, and you could argue his size, and his ability to compete at that size, is a reason for it. it would probably have more to do with the workload itself.

on that front, 128 pitches in six innings is a lot. for anyone, even cc. but we've seen cc go into the low 120's before, i think i remember him throwing like 123 in his third start of the season back in the new stadium home opener in 2009. in less than 6 innings. so they didn't totally blow away a pitch count he's reached before, even though it was the most he's ever thrown in a game in pinstripes.

one of the great strengths of cc is that he puts up these massive innings totals without throwing that many pitches relatively. he has the reputation as a workhorse - and he is - but in some ways that is misleading because the reason he throws so many innings is because of how easy and efficient he can make it. it's not at all unusual for cc to go 8 innings and barely crack 100 pitches. with the sox this year, that clearly hasn't been the case. it's been just the opposite. credit to them for that. and credit to cc for finding a way to get it done against them anyway last night.

all that said, back to gunn's point, the yanks will need to find a way to continue to compete for this division without leaning on him too much (as in last night) in september, so that they can lean on him in october if they get there.

great stuff guys.

- pf