Results tagged ‘ Don Wakamatsu ’
Yankees fans have reason to be upset that CC Sabathia did not win the American League Cy Young Award that was given instead by the Baseball Writers’ Association to the Mariners’ Felix Hernandez. Heck, the big guy didn’t even finish second as the Rays’ David Price was the runner-up.
One of the arguments made last year when the Royals’ Zack Greinke won in the AL with only 16 victories and the Giants’ Tim Lincecum in the National League with merely 15 was that there were no 20-game winners, so the field was much more open.
That was not the case this year. Sabathia was 21-7 and had plenty of other good numbers, too, including a 3.18 ERA, which is not shabby for a guy pitching in the AL East and hitter-friendly Yankee Stadium. That Hernandez won despite posting a record of 13-12 seems absurd until you look a bit deeper into his season and not just at the statistics that a lot of people believe are too esoteric but to which the increasing numbers-conscious are devoted.
Hernandez led the league in ERA (2.27) and innings (249 2/3) and was second in strikeouts (232), only one behind league leader Jered Weaver of the Angels. These are not intangible stats. They are pretty tangible, one might even say traditional.
Think of how Hernandez felt last year. He went 19-5 and couldn’t beat out Greinke. Hernandez said Thursday from his home in Venezuela that he did not know how to gauge this year’s balloting after what happened last year. “Are they going to tell me that I didn’t win enough games this year but that I won too many last year?” he asked me.
I told him one year to the next is different, which I still believe even though the recent voting indicates a trend may be developing. I hope not. The day when victories aren’t considered the important part of the pitching equation is the day you might as well stop keeping score. I mean, if pitching victories don’t mean anything, why are they still kept? Imagine trying to tell the Major League Players Association that pitching victories won’t be totaled any more? Good luck explaining that to the union.
It is interesting that the list of pitchers who have 300 or more career victories are all in the Hall of Fame except for those not yet eligible, whose names are Greg Maddux, Roger Clemens, Tom Glavine and Randy Johnson. It would seem that winning a lot of games is a big deal, huh?
This is all coming from someone who thought Hernandez was the best pitcher he saw this year. No knock on CC, who I probably would have voted for had I been on the committee, but look what Hernandez did in his three starts against the Yankees: 3-0, 0.35 ERA. That is not a misprint. He allowed 1 run, 16 hits and 8 walks with 31 strikeouts in 26 innings.
The only reason he did not pitch 27 innings for a third complete game against the Yankees was that Mariners manager Don Wakamatsu did not let him finish the Aug. 20 game at the Stadium while working on a four-hit shutout with 11 Ks. Writers in the press box can recall my reaction to that. I was beside myself, howling that Wakamatsu’s move was akin to grabbing the brush from Picasso before he could complete his painting. It was absolute disregard for artistic endeavor, and the manager deserved to be fired, which he eventually was.
Remember, though, that was a night Hernandez won, not one of the many games in which he pitched splendidly and either lost or got hung with a no-decision because of such scant run support by an offense that scratched out an average of 3.2 runs per game. The Mariners’ run support for Hernandez was 2.4 per game. Seattle scored two runs or fewer in 15 of his 34 starts. He was 2-10 with a 2.84 ERA in those games. In his nine no decisions, Hernandez pitched to a 1.92 ERA.
I kept in mind that in 1972 Steve Carlton won the NL Cy Young Award with a 27-10 record for a Phillies club whose overall mark was 59-97 and also averaged only 3.2 runs per game. The point of view of Sabathia supporters, of which there were three who gave him first-place approval on the ballot, came Tuesday from none other than this year’s NL winner, Roy Halladay, who had the same victory total as CC.
“Obviously, Felix’s numbers are very, very impressive,” Doc said. “But I think, ultimately, you look at how guys are able to win games. Sometimes the run support isn’t there, but you sometimes just find ways to win games. I think the guys that are winning and helping their teams deserve a strong look, regardless of how good Felix’s numbers are. It definitely could go either way; it’s going to be interesting. But I think when teams bring guys over, they want them to, ultimately at the end of the day, help them win games.”
It is hard to argue with that logic.
So who needs Cliff Lee?
Other than the Mariners, that is.
It likely would have been a different game Friday night if Lee had still been in Seattle and on the mound as was originally scheduled before he was traded to the Rangers after a seemingly done deal with the Yankees fell apart.
The Yankees looked like they had the blues over not landing Lee for five innings, but while they did not have the former Cy Young Award winner they did have Phil Hughes, who just might be a future Cy Young Award winner.
With the Yankees’ seventh straight victory, Hughes joined teammates Andy Pettitte and CC Sabathia as an 11-game winner, the first trio on the same team to do that before the All-Star break in 11 years since the 1999 Astros. Hughes, coming off a couple of shaky outings since he was skipped a turn in the rotation to avoid overuse, was back to his dominant self.
The righthander, who had five strikeouts and did not walk a batter, gave up four doubles among six hits he yielded to the Mariners but only one in nine at-bats with runners in scoring position, a double in the sixth to Jose Lopez that scored Chone Figgins, whose double ended a stretch of 126 at-bats without an extra-base hit since June 1, which is hard to fathom.
Hughes entered that inning with a five-run lead, thanks in part to Lopez, the third baseman whose failure to smother a hard grounder by Derek Jeter helped fuel a four-run Yankees rally in the top of the sixth. Alex Rodriguez got his 25th RBI with the bases loaded this season with a sacrifice fly. Even better signs were a two-run triple by Robinson Cano, who has been anything but hot in July (.188), and a two-out, RBI single by Curtis Granderson, who is starting to come around (.333 on the trip).
David Pauley, the former Red Sox righthander who came out of the bullpen to start in Lee’s place, gave up a home run to Mark Teixeira and a single to Rodriguez in the first inning, then retired 13 batters in a row before walking Brett Gardner on a full count to start the sixth. He might have gotten out of the inning if Lopez had been able to hang on to Jeter’s ball, hit so hard that a double play was makeable.
Mariners manager Don Wakamatsu then called on his bullpen, which is always a mistake. The Yankees got to Chad Cordero as the Seattle pen’s league-worst ERA swelled to 4.84.
Teixeira homered from both sides of the plate, connecting from the right side off lefthander Luke French in the ninth. It marked the 10th time Tex has accomplished the feat. The record is 11 shared by Eddie Murray and Chili Davis. Texeira is tied for next best with teammate Nick Swisher, Tony Clark, Ken Caminiti and Mickey Mantle.
It continued a torrid July for Teixeira, who is batting .353 with four doubles, four home runs, 11 RBI and an .824 slugging percentage in 34 at-bats this month to raise his average 12 points to .243. The All-Star break couldn’t come at a worse time for him.
It could have been quite a scene for the Yankees Thursday: Alex Rodriguez rounding third base, tossing his helmet into the air, taking a leap toward the plate and pulling a Kendry Morales with nobody around to help him up. That was a distinct possibility because when A-Rod connected for a two-run home run in the bottom of the eighth inning he had actually thought that he ended the game.
Players occasionally lose track of outs, but innings? When Rodriguez reached the dugout, he got a hug from pitcher CC Sabathia, who won his sixth straight start to join Phil Hughes as a 10-game winner.
“Alex thought it was the ninth inning and was wondering when he would get the pie,” Sabathia said.
“I thought I hit a game winner,” A-Rod said. “Then I looked over at A.J. [Burnett] and [Andy] Pettitte, and when I saw nobody was jumping over the railing, I figured something was wrong.”
There is nothing wrong about a two-run home that unlocks a 2-2 score, particularly in the bottom half of an inning in which the other team had just tied the game with one of the runs not earned because of a passed ball by catcher who had done a strong job all day otherwise.
Rodriguez’s blow following a one-out single by Mark Teixeira had a feeling of exhilaration because of the timing. The problem was that the slugger didn’t know what time it was. Instead of a walkoff, A-Rod had what Australians call a walkabout.
The 4-2 victory over the Mariners meant the Yankees avoided being swept at home by a last-place club. The weak Seattle offense exploded for 14 runs and 19 hits the previous two nights behind complete-game gems from Cliff Lee and Felix Hernandez. In referring to those games, Rodriguez talked about “Friday and Saturday nights,” when it was really Tuesday and Wednesday nights. Let’s hope this guy found his apartment after leaving Yankee Stadium.
In A-Rod’s defense, he was the designated hitter Thursday. For a player used to being in the field regularly, a game as the DH can be a sort of no-man’s land. Rodriguez started a two-out threat in the sixth with a double. Two walks, one intentional, loaded the bases before Mariners lefthander Ryan Rowland-Smith, whose pitching (two runs, five hits in six innings) belied his 1-7 record, retired Curtis Granderson on an infield out.
The intentional walk was to Robinson Cano, which might have seemed unusual since Cano bats left-handed. Seattle manager Don Wakamatsu watched Cano homer off Rowland-Smith in the fourth and was likely aware Robbie is a .303 hitter with 10 of his 16 homers against lefties this year.
Sabathia has a sort of “let’s end this nonsense” attitude for seven innings. He gave up a leadoff double to Milton Bradley in the second and two other hits and one walk but took a 2-0 lead into the eighth. He nearly got through that inning unscathed as well. A leadoff walk, a two-out single through the middle by Ichiro Suzuki and a passed ball by Jorge Posada put runners on second and third. Sabathia got a ball up to Russell Branyan, who smacked it into right for a game-tying single.
The Yankees didn’t keep their heads down long, thanks to Rodriguez. Righthander David Aardsma threw two 95-mph fastballs to A-Rod, who was late on the first and fouled it back but made enough contact on the second to send it into the second row in right field
Rodriguez’s 12th home run of the season was his 250th with the Yankees tying Graig Nettles for eighth place on the franchise list and the 595th of his career. Thinking of 600 yet?
“I will embrace it at some point,” A-Rod said. “But it won’t be an end to the season or my career. I kind of see it like first base, to hit the bag and keep going around the bases.”
And maybe even remember what inning it occurs.