Results tagged ‘ Joe Nathan ’
Relatives, friends and other admirers of Hiroki Kuroda and Yu Darvish in Japan probably all showed up late for work Wednesday to watch the popular pitchers oppose each other in a major-league game Tuesday night at Rangers Ballpark In Arlington. The game started there just after 7 p.m. Central time, which was at 8 a.m. in their home country.
Only the seventh pairing of Japanese-born pitchers in a major-league game was a major event in the country of their birth as well as a top attraction between two of the top contending teams in the American League. Darvish proved the better of the two for this one night as Texas ended the Yankees’ four-game winning streak with a 2-0 victory.
The Rangers drew first blood when Ian Kinsler led off the bottom of the first by driving a 1-1 slider to left for his fifth home run. After two hitless innings, Darvish ran into big trouble in the third when the Yankees loaded the bases with none out on a single by Eric Chavez, a walk to Russell Martin and a beauty of a bunt single by Derek Jeter, who extended his hitting streak to 14 games and is hitting .416.
Darvin showed why the Rangers were willing to shell out more than $100 million to sign the righthander as he struck out Curtis Granderson looking at a 2-2 curve and got Alex Rodriguez to ground into an around-the-horn double play.
Kuroda kept the Yankees in the game, but they could not break through against Darvish. Kuroda hurt himself in the third with a two-out walk of Elvis Andrus and a wild pitch that put him into scoring position at second base from where Josh Hamilton got him home with a single to center. Kuroda held the Rangers to two hits after that before departing with two out in the seventh and down by only two runs.
As Yankees manager Joe Girardi had noted, Darvish has more different types of pitches than a catcher has fingers, and he showed off all of them – fastballs of various speeds, curves, sliders, cutters, splits, changes of pace – the whole toolbox.
Watching from his box seat near the Texas dugout, Rangers president Nolan Ryan, the Hall of Fame pitcher and one of the great workhorses, had to love Darvish’s performance, which he applauded when the latest Japanese import came off the field after giving up a one-out single to Nick Swisher in the ninth. Closer Joe Nathan needed only one pitch to end the game as Chavez bounced into a double play.
This one had to remind Ryan of his matchups against Jim Palmer or Catfish Hunter 30-odd years ago when pitching into the ninth was expected of starters. Darvish scattered seven hits and two walks with 10 strikeouts in improving his record to 3-0 with a 2.42 ERA. It was a tough luck loss for Kuroda in a marquee matchup that for a change lived up to its billing.
The first time he came to bat at Yankee Stadium as a 19-year-old rookie for the Braves in Game 1 of the 1996 World Series, Andruw Jones hit a home run. Jones got his first at-bat at the new Stadium Tuesday night now as a reserve outfielder for the Yankees and also hit a home run, a splendid way to get started with his new team.
I freely admit that I was not all that keen on the Jones signing. He seems limited as a bench player to me. Jones doesn’t move all that well in the field anymore, and he certainly isn’t going to contribute much as a pinch runner. Still, he is an upgrade defensively over Marcus Thames, who did some good things with the bat a year ago, but you couldn’t play him anywhere but DH.
Hitting home runs at the Stadium is something the Yankees are doing a lot of already in 2011 – 13 now in five games. Jones’ solo drive (career No. 408, pushing him past the late Duke Snider for 46th place on the all-time list) in the second came an inning after Mark Teixeira bashed a three-run homer off Brian Duensing with none out. Those blows seemed all the ammunition the Yankees would need, and they were so long as CC Sabathia was in the game.
But the dreaded pitch count had Sabathia departing after seven brilliant innings in which he gave up two measly singles and then proceeded to retire 17 batters in a row. That was stuck with a no-decision is nothing short of criminal. The way CC pitched (7 innings, 2 hits, 1 walk, 6 strikeouts) meant there was no way Mariano Rivera needed to pitch in this game. But come the ninth, there was Mo.
That was because Rafael Soriano had come on in the eighth, the former Rays closer’s new inning of responsibility, and spit up the four-run lead. The Twins, whose futility at the Stadium during Ron Gardenhire’s 10-year tenure as manager is a matter of record, surely were pleased to see Sabathia go away, not that Soriano is any day at the beach, normally, but the righthander did not look like the reliever who saved 45 games a year ago.
That can happen sometimes with pitchers who have the closer mentality, but Soriano knew what was in store for him when the Yankees gave him all those millions of dollars.
“It’s too early to judge that,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said about whether Soriano will find working the eighth less challenging than the ninth.
Soriano opened up the game for the Twins instead of helping to close it out for the Yankees. He loaded the bases with one out on two walks and a well-struck single by Denard Span. It appeared as if Soriano might get out of it by freezing Tsuyoshi Nishioka with a muscular fastball for the second out before walking Joe Mauer on a diet of cutters to force in Minnesota’s first run.
Girardi had seen enough and summoned David Robertson, who got Delmon Young to hit a slicing pop to right. It was high enough to allow the runners extra time to scoot around the bases, and they all scored when the ball fell free in front of a sliding Nick Swisher. Young was credited with a three-run double, and what seemed a sure victory for Sabathia was gone.
There was some talk after the game that perhaps Girardi would have been better off bringing in Robertson to pitch the eighth and Soriano in the ninth on a night when not having to turn to a 41-year-old closer was possible. That makes no sense. Soriano’s job is to pitch in the eighth, and a 4-0 score at the Stadium these days the way balls are flying is by no means insurmountable.
Swisher faulted himself for a mistake of aggression by diving for the Young ball. Once his feet left the ground, Swisher had no chance to keep Mauer from scoring the tying run. Swisher would have been better off playing the ball on a hop and making a strong throw home. Mauer caught a break being able to run for what is full speed for him because there were two out.
Rivera worked the ninth but left after the Yankees failed to score in the bottom half. The Twins went ahead on Mauer’s single off Boone Logan in the 10th, and Joe Nathan, who didn’t seem destined for this game, closed it out.
So where did all the home runs go? The Yankees had two hits, both singles, after Jones’ bomb, so the offense shares some blame here. But this was primarily a bullpen blunder. Give CC credit for professionalism.
“It’s part of the game,” he said of the no-decision. “You just move on from there.”
It has been suggested by some columnists that the Baseball Writers’ Association of America should allow its voters for the Manager of the Year Awards to include post-season play. Just as is the case with the Most Valuable Player, Cy Young and Jackie Robinson Rookie of the Year Awards in the BBWAA jurisdiction, voting is done prior to the start of post-season play and includes only the accomplishments during the regular season.
Some writers argue that while players, pitchers and rookies are eligible for separate awards related to post-season play, managers are not. Also, they add, steering a team throughout the post-season is a function worthy of being included in an honor that recognizes managerial skill.
In my view, the problem with that is that you would no longer need an election, would you? The heck with polling writers, just hand out the trophies to the two guys whose teams reached the World Series every year. I am sure there are some people who though the Giants’ Bruce Bochy and the Rangers’ Ron Washington were more deserving than the managers who won, the Twins’ Ron Gardenhire and the Padres’ Buddy Black.
You have probably read reports that Major League Baseball is toying with the idea of another round of playoffs by adding two more wild-card teams into the post-season mix. That’s just what we need; more November baseball with pitchers already overworked trying to keep their tongues off the mound.
All an additional round of playoffs would do is to continue to weaken the impact of the 162-game schedule, still the most demanding test in team sports. If I’ve heard this once, I’ve heard it a hundred times from managers, coaches and players that the post-season is a “crap shoot.” Why base an award that is supposed to honor achievement over the course of a year on a crap shoot?
Managing a team involves more than just what takes place three hours a night during games. It is the day-to-day handling of two dozen-plus players over six months upon which a manager is judged. By adding post-season to the Manager of the Year Award mix, the eight managers whose teams reach post-season play, maybe 10 by 2012, will get a distinct advantage. Isn’t the field already small enough? There are 16 managers in the National League and 14 in the American League.
Again, why bother to have an election if post-season inclusion would likely lead to eliminating nearly three-quarters of the field?
Gardenhire, who won the award for the first time after five second-place finishes in the voting, directed the Twins to a 94-68 record and their sixth AL Central title in his nine seasons at the helm despite the loss to injury of closer Joe Nathan for the whole season and slugging first baseman Justin Morneau for half the schedule. Yet all that good work might have been discarded by voters after the Twins were swept in the Division Series by the Yankees.
Black’s victory in the NL by merely one point over the Reds’ Dusty Baker was a testament to the overachievement of the Padres, whom many thought at season’s start to be a last-place club. In his fourth season in San Diego, Black got the Padres within one game of the NL West title with the fourth best record in franchise history. But if the post-season had been included, mightn’t Cincinnati’s quick exit have hurt Baker so that the vote would not have been so close?
What takes place over a period of less than three weeks should not hold the same weight as what transpires over six months. A manager who does the best job in the post-season will get the best award there is – a championship ring. That is reward enough.