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April 22, 2005

by SG

If I had my way, every Yankee game would be like the game yesterday where they shellacked the Blue Jays 11-2. Games like that don't teach you as much about the team as games like tonight's though.

After young lefty Gustavo Chacin baffled the Yankees the first time through the order, they started getting more comfortable against him the second time through. Bernie Williams led off the top of the fourth with a single. I've been happy to see Bernie's bat come to life of late. His .264 average and .375 OBP are certainly respectable, but his .340 SLG is still not very good. Gary Sheffield continues to hit the ball as hard as anyone I've ever seen, even at age 36, and lined a double to bring home Bernie. Sheffield went to third on the throw home, and scored on a sac fly by Hideki Matsui. They added two more runs in the fifth for a total of four runs.

The offense is not a concern on this team. We know they're old, declining, etc., but they can be expected to produce. The bigger concern for me in tonight's game was Mike Mussina. Again, Moose was effective, but less than impressive. He did get up to 91 mph on one fastball, but most of the time he was working in the 85-88 range, and he seems to be throwing more breaking balls this year. I am hoping he is still building arm strength, because as it is he's not really much more than a mid-level starter. He is constantly getting into jams, but to his credit he's pitching out of them, including a very nice double play in the third inning with the bases loaded and one out, where Moose stabbed a sharp grounder and threw home for the 1-2-3 double play.

Joe Torre again failed to impress me with his bullpen management, although it all managed to work out. To relieve Moose with runners on second and third and only one out in the bottom fo the sixth, Torre brought in Buddy Groom to make his Yankee debut. Groom intentionally walked Reed Johnson to face Greg Zaun, and got him to popup on the infield. With Shea Hillenbrand up, Torre brough in Felix Rodriguez who induced a sharp grounder to Jeter for the third out.

Then, in the top of the seventh, after getting one out, F-Rod gave up a double to Vernon Wells. With lefty Eric Hinske due up, despite the fact that Rodriguez has historically been very good against lefties, Torre went to Mike Stanton, who has been a bit shaky this year, including walking the last two lefties he's been brought in to retire. Stanton vindicated Torre by getting Hinske to fly out to center, and then Torre went to Flash Gordon. Gordon looked very good, with a lone walk his only blemish.

Then came Mo. He still doesn't look like he's 100%, but he got through it despite a scare. I think each successful outing will help him put the first week of the season out of his mind.

So the Yankees are still 2 games under .500 despite winning 3 of their last 4 games, but things are looking up. They'll head back home for a three game series with Texas now. I really would like to see a sweep, the longer this team is under .500 the more we're going to have to hear about what a disappointment they are. After last week though, things are looking better. I was happy with the offense's clutch hitting, and I thought the bullpen did a fine job of picking up a struggling Mike Mussina.