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May 11, 2005

by SG

The Yankees pulled out their fifth win in a row today, in a less than stellar game. Carl Pavano struggled with his location, and Alex Rodriguez made a costly error in the first inning on a possible double play ball, and the Yankees found themselves in an early 5-0 hole. This is not new for this team this year, as the starters have often put them in a hole. What was different was how they responded.

Jeter led off with a single, then Tony Womack hit a likely double play grounder to Bret Boone. Boone did some kind of wacked out underhand flip which the Mariners' shortstop Wilson Valdez couldn't handle. Down by 5, Joe Torre gambled with a double steal. I thought this was a fine risk, because it was the first inning and a double play would've killed a potential rally. You also would set yourself up to score 2 runs without another hit. It turned out to be meaningless when Sheffield walked, which brought up the slumping Hideki Matsui. He hit a bases-clearing opposite field double, and the Yankees were right back in the game without an out being recorded.

I won't do a full play by play, you can get that anywhere, but I was impressed by the way the Yankees fought back from a big early deficit. At the end of the first inning, the game was tied at 5 and it was like starting over.

Unfortunately, Pavano was not able to capitalize, and got knocked out after 4 innings, giving up a total of 9 runs. However, down 9-6, Tino Martinez came through for the fifth consecutive game, with a three run homerun. From there, the game was in hand for the Yankees, as Paul Quantrill, Tanyon Sturtze, and Flash Gordon pitched five scoreless innings, and Jeter, Sheffield and Posada added homeruns for the final 4 runs in a 13-9 victory.

So after five straight wins, the Yankees are now 16-19. With each win, they've improved their likelihood of playing meaningful games in September. The next 6 games will be a challenge, just because the West Coast trip is always a challenge, but I think the Yankees have a good chance of going at least 4-2, which would be perfectly acceptable to me.

The good signs that I see are that some of the Yankees that have been slumping badly appear to be heating up(namely Posada and Matsui). Tino will eventually cool off, but hopefully there will be someone there to pick up the slack.

I was also encouraged by the performance of the bullpen. With the injury to Felix Rodriguez, the Yankees are finally down to a manageable number of pitchers. It seems like Torre is getting more comfortable with the personnel at hand. Paul Quantrill is a good reliever to bring in to start an inning, he will always give up hits, but his ability to get grounders will help him get out of it. However, bringing him in with runners on base has often proven to be disastrous. Sturtze was very sharp, throwing in the low 90s and consistently getting ahead of the hitters. I also thought Flash Gordon looked really good, he got up to 97 on his fastball and threw a few nasty curves. Hitters have been sitting on his fastball, so I hope he will work his curveball in more.

The defense again failed to impress today. I have no idea what's going on with Alex Rodriguez at 3B this season. Last year he was one of the top defensive players at his position in baseball. This year, he's been bad. His problems aren't coming on throws, they seem to be coming on fielding grounders, and I would blame a lack of concentration at times. I think that can get better. Womack had a tough time in LF today, but I will cut him some slack because I think he's been pretty good out there and is still trying to get comfortable.

There's still a long way to go in the standings, but plenty of games to get there. At least the games are fun to watch again.