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July 21, 2005

Small Sample
by Larry Mahnken

Tuesday, the Yankees gave the game away. They should have won it easily, but they did a horrible job against Chan Ho Park and came away with only one run. Still, they should have won, because Mike Mussina had held the Rangers scoreless and they went into the bottom of the eighth leading 1-0.

But with Tanyon Sturtze and Mariano Rivera out of action for the evening due to overwork, Tom Gordon was the only ace left in the Yankees' pen, and they were saving him for the ninth. Proven lefty mediocrity Wayne Franklin was brought in to try and put in the last plank of the bridge to the ninth, and after two straight singles got a double play to put the Yankees one out away from Gordon, but the Rangers ninety feet away from tying.

And then Franklin gave up a 2-run homer to lefty-hitting Hank Blalock, and the Yankees lost.

It sounds like a second-guess, but I really felt at the time that the Yankees should have brought Gordon in for four outs. Yeah, the Yankees are wearing those three pitchers out again, but that's something that will hurt them later. Right now, they're not in a position to throw away games (last year, with a large lead in July, they were). They need to snatch up every win they can, and Tuesday was a win they should have had, both before the game started and in the late innings.

The only way to make up for a loss like that is to steal a game you have no reasonable expectation of winning.

Mission accomplished.

Aaron Small is a 33-year old journeyman who started 3 games in the major leagues before last night, all in 1996 in Oakland. Pitching most of his career out of the bullpen, he's posted a 5.52 ERA, and in almost 1600 minor league innings he's posted an ERA of 4.37.

The Rangers were starting Joaquin Benoit, a reliever, but one with a 0.69 ERA. With a 5.29 career ERA, maybe they could get some runs off of him, but how many of those would Small give back?

Not enough, as it turned out. Last night Small did what the Yankees had hoped Darrell May and Tim Redding would have done for them, pitching into the sixth and giving up only 3 runs. 3 runs is always enough to come back from, and if Small does that every time out he'll have an ERA over 5.00, but the Yankees will probably win a good share of those games.

As it turns out, the Yankees didn't need to come back at all. After the first four batters were made to look foolish by Benoit, Jason Giambi and Jorge Posada homered back-to-back to make the score 2-0. Tino Martinez homered to make it 3-1, Robinson Cano hit a 3-run homer to make it 6-1, and Giambi and Martinez homered one more time each to make the final score 8-4.

With one last stop left on this "killer" road trip, the Yankees are 5-2, though they're neither out of the woods for this trip, nor does the killer aspect stop Sunday. But the Yanks are more than holding their own against some excellent teams lately.

Fun with Multiple Endpoints:

Jason Giambi since the 10th inning against Pittsburgh on June 15th:

29/77 (.377 Avg.), .534 OBP, 9 HR (58 HR/per 500 ABs), .805 SLG, .442 GPA