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August 5, 2005

That game sucked ruled!
by SG

Tonight's game against Cleveland was not a must-win game, but it sure felt like one. With Boston steamrolling Kansas City to extend their winning streak to 8 games earlier today, a loss would have dropped the Yankees to 5.5 games back in the AL East. It also would have dropped them behind Cleveland in the wild card race. They're not out of the woods by any means, but they were able to stem the bleeding for one night at least.

Shawn Chacon was a cheap gamble for the Yankees, as he came for 2 hard throwing minor leaguers(Ramon Ramirez and Eduardo Sierra) who are most likely not going to amount to much. Chacon's career numbers are of course, ugly, but this is to be expected for a pitcher who plays half his games in Colorado. As Larry has mentioned and I agree with, I don't think it's a simple as looking at his road splits to get an idea of his talent level, because I think there's a lingering effect from pitching at altitude. It could affect your approach, and I believe it's been shown to affect recovery time.

Chacon's started 2 games for the Yankees, and has no wins to show for it, but the team has won both games. He's been great for a team that's needed it badly. However, in both of his starts the bullpen has cost him a decision.

Tonight, Chacon started the seventh inning at 99 pitches and with a 2-1 lead. He walked the leadoff hitter Casey Blake on five pitches. That brought up the lefty hitting Grady Sizemore, so Joe Torre went to Alan Embree. I'm starting to dislike Embree almost as much as I disliked Felix "The Run Fairy" Heredia last year. He walked a guy who was trying to give him a free out by bunting, then got a free out when Coco Crisp got a bunt down. So far as a Yankee, Embree has faced 6 hitters, and retired 2 of them, and one of them willingly made the out.

Anyway, Torre gets a lot of bashing here, but at this point he made the smart move and went with his best non-Mo reliever in Flash Gordon. Unfortunately, Gordon did not do the job, and allowed a groundout to score the tying run and then a hard groundball single to score the go-ahead run.

Kevin Millwood cruised through the 8th, retiring Robinson Cano to end it on his 94th pitch of the night, which turned out to be his last. Gordon pitch an uneventful bottom of the 8th, at which point Eric Wedge did the Yankees a massive favor. He brought in Bob Wickman in relief of Millwood. This move might make sense if Bob Wickman was Mariano Rivera, but he's not. He's an okay reliever who's piled up a bunch of saves, but he's very possibly the worst reliever in a talented Indians bullpen.

Wickman picked up two easy saves in the first two games of the series, but this was the first time the heart of the Yankee order was going to get their cracks at him. Gary Sheffield hit some vicious fouls before flying out to center. Then, Alex Rodriguez hit a soaring homerun to LF to tie the game. Tell me again that he's not clutch. Hideki Matsui then grounded out, and Jason Giambi followed with his 2nd HR of the game, his 21st of the season. Giambi is now hitting an amazing .291/.447 /.574. Those are MVP-caliber numbers. He won't win it, his counting stats are still low due to his early season struggles, but even the most optimistic Giambi fan could not have expected an OPS of 1.020 this late in the season.

Mariano Rivera did his thing in the bottom of the ninth, throwing filthy 95 mph fastballs and cutters, and that was the game.

The upcoming series with Toronto will not be easy. Toronto has underperformed their run differential this year and are a dangerous team. Throw in the fact that Al Leiter is penciled in to start Sunday's game, and tomorrow's game feels like another must-win to me. We'll see if Aaron Small can continue to be hit-lucky and effective.