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June 15, 2006

Maybe he's not Useless?
by SG

Randy Johnson's schizophrenic season may have had its high point last night, in a 6-1 victory over Cleveland. Johnson had what I felt was his best start of the season, pitching six very strong innings. With an average arm in RF he would not have given up a single run, but he did end up giving up one run over 6.1 innings, allowing 4 hits, walking none, and striking out six. His fastball was consistently in the 94-95 mph range, with a high of 97, and his slider was not as flat as it has been so often this season.

Johnson was ejected from the game after coming up and in on Eduardo Perez with his 77th pitch of the night, ostensibly in retaliation for a plunking of Jorge Posada earlier in the game. I'm pretty sure RJ remembered Perez hitting a few HR off him last year, which may have played into who he chose to throw at.

It was a rare glimpse of the old nasty RJ, the one who instilled fear into hitters. I will not trust that he has turned the corner, probably never again given how many bad performances he's had this season, but at least there's now hope that he can be a positive contributor most of the time.

I thought Jorge overreacted a bit to what didn't seem like an intentional plunking, but it seemed to get in Jason Johnson's head. After retiring Robinson Cano on a double play grounder after the beaning, the wheels came off, as he gave up a deep opposite field RBI ground-rule double to the lefty version of Bernie Williams, followed by the capper, a booming HR by Andy Phillips. Phillips got off his slide with the HR and made two sparkling defensive plays, including the game-ender where he did a Jeter-style face plant on a foul pop out.

It was one of those rare games where everything seemed to go right. Every starter got a hit, every pitcher did well, and none of the key relievers were needed. It was interesting to see the Yankees pull Posada before his next AB to protect him, I thought at the time. I'd never seen that before. However, it turned out he has a sore elbow from the beaning and is now listed as day-to-day. More Kelly Stinnett is the opposite of a good thing.

With Boston falling to Minnesota again (go Twinkies!), the Yankees are back in sole possession of first place. Octavio Dotel made his second rehab appearance for Columbus last night, and it went much better than his first outing, as he pitched a perfect inning, fanning two. Swap Dotel with Small and you've got bullpen that I can get behind. More likely they'll send Matt Smith back down for now since Small gives them an emergency starter and more of a long-reliever. I would think that with Ron Villone and Scott Proctor around that that role is already capably filled, but I guess if Torre doesn't really want to use Smith that much it's better that he gets regular work in Columbus.

Moose goes tonight against Cliff Lee, trying to recover from one of his poorer starts of the season. It's a testament to how good he's been that 3 ER in 7 innings constitutes one of his worst starts. However, there's been some signs of slippage his last two outings, as he's allowed nine runs over 13 innings. Hopefully it was just a little bit of dead arm and he gets back on track tonight.