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July 27, 2006

Messin' with Texas Thrice
by SG

As you can probably tell, I need a headline writer. The Yankees edged the Rangers 8-7 last night in an emotional rollercoaster of a game.

The Yankees took a quick 2-0 lead in the first when the slumping Andy Phillips worked a full count before hitting a two out, two RBI single. Jaret Wright pitched a 1-2-3 first inning, which shocked the hell out of me, and all appeared to be well.

The Yankee offense then remembered it was House Money day and took the next few innings off, while Texas scored four runs over the next three innings to take a 4-2 lead. Wright pitched into the sixth, and was relieved by Ron Villone after allowing a single with one out. Villone was outstanding in relieving Wright, pitching 1.2 perfect innings in 19 pitches.

The Yankees exploded in the eighth against Francisco Cordero. Alex Rodriguez led off with a HR that cut the deficit to 4-3. Bernie Williams staying in the game against a righty drew a walk, and then Andy Phillips got another hit (one of 3 on the evening). At this point, Joe Torre made the questionable call to bunt with Melky Cabrera with up, even though the Yankees only had six outs left to tie the game and with the fearsome twosome of Sal Fasano and Miguel Cairo due behind him. There's no question that Jorge Posada would have pinch hit for Fasano, but Posada strikes out a lot and Cordero is a strikeout pitcher, so it's not a given that he would have driven in a run with an out. Regardless, Melky's bad bunting on two attempts changed the strategy, although Torre said they took the bunt sign off after the first bad attempt and Melky missed it, which was a good decision by Torre I think. Melky came back from the 0-2 hole to drive a double over Kevin Mench's head in left, plating the tying and go-ahead runners. Fasano then bunted Melky to third, and a wild pitch scored him.

Then came the excitement that was the bottom of the eighth. It started with the Yankees leading 6-4 and with T.J. Beam on the mound. Beam's a relief prospect who has had very good success in the minors, but not much success in the majors. I was livid when I saw this, and wanted to blame Joe Torre. However, as the story of the evening unfolded I realized that Torre was right, and myself and all the second-guessers were wrong. Kyle Farnsworth was supposed to come in at this point, but could not get loose due to a back problem. I guess the argument could be made that Villone should have been kept in, but one of the chief critiques that I give Torre is that he is not willing to trust unproven relievers, so it's hypocritical to criticize him for using Beam in that situation.

Unfortunately, Beam couldn't throw strikes at first, walking the leadoff hitter. He then gave up a ground rule double to Ian Kinsler, putting the tying run on second base with no outs. Torre went to Scott Proctor, which I was also upset about at the time, but again, in hindsight, he didn't seem to have any other choice. Proctor had nothing, which is not surprising considering his recent workload, and gave up four straight hits, giving Texas the tie and then the lead, and leaving the bases loaded, with the Yankees trailing 7-6, and no outs.

Desperate times call for desperate measures, and nothing seemed more desperate than having to go to Shawn Chacon in that spot. The league is hitting .296/.386/.519 against Chacon this season. He's walked 34 in 60 innings. He's been awful. However, Chacon sacked up, fanning Mark DeRosa. Brad Wilkerson then lined one up the middle that probably would have been a two run single had it not found its way into Chacon's glove. Chacon looked around and found Jerry Hairston too far off first and got a huge double play, and the Yankees were still within one at 7-6, with Derek Jeter, Jason Giambi, and Alex Rodriguez due up.

Jeter did what he has been doing better than any Yankee this season, and got on base by way of a single. Giambi then stepped up, and I just had a good feeling. Otsuka seems like the kind of pitcher that Giambi should feast on, since he relies on deception and Giambi's exceptional ability to read pitches out of pitcher's hand makes him less susceptible to that sort of pitcher. Giambi hit an absolute monster shot that may not have landed yet, and the Yankees had the lead back, with Mariano Rivera warming.

Mo did his thing, the Yankees won, and swept Texas. For those of you who are anxiously watching the scoreboards (it's still too early for me), the Yankees are now leading the wild card chase and are 1 game back of Boston in the loss column.

After a bad start in Toronto, the road trip turned out pretty well. Now the Yankees head home to face Tampa Bay, and will apparently miss Scott Kazmir, who's got a sore arm. With all sorts of trade rumors circulating, it'll be interesting to see if anything changes between now and the deadline.

Update: I picked up this link from Bronx Banter. It's a blog entry by Peter Abraham about Joe Torre on the Baseball Analysts site. Interesting stuff, and a little more of a window into why Torre may be a better manager than his tactical choices make him appear to be sometimes.