Saturday, June 23, 2007


In the midst of manhandling a soft spot on their schedule, watching Boston finally bead up with a little sweat, the Yankees reverted back to their hapless April and May ways. Five years after dismantling Colorado pitching enroute to a 3-game Coors Field record for run, not an easy feat given the offensive history of the ballpark, the Yanks posted a less than stellar .216 batting average in the latest Coors journey, and when they really needed the pitching most, it dispapeared.

Complain all you want about the hitting, and it was essentially non-existenent, but the outcomes may have been different in the starting pitching did not falter in critical moments. Tuesday night, Mike Mussina surrendering a homerun to the eight place hitter, with the pitcher on deck, then stating after the game that he forgot and kicked himself after realizing it while the ball sailed into the seats, is inexcusably. Lauded for his scholarly approach to the game, Mussina should be scolded for even admitting that he forgot the pitcher was due up. The Yanks offense did not muster any more runs, stranding runners on in the eighth inning, but Mussina's brain lapse allowed Colorado to extend their lead and change the game.

One night later, Andy Pettitte cruising through another solid outing, looking like one run would be enough, hit a brick wall in the sixth. The problem, he walked the pitcher. How do you walk the pitcher? I cannnot even venture an excuse for a veteran like Andy. I absolutely hate overused baseball mantra's, but as annoying and repetitive as it sounds, how many times a leadoff walk come back to bite the pitcher? Unfortunatlely this was not a one run mistake, Pettitte made a mistake to Matt Holliday that was deposited deep into the Colorado evening, then inexplicably lost it. Less than two innings and six runs after entering the sixth with a 1-0 lead the game was over. Similar to Mussina's post-game commentary a night earlier, Pettitte said he quit pitching after the homerun. Ever the competitor, Andy did not stop giving full effort, but he stopped throwing his slider and change-up. In other words, he pitched afraid. He pitched like one of the rookies the Yanks shuttled up earlier in the year, not a savvy 12-year veteran with playoff success. We expect more.

A day later it all few apart. Bad baserunning, another poor offensive showing, and a million dollars of pitching in less than five innings. Unlike the first few games, Matsui put the Yanks ahead by two with an early homer, but Roger Clemens could not hold the lead. He immediately gave both runs back, surrendering solo shots to Garrett Atkins and Troy Tulowitski. More comically though, an inning after covering first base on a grounder, then barely making it to first base on single, Clemens exited after only 4 2/3 inning, apparently gassed from extraneous effort. Clemens stoically told Torre he could kep going, but admitted he had nothing left in the tank. Are you kidding me? I do not care that it was 90 degrees in the thin air of Colorado, every other pitcher that takes the hill at Coors deals with the same conditions. Clemens is supposedly in superior shape, no matter his age. This goes back to my rants of weeks past, he is not worth the money. Two game losing streak, staked to an early lead, just when the Yankees need Rocket to be the stopper and get the team on track, he runs out of gas in the fifth inning. Needless to say it was an overall team effort to lose this game, with plenty of blame to go around, but ace pitchers are supposed to pick up their teams in times of need. Clemens felt more comfortable watching from the bench, eschewing the police, since he just stole almost a million dollars from the Yanks for showing up.

Now its on to San Fran, and the inevitable Bonds circus. By the way, maybe that homerun Barry smashed off Ted Lilly in 2002 at the Stadium will finally land. And who better to stop the bleeding than Kei Igawa. Allegedly a new pitcher after correcting some mechanical flaws in his delivery and rediscovering his changeup while at AAA, where he averaged a strikeout an inning in his last three starts en route to a 1.80 ERA. Outside of Barry, the Giants are not a bad team to comeback against, hitting under .250 as team.

ESPN's Tim Kirkjian did a great piece on how this weekend may forever be remembered in baseball lore years down the road. With Bonds about to pass Aaron, and A-Rod on pace and fully capable of shattering whatever number Bonds posts, this series will showcase the two greatest homerun hitters in baseball history on the same field. Great observation to point that out, and put a positive spin on the series. But, as Ken Griffey can attest, there is a long way to go for A-Rod and anything can happen.


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