This was an in game, inning by inning live blog of the New York Yankees Opening Day game against the Baltimore Orioles.
I did this for the website www.nybaseballdigest.com. I was in Fort Lauderdale for much of the spring covering Grapefruit League games, talking to scouts and getting a feel for certain teams. I did get to see the Orioles quite a bit since they trained there.
This blog was written inning by inning with facts, analysis and opinions.
Hope you enjoy! I want to apologize in advance because it is quite long, but this is the way I see a game.
Top 1st- Derek Jeter looks like a true lead off hitter with a great eight pitch at bat before singling very hard to center field. Mark Teixeira heard the loudest boos this side of A-Rod in his first at bat, which was a fly out to center.
Bottom 1st- It’s obvious that CC Sabathia is a little nervous. After a diner (dink/liner) to center by Brian Roberts, he throws a wild pitch, then walks Adam Jones before ANOTHER wild pitch puts runner to second and third. There goes the double play ground ball possibility!
Sabathia is wild early, and is pulling his front shoulder out early leading the ball to tail up and away from right handed hitters.
CC escapes any damage via a ground ball to Ransom at third who throws to Posada to get Roberts at home plate. Knowing he was going to be out, Roberts probably should have gotten into a run down. Grounder up the middle (Jeter’s first chance), and the Yanks gets the force at second base. Nice positioning as Aubrey Huff hit that ball very hard but right at Jeter. Key advanced scouting on Huff.
Top 2nd - I am not a big fan of Xavier Nady. You will see that mentioned here many times over this season. Hated that trade last year.
Bottom 2nd - Orioles go down in order as CC calms the @&$% down! The initial butterflies appear to be gone for CC. Butterflies are much nicer to look at than midges, but both flying things appear to hurt Yankee pitchers.
On the last out, another grounder to Jeter on slow chopper, after Derek field the ball he was going to throw off balance off his right foot, but then decides to shuffle a few steps and fires the ball across the field. Many of Jeter’s bad throws are when he doesn’t get himself into proper throwing position. This time he moved himself into a good throwing position.
Top 3rd- Gardner singles and makes a good, strong turn around first base to draw a hurried throw by LF Luke Scott. When getting a hit to left field, the batter/runner should always take a bigger turn then if it was a hit to center or right field. Gardner goes to third an a nice run and hit single by Jeter (now 2 for 2) thru the vacated shortstop hole, scoring on a Sac Fly by Johnny Damon.
This run does not score if it wasn’t Gardner. His speed forced the steal attempt and the Sac Fly wasn’t hit that deep to score anybody.
Bottom 3rd- Sabathia roughed up after a single and another walk. After a weak bunt attempt, Adam Jones hits a two run triple to RF. The relay to Cano was good by Nady, but Cano’s throw was straight to Posada. Where was Teixeira for the cutoff? With a runner on first base on an extra base hit, the first baseman needs to be in the middle of the infield to cut off the throw by the relay man in case the batter tries to advance to third. A proper cutoff could of stopped Jones at second or gotten him out at third.
Jones then scores on a sac fly. A run that MIGHT have been prevented if the play was acted on correctly.
Top 4th - Ho hum.
Bottom 4th- Another lead off single (Ty Wigginton) and a walk, similar to the third inning. But, CC escapes damage (again) by getting a fly ball (advancing Wigginton to third), then a double play grounder. Bad throw by Jeter on the 4-6-3, and nice stretch by Tex to save the Captain.
I love Wigginton as a player. Saw a lot of Orioles games in Florida and spoke with several scouts from other teams. There is not one scout I spoke with who does not like Ty Wigginton. A true baseball player. I said to one scout he was a poor man’s Kevin Youkilis - and after several seconds, the scout nodded in agreement.
Top 5th- Two out triple by Damon. CF Adam Jones almost gets it, but it appears the sun might of affected his depth perception as the ball glances off the tip of his glove. Jones was very able to reach out farther, too. Tex walks on a really close 3-2 curve ball. I believe Teixeira’s reputation got him that close call. (The boos, however, are getting lighter each at bat for Tex).
I would have started Tex running, but Matsui pops up.
Bottom 5th- Long double to right center by Brian Roberts. It appears the ball was catchable by Gardner, but the same sun situation seemed to affect Gardner the way it affected Jones on Damon’s triple. The ball seemed to land almost next to Gardner and not past him.
Nothing going right for the Yankees this inning as a few balls have bounced off of Ransom’s glove at third. Sandwiched in between is a weak dribbler to short stop on a run and hit. Jeter vacated his spot however to move to second and the ball died on the infield for a single.
The first ball off Ransom’s glove was due to his playing in at the edge of the grass looking for Adam Jones to bunt Roberts over to third base. Would have an easy out otherwise, without Roberts advancing to third.
After an intentional walk to Wigginton, Scott walks to force in a run and CC is gone. Other than the Roberts double, the Orioles have with very little hitting this inning, but have three runs in and still have the bases loaded.
That little aspect of baseball of Cody Ransom being in on the grass after the lead off double by Roberts has led to this big inning, changing the way the inning has played out.
Jonathan Albaladejo in and gets a short fly to center which Gardner catches and throws to Posada to get Mora out at the plate for an inning ending double play.
At first glance I really think Mora was safe, but the Yanks get the call. On the replay, I am even more convinced that Mora was safe. Posada didn’t even tag Mora! Posada’s glove was a full foot off the ground when he “applied the tag.”
Posada is always a weak catcher on those types of plays. He was in a terrible home plate collision in the minors and has always shied away from plays like that at the plate.
Key part of the throw for a center fielder to home plate is that he has to get the throw over the mound to avoid any deflection of the ball by the raised mound. So many times you see a strong throw which skips off the mound and away from the catcher, but Gardner’s throw home was just over the mound and on target.
Important play as it keeps the game within reach, especially here at cozy Camden Yards.
Top 6th- Just as I finish that comment above, Posada smashes a long HR to center. Then just as quick, Cano walks and Nady hits the first pitch for a ground rule double down the LF line. Did I mention that I really like Nady? Anyway, even though the ball was touched by a fan, the umpires let Cano score as he was going to score even if the ball wasn’t touched. The umpires do have that right on a ground rule double.
I would bunt with Ransom up. Why not? If Nady is at third base, the Orioles would give up that run on a ground ball. The Cano decision and not bunting Ransom proves very important to the Yankees as Ransom strikes out and Gardner pops to short left field.
Jeter up in a big spot. Singles up the middle, but smothered by the SS Cesar Izturis and Nady is caught rounding too far off of third.
Terrible play by Nady and the third base coach. Some defensive sabermetric guys would smirk and say that if Jeter was on the other end of that last play, it would have been a clean RBI single up the middle for the other team.
The more I think about it, bunting Ransom with Nady on second and no outs was the correct move. Once again, if Nady is advanced to third, the Yankees get another run. The Orioles would have given up that run to get the second out.
And Gardner’s at bat would have been different. All he would have needed to do was hit a ground ball to get that run in, which is what likely would have happened. Instead, Gardner needs to drive the ball to get Nady in from second and the ball is popped up to left field.
Little things in the individual game of baseball that help teams win games. The Yankees have not done the little things so far today.
Bottom 6th- Roberts absolutely kills the Yankees as he gets his third hit of the game and is 3 for 3. I wonder what his career average against New York is? Memo: Remember to look that up in between innings. He gets picked off of first base and gets in a rundown.
Way too many throws as the Yankees take three throws to get out Roberts. Once the pickoff was made, Teixeira threw the ball right away to Jeter and Roberts moved back towards first base, then Jeter threw the ball too quickly to Albaladejo and Roberts heads to second again, then J. Alba threw too early to Cano who finally made the put out. Too many throws.
Does any team know how to complete an effective rundown?
COACHES CORNER: First off, there needs to be only one throw and the key is to get the runner to commit to which direction he wants to go and get his momentum moving FULL SPEED in one direction. This way, the runner can not change his direction. Once the runner is fully committed, then the throw is made.
And it doesn’t matter which direction the runner is headed. That old baseball fallacy of forcing them back to the original base causes more mistakes by the defense and less outs recorded.
And you know who dictates when the only throw should be made? The guy who is going to RECEIVE the ball, not the guy throwing it. When the RECEIVER sees the runner going full speed, he moves forward toward the runner and yells, “NOW” and then the throw is made. The thrower throws the ball like he is shooting darts and does not pump fake the ball.
Once again, it doesn’t matter which direction the runner is going either. With one throw the runner is out all the time.
CAREER STAT UPDATE: Brian Roberts has a career OPS of .800 versus the Yankees, more than any other team besides Toronto with more than 100 plate appearances against. But Roberts has 11 HR's and 49 RBI's versus the Yankees, much more than any other opponent.
Top 7th- That missed opportunity to bunt Ransom last inning is looming even larger as Matsui launches a long two-run homer to center. Posada then walks (his OPS today is astronomical with a HR, BB and HBP!). Cano singles and runners on first and second. A righty comes in to face Nady.
Where is Nick Swisher?
Nady has a good at bat, and just misses a 2-2 inside fastball. Tough pitch on the hands but he was looking for the heat from Dennis Sarfate. Ground ball to third for an inning ending double play.
Bottom 7th- Lead off walk to Mora. Wow! Phil Coke rarely walks right handed hitters. Huff though hits the ball up the middle, Jeter MOVES TO HIS LEFT and starts the 6-3 double play. That should quite the defensive metric guys for at least another day.
Coke then strikes out the RH Wigginton.
Coke is a very effective LH pitcher out of the pen who throws strikes, and gets both lefties and righties out with equal effectiveness.
Top 8th- Here is Swisher, pinch hitting for Ransom - maybe one batter too late. Nick the Swish doubles to left field and is replaced by pinch runner Ramiro Pena. Gardner does his job by bunting Pena over to third. Good job by bunting to third getting Mora to field the ball, and whose only throw was to first. It is easier for a lefty like Gardner to bunt the ball towards third because he is facing that way.
Another big sport by Jeter with the infield playing in, but Jeter swings at a bad pitch inside on the hands and grounds weakly to short. Two down. In baseball, you can’t come through all the time!
Even though it was a strike, I said it was a bad pitch to swing at because Jeter needed to get the ball out of the infield and that occurs more often when the ball is out over the plate, and less so when the ball is on the hands on the inside corner. Therefore, Jeter swung at a bad pitch in order to do his job. If the infield was playing back, then swinging at an inside pitch is fine.
Damon walks, but Teixeira groundout to second base. So far, not a good day for Tex - at the plate or in the field with a couple of mental miscues.
Not doing the little things lead to losses.
Bottom 8th- Coke strikes out Luke Scott. Phil is really tough on lefties. A one out double by the switch hitting catcher Gregg Zaun is then followed by home run by Cesar Izturis. Who? A man with all of one homer last year in over 454 plate appearances.
Damon appeared to have a bead on it, but a fan reached over the wall and snagged it away. The umpires let the homer stand as Damon’s glove appeared above the wall, but even though it was, the fan did reach into the field of play and helped deflect it over the wall. Whenever a fan reaches into the field of play, interference should be called.
Maybe if Damon acted like Moises Alou on the Luis Castillo flyball back in the 2003 NLCS, he might have gotten an umpire review. Steve Bartman just called me to remind me of that.
Brian Bruney in to replace Coke.
I tried to see Itzuris’ splits on www.baseballreference.com against RHP and LHP to see how the switch hitter fares from both sides. You don’t expect to have Cesar Izturis, or any Izturis for that matter, hit a home run off of Phil Coke, but if Izturis has terrible stats from the left side, it might have been wise to bring in Brian Bruney to face him, especially with it being tougher to hit a homer to right field at Camden Yands than to the short porch in left.
But, the BR.com splits pages are unavailable due to server difficulties and I can’t get that information. By the way, I am not a fan of the new baseballreference.com website. All the numbers are smaller and things are tougher to navigate and read all around.
I AM NOT SECOND GUESSING the move to have Coke pitch to Izturis, but just had that thought after the at bat. Even though I can’t get the splits off the web now, Joe Girardi must have those numbers available, right? Just a thought.
Being without baseballreference.com is like being without a cell phone. What am I to do?
Anyway, Bruney can’t throw strikes (is Mark Melancon available yet?), and then Damaso Marte gives up a two run double to Huff, a professional hitter who seems to always kill the Yankees, even when he was with Tampa Bay. We now know Huff hits Marte well, now with 5 hits in 12 at bats including two doubles and five RBI’s.
Despite his good season last year, Bruney has always had control problems and those kinds of things just never really go away. Never been a big fan of Bruney’s or Marte’s.
Did I mention I hated that Pittsburgh trade last year?
Anyway, Yanks lose the opener 10-5 and even though the score was a five run deficit, the game changed when the Yanks couldn’t tie the game in the 8th. Things do change within a game based upon the prior occurrences. Each pitch changes what the team does for the next pitch or next batter, then the next inning etc.
Again, Ransom not bunting over Nady was a huge play in my opinion, one that could have changed the outcome.
The Yankees scored five runs today, three of which came as a result of home runs. Sixty percent of Yankee runs scored this year can not come from the long ball. The Yankees must do a better job at manufacturing runs similar to how they scored their first run; a Gardner single, run and hit single by Jeter moves him to third and then a Sac Fly by Damon.
Consistently putting up “crooked numbers,” that means scoring every inning a team can (less zeroes), helps deflate the other team over the course of the game.
No matter how many runs the Yankees score, the pitching staff can not issue eight free passes a game and expect to win games.
One of the many Joseph DelGrippo pitching axiom’s is that as a pitcher you can allow hits or allow walks, you just can’t allow both. Walks turns into runs when you allow hits.
No big deal or pressure on AJ Burnett Wednesday. With Sabathia and Teixeira struggling today, with both having recent histories of struggling early in the season, Burnett needs to pitch well to quell any Yankee fan base uproar over the $423 million spent over the winter.
This Yankee fan is OK even if Burnett gets shelled Thursday because those things happen to all the best pitchers from time to time, but I won’t be OK if the Yankees continue to mishandle all the little things that help a team win.
By The Way - just checked again for the Izturis HR splits and while he has twice as many HR's from the right side (8) as opposed to the left side (4), he also has 2.5 times more at bats from the right side. His HR's per AB is actually better when hitting left handed, and his overall number via batting average, on base percentage and slugging percentage are all better from the left side.