Results tagged ‘ Seth Smith ’

Too many walks and not enough hits

The stage seemed perfectly set for Phil Hughes to have a big game Wednesday night. His parents made the trip to the Bay Area from their home in southern California to watch him start against the Athletics at O.co Coliseum, a pitchers’ park that favors those who give up a lot of fly balls. Yankees manager Joe Girardi filled his lineup with his best defensive outfielders to run down all those prospective flies, and Oakland’s lineup was without two of its best hitters, Coco Crisp and Yoenis Cespedes, with nagging leg injuries.

It did not turn out to be Phil’s night, however. Coming off a superlative performance at Seattle at the start of the Yanks’ West Coast trip late last week, Hughes had a letdown in the Yankees’ 5-2 loss that guaranteed Oakland winning the series that ends Thursday afternoon with the Bombers’ hopes resting on Hiroki Kuroda.

Hughes struggled to find the plate in an outing that lasted only 4 1/3 innings as a mounting pitch count (95) that has plagued him often this year bit him again. Five walks played a major part of that, which has not been a characteristic of Yankees pitching this year. The staff entered play with the fewest amount of walks in the majors with 157, an average of 2.49 per nine innings.

By game’s end, the Yankees walked nine batters, a season high. It was so bad that even rookie Preston Claiborne finally walked someone for the first time in his career after 19 1/3 innings. Claiborne walked Seth Smith, who got four free passes plus a single for an odd perfect night.

A more usual nemesis for Hughes, the home run, was evident again. Brandon Moss hit the first of his two homers in the game off Hughes in the second inning, a two-run shot. Moss homered again in the eighth off Joba Chamberlain. In fact, that is just about Moss does these days. The five hits he has had over his past 40 at-bats have all been home runs.

The long ball may not have stung as much as how the A’s got their other two runs. Lackadaisical work at holding a runner on first base by both Hughes and Chamberlain helped Oakland build two runs that certainly were illuminated when the Yankees rallied in the ninth and brought the tying run to the plate.

In each case, the pitcher paid no attention to A’s second baseman Eric Sogard, who took huge leads and stole second and ended up scoring on hits by John Jaso, a one-out double off Hughes in the fifth and a two-out single off Chamberlain in the eighth.

As timid as the Yankees’ offense has been the past two nights, there was never mind slim but no margin for error. The Yankees managed only four hits off three Oakland pitchers. Starter Dan Straily has been a hot pitcher of late (3-0 with a 2.20 ERA over his past five starts) and closer Grant Balfour made it 17-for-17 in saves albeit after putting the tying runs on base in the ninth.

The Yankees’ 3-4-5 hitters – Mark Teixeira, Travis Hafner and Vernon Wells – were a combined 0-for-11. Teixeira did drive in a run with a sacrifice fly that gave him more RBI (5) than hits (4) on the trip. Jayson Nix got his third RBI of the trip with a two-out single in the seventh but could not duplicate the feat in the ninth in making the final out.

The victory, Oakland’s 10th straight at home, moved the A’s back into first place in the American League West while the Yankees fell three games behind the Red Sox in the AL East but stayed a half-game ahead of the third-place Orioles.

CC OK with ND after Martin walk-off

CC Sabathia answered the questions about CC Sabathia Friday night.

The big question was whether the lefthander could still be the staff ace. A resounding yes was the big guy’s response.

Unfortunately, Sabathia had nothing on his personal ledger to account for his eight brilliant innings against an Oakland team that has been as much a surprising success story this season in the American League West as Baltimore has been in the AL East.

CC got hung with a hard no-decision as Rafael Soriano failed to nail down a save for only the fourth time in 46 opportunities this year. A home run by pinch hitter Brandon Moss with one out in the ninth inning wiped out the Yankees’ 1-0 lead that Soriano was brought in to protect after Sabathia had limited the Athletics to three singles and two walks with 11 strikeouts over the first eight in an efficient 113 pitches.

Sabathia was in a joyful mood after the game because his catcher, Russell Martin, kept the Yanks in first place with a walk-off home run in the 10th off A’s lefthander Sean Doolittle.

“With a day game [Saturday], I didn’t want us to play all night,” Martin quipped.

Yankees manager Joe Girardi called Martin’s 18th home run the biggest of the season. Such superlatives are common when a team get down to the last dozen games of the schedule. A loss would have been crushing for the Yankees because it would have allowed the Orioles, who won in Boston, to pull into a first-place tie.

Sabathia took a no-hitter into the sixth and already had eight K’s to that point. A single to center by Stephen Drew leading off the sixth was Oakland’s first hit and its only one until the eighth when Sabathia got into his singular jam. A second hit by Drew, a two-out infield single by Collin Cowgill and a hit batter loaded the bases, but Josh Reddick flied out to left off a tailing fastball from Sabathia. That was the only contact Reddick made as he struck out four times.

“He had a good slider, good changeup, good fastball,” Martin said of Sabathia. “Everything was good.”

“You never want to be the guy that messes things up,” Sabathia said, referring to the Yankees’ winning streak that has stretched to six games. “I was able to make pitches when I needed to. The other guy [A’s starter Jarrod Parker] was throwing a great game against us, so I couldn’t let up.”

There may have been a sense of déjà vu for Soriano. Back on July 22, he gave up a home run to Seth Smith in the ninth inning at Oakland that sent the game into extra innings that the A’s won in 12. The starting pitcher that day was also CC Sabathia.

That was then. This is now and where Sabathia despite not winning in five starts since Aug. 24 wants to be.

“This game was important to him and important to us,” Girardi said. “If CC is going to get into a hot streak, this is the time to do it.”

Winning pitcher still best way to describe CC

The question came to CC Sabathia, and he could have shattered the walls with a certain answer, if he cared to. But it is not his way to be angry or critical, so Sabathia responded in kind, without malice or disdain.

The question offered by a reporter was, “What does it mean to be the first pitcher this year to win 10 games?”

CC didn’t hesitate and said, “I’d like to say it’s a big deal, but it isn’t, really.”

Perfect. Sabathia seems to know that you can’t have it both ways. Last year, he led the American League in victories with 21, but come time to vote for the Cy Young Award Sabathia ended up losing out to the Mariners’ Felix Hernandez and his 13-12 record. Baseball writers defended the decision because Fernandez had scant run support yet ranked very high in some other statistical measures for pitchers.

There is even a segment of the baseball press, those who digest the gourmet stats, that believes pitching victories have no meaning whatsoever. If so, then why all the fuss about Sabathia getting to 10-4 Saturday at Yankee Stadium in the Yankees’ 8-3 victory over the Rockies? If winning games does not matter anymore, why bother even asking the question?

Truth be told, CC, there are some of us in the press box who still value the art of pitching your team to victory. As Roy Halladay, who owns two Cy Young Award trophies put it so well last winter, that is still part of the job description. Sabathia would prefer to stay neutral in the debate, and I don’t blame him.

Praise is due the big guy, but it won’t be long that you’ll be hearing from the stat geeks than any pitcher can win 10 games with the run support Sabathia gets. That’s coming next, you watch.

Oh, yes, the Yankees have scored runs in bunches behind Sabathia, whose support of 7.67 runs per game is tops in the majors. The Yankees have scored in double figures in six of his 17 starts with CC getting a ‘W’ each time out. It should be noted, however, that the Yankees have been shut out twice with Sabathia on the mound.

A year ago, Hernandez had the worst run support I have ever seen a quality pitcher have in all my years of covering big-league ball, which is more than I care to (and can’t always) remember. That King Felix put the record together than he did was a once-in-a-lifetime occurrence, but I am not prepared to let a freak season become the game’s standard.

It is clear by now that the Yankees enjoy playing behind Sabathia, who earned his 50th victory in a Yankees uniform, in his 85th start. That matches what Chien-Ming Wang once did and is the best since Ron Guidry got to 50 victories with the Yankees in 1979 in his 82nd start in pinstripes. Playing behind Sabathia often puts the Yankees in such a comfort zone that they slug their way to victory.

“When you play behind CC, you’re not on the field very long,” manager Joe Girardi said.

The Yankees spent most of their time on the field at bat and scored eight more runs behind their ace. Alex Rodriguez, playing despite a sore right knee that has troubled him for a week, drove in three runs and scored another on a somewhat daring, hands-first slide into the plate in the third inning. A-Rod saw that the left fielder, Ryan Spilborghs, was fading toward center to make the catch on Nick Swisher’s fly ball and gave it a try. He went in on his hands, “because I wanted to give the catcher the least possible amount of body to tag,” Alex said.

Not a bad answer, actually.

Jorge Posada had three hits and an RBI in raising his batting average to .232. Rodriguez, Swisher, Brett Gardner, Curtis Granderson and Francisco Cervelli had two hits apiece. Mark Teixeira knocked in two runs with his 22nd home run, taking over the team lead. The only 0-fer in the lineup, ironically, was by Robinson Cano, who made six outs in four at-bats and ended his consecutive game hitting streak in day games at 24 games. The Yankees remain lights out in the daytime at 21-4.

Sabathia, who lowered his ERA to 3.25, took a five-hit shutout into the eighth only to lose it that inning on a two-out, RBI single by Seth Smith, who was pinch hitting for Todd Helton. Sabathia was so dominating that Rockies manager Jim Tracy removed All-Star shortstop Troy Tulowitzki after the seventh and pinch hit for Carlos Gonzalez and Helton in the eighth.

Talk about an early concession. But what else was there to do facing the daily double of the Yankees in broad daylight with CC Sabathia on the hill?