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What a Difference a Day Makes in Mercurial AL East Playoff Chase

There is a reason why people say “You can’t predict baseball.” Teams have to actually play out all 162 games. And one day in August does not make or break a team’s chances in October.

Before yesterdays game in Yankee Universe, it was all gloom and doom, because the Red Sox were only 4.5 games back of the Yankees and Rays. They are catching up to the Yankees, and due to the Yankees lackluster play all season, and especially of late, the Yankees have allowed the Red Sox to stay in the race.

In Red Sox nation, people were ready to crown the Red Sox AL East champions, even though they were still 4.5 games behind the first place Yankees and Rays.

Today, it is the complete opposite. The Yankee Universe has its swagger back, while it is all gloom and doom in Red Sox nation.

Newsflash: There is still a ton of baseball left to play.

First, credit needs to be given when credit is due. Even though the Red Sox have had a flurry of injuries, seemingly all to their best players, they have been playing great baseball all season long.

If a team is playing good baseball, regardless of how many injuries they have, or whichever team is in their division, it does not matter. They are a tough team, and they will not go away.

The Yankees have been playing consistently good baseball all season long, only suffering a cold patch in May, and now in August. Good teams struggle, and the loss of Andy Pettitte, Alex Rodriguez and the under performance of the starting rotation does not help.

But, the Yankees are still in first place, and they still are tied with the best record in the league. They will get hot again, and everything will seem right again as well.

Being the passionate sports fans that we are, it is only natural to fly off the handle over one day.  I’ll admit, I did a little bit too yesterday, but after I took a breath and looked at the bigger picture, it was a little easier to stomach.

Again, baseball is 162 games. I’ll end this the way I started it. “You can’t predict baseball” for a reason. The season is far from over, and it is realistic to say that the Red Sox will gain ground on the Yankees, and the Yankees will pull away from the Red Sox from now until October 3rd. This also means that we will have more days like today and yesterday.


Steve Henn is the author of the baseball blog RI Baseball Beat.

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All Eyes On Andy Pettitte

Andy Pettitte will throw a bullpen session on Friday in Chicago to test his strained left groin.

Pettitte has been on the DL since July 20 when he strained his left groin in a game on July 18 against the Tampa Bay Rays.  Originally, Pettitte was going to be out for 4-5 weeks, but Andy was targeting three.

During his rehab process, he was playing catch and throwing off of a half mound at perhaps 70 percent of his top level.  Feeling good, Pettitte then threw a bullpen session on August 17.

Treating this session as he would a batters during a game, Pettitte threw at his top level, but then he felt his groin “grab.”  A significant setback for the lefty.

Pettitte, a notoriously fierce competitor was in the midst of the season of his life, going 11-2 with a 2.88 ERA in 18 starts before the injury may have been trying to rush his return.  How can one blame the man though, chomping at the bit to get back on the mound and continue his monster season.

Dustin Moseley has done a decent job replacing Andy, but even then “the right-hander survives on location instead of velocity, and pitchers like him have to be sharp or they get hit.” (George King, New York Post).

AJ Burnett (9-11, 4.80) has been as inconsistent as ever this season, and Javier Vazquez (9-9, 4.96) has been demoted to the bullpen and replaced by rookie righthander Ivan Nova.  Nova did a good job in his first start against the Toronto Blue Jays, but only time will tell if the Yankees can count on the rookie to give them a chance to win.

If Pettitte can have a successful bullpen, then it is fair to say that the Yankees can expect him back around mid September.  The Yankees will need Pettitte down the stretch, as they battle it out with the Rays for the AL East title, who they play seven times in the final month. 

And do not forget about Boston, who the Yankees play six times in September.  Even with flux of injuries, they have proven time and time again this year that they are good enough to make a run at a playoff spot.


Steve Henn is the author of the Baseball Blog: RI Baseball Beat

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Baseball Beat: August 24, 2010


News and notes from around Major League Baseball:

  • Johnny Damon was claimed off waivers by the Boston Red Sox yesterday. Damon has a no-trade clause to Boston, so even if both teams can work out a deal, he would ultimately have to approve it. He has been quoted as wanting to stay in Detroit, but a move to Boston would make sense for Damon. He will be entering a pennant race, and he will be returning to a team and a city where he was once loved.  But all signs point to Damon staying in Detroit. “My teammates are making this decision easier by saying they want me to stay.” (ESPN)
  • Ivan Nova (Yankees) made his first big league start yesterday, going 5.1 innings, allowing six hits, two earned runs while striking out three. He also the center of a little scuffle, as one of his pitches got very close to Jose Bautista’s head. Both benches cleared, but no punches were thrown.
  • Yunel Escobar was thrown out between innings by the home plate umpire, while Escobar was standing at shortstop. Just another case of an umpire being overly sensitive. A professional hitter has the right to disagree with a call.
  • Jose Bautista has 40 home runs this season, six coming against the Yankees. He leads the league in both home runs, and home runs against the Yankees.
  • The Texas Rangers one hit the Minnesota Twins, carrying a combined no-hitter into the ninth inning. Rich Harden started the game lasting 6.2, while Matt Harrison and Darren O’Day pitched the rest of the seventh and eighth. Neftali Feliz recorded the first out in the ninth, surrendered a walk, and allowed the Twins only hit. The hitter: who else but Joe Mauer.
  • The last combined no-hitter was back in 2003, when Roy Oswalt, Peter Munro, Kirk Saarloos, Brad Lidge, Octavio Dotel, and Billy Wagner no hit the New York Yankees in Yankee Stadium.
  • Buster Olney of ESPN expects the Los Angeles Dodgers to place Manny Ramirez on waivers at some point this week.  He mentions the Chicago White Sox and Tampa Bay Rays as potential suitors. Manny does have a no-trade clause, so he would have to approve any trade.
Steve Henn is the author of the Yankees blog, Section 401.
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Johnny Damon Placed on Waivers: Would New York Yankees Claim Him?

Johnny Damon was placed on waivers on Thursday, according to MLBTradeRumors.

Today would be the last day that a team could claim him, which presents an interesting situation.

Would the Yankees think of bringing back their former World Series hero?

Even with the fiasco between the Yankees and Damon this past offseason, this move would make tremendous sense for the Yankees.

Damon has been quoted as saying that he would like to remain with the Tigers, but given the opportunity to go to a winning team and back to a city where he was a fan favorite may appeal to both Damon and the Yankees.

See the top 10 bidding wars between the Yankees and the Red Sox

Also, a return to the Bronx would mean a return to Yankee Stadium, a place where Damon has hit 17 home runs and driven in 42 runs combined this season and last season.

A return would make sense. With the recent injury to Lance Berkman, Damon would slide right back into the designated hitter role, which would pay dividends for him physically. When Berkman returns, it would provide the Yankees with unsurpassed depth off the bench down the stretch into September, giving Joe Girardi more options.

Even though money with the Yankees is never an issue, the team would only have to pick up $1.88 million of the $8 million that Damon is owed this season, also according to the same article.

Stay tuned, as time will tell today whether Johnny Damon does indeed leave Detroit. Any team making a playoff push would undoubtedly be interested in a player like Damon, who brings strong veteran experience and leadership that would prove valuable down the stretch.


Steve Henn is the author of the Yankees Blog, Section 401.

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New York Yankees Prospect Check Up: August 21, 2010

A quick check up on how some of the Yankees’ top prospects are doing as of August 21, 2010.

  • Jesus Montero (C) : .287 BA, 15 home runs, 15 RBI, 109 games for AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre
  • Brandon Laird (3B): .288 BA, 25 home runs, 99 RBI, 122 games combined with AA Trenton and AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.
  • Ivan Nova (SP): 12-3, 2.86 ERA, 23 starts, 145 innings pitched, 115 strikeouts with AAA Scranton.
  • Austin Romine (C): .264 BA, seven home runs, 56 RBI, 100 games for AA Trenton.
  • Dellin Betances (SP): 8-1, 1.77 ERA, 14 starts, 71 innings pitched, 88 strikeouts with A Tampa.
  • Manuel Banuelos (SP): 0-3, 2.19 ERA, 12 starts, 49.1 innings pitched, 62 strikeouts combined with GCL Yankees and A Tampa.
  • JR Murphy (C): .261 BA, seven home runs, 53 RBI, 79 games with Charleston.
  • Gary Sanchez (C): .344 BA, six home runs, 37 RBI, 33 games combined with GCL Yankees and Staten Island.
  • Slade Heathcott (OF): .272 BA, one home run, 24 RBI, 13 stolen bases, 61 games with Charleston.
  • Cito Culver (SS): .264 BA, two home runs, 18 RBI, 42 games with Staten Island.

Expect to see highly touted pitching prospect Ivan Nova with the Yankees at some point in the near future.  He is almost too good to keep down in AAA, especially with the recent struggles of Javier Vazquez and AJ Burnett.  Who knows, maybe they can catch lightning in a bottle and run with it.

The Yankees are deepest at catcher with four top catching prospects, notably Montero.  Everyone around the Yankees knows his name.  His bat is his best tool, but many are skeptical about his future behind the plate because of his defense.  He may be better suited as a DH/1B.  Nonetheless, the Yankees are very high on Montero, and they expect him to be a staple in their lineup down the road.

More and more lately, many have been hearing about Manuel Banuelos.  He is a short, but stocky left-handed pitcher who is having himself a season.  Only 19-years-old, his fastball sits in the mid 90’s, touching the upper 90’s.  He also possesses a plus curve ball, and a devastating change up.  Hopefully we will see Banuelos in the Yankees’ rotation in a few years.

Another name that isn’t as well known is Dellin Betances.  Dellin is a tall, hard throwing right-hander from New York.  Imposing size Standing at 6′ 8,”  He has some kinks to work out like many raw and talented pitchers, but one may say that he has a chance to be something special.

Hopefully, all of the above players can continue to be top prospects as they get older.  Many of these players are at the lower levels of the minor league system, with minimal professional experience, so it is a small sample to work with.


Steve Henn is the author of the Yankee blog Section 401.

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Why Darnell McDonald’s Eighth Home Run Was Special to This Yankee Fan

Before I go any further with this story, it needs to be known that I’m the biggest Yankee fan that I know. Picture your prototypical Yankee fan: loud, passionate, arrogant, rude, and knowledgeable. I detest the Red Sox with every fiber in my body.

But, during the Red Sox-Angels game on Tuesday, August 17, 2010 something special happened. It is something that is very special to me, and perhaps not yet special to the world. But, this is something that must be told. Darnell McDonald hit his eighth home run of the season.

One may ask why it is so special to this Yankee fan. Yes, if you didn’t believe me when I said it, I am a Yankee fan. I am happy that this home run was hit when it was.

Before I get into why that home run was special to me, and others around me, I will tell a quick background story.

Back on May 31, 2007, one of my dearest friends and teammates passed away. Andrew J. Gauthier, No. 8. He lost a long and hard fought battle to cancer, namely leukemia. He was only a sophomore in high school. A great hockey player and a Red Sox fan.

A kid who would do anything for anyone. He fought to beat that disease just so the people close to him would not be saddened and hurt with his passing. He fought for us, not for himself. He is truly the toughest and most selfless individual I have ever met.

His number in hockey was No. 8. And, in Warwick, Rhode Island, where we are from, the N. 8 is seen everywhere. It is a number that can be spotted out by anyone who was close to him. It is as if he is sending us signs that he is still here. And he is still with us because “No. 8 lives forever” in our hearts.

Personally, a strong signal came at my grandfathers funeral. It was a military funeral, so it is common for volleys to be shot off in honor of the one who passed. There were three men shooting off volleys, and there were three rounds, totaling nine bullets. After the fact, only eight were found. Those eight were presented to my grandmother.

My family broke down. Eight were recovered. Not the full nine. Eight. Just as if the ninth disappeared into thin air. It was without a doubt Andrew telling us that my grandfather was in heaven, with him, safe.

That saying, “No. 8 lives forever” is a saying that is a constant in my, and the Andrew J. Gauthier community. We say it to ourselves on a daily basis. We remind ourselves that our dear friend is still with us today.

If one pays a visit to Rhode Island, one will see some of his bumper magnets for cars. They read “Number 8 lives forever: Andrew J. Gauthier.” They are a staple around Rhode Island because it seems everyone has one. Andrew touched that many people.

Back to the home run. As I previously stated, Andrew always send us signals that he is alright. And, it involves the number eight. At first, the home run didn’t mean anything to me. I didn’t even see it live. I was, of course rooting for the Angels that game. I hate the Red Sox. Absolutely hate them. But, Andrew did not, and he always made sure that he told me that the Yankees stunk (substitute stunk for another word).

The Red Sox ended up winning the game, and I was not happy. But, it was not until later that night, in fact much later that night that I realized something. My friend was the one who pointed out this to me.

McDonald’s home run sailed over the green monster, and hit a car windshield. The baseball completely destroyed it.

On the car was one of Andrew’s bumper magnets. I was in shock. “Number 8 lives forever: Andrew J. Gauthier” was seen on national television.

Naturally, I was happy to see it, but still unhappy that McDonald had hit the home run.

I later learned that it was McDonald’s eighth home run of the season. My jaw dropped. It was his eighth home run of the season, and it struck a car with his magnet on it.

Then, I learned something else. Before that home run was hit, Jered Weaver retired the first Red Sox hitters he had faced. Another eight. My jaw dropped even further, almost through the floor.

I couldn’t believe it. I was thrilled. Words cannot describe the feeling that I had when I learned all of this. Andrew was indeed sending us another signal. This time it was through his Red Sox.

Also, it was hit on the August 17. Seven plus one adds up to eight. August is the eighth month of the year.

To many, it may have been just another home run that hit a car with a magnet on it. To me, and my friends and family, it meant something else. Something very special.

Andrew was a special young man. He had a funny way about him when he was with us.

Wait, let me rephrase that. He is still with us. He is with us all in our hearts. He just sent us another very powerful signal that he is still with us. And, it was done in typical Andrew fashion. With the number eight.

I see eights everywhere I go, so I see Andrew everywhere I go. It goes to show that when someone passes away, they are never gone. They truly live on forever.

This is the only Red Sox home run that I am, and ever will be, happy for. I am sure that Andrew still does not believe me when I write this, knowing my extreme love for the Yankees. I never thought that I would be happy for a Red Sox home run in my life. It is a truly special home run to me.

I will leave you with this final thought. The number eight has a funny way of showing itself. It will show itself in the most obscure ways. Now, for everyone reading this, whether you knew Andrew of not, you will now start to see eights everywhere. It is Andrew, my dear friend and teammate.

“Number 8 lives forever.” In memory of Andrew J. Gauthier. He was also born on Christmas, one more little tidbit about this special individual.


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Alex Rodriguez: Kevin Long’s Small Tweaks Are Paying Off In Big Ways


Last night, Alex Rodriguez shined brightly in the New York Yankees 8-3 victory over the Kansas City Royals by crushing three home runs.  They were also done in three consecutive at bats.  It was the fourth time in his career that he has done such, the first time since 2005 against Bartolo Colon and the Anaheim Angels.

Curtis Granderson also went deep, giving Yankee fans something to cheer about.  I mean, who isn’t rooting for this guy?

What do both of the performances have in common: They were the results of revamped swings courtesy of Yankees hitting guru Kevin Long.

Granderson, who has been struggling mightily this year, went to Kevin Long asking for advice.  The most observable difference in his swing is that he is starting his hands back more.  Also, his new swing, according to Granderson himself, will “eliminate some of the moving parts.” (Bryan Hoch,

With his new swing, Granderson went 2-3 in his first game, 1-5 in game two, and 1-5 yesterday with a home run, giving him a .384 average post Long’s advice.

In Alex Rodriguez’s case, Long wants Alex to use 100 percent of his hips instead of 70 percent. The results last night were staggering.

“It was about clearing my hips,” Rodriguez said. “It was nice to actually get some good work and carry it into the game. … He thought my hips weren’t coming through and basically trying to come through about 70 percent. He got them to 100 percent, and I think it really helped.” (, Bryan Hoch).

Kevin Long also worked with Mark Teixeira, who was struggling a great deal at the beginning of the season.  Long called it something so small, comparing it to a millimeter.  According to Long, his legs were too close together and his head was not staying still, causing him not to completely see the ball.

“That’s half the battle,” Teixeira said. “Seeing the ball. And by widening up my stance, it allowed me that, to get a better view. I picked it up right away.” (Newark Star-Ledger, Mike Mazzeo).

Since then, Teixeira has been hitting like the Mark Teixeira that Yankee fans have come to know and love.

Nick Swisher also spent last off season with Kevin Long, working on his swing after hitting only .128 in the 2009 postseason.  This year, Swisher is hitting .296 with 22 home runs and 67 RBI, while being selected to the All-Star game with the final vote.

Robinson Cano also spent time in the Dominican Republic with Long, making tweaks to his swing, closing his stance, and learning to become a much more patient hitter.  This work has clearly paid off, with Cano being the most consistent hitter the Yankees have had this season.  He is hitting .324 with 21 home runs and 73 RBI in his first year as the number five hitter in the Yankee lineup.

The Yankees have themselves a great hitting coach in Kevin Long.  Always upbeat, positive, and full of energy, he has been doing his job at an elite level.  Kevin Long deserves a lot of credit for the Yankees success at the plate, especially this year.

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New York Yankees Fall to Kansas City Royals in Water-Logged Game

The deciding factor in a game between the mighty New York Yankees and the lowly Kansas City Royals was a solo home run that came in the fifth inning.

The game featured two rain delays: one 31-minute delay and one two-hour-and-10 minute stoppage.  There was lightning in the sky, but none coming off the Yankee bats as they fell victim to the Kansas City Royals 4-3.

Yankees starting pitcher Dustin Moseley struggled in his fourth start, especially with his control, particularly in the second inning of the game when the Royals got to him for three runs.  Moseley only lasted 4.1 innings, allowing eight hits and four runs.

Kyle Davies held the Yankees scoreless until the third inning, giving up three runs with RBI from Mark Teixeira, Robinson Cano, and Lance Berkman.

But, the final blow came in the fifth inning, when Billy Butler hit a solo home run off of the right field foul pole, which was followed by the second rain delay.

Making it an official game, the Yankees were eager to get back on the field to get the win, but the bats did not help their case.

After four shutout innings from Chad Gaudin, Kerry Wood, Boone Logan, and Joba Chamberlain, the Yankees went 0-for-8 with runners in scoring position after the longer rain delay.  They were 3-15 with runners in scoring position throughout the entire night.

The Yankees had a threat in the ninth, with men on base the whole inning, including first and third with Robinson Cano at the plate.

Cano ended up grounding to second to end the five-hour-and-36-minute marathon that was Game No. 115 of 162.

Luckily, they did not lose any ground to the Tampa Bay Rays, who fell to the Orioles 5-0.  By the way, Baltimore is 9-2 under former Yankee manager Buck Showalter.

The Red Sox also did not gain any ground on the Yankees, as they suffered their second consecutive walk-off loss.  This time it was to the Texas Rangers, courtesy of Nelson Cruz.

The Yankees hope to get back to their winning ways later today, as Phil Hughes (13-5, 3.92 ERA) and Sean O’Sullivan (0-3, 6.75 ERA) face off at 7:10 in game three of four in Kansas City.


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The New York Yankees’ Gutty, Gritty Return

The Yankees struck out 17 times in last night’s game.

Javier Vazquez only lasted 4.1 innings, allowing eight hits, six earned runs, and two walksmaking that two shaky starts in a row for Vazquez.

Not to mention that the Yankees were down 6-1 to one of the best pitchers in baseball, Cliff Lee.

Being down by even one run against Lee is a task within itself.  But down by five?  Good luck.

Lee was in total control in the first six innings.  It looked as if the Yankees were going to be in for a long night.  But don’t tell that to this Yankee team.

After being shut down for the most part of the game, the Yankees finally got to Lee and his 11 strikeouts in the seventh inning, putting up two runs to reduce their deficit to 6-4.  Lee’s final line was 6.1 innings pitched, allowing eight hits, four earned runs, and striking out 11.

In the eighth, the Yankees got one run back from Frank Francisco on a mammoth home run from Marcus Thames, making the score 6-5.

The Yankees capped their comeback in the ninth, getting two runs from young Texas fireballer Neftali Feliz on a game-tying single by Derek Jeter and then a go-ahead single by Thames.

Having mounted an impressive comeback, the Yankees were primed to win this game with Mariano Rivera coming in to close the door.  But it looked like Mariano was going to struggle for the second straight night.

Rivera allowed a triple by Elvis Andrus to begin the ninth, pumping up the Rangers and the fans in Arlington.  But Rivera being Rivera, he wasn’t flustered one bit.  He ended up getting it done in typical Rivera fashion.

This was a big game for the Yankees.  They gained a game on the Tampa Bay Rays, increasing their lead in the AL East to two games.  But the big story was what happened during this game.

Just missing their second three-game losing streak in the young month of August, the Yankees did what they were known for last season: coming from behind.

The gutty, gritty Yankees of 2009 made a return.  They fought back in typical Yankee fashion, a theme that hasn’t been seen much in the 2010 season.

Perhaps a sign of things to come, the Yankees need to ride this game into Kansas City, and do what they need to do against the Royals.


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Dustin Moseley Blows Away Boston

It was supposed to be a matchup built for national television.  AJ Burnett vs. Josh Beckett, two hard-throwing, old-school pitchers facing off in Yankee Stadium.

All Yankee fans were salivating just thinking of it: Burnett pumping mid-90s fastballs by Red Sox hitters, lighting up the radar gun, fueling the Yankee Stadium crowd and shutting down the Red Sox.

When AJ is on, he is virtually unhittable.

But, AJ Burnett was scratched before last night’s game due to back spasms, and Dustin Moseley was called upon to step up, originally slated to pitch today at Yankee Stadium (Phil Hughes goes today against John Lester).

Moseley spent most of this season in Scranton/Wilkes Barre, going 4-4 with a 4.21 ERA before he was called up on July 2, 2010.

This young man is the exact opposite of AJ.  His fastball tops out at 90 mph, and he doesn’t possess shut-down stuff.  He relies on control to get outs, much like Greg Maddux.

Were Yankee fans optimistic about the game? Probably not, but the bottom line was that the Red Sox were preparing to face Burnett, not Moseley.  They had to make an adjustment as well.

Questions arose about Moseley.  Could he handle the atmosphere that is Yankees-Red Sox?  Was his stuff good enough?  And, could he keep the Yankees in this game against Beckett?

Facing an enormous challenge, Dustin Moseley stepped up and threw the game of his life.

As an emergency starter, Moseley out-dueled Josh Beckett last night at Yankee Stadium, pitching six and a third innings, allowing two hits, two runs and striking out five while leading the Yankees to a 7-2 victory over the Boston Red Sox.

And, like Maddux, he was striking out Marco Scutaro on a Maddux-like two-seam fastball that starts outside the zone and cuts back in the zone.

This was a big game for the Yankees.  They had a chance to gain a game on the Tampa Bay Rays after they lost 1-0 to the Toronto Blue Jays, and they were counting on Moseley to deliver.

And deliver he did.  Dustin Moseley deserves a lot of credit for his performance.

Perhaps the best thing for him was not knowing he was pitching last night.  He did not have time to think about his upcoming start the night before.  He had no time to think, he had to dwell on the Red Sox, ESPN Sunday Night Baseball, and the big stage.  He had to focus all of his energies on getting ready to pitch.

He didn’t just give the Yankees a chance to win.  He shut down the Red Sox and offered them no help.  He got it done in a big way.

He wasn’t even supposed to pitch today.  Good thing he did.


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