Thursday, April 28, 2011

Bartolo, Cano Shine In Yankees Win

Before last night's 3-1 Yankee win over the White Sox, I tweeted to my fellow fanatics that we would see if Bartolo Colon was the real deal. I've given him much praise for what he's done so far, but there was still a part of me that was not ready to believe that he is as good as he looked in his start before last night. Bartolo proved me wrong, again.

His performance last night at the stadium was an even better showing than the start in Toronto. The biggest difference was that he pitched a brilliant 8 innings without any signs of fatigue or wear. He allowed only one run and struck out 6 batters. Again, he had all four of his pitches working last night--fastball, curveball, changeup and slider--and he dialed his fastball up to 96 mph. This is amazing when you consider that before this season, he hadn't pitched in the majors since '09.

But besides the performance, Colon is showing a cool confidence on the mound right now, that I believe is the reason why Joe Girardi opted to keep him in the game for 8 innings. We knew before the game that Rafael Soriano, who's clearly in a battle with himself right now, would probably not be available for the 8th inning, but I don't believe that to be the reason why Colon was stretched. David Robertson, Joba Chamberlain and Boone Logan were all available. I think Girardi saw what I did: a guy in a good pitch count that was in complete domination mode. Colon simply dominated the White Sox last night. He now sports an ERA of 2.77. Dare I say that Bartolo may be moving back to his 2005, Cy-Young form? It certainly looks that way right now.

And let's give it up for Robinson Cano, who is on his way to another standout season. With singles from Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez, Robbie clubbed a sharp line drive to the right field seats for a 3-run home run that would prove to be all the Yankees needed last night. He now has 4 homers and 10 RBIs on the season.

Overall, the Yankees offense didn't do much, but the home run was just enough for Bartolo to keep them in line for the win. Tonight, the ace, CC Sabathia, gets the start against Edwin Jackson. Could be another good night for Robbie, as lefties are hitting .329 against Jackson so far.

Follow Rasheeda Cooper on twitter: @ra_cooper

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Brian CashmanLooks Like A Genius Right Now

Let's go back to the off-season, fanatics. The Yankees took a big hit when they lost out on the Cliff Lee sweepstakes. Not their fault, as Brian Cashman made "The Assassin" the most lucrative offer of all the teams pursuing him. But still, the Yankees lost out and were dubbed "losers." Add to that the retirement of Andy Pettitte. So Cashman put his GM brain in action and scrambled to acquire players that he believed could keep this team afloat until better options become available mid-season.

The majority of Cashman's acquisitions came with scrutiny from the fan base and some in the media. The signings of Bartolo Colon and Freddy Garcia were met with angst as most believed that these two were no longer the big-impact pitchers they were in their past, and could never fit the bill of the rotation that took this team to their 27th World Championship in '09. I was one who cried foul at these signings, as I believed that Cashman had jewels in his farm system, like those of the Killer B's, and didn't need to ride his hopes on "washed-up" pitchers. Garcia actually had an admirable season with the White Sox last year with a 12-6 record, but it wasn't enough to convince me and many others that he had the "gusto" to make it New York. And so, I scoffed.

More scrutiny came at Cashman, with his hesitation to sign closer Rafael Soriano as Mariano Rivera's set-up man. Soriano had 47 saves last year, the most in the AL and threw a fastball that dominated even the best hitters in the East. It seemed like a no-brainer that Cashman would sign him; if for no other reason to stack his bullpen to off-set a weak rotation. But Cash was emphatically against the signing, preaching the ridiculousness of paying closer-type money to a would-be set-up guy, and asking the fan base to trust that he would make the right move for the team.

The Yankees front office stood behind him in the beginning, but with Pettitte's retirement seemingly inevitable as the days wore on, and with no other top-brand options left, the front office forced Cash to make the signing. A great PR move would have been for him to say that he was on board with bring Soriano over and that he was happy to have him play for the team. But Cashman made it clear that the signing was not his choice and if left to him, never would have been made.

And now, we fast-forward to the season. The Yankees have played 20 games so far. In those games, Soriano has seen action in 11. In the 10.1 innings he's pitched, he's allowed 12 hits, 9 earned runs, 8 walks, has blown a save and sports a 7.84 ERA. In last night's loss to the White Sox, he gave up the winning 2-run home run to Paul Konerko on a fastball that sailed directly across the middle of the plate, putting the Sox up 3-2. It was Konerko who singled on a line drive to left off of Soriano in Monday's game, giving the Sox an insurance run as the hit scored Brent Lillibridge and put them up 2-0.

Soriano has a few games where he's actually pitched well and those games came early in the series against the Tigers and Twins. But he's faltered since, and has had a hand in the majority of the Yankees losses thus far. Meanwhile, Freddy Garcia has pitched to a 0.69 ERA in 2 starts. He's allowed only a run on 5 hits with 9 strikeouts. Bartolo Colon "stutter-stepped" in his first relief appearance against Detroit, giving up 4 runs in 4 innings. But he has settled in ever since, and in his next 3 games has only allowed 3 runs total, and in all 4 games has 20 strikeouts. In his start against Toronto, he pitched 6.2 solid innings and gave up only 2 runs to secure his first win.

Garcia and Colon have stepped up and given this rotation and team what they needed following an uncertain off-season. Soriano hasn't been abysmal, but he's clearly not pitching like he did last year. This was exactly why Cashman did not want to take a chance on Soriano as a set-up man. He still has a closer's mentality and is not comfortable in a role where he's not saving games. And, what's up with the scowl? Would it be too much to ask of this guy to at least look like he wants to be with this team?

It is still early in the season. For all I know, Garcia and Colon could completely fall apart from here on out, and Soriano could prove worth more than his contract. Could happen. But right now the opposite is true, and Brian Cashman, on the basis of being a shark GM, is WINNING!

Follow Rasheeda Cooper on twitter: @ra_cooper

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The 3-day Yankee Rewind

My sincere apologies, fanatics, as I have failed to post on the last 3 Yankee games. Apparently my browser, Mozilla Firefox, became cranky for whatever reason and kept blocking me from opening up Bomber Boulevard. Don't really know what happened; I tried to clear cookies and the cache to no avail for 2 days, and now all of a sudden, I'm back in. So, I'm not gonna question it, I'll just be grateful that it's working and hope this never happens again.

So where do I begin? Perhaps I'll start with a quick review of Saturday and Sunday's games. In a nutshell, the Yankees beat up on the Orioles. The birds had no answer for the Yankees brutal offense and dominating pitching of CC Sabathia on Saturday, as they were shelled, 15-3. Two homers by Russell Martin--3-run homer and solo shot--a 2-run homer by Jorge Posada and a grand slam by Alex Rodriguez put the game away. But the sweetest of them all was the 2-run homer by Brett Gardner in the 9th inning to answer an obvious shot to Martin's back by Orioles pitcher, Josh Rupe, who clearly didn't appreciate Martin embarrassing his team. Not only did Gardy back up his catcher, he also got the big hit he needed to hopefully get himself back on track.

Sunday's game was another stellar showing for Freddy Garcia who pitched 6 scoreless innings, showing the same "stuff" he displayed against Texas the week before. Unfortunately, his bullpen collapsed with Joba Chamberlain giving up a 2-run homer in the 7th to Mark Reynolds, and then the invincible Mariano Rivera showing his "human" side as he gave up a walk, single and double to allow one more run to score in the 9th. The game was tied; Garcia lost his chance for a 2nd straight win, but the Yankees scored 3 runs in the 11th and won the game, 6-3.

And now we get to last night's loss at the stadium to the Chicago White Sox. The lowly Chicago White Sox, who, going into last night's game, had lost 10 of their last 11. Why is it that the Yankees always seem to allow a lesser team to sneak one in? While I doubt the Sox will win this series, it just irritates me that they managed to best the Yankees last night. Typical of the Bombers to shut down to a pitcher they've never faced before, but this Phil Humber dude sported an 2-5 record with a 4.42 ERA coming into yesterday's game. With the way the Yankees' offense has been swinging the bats, I thought this game would go down as a win, but, that's baseball. On any given day the best team will fall to one of the worse. It happens.

But the worse part of the loss was that AJ Burnett pitched another great game. He gave up only 1 run on 3 hits and he pitched 8 innings. Going into the game he hadn't pitched more than 6.1 innings in any of his starts. He gave the Yankees exactly what they needed, but got no help from his offense. That A-Rod broke up what was turning into a no-hitter by Humber in the 7th, was a relief, but very little consolation. The loss was the first April loss for AJ since becoming a Yankee. His record now stands at 8-1.

Tonight is game 2 of the 4-game series. It's a beautifully warm day in the Bronx and Ivan Nova is on the mound. He won his first career win in a solid performance last year against the White Sox. Let's hope history repeats itself.

Follow Rasheeda Cooper on twitter: @ra_cooper

Thursday, April 21, 2011

A Letter To Bartolo Colon

Dear Bartolo Colon,

First, let me start by congratulating you on your first win of the season. You pitched a spectacular game, going 6.2 innings with 2 earned runs and 7 strikeouts. It was amazing watching you deliver all of the pitches in your arsenal; the fastball, changeup, slider and curveball were all working for strikes yesterday. It was a little "touch-and-go" for you in the beginning, as you allowed a single and a walk in the 1st inning and then gave up the solo shot to J.P. Arencibia in the 2nd. But thankfully,scoring in the first 2 innings from the lineup had the Yankees on the board already with 3 runs, so the homer didn't hurt as much, and you cruised from there, pitching 1-2-3 innings in the 3rd, 4th and 5th. You pitched a solid, veteran game tonight and for that I, and every other fanatic, are truly grateful.

And with that, I would like to formally apologize to you. I have never been a fan of yours, as you were once the CY Young pitcher for the Yankees' nemesis, LA Angels. There was much talk about you when you won the award in 2005, and I resented the sentiment of those who dared speak of you possibly winning the MVP award that year, when it clearly belonged to Alex Rodriguez. I remember the game that year on April 26 when A-Rod hit 3 homers off you; I was there at the old stadium that night and, although I'm fully aware of how great A-Rod is, I didn't think much of you as you allowed your team to lose at the hand--or should I say bat--of one man.

Then I watched as you completely shut down in the 4 seasons that followed. Shoulder injuries made you a shell of your former Cy Young self, and it seemed that you would never be relevant as a big-game pitcher in the majors ever again.

And so when rumors first came of the Yankees showing interest in you, I completely lost it. I blamed the rumors on you; theorizing you using the Yankees name to build interest for yourself during the offseason. I won't go over everything that I said again, but you can read it all here. And then, when the Yankees decided to sign you in late-January, well, let's just say that I wasn't thrilled at all; you can read about that here. I blamed the Yankees' vulnerability to the indecision of my beloved Andy Pettitte on their rush to judgment. I even broadcast my anger on twitter. But one of my fellow bloggers, J-Boogie of Baseball & The Boogie Down, reminded me that you were a low-risk signing, and that if you were to give the Yankees what they needed, then that was a plus for them. He was right, and I, was so wrong.

You have given this team everything they've needed and then some. You were fantastic in Spring training; you've pitched solid innings this season in relief. And now, last night, you gave this team a reason to be comfortable while Phil Hughes does his stint on the DL for his "dead" arm. No one would ever think that a guy who hadn't pitched since 2009; a guy plagued with shoulder injuries, could come back this strong, but you have, and you are no longer to be ridiculed, but to be commended. Thank you.

A new believer,

Rasheeda Cooper

Follow Rasheeda Cooper on twitter: @ra_cooper

Monday, April 18, 2011

Season of the Home Run Continues In Yanks Win

There's a reason why I chose to call this site Bomber Boulevard. The Yankees have always been a team to come up big when they need to via the home run. So far this season, homers have been what's propelled this team to lead the AL East in standings, not to mention break their own franchise record with 27 homers in their first 14 games. Last night, the "Season of the Home Run" continued as the Yankees took the series from the Texas Rangers with a 6-5 comeback win.

With all this talk of home runs, it was a single that actually won the game last night. Eric Chavez, who replaced Alex Rodriguez at 3rd while he continues to nurse his stiff back and oblique, broke a 5-5 tie in the 8th inning with a line-drive single to center that scored Mark Teixeira from second. I have to say that Chavez was a great pick up by the Yankees as he seems able to fill in for A-rod beautifully. Not just with his offense, but his defense is still solid.

But back to the homers. In the 2nd inning, Robinson Cano hit a solo shot to the rightfield second deck, pulling the Yanks with one as Texas' Adrian Beltre had launched a 2-run homer in the first. With the Yanks down 3-1 in the 5th on an RBI single from Beltre in the 4th, Russell Martin slapped a run shot to left on a 1-2 count scoring Chavez, who singled to center. In the 6th with the Yanks down 4-3, Curtis Granderson hit another 2-run shot to right scoring Derek Jeter who singled to right. With the Yankees ahead 5-4, Texas' Michael Young doubled scoring Ian Kinsler, and the game was tied at 5-5 in the 7th. The previous play mentioned by Chavez and Teixeira in the 8th would win the game.

Even with the win though, I am a little thrown by CC Sabathia. He pitched another "shaky" game last night, giving up 8 hits and 4 earned runs in 6.1 innings on 117 pitches. He struggled to locate his fastball last night, and this has been his biggest issue in all of the games he's pitched so far. But, CC somehow still has great numbers. His ball-strike ratio last night was 39-73. His ERA is at 2.52, and he's only allowed 7 runs in his first 4 games. Not bad at all, but my concern is that he's laboring through his starts right now, and doesn't seem comfortable at all. I just hope that his performances and another win opportunity gone don't get into his head and take him out of his game. That missed opportunity came via Joba Chamberlain, who walked Kinsler in the 7th to set-up the RBI double by Young that tied the game.

Next game will be tomorrow in Toronto against the Blue Jays. With the off day today giving him 2 days to treat his back, A-Rod should be available.  AJ Burnett gets the start against Kyle Drabek, who's 1-0 with a 1.93 ERA in 3 games. Since coming to the Yankees, Burnett hasn't had much success against his former team. He has a 1-4 record combined for both the '09 and '10 seasons. Hopefully, he'll continue to pitch well tomorrow and improve to 2-4.

Follow Rasheeda Cooper on twitter: @ra_cooper

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Garcia Shows Veteran Prowess in Yankees Win

Freddy Garcia was the last Yankee starter to make his 2011 debut today; a cold, rainy and stark day at the stadium. Having only pitched one game in relief last week in Boston with a 79-pitch count, it would have been understandable if Garcia was "less than stellar" and a bit rusty in his debut. But what he did today, was the perfect example of how veteran pitchers can be successful by reinventing themselves when their best "stuff" no longer exists.

Garcia pitched 6 shutout innings today. He held off one of the best offensive lineups in the Texas Rangers by mixing not only his pitches, but his pitch speeds. Garcia worked his fastball, changeup, curveball and slider with varying speeds anywhere from 68 to 87 mph. And not just the variation of his pitches, his location was on point. In 6 solid innings, he allowed only two hits, 1 walk and surprisingly, had only 1 strikeout. He did all of this and only threw 84 pitches.

"I'm really happy...for starting," Garcia said. "I've been waiting a couple of weeks and it came out good."

Garcia got early run support, beginning with a single to center by Nick Swisher, followed by a 2-run shot by Mark Teixeira in the first. In the 3rd, Derek Jeter worked a walk and was moved to 3rd base by a double from Swisher. Teixeira would hit a sac-fly and Jeter scored. Teixeira's sac-fly would provide the winning run, as the Rangers would only score 2 runs; both coming in the 8th inning as Rafael Soriano struggled, giving up a double, 2 singles and a walk. He managed to get out of the inning with the Yankees still ahead at 3-2, and then, Robinson Cano widened the gap with a 2-run shot that hit the flagpole in right. With the score at 5-2, Mariano Rivera pitched a scoreless 9th giving up only one hit, a double to catcher Yorvit Torrealba.


Today also marked the 2011 debut of Yankees back-up catcher, Gustavo Molina, who went 0 for 3 but called an excellent game behind the plate. Alex Rodriguez left the game after the 6th inning with stiff muscle soreness in his back and oblique. Joe Girardi said that Alex would require no testing and that he'll ask him tomorrow how he feels to determine if he'll play in the rubber game.

Follow Rasheeda Cooper on twitter: @ra_cooper

Nova's Lack of Adjustment Will Be Problem Down the Stretch

My dad believes that Joe Girardi has a "problem" with Ivan Nova.

"Until I see otherwise, no one can convince me that Girardi doesn't like this kid," my dad said last Saturday. "He pulls this kid out the moment he makes a mistake. Nova will never build confidence that way."

Kudos for me for being wise enough to write this down when my dad said it as we spoke over the phone. I "somewhat" agreed with his take on Nova, but I also defended Girardi's quick pull of the trigger on this kid, and I sensed that in a game that Nova would fall apart, I'd be able to use this quote of my dad's as part of my defense.

In last night's 5-3 loss to the Texas Rangers, Nova was terrible. He lacked location on his pitches, pitching low fastballs and sliders into the dirt. He also threw wild pitches and more balls than strikes. In 4.1 innings, he walked 5 batters and earned all 5 of the Rangers' runs. Just not a good start at all, and you have to wonder if this kid is going to be able to give the Yankees needed innings down the stretch.

Now, last night's meltdown was different from what my dad was referring to. His argument was that in Nova's starts where he pitches really well in the beginning and falls flat later, Girardi doesn't give him a chance to pull himself out like he would if say, AJ Burnett were struggling. Well, last night, Nova was terrible from beginning to end, and I'm sure that as my dad watched this game, he too probably cheered when Nova was pulled in the 5th.

But what was apparent in last night's game, and all of his other starts where he's fared better, is Nova's lack of adjustment. And by adjustment, I'm talking on 2 fronts: 1) the lack of adjustment in his pitches, and 2) the lack of adjustment in his attitude. Is it just me or does anyone else see that Nova completely shuts himself down mentally when he's struggling? You see it in his body language and it's pretty much written all over his face. This kid can pitch, and for me, there's no reason why he can't rebound when he struggles. But he fails to pull himself together and settle down enough to execute the pitch he wants. And this is why I defend Girardi, because I think he sees this and does what he has to do to minimize the damage. You, like my dad, can argue that Nova will never build confidence if he's not allowed to battle through his struggles. I'd argue that Nova's confidence is his problem to deal with, not Girardi's.

And not to blame last night's loss completely on Nova, because the Yankee batters were not much better. They hit into 6 double plays. Six double plays. Seriously? Last night was the night of ground balls for this lineup. It was really no fun to watch.

On a brighter note, the bullpen did a pretty good job. David Robertson pitched a decent 5th in relief of Nova, although two wild pitches allowed Texas' Elvus Andrus to score. Boon Logan finally made it through an inning without giving up a run. And Lance Pendleton, who was brought up from Scranton/Wilkes-Barre to fill in the roster spot for Phil Hughes, pitched a spotless 7 through 9 with 2 strikeouts.

I like Ivan Nova. I said that he would be part of the starting rotation back in February. He's that good. But he has to learn to make adjustments when he's struggling. Freddy Garcia will pitch his first start today, weather permitting. He has yet to prove what he'll bring to the table in 2011. Bartolo Colon seems like a pitcher reinvented, and has now taken Hughes' slot in the rotation as he is on the DL with a "dead" arm. If Garcia bodes as well as Colon has, and if the two give the Yankees strong starts down the stretch, it will be Nova heading back to the minors if the Yankees do indeed make a trade for a starting pitcher.

Follow Rasheeda Cooper on twitter: @ra_cooper

Friday, April 15, 2011


I can tell you, fanatics, that there was much buzz and excitement at last night's game. I was there, and even when the Yankees were down to the Orioles for eight innings, there was a sense that something magical was going to happen. My brother-in-law, who supplied the tix for last night's game, left after the eighth inning. I refused to go, as no die-hard fanatic of my caliber ever would, and I told him, "These are the Yankees. You never know what's going to happen." and I was right.

Ninth inning. Yankees down by one run. Jorge Posada steps to the plate and first pitch, BAM! Game tied at 5. Yankees would score no more runs that inning, and the game would go into overtime. In the 10th, Mark Teixeira would work a walk and Alex Rodriguez would follow with a single, moving Tex to 3rd. Nick Swisher would follow an out by Robinson Cano with a sac-fly to one of the best right-field arms in baseball in Nick Markakis. We've seen him gun men down at the plate before; Yankees batters especially. But not last night; Tex put it into 2nd gear running to home plate and the Yankees won, 6-5.

This game could have easily gone to the Orioles. Phil Hughes struggled again with his velocity and location and Orioles batters took complete advantage for 4.1 innings. They had tagged Hughes for 5 runs by then. The Yankee batters got hits here and there, but they were unable to capitalize for 4 innings. But in the 5th, A-Rod doubled. Robbie doubled. A-Rod scored. In the 6th Brett Gardner got on. Derek Jeter singled moving Gardy to 2nd. Tex doubled and Gardy scored. Then A-Rod hit a sac-fly and Jeter scored. The score was then 5-3 and you knew that the Yankees were going to do something special.

And so they did. They mounted an amazing comeback. Jorge's silent bat came to life and gave the team a chance. But even before that, Joba Chamberlain made one of the best plays at the plate that you could ever expect from a pitcher. He threw a wild pitch behind catcher Russell Martin, and Orioles leftfielder Felix Pie attempted to advance to home plate from third. Joba charged home plate, received the throw from Martin who retrieved the ball, and he tagged Pie out. The brilliance of the play was that Joba used his right leg to completely block the plate; Pie was tagged before he could even make contact. The out kept the score then at 5-3.

A-Rod had another great game, going 3 for 3. Robbie went 2 for 5. Curtis Granderson finally came out of his slump and went 2 for 4. Speaking of Grandy, he and Swish made two fantastic catches in the outfield yesterday, keeping the Orioles from extra base hits which would have surely allowed them to take the win. And, oh yeah, Bartolo Colon, the surprise of all surprises, came through again, pitching 3 innings in relief without giving up a run.

Yesterday's win was a great win and it marked the first "pie" game of the 2011 season. That honor went to Swish for the winning sac-fly. His excitement following the smash paralleled the excitement that was ever present in the stadium last night. The boys did their thing. It was a good night for pie.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Do Your Part to Help a Patient With MS

Multiple sclerosis is an autoimmune disease that affects the brain and spinal cord. Approximately 2.5 million people around the world are afflicted with this disease.

While there is presently no cure for MS, it is treatable. But treatments are extremely expensive. You can do your part to help bring an MS patient from Canada to the US for needed treatment by placing a bid on a pair of authentically autographed New York Yankees shoes.

The high-heeled, peep-toe pumps were part of a series of shoes that were worn in what's called a Diva Dash--50 and 100 meter sprints in high-heels--in Nova Scotia. Both shoes are signed by members of last year's Yankees team. Funds raised will allow Krista Reid-Brownlow to bring her mother to New York for the liberation therapy, a new treatment that is believed to restore lost immobility and ease pain in MS patients. Krista's mom has been battling MS for 23 years.

For a link to the ebay auction page, as well as photos and videos featuring the shoes, click here.

Krista and the participants of Diva Dash wish to thank you for your support.

Follow Rasheeda Cooper on twitter: @ra_cooper

Back to the Grind and Last Night's Debacle at Fenway

I would first like to apologize to my readers as I have slipped in my daily blogging duties. The truth is when this blog began back in October, I wasn't as busy as I am now. This semester of school and all that it entails, along with other writing projects that I'm working on and work itself, have made it a bit more difficult for me to get to my blog when I'd like to. But I promise all of you that, beginning with this post, Bomber Boulevard will be updated daily and I will get my posts out and available to you at a reasonable time.

Okay, fanatics. Let's dissect what took place last night at Fenway. There's not much to it, really; the Yankees were completely shut down by Josh Beckett. Honestly, I can't ever remember him pitching so well. He had his fastball working and his changeup was killer. How many strikes did he get with that 12 to 6 changeup last night? I think I counted about five times that Yankee batters stood there watching it go down without a swing of the bat. Admitting like for anything that anyone wearing a Red Sox uniform does would be sacrilege. So I'll just say that I may have been somewhat impressed by Beckett's performance last night, hypothetically.

And although CC Sabathia was not at all ace-like, I have to applaud him for grinding out those innings and keeping Boston at one run. He did everything he could to give the Yankees a chance to get in the game, and that was no small feat as he had nothing working last night. He couldn't locate his fastball, his slider and breaking balls stayed low and in the dirt. I mean, CC really had nothing, but somehow managed to get the right pitch going when he needed it. And that's what makes a great ace, right? So, I take that back; CC was ace-like last night, he just wasn't CC-like.

And call me a fan in denial, but I'm not going to dog any of the Yankees batters. Seriously, when you're going up against an ace who's got all of his pitches working and is locating them beautifully, what can you do? The best hitters in baseball are no match for a performance like that, and Red Sox nation should be giving Beckett all the praise in the world because they probably would not have won without him, and they'd be looking at a 1-8 slide. And Jonathan Papelbon in the 9th was Jonathan Papelbon. The Yankees were hamstrung.

And make no mistake, fanatics, last night's win doesn't change the fact that the Red Sox are still a team in crisis. Their other pitching staff has yet to prove what Beckett did last night and without production from Youkilis and Ortiz, the losses will continue to pile up. There were pundits on SportsCenter today who said that Boston was "back on track." Really? They've only won 2 games! They sit at 2-7 and all of a sudden they're back? I think that the wins came against the Yankees, it's skewing the otherwise common sense of some of these sportscasters; the Red Sox can't truly be back until they've won some game in succession and get their win/loss totals back on the plus side.

And so, with no baseball tonight, I hope you all can fully recover from last night's loss, and gear up for a great series against Baltimore starting tomorrow. I'm seeing this series as a measuring stick to how seriously I'll take the birds this season. While they are on a great run and seem to be much improved under Buck Showalter, I am in no way willing to see them as a contender. It's not new for Baltimore to start great yet end at the bottom. Some teams just know how to be mediocre and the Orioles are one of them.

And one more thing, I hope that Alex Rodriguez will be well enough for tomorrow's game. With the way he's been hitting, the Yankees seemed "naked" without him last night. I also hope that Derek Jeter, Brett Gardner and Curtis Granderson will soon find a way to pull their heads out of the sand and get going already.

Follow Rasheeda Cooper on twitter: @ra_cooper

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Burnett Still Good in Yanks Win

AJ Burnett showed some glimpses of the pitcher he was last year in the Yankees' 4-3 win over the Twins this afternoon. A sloppy fourth inning recalled the horror of watching AJ completely fall apart in early innings last year. Fortunately however, he managed to limit the damage and the Yankees pulled away with their fourth win.

AJ actually pitched a good game today. He started with a 1-2-3 first inning, and had only allowed one hit overall to Denard Span heading into the fourth with the Yankees up 1-0. But he gave up consecutive doubles to Jim Thome and Justin Morneau which tied the game at 1-1. Another double in the inning to Jason Kubel, and the Twins would lead 2-1.

And that was really all the trouble that AJ allowed on the afternoon. He had both his fastball and changeup working well, especially the changeup which he threw for outs. The velocity on his fastball reached 94 mph. I was really impressed that with the speed on his fastball, he used his changeup more, which has always been one of his better pitches, yet a pitch that he struggled with mightily last season. Also impressive was that he had good location on all his pitches. He didn't get all the calls he should have, so you know that when he did miss, he didn't miss by much.

The Yankees offense went small today; taking advantage of walks, singles and doubles to put runs on without hitting the long ball. In the third inning, a sac-fly by Nick Swisher scored Brett Gardner, who had walked, stolen second and moved to third on a ground-out from Derek Jeter. In the fourth, Andruw Jones scorched a line drive double to left-field scoring Alex Rodriguez who had walked on a 3-2 pitch. Russell Martin followed Jones with a ground-out to first that scored Robinson Cano, who singled after A-Rod's walk at the top of the inning. Then Gardy hit a bloop single to right, scoring Jones and putting the Yankees ahead for good at 4-2. The Twins would later score another run in the seventh against Joba Chamberlain.


A-Rod and Mark Teixeira went hit-less for the first time this season, both going 0 for 3. Rafael Soriano got redemption today following his abysmal 8th inning in game 2 on Tuesday. He allowed just one hit and no runs. Mariano Rivera picked up his fourth save of the season.

Follow Rasheeda Cooper on twitter: @ra_cooper

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Girardi Slips, Yankees Lose

Last night's 5-4 loss to Minnesota never had to happen. Matter-of-fact, it never should have happened. The collapse in yesterday's game is a clear example of the how Joe Girardi over-manages his bullpen. I make no bones about touting Joe as one of the best managers in the game, who never gets any credit for managing a team of superstars which isn't as easy as most may think it is. But perhaps last night justifies the argument of many that Joe seems to have moved away from the brilliance of how he managed his bullpen in '08 and '09.

With the Yankees heading into the 8th inning leading the Twins 4-0, Girardi opted to bring in Rafael Soriano in relief of CC Sabathia. It was surprising on two fronts: 1) he had David Robertson warming up to come in and Robertson had only pitched one inning three days before against Detroit; 2) Soriano had pitched the day before. Now granted, before coming into last night's game, RaSo had only pitched twice, but looking ahead, you've got the Boston series coming up and, you've got Freddy Garcia facing Carl Pavano in tonight's game. As my blogging buddy J-Boogie pointed out, what if Garcia can only go 5-6 innings? You'll need Soriano to come in but now with 50+ pitches under his belt, he may not be available.

So Soriano comes in, walks Danny Valencia and Jim Thome, then gives up a single to Denard Span to load the bases. He strikes out Tsuyoshi Nishioka looking on a 92 mph fastball and it seems like he might be catching his stride, but he loses the zone again and gives up another walk to Joe Mauer which puts the Twins on the board for the first time at 4-1.

Girardi then decides to bring in Robertson, who gives up a double to Delmon Young thath cleared the bases and the game was tied at 4-4. You can say well, Robertson gave up the big hit that allowed the Twins to come back and win, but that double would have seemed a whole lot different had it been at the top of the 8th with no men on. Again, agreeing with J-Boogie, if Robertson could have gotten through at least 2/3 of the 8th but continued to struggle, that would have been the time to bring RaSo in for possible damage control. Hell, as good as Mo's been, and was, following Robertson in the 9th, I would have brought him in to finish out the 8th inning.

I can't really be mad at Girardi's next move, but it proved to support the classic phrase "hindsight is 20/20." With the game tied in extra innings, Boone Logan gets the call. He walks Span, then allows singles to Nishioka and Mauer and the Twins go up 5-4, which is all they would need. Had Girardi called in Luis Ayala instead, who pitched an excellent 10th inning relief of Boone, the game may have stayed tied and the Yankees would have had another chance in the 11th for a comeback.

What hurt most is that the win was blown for CC. He pitched an incredible game; throwing for strikes with his changeup, slider and fastball. This makes the second no-decision for the ace and you gotta believe that he must have felt really disappointed last night in the bullpen's performance, although you'll never hear him say that. After getting into trouble in the 2nd with singles to Jason Kubel and Valencia, CC was lights out, pitching 1-2-3 innings from the 3rd to the 7th. He gave up only the 2 singles, walked 1 and struck out 6.

And why couldn't CC pitch at least 2/3 into the 8th? If the argument is that you don't want to over-stretch him so early in the season, consider this: during CC's second start last year against the Rays, he pitched into the 8th in the now infamous "almost a no-hitter" game. In his second start. And last year, CC had more pitches going into the 8th of that game than he had last night, but Girardi had no problem stretching him. Hmmm.....

Fanatics, we know that Joe is a play-by-the-setup type of manager who obviously isn't comfortable with taking many chances. Last night was definitely an opportunity for him to take a chance on giving the 8th inning to Robertson, but, he made what he believed was the right call; the best we can hope for is that tonight's game is not more of the same.


The Yankees 4 runs came on a 3-run homer by Mark Teixeira and a solo shot from Andruw Jones. Alex Rodriguez continued his hit streak with a single in the 6th to right field.

Follow Rasheeda Cooper on twitter: @ra_cooper

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

A-Rod and Posada Homers Prove Enough For Yankees Win

If it seems like I'm gushing over Alex Rodriguez and the display that he's put on thus far this season, it's because I am. He's not the only Yankee that's been hitting well--Mark Teixeira and Jorge Posada, who'll we'll discuss in a moment, have been absolutely fantastic--but he is the only Yankee that has been on a tear since the very beginning of Spring Training, and has managed to carry his hot hitting into the season.

Last night in a 4-3 win against the Minnesota Twins, who quite frankly have proven themselves to be the Yankees' "punching bags," Alex tagged a 2-run line-drive to leftfield in the first inning scoring Mark Teixeira who walked on a hit-by-pitch. What I'm liking from Alex is that he's making solid contact with the fastball and is seeing every pitch well. He's also showing great patience at the plate and not taking swings at balls in the dirt or ones high in the zone. Alex's bat is quick right now, and the results have him with one of the best league slugging percentages at .929.

The other hero in last night's win was Jorge Posada. Jorge smacked another 2-run homer in the second inning to rightfield putting the Yankees up 4-0, and giving them all they would need to secure the game. This was his third homer in 2 days, so it may be safe to say that he's become acclimated to being the DH. Like Alex, Jorge is slugging at .929 and is doing his job to fill in the "holes" at the back of the lineup. I'm hoping that 2011 turns out to be a fantastic hitting season for Posada as he's nearing the end of his contract; he'll need to show the Yankees that he's viable enough to stick around for maybe another season or two.

And Ivan Nova pitched well last night. The biggest concern for him will be longevity as we're all familiar with his tendency to collapse in or around the 5th inning. That actually did happen last night as he gave up a double and single to Justin Morneau and Delmon Young, respectively, in the fourth, and then followed it with a double to Jim Thome which put the Twins on the board and within 2. In the fifth, he gave up doubles to Alexi Casilla and Tsuyoshi Nishioka which then put the Yankees lead at 4-3. But Nova hung in and threw strikes when he needed to, and mangaed to get out of the fourth and fifth innings without allowing Minnesota to tie or take the lead. And good call by Joe Girardi for being patient enough to let Nova stay in the game and pitch the sixth inning; last year, Nova probably would have been pulled in the fifth after giving up the scoring double to Nishioka.


Russell Martin continued his solid play going 1 for 3 with a single and stealing second base. Robinson Cano's bat is also getting hot; he went 2 for 4 on 2 singles in sixth and eighth innings. Derek Jeter and Brett Gardner continue to struggle, Jeter going 0 for 4 and Gardy going 0 for 3. Gardner did work a walk last night and steal second.

Follow Rasheeda Cooper on twitter: @ra_cooper

Monday, April 4, 2011

Poor Pitching Results in Yankees First Loss

Hopes for a series sweep of the Tigers were shattered yesterday, as the Yankees came up short in a 10-7 loss. This was a game that any baseball person would say should have resulted in a win since 6 of the 7 runs were made via the home run. But great offense is never enough if it's not backed up by solid pitching.

Phil Hughes was the starter and loser of today's game, and it was obvious from the first inning that his day would fare "problematic." After allowing a hit to Detroit DH Brennan Boesch, he gave up a 2-run homer to Miguel Cabrera on a breaking ball that sailed across the middle of the plate, putting Detroit up 2-0. Victor Martinez was next, and after getting him behind in the count on 2 strikes, Hughes struggled to put him away as Martinez fouled off several pitches. This struggle continued throughout the day for Hughes, and after only 4 innings, he had 90 pitches. He came through the second inning unscathed but in the third gave up an RBI single again to Boesch allowing Austin Jackson to score, followed by another 2-run shot to Cabrera. Throughout his start, Hughes struggled to locate his fastball. He would pitch 4 innings, give up 5 hits, 5 ER and only record one strikeout. He starts 2011 with an 11.25 ERA and decreased velocity on his fastball which failed to reach 90 mph.

The next four innings saw the debut of Bartolo Colon at the stadium and it was easy to forget his great Spring Training, yet remember why so many fanatics were up in arms when the Yankees signed him. He gave up a single to his first batter, Ramon Santiago; followed that with a 2-run homer to Boesch, who would go 4 for 4 today. Colon settled down though, striking out the side, but there was more of the same in the 6th inning. He walked Jackson, gave up 2 singles to Jhonny Peralta and Santiago, putting Detroit up 8-6, and then followed with a sac-fly to Boesch to put Detroit up by 3. He managed however, to make it through the 7th and 8th innings without giving up a run.

Joba Chamberlain pitched the 9th and after giving up Boesch's 4th hit, it seemed like he might make it out of the inning okay after inducing a 4-3 double-play. But he wouldn't. Outfielder Ryan Raburn tagged Joba for an RBI double, scoring Boesch and Detroit would go up, 10-7. The one plus to Joba's outing, was that he dialed his fastball up to 96 mph.

As frustrating as the pitching was today, the offense was fantastic. The Yankees hit 4 homers, the first of which was a 2-run, first-pitch blast from Jorge Posada which tied the game at 2-2 in the second inning. Mark Teixeira hit his third homer in as many games in the 3rd, putting the Yankees within 2 behind Cabrera's second 2-run shot. Robinson Cano's solo shot to the second deck in right field followed in the 3rd, and Posada came through again the 5th, hitting another 2-run homer, putting the score at 7-6. Russell Martin had another solid outing, going 3 for 4 with a double and 2 singles and Nick Swisher finally broke through, going 3 for 3 with 2 line-drive singles and an RBI double.

Not a great day for Yankee pitchers, particularly Phil Hughes. It's not at all time to push the panic button yet, but Hughes did give some cause for concern. Decreased velocity, poor location of his fastball and the inability to put batters away after 2 strikes are not a recipe for the kind of success he saw in 2010. Hopefully, we'll see a marked change in his next start.


Alex Rodriguez continued his hit streak today, going 1 for 5 with a single to center.

Follow Rasheeda Cooper on twitter: @ ra_cooper

Friday, April 1, 2011

The Home Opener

Yankees and Tigers line up for Opening Day ceremonies
So the first game has been played and the Yankees have secured their first win of the season, defeating the Detroit Tigers 6-3. On a cold, stark and misty day in the Bronx, the Yankees were able to pull out the ol' magic and give fanatics another great opening day for the record books. You had to love the way the Yankees stayed in that game yesterday, pretty much justifying their opposition to being called underdogs. There was much to muse at and some things to scoff at, but overall, the Yankees played THEIR game: getting the big hit when they needed it, showing patience at the plate, having their ace grind out 6 innings to keep them in the game and securing the win by bringing in "The Sandman." Here are the highlights:


Grandy's defense - The oblique strain that threatened to sideline Curtis Granderson for a few days was obviously fine yesterday, as Granderson made 2 fantastic body-stretching catches against Will Rhymes and Brandon Inge, both avoiding extra-base hits. Grandy's second catch against Inge was one for the highlights as it was an over-the-shoulder catch of a ball that was far in front of him.

Grandy's offense - With the game tied at 3-3 in the 7th, Granderson clocked a homer off former Yankee Phil Coke, who seemingly appears to be sporting a new "attitude" looking slimmer and sporting a longer "do." Nonetheless, the homer was the game winner that pretty much secured Grandy as Player of the Game.

Tex's homer - Mark Teixeira knows that he is the one guy besides Jeter that fans will be keeping a close eye on offensively. His problems in April are as analyzed as Jeter's range at shortstop. But Tex got the big, big hit yesterday with a 3-run homer which put the Yanks ahead 3-1 in the third. Yeah, it's only the first game, but we fanatics know that baseball is as much a mental game as a physical one. That homer yesterday could have only done positive things for Tex's psyche, and could possibly have been all he needed to shake his April blues.

Gardy working the bunt - Brett Gardner's legacy as a baseball player at the end of his career will be his speed. Until he really gets his swing in order, bunting will be his second tool to get on and run the bases. He worked hard on perfecting his bunt in Spring Training, and it was nice to see him not shy away from it in yesterday's game. Bunting with his speed, he could easily add about 10 more stolen base opportunities to his season total.

A-Rod - Coming off of the best ST of any other player in the lineup, Alex Rodriguez continued his hitting ways yesterday with a solid double to center. A-Rod's swing is on point and he's locked in. Unfortunately for him, yesterday's windy conditions prevented the double from being a homer and giving him his first RBI of the season.

Moose throwing out the first pitch - Mike Mussina stood on the mound at the new stadium yesterday for the first time to open the season by throwing the first pitch to of all people, Jorge Posada. Remember that drama? But it was all an afterthought to both former teammates and to Yankee fans as they gave Moose a standing ovation.

The relievers - Joba Chamberlain, Rafael Soriano and Mariano Rivera pitched the 7th, 8th and 9th innings, respectively. Nine up, nine down. Enough said. 


A rusty CC - I give him all the credit in the world for grinding out 6 tough innings yesterday, but CC Sabathia's pitch performance was less than admirable. He was perfect in the first inning, striking out the Tigers' 1-2-3 hitters. But he struggled afterward in the second, loading the bases and giving up a sac fly to put Detroit ahead 1-0. Throughout the game, he struggled putting batters away after getting two strikes. He would give up 2 earned runs in 6 innings on 106 pitches. Not a terrible day for the ace, but not a great one either.

First-pitch strikes - Patience at the plate is a Yankee trademark, but sometimes it's also a curse. Again, Derek Jeter and Gardy allowed first-pitch fastballs to come straight down the middle without taking a swing. I don't know the stats on this, but I'm certain enough that these two have to have lead the team in this category last season, perhaps with Nick Swisher close behind.  It drives me crazy, especially with Jeter who's one of the best fastball hitters in baseball. I don't understand it, but hopefully they'll both work on it as the season progresses.

Alex's miscalculation - I'm willing to forgive this one because it is something that you rarely see A-rod do, but yesterday he cost himself an extra base by assuming his double was a homer. As we know, Alex's trademark after a homer is to toss his bat toward the Yankees dugout and look in at his teammates. The 2 seconds it takes to do that, combined with the typical home run "trot" slowed Alex down and when he realized he missed the homer, he could only make it into 2nd with no chance of reaching 3rd. Again, Alex never does this, and I'd assume Joe Girardi probably said something to him afterward.


Russell Martin went 1-3 in his catching debut at the stadium
Jeter earned his first RBI with a sac-fly in the seventh inning, scoring Martin
Swisher went 1-4 with an RBI single in the eighth, scoring A-Rod
Yanks walked five times (Jeter - 1, Teixeira - 1, A-Rod - 2, Cano - 1)

Follow Rasheeda Cooper on twitter: @ra_cooper