Freddie Garcia pitched a very good game. He is the rare craft righty. His splitter which should probably be called a sinker because of how slow he throws it had great downward movement and after seeing the curve the TB team had trouble picking it up. This is why if you saw the game or the highlights you saw a lot of swings and misses on balls very low. Garcia did allow 8 hits in 7 innings which will happen with him, but not walking anyone is huge for him. He can’t afford free passes and it shows in his game as the 3 times he has walked 3 or more batters in a start he was lit up. Overall, his ERA is a fantastic 3.21 and the offense has really let him down. He has one loss in relief so he is 8-6 as a starter (17 starts), but at 3.21 the Yankee offense has really let him down (and is a good reason why W-L record is as much about run support as ERA). His OPS against is .750 but his record should really be 11-5 based on the amount of runs allowed.
Because Garcia was throwing strikes and mixing in a lot of different pitches and locations it was a very interesting game to call. Cone, who has an odd way about him, but does a good job of getting into the pitch selection, although he doesn’t always say what he would call, he does ask “what would you call here” or says “let’s see what he comes back with.” I would like to see a little more of “let’s see if he comes back with another curve ball a little lower” as a comment stating what he thinks is the best to call. I say this because that is what I do when I watch the game…in fact, when I am watching with people I say what I would throw and where. Cone does call it sometimes though. Anyway, there were a lot of interesting times to go over pitch selection yesterday and I felt Martin/Garcia did a very good mixing it up.
The 7th inning was a good inning to enjoy the nuances of the game. With the Yanks leading 2-0, TB started off with a bunt down the 3rd base line by Sean Rodriguez that started fair and then rolled foul…only to roll back and touch the outside part of the 3rd base bag and roll just beyond the bag. If you have ever seen a 3rd baseman, 1st baseman or catcher immediately grab a ball once it goes foul; this is the reason. Nunez charged the bunt, but then didn’t follow fast after the play and Garcia who looks in slow motion all the time didn’t hustle either, but the fact the Yanks didn’t even try to touch it was pretty sad…In fact Girardi came out on the play almost as if the Yankees didn’t know the rule? One play like that can cost a game for you. Freddie came back on got Brignac to pop up to 3rd (BTW, Brignac looked awful yesterday at the plate and looks to be earning his .453 OPS…yes that is not a typo). After Damon grounded out to 1st moving Rodriguez to 2nd Nunez booted another ball making it 1st and 3rd and 2 outs. Girardi had an interesting decision here as Garcia was pitching very well but the lefty Kotchman was up and he had 3 hits (aided by the poor range of Jeter). Girardi decided to go to Logan because Kotchman has an OPS of .620 against lefties and .935 against righties. I think this was a correct move because Logan has been pitching well and if TB kept the matchup the Logan one is better than the Garcia one taking all factors into consideration. If they did decide to pinch hit for Kotchman, the matchup probably would not have been as good, however, you take out one of the top 2 hitters in a close game that you are winning (key factor).
Now is where some interesting pitch selection came into play…Logan started Kotchman off with a breaking ball for a strike (his pitch is kind of a slurve but he sometimes throws it more down and sometimes more like a slider) then threw a slurve for a low ball followed by a slurve that was very close on the outside corner for a ball. Logan then fired a fastball strike on the outside edge for a 2-2 count. Now is when the pitch selection is critical. They are setup where they could call anything right now and in my opinion there are advantages to throwing each pitch. If you can get by with the fastball the next pitch being a breaking ball is a very good option, but the curve is the slightly better pitch to get Kotchman out on at this very moment. Martin went with the fastball that just missed off the plate for a ball. Now at 3-2 I felt the curve was the correct pitch to throw as the fastball is the pitch that would be more expected and shown a little more control. Logan threw a good slurve but Kotchman, who was fooled, reached out and hit a weak grounder just foul. Darn! That was the pitch you wanted the out on and now what do you do is what raced through my mind. At that moment, Cone said, “so now what do you come back with?” This was really an interesting call because Kotchman was clearly geared for the fastball on the last pitch and was lucky to still be alive so how much would he adjust on this next swing and look a little more for the curve? That tiny difference was enough for Martin to call the fastball and that tiny bit of recognition was the difference in getting the fastball by Kotchman for strike 3!!! I know this excites me more than most people, but it was an incredibly strategic battle going on that is not enjoyed by enough if us.”
This blog is long enough and I have to get to work, but Jeter missed 2 plays I thought SS’s should make with decent range in this game; one in particular he thought Nunez would get and didn’t play it like you would if you were the only option and it cost a hit.
I am pretty down on Nunez as I have no confidence in him defensively right now and I really wish Chavez was ready (should be soon). His offense hasn’t been good either, but he did drop in a huge 2 out single knocking in 2 runs to give Rivera an easy 4 run save.
I think Nunez needs more time and seasoning at whatever position they feel he is best for. The backup options are not good until Chavez comes back. The Yanks might take a look at Laird at 3rd?