Yes, I am invoking the spirit of Al Davis, the eccentric former head of Raiders Nation who passed away almost exactly 1 year ago. I was never a Raiders fan, nor was I ever really drawn to the brash and tanned man in the track suit. I did, however, respect his mantra: “Just win, baby.” Sometimes, it’s as simple as that. A win tonight would render the events surrounding the Yanks for the last few days irrelevant. It doesn’t matter how ugly it is. The Yanks just need to take care of business. Let’s take a quick look, since all day I’ve felt like the game was 25 minutes away.
Game 4: Jason Hammel vs. CC Sabathia
5:07pm EST at Yankee Stadium on TBS
Hammel Time: Part II
This will be the Yanks’ second crack at Hammel in this series, as he turned in a mediocre outing against the Bombers in Game 1. Hammel was inefficient, walking 4 and throwing 112 pitches in 5.2 IP, but the anemic Yankees’ offense only managed 4 H and 2 R while he was in the game. While the Yanks would take the opener 7-2, all of the damage was done against Jim Johnson in the 9th. I feel obligated to remind you of this, since it is now probably shocking to imagine a time when the Yanks were able to put together a 5 run inning considering that they haven’t scored more than 3 runs in any of their games since.
In the regular season, Hammel started 3 games against the Yankees with mixed results. Hammel allowed 7 ER but only 8 H in 16 IP, walking 7 and striking out 8. The Orioles managed only to win his last of these outings, which was also his first start back after a lengthy stint on the DL due to a knee injury. The knee injury flared up again in Hammel’s last start of the regular season on September 11, but didn’t seem to be an issue in Game 1. A-Rod has done the most damage against Hammel in his career (4 HR in 24 AB) but his woes with RHP in this series have resulted in a spot on the bench for Game 5. Of the Yanks who will actually be in the lineup tonight, Ichiro (8-for-15), Jeter (8-for-25, 1 HR), and Robbie (8-for-26, 1 HR) have the most success against Hammel in small doses. I promised myself I would get out of the habit of trying to predict the offensive hero, but what the hell.
Yankee to Watch: Nick Swisher Swish has only faced Hammel 8 times in his career, but has 3 H (2 2B) to show for it. A-Rod will be on the bench, Granderson looks like someone who has never swung a bat before, and Robbie continues to swing at pitches in the right handed batter’s box despite O’s pitchers’ best efforts to offer him a free base. None of those guys have showed any signs of turning it around. Swish, however, stung a couple of balls last night that he must have gotten under just a tad. Usually, when in a slump, after a few swings like that, you hit the cage next day just looking to “square up” as opposed to fixing, well…everything. The narrowed focus can work wonders. If I’m right, I’m buying myself a beer. If I’m wrong, 2 beers.
How about no runs, CC? ZERO RUNS
It feels like that’s what it is going to take for a starting pitcher to win a game in this series, despite the fact that everyone the Yanks have sent to the mound has been stellar. CC was lifted 1 out from a complete game in Game 1, and given the workload the bullpen has endured the last 2 days it would be nice if he could replicate that. According to Girardi, every pitcher will be available out of the bullpen except for Kuroda. The status of Joba Chamberlain, however, is still unknown in regard to whether he will be available tonight. Even still, you get the feeling that if CC doesn’t turn in a masterful outing tonight, tomorrow will be locker cleanout day.
Rather than go on about how great CC has looked in his last several starts, I would prefer to focus on his attitude coming into this game. During last night’s post game interviews, CC did not back down when asked whether the entire season was on him. Instead, he owned up to it with aplomb, unwavering in his desire to take the ball and get a win for the team. If he falters tonight, it won’t be because of nerves. We just need to stuff to be there more than ever.
Potentially Fatal Orioles Player to Watch: J.J. Hardy Hardy hit the game icing 2B last night and, similar to Swisher, looked like he was starting to put some good swings on the ball in his last few ABs. He’s 8-for-21 in his career against CC and had a sOPS+ of 103 against lefties this year (100 being average for platoon splits).
Yeah, okay, so A-Rod isn’t in the lineup tonight. And sure, he’s upset and disappointed. Any player would be. But A-Rod’s performance is not the story of this series, win or lose. A-Rod’s lack of success has been the focal point for many because his postseason failure/success has become a “thing,” whereas we are all too confused by the putrid production of Granderson, Cano, and Swisher to generate any real commentary about it. I don’t like it, but I understand that’s just the way it is. While slumps may carry over from game to game, many sins will be forgiven tonight if the Yanks offense can find a way to do one thing: Just win, baby.
Enjoy, folks. And more importantly…
LET’S GO YANKEES