Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Yanks 6, Ms 0 (or How Carl Rebounded)

Carl Pavano is just what the Yanks needed (and I’m sure they wouldn’t mind him going there and wasting all their time). Six days following a dismal appearance in which he allowed five runs in the first inning, Pavano bounced back in dramatic fashion, putting away those same Mariners that roughed him up with a five hit shutout.

Pavano had retired 11 straight before Richie Sexson finally squeezed one through the Jeter-Rodriguez gap on the left side, followed by a Raul Ibanez single on the very next pitch. Now, I know a lot of people down on Pavano, and I’m sure they were thinking the worst, and not without reason. This is a guy who came in with huge expectations and has been lukewarm at best since he debuted with the team in April. But, Pavano did his best impression of himself in Florida and made a wind tunnel of the next batter, Bret Boone, to end the inning.

My favorite part of Carl’s performance? No, not his seven strikeouts, or his zero walks (though both of those sweeten the deal), but the fact that none of the five hits came off the bat of Ichiro. To hold him hitless is certainly a feat, considering his uncanny ability to get the bat on the ball and his blazing speed – which A-Rod recognized when he utilized his cannon to the fullest on a routine grounder to third, which beat Ichiro by a step, maybe a step and a half.

Working to Pavano’s advantage was home plate umpire Doug Eddings’s gargantuan strike zone. If any part of the ball caught the bottom of the strike zone (which extended to the bottom of the knee), it was a strike, and he was calling pitches way outside. Normally I wouldn’t complain about the strike zone, but when Jeter, A-Rod, Tino and Womack all have complaints about it, there’s something wrong. It was as if Eddings was a Little League umpire, widening the strike zone every inning because he has a hot date later at night. Thankfully, Seattle’s pitching didn’t take advantage of these extended corners and left enough pitches over the plate for the Yanks to bring home six.

Now, I haven’t read the New York columnists yet (I try to pen my own words before I read others), but I’m sure the focal point of their pieces for the day is Giambi’s 3 for 3, 3 RBI performance last night, in which he belted a Matt Thornton pitch over the right field wall. As much as I’ve been complaining about Giambi’s swing resembling mine circa Babe Ruth ball, he looked like he definitely had his stroke tonight. Even in his fourth at bat, in which he popped up in foul territory to Dave Hansen, his stroke looked major league. So does Giambi’s five game hitting streak, which includes four RBI and two extra base hits, mean that he’s ready to be in the lineup on a daily basis? As I said yesterday, I just can’t see Giambi playing every day, since that would mean that either Bernie, Womack, Cano or Tino would have to sit. Maybe put them on a five-day rotating basis? As long as all five are producing, that seems a logical method. Will Joe utilize it? Most likely not.

But even though Giambi did turn in a solid performance, his RBI in the second was more due to A-Rod's smart base running than Giambi driving a pitch to plate a run. It was a dinky bloop just past the infield, and A-Rod noticed right off the bat that no one was going to get there in time for it, so he was around third by the time the ball dropped. If Reed or Winn are playing a step or two closer, it’s a pop out. Thankfully, all those ifs are moot.

Also worth mentioning is A-Rahd’s league leading 13th dinger, which wasn’t as notable for the fact that it pulled him ahead of Tino (Correction: and Derek Lee, who hit his 11th and 12th during the day Tuesday) for sole possession of first, but for the fact that I yelled “gone!” the second it left his bat. Gotta love those shots, especially when they find the left field seats in a hurry.

Other notables from the game: Matsui continues his climb out of a slump, lashing a single to right to lead off the second. Jeter went hitless, though he had a shot to the warning track that Jeremy Reed somehow caught up to. Cano provided another hit, though he struck out twice, something he hasn’t been doing much lately. Sheffield continues to inflate is OBP, walking twice and otherwise going 1 for 3.

Can’t say I have many complaints at this point. Everyone seems to be producing and it’s showing, considering the 10 game win streak. So it’s Mussina on the hill tonight, coming off two straight quality starts, going against Jamie Moyer, who the Yanks slapped around last time out. Then again, the Ms slapped around Pavano last time. Giambi is playing at first, which surely is pissing off Mussina. But who will sit tonight? My vote goes for Tony Womack, who put up an 0-for last night, meaning that Godzilla should play left, Bernie in center, and Tino DHing.