Friday, July 31, 2009

Tighten Up That Defense

With the non-waiver trade deadline in its last few hours, I'm going to keep this brief. The Mariners have already traded Jarrod Washburn today to the Tigers for pitcher Luke French and another pitching prospect.

Sometimes you're going to get beat and that's OK. But it's hard to accept a loss when your defense gives the game away, as it did in the Yankees' 3-2 loss to the White Sox at Chicago Thursday. The Yankees are now 2-1/2 games ahead of the Red Sox in the AL East.

After the Yankees tied the score at 1 on Johnny Damon's one-out single in the sixth, the defense fell apart.

The White Sox grabbed the lead back in the seventh when Andy Pettitte slipped on the grass while trying to pick up a dribbler for an error. After Paul Konerko struck out, A.J. Pierzynski hit a grounder to third that Alex Rodriguez let deflect off his glove for a "single."

Phil Hughes then came on and got Carlos Quentin to hit a double play grounder to third, but Robinson Cano couldn't get off a good relay, the wild throw diving into the dirt and past Mark Teixeira at for for an error allowing Thome to score, giving the White Sox a 2-1 lead.

Nick Swisher tied it up again in the ninth, depositing a Matt Thornton fastball into the stands in left, but the defense struck again in the bottom half. With one out, Thome hit a routine grounder that would have been an out again most players. The Yankees, however, were in a shift and the ball rolled into center.

Konerko singled Thome to second and Joe Girardi when to Phil Coke to get out of the inning. He got Pierzynski to fly to center, but Dwayne Wise, who is hitting .193, grounded a ball to center to bring in the winner.

Pettitte deserved much better. He allowed two runs -- one earned -- on five hits in 6-1/3 innings. He struck out eight and threw 71 of 101 pitches for strikes. He hasn't won since July 1, but has been pitching well since the All-Star break. If he continues to pitch like that, he's going to rack up a bunch of wins this half. He's frustrated, but he just needs to grind it out and stay confident.

Meanwhile, Phil Hughes allowed a run on two hits in two innings, his scoreless streak getting snapped at 23 innings.

Peter Abraham has a pretty good observation about Hughes. It appears as if the Yankees may be stretching him back out, maybe to replace Joba Chamberlain in the rotation when Joba's innings limit is hit. In his last three outings, Hughes threw 35 pitches in two innings Thursday, 39 in 1-1/3 innings on July 26 and 28 in two innings July 23.

But this game was lost because of shoddy defense on the infield. There won't be a trade coming to fix that. It just a matter of focus, paying attention to details and execution.

Runners In Scoring Position
Thursday
1-for-8 (.125)
Season
248-for-948 (.262)
First Half
217-for-819 (.265)
Second Half
32-for-129 (.248)
Since A-Rod's Return May 8
183-for-676 (.271)
Vs. Red Sox
11-for-82 (.134)

Up Next
Friday at White Sox, 8:11 p.m., YES
Sergio Mitre (1-0, 5.91 ERA) vs. Clayton Richard (4-3, 4.65)

With Mitre on the mound the offense had better get cranked up and the bullpen will have to be at its best. Hopefully Brian Cashman will be able to land someone before the deadline so that we don't have to see Mitre again. Washburn is gone, but Bronson Arroyo, Jon Garland and Zach Duke still remain as possibilities.

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