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Cry Me a Rivera The
2002-08-22 12:46
by Mike Carminati

Cry Me a Rivera

The Angels beat the Yankees 5-1 in eleven innings yesterday. No, that wasn't a typo, the Angels scored four in the 11th to beat Jeff Weaver. The three-way logjam at the top of the AL West will persist for one more glorious day since Oakland and Seattle both won as well. The Yankees failed to score in their last ten innings. The hit that lead off the inning, a slicing blopper (if that's possible) by Brad Fullmer, spun like it had English on it past John Vander Wal for a single and an error (even though ESPN erroneously reports that it was a double--My mistake: it had been changed from a hit and an error). Ironically, Shane Spencer had made a great diving catch in left earlier in the ballgame but was pinch-hit for by Vander Wal, who took over his spot in left as well.

If you look at the pitch-by-pitch game log it seems even odder. For one thing Scott Spiezio whose homer broke open the game started his AB bunting and hit the home run on an 0-2 pitch taking off the bunt. In total Weaver threw a total of 19 pitches to 9 batters in the inning, 5 of whom got hits and four of whom scored. Four of those batters hit the first pitch offered. It reads as if some one had recorded batting practice. Weaver threw 14 strikes and 5 balls (3 of which were to Troy Glaus, the final batter of the inning) which sounds great but nine of those strikes were put in play and 5 became hits. I didn't see it but he must have been throwing some pretty inviting pitches. Why did Torre stick with him?

Well, maybe the bullpen was depleted with Rivera injured and all? The Yankees used four pitchers to the Angels five. They had lefty Sterling Hitchcock who had not pitched since August 13 and righty Mike Thurman who had not pitched since August 10 available. Ramiro Mendoza was also available but had pitched in 6 of the last 10 games going into last night's ballgame. The Angels had a well balanced lineup: 4 lefties and 5 righties batted in the 11th inning. They also had three righthanded bats on the bench Shawn Wooten, Benji Gill, and the injured and possibly unavailable Tim Salmon.

Why didn't Hitchcock come in after the home run to pitch to the lefthanded Adam Kennedy? Well maybe Torre saw the righthanded bats on the bench and the two righty batters in the lineup after Kennedy. But then, after two more men got on, it was first and third with one out and lefty Darin Erstad at bat. Why didn't he bring in Hitchcock to keep it close then? Weaver had just thrown 10 pitches to 5 batters, only one of whom did not reach base. Erstad sent a ground ball to first, Giambi went home too late scoring Kennedy from third, and leaving two men still on base. Weaver then got two of the next three men out on fly balls using 8 pitches and allowing one more run in the process.

This broke a 24-inning scoreless streak for the Yankee bullpen. Well, that might be deceiving since the Yankee bullpen has been basically Ramiro Mendoza, Steve Karsay, Mike Stanton, and, when not on the DL, Mariano Rivera. It appears that Torre has been purposefully resting Karsay (2 appearances in last 6 games) since overworking the bejesus out of him August 4 to August 14th (seven appearances in nine games). Stanton has appeared in 8 of the last 12 Yankees games. Mendoza as mentioned above has pitched quite often lately. And of course Mariano Rivera is serving his third DL stint of the year.

The other Yankee pen mates have had little to no work of late. Hitchcock and Thurman haven't pitched in at least a week. Weaver had pitched once since August 9 going into the game. Is it any wonder he was rusty? Joe Torre has said that he is not relying on Rivera's return for the postseason. The Yankees had better find a way to work these other pitchers in before Mendoza, Karsay, and Stanton's arms fall off. If they do not feel that these are the men for the job, there must be some veteran relievers that can be had for a reasonable price before the end of the waiver-trade deadline (August 31). The Yankees were so concerned with collecting starting pitchers and outfielders during the season that now they have a surfeit at both those positions. The one hole that they never filled was the bullpen. It was an issue before Rivera went down (each time) and even more of an issue now.

One Note: How cool is it that the Angels now have half of the Molinas to ever play major-league baseball not only on the roster but constituting their catching corps? Yesterday Jose started but Bengie pinch-hit for him and took over manning the tools of ignorance.

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