Stats & Info: Phil Hughes
1. The Yankees are one loss or one Indians win away from being mathematically eliminated from the postseason as they trail Cleveland by five games with five left to play. If so, it would be just the second time they missed the playoffs in the wild-card era (also 2008).
2. The Rays along with the other top two wild-card contenders, Cleveland and Texas, each won last night to keep pace in the race. They’ve now won five straight and 10 of their last 13 after a 4-13 stretch. Their magic number to clinch a wild-card spot is four, meaning any combination of four Rays wins plus Rangers losses and they’ll be in the postseason for the fourth time in the last six seasons.
3. Mariano Rivera is expected to retire after this season, so he only has two home games remaining. If this really is Rivera’s swan song, he’s already tied the major league record for most saves by a pitcher in his final season in the majors. Jeff Shaw (2001 Dodgers) and Robb Nen (2002 Giants) each registered 43 saves in his last major league season; no other pitcher saved as many as 40, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
4. Rivera’s 64 saves against the Rays are his second-most against any team (he has 79 against the Orioles) and the most by anyone against the Rays. Rivera had a streak of 33 straight save chances converted against the Rays from 1998 to 2005 and then a 27-save streak from 2005-11. He’s only had two blown saves against them: one in 2005 and one on Opening Day 2012.
5. We could very well be seeing Phil Hughes’s last start in Yankee pinstripes. He’ll be a free agent at the end of the season and has had a below-par season pitching at Yankee Stadium. He’s gone 1-9 with a 6.13 ERA, leaving him one loss shy of matching the Yankees' single-season record for home losses (10 by Andy Hawkins in 1989 and Lefty Gomez in 1935).
Gregory Shamus/Getty ImagesThe Tigers have lost seven of 11 starts by Justin Verlander against the Yankees since 2009.
The Yankees were shut out in 20 of 21 innings in Games 1 and 2 at Yankee Stadium, with their only four runs coming during their near-miraculous rally in the ninth inning of Game 1.
Justin Verlander Stats to Watch
The Yankees have had success against Verlander in the last four seasons, winning seven of the 11 starts he’s made against them, including the postseason.
Since the start of 2009, Verlander has consistently used the strategy of pitching to his arm side (inside to righties, away to lefties) when facing the Yankees. Nearly 80 percent of his pitches thrown have been in this location, compared to 70 percent for all other teams since 2009.
However, this approach has not always been successful in keeping the Yankees off the basepaths. The Yankees have hit .294 in at-bats ending in a Verlander pitch to the arm side since 2009; the rest of the league has hit just .216 in those same situations.
Phil Hughes Stats to Watch
The last time Hughes faced Verlander was on June 3 in Detroit. Hughes outdueled the Tigers ace, recording his first career nine-inning complete-game victory and limiting the Tigers to just one run on four hits.
Hughes challenged the Tigers with his fastball, throwing the pitch a season-high 81 percent of the time. He was most effective when locating it in the upper half of the zone or above, netting him 15 outs and just one hit allowed.
However, Hughes later made a start against the Tigers on August 7 and really struggled, giving up four runs before getting pulled in the fifth inning. The Tigers pounded his curveball, with four hits (including two doubles) in eight at-bats ending in the pitch.
Matchups to Watch
Verlander has dominated some of the Yankee lefties and switch-hitters:
• Mark Teixeira is 3-for-35 (.086) against Verlander, including 0-for-his-last-15. That is his worst batting average against any pitcher (minimum 20 at-bats).
• Nick Swisher is 11-for-61 (.180) with 23 strikeouts vs Verlander. However, seven of those 11 hits have gone for extra bases, including three homers.
• Robinson Cano is 7-for-38 (.184) against Verlander with no home runs. The 38 at-bats are his third-most without a homer against a pitcher. But he’s 3-for-10 with a triple against Verlander this season.
One matchup that might give Hughes trouble is Miguel Cabrera, who is 9-for-22 (.409) with four home runs against him. Cabrera is the only player to take Hughes deep four times; the four home runs also match Cabrera’s most against any pitcher.
Verlander doesn’t seem like the obvious pitcher that Alex Rodriguez would feel good about facing right now. Rodriguez is hitless in 18 at-bats with 12 strikeouts against right-handed pitching this postseason. However, he is 4-for-6 with two home runs against Verlander this season.
Stat of Game
Entering this postseason, 23 teams had lost the first two games at home in a best-of-seven series.
According to Elias, only three have come back to win the series: the Royals beat the Cardinals in the 1985 World Series, the Mets beat the Red Sox in the 1986 World Series, and the Yankees beat the Braves in the 1996 World Series.
-- Dan Braunstein, Katie Sharp and Mark Simon contributed to this post
Leon Halip/Getty ImagesExpect Phil Hughes to throw an increased amount of changeups when the Yankees face the White Sox tonight.
CHANGING HIS WAYS
In April, Hughes featured a four-pitch mix, throwing fastballs, curveballs, changeups and cutters. He threw the changeup exclusively to lefties and the cutter mainly to righties.
In June, he abandoned the cutter. He hasn’t thrown it in a game since May 28 when he threw it just twice against the Angels.
He even had a start on June 15 against the Nationals in which he threw exclusively fastballs and curveballs – not a single changeup.
Since that start, Hughes began to work his changeup back into his repertoire, but he threw it almost exclusively to left-handed batters (as most righties do). Ninety-six percent of his changeups thrown from June 20 to August 12 were to left-handed hitters.
Then, in his last start against the Red Sox on August 17, Hughes drastically changed his approach yet again. He relied heavily on his changeup, throwing it 23 times – the most he’s ever thrown it in any start since at least 2009. He threw just seven curves in the start – his lowest total in a game this season.
Specifically, Hughes wasn’t afraid to mix in the pitch to right-handed hitters – he threw six changeups to righties in the game, which may not sound like a lot, but he had thrown just four changeups to righties over his previous 12 starts combined.
His strikeout rate has returned to his pre-injury levels (7.6 K/9 this season), and he’s walking batters at the lowest rate of his career (2.1 BB/9 – 9th-lowest in AL) but he’s gotten bitten severely by the home run this season. He's allowed 28 homers, one shy of Tommy Hunter and Ervin Santana for the most in the Majors this season.
Hughes has struggled away from Yankee Stadium this season, a reverse from his career splits entering this season. Entering this season, Hughes had a career 5.01 ERA and 1.42 WHIP at home as opposed to a 3.88 ERA and 1.20 WHIP on the road.
Another strange split has been his tremendous success against lefties this season. Righties have feasted on Hughes’ offerings however to the tune of a .988 OPS, by far the worst mark by a right-handed pitcher this season.
In his career before this season, Hughes had a much more traditional split for a righty: .233 BA, .644 OPS vs RHB and .266 BA, .787 OPS vs LHB.
HUGHES vs WHITE SOX
Hughes pitched well his last time out against the White Sox, pitching eight innings of six-hit, two-run ball for the win. He struck out eight batters, raising his K/9 to 8.5 for the season at that point.
Since that game, he has struck out just 5.8 batters per 9 IP.
Hughes is 3-1 with a 1.13 ERA in nine career appearances (five starts) against the White Sox (1 ER in 10 2/3 IP at US Cellular).
For a guy who had a 9.78 ERA in his previous four home starts this season, the shutout must have been an especially sweet breath of fresh air for Wainwright.
Here's a look at what made him so succesful:
• Wainwright lived around the edge of the zone with his fastball, especially with two strikes. Fifteen of the 18 (83.3 percent) two-strike fastballs he threw were within four inches of the edge of the zone, both in and out. In his first eight starts this season, 59 percent of his two-strike fastballs were in that location. All four of his strikeouts with his fastball were around the edge; he had only six strikeouts with his fastball there in his first eight starts.
• Wainwright threw 68 fastballs among his 111 pitches (61.3 percent), his highest percentage since coming back from Tommy John surgery and second highest since 2009.
• Wainwright also used his signature curveball to put hitters away. He recorded six outs with his curveball, including four via strikeout, without allowing a hit.
• Wainwright was efficient. He recorded 10 outs on either the first or second pitch of the at-bat, his most in a start since 2009. He averaged just 12.3 pitches per inning, well below his season average of 16.8.
Elsewhere around MLB:
How long had it been since Roy Halladay last lost to the Nationals franchise? They were the Montreal Expos, Halladay was with the Toronto Blue Jays and Halladay had only 27 career wins at the time. The year was 2002. Halladay now has 192 career wins, and had won 11 straight decisions against the Nationals/Expos before this loss.
Albert Pujols' mashed his fourth home run this season and 449th of his career. That ties him with Jeff Bagwell and Vladimir Guerrero for 35th on the all-time HR list. Next up is Carl Yastrzemski with 452.
Ricky Nolasco picked up his 69th career win, passing Dontrelle Willis for the most in Marlins franchise history. Josh Johnson (50) and A.J. Burnett (49) are third and fourth on that list.
Phil Hughes again struggled with the longball. Before Hughes, the last pitcher to allow a HR in each of his first nine starts of a season was Runelvys Hernandez who did so in 12 straight back in 2006 for the Kansas City Royals.
Stephen Dunn/Getty ImagesMatt Kemp is the fifth player in history to hit at least 12 home runs before May 1.
ESPN's Home Run Tracker analyzes video of each home run hit this season and as far back as 2006. Each month, the tracker will detail the best and worst home runs, as well as some other interesting statistics pertaining to the long ball. Below are the notable home runs for the month of April.
Power Surge: (Player with highest combined HR distance)
2011 Winner: Jose Bautista
March/April Winner: Matt Kemp
Kemp is off to a torrid start, with 12 home runs that have traveled a true distance of 4,802 feet. That’s a longer true distances than the Padres, who have hit 11 home runs, and the Cubs, who have hit the fewest HR (9) entering May. Kemp's 12 home runs are two shy of the record set by Albert Pujols in 2006 and Alex Rodriguez in 2007 for the most home runs by April 30.
No Doubter (Longest true distance)
2011 Winner: Prince Fielder (486 feet)
March/April Winner: Travis Hafner (481 feet)
On April 15, Cleveland’s DH hit a home run of the Royals Luis Mendoza, the longest HR of his career. Hafner’s previous long was 454 feet in 2006. The 481-foot shot is the longest HR by an Indian since the beginning of our database (2006).
Wall-Scraper (Shortest true distance)
2011 Winner: Asdrubal Cabrera (320 feet)
March/April Winner: B.J. Upton (323 feet)
On April 24, Upton hit a home run off Ervin Santana that hit off the left-field foul pole. Chris Iannetta hit a 324-foot HR off Phil Hughes, the only other player this season to hit a home run less than 345 feet.
Moonshot: (Highest Apex - maximum vertical height a ball reaches)
2011 Winner: Mark Reynolds (161 feet)
March/April Winner: Todd Helton (162 feet)
On April 14, Helton hit a walk-off home run off J.J. Putz. The ball hung in the air for 6.92 seconds, the highest apex HR since Alex Rodriguez reached 169 feet on Sept 11, 2009.
Liner: (Lowest Apex)
2011 Winner: Carlos Peguero (39 feet, twice)
March/April Winners: Curtis Granderson/Luke Scott (49 feet)
Ervin Santana, who gave up the shortest HR of the month, also gave up the lowest apex. On April 13, Santana served up a 349-foot solo shot to Granderson that had an apex of 49 feet. Scott matched Granderson with a 387-foot laser off Mark Lowe, which also never got higher than 49 feet off the ground.
Mother Nature: (Most climate-impacted HR)
2011 Winner: Luke Scott
March/April Winner: Miguel Cabrera
Even the best need help from time to time. On April 26, Cabrera hit a 382-foot home run off Hector Noesi, but a 15 mph wind gust helped the ball carry an extra 62 feet. Without the wind, it would have been a routine fly out.
Server: (Pitcher who allowed the greatest cumulative distance)
2011 Winner: Bronson Arroyo
March/April Winner: Ervin Santana
In addition to giving up the shortest and the lowest apex home runs, Santana’s 10 home runs allowed traveled a total distance of 3,844 feet.
Launching Pad: (Greatest cumulative distance in one stadium)
2011 Winner: Rangers Ballpark in Arlington
March/April Winner: Rogers Centre
Thirty-eight HR have been hit in Rogers Centre thus far, with a total distance of 15,072 feet. Chase Field in Arizona finished second, totaling 12,803 feet. Conversely, only six HR were hit at AT&T Park in April.
A look at Phil Hughes’ fastball velocity this season. While Hughes struggled to paint the zone with heat before going on the DL (right), his velocity and location have returned since his return (left).
While Hughes struggled in the second half and postseason of 2010, his fastball velocity was still high. In his last 10 starts of 2010, Hughes’ fastball had an average velocity of 92.5 mph. Hughes recorded 27 of his 41 strikeouts with his fastball during the same period, and opponents hit just .239 against the pitch.
In three starts prior to his DL stint, Hughes pitched a total of 10 1/3 innings and gave up 16 earned runs. Most alarming was Hughes recorded fewer strikeouts (three) than home runs allowed (four). His fastball wasn’t the same, averaging just 89.0 mph. The hardest fastball Hughes threw in those three starts was 91.9 mph, well below his 2010 numbers.
Hughes was lucky to give up just one extra-base hit on his fastball, considering that four out of every five fastballs hit in play were hit in the air. Making matters worse was Hughes was unable to show any velocity in the strike zone, throwing almost as many fastballs out of the strike zone (57) as in it (59).
After a nearly three-month quest, Hughes has regained most of the velocity he lost. In seven starts since returning to the Yankees, Hughes’ fastball velocity has averaged 91.5 mph, with an even higher average velocity in his past three starts. Overall, Hughes’ fastball velocity is up nearly three mph from where it was prior to his trip to the DL.
Hughes has better command of this increased velocity, putting it in the strike zone and forcing hitters to try and catch up with it. Hughes’ fastball has a 1.5 K/BB rate in his starts since coming back, and he’s given up just two home runs. His groundball rate is up to 32 percent on his fastball, and climbing in his past three starts.
The saga of Phil Hughes seemed destined towards a disappointing 2011 finish, similar to that of teammate, and highly-valued Yankees pitching prospect, Joba Chamberlain. Instead, his trip to the DL and subsequent rehab in the minors fixed what ailed him, and he’s a serious contender for the Yankees’ postseason rotation.
With question marks about every Yankees starter not named CC Sabathia, Hughes may pitch himself into the Yankees’ No. 2 starter role by the time the postseason rolls around.
The Rangers are the third team all-time to defeat the Yankees in an ALCS, along with the 2004 Red Sox and the 1980 Royals. Texas also joins the 1997 Indians as the second team to defeat the Yankees in either the LCS or LDS when the Yankees were defending champions.
Here’s what else you need to know about the Rangers historic win as we empty our Stats & Info research notebook:
• Elvis Andrus doubled in the first inning and now has a hit in each playoff game this season. His 11-game hit streak is tied for the fourth-longest to start a postseason career all-time.
• In the fifth inning, Nelson Cruz hit his fifth career postseason homer, all of which have come in 2010. He matches Juan Gonzalez in 1996 for the most home runs by a Ranger in a single postseason, and is one shy of the postseason career record set by Gonzalez.
• Josh Hamilton was intentionally walked four times. He is the fourth player to draw three intentional walks in a postseason game, joining Rudy York (1946 Red Sox), Jose Cruz (1980 Astros) and Barry Bonds (2002 Giants).
• Colby Lewis earned the win, becoming the third starting pitcher to beat the Yankees twice in a League Championship Series. Freddy Garcia beat the Yankees twice in 2000 and Tim Wakefield beat the Yankees twice in 2003.
• The Elias Sports Bureau also tells us that Lewis joins Johnny Podres in the 1955 World Series as the only pitchers with a losing record in the regular season to defeat the Yankees twice in the postseason.
• Lewis went eight innings and allowed just one run in the victory. He is the sixth starting pitcher to win and eliminate the Yankees while pitching at least eight frames and giving up no more than one run, and the first ever to also give up just three hits in the game.
• The Rangers join the 2007 Red Sox as the only other team in postseason history to win a best-of-seven series, with all four wins coming by at least five runs.
• With Cruz’s homer, the team has now homered in all 11 postseason games, which is one shy of the record for consecutive games with a HR in a single postseason set by 2004 Astros.
• Phil Hughes had a series to forget, losing both of his starts while giving up 11 earned runs and seven doubles. He is third Yankees starter to lose twice in an LCS, joining Denny Neagle (2000) and Mike Mussina (2003). His 11 earned runs allowed are tied for the second-most in a single LCS, and his seven two-baggers allowed are the third-most in a single LCS.
• Alex Rodriguez struck out to end the game. He is the third Yankee to get punched out to end a postseason series, joining Jorge Posada in the 2007 ALDS and Willie Randolph in the 1980 ALCS.
• The Yankees had just three hits in the loss. That set a franchise record for fewest hits by the Yankees in a game in which they were eliminated from the postseason. In Game 8 of the 1921 World Series the Yankees had four hits in their 1-0 loss.
• New York allowed 38 runs in this series, the second-most allowed by the team in a single postseason series. The only time they allowed more was in 2004 when they gave up 41 during their seven-game loss to the Red Sox.
The Yankees bats finally woke up in their 7-2 Game 5 win, with six of their nine hits going for extra bases, to stave off elimination and send the series back to Texas for tonight’s Game 6. It was the fourth straight season that a team down 3-games-to-1 won a Game 5 in a postseason series.
What are the chances they’ll be able to force a decisive Game 7?
The bad news: The Yankees have lost seven of their last 11 postseason games when facing elimination, and have dropped five of their last seven ALCS games on the road. The good news: The Yankees have won their past two Game 6s (both in 2009) and are 7-3 all-time in Game 6s on the road.
Phil Hughes makes his second start of the ALCS, and when he steps on the mound, he’ll be the fourth-youngest Yankee to start a potential elimination game and the youngest ever to start a Game 6. He is looking to rebound from one of the worst outings of his career, during which he allowed seven runs on 10 hits, seven for extra bases, in just four innings in Game 2 last week.
In Game 2, Hughes struggled to finish off hitters when getting to two strikes, as the Rangers went 5-for-11 (.455), including four extra base hits, in two-strike counts. Hughes also left his pitches up, and the Rangers capitalized, going 6-for-8 (.750) on pitches in the upper third of the zone and above.
The Rangers are looking to advance to their first-ever World Series and end a drought of 49 seasons since debuting as a franchise in 1961. They are one of three active MLB franchises never to have appeared in a World Series, along with the Mariners and Nationals.
Texas is 1-3 all-time when trying to eliminate a team in a postseason series. They lost Game 3 and Game 4 against Tampa Bay in the ALDS before winning Game 5, and they lost Game 4 in this ALCS.
One key for Lewis in Game 2 was his use of the curveball as an out pitch, as the Yankees went 0-for-4 against the hook. Lewis was also effective in getting Yankee hitters to chase pitches, with four of his six total strikeouts coming on pitches out of the zone.
According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the 10-game losing streak was tied for the second-longest by one team against an opponent in postseason history, and their seven losses before earning their first home win were the most in postseason history.
Colby Lewis earned his first postseason win with 5⅔ innings of two-run ball. The Rangers bullpen – which entered the game with a 6.32 postseason ERA – allowed just one hit and held the Yankees scoreless for the final 3 ⅓ frames. Nelson Cruz had two doubles and now has seven extra base hits in his first seven postseason games, one shy of the record set by Carlos Beltran and Jim Edmonds.
For the Yankees, Phil Hughes becomes the first starter in postseason history to give up at least seven earned runs and 10 hits in four innings or fewer. Robinson Cano hits his fourth career postseason homer, tying Tony Lazzeri, Willie Randolph and Alfonso Soriano for the second-most by a Yankee second baseman, and one shy of the leader Billy Martin. Cano also becomes the 19th player in MLB history to homer in each of the first two games of an LCS series, and the first Yankee to ever achieve the feat.
The series continues Monday night in the Bronx with ace lefties Cliff Lee and Andy Pettitte set to take the mound in the pivotal Game 3 of this best-of-seven ALCS.
The Yankees have won their last six ALCS Game 2s dating back to 1999, but are just 1-3 in those games on the road, with the only win coming in 2001 in Seattle. The Rangers are still looking for their first ALCS Game 2 win -- of course this is also the first time they have appeared in the ALCS.
Let’s take a looking at the pitching matchup in this pivotal Game 2, with Phil Hughes set to face Colby Lewis.
As noted in our ALCS preview two days ago, the decision to start Phil Hughes rather than Andy Pettitte in Game 2 may have something to do with Hughes having a good history at Rangers Ballpark. In 15⅓ innings there, he’s never allowed an earned run. His only outing there this season was a perfect one-inning relief appearance last month.
But it’s not just the Texas ballpark where Hughes has been nearly unhittable. He has also dominated the current Rangers lineup during his career, holding them to a meager .079/.125/.132 line. Although no Rangers hitter has faced him more than eight times, collectively the nine Rangers who have seen him during his career have just three hits and two walks in 40 plate appearance.
Stat to Impress Your Friends With
Hughes made history in his ALDS Game 3 start against the Twins when he became the youngest pitcher to start and win a postseason game for the Yankees since Dave Righetti beat the A’s in Game 3 of the 1981 ALCS. He’ll etch his name into the Yankee record books once again tonight when he steps on the mound tonight, becoming the third-youngest pinstripe hurler to start an LCS game.
Lewis pitched well in his first career postseason start last week in Game 3 of the ALDS, holding the Rays scoreless over five innings, but got a no-decision as the Rangers bullpen imploded in the 6-3 loss. This followed his strong performance down the stretch, as he went 3-1 with a 2.37 ERA in his last five starts dating back to September 9 to end the regular season.
Stat to Impress Your Friends With
Over his last six starts, including Game 3 of the ALDS, Lewis has allowed just three hits in 26 at-bats with runners in scoring position (.115). His offspeed stuff has been especially key for him in these situations. According to Inside Edge, of the 47 non-fastballs he threw, 35 were for strikes (74.5 percent) and batters were just 1-for-14 when putting them in play.
Kim Klement/US Presswire
One Ranger who's had success against the Yankees is Vladimir Guerrero.
Top Things To Know
The Texas Rangers have lost nine straight postseason games against the New York Yankees. They were outscored in the last six of those contests, 23-2. The good news: None of the hitters from those 1998-1999 Rangers teams are still playing for Texas.
The Yankees significantly outrate the Rangers from a historical perspective with their 27 World Series titles, but on the field, they were even-steven this season, with each team winning four times when they matched up head-to-head. Home-field proved to be key: the Yankees swept three games at home against the Rangers, while the Rangers went 4-1 in their home meetings with the Yankees and were 51-30 at home during the regular season.
Neither of the 2010 AL MVP candidates -- Josh Hamilton and Robinson Cano -- were factors against the other team during the regular season. Hamilton hit .250 with one RBI in five regular-season games against the Yankees. Cano hit .233 with one RBI in eight games. Cano, who had some struggles against left-handed pitching towards the end of the regular season, was 3-for-7 against lefties in the ALDS. Hamilton is still looking to right himself after going 2-for-18 in the ALDS. He went 1-for-11 at Yankee Stadium this season, but was 7-for-14 there in 2009.
The Yankees would seem to have a significant edge in the back of the bullpen. Mariano Rivera righted himself in the ALDS after some late-season struggles, while Neftali Feliz looked a bit nervous in his ALDS appearances. Both closers were vulnerable against their respective opponents in the regular season. Rivera’s experience, and an 0.99 ERA in the ALCS features only one year with any blips -- 2004. Other than that, he’s a perfect 10-for-10 in LCS save chances.
If the 22-year-old Feliz can get a save at Yankee Stadium, he’d be the youngest pitcher to record one against the Yankees there in the postseason. The current mark is held by 23-year-old Steve Howe, who closed out the Yankees to win the 1981 World Series for the Los Angeles Dodgers in the Bronx.
Most Interesting Matchups
Derek Jeter is a .432 career hitter combining regular season and postseason play against Cliff Lee. That’s the highest batting average against Lee for any hitter with at least 25 plate appearances against him.
If the game is close in the late innings, Rangers DH Vladimir Guerrero has good experience against both Kerry Wood and Rivera. He’s 8-for-15 in his career against Wood, mostly from Wood’s days as a flamethrower for the Cubs. He’s also 4-for-11 against Rivera, though Rivera did get him to ground out with the tying run on third base to end a 7-6 Yankees' win on Aug. 11.
The Yankees chose to pitch Phil Hughes in Game 2 and Andy Pettitte in Game 3, rather than the other way around. That may have something to do with Hughes having good history in Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. In 15⅓ innings there, he’s never allowed an earned run. Pettitte, early in his career, had some dreadful appearances in that stadium (8.22 ERA there), and is being pushed back to Game 3.
Pettitte has never pitched a postseason game in that ballpark, though he’s faced Texas three times at Yankee Stadium. That sets up an interesting Game 7 scenario that would put Pettitte against Lee. Pettitte has never started in Game 7 of a postseason series for the Yankees.
The Rangers have to decide if they’re going to play Jeff Francoeur in right field against both CC Sabathia and Pettitte. Francoeur was 8-for-20 with no strikeouts against left-handed pitchers in the regular season after being traded by the Mets to the Rangers. He opened the scoring in Game 1 of the LDS with an RBI hit against lefty David Price.
Stat of the Day
Lee enters this series with the Yankees with a 6-0 career postseason record. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the best unbeaten postseason record for a pitcher whom the Yankees beat in a postseason game was 4-0, by former Milwaukee Braves starter Lew Burdette, and ex-Red Sox ace Pedro Martinez.
It might be a different year, but it's the same result in the American League Division Series for the Yankees. For the second straight season, the Bronx Bombers swept the Twins to advance to the American League Championship Series. New York has now won nine straight postseason games against Minnesota dating back to 2004. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, that's tied for the third-longest winning streak vs one opponent in postseason history.
According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the Yankees' sweep of the Twins was their 13th postseason series sweep, most all-time. That's seven more than the Braves and Reds have and eight more than the Cardinals, Athletics and Red Sox.
Phil Hughes, making the first postseason start of his major-league career, picked up the win by pitching seven innings and allowing no runs. Hughes is the fourth pitcher this year to win his first career postseason start without giving up a run. (Roy Halladay, Tim Lincecum and C.J. Wilson are the others.) That matches the number of pitchers who did that over the previous four postseasons combined (Chris Young in 2006, Jon Lester in 2007, Hiroki Kuroda in 2008 and Vicente Padilla in 2009).
Also, Hughes (age 24) is the youngest pitcher to start and win a postseason game for the Yankees since Game 3 of the 1981 ALCS, when Dave Righetti, then 22 years old, wrapped up a three-game New York sweep with a victory against the A's.
Al Bello/Getty Images
The Yankees have been a significantly better team with Brett Gardner in the lineup in 2010 than without him.
A capsule stat-based preview of the Yankees-Twins ALDS matchup.
Top things to know
When the Minnesota Twins and New York Yankees get together for the 2010 ALDS, it will pit familiar postseason foes against each other. Unfortunately for the Twins, the recent history has been heavily in favor of the Yankees.
The last three times these squads met in the postseason, the Yankees have won: 3-0 in 2009; 3-1 in 2004; and 3-1 in 2003. In fact, since taking Game 1 of the 2004 ALDS, the Twins have lost nine straight postseason games overall. In those nine postseason games, the Twins have been outscored 52-28.
Both teams are dealing with critical issues entering the postseason, too. The Yankees starting pitching aside from Sabathia has been a mess over the last month. Phil Hughes (2-2, 4.67 ERA), A.J. Burnett (1-3, 5.60), Andy Pettitte (0-1, 6.75) and Javier Vazquez (0-1, 8.84) all struggled from the start of September to the end of the regular season. With reports that Burnett will not be part of the rotation, the focus turns to Pettitte –- who made just three starts after his return from injury -- and Hughes, who looked like a much different pitcher in the second half after going 10-1 through his first 13 starts.
On the flip side, the Twins will not have Justin Morneau for the duration of the postseason. Morneau was in the thick of the AL MVP hunt prior to going down on July 7 with a concussion. Morneau was so productive during his 81 games that he actually led the team in Wins Above Replacement, at 5.6 WAR, despite missing half the season.
The Twins pitching staff and the Yankees lineup will be a clash of styles. While this is perhaps not surprising, the Yankees were once again one of the most patient teams in baseball, ranking first in on-base percentage (.350), second in walk rate (10.4 pct) and fourth in pitches-per-plate appearance (3.91). The team is filled with players who will work the count and take walks, enabling them to put together one of the highest-scoring offenses in baseball year-in, year-out.
However, on the flip side, the Twins pitching staff pounds the strike zone and does not issue walks. The team posted the lowest walk rate in baseball in 2010 (2.37) and threw the highest number of pitches in the zone (48.8 percent). Likewise, the team ranked second in baseball in fewest pitches thrown per batter faced (3.70).
The battle between the Twins stingy pitching staff and the Yankees patient lineup will determine the series.
Most interesting matchups
The focus will undoubtedly be on the best hitter for the Twins, Joe Mauer, and the best starter for the Yankees, CC Sabathia. With the Yankees rotation having more questions than answers entering the postseason, Sabathia will once again be relied upon heavily to not only win his starts, but to soak up innings. Without Morneau, Mauer’s offensive production will continue to be vital.
The fact this is a lefty-lefty matchup adds intrigue. Mauer was substantially worse against left-handed pitchers this season, to the tune of a 93-point drop in batting average (.365 to .272), a 100-point drop in on-base percentage (.442 to .342) and a 167-point drop in slugging percentage (.536 to .369). Meanwhile, Sabathia was equally dominant against lefties and righties (.678 to .649 OPS), but the noteworthy point is that of the 20 home runs that Sabathia allowed during the regular season, only four came against left-handed batters.
Over their careers, Mauer has posted a meager .217/.280/.261 line against Sabathia, with five hits (one extra base hit) and nine strikeouts in 23 at-bats.
While Robinson Cano is a legitimate MVP candidate in the American League thanks to strong defense and elite offensive production at an up-the-middle position, Brett Gardner is the Yankees’ unsung hero. Gardner embodies what makes the Yankees so difficult to pitch to, according to Baseball Prospectus. Gardner’s 4.61 pitches-per-plate-appearance mark for 2010 is the highest mark in the database going back to 1988. Whose record did he surpass? Hall of Famer Rickey Henderson’s 4.54 mark in 1994.
Gardner also ranked second on the Yankees offense in Wins Above Replacement at 5.4 -– ahead of such stars as Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira and Derek Jeter – and fourth on the team in Win Probability Added.
Albert Larcada of ESPN Stats and Info did statistical analysis of the last 10 postseasons, looking for the factors that most separate winning and losing teams. He found three -- power hitting, front-end starting pitching, and the ability to turn batted balls into outs. Using his findings, he was able to make a projection. He gives the Yankees a 53.5 percent chance to win the series.
Since then, Jeter has at least one hit in each of the Yankees 10 games, going 13-for-38 (.342) in that stretch, including a 2-for-5 effort in Tuesday's win over the Tampa Bay Rays. It's the 42nd 10-game hit streak in Jeter's career, both the most among active players and the most in Yankees history.
The next three Yankees on that list? Lou Gehrig with 39 10-game hit streaks, then Joe DiMaggio with 31 and Babe Ruth with 29.
The Elias Sports Bureau tells us that Jeter's 42 10-game hit streaks ties him for the fifth-most in the World Series era, dating back to 1903.
Another way to look at it, which gives a player credit for a 20-game hit streak as a pair of 10-game streaks (so not to penalize a player with a lengthy hit streak), is that Jeter has 44 "distinct" 10-game hit streaks, tied for 10th-most in that same span with Ichiro Suzuki. It puts him in similarly legendary company.
Every other player who has had at least 42 10-game hit streaks in their career is now in the Hall of Fame.
In other early MLB notes Tuesday:
• Roy Halladay became the first 20-game winner for the Philadelphia Phillies since Steve Carlton in 1982 with his win over the Braves. The only teams that have gone longer since their last 20-game winner are the Padres and Nationals/Expos. The Padres' last 20-game winner was Gaylord Perry in 1978, the last for the Nationals/Expos was Ross Grimsley, also in 1978.
• Jim Thome hit his 25th homer for the Minnesota Twins, his 14th career season with at least 25. He's the ninth player in MLB history with at least 14 seasons of 25 homers. Only Barry Bonds, Hank Aaron, Alex Rodriguez, Reggie Jackson, Frank Robinson and Babe Ruth have more.
• Phil Hughes became just the fifth Yankee to win at least 17 games in a season before turning 25. He's the first to do it since Andy Pettitte won 21 in 1996.
• The Pittsburgh Pirates beat the St. Louis Cardinals for their first four-game win streak of the season. That leaves the Kansas City Royals and Washington Nationals as the only teams without a four-game win streak this season. The Bucs also improved to 37-39 at home this season, opposed to 15-59 on the road.
In sports, baseball is one of the few that's not beholden to the clock. There's no 60- or 48- or 40-minute limit. There aren't timeouts to stop the clock. We could care less about tenths of a second. When you start a game, there's no telling when it will end. To some, it's the beauty of the game; to others, it's the biggest frustration.
In these days of commercials and warmup pitches and elaborate player routines (both at the plate and on the mound), even a two-hour game is the exception. Although most games come in under three hours, you can't bank on that. Rule changes to speed games up have largely been ignored. Seriously, have you ever seen a pitcher charged with an automatic ball for violating the "12-second rule" with nobody on base? Go ahead, we'll wait.
Here at Stats & Information, we've tracked the game times of every Major League Baseball contest this season. We can recommend some pitchers and teams to see, regardless of which side of the "clock argument" you fall on. For example, it's not a myth that the Chicago White Sox's Mark Buehrle pitches quickly. Or that the Boston Red Sox's Daisuke Matsuzaka takes forever. Or that you will get a marathon out of nearly any New York Yankees game.
While the official game times do adjust for rain delays, power outages and the occasional tornado outside Citi Field, there are obviously a few other factors at play. The speed of the pitcher's opponent isn't taken into account. A starter might get roughed up and turn things over to a slow- (or fast-) moving bullpen, but when you think of fast workers and slow workers, the list is pretty accurate.
Random fact: The total number of minutes consumed by all the games this season (through Thursday) is 383,639. That's more than 266 days. If you watched every game back-to-back, starting on Opening Night (April 4), you'd already have enough baseball to last you until Dec. 27. With no breaks.
Anyhow, this got us to thinking, which teams give you the most baseball for your money? If you want to watch as much baseball as possible in terms of time, which team's season tickets should you buy? Similarly, which teams are "cheating you" by playing really short games all the time?
Adjusting for extra innings, we can get the average length of a nine-inning home game for each team this season. We didn't adjust for home victories where the bottom of the ninth doesn't get played. (We figure you'd sacrifice those extra seven minutes in exchange for seeing the home team win.)
The Cleveland Indians have been involved in both the shortest and longest nine-inning games this season. The Detroit Tigers' Armando Galarraga's near-perfect game against the Indians on June 2 was the fastest nine-inning game played this season -- one hour, 44 minutes. As for the longest? The Indians and Yankees combined to score 24 runs on May 27, a game the Yankees won 13-11. That game lasted four hours and 22 minutes. There have been just four games this season played in less than two hours, compared with six games that have lasted longer than four hours.