Colon Leaves Dominant Start with Hamstring Injury, Yankees win 4-0

Bartolo Colon has been nothing short of amazing this year. Sports journalism is a hyperbolic world, where everything is incredible, amazing and unbelievable, and the best player this week is the best player we've ever seen. But Bartolo Colon truly qualifies. After being considered a washed-up has-been last year and not even playing in the majors, he reported to spring training looking like he'd been locked in a McDonald's for the winter. He didn't lose any weight. Nobody expected him to make the team. Then, early in the season, he came in in relief of one of Phil Hughes' disastrous outings. He got a tough luck loss, giving up one run in four innings pitched. When Hughes was relieved from the rotation, Colon took his spot and his feet have barely touched the ground. With the win today, his record improved to 5-3 and his ERA dropped to 3.10. But even those respectable numbers don't really reflect exactly how dominant Colon has been this year. He has had two poor outings, but other than that, it seems like every night he takes the ball, he throws eight shutout innings with seven strikeouts. So nobody was surprised when he manhandled the struggling Cleveland Indians lineup - for 6.2 innings. When running over to cover first on a ground ball, Colon came up lame and had to come out of the game. Initially, he was assisted off, but completed the long journey off the field by his own steam. That was promising. But then news came that he had strained his hamstring. 
I am nobody to judge a dude because of his weight. We could all stand to lose a few pounds and I am no exception. But Bartolo Colon's weight has gone from a punchline while he's dominating to a serious problem in the blink of an eye - or, more accurately, the pulling of a hamstring. While it clearly doesn't impede his pitching, an athlete in representable condition likely wouldn't have injured himself on such a routine play. All that extra weight is going to come back and get you eventually. Hopefully, Colon can make a speedy recovery, because they Yankees really cannot afford to lose any pieces right now, let alone a starter that you pencil in for seven strong.
The rest of the game was typical Yankees-fare: home runs. They hit three today, solo blasts from Granderson, Rodriguez and Teixeira, who have all been swinging hot against the Indians. Also of note, David Robertson continues to brutally strikeout everyone in his path. Every out he recorded today was a strikeout, 4 in 1.1 innings. D-rob doesn't get much publicity, overshadowed by the bigger names in the bullpen - Joba, Soriano and especially Mariano. But now, Robertson has found himself in the eighth inning role and has shown the remarkable ability to not only record outs efficiently, but to strike out nearly everyone he faces. He has quickly become the second-most reliable pitcher in that bullpen, and could easily close were in not for a certain number 42.

Yankees Show Zeal, Hammer Indians 11-7

It seems like the Yankees are more and more acquiring the soft label that the Mavericks worked so hard to shed. This past week was something as a nightmare as the Red Sox came right into town and slapped the Yankees on their own turn - again. Bats were flipped, Yankees were hit and it seemed like the Yankees were comfortable to lie there and take it. While I am not as on board with the idea that hitting David Ortiz was the answer as it seems the entire media was, something needed to be done.
Well unfortunately for the Indians, they showed up in the middle of a slump, with their ace on the mound having an off-year and right in the path of the shamed Yankees' offense. They scored early and often on Carmona, who has struggled mightily this year. He walked three of the first four batters, who were each knocked in one at a time by the next three. Carmona simply couldn't get anyone out. And Ivan Nova looked stellar in his best outing of the season, going 7 strong innings and only allowing 2 runs on 3 walks and 4 hits. From a kid who is effectively the fifth starter, that is as good a performance as can be hoped for. But the biggest story of the day came in the second inning, when Carmona, embarrassed after surrendering a mammoth home run to Curtis Granderson, intentionally threw at Mark Teixeira's head. 
While I am unsure about the effectiveness of hitting batters to send a message, I am sure beyond any shadow of a doubt that intentionally drilling a batter in the head should result in an immediate ejection, suspension and possible legal activity. There is simply no room for such a vicious act in the middle of a baseball game. Teixeira was visibly upset, shouting and pointing at Carmona, who continued to look like a clown and wave at him in a "come on" gesture. The benches cleared and managers Joe Girardi and Manny Acta wound up in each other's faces but the issue passed with a warning to both benches in a display of surprising calm by an umpire. In a time when a batter shaking his head as he walks away,  Dale Scott showed considerable restraint in not pulling the trigger too quickly. The warning prevented the Yankees from retaliating the normal way, so they did it in the most humiliating, awesome way possible: ran the living hell out of Indians catcher Carlos Santana. It seemed like every other pitch, someone was taking off and eventually it paid dividends as Santana threw the ball into center field on a double steal, allowing the lead runner Granderson to score. And then there is the more traditional way of showing up a pitcher: Alex Rodriguez hit a home run that has just now touched down in my backyard. It was a satisfying night for the Yankees offense and for Nova. 
Unfortunately, this game also showed some of the crippling lack of bullpen depth now that Phill Hughes, Joba Chamberlain, Rafael Soriano and Pedro Feliciano are all hurt. Hughes was starting, but  dead arm has landed him on the DL - in one of the first times I can ever remember a pitcher being so bad that an organization automatically assumes that he's injured. That brought Nova out of the bullpen in what has definitely been a step up. But then Soriano, who had been struggling but has shown electric, dominating stuff in the past hurt his shoulder and there has been little word on his improvement. The worst blow, however, has clearly been Joba Chamberlain. Joba has bounced back from a shaky start to be a fairly reliable middle-inning guy, showing signs that perhaps he was returning to his rookie form when he was all but breathing fire on the mound. But those names have been replaced by Lance Pendleton and his ilk. Hector Noesi is a nice pitcher and has shown pluck and stuff in his memorable debut in relief in the 15 inning marathon game in Baltimore. Boone Logan has utterly lost it. When lefties hit above .300 against your lefty specialist, it's time to find a new guy to get them out. Luis Ayala has nice numbers (1-1/1.47 ERA/1.26 WHIP) but I can't remember the last time he pitched in a meaningful situation and he doesn't look as good as his numbers. David Robertson and Mariano have been dominant, but two bullpen arms aren't enough. The Yankees can't afford to take a year off. Their team is rapidly aging and the decline is imminently noticeable and can be painful to watch already. There is no reason to expect it should get better next year barring a big move. GM Brian Cashman has his work cut out for him if he's to salvage this season from the injury bug.
-Ling Bon, 6/10/11

AJ Burnett Burns Out in Yet Another Red Sox Loss

            You can only count on AJ Burnett for one thing: you never know what you're going to get from him. Since breaking in with the Marlins, he has always been on the brink of dominance, held back only by his seemingly tissue-paper tough sense of confidence and complete lack of control. I remember sitting in the stands at what was then Pacific Bell Park and hearing about his no-hitter against the Padres over the radio. At first, I was impressed - then I heard about the nine walks. Even as a ten year old, my ears perked up at that. And that has been AJ Burnett. "Almost there." 
               Now that he's 35, maybe it is time to accept that he will just never get "there." Baseball is not a game where one can make a snap judgement based on one game. Even Babe Ruth had his 0-4 games and even Greg Maddux gave up runs at some point. It happens. And what is so frustrating about Burnett is that he will show flashes of unbelievable brilliance. In the 2009 World Series, down 1-0 to the Phillies, he went seven innings, giving up one run and striking out nine. But then last year, he literally had the worst season by a starting pitcher in the Yankees 108 year history. He went 10-15 with a 5.26 ERA, and that was buoyed by an excellent April. In the second half of the year, his ERA was a staggeringly poor 5.99. No Yankees starter had ever had both a 5+ ERA and 15+ losses. And now, after an acceptable April, Burnett has showed signs of tanking another season, with several poor starts in his last tries. But last night could have been his worst effort yet: Five and a third innings pitched, eight runs allowed - seven of them earned - and they were down from the word go, with three runs in the first inning. The Yankees ended up losing the game 11-6, pulling close at times but unable to overcome the deficit. 
             And he has shown the same trend  that he did last year, with a solid April (4-1/3.93 ERA/1.28 WHIP). Those are very respectable numbers for a number three starter, which is where Burnett was slated. But last year, in April, he was even better (3-0/2.43 ERA/1.20 WHIP). Those aren't respectable, that is a dominant statline. And then he lost it. It is not certain that AJ Burnett will melt down again. He could get a handle on his season and turn it around, although he has never shown any talent for putting out the flames. Eventually, we have to come to grips with the fact that, for all his talent, AJ Burnett just isn't very good. 
-Ling Bon, 6/9/2011