Too Much CC And A-Rod For A’s

July 7, 2010 – 11:15 am

NYY 6, Oakland 1. This one figured to be a good pitching duel with perennial All-Star CC Sabathia up against first-time All-Star Trevor Cahill. And indeed it was, although the two pitching performances were almost exact opposites. While CC gave up seven hits and walked three, Cahill held the struggling Yankee offense to but four hits while walking just one. And while CC allowed base runners in seven of his eight innings, Cahill had runners on base only in one inning. But Cahill made one mistake — that’s all it takes in a game like this — and left a pitch out over the plate for Alex Rodriquez with the bases loaded in the third, and there was your ballgame.

Grand A-BombWhat this game came down to was defense — something the Yankees have really excelled at all year, but which doesn’t seem to get near the credit it should. It goes well beyond just leading the AL in fewest errors committed — it seems like the Yankees are always coming up with the clutch double-play or “great” defensive play just at the right time to shut down a rally. Last night was a perfect example — CC was putting runners on base virtually every inning, but it was the defense shutting down any threat the A’s might muster. In the second it was a 1-3-6 pickoff, in the third it was a 1-4-3 double play, in the fifth it was a great catch of a foul ball by Mark Teixeira for a key second out, and then in the seventh it was a lineout 5-3 double play that ended the inning. That’s four of eight innings where the defense contributed to CC getting out of the inning without giving up a run. Now compare that to what Oakland’s defense was not able to accomplish in the one inning where Cahill did put runners on base — twice they were unable to turn a double play on ground balls, either one of which would have gotten the A’s out of the inning and A-Rod would have never had the shot at the grand slam, which ultimately was the difference in the game.

As sporadic as the starting pitching and hitting has been at times, the defense has been rock solid for the entire season so far. Easily overlooked, the defense is probably as important a factor in where the Yankees are now as anything else.

So now the Yankees have a shot at sweeping the series tonight. Amazingly, this is the first time in the last seven series that they have won the first two games of a series (going back to the Houston series in early June). And how nice would a sweep be, with a four-game series at Seattle coming up next where the slumping offense will have to go up against Cliff Lee and Felix Hernandez once again.

Photo: AFP Box Score | FanGraphs Game Graph | PitchFX Game Tool

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