Saturday, April 25, 2009

A Night of Blown Saves

Some pretty famous writers have stated that the Save is not a valid statistic. Just as many have stated that a good closer is not more valuable than any other pitcher. Tell that to the teams that had their guts ripped out last night due to the closer not getting the job done. It happened all over the major leagues last night, the loudest coming from the great Mariano Rivera. But he wasn't alone last night. Let's look at the damage:

- Mariano Rivera (Yankees): The Yankees held a 4-2 lead going into the ninth inning. Boston has its very best hitters coming up. Rivera had come into the game in the eighth to record the last out, which is a bit unusual for him, but less unusual against the Red Sox. With two outs, Rivera threw a cutter outside to Jason Bay. Big mistake and maybe just as bad an error on the catcher who called the pitch as on Rivera who delivered it. Bay knocked it out to dead center. Tie game. The Red Sox would go on to win in the 11th with a walk-off homer by Kevin Youkilis off of the worst Yankee reliever - Marte.

- George Sherrill (Orioles): The Orioles got a great start from newcomer Koji Uehara and were leading 4-3 going into the ninth. George Sherrill was called to get the save and couldn't get it done. Michael Young hit a two run homer and the Rangers won 5-4. Sherrill has now blown 22% of his lifetime save opportunities. Tell the fans in Baltimore that a save is a stupid statistic.

- Matt Lindstrom (Marlins): The Fan stated earlier this month that Lindstrom was a weakness for the Marlins, who otherwise are very strong in overall pitching. Last night against the Phillies, Josh Johnson had a lights out outing with seven shutout innings, fanning eight. Leo Nunez was fantastic in the eighth, striking out two. The ninth belonged to Lindstrom and he belonged to the Phillies. He was within an out of getting the save but then gave up a grand slam to Victorino and then a back-to-back solo homer by Chase Utley. Lindstrom's line for the night: 0.2 4 7 7 3 1. Ugh. Lindstrom has now blown two of five save opportunities this year and five of thirteen for his career. Florida fans must really think the save is a stupid stat.

- Manuel Corpas (Colorado): The Rockies have two closers, Corpas and Hudson Street. Street started the year as the closer, but was ineffective and then Corpas was given the job. Last night against the Dodgers, Street gave up two runs in the eighth to allow the Dodgers to go ahead in the game. After the Rockies came back and tied the game in the bottom of the eighth with two runs of their own, Corpas gave up the game winner in the ninth. Not a blown save, but a blown win by both Street and Corpas.

So that's four games affected negatively by the closer out of fifteen games played (27%). And K-Rod very nearly blew the save for the Mets and Johan Santana. All losses are hard to take, but when you have a game nearly won and lose it in the late innings, it's a particularly nasty way to lose.

Friday, April 24, 2009

It's a Good Thing No Bets Are Placed

If you haven't been playing along at, you should. It's fun and you can win a shirt or something. But the best part is that if you are good and lead for a week, then your name is mentioned, which could just help lead more people to your site (if you blog that is). The trouble is, the Fan can't figure this season out. And it is showing big time on picks. The Fan was rolling during Spring Training amassing an impressive record. But as the season continues to mess around upside down where the Pirates and Royals are contenders and the Bay Rays aren't (yet), the Fan couldn't pick a game correctly if his life depended on it. Let's take a few of Thursday's games for examples:

Royals vs. Indians: The Royals started Gil (ga) Meche, who has really pitched well. The Indians started Anthony Reyes and his 4.94 lifetime ERA. Simple right? Pick the Royals. All was going well, but Trey Hillman is not having a good year managing his bullpen. Meche ran into trouble in the eighth inning and Hillman brought in Mahay (as in: Mahay I please lose this game for you?) who gave up a three run homer to Sizemore. Game over. Pick: LOSER!

Brewers vs. Phillies: It was Cole Hamels against Dave Bush. Bush had an ERA over 5.00 coming into the game. Hamels has had a little injury thing. But is still the much better pitcher. Both teams are struggling so all things being equal, Hamels should beat Bush. Well, Hamels gets pelted by a line drive. Bush flirts with a no-hitter. Brewers won running way. Pick: LOSER!

The Fan correctly picked the Cardinals to beat the Mets and Cueto and the Reds to beat the Cubbies. Whew! Now the Fan is even for the day. The Fan peaks above .500 when Ichiro and King Felix beat the Bay Rays, 1-0.

Okay. Next? In a grand matchup, Baltimore faced the White Sox and it was a battle of seemingly washed up pitchers. Bartolo Colon started for the White Sox and Eaton started for the Orioles. The Fan has been merciless at Eaton's expense and surely, in a battle of overweight pitchers, Colon should beat Eaton every time right? Colon gives the White Sox a colonoscopy and Eaton has a fantastic outing, fanning nine in seven innings. Pick: LOSER! Back to .500

Texas vs. Toronto: Kevin Millwood started for Texas. After picking on him all spring here in the FanDome, Millwood sprang out of the gate once the season started with two dominating starts and a 2-0 record. Feeling bad for ragging on Millwood, the Fan buys into his good start as he is facing an inexperienced Scott Richmond who has pitched in all of seven games in his big league career. Another no-brainer, right? Grrrr. Richmond only gives up two solo homers in six innings and fans eight and wins the game. Millwood wasn't bad but gave up three homers and thus the game. Pick: LOSER! Back in the red.

As of this writing, two games aren't finished yet. One is going the Fan's way, the other, not. So far this week, the Fan is 15-22. Does the Fan feel like a big dope or what? But you know what? The unpredictability of the games is what makes baseball so much fun. It's hell on prognosticating, but it sure is fun to see what happens every day. And like Josh Hamilton in Texas and the Bay Rays, the Fan's season is sure to turn around. Either way, what a great sport and what great fun!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

LIVAN - As Sung By Elton John

With all due respect to Elton John and Bernie Taupin and to Michael Silver who does this much better, Thursday's Met box score prompted this song to the tune of one of Elton John's greatest hits.

Apologies in advance to those of you who wanted the Mets to win...

Livan wears his war wound like a crown
He calls his sib, Orlando
`Cause his daddy is the same
But they don't pitch the same on the mound

Livan, Livan likes his money
He makes a lot they say
Spends his days pitching
While the batters always swing away

He was born a Cuban under Castro on a sunny day
But the New York Times said his fastball's dead
And the rout's begun
Hernandez laid another egg today

And he shall be Livan
And he shall be a good man
And he shall be Livan
In tradition with the family plan
And he shall be Livan
And he shall be a good man
He shall be Livan

Livan throws cartoon balloons in town
Yet somehow his career survives
Orlando still wishes he was pitching
Sits in the stands and wonders why

And Orlando, he wants to go to Citi
Leaving Livan far behind
Take the mound and go sailing
While Livan, Livan's fastball dies

He was born a Cuban under Castro on a sunny day
But the New York Times said his fastball's dead
And the rout's begun
Hernandez laid another egg today

And he shall be Livan
And he shall be a good man
And he shall be Livan
In tradition with the family plan
And he shall be Livan
And he shall be a good man
He shall be Livan

The Strange Case of Melky Cabrera

Watched a really long Yankee/A's game today that went 14 innings and lasted over five hours. The game featured a start by Melky Cabrera, who spelled Brett Gardner with a left-hander starting for the A's. The game showed the best of the worst of Melky and left this writer just as confused about him as ever.

First, there is the lingering issue over replacing Bernie Williams. Everyone knows that Bernie slowed down and the time had come, but it was still emotionally difficult. The guy was such a steady and classy force for a long time. And he was pushed out by this awkward, graceless kid named Melky Cabrera. Cabrera was everything that Williams was not. He was emotional and voracious. He never looked smooth, yet he did okay to start with.

Perhaps part of his problem was that, in a rarity for the Yankees, this home grown youngster was rushed to the big leagues. He only has 179 At Bats in AAA and 52 of those came last year when he was demoted in the middle of the season. He hit well in AAA, but perhaps he wasn't given enough time to grow there.

He started well for the Yankees. In 2006, he hit .280 and had an OPS of .752 to go along with an OBP of .360. Those are decent numbers. His lack of power, though, left him with an OPS+ of under 100, which is league average. His numbers dropped two straight years after 2006. The OPS from 2006 to 2008: .752, .718, .641. His OBP dropped similarly: .360, .327, .301.

Watching him regularly, the appearance was that he had some good moments, but was over matched against good pitching. Some players can put the ball in play against league average to better pitchers. Melky wilted in such situation, which also explains his well-under-the-Mendoza average in playoff appearances.

Last year was pitiful for Cabrera. He seemed totally lost. He still couldn't hit good pitching, but he wasn't hitting bad pitching either. He flailed around and just looked like he didn't have a clue. Every day, it was like watching Soriano against Red Sox pitching in the playoffs.

So this year, coming into Spring Training, it was announced early that he had to fight for his job. He was going to compete with Brett Gardner for the centerfield position. Gardner, who didn't light the world on fire in his debut last year, has some skills. He is a better fielder than Cabrera, is faster on the base paths and allegedly had more patience at the plate. Plus (shhh), he's white. Apologies for bringing that up, but, hey, it's more of a factor than you may think.

The competition from the beginning was Gardner's to lose. And he didn't. He had a great spring. Melky started roughly in Spring Training and never could catch up, though his ending numbers were very good. Just not good enough to win the job from Gardner.

Today's long game was Melky Cabrera in a nutshell. He started off the night with a right-handed homer. Then he whiffed three times and looked terrible. His strikeout with the bases loaded and no out was particularly horrible. The relief pitcher was throwing the ball all over the place. He couldn't find home plate. That's why the bases were loaded. You would think that Cabrera would only swing at something fat and let the pitcher hang himself. But he didn't. First he swung at one below his knees and then looked like a Little Leaguer by striking himself out on a pitch way over his head. Pathetic.

Of course, it didn't help that his replacement pitch hit right after him and Gardner popped out weakly to the third baseman and after a Jeter pop up, the inning was over and the game droned on for another two hours.

And so we go to the fourteenth inning. There was one out and Swisher was on first with another walk. Swisher is like a younger Giambi in almost every way. Then Cabrera steps up to hit. You can't blame the Fan for rolling his eyes. A double play or a strikeout was fully expected. But instead, Melky crushed one and as soon as he hit it, everyone watching knew the game was over.

So there you have it. Six at bats, two homers, a walk and three strikeouts. That's Cabrera. Who knows. He's terrible, he's a hero. He's terrible. He's okay. It's strange. Maybe he just needs a fresh start and another team that believes in him. Or maybe he's just going to be a usable replacement player who won't necessarily kill you when he gets in there. All the Fan knows is that he is one of the strangest cases in all of baseball.

Success is Contagious

The Pirates and the Royals won again and again, pitching was the key for both. Paul Maholm improved his record to 3-0 and though his ERA rose a bit to just over 2, it was still a successful outing against a tough Florida club. Meanwhile, up in Cleveland, Brian Bannister returned triumphantly from the minors and pitched a gem for the Royals as they shut out what had been a hot hitting team.

With each game that goes by, you can see the confidence building in the pitching staffs of both teams. Success builds on itself and is contagious. Unless one experiences it, it's hard to describe. Now promise not to laugh, but the Fan knows a little about this subject.

Once upon a time, some twenty years ago, the Fan was one of the top bowlers in the state of New Hampshire. Now, come on! Stop laughing. Bowling is a real sport that takes skill and accuracy. The Fan bowled since he was a kid and fond memories of Saturday morning kid's leagues still linger. Of course, the head of those kid's leagues was one Mrs. Finn who was one hot mom. She had platinum hair and mini-skirts and low cut blouses and she was the bomb! She helped the Fan fall in love with bowling.

The Fan was always pretty good, in the 170 to 175 average range. Accuracy was the game and not pure talent. The Fan made all his spares and that helped overcome the lack of real strike power. After growing up and moving to New England, the Fan had married a woman from New Hampshire and she was a real fitness buff. She ran half marathons and came in third in the Miss New Hampshire Bodybuilding competition. She taught aerobics classes.

The Fan wasn't as much into it as she was, but working 70 hours a week in a hot, sweaty tannery put the Fan in great shape and he started joining his wife in some of those activities. So in the mid-1980s, the Fan was in the best shape of his life and for three years, was one of the top bowlers in the state. One year in particular stands out. The Fan averaged 196 and won the singles and doubles tournaments for the region and the doubles tournament in the state as well as several team events. The trophies are in a box some where.

That year was simply a year when the physical shape meshed with the knowledge of decades of participating and everything just came together. Each week built on the next and the Fan just knew what to do, where to throw it, where to stand and a killer instinct kicked in and there was no way anyone else was going to win. Heck, the Fan paid for a washer and dryer with bowling winnings and so was the Fan's very first computer, a 10MB model from some catalog outfit in California called DAK or something. So, if you all are sick of the Fan's writing, bowling is the reason this all came to be.

That winning zone can't be fully predicted by projections and statistical analysis. Some times, despite anything that has happened before, it all just comes together and some kind of mindset seeps in that makes anything possible. To tie all this back into where we started, the Pirates and the Royals are in that zone right now. The pitchers on both teams, particularly the starters, just believe they are going to be successful and they are feeding off each other and success is happening regularly.

Take Brian Bannister. Two years ago, he was a very successful starter for the Royals. Not overpowering, he was canny and pitched to a 12-9 record on a very bad team and had an ERA in the mid-threes. Then last year, the wheels fell off and as good as he was the year before, he was that bad last year. He gave up 265 base runners in just over 182 innings of work. His ERA ballooned to 5.76 and he lost 16 games.

He was demoted at the end of Spring Training because the Royals front five have been pitching really well. But he was brought up and pitches a gem, going six innings without giving up a run. Fortunately, manager, Trey Hillman, apparently has learned his lesson and Farnsworth wasn't anywhere to be seen and the Royals relievers finished up the shutout.

Maholm was featured in the FanDome yesterday so there is no need to go over that again. The point is that these pitching staffs are having a lot of fun and a lot of success and for two blue-coller, small market teams, you can't help but root that the success continues. Keep throwing those strikes, Boys. The Fan knows what it is like to get on a roll and it sure is a lot of fun.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The Pirates Are Pitching!

There was little secret to the stunning turnaround for the Tampa Bay Rays last year. Their defense improved dramatically and their pitching hit full stride. The Pirates came into this year following four straight seasons of either 94 or 95 losses. They made a determined effort coming into this year to focus on pitching and defense and both are currently clicking.

After tonight's 3-2 win over the red hot Marlins, the Pirates have given up 42 earned runs in 14 games or three runs per game. Since they are scoring 4.5 runs per game, that's a good way to start with an 8-6 record. Will the team hold up for the long haul and end their sub-.500 ways? If they were winning with offense, it would be easy to discount that possibility. But good pitching is a great way to move forward.

The first thing the Pirates did was hire Joe Kerrigan as their pitching coach. Say what you will about how much effect a coach has on a ball club, but Kerrigan immediately focused on two things. First, after watching video of last season, he noticed that the Pirates never challenged anyone inside. Secondly, they didn't pound the strike zone. Kerrigan was the pitching coach for the Expos and Red Sox when a kid named Pedro Martinez did a pretty good job of doing both.

He also ramped up the pitcher's conditioning so they wouldn't wilt as the season and the games went along. Whether it's the program or the pitchers that are making the difference is debatable, but you cannot debate the results.

Last year, the Pirates finished with a 5.10 ERA. They were 16th in the league in walks, hits and consequently, runs. So far this year, they are fifth in the league in walks and are first in the league in earned runs.

It starts with the rotation. Last year, the only starter with an ERA+ over 100 (league average)was Paul Maholm. This year, every starter is over 100. And even their most uneven starter to this point, Ian Snell, has an ERA of only 4.24. If he can get his control straightened out, he will be okay too. Maholm has become the ace of the staff and he's been unhittable so far. He's not a big time strike out guy (none of the starters are), but his WHIP is a fantastic 0.968 and he is only giving up 6.1 hits per nine innings.

Zack Duke seems to be back to the form he flashed a few seasons ago and is 2-1 with a 2.95 ERA. Ross Ohlendorf has been a big surprise and though he is a hard luck 1-2, he's only walked three in 18 innings to go along with only 17 hits. Karstens had a rough first start but shut down the Marlins effectively on Tuesday night and won his first game of the year.

Some times, you have addition by subtraction. Last year's Bucs had too many starts by the likes of Matt Morris and Tom Gorzelanny. A top five of Maholm, Duke, Snell, Ohlendorf and Karstens is very competitive and can keep them in games all season long.

Relief pitching is by and large improved as well. The biggest plus is a full season of Matt Capps as closer. He's already started four for four in save opportunities and seems very competent. John Grabow is an important man in the bullpen and had a very good year last year with a 2.95 ERA in 74 appearances! That's a lot of games. Grabow is perfect so far this year and hasn't given up a run in six appearances. Jesse Chavez has been a nice addition and has a 1.50 ERA in five appearances so far.

The rest of the bullpen has been a bit of a mess and Tyler Yates, who had a decent season last year has had a rough start in particular. Three guys won't get it done all year and they will need help from a couple of others at least. But at least, when the team is ahead in the game, they have a nice set up at the end to close it out.

Pirate fans should be excited. This has been a lot of fun so far this year. It's a lot more fun than losing nearly every night. At least they are in most of their games and an 8-6 record is nothing to sneeze at. Do the Pirates have a shot at the division? No. But they do have a shot at being a decent team and an outside shot at playing .500 baseball or better.

As the Rays proved, fielding is a big part of pitching well. And defensively, the Pirates are holding their own very well. Sanchez is way above league average at second. The LaRoche brothers are both above league average at first and third. Morgan, McLouth and Moss are all above average in the outfield, though when Craig Monroe starts out there, they lose something but gain power at the plate.

Surprisingly, Jack Wilson is playing below league average (at least in range factor) and the team struggles defensively behind the plate. But the defense seems to be a strength and not a weakness and should help the team stay competitive.

There is a good feeling about this team. And it's been way too long since we've been able to say that about the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Patriot's Day and the Red Sox

The Fan has found the key to solid sports writing: Write about the Red Sox. It only took this writer 150 posts so far this year to figure this one out. Yesterday's FanDome featured a story on David Ortiz and readership jumped 200%. Well, this post is again about New England baseball...sort of. It's more about Patriot's Day. But, though it might seem like a cheap shill to hold onto those new readers, the Fan is more noble than that. Right. And the Fan just decided to add, "and the Red Sox," to the heading because "Patriot's Day" didn't seem strong enough.

For those of you who do not live in Massachusetts or Maine (which until 1820 was a district of Massachusetts), Patriot's Day is a quaint holiday that commemorates the battles of Lexington and Concord, the first skirmishes of the Revolutionary War. It's a weird holiday because state offices and many businesses in the two states close, but it's not a national holiday so you still get mail.

The day got off to a crappy start. Around Sunday afternoon, the Fan and his faithful and lovely wife heard this strange gurgling noise. We tramped around the house looking for this unusual sound and after many turns and twists, discovered that it emanated from the oil tank. That's not a good thing. It seems the bloody thing had gone bone dry and we hadn't noticed. Well, to those of you who actually live in places where spring has arrived, you may not understand that we in the frozen tundra of northern Maine still need heat. It was 20 degrees last night. The faithful and lovely wife was like an octopus in bed last night and not for the good reasons you would hope for that kind of description.

So the Fan set his internal alarm (the Fan has some uncanny ability to wake up at whatever time he envisions) for six o'clock in the morning so a trip to the oil company could occur and take care of the heat problem. Well, like clockwork, the Fan woke up at 6:30 (well, it was close) and managed to get to the oil company office exactly at 7 when they normally open. A handmade sign on the door informed the Fan that the office was closed due to the holiday that 48 other states do not celebrate.

Uh oh! Now what? Then it comes to mind that Number 2 fuel oil is really the same thing as diesel and some people use them interchangeably. But the Fan doesn't have a gas can that isn't tainted with gasoline. So a quick trip to the hardware store, proudly owned by the family of Senator Susan Collins since 1845, yields a five gallon can for $15. The next stop is to the gas station. The first thing the Fan notices is that the diesel tank doesn't have a debit card sliding thingy. So the nozzle is lifted, the numbers go to zero, but nothing happens. A quick run into the store reveals that the clerk said she authorized the thing to pump and it should work.

After looking things over more carefully, the Fan notices a little button that says, "Start." Silly, right? Well, the fuel is purchased and taken home and poured down the pipe. The Fan then goes in the basement and pushes the restart button on the furnace and it acts like it wants to go but stops dead. Four more attempts are made with the same results.

So the Fan then calls golfing buddy, Mike, who is much more of a man's man then this writer, who though he writes about the past more than the present, would be dead in seven days if he actually had to live back then. Mike states matter-of-factly that the furnace ran out of oil and has to be bled. "You mean I have to suck on a pipe or something?" asks the Fan incredulously. Mike, the man's man says he'll be right over.

Mike had been working on a motor this morning (which is the kind of thing men's men do) and had dropped it on his finger. So he shows up and he's bleeding on the floor and on the furnace and on the Coke bottle that acts as the reservoir for the bled oil, but the furnace kicks on and life is much better in the Fan's household. Thank goodness for men's men who take pity on good friends, even if they drip blood all over the place.

Well, this escapade puts the Fan's schedule a couple of hours behind and there was an order to fill and deliver and by the time all that was done, it was 2:30 in the afternoon. The Fan then figures there is still time to click on NESN and watch a little baseball. But the game is actually over!

One of the fun things about Patriot's Day is that the Boston Marathon is run, which was a lot more fun before it was won every year by an Ethiopian. And then the Red Sox always play right before noon. But this is American League baseball and these games always go over three hours, right? But not this one. Though it was a blowout by the Red Sox, the game was played rather quickly and NESN was showing Boston Bruins' highlights. Ugh!

So a quick look over at ESPN reveals that the Red Sox clobbered Hendrickson and the Orioles, which shouldn't surprise anyone and young Justin Masterson pitched well for the Red Sox. David Ortiz had two hits, including a triple, to once again make the Fan look like an idiot or something. But one triple doesn't mean much in the scheme of things and we'll see what he does from here.

The Fan decided to take the rest of the day off. Since the morning was traumatic and it was a holiday (for two states out of 50), it seemed justified. Except there was nothing baseball related to watch. So the Fan played Rocket Mania and fiddled around until the East Coast games were due to start, except they didn't because they were all rained out.

It actually hit fifty today so the Fan did get to sit outside, but since it was a darn two-state holiday, the kids next door had the day off from school and were endlessly running their dirt bikes around and around and around. That's probably what the children of men's men do.

What a strange day. But at least the Fan wrote about the Red Sox, so readership should be great again tomorrow. Except when they read this drivel, they will probably recognize it for the shameless attempt it was for readers. So hello, Red Sox Nation. Looks like your team is back on track and back in juggernaut mode. Enjoy.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Is David Ortiz Done?

David Ortiz has gone from Big Papi to Little Papoose. There was concern about Ortiz as the season started and it looks like the concern was well placed. Ortiz, who had wrist problems last year and saw his OPS dip from over 1 to .877, currently sits with an OPS of .484. He is striking out at an alarming rate and has one extra base hit all season long.

The Fan has long had a theory that those big boned players like Ortiz only have a shelf life of about 8 to 10 years. History is littered with the Mo Vaughans and Ron Kittles of the world and Ortiz has that body type. What has to be frustrating to the Red Sox brass is that the guy only gets paid to hit and he is hitting in the number three slot as always and has been a big, empty void for the team thus far.

Ortiz has now played in 12 games and has 47 At Bats. He has only 8 hits and only one of those was for extra bases (a double). He has struck out 14 times. If you look at his career, he has struck out about 21% of the time. This year he is percentage points away from 30%. If you look at his splits, he is faring worse against right handed pitching than he is against lefties and is only batting .160 against them (.222 against lefties). He has struck out 36% of the time this year against pitchers throwing right handed. That isn't right.

Ortiz started slowly last year too and only batted .198 in April, but if you go back and look at that month last year, he only struck out 18% of the time. And he had seven extra base hits including five homers. There is still a chance for him to hit four homers in the eleven days left this month, but it doesn't look promising at this point.

The Red Sox had better hope that he is just in a funk and that it isn't physical. They need him in the middle of that lineup. And if he doesn't pull out of it soon, it will put the team in an awkward position of having to decide whether to sit him when he is one of the most popular players on the team.

The Red Sox have a history of knowing when to dump a player who is declining. Either they didn't see this coming or they had an idea but were hoping they were wrong. His start has to make the team uncomfortable and the team has to hope he starts hitting in May like he did last year and stays healthy all year. If he does not, uncomfortable moments lie ahead.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Some Cool Games Around the Majors Saturday

There had to be some beauty around the majors yesterday besides that mining disaster at Yankee Stadium. And there was. A lot of cool games were played and it was fun looking at the box scores. Here are some highlights:

- Johan Santana gave up only five hits in seven innings and no base runner got beyond first base as the Mets beat the Brewers, 1-0 in new Citi Field. Santana is going to like pitching there.

- Ian Snell pitched a great game against the Braves as the Pirates shut the Braves out, 10-0. The Braves are falling like a rock and have lost five straight without Chipper Jones in the lineup.

- Manny Ramirez hit his first two homers of the year as the Dodgers beat the Rockies, 9-5.

- Zack Greinke raised his shutout innings streak to 34 as he blanked the Rangers, 2-0. Greinke hasn't given up a run in 20 innings this year. Millwood was the hard luck loser for the Rangers.

- Even Yankee castoffs had a bad day yesterday. The A's had another good start from young Trever Cahill, but couldn't score any runs and lost to the Blue Jays in extra innings as Dan Geise gave up two runs for the loss. Geise had been released by the Yankees after Spring Training.

- Wandy Rodriguez only gave up two hits and struck out ten as Houston shut out the Reds.

- Brad Lidge blew his first save since 2007 as the Phillies lost to San Diego, 8-5. Lidge parted with four runs as San Diego got a come from behind win.

- Edwin Jackson pitched seven and two-thirds shutout innings and Rodney got his third save as the Tigers shut out Seattle. Bedard was the hard luck loser and pitched well.

- And in probably the best game of the day, Arizona and San Francisco traded zeroes for eight innings yesterday as Doug Davis and Tim Lincecum pitched brilliantly. Lincecum, in particular, struck out thirteen and returned to last year's form. But in the top of the ninth, Jeremy Affeldt and Brian Wilson beached the Giants and Chad Qualls pitched the bottom of the ninth to preserve the shutout for the Diamondbacks.

Wang - Yankees' Pinball Wizard

The Yankees were on national television yesterday as most of the country got a chance to see the new ballpark. Chien-Ming Wang was pitching for the Yankees and Carmona for the Indians. Both have been a bit of a mystery to their teams thus far as control problems have plagued Carmona and Wang has been uncharacteristicly whacked around in his two previous starts.

Wang had been one of the winningest pitchers in the majors the previous few seasons by compiling seasons of 19-7, 19-5 and 8-2. His sinker is his out pitch and it is one of the best in the big leagues. Carmona is also famous for his sinker and two years ago led the Indians to the brink of the World Series.

But both pitchers had struggled so far this year. Wang has actually gone beyond struggling. He's been downright ugly. In his previous two starts, he had pitched only 4.2 innings and had given up 21 base runners and 15 earned runs. Yes, that is butt ugly numbers right there.

The Fan couldn't watch the game because of other obligations but had the trusty laptop and was fallowing along with Yahoo's GameDay. Wang came out in the top of the first and had a one, two, three inning. That was surprising, but looking in hindsight, Sizemore struck out, DeRosa popped out and Martinez flied out to left. Not a single ground ball in sight. That should have been a sign.

Teixeira hit a two run homer for the Yankees in the bottom of the second after a Damon walk and the Yankees held a 2-0 lead going into the top of the second. It was the last moment this game was a ballgame.

The Fan was looking at the laptop when the information stated that Hafner singled to third. First of all, Hafner is very slow. So, without seeing the play, the Fan's first thought was that the Yankee infield did not make a play they could have and the Fan said an inward, "Uh oh." Then Peralta singled to left. The Fan's eyebrows raised. Then Choo hit a three run homer. And then the Fan knew this was going to get real ugly again.

And it did. Garko fouled out but then Francisco doubled. Cabrera singled. 4-2. Sizemore doubled. DeRosa doubled. 6-2. Wild pitch. Posada must have been catching. Martinez singled. 7-2. Claggett relieved Wang. Who?? Hafner doubled. Peralta doubled. 9-2. Choo walked. Garko singled. Francisco struck out (Bronx cheer). Cabrera homered. 13-2. Sizemore homered. 14-2. Mark DeRosa then struck out (probably out of sheer exhaustion) and the inning finally ended, thirty-seven minutes after it started.

And the rout was on. The final score was 22-4. This is getting embarrassing for the Yankees. They have a new ballpark, spent all that money and sandwiched one win around two blow outs to the tune of 32-6. The Fan has to wonder how many times you throw Wang out there. Has any pitcher been exposed to three straight blowouts to this proportion in his first three starts of the year? Jayson Stark will probably let us know eventually. But it sure seems historic. Perhaps the Yankees should bring up somebody else and put Wang in long relief for a while until he figures this out.

Until they do, Wang is the Pinball Wizard and is getting clobbered on a regular basis. Wow!