Sunday, August 30, 2009

Mitre Pitches a Gem in the 11-0 Route

NEW YORK -- For the first time all season on Saturday, Sergio Mitre could comfortably spend the hours after a start looking back on his performance. But for the first time all season, no one else wanted to.

Instead, after a sharp line drive in the Yankees' 10-0 win over the White Sox prematurely ended Mitre's best outing of the season, the popular topic of discussion was his next start. Would he make it?

"I want to," Mitre said, sporting a heavy wrap on his right forearm. "I hope so."

"There's some concern there," manager Joe Girardi said. "He got hit pretty hard."

And for the first time all season, those comments were not in reference to hits or runs allowed.

The ball in question shot off the bat of A.J. Pierzynski in the seventh inning, just after Mitre walked Brent Lillibridge to allow his second baserunner of the game. Unable to react in time, Mitre could not stop the ball from ricocheting off his forearm, producing a large contusion that quickly swelled.

Moments later, he was in the underbelly of Yankee Stadium, undergoing X-rays that turned out negative. And that was a relief, because suddenly, Mitre had become a rather valuable commodity.

For six innings, he stifled the White Sox, producing 13 groundouts over that span -- and that from a fifth starter who entered the game with a 6.82 ERA, and perhaps would have been bounced from the rotation, if not for the faith of Girardi, who managed him in 2006 with the Marlins.

Certainly, Mitre had help. Some came from Alex Rodriguez on a diving stop in the fifth; more came from Robinson Cano on an athletic catch and throw in the sixth. Even Mark Teixeira nearly gloved Jim Thome's scorching one-hopper in the fifth inning, which became the only hit that Mitre and the Yanks allowed.

But the day, or at least the first six innings of it, belonged to the sinkerballer.

"I know what I can do," Mitre said. "I think they know what I'm capable of doing."

It helped that the White Sox were in a state of disarray, starting a struggling pitcher -- former Yankee Jose Contreras -- and stumbling mightily at the outset of a horrific stretch of schedule. And it helped also that the Yankees' offense was able to take advantage of such vulnerability, pounding out nine hits and eight runs off Contreras over the first four innings.

Jerry Hairston and Johnny Damon each doubled in two runs in the second, before Rodriguez, Hideki Matsui, Nick Swisher and Cano -- aided by two White Sox errors -- all drove in runs in succession in the fourth. Rodriguez later added a solo home run in the eighth for good measure, marking the fifth time in the past eight games that the Yankees have scored double-digit runs.

"I'm not going to take credit away from New York," White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen said, after criticizing his own team following the game. "They've got great players out there."

Versatile, too. Consider Chad Gaudin, who, upon Mitre's departure, came into the game without any warning. He fired 2 2/3 no-hit innings and struck out four. Then there was Hairston, who started in center field, shifted to right later in the game, then to shortstop to give Derek Jeter a late breather -- all while reaching base three times.

"It wasn't always like that," Hairston said of his ability to float around the diamond. "I worked extremely hard at it."

Hard work -- that's the same concept that Girardi used to describe the success of Mitre, who remains just 13 months removed from Tommy John elbow ligament-replacement surgery. It has affected him. When Pierzynski's ball first shot back to the mound, in fact, Mitre's first thought was of his surgically repaired elbow, though he quickly realized that the ball struck safely below it.

Still, Mitre has not been a completely whole pitcher this year, which partly explains Girardi's decision to give him the benefit of the doubt. Mostly, Girardi has defended his decision to keep Mitre in the rotation by pointing to the games he started that the team has won, most due largely to an offense that on Saturday, at least temporarily, took over the Major League lead in runs.

Now, though, Girardi found concrete evidence that Mitre can thrive on his own merits.

"I know his work ethic," Girardi said. "I know his personality. I know his stuff. And I know he has a very good sinker."

He also has one heck of a bruise. If Mitre can't take his next turn against the Blue Jays, it seems likely that Gaudin would make a spot start in his stead. But if he can go and if he can continue to take his turn every five days?

"It would mean more wins," said Girardi, the manager of a team with plenty of them.

Anthony DiComo is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

New York Yankees Postgame Alert

August 29, 2009

Chicago White Sox 0, N.Y. Yankees 10 at Yankee Stadium Chicago White Sox Record: (64-66) N.Y. Yankees Record: (81-48)

Winning pitcher - Sergio Mitre (3-1)
Losing pitcher - Jose Contreras (5-13)

Chicago White Sox Runs: 0, Hits: 1, Errors: 3 N.Y. Yankees Runs: 10, Hits: 14, Errors: 0

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Next N.Y. Yankees Game: August 30, 2009 01:05 PM ET vs. Chicago White Sox

Upcoming N.Y. Yankees Home Games:
vs. Chicago White Sox, August 30, 2009 01:05 PM ET
vs. Tampa Bay Rays, September 7, 2009 01:05 PM ET
vs. Tampa Bay Rays, September 7, 2009 07:05 PM ET

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