Bronx Bombers more about defense this season

Updated: June 2, 2009

Mark J. Rebilas/US Presswire

Melky Cabrera is one of the reasons why the Yankees have made great strides on defense this season.

Flawless defense and pitching are always interwoven, and this has finally happened in New York. When the Yankees broke the Red Sox's record for errorless games Monday night against the Cleveland Indians, it wasn't a testament to brilliant, athletic defense, like the Cardinals of Whitey Herzog days. Yankees manager Joe Girardi said it perfectly: "We make the plays we're supposed to." However, their errorless streak was snapped on Tuesday night, after they committed one in a 12-3 rout over the Rangers.

Recently, the Yankees have gone on a big-time roll and taken first place in the AL East, all after the return of Alex Rodriguez. However, the key difference hasn't been offense, although the tandem of A-Rod and Mark Teixeira is similar to what David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez once were with Boston. With A-Rod and Teixeira in the order, the Yankees' runs per game have only risen slightly. The Yankees' ERA, though, has dropped by more than two runs, as CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett, Joba Chamberlain and Co. have come together as a power rotation.

The Yankees' rotation is made up of hard throwers who get minimal hard contact, and put little pressure on the defense. Teixeira, the owner of two Gold Gloves, has made the infield much better, and Melky Cabrera's defensive matrix is the best of any major league center fielder. Last year, the Yankees were near the bottom in defensive efficiency, but this year they are 13th out of 30 major league teams.

The Tampa Bay Rays went from the worst defensive efficiency in 2007 to the best in 2008. This year, with their rotation struggling, they are 18th. Making it even worse for the Rays is that they are now without their middle infield combo of Jason Bartlett and Akinori Iwamura, both on the disabled list. In 2008, the Red Sox were in the top five, this year they are in the bottom three, with the left side a cavernous hole.

As the Texas Rangers and the New York Yankees square off in the Bronx in a battle of first-place teams, pitching and defense will have a major impact on how much the lineups can get away with.

Past Baseball Tonight Clubhouses: June 1 | May 31 | May 28 | May 27 | May 26

TOUCH 'EM ALL

Touch 'Em AllWho went deep? Keep track of all the home runs hit each day on "Baseball Tonight" and on the Baseball Tonight Clubhouse page.

For more, check out the Home Run Tracker page.

Home Run Tracker
NAME HR OPPPITCHER SITUATION
A. Rowand, SF6WasStammenTop 1: 1-1, 0 Outs. None on.
A. Soriano, ChC13AtlKawakamiTop 1: 2-2, 0 Outs. None on.
J. Guillen, KC5TBSonnanstineTop 2: 1-0, 1 Outs. None on.
J. Bard, Was1SFLincecumBot 2: 0-0, 1 Outs. None on.
A. Rios, Tor7LAASaundersBot 4: 1-1, 0 Outs. None on.
J. Bay, Bos16DetPorcelloTop 3: 0-1, 1 Outs. 1 on.
D. Uggla, Fla10MilParraBot 2: 2-1, 0 Outs. 1 on.
N. Cruz, Tex15NYYBurnettTop 3: 1-0, 2 Outs. 2 on.
B. Zobrist, TB9KCDaviesBot 4: 0-1, 1 Outs. 1 on.

The complete list of Tuesday's homers

ON DECK: WEDNESDAY'S BEST MATCHUPS

Giants at Nationals, 7 p.m. ET

Randy Johnson goes for career win No. 300. He has already beaten Washington once this year, though it wasn't exactly pretty. The Giants beat the Nationals 11-7 on May 11, and Johnson picked up the win, despite giving up four runs in just five innings of work. The Big Unit did strike out nine without permitting a walk.

Red Sox at Tigers, 7:05 p.m. ET, ESPN

After an ugly April, Josh Beckett did not lose in May. Beckett went 3-0 with a 2.38 ERA this past month. How big a difference was it from April? Well, in April he was 2-2 with a 7.22 ERA in 28 2/3 innings, allowing 23 earned runs. In 34 May innings, he allowed just nine runs.

Rangers at Yankees, 7:05 p.m. ET

The two pitchers heading to the mound at Yankee Stadium, Andy Pettitte and Scott Feldman, are a combined 9-1 this season. Feldman (4-0) has not allowed more than three runs in an outing since April 9. Pettitte (5-1) has given up eight homers this year, with seven coming at home.

For the rest of Tuesday's schedule, click here.

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BBTN ON THE AIR: WEDNESDAY

TIME WHO'S ON?
10 p.m. ET
ESPN
Host: Karl Ravech
Analysts: Steve Phillips, Chris Singleton, Buck Showalter
12:20 a.m. ET
ESPN
Host: Steve Berthiaume
Analysts: Steve Phillips, Chris Singleton, Buck Showalter

BBTN MINUTE: POOR CLIFF LEE

SIMON SAYS

Simon Says ESPN researcher Mark Simon digs deep, looking for the night's best baseball numbers.

Tonight, he takes a look at how five pitchers (Jake Peavy, Bartolo Colon, Roy Halladay, Johan Santana and Tim Lincecum) with Cy Young Awards to their name fared Tuesday. It wasn't pretty, except for Halladay, who struck out 14 in a win:

Cy Yuk
Opposing pitchers
Wins 1 3
IP 27 2/3 30 2/3
Runs 20 13
Hits 31 31
K-BB 28-9 11-7

WEB GEMS

TUESDAY'S BEST AND WORST

BEST
JonesChipper Jones had a productive night. He broke up Cubs right-hander Randy Wells' no-hitter in the seventh. Later, after Atlanta erased a 5-0 deficit and forced the game into extra innings, Jones slapped a single to left field in the bottom of the 12th to drive home the winning run in Atlanta's wild 6-5 victory.
WORST
PadillaVicente Padilla had a hard night at Yankee Stadium, which has become common for pitchers in the hitter-friendly park. Padilla lasted only 3 2/3 innings, giving up seven hits and seven runs in the Rangers' 12-3 loss against the Yankees. Padilla also passed out four walks and struck out just one hitter.

NUMBERS TO KNOW

When A's rookie Josh Outman takes the mound Wednesday night against the White Sox, he'll look to improve on his 2-0 record as well as continue a streak of four consecutive quality starts. Outman posted a 2.45 ERA in May, 11th-best in the American League (min. 20 IP) and picked up two wins in five starts. What has been the secret to his success?

His off-speed pitches have been among the most effective in the league. He has the lowest off-speed batting average against in the majors and is in the top 20 for slugging percentage against. Plus, his swing-and-miss percentage and strikeout percentage are both well above the league average.

The White Sox present a tough test for Outman. They have the best batting average (.252) and slugging percentage (.410) against non-fastballs in the American League entering Tuesday.

Outman, opponents vs. non-fastballs (2009)
Outman AL avg.
BA .097 * .229
SLG .194 .353
Miss pct. 36.4 29.1
K pct. of PAs 37.0 26.0

* Best in baseball entering Tuesday's games

-- ESPN Stats & Information

FANTASY: PREVIEW OF WEDNESDAY'S GAMES

Fantasy Adam Madison examines the 15 games on Wednesday's slate.

Madison ranks the pitchers scheduled to take the mound and supplies loads of other information that could help shape your roster for Wednesday. Daily Notes