Ogando, Sabathia in Sunday spotlight

Sunday marks the 58th anniversary of one of the most famous home runs in New York Yankees history, Mickey Mantle’s 565-foot blast off Washington Senators pitcher Chuck Stobbs at Griffith Stadium, a home run so long it landed in the backyard of a house located beyond the ballpark.

It’s also a day for long baseball games. On this date in 2008, the Colorado Rockies and San Diego Padres clashed for 22 innings, with the Rockies winning, 2-1. On this date in 2010, the New York Mets and St. Louis Cardinals dueled for 20 innings before the Mets finally prevailed, also 2-1.

Will the Sunday Night Baseball matchup between the Yankees and Texas Rangers (ESPN, 8pm ET) feature any tape-measure home runs? Or will this be another game of tape-measure length? Let’s size up the pitching matchup for these two teams as we look at some of our best notes to know for this contest.

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, since earned runs became official in both leagues in 1913, tonight’s Rangers starter, Alexi Ogando, is the only pitcher to go at least six innings, allowing no earned runs and two or fewer hits in each of his first two career starts.

Alexi Ogando

OgandoHow is Ogando doing it?

• The high fastball has been very effective. Review of Pitch F/X data shows that hitters have swung at 24 of his fastballs in the upper third of the strike zone and above. They’ve missed 11 of them, which gives him a miss rate among the highest of anyone in baseball (45.8 percent) with that pitch.

• He’s thrown his slider for strikes 72 percent of the time (the major-league average is about 63 percent). He’s also increased the frequency of his slider to left-handed hitters from last season, now throwing it nearly one of every three pitches.

• He’s allowed the leadoff man in an inning to reach base twice in 13 plate appearances this season, continuing a trend from last year, in which the leadoff man reached only 17 percent of the time against him.

Ogando’s mound opponent, CC Sabathia, is 8-3 career against the Rangers in the regular season, but that doesn’t tell the full story. Sabathia went 5-0 with a 2.48 ERA against the Rangers from 2001 to 2003, but is 3-3 with a 5.40 ERA in nine starts since then.

Most Wins Before 31st Birthday
Pitchers in Last 30 Years

The matchups to watch for Sabathia are those against third baseman Adrian Beltre (3-for-22 against Sabathia, but has two hits in his last three turns) and utility man Michael Young, who figures to start based on his history versus the Yankees lefty. Young went 0-for-his-first-11 against Sabathia, but is 12-for-27 in the regular season since, as well as 3-for-6 in the postseason.

Sabathia is winless in his first three starts of 2011. He’s had only two other seasons in which he went that deep into a season without getting a win: 2003 (winless in first six) and 2008 (winless in his first four).

The Yankees starter may be looking for an offensive boost in this game. In the last two games, that has been provided by the Yankees outfield.

Entering Friday, the Yankees outfielders were hitting a combined .195 and slugging .339. But the combination of Nick Swisher, Curtis Granderson and Andruw Jones has boosted that with a 9-for-20 effort this weekend. Granderson hit a home run against Ogando in the 2010 ALCS. He might be the best pick for a tape-measure shot tonight. Last season, Granderson had the Yankees' longest home run of the year, one on Opening Day that went an estimated 455 feet, according to Hittrackeronline.com.

For another take on This Date in Baseball History, this one involving the Rangers and Sunday Night Baseball analyst Bobby Valentine, check out the SweetSpot Blog from earlier this week.