Igawa fuels Yanks victoryBy
Julio Lugo’s first-pitch comebacker off of Jeff Karstens’s leg end up fracturing his fibula. He stayed in to face Youkilis, but after that, it was apparent that he couldn’t continue. Yankee fans then collectively sighed as Kei Igawa was summoned from the bullpen. Our most recent memory of him was his 4.1 inning, seven earned run mess from Monday against the Devil Rays. Only the most optimistic of fans thought he stood a chance against the Red Sox. His wildness surely would have been his undoing.
Baseball is a funny game.
After somehow inducing a double play ball off the bat of Ortiz, Igawa went up 0-2 on Manny Ramirez. But, just as we thought Igawa was dealin’, he freaking walked him. Ten pitches just to put the guy on first base. If Igawa gained any fans with the double play, they were gone by the end of that at bat. J.D. Drew’s at bat involved plenty of grumbling on my part, but it ended with a swing and a miss. Go Kei.
We’re now at the part of the recap where I question a Joe Torre decision. With Jeter on second, Senor Hustle at first, and a full count on Alex with one out, Joe tries the play I despise the most: the hit and run. Well, I certainly hope it was a hit and run. Otherwise, Jeter got such a terrible jump that he should have just put on the brakes. But I digress. Alex Rodriguez has struck out in 17 of his 63 at bats vs. Wakefield. He has reached base safely 23 times. There are few times, if any, that a hit and run is a good idea. But to do it even when the numbers aren’t flush is just moronic.
So either Joe called a hit and run in a terrible station, or Jeter got a piss poor jump on a steal, and we’re into the second. Before I could say, “man, Igawa is fuckin’ us up,” he has two down. Five pitches, Lowell and Crisp. Not the best hitters in the order, but hey, you gotta get the bottom of the order out, too. But, as if he’s incapable of getting through an inning without pissing off an increasing number of fans, he walks Doug Mirabelli, a guy who walked 15 times in 202 plate appearances last year.
And then he starts off Dustin Perdroia 2-0, and just like that we’re ready to turn on him again. All the sudden, sitting down Lowell and Crisp is nearly forgotten, and we’re thinking “great, top of the order next with two men on already.” Good thing Dustin Pedroia isn’t too good (or at least isn’t playing very well right now). A strikeout ended the frame.
Cano — who has been looking silly lately with all those swings and misses — swung and missed with runners on second and third and one out. This set the table for Melky to line out, ending the frame. A least he made good contact, and it took Wakefield five pitches to get the job done, well above Melky’s average this year. That kind of approach, if he keeps it up, is going to yield runs some day. But for right now, we were still showing zero.
Top of the order for the third. Lugo foul tips a third strike into Jorge Posada’s glove, one down. Still not feeling good, as Kevin Youkilis eats pitchers for Igawa for breakfast. Okay, maybe he doesn’t crush the ball, but he has an excellent, disciplined approach. And how did the at bat end? Youkilis walked without taking the bat off his shoulder. And here comes Ortiz, who surely wouldn’t suffer the same fate as his last at bat.
(Aside: what’s insane right here is that Dusty Baker wouldn’t want Youk on base because he’d be “clogging the base paths.” But, see I want him on base, because David Ortiz hits lots of doubles and home runs — he slugged .607 last year. But those home runs and doubles don’t do a helluva lot when there’s no one on base in front of him.)
But waddya know? Once again, on the second pitch, Ortiz rolled into a double play, ending the inning. Yankees fans are marveled at Igawa’s performance to that point. Three full innings — and in one of them he inherited three runners — and not even a hit yet. A couple of walks, yes. But no one had hit it where they ain’t.
The third inning opened with promise as Johnny Damon walked (he’s done that 12 times already in 79 plate appearances) and Derek Jeter singled. Senor Hustle strolls to the plate. Now, when we got Abreu, it was understood that we were getting a super-patient hitter, someone who would make the pitcher throw a ton of pitches and draw more than his share of walks. Lately, though, most of his at bats have looked like this one. After inexplicably bunting foul on the first pitch (leave the bunting to Nieves, Cairo, Minky, and Melky), Senor Hustle swung and missed. One pitch later, he rolled into a double play. Wonderful. Alex Rodriguez looked to have hit a shot on a 2-0 pitch, but it wasn’t hit nearly as well as it initially looked. Fly out to Manny, and we’re scoreless through three.
The Sox finally got a hit off Igawa in the fourth, a Mike Lowell double. However, Manny and Drew had each struck out, and Coco Crisp popped out to leave the Red Sox scoreless through four. The Yanks finally struck in the bottom half, with Jorge hitting a no-doubt-about-it shot to the upper deck in right. So that’s what it feels like to have a lead.
The fifth and sixth were pretty much cake for Igawa, the only blemish being a four-pitch walk to Manny. In that situation — no one on, two outs, up by two in the sixth — it’s forgivable. Melky finally contributed, hitting a ground rule double after Wakefield botched a potential double play ball (allowing Jorge to move to second and score on the double). He allowed the first two runners to reach in the seventh, which brought Brian Bruney into the game. Bruney has been our best reliever this year (though Henn has a case), so bringing him into this spot is perfect. And he delivered, setting down the next three and handing the ball off to Kyle Farnsworth.
When he was throwing strikes, he was fine. He caught Manny looking on three pitches, caught Crisp with his bat on his shoulders after five offerings, and got J.D. Drew to ground weakly into a fielder’s choice after going up 0-1. He allowed hits to Youkilis (down 1-0 and 2-1) and Lowell (two straight balls after going up 0-2), and walked Ortiz, but allowed only one run. And now comes Rivera.
After allowing a broken bat leadoff single to Varitek, Mo mowed down the next three, earning his first save of the season and allowing Yanks fans everywhere to re-acclimate ourselves to winning.
Seven-game losing streaks do a lot to a baseball fan’s psyche, so I can’t imagine what it does to a player’s. Here’s to hoping we can make it two in a row tomorrow, and that Phil turns it into a winning streak on Tuesday.