Yesterday’s game helped me put the value of defense in a better perspective. When you have a pitch-to-contact guy on the mound, you’re going to need some solid performances by the guys behind him in order to get through it. Most of the time — even though they aren’t the best fielders in the league — the defense is solid in support of Wang. Unfortunately, guys are going to have bad games; some guys are just bad.
Not that Wang did himself many favors. He didn’t look his sharpest, leaving that sinker higher in the zone than he normally does (and a consequence of leaving that baby up is that it doesn’t have nearly the bite as a lower version). Flat and waist high is no way to go through life.
If you saw the game, you know which plays I’m talking about. If you didn’t see the game, you surely heard from a friend who is as frustrated as me. It was one of two games this season I clicked off in the middle — and I’m sure you can guess which the other was.
Let’s start with my boy Bobby. On the first pitch in the fifth inning, Gerald Laird (.209/.284/.297) hit a deep fly ball to right. Melky makes that play. Damon makes that play. Matsui makes that play. Hell, fuckin’ Bernie makes that play. But Bobby has all sorts of trouble when he has to run backwards, can’t get under the ball, and it falls. Now, thankfully it’s the fifth inning, and it’s a 1-1 game, so even if the run scores it’s not a fatal deficit.
The corners were in and Jeter and Cano weren’t as deep as normal for Kenny Lofton. A second-pitch sharp grounder to Jeter kept Laird in place, one away. The next batter, Brad Wilkerson, tapped one to third on the first pitch. Alex charged and fired a strike to Jorge, who was waiting for the approaching Laird. A rundown ensued — well, if you can call it that. Jorge abandoned fundamentals and immediately threw to Alex, which turned Laird in the direction of home plate. Anyone who has played Little League knows that you always run the guy back to the original base; that’s priority No. 1.
However, there is a chance to rectify this. Alex, being a fundamentally sound player, can just chuck the ball back to Jorge, turning Laird around and beginning the actual rundown. Intead, he tried to fake him out and ended up chasing him all the way home, neglecting to toss the ball to Wang — covering home plate — along the way. A tag on the ass, and Laird is safe (you get him on the cleat, he’s probably out). Meanwhile, Wilkerson is standing on second base.
If it ended there, I might not have been as pissed. Mark Teixeira up next, and he singles to right. There is little to no chance that Bobby gets Wilkerson at the plate, so the smart move is to throw it to the cutoff man and keep Tex at first. Nope. Bobby completely overestimated his arm and ended up tossing an 18-hopper, forcing Jorge to go up the first base line to field it: 3-1. Two pitches later, Sosa singles to right…and Bobby does the same exact thing. Incredible. Thankfully, Sammy isn’t too fast and couldn’t advance to second. Clemency arrived in the form of Hank Blalock’s second GIDP of the game.
The seventh and eighth were just brutal. Does anyone really want to recount the damage? The Rangers simply teed off, and the Yanks didn’t have an answer. Luis Vizcaino isn’t going to cut it in this bullpen. Yes, Sean Henn was worse, but we’ve seen plenty good from Henn this season. We haven’t seen anything good from Viz since he melted down in the comeback game against Cleveland. DFAing him today means you don’t have to watch him blow another game open (though, in fairness, this one was out of hand by the time he came in).
Going 5-1 on the season against Texas is superb. Going 7-3 over our last 10 is nice, especially considering April. Going 4-3 on the homestand, though, isn’t that fun. A sweep in Seattle would mitigate that — 10-3 over 13 games — but who really thinks we’re going to get repeat performances out of Rasner and DeSalvo? Hope for six innings, three runs from each and hope the bullpen keeps it in tact.
Rematch of Rasner v Washburn tonight.
Since April 20, the first game of the first Boston series:
The pitching is coming around. Those top three guys need to pick up some serious slack.