There exists a tendency after a loss to assign blame to the manager. Some people go so far as to blame the manager exclusively for the loss (we’re looking at you, NoMaas). Yes, sometimes it is the manager’s fault. Most times, though, it’s everyone’s fault — and the manager just doesn’t help things.
Yes, I’m referring to Torre’s decision to bring out Pettitte for the seventh. Now, let’s be clear: I’m not saying “Joe’s an idiot” or anything of that nature. I’m just pointing out that sending him out for the seventh, after a 21-pitch, two-run sixth, was a questionable move.
I do understand why he did it, though, at least to an extent. Pettitte was well under 100 pitches — 81 to be precise. He had been pitching well until the sixth, so it’s tough to just yank a guy with a relatively low pitch count in that situation. Plus, the pitcher’s spot was due up next. Of course, that shouldn’t factor into the decision; you roll out Vizcaino for the sixth and pinch hit for him in the bottom of the inning (which is what ended up happening, anyway).
His shaky sixth turned out to be a sign of things to come. I mean, when you walk the pitcher (and Francis didn’t even take the bat off his shoulders) to start the inning, you know you’re in trouble. And then came the monster shot to Holliday. Okay, just a home run. They happen. It’s a shame that walking the pitcher led to it being a two-run shot, but that’s baseball. However, following the home run Pettitte allowed a double to Helton, and a single to Atkins that mercifully ended with Helton being gunned down at the plate (though the call was questionable).
If Helton is called safe there, does Pettitte come out for the seventh? Does he get pulled right then and there? I really need to know the answer to those questions. Because if Torre intended to pull Pettitte if that run scored, I don’t understand the logic in leaving him in. It was a very close play, and the call could have gone either way. So there’s no reason to base that on the actual outcome of the play (run, no run). You have pretend that the run scored, and base your decision on that, because if you do that play over again 10 times, chances are Helton is safe five of them.
But who knows what Torre’s intentions were at that point. One would have to think, though, that if that was Mike Mussina, he’d have been pulled after the Helton double.
The real blame of last night, however, goes to the offense. At least they hit a little on Tuesday and just couldn’t put anything together. Fine. Over the course of 162 games, that’s going to happen. You’re going to leave guys stranded sometimes. Last night, though, the Yanks offense was just shut down. Five hits, two walks, and just two extra base hits (though they were strung back to back and represented the only run of the game).
After that inning, though, the Yanks went quietly. They went 1-2-3 in both the 7th and the 8th, and the only runner to reach in the 9th was Alex on his second walk of the night. It’s pretty apparent that the Rockies are going to pitch around him when they can, which puts the onus on Abreu to get on base (giving them one less place to put Alex) and Posada to make them pay for the walks. Neither happened last night.
Roger vs. Rodrigo Lopez tonight, who is absolutely tearing things up (3-0, 2.90 ERA). He’s only made seven starts, though, so we’re talking about a small sample. And he may be getting lucky, too: he’s way below his (excellent) career walk rate (1.56 per nine vs. 2.70 per nine career, but throwing the same strike percentage (63%). He also holds a 6.02 ERA against the Yankees in 121 innings. But it’s useless pointing these things out; the Yankees have to win this game, regardless of who is on the mound.
Photo: Eric Gay/AP