The Indians really seem to have Joba’s number. Two of his three career blown saves have come against Cleveland, and he’s surrendered more runs to the Indians than to any other team. While Joba now leads the Yanks in blown saves, we can’t exactly blame the midges for this one.
Instead tonight, we can look at the game one of two ways. The first way is the “c’est la vie” approach to baseball. Joba’s giving up a game-changing home run was bound to happen sooner or later, and as Peter Abraham wrote, the kid’s been fantastic so far. That bad night just so happened to be tonight. That home run doesn’t diminish his accomplishments so far, and he’s still one hell of a pitcher.
Through that lens, the game of baseball takes center stage. Joba threw a fastball, and Dave Delucci beat him on his best pitch. You tip your cap to that. Through the other lens however, we can sit here behind our computer screens and keyboards and second-guess the hell out of this one.
In this light, Joba is certainly the one to shoulder the blame for the loss. But Joe Girardi could draw some negative credit too. One could criticize Girardi for keeping Joba on the bench since May 2. Prior to tonight, he had thrown just one inning since April 28, and Joba is used to getting the regular work of a starter. Maybe he was shaky because he hadn’t thrown much later, but who really knows?
So when a one-run lead rolled around, Joba was less than sharp. Prior to the big three-run blow, he had given up a hit and a walk, and he had uncharacteristically thrown more balls than strikes. As he put it, “I was just kind of out of whack out there. You’re not always going to be perfect.”
So with two on and two out in the bottom of the 8th of a one-run game and the middle of the lineup, albeit in the form of a pinch hitter, at bat, the time was ripe for the Yankee manager to turn the game over to the best closer of all time. Joba didn’t have it, and there’s nothing wrong with that. If ever there was a tense save situation, it was then.
To further this second-guess to end all second guesses is the fact that Joba, for all the hype and attention, has thrown just 125 professional innings and 88 of those were at the Minor League level. He is, in other words, a rookie. Yes, he is a rookie filled with poise and facing the prospects of a very bright career, but he is a rookie nonetheless. Had Kyle Farnsworth been on the mound in the same situation, Rivera would have entered the game in the eighth.
But Joba is Joba, and he carries around a reputation of invincibility. He had yet to give up a run at Yankee Stadium, and there was no reason to think that Dave Delucci would be the one to get to him. He had thrived in these situations before, and logic would dictate keeping him in.
But fate has a funny way of intervening. Things unfolded as they did; Dave Delucci hit that home run; and the Yanks went home losers with Joba bearing the weight of a costly blown save and a loss. Chalk that one up to fate or chalk it up to a huge second guess. Either way, that was a tough one to lose, and it’s really easy to argue that Joe Girardi was faced with a possible/impossible situation. Either choice could be the right one, and either choice could be the wrong one. It’s just not fair to second-guess this one much.
Meanwhile, the Yanks are right back at .500 with Cliff Lee and his 0.94 ERA on tap later today. But as we all know, it’s still early.