For much of the evening, the YES Network camera crews kept cutting back to a little boy sitting behind home plate. At various points in the game, those of us watching at home enjoyed the privilege of seeing the boy eating a hot dog and some ice cream, drinking a soda, getting a foul ball, cheering on the Yanks, getting another foul ball and magnanimously giving said ball to a fellow kid in the stands. It was nearly more entertaining than the squirrels they love to show.
Of course, this kid was enjoying the game from seats that cost upward of $300 per ticket, but hey, he was cute. Or something.
But he didn’t have the best — or the most expensive — seat in the house. That honor was reserved for the Yankees’ very own $21-million man. Derek Jeter, All Star short stop and future Hall of Famer, got the night of to rest, and when the Yanks needed his bat the most, Derek, at the orders of his manager, just sat on the bench, watching his time waste a lead-off walk and lose another one-run game to the Texas Rangers, this one by the score of 3-2.
I hardly need to rehash the 9th inning. Mariano Rivera, appropriately, come in to pitch the 9th, but in a non-save situation, he struggled. Three runners reached base, and the Rangers plated a run that would eventually saddle Rivera with the loss. Curiously, on the season, Rivera is 22 for 22 in save situations with a 0.00 ERA. He’s allowed 8 hits and 2 walks to go with 27 strike outs over 23.1 innings. But in non-save situations, he’s 2-3 with a 2.57 ERA in 14 innings. He’s allowed 12 hits and just one walk to go with 15 strike outs. I wonder why.
But such is the way of baseball. The Rivera move was the right one; it just backfired. Ten minutes later, Joe Girardi had a chance to make another move, and he made the wrong one. Wilson Betemit, the King of Swing, drew a four-pitch walk. It was just his second four-pitch walk of the season.
With the tying run on base, Girardi had what seemed to be the easiest decision to make as Melky Cabrera, then 0 for his last 18, heading to the plate. Girardi could have used Derek Jeter to pinch hit; he should have had Melky bunt. Instead, Melky fell behind 0-2 on two called strikes. He then swung and hit into a double play. Who didn’t see that one coming from three miles away?
The decision didn’t make sense as the at-bat unfolded; it still doesn’t make sense two hours later. With one of the best hitters of the generation on the bench and the Yanks’ searching for a win, their manager opted to have their worst regular — Cano is at .245, Melky .240 — bat. While I’d hardly advocate for the bunt, if ever there was a chance to give up an out for whatever perceived greater good exists in the 9th inning of a one-run game, that was it. But Melky swung; the Rangers turned two; and the Yanks lost. They lost the game; they lost more ground; and they’ve lost whatever momentum they had after rebounding from that 15-6 loss on Friday.
A note on Joba Chamberlain: Tonight was not a good start, and as Mike said to me after the game, two things are common with young pitchers: They take their lumps, and they get injured. Tonight, Joba suffered through the former. He was rushing his delivery a bit, and he couldn’t find Posada’s target. He threw 91 pitches, just 49 of them for strikes and walked four in four innings.
Unlike Ian Kennedy’s control problems earlier this year in which he was trying to paint the corners and miss, Joba simply didn’t have it tonight. While some — cough cough Mike and the Mad Dog cough cough — may try to draw comparisons, the situations aren’t even analogous. Amusingly enough, even on his worst night, Joba still managed to strike out six in four innings. Mostly, he was ineffectively wild, but as the flailing Rangers bat showed, he had bursts of effective wildness tonight.
The Yanks’ bullpen picked up the slack; once again, the bats did not.