It’s always easy to blame the new guy. It’s always comforting to point fingers at the interloper. It’s his fault, they say, that Andy Pettitte was off his game. That Ivan Rodriguez fellow, who needs him with Jose Molina calling better games?
Of course, it’s never quite that easy. Andy Pettitte just didn’t have it tonight. He allowed 14 base runners to reach in 5.1 innings and gave up nine runs tonight. Chris Britton, fresh up from AAA, finished the job in a way by allowing two inherited runners to score on the Angels’ third three-run home run of the night.
While Bobby Abreu continued his hot hitting with another homer and Xavier Nady launched his second Bronx bomb, the Yanks fell to the torrid Angels 12-6. It was just one of those nights, and with Sidney Ponson due to face Ervin Santana tomorrow, the timing couldn’t have been worse. There is, of course, a silver lining. While a flat-out awful call in the seventh squashed a Yankee rally before it could take off, the Yanks plated three runs in the bottom of the ninth, and we’ll get to get Joe’s belief that the team that scores last the night before starts off hot the next day.
For the Yankees, tonight’s loss dropped them a half further back behind the idle Red Sox and Rays in the AL East. With the Red Sox playing a fading Oakland team this weekend and the Rays, 40-16 at home, hosting the Tigers, the Yanks will have to bring their A game later tonight.
Meanwhile, more alarming is the fact that tonight’s loss was the Yanks’ fourth in five games. Since their eight-game winning streak to start the second half, the Yanks have cooled considerably. Sure, 9-4 over a 13-game span is still great baseball, but the hot streak has been dulled by a run of terrible baseball.
There is, in fact, no denying that these last few games have been terrible. Over their last five games, Yanks’ pitchers are throwing to an 8.80 ERA, and opponents are hitting around .350/.400/.600 against them. On the other side of the ball, the team’s hitters are hitting, but they can’t overcome such large deficits night after night.
Of course, the slate is wiped clean each day in baseball, and tonight the Yanks have a chance to start another winning streak. Maybe Ponson can launch them in a better direction.