We could sit back and blame Mariano Rivera or Damaso Marte for last night’s 5-4, 11-inning fiasco, but that wouldn’t be fair. We could blame injuries or Joe Girardi for some highly questionable bullpen moves, but that too wouldn’t be accurate.
We should though look very carefully at what happened in the top of the 9th when Robinson Cano came up with the bases loaded and no one out. At that point, the Red Sox had a win expectancy of three percent, and Cano could have put the game out of reach. Javier Lopez had just walked two Yankees in a row, and he seemed primed for a meltdown.
Cano took a pitch outside for ball one, and then, on the next pitch — the first ball thrown near the strike zone in that AB — Cano hit into a 4-2-3 double play. Melky would then foul out, stranding two of the six runners he left on base, and the Yankees would rue a golden opportunity to seal a much-needed victory. It wasn’t in the cards.
In fact, it wasn’t in the cards from almost the first inning when the game started out with a single, a balk, a stolen base, a passed ball and a run before Joba Chamberlain could retire even one Red Sox hitter. For Chamberlain, it would again be that kind of night. He threw 91 pitches — just 49 of them for strikes — and walked away with a very ugly line. He allowed 9 hits in 5.1 innings; he walked four and struck out two. That he managed to leave the game in line for a no decision is hard to believe.
For Joba, it was the second straight wild start, and for the Yankee starters, we’re starting to see a trend. Pitchers with pinpoint control are having trouble in the early going locating their pitches. At some point, we’ll have to start questioning Dave Eiland’s ability as a pitching coach and stop blaming anything else. It’s still early, but it’s not that early.
The other alarming aspect of Joba’s game was his velocity. As the ol’ pitch f/x numbers tell us, Joba never got above 94.6 on his fastball and averaged around 92 miles per hour last night. That’s not good enough to get Major League hitters out, and it continues a trend we’ve seen since Joba left the game with a tight shoulder in the Texas heat last summer. I’m trying not to worry, but it’s hard to ignore it.
By the time the 11th inning rolled around, the Yanks had few options. Phil Coke and Jonathan Albaladejo had been used, and Brian Bruney was, as we later found out, unavailable. With Jose Veras mostly unavailable after his three-inning outing Wednesday, the Yanks could have thrust Steven Jackson into the fire or they could have used Edwar. After making the decision to bring Mariano into the game in the middle of an inning, Girardi stuck with Marte beyond the lefty, and Kevin Youkilis sent everyone home.
Of course, beyond the pitching, the Yanks hardly played a tight game. They managed 13 hits and eight walks against the Red Sox and could plate just four of those 21 base runners. They hit into three double plays, left 15 runners on and managed a 4-for-19 line with runners in scoring position. To this, I say but one thing: Give me A-Rod or give me death. Tonight, the Yanks’ offense and their pitching chose death.
Game Notes: Melky Cabrera followed up his heroic performance on Wednesday with a 1-for-5 night. He left six runners on base, once again reminding us why he can be both inspiring and infuriating in a span of about 55 hours…David Ortiz looks utterly lost at the plate. He went 1 for 6 with 4 Ks, and teams will continue to pound the zone on him until he can hit again…Where have you gone, Nick Swisher? After hitting .458/.536/1.208 in his first eight games as a Yankee, Swisher has gone 5-for-29 (.172). While he’s still getting on base at around a .350 clip, his slugging percentage over that time is .276.