On Friday, the Yankees were three strikes away from doubling up the Red Sox 4-2 when a Mariano Rivera cutter strayed too far over the middle of the plate. On Saturday, the Yankees had a 6-0 lead against the Red Sox when A.J. Burnett and the Yankee bullpen came unglued and surrendered 16 runs over five innings.
Those two losses hurt. They were painful to watch for different reasons, and they were games that the Yankees could have — and probably should have — won. They left me in a foul mood and with the proverbial bad taste in my mouth.
Tonight, though, the Yankees were simply outplayed. They were out-fielded, out-hit and out-pitched in what turned out to be a crisp and relatively quick game. What made tonight’s loss worse were the last two losses. When the dust settled tonight — when Johnny Damon flew out to end the game — the Yanks walked away losers of three straight to a team that has won ten in a row, and they could have easily taken two out of three.
To nitpick this game, we would point to Angel Berroa and his two errors. Prior to yesterday, Berroa had played a grand total of 0.1 innings at third base in the Majors, taking nary a ground ball. Tonight, he made two errors that cost the team an unearned run and allowed the Sox to turn over the lineup. But Berroa is the back-up to the back-up third baseman, and until A-Rod returns, the Yanks are up a third base creek without a paddle.
We would also point to Andy Pettitte‘s and the Yankee infield’s lack of focus with the speedy Jacoby Ellsbury on third. Pettitte, who a few years ago, allowed Aaron Hill to steal home in Toronto, is masterful at holding runners on at first but not at third. Ellsbury scored the game’s third run with that steal, and while the ESPN announcers made much ado of it, it was rather superfluous. One batter earlier, David Ortiz swung late on a 90-mph inside fastball to plate Jason Varitek, and that second run would be all the Sox would need.
At the plate, the Yanks could do nothing all night. They left eight runners on and went 0-for-6 with runners in scoring position. For the weekend, they 7 for 42 (.167) with runners in scoring position. It’s tough to win with so many opportunities lost. Robinson Cano, Hideki Matsui and Melky Cabrera had two hits a piece, but a lone run would be all for the Yanks’ scoring.
The lone bright spot for the Yanks came in the 7th when Mark Melancon made his Major League debut. He retired the side on five pitches in that inning. When he came back out for the 8th, he allowed a walk, a hit and hit a batter before bearing down to retire three in a row. Not used to pitching from the stretch after dominating at AAA, he showed why the Yankees are high on him as a reliever and why he needs to be facing competition that will challenge him. Melancon could easily emerge as a bright spot in what has so far been a bad Yankee bullpen.
Right now, the Yankees are en route to Detroit where they will face a 10-8 Tigers team. The Bombers are 9-9 without their best offensive player and sure-handed third baseman, without a viable center fielder, without their erstwhile ace and without an effective bullpen. As the pieces fall into place, this team will become formidable indeed. For now, we’ll just lick those weekend wounds and move on. There is, after all, another game to play in 19 hours.