When the dust settled in Miami last night – when Robinson Cano hit into his second game-ending double play in four games – the Yanks ended up on the wrong side of a very well-pitched game determined by mistakes. A.J. Burnett made one mistake to Dan Uggla. Josh Johnson, as good as advertised, made one to Nick Swisher. But it was Johnny Damon who made the costliest mistake of them all.
In the 7th and with the Yanks down 1-0, Jorge Cantu hit a line drive to left. Damon drew a bead on it, and he had a glove on it too. But he tripped. The ball fell, and Hanley Ramirez raced home from first with what would be the winning run. Damon was visibly upset with himself.
The Yankees could not overcome that error or their new-found propensity for double plays. They hit into three of them, two by Derek Jeter in some key situations. Let us look at the last one.
Generally, I can’t get too down on the Yanks when they lose a 2-1 pitchers duel on an unearned run. It happens. A.J. Burnett had another stellar start that included a nine-pitch, nine-strike, three-strike out immaculate inning, but Johnson was just slightly better.
There was one moment though when the Yanks had this one in reach. With no one out in the 8th and Brett Gardner and Alex Rodriguez on first and second, Derek Jeter was up. The Captain currently leads the team with a .317 average with runners in scoring position. Before tonight, he had hit just two double plays with runners in scoring position and had one sacrifice bunt in 71 plate appearances. So what did the Jeter do? Infuriatingly, he tried to bunt. As that unfolded, I tried to slam my head into the nearest wall.
Jeter squared around to bunt but took the first pitch. Ball one. Then, he swung away and bounced the pitch foul. Inexplicably, on the next pitch, Jeter tried to bunt but hit it foul. With a 1-2 count, Jeter had to protect the plate, and the foul bunt forced him to swing at bad pitches. He hit another foul and then bounced right to second. One out, two out. Rally snuffed.
By trying to bunt, Jeter forced himself into a bad count, and it is simply an inexcusable play. Derek Jeter is a Hall of Fame hitter, and while he hits into a high number of double plays, he did so tonight because he pushed himself into a bad count. There’s absolutely no good reason for that. I don’t know if that was on Jeter or on Joe Girardi. Either way, it really needs to stop.
In the end, the Marlins won because they out-fielded the Yanks. A.J. Burnett dominated that lineup, but Josh Johnson returned the favor. Cano swung at the first pitch he saw from Matt Lindstrom, and that was that.