Any time a bullpen has to pitch eight innings, there’s going to be trouble. On days CC Sabathia takes the hill, this is rarely a concern. However, Joe Girardi and trainer Gene Monahan saw something they didn’t like while Sabathia took his warmups in the second inning. They let him stay out there, but after the second hitter smacked a double they’d seen enough. CC tried to talk his way into staying, but Girardi had his mind made up before he even got out there. His pleas of “I’m fine” fell on deaf ears, and the Yankees would have to finish the game with the bullpen.
The good news: The Yanks bullpen has been pitching tons better lately. The bad news: Even a good bullpen is going to surrender runs when called upon for eight innings. While Al Aceves pitched his 2.2 innings as well as we could have expected, he couldn’t go much further. His new hybrid setup/long man role means he’s not going to give the team five innings in relief if a starter goes out early. Maybe he could have gone one more. Maybe he couldn’t have. That’s Girardi’s call, and he decided that Aceves was done. Onto Option No. 2: Brett Tomko.
This normally isn’t an attractive proposition, but outside of his shelling at the hands of the Mets last week he’s been an okay option. Not good, not decent, not even serviceable. In fact, the best way to describe Brett Tomko is, “Better than Jose Veras.” Yesterday he was not, though. He started with a freebie, as pitcher Chris Volstad led off the inning. It takes three outs to kill an inning, and with only two Tomko faced Hanley Ramirez with a man on. Talking to good old Dad earlier in the day, he commented that Hanley hadn’t hurt the Yanks too much in the series. He’d make up for lost time in this AB, parking a pitch way back in left, which tied the game. Tomko gave up another longball in the sixth, this time to Cody Ross, giving the Marlins the lead.
The seventh is where things came really undone. Phil Coke recorded an out and allowed a hit in his brief appearance, leaving the ball to David Robertson. He struck out Wes Helms for the second out, but again to the plate stepped Ramirez. Robertson was careful, and ended up walking the Marlins’ best hitter. No harm no foul, right? Just get the next guy. Jorge Cantu had other plans, though singling to left. With Melky Cabrera‘s fine arm out there, they had a real chance to nail Coghlan at home. Unfortunately, for every bullet Melky throws he uncorks one, and that’s what happened this time. He pulled the throw and it went way too far up the third base line. Jorge seemingly lost it behind a charging Coghlan, and it caromed around the backstop, away from Robertson, who was backing up the play. That allowed Ramirez to score, giving the Marlins a 6-3 lead.
The Melky throw can’t be overstated. The difference in possible results is just too weighty. The best result was an out at the plate, which would have ended the inning and kept the score at 4-3. The worst result was that the throw went all the way around, past Teixeira and back into the outfield, allowing all three runs to score. The Yanks realized the second-worst result (runner on third, two runs in). Even a middling result ? one run scores, Ramirez goes to third and Cantu is at first or second ? would have been okay. That errant throw, and the extra run to the Marlins’ benefit, was one of the major differences in this game.
It wasn’t the biggest difference, of course. That was losing CC in the second. The initial report was biceps tendonitis, which he says is an issue he’s faced before. The story, for now, is that he’ll start on Friday at Citi Field. I’m not sure about you guys, but I’m just going to believe that until we hear otherwise. Losing CC is not a possibility I’m willing to ponder at this very moment. Ring me again Tuesday, or when we hear something further.
Like the bullpen, there was good news and bad news with the Yanks’ offense. Good news: they were 3 for 6 with runners in scoring position. Bad news: they only put six men in scoring position, and managed just six baserunners total until the ninth. They couldn’t capitalize early on Nick Swisher‘s double in the first, but did strike in the third. With none on and two outs, Derek Jeter reached on a high bouncer over the head of Volstad. Swisher walked, and then Jeter stole third. Mark Teixeira plated the first Yanks run with a double down the first base line, which brought to the plate Alex Rodriguez.
There’s obviously been some concern about A-Rod‘s hip lately. He is, after all, mired in quite a slump. Heading to the plate in the third, he was 0 for his last 16. Be it fatigue, his hip, or a combination of the two, A-Rod just wasn’t going too well. He seemed like the A-Rod of old in this at bat, though, turning on an inside pitch and smacking it to left for a two-run single. That had the Yanks flying high with a 3-1 lead, but again, with the bullpen pitching the majority of the game they had to have known they’d need more.
Nothing came, unfortunately, until the ninth. Again it started with none on and two outs. Jorge single to right on what is termed a nice piece of hitting. Melky followed with a single under the glove of Dan Uggla. An unlikely hero emerged in the next batter, Brett Gardner. Not know for his power, he launched a pitch deep into the right-center field gap, plating both Melky and Posada and putting himself at third base in the process. It was then 6-5 Marlins, with Johnny Damon set to pinch-hit for the pitcher.
During the entire sequence between Lindstrom and Damon, I kept envisioning Damon smacking one through the hole into right field. But the wild Lindtrom kept the ball away from Damon’s bat, putting him on first base. Before the game I wondered if Damon’s calf issue was really just a case of “he needs a day off,” but after Ramiro Pena came in to pinch-run it was evident that Damon really is hurting.
That left the game in the hands of Captain Clutch, Derek Jeter. Yet even the clutchiest hitter in the history of clutch does not bat 1.000 when the game is on the line. Jeter swung at the first pitch and grounded it to short, which Ramirez flipped to Uggla for the game’s final out. There are two schools of thought regarding Jeter’s swing there. First is that after a relatively quick walk of Damon, Lindstrom would be looking to get over a first-pitch strike. That was actually the case. After pumping 97- and 98-mph fastballs for most of the inning, Lindstrom laid a 94-mph pitch on the inside half. Jeter jumped, but just didn’t lay his best swing on it. The other case is that he should have taken the pitch after the walk to Damon. That, however, would have given Lindstrom a free BP (for him) fastball. Debate away on that issue; I don’t think there’s one set answer. I personally happen to be fine with him swinging there, but I can easily see the other side.
As it stands, the Yankees are not doing too well. They dropped two straight series to teams they should have certainly beaten. After the Red Sox sweep they’ve gone 4-5, which is unacceptable given the opponents. Obviously, the season isn’t over. There’s a long, long way to go. But what the Yankees have done here is to put immense pressure on the July and August teams to win, win, and win more. It’s almost like what happened in 2007. They were 35-35 at this point, 10.5 games back of the Red Sox. While it’s not as pronounced this year, their 38-31 record is far below where they should be.
That said, the team certainly can go on the type of run they hit in 2007. In fact, the 2007 team was playing quite like the 2009 team is playing right now: losing to teams they should beat and falling further behind the first-place Red Sox. It was much worse that year, and it turned out all right for the Yanks. Theoretically it could happen again — in fact, I have more confidence in this team turning it around than I did in ’07. However, that’s a tall order for any team.
Protest: Technically, the Yanks could get another shot at this. Joe Girardi filed a protest in the eighth inning, after Marlins’ manager Fredi Gonzalez made an illegal substitution. The situation, as I understand it: Fredi Gonzalez pinch-hit Alejandro De Aza for the pitcher in the seventh. Instead of just inserting Leo Nunez, the new pitcher, into the ninth spot, which would have meant he’d be due up fourth, Gonzalez inserted him in the No. 1 spot. This is pretty common in the NL.
The problem started when Gonzalez sent out Coghlan to start the eighth in left. When Nunez delivered a pitch, Girardi pounced. Clearly something was amiss here. Girardi wanted Nunez removed. Fredi wanted to simply insert De Aza for Coghlan. Neither got their way. While Fredi’s move was clearly, clearly out of bounds, Girardi’s protest remains. I doubt he’ll win it. It really depends on how Gonzalez announced the substitutions to the umpires.
First, for those unfamiliar with protests, let’s spell this out. A manager can file a protest over a rule violation. If he believes that the umpires made an incorrect ruling — not a safe or out call, or an ejection, or anything other than a misinterpretation of the rules — he can play the remainder of the game under protest. The league will then review the case and determine whether the umps made the correct call. If they did, nothing happens. If they made a mistake — a clear, rulebook mistake — then the two teams will resume play from the point of protest.
I’m not sure of the exact rule on this one. It seems like Fredi pinch-hit with De Aza straight up. Then, after the order got around to Uggla, he reported subbing Nunez for Coghlan, putting De Aza in Coghlan’s spot in left field while, obviously, remaining in the nine spot. Nunez then moves to the No. 1 spot. But, if the original leadoff hitter was out there for one pitch, what happens? I have no clue on the strict ruling of this. The bottom line is that if, by the book, Nunez was in there illegally, the Yankees and Marlins will pick up the game in the top of the 8th. If he was a legal sub, then the game stands as-is. I don’t think the Yanks will win it, but it is neat to witness something you don’t see every day.