We begin and end the recap today with the 9th inning. Outside of a Mark Teixeira blast that nearly reached the upper deck in right field, the other eight innings were mostly forgettable, and the controversy, if we can even call it that, focused around the Yanks’ moves in the final frame.
As the Yankees and those reporters, writers and fans who follow them digested the disappointing 9-7 loss in what was supposed to be a pitcher’s duel between David Price and CC Sabathia, a few themes have emerged. We start first with a critique by Peter Abraham leveled at Joe Girardi on his blog and aired during the post-game interview. CC Sabathia had been averaging 111 pitches per start and threw just 101 today. He hadn’t thrown fewer than 105 since a complete-game 99-pitch effort in Detroit on April 27.
After the Yanks tied the game during a lengthy 8th inning, Joe Girardi opted to take Sabathia out of the game and turned the ball over to Rivera. Generally, that’s a sound decision, but today, it backfired. Rivera was charged with three earned runs and could not escape the ninth. He was tagged with the loss, and his ERA is now an unsightly-for-him 3.47.
This turn of events led Michael Kay to second-guess Girardi in the post-game wrap-up as well. “He’s never been great when it’s not a save situation,” Kay said of Rivera.
Great is, of course, relative. In non-save situations in his career as a reliever, Rivera has thrown 334.2 innings and has an ERA of 2.47. In save situations, that number drops to 1.92. Michael Kay demands only perfection from his great relievers.
So in that sense, sure, we could second-guess Girardi for taking out Sabathia. But he didn’t take out Sabathia for Phil Coke or Jose Veras. He put in one of the game’s greatest pitchers of all time, and Rivera faltered. It happens, and I refuse to second-guess that decision.
More interesting was the one to intentionally walk Evan Longoria. In his illustrious career, Rivera had issued 30 intentional passes before today, and the last two came in the same inning on August 24. In that game, the Yanks were in Detroit and tied at 6 in the bottom of the 10th. With a runner on third and one out, Rivera intentionally walked Pudge and Ryan Raburn before retiring the next two Tigers.
Today, with two outs and a runner on third, Joe Girardi called upon Rivera to intentionally walk pinch hitter Evan Longoria. B.J. Upton, the next batter, singled home the Rays’ seventh run, and that hit would push Rivera out of the game. While Phil Coke didn’t do the job yet again, the decision to walk Longoria came back to haunt the Yanks.
After the game, Rivera seemingly threw Girardi under the bus. “That’s the manager’s decision. If it was me, I would have pitched to him,” he said. The IBB had just a -0.6 percent impact on the Yanks’ win expectancy, but it put in motion a series of plays that led to a larger deficit. Maybe I wouldn’t choose to walk Longoria, but of all the second-guessing we do, today’s game hardly deserves the scrutiny.
In the end, the Yankees couldn’t make it happen. They had three shots to tie the game in the 9th and couldn’t do it. They enjoyed four Tampa errors and made two of their own. They went just 1 for 9 with runners in scoring position and could not take advantage of seven walks. Today just wasn’t the Yanks’ day. We’ll get ’em tomorrow.