Today’s game was not easy to watch. Those of you who missed it while at work were spared some frustration. The Yankees threw 151 pitches and the Twins tossed 164, and the teams combined for six mid-inning pitching changes. That’s a lot to cram into three hours and 18 minutes. Add in the Yanks committing two costly errors, walking in two runs, and using six pitchers, and it seems like a game they should have lost. In the end, the bats were able to overcome some sloppy play and the Yanks took their Metrodome finale, completing the season sweep of the Twins 6-4.
Al Aceves, making his first big league start since September of last year, didn’t pitch as well as many had hoped. He wasn’t terrible, especially for a guy making his first start since April. Trouble in the second inning upped his pitch count, and trouble in the fourth spelled his exit. He had allowed just one earned run at the time — an inexcusable down the middle fastball to Jason Kubel on an 0-2 pitch — but David Robertson walked in two more, leaving Ace with a line of 3.1 IP, 4 H, 4 R, 3 ER, 1 BB, 2 K. Even the unearned run was partially his fault.
The Yankees executed a series of follies in the second inning which really led to both runs. The first was the aforementioned 0-2 pitch to Kubel. I’m sure Ace wasn’t trying to groove a fastball there, but he did and a hitter like Kubel is going to be all over that. It went out to dead center and cut the Yankees lead to 3-1. Folly No. 1. The second came two batters later. After a five-pitch walk of Mike Cuddyer, Ace threw over to first. He missed by a mile, moving Cuddyer to second. Folly No. 2.
While Folly No. 1 was frustrating and Folly No. 2 was annoying, Folly No. 3 was downright infuriating. The best you can say about Mike Redmond’s running is that he’s faster than Jose Molina. Yeah. He hit one hard to third, and the ball hit the seam. Cody Ransom stayed with it, though, corralling it with plenty of time to make an accurate throw. He pulled it, though, sending it wide of Teixeira at first and allowing Cuddyer to score. Despite missing two months, it was Ransom’s fourth error this season.
David Robertson committed Follies Nos. 4 and 5, which were even more infuriating than No. 3. He came into the game with the bases loaded, never an enviable task for any reliever, let alone a rookie. After avoiding the walk of Nick Punto, an affliction from which many Yankees pitchers have suffered this series, he put Span on first with four straight balls. 5-3 Yanks. Five pitches later, Matt Tolbert would take his base. Not only did this plate the fourth Twins run, but it brought up Joe Mauer with the bases loaded. How Robertson got him to ground out after being behind 2-0 is beyond me. I tried not to think about it too much, opting to wipe my brow and send thanks to the baseball gods.
Meanwhile, with the bullpen responsible for the remaining five innings, the Yanks could have used some more runs. A 5-4 lead just didn’t feel safe, not with Albaladejo in the pen in place of Aceves. Mark Teixeira was the only one who could deliver, sending a solo blast into the left field seats, ending his drought and the annoying comments about it being X at bats since he last homered. As of this writing, it has been one at bat since Mark Teixeira homered. Who’s counting with me?
Oddly enough, Girardi opted to stick with Robertson for the fifth. It seemed a curious move, sending out Robertson, who had just walked in two runs, to face the number four, five, and six hitters in the Twins’ order. He surprised by striking out Justin Morneau on three pitches, but got back to his inaccurate ways by walking Kubel on five. Finally Girardi had seen enough and called on Jon Albaladejo to get the last two in the fifth, and presumably all of the sixth. He delivered, striking out Cuddyer and Redmond, and then sitting down the Twins 1-2-3 in the sixth. With Coke and Hughes up and ready, the prospects of the bullpen finishing the game got a bit better.
They got a ton better when Coke shook off a leadoff bunt single by Joe Mauer to get Justin Morneau to ground out on the first pitch. He then struck out Kubel on just three. That’s five pitches, five strikes for Coke. He might have struggled with his command early on, but lately Coke has done nothing but work quickly and throw strikes. Coke’s last five appearances: 3 pitches, 2 strikes; 24 pitches, 16 strikes; 6 pitches, 4 strikes; 7 pitches, 4 strikes; 5 pitches, 5 strikes. He has allowed just one hit in that span and has walked none.
Phil Hughes again was Phil Hughes. He continued attacking hitters, a lesson we can only hope he takes with him when he eventually returns to the rotation. That was one of the frustrating things about watching him last year and even parts of this year. He’d try to hit corners, and when he didn’t he looked lost. From the bullpen he’s constantly getting ahead of guys, throwing strikes and letting them take hacks if they want. Most of the time their efforts are futile. In the eighth (after a gift out by Justin Morneau, gift-wrapped by Jorge Posada) he got ahead of all three hitters he faced, striking out the last two. The only semi-blip was against Jose Morales, but after going up 0-2 I think it was more Hughes trying to get out an inexperienced hitter with some junk pitches. In the end Hughes got him with ol’ number one, a 95 mph fastball up that Morales had no chance of reaching.
On the offensive side, the Yankees again got production from the bottom of the order. Cody Ransom walked with the bases loaded and drove in a run with a single. Brett Gardner bounced into a fielder’s choice that allowed a run to score and singled on a poorly placed Liriano changeup. The only other runs came on a Derek Jeter single to center, a bloop on the first pitch during Liriano’s long second inning, and the aforementioned Teixeira bomb. Those six runs ended up being enough for the staff, and the Twins’ four runs meant yet another save for Mariano Rivera.
The Yanks will now fly out to Anaheim to wrap up the first half of the season. Don’t be scared, though. While the Yankees haven’t fared well against the Angels in years past, this is just not the same team. They’re good, no doubt, but they’re just not as intimidating as even last year. They’ll face Jered Weaver, the only consistently good pitcher in the Angels rotation, sandwiched between struggling pitchers Joe Saunders and John Lackey. Taking two out of three would be a wonderful way to finish up before the break.
No action until 10:00 tomorrow night, so it’s time to relax. And you know what that means: A glass of wine, your favorite easy chair, and of course this open thread playing on your home Internet machine. So go on, indulge yourself. That’s right. Kick off your shoes, put your feet up, lean back and just enjoy the comments. After all, baseball soothes even the savage beast.