Sep
19

Ichiro stuns Mo as Yanks fall 3-2

By

Only Ichiro Suzuki would swing at a pitch four inches inside and hit a home run.

The Yankees entered the 7th inning of their Friday evening affair with the Mariners clinging to a 2-1 lead. Nick Swisher led off the inning with a bloop double down the left field line. While Robinson Cano struck out, Melky Cabrera took a wild pitch for ball four. The Yanks had runners on the corners and one out. They were set to pick up a big insurance run. There was but one problem: Jose Molina was due up.

With the expanded rosters, the Yankees had numerous options. Eric Hinske, Jerry Hairston, Jr., Brett Gardner and Juan Miranda were available to pinch hit, and Francisco Cervelli could be used defensively to fill in for Molina. Rather than play for the insurance run, though, Girardi took the safe route. Molina hit for himself, swung at the first pitch and rolled into one of the easiest 6-4-3 double plays you’ll ever see. The phrase “tailor-made double play” was invented for just that play.

As YES went to a commercial break, I shook my head. “The Yanks better not let that come back to haunt them,” I thought. Not so surprisingly, they did but in a rather stunning fashion. With two outs in the 9th — and two batters removed from recording his 1000th career strike out — Mariano Rivera gave up a walk-off two-run home run to Ichiro Suzuki, and for just the second time since the start of 2008, the Yankees lost a game after leading through 8 innings.

For Rivera, the two earned runs were just the second and third he has allowed since June 12. What was so shocking about this loss though was the stark contrast between the first two at-bats of the inning and the last. Jack Hannahan struck out for the fourth time, and Mike Carp went down swinging as well.

After that, it fell apart. Mike Sweeny hit a booming pinch-hit double on the first pitch, and then Ichiro took the first pitch — a ball in the left-handed batters box — deep into the right field seats. Sweeney and Ichiro went up swinging, and they delivered. Two pitches, two hits, two runs. The blown save ended Mariano Rivera’s string of 36 straight saves, and while I would prefer the Yanks to wrap up this division race, I would rather see the inevitable blown save in September in Seattle than in October in Detroit, Boston, Minneapolis or Anaheim.

Unfortunately for the Yanks, Rivera’s implosion overshadowed an otherwise-promising game. For seventh innings, A.J. Burnett showed composure and great stuff on the mound. He had every pitch working and didn’t suffer through one of those bad innings. He threw 66 of 104 pitches for strikes and allowed just one earned run on seven hits and three walks. He struck out six, and A.J. has picked a good time of the year to turn it on again.

After A.J., Phil Hughes came in and blew away Seattle. He needed just 15 pitches to dispatch the Mariners in the 8th. As I watched that inning unfold, I wondered though about Hughes’ secondary pitches. He threw 12 stellar fastballs, none slower than 95 mph, three cut fastballs and just one curveball on a 2-2 pitch to Ken Griffey. He’ll need those other pitches next year, but that’s a story for another day.

In the end, Ichiro went from goat to hero in one swung. While the Yanks could muster only two runs against Felix Hernandez, for Ichiro, the home run was the redemption he needed. Twice, he was picked off first base by Burnett, but with one swing, he put that behind him. While I was ready to write about the pitching triumvirate of A.J., Phil and Mo who delivered the Yanks a tight win in Seattle, Ichiro would have none of it. Them’s the breaks in baseball. They’ll do it again tonight at 10 p.m.

Categories : Game Stories

116 Comments»

  1. Salty Buggah says:

    Whatever. Good to get that out of Mo’s system now.

    However, let the panic commence!

  2. Accent Shallow says:

    Looks like I picked a good game to miss.

    Isn’t it a little late in the year for WWWMW? Hope this is just an isolate incident.

    • leokitty says:

      Nothing in the way he’s been pitching in the last month suggests otherwise. Maybe his groin is still a little achy, who knows.

      Before tonight he’d given up 1 line drive and 3 fly balls in 5 September appearances so I don’t think there’s a reason to be nervous. Sometimes even Mariano doesn’t have it and Ichiro is sort of one of the best hitters in MLB. ;)

  3. bonestock94 says:

    The worst part is Mariano’s era has been driven up to 1.94 and his whip is almost 1 !!

  4. Just got off the phone with Bud Selig. He confirmed it to me:

    Since tonight’s starting pitcher matchup of AJ v. Felix is considered a “playoff preview” and we lost, that means we’ve officially lost Game 1 of the ALDS. We’ll go right to Game 2 against either the Tigers or Twins, down 0-1 of course.

    It’s only fair. This loss was horrible. Horrible. Rule #1 of sports: NEVER lose playoff previews. They’re more important than the actual playoffs themselves. We lose two more playoff previews, and we’ll be eliminated from the ALDS before it even starts.

  5. It’s not Mariano’s blown save that really irked me. That just sucked, and Ichiro swung at a terrible pitch.

    I don’t understand Girardi’s decision to let Molina bat for himself in a close game against a top pitcher. I know the Yanks don’t have to win every game, but Girardi seemed to throw in the towel on that one. Use your very deep bench; use Francisco Cervelli. And if some crazy injury happened, Hairston could catch. There’s no reason to have Molina hit there.

    • +1

      (See that, fellas? THAT’s how you criticize. Girardi’s decision was dumb. No, this does not mean that we’re going to lose in the playoffs because Girardi is dumb. That single decision was dumb. A decision that we are not going to see duplicated in October. Period, end of criticism.)

    • Zack says:

      Risk/Reward
      Theres no reward, theres potential risk

      • I think you have it backwards. There’s no risk; there’s potential reward. Or really, there’s probably equal amounts of risk and reward.

        Risk: Molina hits into a double play.
        Reward: A.J.’s personal catcher is out there for his final inning of work.

        Reward: Pinch hitter drives in a bit insurance run.
        Risk: Cervelli gets injured, and the Yanks are left without a real catcher.

        I’d say the risk of a Cervelli injury is far outweighed by the reward of that potential third run.

        • Zack says:

          Right, and in the big picture. What does an insurance run mean? What value does that have for a team thats going to win 100 games?

          • The value of that run depends on whether you’re looking at it on a micro or macro level. In the grand scheme of the 162-game season, that run doesn’t mean much. In the flow of the game, a two-run lead would have given them a much higher win probability than their one-run lead did.

            • Zack says:

              Thats my point. The lost tonight, it sucked, whatever, it means nothing. If they were in a playoff chance yes it’d be a bad managerial move, but thats not the scenario.

              Tonight was about getting AJ back on track, and keeping guys fresh and not overused.

      • Meh, there’s a reward.

        There is a risk, though, I’ll give you that. It’s little, though. The risk is Cervelli hurts himself and you’re forced to play someone out of position at catcher, but it’s only a few innings, it would be Hairston and not a real starter, and the risk of injury to Cervelli itself is even smaller.

        Should have done it. I’m all about not doing too much to win the game here because the game doesn’t matter, but lifting Molina for Hinske and then playing Cervelli behind him with no backup is a really small, low risk move to make and it’s worth making.

    • Salty Buggah says:

      Although I agree somewhat, you’re feeding the fire Girardi people.

      • Then let them stoke the flames for a bit. As LeoKitty eloquently said below, it was not a very good decision. The Yanks have one of the strongest benches in the majors right now, and Jose Molina has now hit into 6 DPs in 131 plate appearances this year. Playing to win with Hughes/Mo means not using Molina there.

        But in the grand scheme of the season it’s a minor point.

    • leokitty says:

      I don’t think anyone is going to argue this with you because I didn’t get it at the time and still don’t.

      Using Hughes and Mariano, having AJ go 7 all mean you’re playing to win. Letting Molina hit for himself into the inevitable outcome against one of the very best pitchers in baseball runs opposite to that.

      I mean it’s King Felix so maybe the pinch hitter doesn’t get a ball in the air far enough to score Swisher or do anything other than hit into a double play but leaving Molina in there means you’re sort of giving up on getting that third run early.

  6. So I see Joe gets bitched at for not PH’ing, Mo forbid Mo just does his job…

    • Girardi should have lifted Mo for Jonathan Albaladejo after Mo gave up the double to Sweeney. He clearly didn’t have it, and you can’t take any chances and let Ichiro face Mo.

      This is a playoff preview, for fucks-sake. Don’t undermanage, OVERMANAGE!

      While we’re at it, as soon as Sweeney hit the double, we should have DFA’d Sergio Mitre and activated Austin Jackson to play RF so that he can scale the wall and pull back any potential game-winning homer that Albaladejo could give up to Ichiro. Can’t leave any stone unturned. Whole season rides on this game tonight. Playoff preview. All the marbles.

  7. Salty Buggah says:

    Freakin Mo! Should have told us about his decline in August so we could have traded Montero and Ajax for Bard than. And we could have fired Girardi then too!

  8. Free Mike Vick says:

    Ichiro was basically standing so far off the plate that that pitch was right down the middle belt high…

    shouldn’t have even pitched to him…but i don’t really want to go down that road.

  9. Bob Stone says:

    The BoSox are only 5 games back in the loss column and the Yanks still have 3 games againt them. Add in that the Sox are on a roll right now. The pitching seems to be coming together. Dice-K looks like he might be back in top form. Their bullpen looks strong.

    I wasn’t very concerned about losing the division a week ago. In fact I was pretty confident about best record too, but the Angels have also been playing well. They are only 5 games back in the loss column with 3 head-to-head matches as well.

    Is it crazy to be concerned with so few games left?

  10. RustyJohn says:

    Them’s the breaks…the Yanks got the call on the second pick-off when Ichiro clearly made it back to the bag. Then Mo throws pitches to Hanahan and Carp that were 6-9 inches off the plate and gets strike 3. Boo hoo.

  11. Kiko Jones says:

    What concerns me is not that Mo blew a save–it’s gonna happen–it’s that once again a great opposing pitcher–remember the most recent Halladay game?–wasn’t at his best and the Yankees failed to capitalize. So, for those wondering about facing Verlander in the playoffs, tonight was a perfect example of how it can go wrong. And letting Molina hit in the 7th, under the circumstances of this particular game, was far from helpful. Even if Mo saves the game. Just a bad move on Girardi’s part.

    • Andy says:

      Don’t say this. Gonna get bashed by the pollyannas for actually being right

    • Chris says:

      You completely miss the flip side of this. Other teams can’t beat us, even when our best pitchers aren’t at their best. AJ gave up 3 BBs, a HBP and 7 hits last night. That’s not very good, but he still out pitched Felix.

      The biggest difference between the Yankees and the other playoff teams is we have 4 starters like that and the best offense in the league.

  12. BigBlueAL says:

    Walking Ichiro never entered my mind. However as soon as I saw Molina setting up for a cutter inside I was a bit worried. Granted I didnt think Ichiro would hit one out, but starting him off inside was a bad decision.

    The only pitch Ichiro hits for a HR are pitches where he cheats like a motherfucker and bails out to pull it. Surprised too because Mo has started off powerful LHers with pitches on the outside corner so they dont cheat early and jump on an inside pitch. Obviously he didnt expect Ichiro to have the power to hit one out but again I think he probably shouldnt have gone inside on the first pitch.

    Oh well no big deal, nice to see AJ pitch well. Too bad Yanks have another 10 pm start since Ill be watching the Mayweather fight but I assume with CC on the mound tomorrow should be an easy Yankees win….

    • The Artist says:

      Don’t sell short Ichiro’s power. If you’ve ever watched him take batting practice, it’s one of the great acrobatic displays in the game. He will systematically hit grounders to LF, CF, RF, then line drives in the same sequence, then finish by lofting HRs into the upper deck. I caught him at the old Yankee Stadium last year a few times, and had no idea he has that kind of power.

  13. Andy says:

    No one answers it but y was he pitched to? Single ties it anyway. U don’t pitch to the guy hitting 350

  14. andrew says:

    damn you ichiro and your damn japanese swing.

  15. The Artist says:

    “deep into the right field sweats”

    ????

  16. goon says:

    hopefully arod will drop an a-bomb over ichiro’s head tonight

  17. Reggie C. says:

    Sign Brandon Webb. Keep Hughes in teh ‘pen cause Mo looks done. That was a meatball serving to Ichiro.

  18. The Artist says:

    To me, I took a lot of positives out of last night’s game. They got some good swings off King Felix and plated a few runs, Burnett looked as sharp as he has in months, Hughes was great. Mo just got beat by a great player, which will happen.

    The only part that really bugs about last night’s loss is that it means that ****ing magic number stays up for another day.

    /Luxembourg’d

  19. Mike P says:

    Mo hit his spots on both hits. The choice of location probably could have been better, but basically Mo was Mo last night. That means I’m not worried one bit. Every now and again, probability law dictates Mo will blow a save. Mo dictates that happens once every 20 games. Mo doesn’t pitch 20 games before the end of the playoffs, therefore no more blown saves. It’s just maths.

  20. Mike Pop says:

    Mo blew an A.J. Burnett potential win. Wins are the only thing that matter and because Mo blew it, A.J. does not look as good now. Fuck that guy.

  21. Andy In Sunny Daytona says:

    How was Posada, and his lousy game calling skills, allowed to catch the ninth inning? That’s the only reasonable explanation for Mo’s home run mistake.

  22. Riddering says:

    Man, do I love waking up to a boxscore like last night’s and still being able to eat my breakfast in peace knowing that A.J. had a good game.

    That’s the beauty of a lead in late September. Rest for the players, rest for the fans.

  23. Jake H says:

    I wasn’t really made at the pitch to Ichiro. IT was the pitch to Sweeney. I would like to see Mo brush back some righties more.

  24. LivefromNewYork says:

    Mariano said WOW when Ichiro smashed it. He knew he was gotten to and he respected that. Ichiro swung at a pitch that most wouldn’t swing at and put it out of this ridiculously expansive park. Mo is very tip of the hat in those instances. Ya gotta be.

    The only thing I don’t like is that we’re not wrapping this up as quickly as I would like to be. Other than that, I am happy with how AJ, Phranchise and God pitched. Even if God had a hiccup. Which God does now and again, (see, generally, aardvark, candiru).

  25. steve s says:

    I don’t understand the reluctance to simply say that pitching to Ichiro was dumb. If Gutierrez beats you then it just wasn’t your night. If you let one of the best hitters of this era beat you then its shame on you. The Yanks pitched around Griffey all night as if he was still a superstar and then let the real superstar have his way with them. I like Girardi alot but last night he managed dumb.

    • Mike Pop says:

      Umm, Mo Rivera was on the mound.

      • steve s says:

        Mo, of course, is great but Ichiro is as great a pure hitter as there is so we have at best a “greatness” deadlock. Why not restore the “greatness” advantage and pitch to the not so great Gutierrez. Do you think if Yanks had walked Ichiro and Gutierrez won the game anyone would have seriously claimed the Yanks should have pitched to Ichiro?

        • Zack says:

          Remember when they IBB Longoria and everyone flipped out? Because you know veterans on the team hate Girardi, they want him fired, etc.

          And does this now mean they should IBB the other teams best player whenever there is a RISP in a close game?

        • Accent Shallow says:

          Ichiro is a singles hitter. A singles hitter with power, but a singles hitter nonetheless. The only way I’d want Mo to IBB someone like that (when he’s the winning run!) would be in a playoff game with an awful hitter on deck.

    • Zack says:

      “Yanks pitched around Griffey all night”

      Not really, Aj just doesnt have ya know, good control. How many times has he walked the #9 hitter 2 times in a game?

      • steve s says:

        It was actually discussed by Cone on the broadcast that AJ was pitching around Griffey. As to always intentionally walking the other teams best hitter when it is late and close and there is a RISP there are only a handful of players I would do it for (Ichiro; Pujols; most Ramirezs (Hanley and Manny but not Aramis or Alexei); Big Papi when he was still buying over-the-counter) but I wouldn’t make it a hard and fast rule and it also depends on who is up next. But, with just one out to go I’d rather take my chances with a lesser hitter almost always.

        • Zack says:

          “Big Papi when he was still buying over-the-counter”

          Walk Ortiz with RISP, to face Manny (because the last time Ortiz was good was with Manny behind him)? Great decision

          And you cant put Ichiro with Hanley, Manny, Pujols.

    • LivefromNewYork says:

      We discussed this ad nauseum last night

      1. Mo was pitching
      2. Ichiro historically does not do well against Mo
      3. Ichiro has speed
      4. Gutierrez isn’t a scrub

      If Gutierrez had beat us, then they would have been resoundedly criticized for walking Ichiro…people would have said “But Ichiro has a horrible record against Mo and Mo owns him.”

      Mo was going lose on any scenario unless he struck Ichiro out which is what he was planning on doing.

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