Playing the blame game as late rally falls shortBy
With two on and out, with the top of the order up and the Yanks facing just a three-run deficit, we wanted to believe that the World Series would end on Monday night. But while the Yanks whittled away the Phillies’ six-run lead to just a two-run gap, they couldn’t overcome those final two runs.
And so as the World Series heads back to New York for a Game 6 match-up against two unannounced pitchers probably named Andy Pettitte and Pedro Martinez, let’s play the blame game.
Staked to a 1-0 lead in the first, A.J. Burnett could not hold the Phillies. Pitching on short rest, he had no command early, and Bad A.J. reared his heard. He gave up a hit to Jimmy Rollins, and then he hit Shane Victorino with a fastball flush on the right index finger. The next pitch was a fastball, 94 miles per hour and right down the middle of the plate. The ultra-hot Chase Utley deposited it into the right field seats, and the Phillies had a 3-1 lead.
“It was supposed to be a sinker away,” Burnett later said of this key pitch, “but it ran right back over the middle.”
Not only did it not sink, but it wasn’t close to being outside of the strike zone. Burnett settled down for six outs, but in the third, he fell apart. Walk, walk, single, single. The Yanks found themselves down 5-1, and Burnett found himself on the bench. After just 53 pitches, Burnett’s Game 5 was over. Because he threw so few pitches, he could be available for bullpen work on Wednesday or Thursday. Whether the Yanks would go to him is another question altogether.
After the game, Burnett talked about the Yanks’ braintrust’s decision to start him on three days’ rest. The short rest, he said, had no bearing on his stuff. “I felt strong,” he said. “It’s just a matter of locating pitches. I didn’t throw strikes, there really isn’t much else to say.”
The results bore him out. His velocity was there; his break was there; the results were not. On a night when Cliff Lee didn’t have his best stuff, when the Yanks tagged him for five runs and ten baserunners, A.J. could not get the job done. Goat Number One.
We didn’t know the Yanks would mount a last-gasp rally in the 8th and 9th. We didn’t know the Yanks would twice send the tying run to the plate in the 9th. And so, down by six runs, Joe Girardi did during Game 5 what he almost did during Game 4: He gave the ball to Phil Coke.
Coke was flat out awful. Chase Utley hit a 3-2 fastball — another 94-mph job right down the middle — over the fence in right-center field for his Reggie Jackson-tying fifth home run of the World Series. After retiring Ryan Howard and Jayson Werth, Coke faced Raul Ibañez. Although Ibañez hits lefties better than righties, although Joe Girardi manages by his ever-important Book, Coke stayed in the game. Ibañez, a non-factor so far this series, belted a 420-foot home run deep into the night. It was an 8-2 game, and Coke was gone.
Later, Coke would seemingly shake it off. “I want the ball again tomorrow,” he said. “That’s all I’m thinking about.”
He can have the ball tomorrow for the Yankees do not play tomorrow. On Wednesday, though, if the Yanks have a lead or are within striking distance of the Phillies, you can bet that Damaso Marte, Joba Chamberlain or the seemingly redeemed Phil Hughes will be handed that baseball.
We could argue the fallacy of the predetermined outcome all night long. If the Yanks mount their comeback and if Phil Coke gets the job done, then the Yankees tie the game on Derek Jeter‘s ill-timed double play. Instead, Phil Coke struck back. Goat Number Two.
Dare I suggest that Derek Jeter deserves some criticism for his play tonight? Dare I throw the Captain under the Game 5 bus?
As a leadoff hitter, Jeter went 1 for 5 and saw just 16 pitches. With two on and no out in the top of the 9th, he was the tying run. He got ahead of Ryan Madson 2-0 and then took a pitch he should have shellacked. On the next ball, he bounced into a tailor-made 6-4-3 double play. Although a run would score, the Yanks could not overcome that failure. We saw “past a diving Jeter” twice on key plays, and we saw the captain, a former Mr. November, not come through when he was needed the most. While Mark Teixeira left four runners on and struck out as the tying run to end the game, Derek deflated us when we were at our highest. For that, he gets the Goat Number Three hat.
And so here we are. The Yankees come back home for one final home stand. They were the best team at home this year, and all they have to do is win one game. Let’s put this one behind us, sit out an off-day and go get ‘em on Wednesday.