May
19

Yanks ‘drop’ a heartbreaker as pen, Thames falter

By

Everything King Midas touched turned to gold, and tonight, the Yanks’ King Midas had his golden touch early on. Even without his best stuff, CC Sabathia held the Red Sox to just one run — a solo home run by Kevin Youkilis &mdash and the Yanks were cruising with a 5-1 lead. But then, after 112 pitches, King Midas exited stage left, and everything he had touched turned to dust. Once that perfect storm of bad plays, bad calls and bad pitching settled, the Yankees were on the wrong side of a 7-6 game. Tonight, there would be no pie.

AP Photo Kathy Willens

Goat Number One: Joba Chamberlain

Tasked with retiring the top three hitters in the Red Sox’s lineup, Joba Chamberlain utterly and spectacularly failed at his job. Although a dubious throwing error by Alex Rodriguez opened the flood gates, Joba couldn’t get through the 8th unscathed for the second straight appearance. With a 5-1 lead, he allowed a single, a double and another single following the error before recording an out.

With a runner on second, David Ortiz hit a booming fly ball that, three years ago, would have been a home run, and only Ortiz’s classes at the Hanley Ramirez School of Hustle resulted in an out at second base. While Joba had his second out, the damage was done. The Red Sox had tied the game, and the Yanks — who hadn’t taken advantage of a bases loaded, one out situation in the sixth — needed to pick themselves up from the letdown of another bad bullpen appearance.

We can wring our hands over the pen’s utter inability to get outs. Yankee relievers have allowed 12 earned runs and 15 runs overall in the team’s last three games. All but four of those have been charged to Mariano Rivera and Joba Chamberlain.

We can wring our hands over Joba. He threw first-pitch strikes to just two of the seven hitters he faced tonight and couldn’t find the zone tonight. When he entered the game, the team’s win expectancy stood at 95.9 percent; when he left, that figure had dwindled down to 61.4. With that performance tonight, Joba is your official Goat of the Game.

AP Photo Kathy Willens

Goat Number Two: Marcus Thames

As a commenter with the amusing handle Jerkface said, “It was the best of Thames, it was the worst of Thames.” One night after delivering the Yanks their first walk-off win of the season, Marcus Thames showed us why he’s just a bench player filling in only in case of emergency.

With one out in the 9th and Darnell McDonald on first, Marcu Scutaro lofted a lazy fly ball into the no-man’s land behind second base in right field. Out raced Robinson Cano, in raced Marcus Thames. The right fielder called for the ball, glanced at Cano for position….and pulled a Luis Castillo. Thames twisted his glove around, and the ball bounced off of him. It was an epic error.

After the game, Thames talked to reporters with tears in his eyes. He said that he lost the ball for a second as he checked Cano’s flight and couldn’t recover in time to catch it. Had he done so, the Red Sox would have had a man on first with two outs instead of first and second with one out.

Goat Number Three: The Men in Blue

I hate to blame the umpires. I really do. After all, the Yankees’ players are the ones who have to do their jobs. Brett Gardner has to do more than bounce to second base with a drawn-in infield and bases loaded with one out in the sixth. Joba Chamberlain has to do anything better. Marcus Thames has to catch the ball. Mariano Rivera has to make his pitches. But tonight, the umpires did nothing to help either team.

For the Yankees, two plays loom large. The first was the ground ball off the bat of Scutaro in the 8th. A-Rod had to rush the throw, and it sailed low to Mark Teixeira. The Yanks’ first baseman stretched, appeared to keep his spikes on the bag, caught it and fell. Scutaro was called safe, and no one really put up a fight. The reply seemed to show an out, but we could forgive the umps for this one. The crew had missed a call at second base when Francisco Cervelli threw behind the runner to nab J.D. Drew, but those things happen.

The truly inexcusable call though came in the 9th on a two-strike pitch to Darnell McDonald. Replays showed how the ball cut the plate at the knees and how McDonald swung, but both the first base and home plate umpires refused to call strikes. Just look at the positioning of that thing on the Pitch F/x graph. Had McDonald been rung up, the Yanks would have had two outs on the Red Sox with no one on base.

Still, we can scapegoat the umps until the cows come home, but the Yanks have to get the job done. They didn’t.

Annoyances

Where to begin? Where to begin? How about Randy Winn‘s positioning on Jeremy Hermida’s double over his head? Was the bench expected a shallow pop-up? Did Rob Thompson position him improperly? What happened to no-doubles defense? And can someone please stop telling Joba to throw 3-2 sliders? David Ortiz can’t get around on a 95-mph fastball, and Joba has to hang a breaking ball to him instead.

Let’s also question the Yanks’ ability to put a roster together right now. The team has a 13-man bullpen, and apparently, a one-man bench. If neither Jorge Posada nor Nick Swisher were available to pinch hit in the 9th, only Ramiro Pena was a viable bench player. Meanwhile, with the team’s decision to send down Greg Golson for Mark Melancon earlier in the day, they had eight relievers in the pen. Tonight was the night they needed Golson the most, and he was on a plane back to Scranton. How infuriating.

Do I consider Francisco Cervelli’s bunt attempt an annoyance? Some do, but I’m not sure I’m in the camp. In a very small sample, Cervelli has been a clutch contact hitter with runners on base. Behind him were Marcus Thames, a fastball hitter with strike out tendencies, Juan Miranda just up from AAA and Randy Winn. The Yanks opted to play for just one run and asked Cervelli to bunt. As The Honorable Congressman Mondesi noted, the successful bunt increased their one-run probability from 0.634 to 0.670 but dropped the win expectancy from 46.5 percent to 42.8. If anything, that’s a minor annoyance.

Finally, I have an irrational dislike of Randy Winn made worse by the fact that I just knew he would strike out to end the game. He made a terrible play in the top of the 9th and went 0 for 4 with three strike outs. He’s hitting .196/.293/.294 on the season, and I have to believe that, when Swisher and Granderson are both healthy, Winn’s days with the Yanks will be numbered. That was one off-season experiment that hasn’t quite worked out the way it was planned.

The Big Picture

Anyway, despite tonight’s maddening game and the team’s bullpen struggles, the Yanks are 25-14 with a +71 run differential. They’re three games behind a very hot Tampa team that has enjoyed a very easy schedule early on. Later tonight, A.J. Burnett and Wade Davis square off in a battle of AL East powerhouses, and the Red Sox head home to face Minnesota right where they were when they came to New York: in fourth place and at .500. I hated this game, but I’m loving the season so far.

WPA Graph

Just look at that up-and-down 9th inning. This is what a heartbreaking loss looks like on paper.

Categories : Game Stories

65 Comments»

  1. bexarama says:

    Anyway, despite tonight’s maddening game and the team’s bullpen struggles, the Yanks are 25-14 with a +71 run differential. They’re three games behind a very hot Tampa team that has enjoyed a very easy schedule early on. Later tonight, A.J. Burnett and Wade Davis square off in a battle of AL East powerhouses, and the Red Sox head home to face Minnesota right where they were when they came to New York: in fourth place and at .500. I hated this game, but I’m loving the season so far.

    This, this, this.

    Good write-up. This game hurts. There will probably be a few others like this in the season – in fact, it feels a lot like the first game of the season. The team is still really good and that’ll show at the end of the year. I am not terribly worried about the bullpen because these things happen and the Yankees always seem to start with an abhorrent bullpen and figure it out as the years move along. Plus, Mariano had his April/May tie game hiccup.

    Also, stupid weather.

    Now can we go back to blaming Javy???

  2. Winn’s positioning had to be a bench call, I can’t put that one on him. I think that’s what you’re getting at but it’s not clear.

    • pat says:

      Kay said it’s Robbie Thompson’s call and they could be seen having a discussion in the dugout at the end of the inning. There’s no doubt in my mind the numbers say more balls get hit to that area off Mo than liners to deep LF.

      • bexarama says:

        Yep. Hermida was batting and he’s a lefty. When Mariano throws the cutter like he usually does to lefties, he’s more likely to give up bloops than what Hermida hit. Dunno if Mariano missed his spot or just if Hermida hit it well.

        Reminded me of something from some game of the WS last year when Gardner was playing very shallow for Ibanez and Ibanez ended up hitting a double. If Gardner hadn’t been so shallow he could have probably caught it, even with his speed. Mo is way more likely to give up bloops than blasts when he’s on, which is 95% of the time.

  3. Ed says:

    Just got back from the game a little while ago.

    During the later part of the game, I noticed the monitors occasionally displaying a note that the Yankees were playing under protest. I have no idea what they would be protesting. Anyone know?

    • bexarama says:

      When Beckett left, they claimed it was a made-up injury or something and whoever came in for him – Delcarmen? – got unlimited warm-up tosses that he shouldn’t have.

    • They were protesting the Red Sox’s removal of Josh Beckett with an injury when there were no clear signs he was injured. The protest won’t be upheld.

      • Chris says:

        According to LoHud, the issue was that they signaled for a pitching change before indicating to the umpires that there was an injury. It’s not simply that they believed Beckett wasn’t injured. It’s one of those technicalities, like when the Rays has two players listed as 3B and no one as the DH.

  4. BigBlueAL says:

    As frustrating as the past 2 games were to watch, you also have to admit they were both pretty fun games to watch too.

    • I sort of disagree. Crisp, good baseball is fun to watch. Two games where the opposing team’s starting pitcher is at 100 pitches in under 5 innings, the games take 4+ hours to play and the bullpens can’t retire anyone isn’t that much fun.

      Just because he (a) shouldn’t have been saying it and (b) sounded far too whiny doesn’t make Joe West’s overall point that far off the mark.

      • BigBlueAL says:

        OK I take that back, the last 2 innings of both games were pretty fun/dramatic to watch. Considering I got home in time to watch both games from around the 5th inning on I didnt have to sit through the entire 4 hours.

  5. Salty Buggah says:

    Red Sox: You guys beat us yesterday in heartbreaking fashion so we’ll let you have an easy game today.

    Yankees: No, no. That was mean of us. You can have the win today.

    Red Sox: No, I insist! You take it!

    Yankees: That’d be rude of us, we’re going to let you win.

    Red Sox: Well, we’re not sure. Are you SURE you don’t want it? It’s right there. If not, I guess we’ll take the win.

    This is how I imagine the conversation went among the teams in the misty weather.

    Whatever. We’re the shit. Even though some are struggling and some major players are injured, the Yankees are winning overall. They’ll be rolling soon enough.

  6. Salty Buggah says:

    I know protests aren’t normally won but in a one run game, any small factor could have led to a loss. Obviously, the Yanks were sloppy but maybe there was a small chance the game could be different had the reliever been improperly warmed (but allowing him unlimited pitches obviously changed that). I doubt the Yanks win the protest but they do have a slim chance so I will wish for the best, while not holding my breath.

    • sangreal says:

      I don’t think it will be upheld simply because the rule is pretty vague:

      8.03 When a pitcher takes his position at the beginning of each inning, or when he relieves another pitcher, he shall be permitted to pitch not to exceed eight preparatory pitches to his catcher during which play shall be suspended. A league by its own action may limit the number of preparatory pitches to less than eight preparatory pitches. Such preparatory pitches shall not consume more than one minute of time. If a sudden emergency causes a pitcher to be summoned into the game without any opportunity to warm up, the umpire-in-chief shall allow him as many pitches as the umpire deems necessary.

      First, the rule doesn’t define “sudden emergency”, and second — regarding Girardi’s point — it doesn’t state that the umpire has to be notified of said emergency before calling to the bullpen

      • pat says:

        it doesn’t state that the umpire has to be notified of said emergency before calling to the bullpen

        Very astute point, however there has to be a reason why managers don’t just yank starters without warning and claim they have a sore muscle. That’s either the most unflinchingly abided by “unwritten rule” or perhaps (and hopefully) it is enumerated somewhere else.

        • pat says:

          Perhaps this is the rule Girardi was referring to?

          Rule 3.06 – Player Substitutions

          Official Baseball Rule 3.06, regarding substitutions during the games, reads as follows:

          “The manager shall immediately notify the umpire-in-chief of any substitution and shall state to the umpire-in-chief the substitute’s place in the batting order.”

          Unfortunately, it doesn’t specifically mention pitcher substitutions.

  7. Ben says:

    The problem with the pitchFX graph you showed is that it gives a 24 inch wide strike zone, while the plate is only 17 inches wide. With that in mind, the graph shows the pitch to McDonald actually was a hair inside.

    • Jimmy says:

      It was a strike.

    • After looking at the Pitch F/x animation on Gameday, it may have been just slightly off the black. The video replay showed it at the knees on the outer part of the plate. The Brooks’ chart, embedded above, shows it within the normalized strike zone. It could have gone either way, but also, he swung. Terrible call on the appeal.

      • Ben says:

        If I remember correctly, YES only showed one replay, and while it looked like he might have went around, the angle wasn’t quite definitive.

        With that being said, I agree, the call certainly could have gone either way, whether it be a regular ball/strike call or on the appeal.

        • Ed says:

          At the stadium, they showed several different angles on the monitors, including an overhead view. The swing went about 3/4 of the way around, with the entire bat passing the front of the plate. It was definitely a swing.

  8. crawdaddie says:

    The positioning of Winn was where the manager and coaches wanted him. Based on prior data for jammed shots to LF off lefty bats, it just didn’t work out for the Yankees last night.

  9. Bobby's World says:

    Yankee Issues

    First we have no bench,we do not have a bopper to come up and hit one when we need it.

    Cashman’s decision to pay a guy like Nick Johnson who has been hurt since little league but not pay a guy like Matsui because you were afraid his knees were shot.

    Girardi,Girardi,his decision making sometimes makes me scratch my head.He is not a great manager he was lucky the Yankees(players) had him win the World Series.

    Joba,we didn’t give him up in a couple of trades because he is the future.Future what,he is not the closer of the future.He can’t start so what do we do with him.

    This is going to be a tough year,Tampa is not going away.

    • NYC says:

      Of course it’s a tough year, it’s the AL EAST. Did anyone say it was going to be easy?

    • bexarama says:

      First we have no bench,we do not have a bopper to come up and hit one when we need it.
      We actually do have a bench. They’re just all playing right now because everyone is injured.

  10. YankeeScribe says:

    I guess Zen baseball is over?

  11. Terrific recap, Ben. You really nailed all the points that needed to be made, especially the ones on the bench and umpires.

  12. marcus says:

    When Swisher and Posada are healthy, I want to keep Thames because he can hit but I’d rather have a young player in place of Winn.

  13. Matt :: Sec105 says:

    “Anyway, despite tonight’s maddening game and the team’s bullpen struggles, the Yanks are 25-14 with a +71 run differential. They’re three games behind a very hot Tampa team that has enjoyed a very easy schedule early on.”

    Couldn’t agree more. Tampa’s gotta come down to earth at some point, and we took 2 of 3 from em early, so no one (ok people on the ledge) should be worried.

    Grandy comes back and we don’t have to see Thames or Winn on a reg basis anymore, and the offense is instantly better.

    Some tweeks to the pen and off you go to 98 wins.

  14. Jammy Jammers says:

    No mention of Mo blowing it again?

    • Sweet Dick Willie says:

      Yeah, Mo definitely should have called off Thames and caught Scutaro’s pop-up.

    • theyankeewarrior says:

      Mo struck out McDonald and got a pop up to shallow RF. He didn’t blow anything. Just like in the finale vs. the Twins. He have up a walk and a HR, not enough to lose the game.

      Neither of the last two losses are Mo’s fault. Did he pitch well? No. Did he bail the team out like he usually does? No. But the losses are not his fault.

  15. Matt :: Sec105 says:

    I know everyone wants to kill Thames, but come on, give the guy a break.

    I remember something my legion ball coach always said, “I can tolerate physical mistakes, but mental mistakes are the ones that make me mad.”.

    Yeah, did it basically cost them the game, sure, but does Mo have to make pitches after that? yeah.

    • Sweet Dick Willie says:

      I know everyone wants to kill Thames

      I, for one, blame the Yankees “brain trust” for thinking that keeping Boone Logan on the roster over Golston made them a better team.

    • Chris says:

      Another point is that players were having trouble with pop ups all game. It’s not like the conditions were perfect to make that play.

    • theyankeewarrior says:

      Was Mo’s mistake mental or physical? Your point is pointless.

  16. Sweet Dick Willie says:

    So Boone Logan costs the Yanks a win even when he doesn’t pitch.

  17. Jake H says:

    The Ump was really bad tonight. His zone kept moving. If Joba wants to know what the reason that he lost the 5th starter job. It’s 1 major thing. He doesn’t have any fastball command. In his defense thou if A-Rod doesn’t make that error the ball hit by the midget it an easy ground ball to Cano.

    Randy Winn was positioned terrible. I also do have to wonder how close one of those away cutters were to Heremda. I’m really tired of these little injuries. Also the front office need to go crazy on the draft and get a ton of talent. A team like the Yankees should have more than just filler players in the AAA level where they can call upon.

  18. Rose says:

    These were 2 very ugly games for both teams…more so for the Yankees. The Yankees couldn’t hold 5-0 leads in either game and the Red Sox actually came back twice from 5-0 deficits which gives them a slight advantage in this 2 game series (albeit, nothing to brag about).

    Every single (available) relief pitcher on the roster had mediocre-to-very-poor outings, the defense was real choppy on top of it, and our 6-9 hitters in both games weren’t all that intimidating whatsoever. Where was Jorge Posada? Is he hurt again? Last I heard, Swisher was swinging fine batting from the right side (pinch hit against Okajima?) but felt the strain batting from the left.

    Playing the way the Yankees did, I’ll take a split but I don’t have to like it. I’m just glad I went to the better game in which we won in extremely dramatic style.

  19. KayGee says:

    “What happened to no-doubles defense?”

    With runners on second and third and 2 outs in a tie game, why would they be in no-doubles defense? Not saying Winn was in a great position, but with Mo on the mound against a lefty (in his first AB of the game), chances are hes not going to drive the ball to the opposite field. In this case, playing a little more shallow than usual seems like the right choice. He was just TOO shallow.

    • A.D. says:

      Yeah, taking away the double and giving up the single, doesn’t help in that situation.

    • Rose says:

      What sucks is that Mo usually gives up bloops…and is very rarely hit hard. So of course what happens? Gets into a jam due to an error and proceeds to get hit hard when he couldn’t afford to.

      Just the way it goes…

  20. Frank says:

    Very good recap Ben. What’s even more disheartening about last night’s loss is that Joba and Mo each threw around 30 pitches, thus making their availablity for tonight questionable. Also, Yanks 3 for 15 with RISP position. That hurt. Great point about the home plate ump. A tight zone is one thing, but at least ne consistant. He wasn’t.

  21. I found the Cervelli bunt to be a HUGE annoyance, because there was no way I wanted to see that bottom of the order faced with the task of getting a run home. And from a guy who’s hitting .375 …

  22. Steve H says:

    How about Randy Winn’s positioning on Jeremy Hermida’s double over his head? Was the bench expected a shallow pop-up? Did Rob Thompson position him improperly?

    About 2 pitches before Hermida’s hit Remy was astonished at the OF positioning for both Gardner and Winn.

    As far as Thames goes, as bad as that was, 99.9% of the time he’s not going to be out there. Without Swish/Grandy they are short handed. Even when they are full strength and Thames does get the occasional start in LF, he’ll most likely be removed for a defensive replacment in the late innings.

    • A.D. says:

      As far as Thames goes, as bad as that was, 99.9% of the time he’s not going to be out there.

      Yeah the issue is why is he out there late in games at all? Thames is a bat preferably just splitting DH duties, with perhaps the occasional start in the field to give a guy a rest, however it’s been obvious thus far he’s a butcher in the field, and therefore needs a defensive replacement. Thus if Swisher is unable to play the field right now, then Golson shouldn’t ave been sent down.

      • Steve H says:

        Thus if Swisher is unable to play the field right now, then Golson shouldn’t ave been sent down.

        If Joba doesn’t blow the lead, Pena would probably have been in there, but that’s still not ideal. I agree, Golson shouldn’t have been sent down with a need in the OF, especially with CC on the hill. You know CC is going to give you some innings, why bring up the extra arm?

  23. Patrick says:

    Girardi belongs at the very top of the goat list.

    You can have Thames on there–but who pencils Thames in the lineup?

    We all knew well before last night that Thames should never play the field. EVER! Yet Girardi feels compelled to keep giving the guy chances. Why? To say that Thames is a butcher is being kind!

    Late game defensive replacement? Oops–he was just sent down for a pitcher we never used. Whose fault is that?

    • Steve H says:

      You can have Thames on there–but who pencils Thames in the lineup?

      What was the alternative? 2 of 3 starting outfielders are out with injury, it’s not like he had Ichiro on the bench but started Thames instead.

      If Joba doesn’t blow the game in the 8th, maybe you go to Pena as a defensive replacement (a shaky one at that), but that’s on Joba, not Girardi.

      • Patrick says:

        Steve-

        What was the alternative?

        How about anybody but Thames? Somebody that can catch a routine popup. We all know that Thames can’t. Every ball hit to him is an adventure–he makes ‘routine’ plays looks difficult.

        The alternative should have been Golson…at least as a late inning defensive replacement. But somebody decided they needed Melancon more for last nights game…..

  24. FrankFernandez says:

    Great read; thanks.

  25. Michael Kay but not THE says:

    Although Hughes’ case is more of a one time thing in a specific match-up on the season, I’d like he & Joba to study very hard at the school of “If you’re going to get beat make sure its on your best pitch”.

    The second that pitch left Joba’s hands I knew The Yankees were in for some pie, but not the kind we like.

  26. JohnC says:

    Agree on Cervelli. He’s been one of their hottest hitters. I would have at least let him swing away on one pitch. The real goat is Joba. Even with Arod’s error, he’s got a 4 run lead. Inexcusable for giving it up. Thought Mo had Hermida struck out on the pitch before the double, but thats baseball.

  27. larryf says:

    Knee-man Marcus. Big sale on outfield play. Red Sox take advantage. The ball seems to always find him.

    Agree that this game is on Girardi. Golson would have been in center (although I disagree with this), Gardner in left and Winn in RF.

    And we win….

  28. TomO says:

    Why does no one ever get on Cano’s case for ranging out of position – especially when he knew (or SHOULD have known) that he was dealing with a skittish, below average right fielder like Thames to begin with? I love Robbie but he and Jeter try to be over-the-shoulder Supermen too often. And the outfielders have been trained to show too much deference to them.

    Just what I’d want to see out of the corner of my eye as I’m coming in on a ball in the rain and wind: my second baseman running full speed towards my hands of stone. Talk about compounding the error. Ugh.

  29. theyankeewarrior says:

    I didn’t have time to ready every comment, but has anyone touched on the fact the Mo was again not used in the biggest spot possible last night? Once Joba have up the double to JD, a run scored and there were two men in scoring position for Youk and VMart.

    Call me an idiot, but if I’m the manager, I’m going to Mo right then and there. Let his 3-4 outs be the biggest outs of the game against the biggest hitters in the Sox lineup.

    And let’s not forget that the Sox should have scored one or two more if Papi’s frozen rope doesn’t hit the top of the wall in right and he doesn’t make the dumbest base running play ever.

    Joba Chamberlain should NEVER have been allowed to finish that inning. Was it not obvious after the JD at-bat that he had nothing? Could anyone here not see that he would give up at least the lead, if not more considering who was coming up and what kind of stuff he had?

    Mariano is the best ever. I want him to pitch in the biggest spots. I don’t care what inning they’re in.

  30. pete c. says:

    Has anyone mentioned that Mo’s side may still be bothering him? He spoke of it after the last WS game and it still was bothering him a couple of weeks ago.

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