Royals slap around Mitre to top Yanks

Montero exits game with apparent wrist injury
Dan Haren and the three bears

Pitching in place of the injured Andy Pettitte, Sergio Mitre was anything but effective Saturday afternoon. Down 2-0 to the Royals after the first inning, Mitre made it through just 4.1 innings before getting the hook. He allowed seven runs on seven hits, and although the Yanks loaded the bases with two outs in the 9th, they couldn’t top Kansas City. The Royals won 7-4 as A-Rod failed to launch his 600th home run.

Turning Point #1: A first-inning error

From the start Mitre didn’t have his best stuff. He couldn’t command his pitches, and his sinker wasn’t sinking. Scott Podsednik led off the game with a single to center, and then Mitre hit Jason Kendall on the elbow pad with a 3-2 pitch. With Billy Butler up, Podsednik and Kendall put on the double steal, and the Royals were set up. They had two runners in scoring position with the heart of their order up.

The Yankees, though, caught a break. Billy Butler hit a hard ground ball to Alex Rodriguez. Although the speedy Podsednik broke for home, A-Rod had to just check Kendall back to the bag and make an easy throw across the diamond to nab the slow Bulter. Instead, though, A-Rod fired home. Although his throw actually beat Podsednik to the plate, it was up the first base side of the dish. As Posada swiped across to tag the runner, he failed to secure the ball with his throwing hand, and it popped out. Podsednik was safe, and Kendall moved to third on Jorge’s error.

The next batter — Jose Guillen — drove in the second run with a sac fly, and although Mitre got out of the inning with an Alex Gordon double play, the Royals had a 2-0 lead they would never surrender. While Posada got the error, the play was a bad one by A-Rod as well. Facing the Royals’ pitching and with no outs in the top of the first, the Yanks should have just given up that run to get the out. Had the inning unfolded as it did, the Royals would have walked away with just one run there, and the Yanks would have been a swing away from a tie game.

Turning Point #2: A-Rod doesn’t advance

As the game and the 110-degree heat wore on, Mitre fell further behind. By the bottom of the 4th, the Yankees were on the wrong end of a 6-0 score and hadn’t done much of anything against Kyle Davies. But a Mark Teixeira home run seemed to awaken the Yanks, and after A-Rod tapped out an infield single, Robinson Cano looked to keep the rally going. Cano hit a scorching ground ball ticketed for center field, but somehow, Yunieksy Betancourt made a diving play on the ball. He flipped to Chris Getz at second, and Cano was out at first by mile. The next batter, Jorge Posada, blasted a home run to make it 6-2, but it coulda, woulda, shoulda been 6-4.

Betancourt’s dive was the talk of the game, but the key part of the at-bat came a few pitchers earlier. One of the tosses from Kyle Davies wound up in the dirt, and Jason Kendall couldn’t find it. Cano tried to wave on A-Rod, but the Yanks’ third baseman seemed ill-prepared to attempt to advance. So he stayed at second.

With a full nod toward the fallacy of the predetermined outcome, had A-Rod advanced on that potential wild pitch and Cano hit the same ball up the middle, it would have gone through. Betancourt wouldn’t have been playing at double play depth, and he wouldn’t have made the dive. I’m not faulting Alex for it; after all, the ball didn’t get too far away from Kendall. But it’s just one of those little things that are easy to overlook and can cost the team a shot at narrowing a sizable gap.

Sergio Mitre did not have his best stuff this afternoon. Credit: AP Photo/Julie Jacobson

Turning Point #3: A blown call on the final out

Obviously, the final out is a turning point in the game because the losing team has no more chances, but today’s was especially galling. After All Star closer Joakim Soria retired the first two Yankees, Derek Jeter doubled and Curtis Granderson walked. If Mark Teixeira were to reach base, the Yankees would have the winning run at the plate in the persona of Alex Rodriguez. Thoughts of a game-winning, walk-off grand slam as A-Rod’s 600th home run were dancing through our collective minds.

But, thanks to a bad play, it was not meant to be. On a 2-2 pitch, Teixeira hit a slow roller up the middle. Betancourt fielded the ball and fired to first. On the bang-bang play, Chad Fairchild called Teixeira out, and the Yanks’ first baseman looked incredulous. The replay, via YES’ super slow-motion camera, showed that Teixeira’s foot was on the base before the ball was in Billy Butler’s glove, and the Yankees were unfairly denied a shot at winning or extending the game.

I hate to harp on the umps in a game that found the Yanks losing by three with one out left, but the reality is that it took YES all of 30 seconds to show the replay. It wouldn’t have ruined the pace of the game had the umps conferred to get the call right, and it would have given the Yanks another batter. The argument against instant replay remains weak as always.

Odds and Ends

Despite the score, Dustin Moseley gets a tip of the cap for his effort today. In brutal heat, he threw 4.2 very effective innings, giving up no runs on just one hit. He struck out only one, but he also walked only one. As Joe Girardi isn’t sure that Mitre will make the start on Thursday, Moseley is probably under consideration as well.

Derek Jeter, after starting the game 0 for 3, went 2 for 5 with a double. He was visibly frustrated when he tapped out to the pitcher but hit the ball with authority later in the game. Hopefully, he’s coming around.

Nick Swisher entered the game to pinch hit in the 8th and laced what should have been a double into left-center field. Rick Ankiel made a spectacular diving catch to save the out. Swisher and Brett Gardner should be good to go tomorrow.

A Sad WPA Graph

This one went in the wrong direction. (Fangraphs box, ESPN box)

Up Next

The Yankees end their homestand with the series finale against the Royals at 1:05 p.m. on Sunday. Phil Hughes will look to make a strong start after scuffling last week. He’ll face Sean O’Sullivan, who is making his second consecutive start against the Yankees in Yankee Stadium. I wonder if one pitcher has ever made two starts in a week at the same stadium against the same club but while pitching for a different team.

Montero exits game with apparent wrist injury
Dan Haren and the three bears
  • Theodore Reginald Oliver LLinx

    I wonder if one pitcher has ever made two starts in a week at the same stadium against the same club but while pitching for a different team.

    Only once before. (safe)

  • Bryan

    First inning error was a “Killa”, definitely didn’t start the game out right.

    But on the plus side Moseley did pitch brilliantly in relief of Mitre. Out of Park, Gaudin, and Moseley, I think his performance today gives him the edge over all three.

    • Angelo

      To be fair, CHoP has pitched well of late too.

      • Bryan

        Yeah, I’ll give you that.

    • tommydee2000

      I’m getting tired of the way everyone covers for Posada’s defense — and they DO!

      Whatever you think of A-Rod’s decision to go home, with which I agree, the throw was good enough, and the play not that close, that you would expect a HS catcher to make the tag. With the roles reversed, any Yankee but Gardner is out at home, if he ran at all.

      A championship team can’t always play it safe in the field, and some plays just need to be made. Mitre, for all his faults, needed to be rewarded with that out.

      Posada’s play behind the plate give the appearance that something is wrong physically or mentally, although it’s not affecting his hitting.

      But I have a question for Girardi: was the Pena AB vs. Farnsworth in the 7th really necessary? Why are you giving an unreliable reliever an out late in a 3-run game with 2 men on? I know you sacrifice the DH, but it might be one more AB at that time for a pinch-hitter. Is it just to pinch hit for Thames???

      And maybe, just maybe, with Gardner unavailable and a limited bench, yesterday wasn’t the day to DH Jeter.

      I’ve had the Saturday plan since 1999, and we’ve always referred to this as the “Saturday Line-up”. Lots of Clay Bellinger, Enrique Wilson, Todd Green and now Pena. The tickets should be $5 like during the week.

  • MattG

    “I hate to harp on the umps in a game that found the Yanks losing by three with one out left, but the reality is that it took YES all of 30 seconds to show the replay. It wouldn’t have ruined the pace of the game had the umps conferred to get the call right, and it would have given the Yanks another batter. The argument against instant replay remains weak as always.”

    I am very disappointed that Rodriguez did not have the chance, however bang-bang plays like this are not an argument for instant replay. For every call like this that everyone notices, there are 3-4 mistakes that the players themselves never even argue, not to mention 30-40 correct calls that do not require an argument or a replay. Unless you want to see instant replay on every bang/bang play, you’re going to have to live with mistakes like this.

    People really underestimate the affect IR would end up having on bang/bang plays. Have you ever noticed how often a player gets up and trots back to the dugout, oblivious to the fact that the umpire was wrong? There is one reason for that–the umpire’s call is final. If you institute IR, every time a player (or his manager) thinks there is even a possibility an umpire made a mistake, they’ll be arguing.

    I used to be against IR completely, but I now would support it in one circumstance–in which IR happens automatically, and in which players and managers are absolutely prohibited from arguing at all. I would also suggest people consider that on absurdly close bang/bang plays, the umpire might simply let the call stand without elaborate investigation, all in the interest of keeping the game moving. It is after all one call in a game that features hundreds.

    Which leads me to the next point–the strike zone is horrible, and a much larger problem than the bang/bang call at first base. The technology is already in place to fix that. Why aren’t the same people that want IR calling for the strike zone to be automated? That would have a more profound affect on the game than safe/out calls.

    • Pete

      Honestly, I’m not pro-IR. I’m pro video-umping. Which is to say that you have a couple of officiators in a booth watching every play from every angle, and making the call as quickly as possible, which would usually be fairly quickly. I think the strike zone, however, should be fully automated.

  • Ed

    The argument against instant replay remains weak as always.

    I’ll throw this one out. Sure, on a play like this, or the blown perfect game call, replay is really easy. Check the video, you see really quickly that the call was wrong. The impact on the game is really easy, as the play was ending at that point regardless of what call was made.

    My question is this: what do you do in cases where the play would unfold differently based on the call? Say a fair or foul call (like the blown call on Mauer in the ALDS), or a was it caught on the fly or on the bounce type play? Everyone reacts to the call that’s made and proceeds very differently than they would have otherwise.

    Do you cancel the play and redo it? It’s fair, but I can’t see that being popular. That possibility also leads to more potential delays, more pitches thrown, etc.

    Do you have the umpires guess what would’ve happened and assign an outcome? That feels at least as wrong as the current situation. Probably more wrong the more complicated the situation is. I’d rather have the wrong call as it actually played out than the right call with a guess as to how it would’ve played it.

    • MattG

      I know, we can mark the field like a stickball game. If it passes a certain line, it’s a double, triple, or home run. And if the fielder can throw it in the (questec) box, it’s a double play.

      I’m not sure the player’s assoc would go for that.

    • tommydee2000

      How about if they move a little to get better position and stop guessing on the initial call? That was what happened on the McClelland (ALCS) and Joyce calls, as well as Posada’s non-tag this week.

  • Juke Early

    Somebody needs to look up the NYY W/L record for Saturday games in the last 10 years. Sure, there are a list of mitigating factors – especially yesterday ( major teeth grinding ). But they just seem to lose a lot more often on Saturdays. Especially if it’s the Fox TV game. While the average fan reaction will be to scoff, I’m betting it’s an eyebrow raiser, if we saw the stats.

    • tommydee2000

      Please see the end of my post above. Both Torre and Girardi have exacerbated the day-after-night situation by resting everyone at the same time. I’ve been at the games, so I know first-hand.

    • Carcillo

      The Yankees went 13-13 on Saturday’s last year, and had games on FOX where they gave up 22 runs, 16 (twice), 14, and 12 (against Cleveland, Boston, Anaheim, Chicago, and Boston, respectively).

      This year, the Yankees are 8-8 on Saturday, 3-3 on FOX. 5-3 in 1:00 home games.

      By contrast, the Yankees are 11-5 on Wednesdays, Fridays, and Sundays this year, and they’ve won the last eight Sundays in a row.

      • dark side of the goon

        I once had the Saturday package and they lost every time I went to a game (about 4 Sats in the year).

  • dark side of the goon

    I think the umps just wanted to get out of the heat. Can’t say I blame them. And the Yanks should never be in a position where a blown call decides their fate against the Royals. come now.

    • tommydee2000

      I just love this argument. Why then do you get 27 outs?