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.
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
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.