I bitch and moan about umpires all season long, pretty much every damn game, but I don’t ever blame a loss on them. I don’t blame this loss on the umps, but holy crap how much did they screw things up? I hate seeing umpires impact a game that much. Human element? The players are the human element. This kind of stuff is a joke.
The Yankees went into the ninth inning down 5-3 with All-World closer Joakim Soria about to take the mound. John Flaherty was blabbing incessantly about how he’s having a poor year, completely ignoring that over the last two and a half months, Soria has a 2.22 ERA with a 27-4 K/BB in 28.1 IP. Brett Gardner set the stage by making an out oddly enough, but he did see nine total pitches in his leadoff at-bat. Derek Jeter followed up with a seven-pitch single into and out of Melky Cabrera’s glove, then Curtis Granderson singled to right (five pitches) and Mark Teixeira walked (four pitches) to load the bases. So it’s a two-run game, the bases are loaded, and Robinson Cano is at the dish. I’m feeling pretty good right about now.
Cano battled for seven pitches, eventually flying out deep enough to left to score Jeter from third. The tying run was in scoring position, but now they were down to their final out. Soria’s second pitch to Nick Swisher way high and to the backstop for a wild pitch, moving the runners to second and third. It was a huge, huge play at the time. Swisher ended up drawing the four-pitch walk to re-load the bases, which brought Jorge Posada to the plate. Here’s the strike zone that ensued…
There’s several things going on here, so let’s do this in an organized fashion…
- Soria had just thrown his last five pitches out of the zone, as well as eight of his last 12 and 12 of his last 16. How in the world does he get a called strike on pitch number two?
- Twice? The same pitch?? And to end the game???
- Not for nothing, but Posada can’t take that pitch with two strikes and two outs when it’s already been called a strike once in the at-bat. Protect the plate and protect yourself from the umpire’s stupidity, yo.
I just don’t understand what happened there. The strike zone completely changed in that final at-bat from the rest of the inning. Then again, that’s nothing new in the game today, the strike zones are slightly amorphous, to paraphrase Joe Maddon. Jorge struck out, and both the rally and game were over.
The Homerun That Wasn’t
The amazing thing is that the strike zone in Posada’s ninth inning at-bat was only the second worse umpiring mistake in the game. Billy Butler whacked an 0-1 Bartolo Colon fastball to deep left-center field in the fourth, and it hit off the top of the wall and came back into the field of play. The umps ruled it homer, but Joe Girardi came out to have a word, and they went inside to review. Great, that’s what it’s there for, technology at work.
While the umps were doing their thing in the instant replay booth or whatever the hell it is, YES showed numerous replays that quite obviously showed the ball hitting the top of the padding of the wall and coming back. It was not off the recessed, higher wall, it was off the top of the shorter wall in front. It was clearly a double since it never actually left the field of play, and yet the umpires determined it was a homer after seeing the replay. Crew chief Dana DeMuth told Girardi that the ball didn’t have to clear both walls, which is 100% wrong according to Kim Jones, who said during the broadcast that she confirmed with two Royals’ sources that the ball has to in fact clear both walls. The umpire(s) straight up did not know the ground rules of the park. It wasn’t an inconclusive replay, the umps just did not know something they’re being paid to know.
Girardi admitted after the game (see the video above) that it was mistake not to play under protest, but I doubt anything would have come from it anyway (the last time MLB upheld a protest was 1986, and if anything they would have forced the Royals paint a yellow line or something). The real problem is that DeMuth refused to comment after the game, again showing that there’s zero accountability in his profession. How can you not know the ground rules? This isn’t some kind of weird play, like a ball off the catwalk in the Trop or something, it’s a simple homerun. They didn’t know the rules and don’t have to explain why. We should all be so lucky at our jobs.
Oh Look, Another Poor Start
I think the Yankees’ starters are trying to pick who loses a spot when they go back to a five-man rotation by having a “who can suck the most” contest. CC Sabathia gave up five homers to Rays, Phil Hughes pitched very well against Tampa (so he’s losing the contest), A.J. Burnett got roughed up on Tuesday, Ivan Nova got roughed up even worse on Wednesday, then Bartolo Colon have up five runs in five innings in this game. Of course one of those runs was Butler’s non-homer, but still. Colon gave up seven hits and walked two, the big blow being Alex Gordon’s three-run bomb two batters before Butler’s homer.
It hasn’t been a banner week for the rotation, but other than Burnett, we don’t have much of a reason to think it was anything more than a blip on the radar for these guys. This was the first time Bart allowed more than two runs in a start since that two-out, eight-run disaster against the Blue Jays in his first outing after the All-Star break. We’ll see what happens in five (or six) days and hope for the best.
Although the ump basically took the bat right out of Posada’s hands in the ninth, the Yankees had plenty of chances of score early on. Five of the seven men Bruce Chen faced in the first inning reached base, and the Yankees only scored one run (on a Granderson solo homer). They left men on first and second in the third inning, a man on second in the fourth, and then men on first and second in the seventh. That last one was particularly ugly. Jeter (single) and Grandy (walk) reached base to open the frame, then the sidearming Louis Coleman struck out the 3-4-5 hitters to escape the jam. Not one of them could put the ball in play. That’s how you end up leaving eleven men on base and going 1-for-10 with RISP.
Hector Noesi came out of hiding for three innings, allowing just one hit and one walk after Colon departed. All eight of his non-strikeout outs came on ground balls. Noesi threw fewer pitches in his three innings (38) than Soria did in the ninth (40), but this might be the last time we see him until September. Hector’s the obvious candidate to go down once Alex Rodriguez comes back and they get back to a 12-man pitching staff.
Jeter and Granderson combined to go 7-for-9 (with a walk), the rest of the lineup 3-for-25 (one of the three was a Russell Martin solo homer). Granderson had the homer and a booming double off the base of the wall, a ball that looked to be going out off the bat. Jeter did get picked off immediately prior to Curtis’ homer, but fallacy of the predetermined outcome and all that jazz. The Cap’n now has 15 hits in his last 27 at-bats, raising his season line to .290/.349/.380. How about that?
Was I the only one that raised an eyebrow when Bob Lorenz attributed the foul pop-up non-catch on youth and inexperience in the top of the first? Chen’s been playing professional baseball since 1994, he should know by now that the pitcher shouldn’t run into foul territory to catch a pop-up when there’s a position player able to make the play.
The Red Sox lost to the Rays, so the Yankees remained half-a-game up in the AL East. Their lead on the wildcard did shrink from 9.5 games to 8.5 games though, so … PANIC! Oh well, already over it. Go get ’em tomorrow.
Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings
It’s off to Minnesota for a four-game series with the Twins, which is music to my ears. The Yankees are 59-19 against the Twinkies in the Ron Gardenhire era (including playoffs), and frankly I’m surprised the Twins were able to win that many games. Sabathia kicks things off against fellow left Brian Duensing on Thursday evening.