Given the tough late-season schedule and the west coast night game, the Yankees went ahead and sent the offense to Toronto prior to Wednesday night’s game. It was the smart thing to do. The 12th inning walk-off loss to Mariners dropped the Yankees to 4-10 in extra inning games this season, the worst mark in the AL.
The Yankees had no trouble with Jason Vargas the first two times they faced him this year (combined 14 runs in 7 IP), and early on it looked like the third time would be more of the same. Derek Jeter opened the game with a ten-pitch at-bat, and although the Yankees went down 1-2-3 in the first, they managed to see 23 pitches. After a 1-2-3 second inning, Vargas was at 38 pitches. By the end of the third, he was at 60. And that’s when the offensive nodded off.
After throwing 60 pitches to ten batters across the first three innings, the Seattle lefty needed just 26 pitches to face ten batters across the next three innings. Vargas sat down nine in a row at one point, and the Yankees’ only real rally wasn’t even much of a rally. Andruw Jones drew a one-out walk in the third, then got thrown out at home trying to score on Eduardo Nunez’s double down the left field line. It was a terrible, horrible, no good send by third base coach Robbie Thomson; Andruw had slowed down at third, then had to rev the engine back up before getting thrown out by ten feet. Third inning, only one out, dude running has a tear in his knee, top of the order due up … pretty good time to throw up the stop sign, if you ask me.
Vargas continued his mastery of the Yankees lineup into the seventh, but Nick Swisher got a hold of an 0-1 pitch for a game-tying solo homer to left. Just like that, Vargas’ day was over. Eric Wedge came out of the dugout immediately to remove his starter from the game, after he’d allowed just the one run on three hits and a walk in 6.2 IP. Tough crowd.
The story of this series was good enough starting pitching, but not great starting pitching. Phil Hughes was okay on Monday and A.J. Burnett was okay on Tuesday, so Ivan Nova was nice enough to stick with the theme on Wednesday. He put nine men on base in 7.1 IP of work (one of his four walks was intentional), again having trouble getting his fastball down in the zone in the early innings. The one run he allowed came on a wild pitch of all things, a fastball that got away with Mike Carp on third following a walk, fly out, caught stealing, walk (to Carp), single (Carp to third), wild pitch.
Nova was better than Hughes and Burnett, no doubt, but I didn’t think he was stellar by any means. One run in 7.1 IP against the Mariners is like, three runs in 5.2 IP against a real offense. Give the kid credit for battling though, he gave the team a chance to win just like he has all year.
Overall, the Yankees relief corps did an okay job. David Robertson cleaned up Nova’s mess in the eighth, Rafael Soriano tossed a scoreless ninth, Boone Logan wiggled in and out of trouble in the tenth, then handed the ball off to Cory Wade for the escape job in the 11th. The game ended with Cory grooving a pitch to Luis Rodriguez, who hit the walk-off solo homer. That’s the same Luis Rodriguez that came into the game hitting .176/.286/.286. The same Luis Rodriguez that went 3-for-5 with two doubles and the walk-off homer. Go figure.
Do I really have to write about another dumb sacrifice bunt? What’s the point of pinch-running Brett Gardner for Jones after he gets hit by a pitch (in the eighth) if you’re not going to let him steal? And why wouldn’t you pinch-hit Eric Chavez for the uber-slumping Nunez (3-for-37 coming into the game)? To make things even better, Chavez pinch-hit for Nunez with two outs and no one on base in the tenth inning. Common sense is a lost art these days, I swear. Anyway, the Yankees did not score in the seventh inning (unsurprisingly), but at least they did it THE RIGHT WAY.
Aside from Swisher’s homer, the offense did absolutely nothing. Four hits, two walks, and two hit batsmen in a dozen offensive innings. It doesn’t help when you’re throwing away leadoff baserunners in the name of small ball, but I’m not sure the Yankees would have scored again if they played another 12 innings. Curtis Granderson, Mark Teixeira, and Jesus Montero went a combined 0-for-15, and the top three hitters in the lineup went a combined 1-for-15. Just one of the final eleven hitters they sent to the plate reached base, and that was Robinson Cano taking a fastball to the foot (x-rays were negative). The offense just wasn’t there, bad at-bats and weak hacks, especially after the third inning.
Both the Red Sox and Rays lost on Wednesday, so the Yankees still lead the division by four games with an eight game cushion on the wildcard. They only have 14 games left to play, and any combination of seven wins and Rays losses will put New York in the postseason.
Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings
It’s time for the final scheduled off day of the season, but it’s not much of an off day because the Yankees won’t get to Toronto until like, 10-11am ET on Thursday. Sleep all day, then start a three-game series with the Blue Jays on Friday. CC Sabathia gets the ball against Brett Cecil.