Yanks drop season opener in walk-off style

Campos shines in debut with Yankees
Michael Pineda & Bad Timing

I don’t think any of us were hoping to see this after nearly six baseball-less months, but it is what it is. The Yankees dropped their first game of the season to the Rays on Friday afternoon in the yuckiest of ways, a walk-off loss.

"LOL first inning IBB" (REUTERS/Steve Nesius)

The Grand Slam

I shouldn’t get that annoyed one inning into the season. Second and third with two outs in the first inning, and Joe Girardi orders CC Sabathia to intentionally walk Sean Rodriguez? I get that Rodriguez hits lefties well — career .346 wOBA vs. LHP — but my goodness. It’s the first inning of the first game of the season. You have your ace on the mound. Pitch to the man, who cares if he hits a three-run homer? The odds are very much against it since Rodriguez isn’t a power hitter, even against lefties.

Anyway, Carlos Pena comes up with the bases loaded. CC Sabathia was struggling to throw strikes, and sure enough he fell behind in the count and eventually ran if full with nowhere to put him. He had to throw a fastball to a fastball hitter in a fastball count, and Pena hit it out of the park. Predictable grand slam was predictable. If you can’t let your ace pitch to a Sean Rodriguez in the first inning of the season, you’re really over-thinking things.

The Comeback

The Yankees would not be thwarted by Girardi’s overmanaging, however. Jamie Shields was clearly off his game, and the Yankees touched him up for two runs a half-inning after Pena gave them a four-run lead. Alex Rodriguez (double) and Mark Teixeira (hit-by-pitch) scored on Raul Ibanez‘s ground ball and a Shields wild pitch in the top of the second. One inning later they tacked on four runs thanks to a Nick Swisher ground out and an Ibanez three-run homer. He was mashing the ball at the end of camp, and it carried right over into the season. It was no wall-scraper either, that thing was halfway up the stands in right.

RBI machine. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)

I Can Has Tack-On Runs?

With six runs on the board against Shields in the first three innings, it seemed like the Yankees were good in pretty good shape. However, after Ibanez’s homer with one out in the third, they sent 29 batters to plate and only received three singles. One wasn’t even a single — Brett Gardner‘s line drive to Evan Longoria at third should have been caught and ruled an error, not a single — and another was an infield hit. The Yankees didn’t have a single hit after the fourth inning.

That sounds pretty awful, but the Yankees still had plenty of chances to score because they’re ridiculously patient. They drew seven walks as a team and five after Ibanez’s homer. The bases were left loaded in the second (Curtis Granderson struck out), the fourth (Ibanez ground out), and the seventh (Derek Jeter ground out). I thought Andruw Jones should have pinch-hit for Gardner when the left-handed Jake McGee came in with two on and two outs in seventh, but he didn’t and Gardner instead drew a walk. I wish Girardi was a little more liberal with his pinch-hitting tactics late in the game, Andruw could have done some serious damage right there.

Sabathia Settles Down

There’s no doubt he was off early in the game — four of the first six hitters he faced reached — but Sabathia settled down and allowed just one run from the second through sixth innings. The one came on a Longoria solo homer, and I can’t get upset over that. That guy is ridiculously good. Sabathia gave up a few hits — some bloops, some hard hit — after that but pitched out of every jam. He went to his slider in every big spot and it was effective.

Sabathia struck out seven in his six innings, walked two (one on purpose), and didn’t give up any extra-base hits besides the Pena and Longoria homers. Believe it or not, it was his second best Opening Day performance as a Yankees in terms of Game Score. He had an 18 in 2009, a 38 in 2010, a 55 in 2011, and a 40 on Friday afternoon. To no one’s surprise, he stood at his locker after the game and said putting Rodriguez on base intentionally in the first was the right move even though he was probably fuming inside.

Death By Bullpen

(AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)

Unsurprisingly, Girardi went to his rigid bullpen formula after Sabathia was out of the game. Rafael Soriano threw a scoreless seventh despite unintentionally intentionally walking Longoria, and David Robertson had to bust out his Houdini act to pitch a scoreless eighth. He walked Rodriguez to start the inning, then gave up a ground ball single to Pena to put men on the corners with no outs. Robertson then struck out Stephen Vogt, Jose Molina, and Matt Joyce in order. Sure, only one of those guys qualifies as a big league caliber hitter, but it was fun nonetheless.

A one-run lead with Mariano Rivera on the mound is a situation I would take any day of the week, but it just wasn’t meant to be on Friday. Ben Zobrist tripled in Desmond Jennings to tie the game before an out was recorded, so Girardi intentionally loaded the bases with the winning run on third to create the force at every base. I don’t like the strategy — it creates zero margin for error, a walk or hit-by-pitch ends it — but it is certainly defensible. On went Longoria and on went Luke Scott before Rodriguez struck out, creating some glimmer of hope. Unfortunately, Pena was able to run the count full and end things on a fly ball to the wall.

Mariano goes through two rough patches every year, one in April and one in August. Hopefully he’s just getting the April rough patch out of the way a little early this year. Everything does get magnified on Opening Day though, so you’ll hear a bit about this one for the next 18 hours or so. Mo will be fine though, he always is.

A conversation that never should have happened. (REUTERS/Steve Nesius)

Leftovers

I already said that I don’t like intentionally loading the bases in the ninth, but I do like that Girardi went with the five-man infield after that. Rivera generates a ton of weak contact, especially on the ground, and that was their best chance to cut the runner down at the plate. A fly ball wins the game for Tampa anyway, so two outfielders is no big deal.

It’s one game, but A-Rod does look pretty damn good. He doubled into the gap, laced a single, and drew two walks for a cool .800 OBP one game into the season. He also made a new nice plays at third, though his defense wasn’t really the question. It’s his health.

Robinson Cano had two singles in his first Opening Day start as a three-hole hitter, and he saw a whopping nine pitches in five plate appearances. Every other starter saw at least 17, and seven of the other eight saw at least 20. That’s Robbie though, he’s a hacker and it works for him.

Granderson was the only Yankee not to reach base. Jeter (single and walk), Cano (two singles), A-Rod(single, double, and two walks), Tex (two walks and the hit-by-pitch), and Gardner (two singles and a walk even though the one single should have been an error) all reached base multiple times. Six runs out of 17 baserunners is what happens when you go 2-11 with runners in scoring position. RISPFAIL right on Opening Day.

Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings

MLB.com has the box score and video highlights, FanGraphs the nerdy stuff, and ESPN the updated standings. It’s a little too early to be scoreboard watching, but to each his own.


Source: FanGraphs

Up Next

Game two of the series and season will be played tomorrow night, a dreaded Saturday night game. First pitch is scheduled for 7:10pm ET, and it’ll be Hiroki Kuroda against David Price.

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Campos shines in debut with Yankees
Michael Pineda & Bad Timing
  • Plank

    Ooh, digging the interactive fangraphs chart. Is that new this season?

    • http://www.riveraveblues.com Mike Axisa

      They introduced it during the playoffs last season, I believe. Either in the playoffs or really late during the regular season.

  • forensic

    He went to his slider in every big spot and it was effective.

    Except the most important spot, the Pena AB. Pitch after pitch, fastball in bad location after fastball in bad location. I’ll never understand why he didn’t throw a slider there, Pena would’ve whiffed every time on it. And if he somehow takes it for a ball (which his track record says he wouldn’t) then so be it, it’s one run and not 4.

    I know it would never happen on opening day (which is stupid anyway), but no way Granderson should be in the lineup against Shields, or at least not in the #2 spot. I wish Girardi would mix up the lineups a little more based on clear matchup issues.

    Could somehow tell Swisher not to try to hit the ball 500 feet on every swing, maybe then he could actually get the job done at some point.

    Good to see same old Tex.

    I disagree with Jones for Gardner. I think you need to keep your best defense out there when you have the lead at that point.

    Zobrist is now 3-3 with a double and 2 triples against Mo. Yuck!

    • Needed Pitching

      Jones has been even worse than Granderson against Shields, so sitting Granderson wouldn’t make sense. As far as where in the lineup he is, only Jeter, ARod, and Cano have solid or better numbers against Shields, not sure changing the lineup would make much of a difference.

      • forensic

        Yes, Jones is 0-fer, but it’s 8 AB’s vs. over 40 for Granderson. Heck, Granderson had a bigger 0-fer against Shields just last year than Jones has in his career. Really, what you could do is put Ibanez (who was also 0-fer against Shields) in the OF, DH A-Rod/Jeter and put Nunez in, who was 5-11 against Shields.

        But, none of it really matters because that stuff would never happen on opening day. No one would have the guts to do it.

        • Needed Pitching

          In that scenario, why would you put Ibanez, who as you said was 0-fer against Shields, in the OF? If they wanted to play Nunez, they would bench Ibanez, not Granderson. At least then they wouldn’t lose defense. And if they did that, which would have been the “guts” move, they would have missed out on a 3-run HR and been even worse off.

          • forensic

            You would bench Granderson not Ibanez because, like Jones, Granderson had a bigger 0-fer against Shields just last year than Ibanez has in his career, and Ibanez hasn’t faced him since 2008, so you hope that maybe it’s a different scenario at this point in his career.

            • Needed Pitching

              You can’t be seriously saying that if asked before the game, you would choose Ibanez.

              Based on their history, neither is likely to give much offensively against Shields, but you know Granderson is >>>>>>>Ibanez in the field. You would bench the much better fielder in the hopes that a 40-year old who hasn’t faced Shields in years (and had no success against him when he did) will suddenly be better against him.

              I’m calling BS on that one.

              • forensic

                I didn’t have a chance to look into it before the game, I don’t know if I would’ve actually benched him, but it certainly would’ve gotten extremely strong consideration, especially since I don’t believe in Granderson’s defense nearly as much as some here, as was evidenced by a couple balls he had bad reads on just in this game that then dropped in a step or two from him. I do know that he would’ve been nowhere near the top of the lineup though.

                • Needed Pitching

                  “I don’t believe in Granderson’s defense nearly as much as some here”

                  You don’t have to believe in Granderson’s defense for it to be an easy decision. You just have to realize how bad Ibanez’ defense is. As for the lineup, going by career numbers against Shields, the Yankees had six candidates to bat ninth in today’s lineup. I guess you could maybe make a case for moving Gardner and his .276 OBP against Shields up in the lineup. Bottom line, they really didn’t have many good choices. At least not enough good choices to start micromanaging the lineup in April.

                  • forensic

                    Well, we could go all night on this, but I would sacrifice 6 innings of defense in LF for the potential of some offense from that player.

                • Mike HC

                  I wasn’t liking Granderson’s D either. Last season, and now game 1 of 162 this season.

    • Neil

      With that shift and his history against Shields Grandy should have taken the bunt single.

  • Robinson Tilapia

    You beat Mo, I tip my hat to you. 161 more to go.

  • Dino Velvet

    Tito Francona would have won this game.

  • shaun

    Rivera had Pena 1-2 and instead of trying to jam him up and in he stayed outside when Carlos was looking out there…. looked like Mo was timid to come inside after he missed his spot on Zobrist….

    • Guest

      Um…the man blew a save to the Red Sox that led to the greatest collapse in playoff history.

      He blew a save in game 7 of the world Series.

      He’s also succeeded a billion times in a billion incredibly high pressure situations.

      With all that he’s been through, both good and bad, something tells me no at-bat during the first game of his 87th season as the greatest closer of all time made him feel “timid.”

      He and Martin either made a bad decision on location or Mo failed to execute. I can’t imagine timidity had anything to do with today’s less than desired result.

  • I Collect Brett Gardner Cards

    wouldn’t have minded the loss so much if it wasn’t a Mo blown save.

    eh, tomorrow.

    • David N

      Mo blown saves are going to happen. What irks me is the IBB in the 1st. That CAN’T happen. That’s the sort of thing you don’t even do in Game 1 of a playoff series, never mind Game 1 of 162.

      • Monterowasdinero

        Agree. It’s a wimpy decision by a wimpy manager with the best offense in baseball. IBB of Sean Rodriguez from CC Sabathia?

        Amazing Joe.

  • V

    Even though Granderson does NOT hit Shields, he had a great at-bat in the 1st, and hit sharp grounders up the middle (right into the shift) twice.

  • Zack

    THe only thing that worries me is the shift. If we can’t learn to hit around that, it will be a long season against the Rays.

    • JobaWockeeZ

      You can’t learn to hit around it, batted ball is mostly luck. Maybe Jeter can do it but it’s not an easy skill.

      I’m never a fan of Girardi’s tactics outside of bullpen management but I kind of get what he was trying to do. CC sucks in all of his first starts so he tried to avoid it. That’s understandable but don’t freaking load the bases for Carlos Pena of all people. If this were like Matt Joyce it’s a defend able move even if it’s the same outcome but to give a chance for a huge power guy like Pena is a funny move.

      • nyyankfan7

        Can’t learn to hit around it?

        Carlos Pena of all people did a pretty nice job of it when he hit a single at the shortstop hole in his 3rd (or maybe 4th) at-bat. They are major league players getting paid millions, they can learn how to not try and pull every single pitch.

        I think it is very sad for our lineup that a team’s strategy invovles playing a shift of 3 men on one side of the infield against 6 of our 9 batters.

        • http://www.riveraveblues.com Mike Axisa

          Who are the six?

          • The Guns of Navarone

            If I’m not mistaken, Maddon overshifted on Granderson, Teixeira (batting left), Swisher (batting left), Martin, and Ibanez. So I count five.

            • Freddy Garcia’s 86 mph Heat

              A-Rod too, I think.

          • nyyankfan7

            I listened to the game on the radio so I was at the mercy of Sterling’s call but it sounded as though they shifted on Grandy, Tex, Arod, Ibanez, Martin & Swish. Maybe I’m wrong.

  • Ethan

    Story of this game: bad pitching, bad managerial decisions and poor hitting with RISP. 2-11 with RISP is pretty bad. Have to capitalize on all those walks and baserunners. There were several times throughout the game when they really could have blown it open and weren’t able to.

    • Zack

      Sotry of last year and the ALDS…

    • Manny’s BanWagon

      Not buying bad managerial decisions.

      CC has to get out Pena who typically can’t hit lefties if he was batting with a banjo but he wasn’t sharp early and missed his spots.

      • Monterowasdinero

        No-CC the HoFer in his prime has to get Sean Rodriguez out in the first inning of the first game of the season.

        Can anyone see Verlander, Lincecum or Halladay walking a non-power guy intentionally in the first inning?

        • j6takish

          Fun Fact! Justin Verlander hasn’t issued an intentional walk since 2009

          • The Guns of Navarone

            Joe Girardi is not his manager.

  • Guest

    I know everyone hates the bunting idea to combat the shift. And I completely agree that it would be ludicrous for Tex to bunt in a situation where a homerun would be especially important (homeruns are obviously always better than singles, but some homeruns are more beneficial than others).

    But I just find it tough to believe that it would be harder for Tex to learn how to put down a bunt than it would be for him to change his swing entirely to better enable him to go the other way. And even if he were successful, I don’t think this would end the shift. Tex is looking to hit the ball with authority the other way (which is valuable in its own right, shift or no shift), and presumably this will mean he will hit the ball in the air when he hits to left or left center.

    Why would this change compel Maddon to change his shift? The fact would still remain that when Tex hits ball on a low line or on the ground, he hits to the right side of the field. So, even with this change, the shift remains completely intact and Tex still loses hits due to the fact that there are effectively two right fielders he has has to get the ball by.

    The bunt, if he could learn how to do it reasonably well and out of the catchers reach, would be nearly automatic since the only person with any chance of getting him out is the pitcher — who likely sucks at fielding anyway.

    Again, by no means am I saying that he should do this often, or even occassionally. But just enough to keep people honest.

    And Grandy, well. He’s already a good bunter and with his speed, he’d have a fair shot at beating out even mediocre/bad bunts as long as he makes the pitcher have to move a little bit. Too much power for him to do this consistently, but I see no reason for him not to do it enough to keep pitchers honest.

    • Guest

      In case it’s not clear, I still think its a good idea for Tex to adjust his swing so as to better hit with authority the other way.

      I just don’t think it will help much with the shift.If we think its worthwhile for him to do something about the shift, bunting or scrapping his swing from time to time and “playing pepper” with the vacant short stop hole (like Pena did against our shift)might be more effective.

    • roadrider

      Tex laying down bunts is playing right into the hands of the shift. They’re conceding it to him – they’re happy to have him do it as opposed to swinging away. They won’t bother to defense it which is your argument against the much more desirable approach of hitting to all fields (like he used to do).

  • Typical MIT Nerd

    “That’s Robbie though, he’s a hacker and it works for him.”

    Exactly why he shouldn’t get a long-term deal. Once he loses a step and a bit of power, he’s an underpowered corner IF with not enough patience for old man skills.

    • forensic

      It’s extremely unpopular here, but I completely agree. I don’t resign him unless somehow he takes a resonable contract, which I don’t see happening with Boras around.

      • Karl Krawfid

        Yall so crazy.

      • Guest

        I agree too.

        I am a huge Yankee fan but I am also a huge player guy. I want players who I have watched and developed some connection to do whatever they feel is best for them and their families. If that means signing somewhere else, well then so be it. It is a free country after all.

        By the same token, I want the Yanks to do what’s best for the organization. And the fact of the matter is they will still have tmultiple years left on ARod, Tex, and CC’s monstrosities by the time Robinson comes up for free agency at the age of 31.

        Judging by how nuts the market is going, I just don’t think there is a match here. Someone out there is going to offer him way too many dollars for way too many years. And Cano didn’t hire Boras to win any congeniality contests, so I think its a safe bet that he isn’t looking to take any hometown discounts.

        At that point, the Yanks should hold firm on their stance of not giving out (any more) ludicrous excessively long contracts to players out of/leaving their prime. And then Robbie will be well within his rights to say “Thanks, that was fun. I’m gonna go ahead and take this other contract offer thats guaranteed for 10 years and 200 million. You know, since I count and understand that money can be exchanged for goods and services.”

        No one’s in the wrong there. I’m just going to sit back and enjoy that stroke for 2 more years.

        • Plank

          “money can be exchanged for goods and services.”

          I’m intrigued. Tell me more.

  • Guest

    WWWMW is already here! Who needs more than one inning before writing a piece about impending DOOOOOOOOOM?

    http://espn.go.com/newyork/con.....dder-think

    ESPN NY: Straight Trollin’

    • Monterowasdinero

      At least it wasn’t Scutaro again.

  • http://twitter.com/czm26 Craig

    Idk if anyone saw the graphic, but the last 24 games between these two have been nearly identical in runs scored, BA, HR, and record against. Rays-Yankees ALCS would be one of baseball’s best. Looking forwar to Kuroda today.

  • Bavarian Yankee

    weird game and a lot of weird decisions. I think I’ve never seen 5 IFs in an MLB game but it happens quite often in Japan. In the end we lost because we wasted too many chances with RISP.

    A-Rod was the outstanding player for me yesterday. He looked very good at the plate and made some great plays on defense.

  • Wil Nieves Number 1 Fan

    Walking Sean Rodriguez to load the bases is silly. Tough loss but I’m over it. Win tonight and all will be fine. Hirokiiiiiiiiiiii yahhhh.

    • Robinson Tilapia

      Yeah, the IBB stuff was nauseating. In the end, though, you know games in which Mo walks off the field the loser will be few and far-between.

  • Zack

    In the end, we lost because with two pitches,Mo allowed the game to get tied.

  • The Scheister

    So instead of just having the MLB package through DirecTV I made a decision to pay the $125 for the MLB.tv for PS3, X-Box, i-Pad, iPhone, etc..didn’t seem like a bad move, jury is still out until I catch a game on each device. I had the game on my phone and yes people at work looked at me funny as I let out a yelp of joy for the Raul jack and the Gardner assist. But in the ninth, the wheels feel off. At least it was against the Rays and not the Sox.

    “Never confuse a single defeat with a final defeat.” ~F. Scott Fitzgerald

    • CTRob

      My brother, a Mets fan living in Maine, got this and feels its worth every penny. He can watch any game anywhere. Living in CT I can watch any Yanks game, so its not worth it for me. I did opt for the AtBat 12 app though, so I can listen to the broadcast if I’m not home. That’s $15 well spent for me.