When the pitchers are doing well, the bats do nothing. When the bats are going well, the pitching blows up. The Yankees matched their run total from the three games in Cleveland in the series opener against the Blue Jays on Monday night, yet they still managed to lose because of a slightly overworked and a very underwhelming bullpen. To make matters worse, Mark Teixeira is going to miss 1-2 weeks with a Grade I calf strain suffered in the middle of an at-bat.
Joe Girardi went for the kill against the Indians on Sunday, using his top three relievers for a combined 13 outs. Rafael Soriano has been a little shaky of late, escaping that bases loaded situation on Friday and allowing another runner on Sunday, and it all came to a head Monday night when he blew a two-run lead by allowing a two-out, three-run bomb to Colby Rasmus. It was no Yankee Stadium cheapie, you knew from the sound it was gone off the bat. Soriano has been flat out awesome since taking over for the injured Mariano Rivera, but he’s not going to be perfect every time out and this just so happened to be one of the times he gave it up.
Of course, the bullpen problems actually started a few innings earlier. For whatever reason, starter David Phelps was lifted after just 88 pitches following a worm-burning ground ball single with one out in the seventh, and the imminent hittable Cody Eppley — 17 hits in his last nine innings — allowing the inherited runner to score. Derek Lowe shot himself in the foot in the 11th by throwing away a pickoff throw, putting a man on third with no outs. He’s not a strikeout pitcher, it was only a matter of time before someone hit the weak ground ball to get the run in. Adeiny Hechavarria did just that two batters later and that was the ballgame. Four runs in 4.2 innings for the bullpen not including Eppley’s inherited runner. The leaky pen continues to be just that.
All About The Long Ball
The Yankees have struggled to score runs lately, but the return back home to the Bronx allowed them to get back to what they do best: hit the ball out of the park. Robinson Cano, who had hit just two homers this month prior to Monday, clubbed two dingers in the first four innings off starter Henderson Alvarez. Both were solo shots and the first two runs of the game for New York. Nick Swisher tacked one some more with a two-run blast in the fifth, his sixth homer in the last 14 games. The biggest homer was Derek Jeter’s leadoff shot in the ninth, tying the game after Soriano blew the save. Alas, it just delayed the inevitable.
Phelps pitched pretty well despite the quick hook, though it was frustrating to watch him give up runs in the half-inning immediately after each time the Yankees scored while he was on the mound. Adam Lind tied the game at one with a solo shot in the second — his eight homers are tied with Russell Branyan for the second most by a visiting player at New Yankee Stadium, behind only Victor Martinez (nine) — then Yorvit Torrealba made it a 4-3 game with a two-run jack in the fifth. He was just pitching to the score, I assume. Other than that, Phelps struck out seven and walked just run, improving his K/BB to 17/2 in 18 innings since rejoining the rotation about two weeks ago. Wasn’t a great outing against a predominantly Triple-A lineup, but it was enough to win until Soriano was in the giving mood.
In between Swisher’s blast and Cano’s second dinger, the Yankees scored a pair of runs small ball style in the fourth — Russell Martin drove in a hobbling Teixeira with a single off Alvarez (literally) and Raul Ibanez plated a run with a ground out. They tried to manufacture an insurance run to no avail in the eighth with a bunt, and it turns out they really could have used that extra run. Go figure.
A few hours after his wife gave birth to the couple’s first child, David Robertson threw a scoreless eighth while allowing two singles. It was his 250th career appearance, placing him tenth on the team’s all-time relief appearance list. Isn’t that surprising? I thought he would have been further down the list, but then against relievers don’t exactly tend to stick around and remain effective all that long.
The top three hitters in the order went a combined 4-for-15 with four homers and two walks while the rest of the lineup went 4-for-25 with four walks. Production from the bottom two-thirds of the order continues to be an issue and that doesn’t figure to change with Teixeira now out for a while. There’s just too many platoon players getting playing time that is too infrequent to stay sharp right now given the injuries to Brett Gardner and Alex Rodriguez.
It was a brutal night for the Toronto pitchers physically. Alvarez took a comebacker off the barehand (he reached for it) and was later knocked out of the game with a shin contusion when a hard-ground ball got him. That was Martin’s run-scoring single. Former Yankee Aaron Laffey took a comeback off his leg, then southpaw Aaron Loup did the same in the eighth. I know the Jays have dealt with an inordinate number of injuries this year, but this was ridiculous.
Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings
MLB.com has the box score and video highlights, ESPN the updated standings. I’m going to stop linking to the FanGraphs box score here just because I didn’t realize it was automatically linked at the bottom of the WPA graph. Not my finest moment. Look for it there from now on. Anyway, the Orioles won and the Rays lost, so they are now three and four games back, respectively. The magic number remains 32.
Same two teams on Tuesday night, when Phil Hughes gives it a go against Ricky Romero. The bullpen figures to be really short, so it would be nice if a) Phil pitched deep into the game, b) the offense blows things open early. Check out RAB Tickets if you want to catch that one in person rather than one television.