Well, a 7-3 homestand is pretty awesome, but the Yankees were damn close to making it 8-2 instead. They mounted a nice comeback in the middle innings against the Athletics on Sunday before things got away from them late. The final was 5-4.
When Andy Pettitte struggled against the Astros last time out, a lot of blame fell on the shoulders of Austin Romine for his unfamiliarity with the pitching staff. This time around Andy had Chris Stewart, Miracle Catcher™ behind the plate, so there are no such excuses. Pettitte labored through five awful innings, walking four and giving up four hits, three of which went for extra bases (one double and two homers). He also hit a batter. Only 57 of his 100 total pitches were strikes and only nine of 24 batters faced saw a first pitch strike. Yuck. Five of the nine base-runners reached in two-strike counts. Double yuck.
After allowing two runs in 15 innings during his first two starts of the year, Pettitte has now allowed 17 runs in 22.2 innings across four starts since returning from his stiff back. Is the back still bothering him? Maybe. It was unrealistic to think he would pitch like an ace all year — remember, he was definitely ace-like in his 12 starts last season despite the leg injury — but the complete lack of control has me a tad worried. It could be a simple slump, it happens to every pitcher and the Athletics have mashed lefties this year, but the combination of age and the recent back trouble mean Pettitte’s recent struggles should set off some alarms.
Despite the poor effort from the starting pitcher, the Yankees still managed to rally and tie the game in the sixth inning. Robinson Cano got them on the board with a run-scoring single in the third — he was thrown out by a mile at second trying advance on the throw home, but that’s besides the point — then he started the sixth inning rally with a leadoff single to shallow right. Ichiro Suzuki plated Cano with a double into the right field corner two batters later, then two batters after that Lyle Overbay knotted things up with a bloop single.
Outside of tying the game, the Overbay hit stands out because it was a tough eight-pitch at-bat against a really good lefty specialist in Jerry Blevins. He fell behind in the count 1-2 before evening things at 2-2 and fouling off three pitches. Blevins followed every sinker he threw in the inning with a breaking ball, and it looked like Overbay picked up on the pattern and waited on a breaking ball after fouling off a sinker. The ball blooped into center and both runs scored. Overbay’s been dreadful against lefties this year — came into the game hitting .074/.074/.111 (-67 wRC+) against southpaws — but he hung in real well and tied the game. Nice job.
The Yankees were finally bit by the David Robertson and Joba Chamberlain-less bullpen. With no real usable right-hander reliever to face the middle of the Oakland order in the eighth, the ball went to Boone Logan because he was simply the best option. Mariano Rivera would never enter the game in the eighth, so Joe Girardi’s choices were Logan, Shawn Kelley, and Vidal Nuno. Boone it was.
Unfortunately, when your best late-inning option against a bunch of power-hitting righties is a LOOGY, bad things tend to happen. Logan surrendered a solo homer to the right-handed hitting Josh Donaldson, a second deck shot that stayed just fair down the left field line. An inning later he allowed a leadoff double to the left-handed Josh Reddick, which was Reddick’s first career hit in 36 plate appearances at the New Yankee Stadium. The eminently hittable Kelley pitched out of that jam. The solo homer, unfortunately, cost the Yankees the ball game.
Despite the loss, the Yankees got exactly what they wanted in the ninth inning of a one-run game — they got Cano to the plate. Brett Gardner singled with two outs to extend the game, but as soon as he advanced to second on a wild pitch, the bat was out of Cano’s hands. Oakland intentionally walked him and closer Grant Balfour struck out Vernon Wells to end the game. For shame. Maybe Brett shoulda stayed at first on the wild pitch. I’m kidding … maybe.
Congrats to Preston Claiborne for starting his Hall of Fame career. The right-hander made his big league debut in relief of Pettitte and retired all six men he faced. No hits, no walks, no strikeouts, no nothing. Six balls in play and six relatively easy outs. I mentioned this the other night, but I think Claiborne’s got a chance to take Kelley’s roster spot if he pitches well between now and Joba Chamberlain’s return from the DL.
The Yankees had nine total hits, and the top five hitters in the lineup went a combined 8-for-19 (.421) with four walks while the bottom four lineup spots went 1-for-16 with six strikeouts. The one hit was Overbay’s game-tying single. That sums up the state of the lineup very well right now, all the injuries have taken all the bite out of the bottom of the order.
Cano was one of three Yankees with two hits — Ichiro and Gardner were the others — but it’s worth noting that he’s now sitting on 1,499 career hits at the moment. Pretty crazy that he’ll turn 30 after the season and is just halfway to 3,000. That’s a mighty big number.
The Yankees are off on Monday and will travel to Colorado. They open a three-game series against the Rockies on Tuesday night, with Hiroki Kuroda getting the ball against left-hander Jorge De La Rosa.