So it turns out a miraculous four-run inning to squeeze out a one-run win against a last place team wasn’t a sign of good things to come. The Yankees followed up Wednesday’s dramatic come-from-behind win with a total dud on Thursday, a 6-2 loss that destroys the already small chance they had of making the postseason.
The Binder Fails
I guess it’s pretty fitting the Yankees playoff hopes were effectively killed by their biggest recent player development failure. With a two-run deficit in the seventh inning of the most important game of the season, Joe Girardi inexplicably allowed Joba Chamberlain to pitch to the middle of the Blue Jays lineup. Three batters later, it was a five-run deficit thanks to a mammoth three-run homer by Adam Lind that landed somewhere in Beaverton. The pitch might as well have been on a tee. It was a cookie.
I don’t know if Girardi is naive or oblivious to Joba’s performance or what, but it’s inexplicable he was on the mound in that situation. Not only did he have him start the inning against the heart of the order, but Girardi didn’t even go to a left-hander to face Lind and Colby Rasmus once the first two batters of the inning reached base. Naturally, Cesar Cabral replaced Joba after the homer and struck out the only two lefties he faced. Cabral has now whiffed five of the seven lefty batters he’s faced as a big leaguer. Too bad he didn’t get a chance to fact Lind earlier in the inning. Managers catch a lot of unnecessary grief, but Girardi absolutely failed to put his team in the best position to win the game. No doubt about it.
The Wall Is Unforgiving
All things considered, three runs in six innings is a pretty good outing for Hiroki Kuroda. If you watched the game though, you know he was damn lucky to finish the night with a pitching line that good. There were a ton of loud outs and lucky breaks — 1-2-5 double play in the first inning, anyone? — along the way that prevented things from getting out of hand, particularly early in the game. A better offensive team (or the Blue Jays with a healthy Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion) would have done much more damage than three runs in six innings on Thursday.
Kuroda allowed those three runs on eight hits and four walks, and nine of those 12 base-runners came in the first three innings. He’s been having serious trouble early in his starts before settling down in the middle innings lately, and that’s exactly what happened in this game. The wrap-around 9-1-2 portion of Toronto’s lineup did most of the damage against Kuroda, going a combined 6-for-8 with two doubles, one homer, and one walk. Hiroki has now allowed 33 runs (6.37 ERA) and 71 base-runners (1.68 WHIP) in his last seven starts.
Remember when the Yankees hit ten homeruns in the four-game series against the Orioles last week? Things were going so well power-wise that Brendan Ryan even hit a homer in the series opener against the Red Sox. The power well dried up after that — the Yankees went 48 innings (!) between that Ryan homer and their next long ball, which Curtis Granderson hit in the sixth inning on Thursday’s game. The solo homer was their first run of the game and their eighth in the last five games. What can you do? Sometimes you just have to tip your cap to great pitchers like Todd Redmond.
The Yankees did mount a spirited but ultimately futile rally in the ninth inning, loading the bases with one out before the dynamic duo of Vernon Wells and Lyle Overbay ended things with a pair of weak ground outs. Wells did drive in a run with his grounder, but who really cares. At least they went down with a fight, I guess. If they’re not going to make the postseason, at least be watchable. That’s all I ask at this point.
Prior to that ninth inning mini-rally, the Yankees had just four hits and one walk in the first eight innings of the game. Robinson Cano and Chris Stewart both doubled, Granderson homered, Alfonso Soriano singled, and Wells walked. That was it for eight innings. Cano singled while A-Rod and Soriano drew walks in the ninth.
The non-Joba portion of the bullpen allowed just one of the seven batters they faced to reach base. Cabral, true to his lefty specialist form, walked the right-handed Moises Sierra. He struck out the two lefties, Matt Daley got a routine fly ball from the only man he faced, and David Phelps got two ground outs and one fly ball in a perfect eighth inning. Too bad Joba screwed it all up.
If you care about such silliness, the loss guarantees the Yankees will not win at least 90 games for only the second time since 2001. They won 89 games in 2008 and will certainly finish with less than that this year.
Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings
MLB.com is the place to go for the box score and video highlights. FanGraphs has some other stats while the updated standings are at ESPN. The Yankees will remain three games back of the second wildcard spot in the loss column, assuming the Rangers hold on to beat the Rays. Cool Standings gives New York a 3.1% chance to make the postseason, and remember, that’s the optimistic system.
After ten games and eleven days on the road, the Yankees are finally coming back to the Bronx. The final homestand of the regular season — and Mariano Rivera’s career — starts with three games against the defending World Champion Giants this weekend. Former Cy Young Award winners/current back-end starters CC Sabathia and Tim Lincecum kick things off Friday night. Check out RAB Tickets if you want to catch any of the team’s final six home games live.