Even though the rest of the AL is trying to gift wrap them a wildcard spot for the Yankees, the Yankees just don’t seem willing to take it. They lost their fourth straight game on Tuesday night, getting shut out 2-0 by R.A. Dickey and the Blue Jays. They aren’t going down with much of a fight. The tragic number is down to nine.
One Run Is One Too Many
For the last three or four weeks, Andy Pettitte has been the Yankees’ very best starting pitcher. With Hiroki Kuroda hitting a wall and Ivan Nova coming back to Earth, it is even all that close really. Pettitte has been spectacular and on Tuesday night he held the Blue Jays to just one run — a monster solo homer by Colby Rasmus off a hanging breaking ball in a two-strike count — on a season-high 110 pitches across 6.2 innings. What more could the Yankees possibly want from the oldest starter in baseball?
With the 6.2 innings of one-run ball, Pettitte has now pitched to a 3.06 ERA (3.34 FIP) in his last 64.2 innings and eleven starts. That dates back to the end of the seven-start streak in which he allowed at least four runs each time out. Remember that? Right after the came off the DL following the lat strain? Andy looked like he was done for a good two months but now looks like he has plenty left in the tank. If the Yankees don’t make the postseason — which looks incredibly likely with each passing day — it won’t be because Pettitte pitched poorly down the stretch. The poor guy has done everything in his power to keep the team in the race.
The Yankees managed to leave five men on base in the first two innings. They put three men on base in the final seven innings. Mark Reynolds struck out with the bases loaded to end the first and Alex Rodriguez grounded out to short to end the second before Dickey settled down and retired 15 of the final 16 batters he faced. It didn’t help that all five base-runners in the first and second inning reached with two outs — maybe start a rally with zero or one out next time? could be cool? — but still. The Yankees could have put this game to bed early but didn’t.
After those first two innings, just three of the final 24 batters New York sent to the plate reached base. Reynolds singled to center in the fourth, Curtis Granderson reached on an error by the second baseman in the eighth, and Lyle Overbay singled to right in the ninth. Just five of those final 24 batters actually hit the ball out of the infield on the fly. Five! No one made it beyond first base after the second inning. After scoring at least five runs in nine of their first 13 games this month, the Yankees have scored three runs total in their last three games. Sorry, you ain’t winning anything like that.
Bad Bullpen Is Bad
Literally two pitches after Pettitte walked off the mound, Shawn Kelley allowed a solo homer to Rajai Davis (Rajai Davis!) to give Toronto the insurmountable two-run lead. Kelley has now allowed six runs on 14 base-runners in his last five innings of work. He did miss a few days with a triceps issue during that stretch, which perhaps explains the poor performance. Too bad that excuse doesn’t change the standings.
David Robertson would have allowed a run in the eighth had Adam Lind unhitched his trailer before running the bases. He singled off the right field wall with two outs before Anthony Gose doubled into the left-center field gap. A great relay series by Alfonso Soriano and Brendan Ryan cut Lind down at the plate. Props to J.R. Murphy for receiving the throw and applying the tag. Kelley and Robertson combined to allow three of the six batters they faced to reach base, and all three hit the ball hard.
Underrated moment of the game that ultimately didn’t mean anything: Granderson’s sliding catch to rob Brett Lawrie of a run-scoring bloop single in the fifth. Davis would have scored from second easily with two outs but Granderson managed to reel the ball in. It was a pretty big play at the time. Go Curtis.
Soriano had the team’s only extra-base hit, a double in the first inning. Granderson, Robinson Cano, Overbay, and Reynolds had singles while Overbay and Chris Stewart drew walks. Granderson reached on the error. That’s it, that’s all the offense. The Yankees struck out at least 12 times for the third time in the last eight games.
This was New York’s tenth shutout loss of the season. It’s the first time they’ve been shut out that many times since that magical 1991 season. Ten shutouts? Really? Good grief.
Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings
MLB.com has the box score and video highlights, FanGraphs some other stats, and ESPN the updated standings. The Yankees are four games back of the two wildcard spots in the loss column with only eleven games to play. Think the Steinbrenners can get an advance on that luxury tax money they’re going to save next year so they can buy a miracle?
Same two teams on Tuesday night, when the Phil Hughes/David Huff tag-team gets the ball against left-hander J.A. Happ. The Yankees haven’t won a game since the last Hughes/Huff start. Clearly the team should use tandem starters for all five rotation slots.