The clown show continues. The Yankees dropped their fourth straight game on Tuesday night, this one by the score of 7-6 to the Blue Jays thanks to a walk-off error. The Yankees have now been outscored 29-10 in their last four games.
I was just thinking to myself the other day that it’s been a while since the infield had a truly hideous defensive game. Earlier in the season they were botching something every day, but it hasn’t been so bad lately. Maybe I’ve become numb to it or simply hadn’t noticed around the offensive incompetence.
The infield defense was nice enough to rear its ugly head on Tuesday, and I’m going to save the worst of it for later. Right now all you need to know is that the Yankees lost this game because Brian Roberts chicken-winged on Yangervis Solarte’s throw following Melky Cabrera’s bunt in the ninth inning. The throw sailed down the line and Jose Reyes, who had doubled earlier in the inning, trotted around to score the walk-off run. Solarte and Adam Warren appeared to have some communication issues playing the ball before the throw.
There are two problems with the play. One, Solarte’s throw was rushed and not very good. He threw it right into the runner, basically. Two, Roberts saw the throw going into the path of the oncoming runner and pulled his glove away. I’m sure you remember the Bubba Crosby incident years ago, when Crosby ran into Roberts reaching for a ball on a similar play and destroyed his elbow. Pulling your arm out of the way after that is understandable, though it did cost the Yankees the game. Solarte shoulda just held on and not forced the throw.
Tied, For Now
The Yankees fell behind six-zip in the middle innings — again, more on that in a second — but they rallied to tie things up in the sixth and seventh innings. Derek Jeter hit a solo homer in the sixth — both of his homers have come on hanging offspeed pitches from lefties (Mark Buehrle and Hector Santiago), pretty much the only thing he can hit with authority these days — and Roberts tacked on a two-run shot in the seventh. I can safely say I did not expect Jeter and Roberts to homer in the same game at some point this season.
The rest of the seventh inning rally came after the Yankees had the bases empty with two outs. Brett Gardner blooped a double in and out of Melky’s glove in left, Jeter drew a walk, Jacoby Ellsbury sliced a single to left to score Gardner, and Reyes committed a throwing error on Mark Teixeira’s would-be inning-ending ground ball, allowing Jeter and Ellsbury score. He short-hopped the throw and Edwin Encarnacion couldn’t handle it. Teixeira accidentally elbowed Encarnacion in the head on the way by and it looked like a sure concussion. Encarnacion stayed down for a while but ultimately remained in the game. Two homers, a single, and a two-run error led to six runs in two innings.
He’s In There For His Bat
Jeter has been playing baseball an awfully long time, yet the fifth inning may have been the worst inning of his career. David Phelps was pitching admirably as he waited for his offense to show up, and he got the dangerous Encarnacion to hit a nice chopper to Jeter with two outs and men on first and second. All Jeter had to do was throw the ball to first and the inning was over. But no. He looked at second (Reyes was basically at the bag already), looked at third (no one was there to catch a throw), then fired to first. Encarnacion beat it out for an infield single.
Jeter had to forget how many outs there were, right? I can’t think of any other explanation. There are two outs and there’s a slow runner at the plate. Field the chopper, fire over to first, inning over. Instead, the inning continued, Phelps hung a curveball to Colby Rasmus, and Rasmus smashed it off the wall for a bases-clearing single. It missed being a grand slam by about two feet, maybe less. Phelps made a terrible pitch that deserved to get hammered, but he shouldn’t have even have needed to make that pitch in the first place. The inning should have been over.
The cherry on top was another Jeter defensive miscue. Rasmus got caught in rundown between first and second on the single, and rather than flip to Teixeira at first to apply the tag, Jeter tried to out-run Rasmus and tag him himself. Rasmus had no trouble beating him to the bag and the sixth run of the game came around to score on the rundown. I mean, what the hell? Jeter’s never been a good defender but these were mental mistakes. He didn’t short-hop a throw or boot a grounder. He didn’t throw to first to get Encarnacion and he thought he could out-run Rasmus back to the base. The Cap’n has had better innings.
Phelps was charged with six earned runs in five innings but those last three weren’t really his fault. The inning should have been over if not for Jeter’s throwing gaffe. The first three runs scored on Dioner Navarro’s three-run bomb in the fourth inning. Phelps hung a curveball and Navarro deposited it in the second deck. He pimped it too. Phelps struck out seven and allowed those six runs on seven hits and a walk.
Dellin Betances threw two scoreless innings but he was clearly not sharp. He threw 45 pitches and really labored. The bases were loaded with one out in the eighth, then Roberts made a nice play with the infield in to cut the runner down at the plate and Betances struck out Munenori Kawasaki to end the threat. Matt Thornton threw a perfect inning and Warren allowed the Reyes’ double and Melky walk-off bunt into an error.
The Yankees had a chance to push a run across in the top of ninth, but they’d already met their quota for the day. Gardner started the inning with a single, Jeter effectively bunted him to second, except in this case the bunt was line drive off closer Casey Janssen. He recovered and fired to first for the out. Ellsbury grounded out and Teixeira struck out. Inning over.
Teixeira took an ill-timed 0-for-5. He ripped the team a bit on Monday, saying everyone needs to do more offensively. He’s the only big money guy in the lineup actually pulling his weight, this game aside. The amazing, invisible Carlos Beltran went 0-for-4 and otherwise everyone had at least one hit. Gardner, Ellsbury, Roberts, and Brian McCann had two apiece. The good news is that an offensive attack built around homers from Jeter and Roberts and Reyes throwing errors is totally sustainable.
Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings
MLB.com is where you can find the box score and video highlights while some other stats and the updated standings are at FanGraphs and ESPN, respectively. The Yankees still sit in third place in the AL East, one game back of the Orioles and three and a half back of the Jays. Shout out to the White Sox for beating Baltimore on Tuesday.
The Yankees will look to avoid the sweep on Wednesday night, when they send Hiroki Kuroda to the mound. Drew Hutchison will be on the bump for the Blue Jays. It would be very 2014 Yankees-esque for them to lose Wednesday’s game and make up zero ground in the standings following the three-game sweep of Toronto last week.