For 13.5 innings covering 81 outs, the Yankees and Blue Jays, with a few hiccups, put on a clinic in pitching. Yet, with the game tied in the bottom of the 14th, Joe Girardi opted to go with Chad Gaudin over Mariano Rivera, and two batters after a lead-off walk to the number nine hitter, the Yanks were heading back to the dugout, 3-2 losers in a contest marred by the ineffectiveness of the team’s heart of the order.
Biggest Hit: Jeter goes yard
In a game marked by a decided lack of Yankee fan, the biggest hit of the game for the Bombers was clearly the captain’s fifth inning blast. Derek Jeter took a 2-0 pitch from Ricky Romero and deposited it 385 feet away into right field. The Yankees had their first lead of the series against the Blue Jays.
For Jeter, it was his sixth dinger of the year, and after hitting just one in all of May, he has matched that total through five games in June. More comforting though have been Derek’s numbers of late. After a strong start to the season that saw him end April with a .330/.354/.521 line, Jeter struggled in May. He hit just .204/.275/.247 over 21 games, and many started worrying that end of Jeter was night.
Yet, this old dog has a few new tricks up his sleeve. Since bottoming out on May 22, Jeter has gone 23 for 55 with five walks over 13 games. The home run today was Jeterian, and the Yanks’ leadoff hitter seems to have escaped the May doldrums. The same, however, cannot be said of other Yankees.
Biggest Non-Hit: Mark Teixeira and the middle of the lineup
While Jeter had the Yanks’ only RBIs of the game, the heart of the order was utterly abysmal. Mark Teixeira went 0 for 6 with five strike outs and appears lost at the plate. With one-third of the season behind us, his batting line — .215/.328/.370 — suggests that he needs a new spot in the lineup, a day off or both. I doubt Girardi would let him stew after a diamond-encrusted platinum sombrero performance, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Yanks’ first base take a breather later this week.
Beyond Teixeira, the Yanks’ 2-3-4-5-6-7 hitters combined to go 4 for 33 with 12 strike outs and nine runners left on base. Despite some late-inning choices which we’ll cover in a second, the Yankees lost the game when the bats fell silent. I know Ricky Romero has been a good pitcher of late, but the team’s offense just could not get the job done.
Prior to the 14-inning affair, the Yanks exhibited some shocking home/road splits. While in the cozy confines of Yankee Stadium, the Bombers hit .316/.394/.515. That’s an entire lineup of Alex Rodriguez in a down season. On the road, though, the team ekes out just a .258/.341/.395 line, and that doesn’t include today’s 8-for-47 debacle. The numbers are subject to a small sample size warning, but right now, the Yanks are a team built for their home stadium.
Biggest Out: Jeter lines into a DP
Unfortunately for Jeter, though, on a day in which everyone else struggled, his at-bat in the 7th defined the game for the Yanks. With Francisco Cervelli and Brett Gardner on second and third with one out, the Blue Jays brought the infield in, and Jeter lined the ball hard but right at Aaron Hill. Although Hill dropped the ball, the umpires ruled it a drop on the transfer. Jeter was out, and Cervelli, halfway down the line at third, was easily doubled up.
Had Jeter hit that ball elsewhere, the Yanks would have had a 4-1 lead. Had he hit it on the ground, the Yanks would have had a 3-1 lead. At that point, the Yanks needed Jeter to hit it where they ain’t, and though no fault of his, the rally was quashed. After that double play, Alex Gonzalez led off the 7th with a home run to tie the game, and the Yanks could never reclaim the lead.
Getting to the end of the game
In a certain sense, the early-game struggles were overshadowed by the end game. After coaxing 4.1 scoreless innings from his often-shaky bullpen, Joe Girardi had but three relievers left in the pen: Chad Gaudin, Sergio Mitre and future Hall of Famer Mariano Rivera. If ever the team needed Al Aceves, it was yesterday.
Mitre had just thrown a few innings yesterday and was unvailable, and the game had not yet entered that situation to end all situations: The Save Situation. So Chad Gaudin came into the game. Released a few weeks ago by the Oakland A’s, Gaudin walked Edwin Encarnacion, the Blue Jays’ struggling nine hitter, on four pitchers, got an out on a sacrifice bunt and gave up a walk-off single to end the game.
I was apoplectic even before this disastrous 14th inning unfolded. How could Joe Girardi not use Mariano Rivera, the greatest reliever of all time, before Chad Gaudin, an Oakland reject? Girardi later said he would not use Rivera in a tie game on the road unless Mo can go two innings and that it’s still “too early in the season” to use Mariano for that length. Instead, Gaudin got the ball and the loss.
I understand the counterargument. I understand wanting to use your closer for a save situation. But at some point, it simply becomes necessary to save the game from being a loss. At some point, Rivera has to pitch in extra innings, and if the game is still tied after he’s out of gas, at least the Yanks went down firing their ace. It is a lesson Yankee managers have not learned since Alex Gonzalez took Jeff Weaver deep during the 2003 World Series. The loss ultimately rests with the offense, but the bullpen management in the 14th did not help.
Very Honorable Mention: Andy Pettitte
By the time the 14th inning rolled around, Andy Pettitte was but an afterthought. I’d be remiss, however, if I didn’t give a big tip of the cap to Number 46. Facing a lineup that leads all of baseball in runs scored, Pettitte threw 7.2 masterful innings. He gave up just two solo home runs, struck out 10 and issued just three free passes. While he didn’t get a W, it was not for lack of trying, and Pettitte’s outing today continues his amazing run to start the 2010 season.
The WPA Rollercoaster
Up and down and up and down.
Javier Vazquez (4-5, 6.06) will look to stop the bleeding in Toronto. He takes a recent hot streak into the 1:07 game against Brandon Morrow (4-4, 6.00), and after today’s long affair in which everyone but Mo pitched, the team will rely on Javy for some innings.