For Yanks’ fans, the most entertaining part of last night’s game came in the eighth inning, when the benches cleared twice. First came when reliever Jesse Carlson threw behind Jorge Posada, clearly in retaliation for Mark Melancon beaning Aaron Hill a frame earlier. The second was the more violent escapade. Posada instigated it when he bumped Carlson after scoring, and Carlson escalated it with verbal abuse he hurled at Posada (one would think Jorge’s wife a popular target).
Both benches cleared, and the bullpens ran in for reinforcement. No one appeared seriously hurt, though apparently one umpire couldn’t go on. Joe Girardi got caught on the ear and on the eye, and Carlson had a decent bruise on his forehead. Posada appeared to escape unscathed, carried off the battlefield by CC Sabathia in what was easily the most amusing image of the scrum. The umps tossed Posada and Carlson, and the game went on.
The situation was ripe for a grand narrative. Brett Gardner had just doubled in a run, and the Yankees had runners on second and third with two outs and Derek Jeter at the plate. Had Jeter slapped one to right, driving in those two runs, perhaps the Yankees would have rallied back from down 9-2. Even then, it was a long shot. Even with those two runs, the score still would have been 9-5 with just four outs left. But that’s what grand narratives are made of: improbable events following high-intensity moments.
That didn’t happen, though the Yanks did manage another run in the ninth. Mark Teixeira tripled for the second time in two days, and Hideki Matsui singled him home after a hard-fought at-bat. They didn’t go down without a fight, both figuratively and literally. Maybe that will power them in tomorrow’s contest. After all, you know what Paul O’Neill says about teams that score late in blowouts.
The game came down to two frustrations:
For the game, the Yankees went 5 for 16 with runners in scoring position, a more-than-respectable .313 average. Yet despite those five hits, they plated only four runs. How many times do you see a team that has more hits with RISP than runs scored? Not many. The problem was that of their five extra-base hits, only one drove in a run. That was Gardner’s double in the eighth. Nick Swisher hit two doubles off Roy Halladay, but neither came with runners in scoring position.
Even more frustrating was that the Yankees outhit the Blue Jays 15 to 13 and were on base more, 18 to 15. How a team like the Yankees puts 18 runners on base and scores just four of them is beyond my comprehension. That’s just 22 percent. Thankfully, that’s an anomaly. Most nights the Yanks put this many guys on base, they plate at least a few more runners.
That this came against Halladay is the topper. It was clear from the beginning that Halladay wasn’t at his best, and the Yanks didn’t take advantage. They managed 12 baserunners against him, but scored only two. It has to be disheartening when you have a pitcher like Halladay on the ropes and don’t deliver the knockout blow.
Through the first two innings, it appeared Sergio Mitre might make it through this one. He had allowed no runs on just one hit, a Marco Scutaro single to lead off the game. There was little chance he would finish with a shutout, but a six-inning, three run performance seemed within reach. But then the third inning happened, and there was no recovery.
Walking the No. 8 hitter, especially when it’s the .226-hitting Jose Bautista, is unacceptable. It can come back to bite you, especially when the No. 9 hitter is a highly regarded rookie with power. Mitre left a pitch waist high and right over the plate, and Travis Snider did with it what any respectable hitter would do: deposited it in the second deck in right for a two-run shot. Adam Lind followed later in the inning with a shot of his own, giving the Blue Jays the lead.
Edwin Encarnacion struck the next blow, destroying another high and over the plate pitch to give the Jays a 4-2 lead. Three batters later, Mitre left another pitch right over the plate to Snider, and again he put it in the second deck. The 3-2 deficit was fine; the Yankees come back from those all the time. The 4-2 deficit was a bit disheartening, especially because Encarnacion hit the homer. But a 5-2 deficit? That became a bit hard to handle. Yes, the Yanks have made up more than three runs in a few games this season, but the Blue Jays just weren’t letting up.
Girardi let Mitre come out for the sixth, and that proved to be a mistake. Lyle Overbay dribbled one down the third base line for an easy infield single. Mitre then hit Encarnacion and surrendered a double to Rod Barajas. That put runners on second and third with none out, and put the Jays up 6-2. Enter Edwar Ramirez, which is code for “we’re giving up on this game.”
From the third inning on, the game was nothing but frustration. If it wasn’t the homers, it was A-Rod getting thrown out at the plate — on a great throw by Bautista, no less. If it wasn’t the likes of Edwin Encarnacion and Rod Barajas driving in runs, it was Mark Melancon showing few, if any, signs that he’s going to turn it around and start pitching well this season.
The short series closes tomorrow night with Chad Gaudin taking on Brian Tallet. The Yanks could use a win in this one heading into the off-day. If MLB issues a suspension tomorrow, look for Jorge to appeal. I wonder if it would even be heard before the end of the season.