Brandon Marrow, like Brett Cecil and Rickey Romero before him, was having his way with the Yankees, shutting them out through seven innings while Scott Downs warmed up in the bullpen. Morrow had thrown over 100 pitches and Cito Gaston was likely going batter-by-batter with him, so when a fastball got away from the young right hander and nailed Francisco Cervelli in the front shoulder, it signaled the end of his day.
The first batter Downs faced after Gaston called on him was Brett Gardner. Downs let a fastball leak too far inside and it hit Gardner right where his bottom hand met the bat. Luckily, neither Yankee was injured and the Jays had just put the two tying runs on base for free with no one out. Derek Jeter stepped up to the plate next and sliced a ball down the right field line, scoring Cervelli to make it 2-1 Jays, and that was it for Downs.
Jason Frasor came into face Nick Swisher and struck him out on a horseshit check swing call that not only was clearly wrong but the home plate umpire never should have made on his own. Joe Girardi came out to argue with his cap already off, veins popping out of his head and neck, instantly unleashed on Bruce Dreckman and was tossed in a matter of seconds. It had the feeling of a sure ejection as soon as he left the dugout and he wasted no time in delivered some combination of the magic words and/or gestures.
When things calmed back down, the Jays intentionally walked Mark Teixeira to get to Alex Rodriguez. The broadcast booth followed with the obligatory numbers of what has happened when teams have done this in the past (37-37 with 145 RBIs) but A-Rod (who was removed from the game with a sore groin shortly thereafter) struck out on a knee-high pitch right down the middle but not before Brett Gardner scored from third when Frasor uncorked a breaking ball in the dirt that Jose Molina couldn't corral, thereby tying the game.
When Robinson Cano came to the plate with two outs and the game knotted at two, Cito Gaston walked out to the mound, looking like he was about to pull Frasor from the game. However, Gaston sauntered back to the dugout and didn't ask his hurler to hand over the ball. Allowing the righty to face Cano didn't work out very well as Robby took a 94mph fastball on the second pitch of the at bat the opposite way, dunking front of left fielder Fred Lewis and driving in two runs.
Joba Chamberlain gave up a run in the eight inning before he recorded an out, but followed with a double play to get things under control. Despite the bases being empty and two outs, Tony Pena (acting as manager after the Girardi ejection) signaled to the bullpen for Damaso Marte. Except Mariano Rivera came out. Apparently Pena changed his mind at the last minute without phoning the 'pen, so Rivera came all the way up to the mound before being sent back. Marte did his job against Adam Lind, recording a strike out and Rivera worked a perfect ninth to salvage at least one win out of this godforsaken series.
The Yankees scored more runs in that wild 8th inning yesterday than they did in the balance of the series. Sure, you can give credit to the Jays' starting pitchers, and they certainly deserve some of it, but the Yanks also got to face Toronto's bullpen for six innings on Saturday and could manage only four baserunners.
What's worse is that when the Yanks did get men on base and into scoring position, they couldn't drive them in. Before the eighth inning yesterday, the Yanks were 2-24 w/RISP in the series, something that seems characterized the team whenever their offensive production droops. I'm sure this tends to be the case with any good team that goes through a bad stretch - they still get guys on base but can't drive them in.
The biggest culprit was obviously Mark Teixiera. He reached base just twice in 15 plate appearances this weekend (once via intentional walk) and struck out seven times - five on Saturday alone. After that game, Joe Giradi reiterated multiple times that he wasn't worried about Teixeira and I think that he'll eventually start hitting this year, However, he's been up to the plate 261 times already and is hitting .211/.326/.363. Given that he's posted numbers that bad for over one-third of a season, there's almost no chance that he can come anywhere close to the .286/.276/.535 line that has averaged throughout his career.
And I suppose that's not important at this point. The past 57 games are water under the bridge. The Yankees don't necessarily need Teixeira to atone for his early season awfulness, they just need him to hit his numbers from here on out. What else can they really do at this point? Take him out of the three slot? Sit him for a day?
I listened to a good portion of Friday's game while I was driving my sister to JFK. We got stuck in standstill traffic on the Hutchinson River Parkway and while listening to John and Suzy prattle on, I thought about how going through a bad stretch in baseball is a little bit like being stuck in traffic.
You can keep trying to change lanes, and possibly pick up a few car lengths if you don't mind pissing everyone else off around you. But lots of times, a la the intro to Office Space, by the time you slide over to the lane that is suddenly moving along, that one stops flow and the one you were in just picks up. Unless you've got a motorcycle and want to drive in between the lanes, you pretty much have to keep on course and have faith that eventually, traffic is going to start moving again and you'll be able to make up some time. I guess we've gotta hang in there with Teix too, and have faith that he'll figure it out. He has to at some point, right?