Thursday, May 7, 2009

10 More Innings, One More Loss

When the YES cameras panned to Joe Girardi standing in the dugout in the top of the sixth innning, he had a tense and angry look on his face. Jaw muscles clenched, staring intently onto the field. It wasn't the stoic be reassuring look of Joe Torre, sitting up against the dugout bench with the brim of his hat pulled low. The score was still only 1-0 Rays, but you couldn't tell by the skipper's demeanor. There were men on first and second with no one out, and A.J. Burnett had already thrown 104 pitches. 

Burnett had already tallied eight strikeouts, but that wasn't the sole reason for the escalating pitch count. With two outs in the first inning, Ramiro Pena let an easy groundball from Evan Longoria go by, causing Burnett to throw 10 more pitches, issuing a walk to Carlos Pena before retiring Pat Burrell on a fly ball. 

It was a frustrating night for fans and players alike. The typically affable Nick Swisher got tossed for arguing balls and strikes with home plate umpire James Hoye on a pitch that replays showed to be well off the plate. Girardi yelled from the dugout "It was this far outside", with his hand about a foot apart.

Yankees fans would have had a right to complain if Gabe Gross wasn't called out looking on a pitch in the opposite batter's box from Burnett in the 2nd. 

The lone run-producing hit the Yankees got last night came from Mark Teixeira in the bottom of the 8th. Just as a thin band of heavy rain was working its way through the NYC area, the Yankees had loaded the bases with two outs. This didn't catch the YES Network by surprise as they had already cued up clips from Jason Giambi's rainy walk-off grand slam against the Twins in May of 2002. The broadcast nearly hyped the moment to death, but Teix didn't dissapoint. He sent a bases-clearing double down the right field line (along with most of his bat).
The tarp came out shortly thereafter, and when play resumed Hideki Matsui struck out to end the inning. 

If Nick Swisher had kept his cool, he would have come to the plate with a chance to win the game in the bottom of the ninth. In his place, Brett Gardner bunted Cano over to 2nd base. Melky Cabrera then worked a walk, which brought Ramiro Pena to the plate. Hit tapped an 0-2 pitch softly towards the shortstop but Evan Longoria charged and threw across the diamond to get Pena out. One small problem. Pena was safe. 

Instead of having the bases loaded with one out, the Yanks had men on second and third with two down. Any base hit still would have won the game, but Jose Molina came to the plate and flew out to right to end the threat. 

The Yankees were the victim of a bad call at the worst possible time, but they did it to themselves far more than the umps did. Although Phil Coke served up a leadoff HR in the top of the 10th to Carlos Pena, they would get another chance. 

Mark Teixeira, coming off his "signature moment as a Yankee" as Michael Kay must have said 14 times, stepped up to the plate with Johnny Damon on 2nd with one out. A wild pitch allowed Damon to advance to third, placing the tying run well within reach. Teix didn't get the job done, popping out to shallow right, not nearly deep enough to send Damon.

It's probably because Of the losing streak and the fact that the Yanks dipped below .500, but I'm going to remember Teixeira slamming his helmet and yelling at himself when he returned to the dugout. 

Granted, there would not have been a tenth inning if he didn't clear the bases in the 8th, but that's the more lasting impression for me. You can smash a 300 yard drive down the middle of the fairway, but it doesn't mean shit if you hit your approach shot in the bunker. The Yankees need that run in the worst way, having just bogeyed their last 4. 

Some bad breaks, some bad play, and here's where we are at: 27 games into the season and below .500. No pressure, A-Rod. 

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