Thursday, June 4, 2009

April All Over Again

After a rain delay of 12 minutes the gametime temperature sat at a rather chilly 55 degrees. The air was opaque with mist and a huge amount of seats sat empty. The atmosphere was eerily reminiscent of the game that Schiff and I went to on April 21st. Andy Pettitte was the starter that night as well, but the main difference was that the lefty lasted seven innings, gave up two runs and the Yankees came away with the win. Not tonight.

Tonight was another frustrating outing with RISP (1-6) although it wasn't as bad as the series finale in Cleveland (3-16), which they won. Pettitte got the Yankees in the hole right off the bat, allowing three runs in the first inning. Nelson Cruz hit a ball right back toward Pettitte that would have likely become a double play if it hadn't deflected off it Andy's leg. A DP would have ended the inning, but Ian Kinsler scored on the play and the Rangers worked across two more runs on a groundout and a single. The inning would have continued on longer if it weren't for Melky Cabrera's outfield assist, throwing out Marlon Byrd at third base from right field.

Pettitte did not look sharp at any point in the game, but the first was the only inning where the Rangers would do significant damage. Allowing 13 baserunners in 5 innings typically leads to more than four runs, but Pettitte has always found ways to sneak out of tight situations. The six strikeouts and the double play he induced certainly helped his cause. 

It looked as though his back problem was flaring up as replays showed him wincing as he labored towards first base in the fourth inning. He apparently got through whatever it was and came back out for the fifth, finished the frame and ended up throwing 104 pitches.

The Yankees brought home a run on a single by A-Rod, the only one they would plate in the first six innings. Despite throwing only 59 of his 98 pitches for strikes, Feldman mostly stumped the Bombers. He gave up three walks and five hits, the last of which being a homer to Jorge Posada before getting pulled in the 7th. Of the 14 outs Feldman got on balls in play, 11 were grounders. Although he's not a name brand guy, Feldman's ERA of 3.79 and 5-0 record in seven starts (four in Arlington) is nothing to sneeze at. 

The Yanks shot themselves in the foot plenty of times, however. A-Rod rapped into a double play with one out and the bases loaded in the third inning. After Johnny Damon advanced to third on an errant pickoff throw by Feldman, A-Rod struck out in the sixth with a man on third and only one out. He struck out again in the eighth with Nick Swisher on first, bringing the total number of runners he left on base to five. The bottom third of the line up, (Melky, Matsui and Gardner) reached base only twice in ten plate appearances and Jeter went 0-4 in the leadoff spot. When a four person stretch in the order has a night that bad, it makes it tough to score runs without hitting long balls. 

On the bright side, Nick Swisher filled in admirably for Mark Teixeira, going 2-3 with a walk. Brett Tomko also pitched terrifically in relief of Pettitte, throwing three shutout innings and keeping the game well within reach. David Robertson added his own scoreless frame in the ninth. 

One difference between this and the games the Yankees were losing in April was the level of frustration. April started off bad, and never really got better. There was a sense of angst building, but the Yanks' success as of late makes routine losses like this one much easier to tolerate. The opposing pitcher had a good night and they didn't manage to score enough runs. It happens. Fortunately, the matinee on the schedule today means the loss won't linger too long, either.

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