Friday, October 23, 2009

The One That Got Away

It came down to a 3-2 count with the bases loaded in a one run game. For different reasons at various points throughout, it didn't seem like it would end up quite that close. But it did, and that made the outcome all the more excruciating.

The Yankees led off the game with two singles by Derek Jeter and Johnny Damon and for a second, it looked like they might jump on John Lackey as they had done in Game 1. Mark Teixeira strode to the plate, looking to bust out of his postseason funk and get the Yanks out to an early lead. He fell behind 1-2 but took two balls to force the count full. Lackey then threw a back door curveball that was called a strike despite being off the plate inside according to Pitch f/x. Instead of having the bases loaded with no one out for A-Rod, Lackey had men on first and second with one down. He got A-Rod to pop up in foul territory and Hideki Matsui to ground out to first.

The Yankees came away empty handed and they began to regret it immediately.

A.J. Burnett left the offense in a 4-0 hole before recording an out. He stopped the bleeding right there with the help of a double play, but the damage was done; the hole was dug. Twelve pitches, four runs. It was like he blew two tee shots on the first hole out of bounds. Not the best way to start off an outing.

Lackey allowed only 4 baserunners over the next five innings and held the Yankees scoreless. A.J. Burnett was just as good, settling in after his shaky start, efficiently working through the Angels' line up, leaving himself with 80 pitches through 6 IP.

In the seventh, after Nick Swisher flied out to begin the inning, Melky slapped a double to right and Jorge Posada then worked a walk. The last pitch to Jorge was a fastball low, but should have been called a strike. It was not and Lackey promptly lost his mind, gesturing wildly to the home plate umpire even though it was just one pitch and he had got some favorable calls from the umps, including the strikeout of Teixeira in the first inning and an obviously blow call at first base in the third inning when Johnny Damon should have been called safe. Lackey then lost the strike zone, walking Derek Jeter on 4 pitches to load the bases. After retiring Johnny Damon, much to Lackey's dismay, Mike Scioscia pulled him for Darren Oliver.

Oliver wasted no time, giving up a three run double to Teixeria on the first pitch he threw and an RBI single to Matsui that tied the game at 4. All of a sudden, the Yanks were back in the game. Scioscia again went to the pen, this time for Kevin Jepsen who allowed a 2 run triple to Robby Cano before getting Swisher out to end the inning. (Yes, Swish made the first and last out of the frame)

Sitting on a lead for the first time in the game, Girardi brought A.J. Burnett out to begin the 7th presumably because he'd throw only 80 pitches and had been cruising since the initial meltdown in the first. His faith was not rewarded as Burnett allowed a single to Jeff Mathis. Despite have two men up in the pen, Girardi stuck with Burnett to face Eric Aybar. After getting ahead of him 0-2, A.J. threw him 4 straight balls.

Damaso Marte was then summoned from the bullpen. Chone Figgins sacrificed the runners over, and Marte got Bobby Abreu to ground out to first, bringing the score to 6-5 in favor of the Yankees. Next up from the 'pen was Phil Hughes. Hughes needed one out any way he could get it and the Yanks would have escaped the inning with the lead. However, he walked Torii Hunter, gave up a game-tying single to Vlad Guererro on an absolute meatball in the middle of the plate and the go-ahead base knock to Kendry Morales.

The Yanks were sat down in order in the 8th, and Joba Chamberlain was called on to keep them within one in the bottom half of the inning. He began the inning by giving up a double to Juan Rivera, then got Jeff Mathis swinging before Eric Aybar bounced a slow infield single to second and the Angels were in position to add some some insurance runs.

Girardi has no intention of allowing Joba to face Chone Figgins and began using some blatant stall tactics - a mound visit, Joba stepping off the runner, some throws to first - to allow Mariano Rivera a few last moments to get ready. Mo finally jogged in and did his thing, getting Figgins to line out to shallow right and Abreu to fly out to center.

The Yanks had one chance left at the plate to tie the game and the heart of the order due up against Brian Fuentes, starting with Johnny Damon. Four pitches later, Damon lined out sharply to first. Then, Teixeira jumped on the very first pitch he saw, hitting a high fly to right that landed in the glove of Bobby Abreu. Down to their last out, A-Rod represented the Yanks' last hope, but Scioscia called for the intentional walk. Fuentes then unintentionally walked Hideki Matsui and hit Robinson Cano with a breaking ball to load the bases for... Nick Swisher. After falling behind 0-2, Swish took a ball. Then fouled one off. Two more balls. The count was full.

And then he popped out to end the game.

If the Yanks had simply faded away after Burnett dug that 4 run hole in the first inning, the loss would have been a little easier to stomach. But they came up with that huge top of the 7th and took the lead by two runs only to give it right back in the home half. And then they tantalized with the threat in the 9th, only to have to head back to the Bronx and play at least one more.

There were some questionable decisions by both managers and more questionable umpiring. It's going to be a long 36 hours until first pitch on Saturday.


  1. What about Cano scoring from third on the missed throw to get Matsui at the plate? A-Rod was waving him home...

  2. the angels shocked jonathan papelbon in similar style in game 3 of the ALDS... BUT thankfully, stuff like this is no guarantee they'll "always come up big" yada yada yada

  3. fading away would reek of laziness. folks don't hit the gym to fade away. they lift weights to get tougher both physically and mentally and believe me toughness is necessary against the Phillies. silver linings and all that :)