It took four hours and sixteen minutes and 398 pitches, but last night’s 17-9 Yankee loss to the Baltimore Orioles finally came to an end just before 11:30 p.m. EST last night. And in the end, it meant nothing. Yes, despite the fact that the Yankees are in a three way tie for the AL East and the Wild Card with just five games left to play in the season, last night’s loss meant nothing. That’s because the Red Sox, Indians, and White Sox all lost last night as well.
In the end, the evening was a complete wash for the American League save for the Angels clinching the West with a 4-3 win over the A’s. All that happened was that one more game came off the schedule. Thus, despite the Yankees failure to emerge with a victory last night, their Drive For Five is down to four. With four wins the Yankees will win the American League East.
For those gluttons for punishment, the bloody details of last night’s games follow the jump.
Things started off encouragingly enough when Derek Jeter homered on Bruce Chen’s second pitch of the night, but Mike Mussina gave that run plus one right back in the bottom of the first. Making his second start since returning from a three-week layoff due to elbow inflammation, Mussina pitched the way I had feared he would in his last start. He had nothing. His curve ball hopped, but didn’t break, and though he was able to get ahead of the first three batters he faced, he quickly discovered he couldn’t locate and didn’t have an out pitch.
In the bottom of the second, Mussina retired the first two batters, but couldn’t get another out, allowing three more runs to score before Joe Torre came out to get him. That began a parade of horrors out of the Yankee bullpen starting with Al Leiter, who, in his defense, did manage to retire the first four batters he faced (though, in classic Leiter style, it took him 25 pitches to do it).
Gary Sheffield dug the Yankees out of the hole dug by Mussina with a two-run homer in the third and a two-out grand slam in the fourth, but Leiter handed it right back in the bottom of the fourth, the decisive blow being a two-out two-run homer by lefty Jay Gibbons.
From there Torre went to Scott Proctor who gave up a solo home run to Javy Lopez to start the fifth then, after striking out Luis Matos, loaded the bases to earn the hook. Torre’s next sacrifice was Felix Rodriguez. Rodriguez’s fourth pitch to tailed in on the right-handed Melvin Mora and tipped off Jorge Posada’s glove for a run-scoring passed ball. Felix then walked Mora to reload the bases and walked in another run to make it 11-7 O’s. Torre then turned to Wayne Franklin who walked in another run before finally getting the final two outs of the inning (the first on a sac fly that scored the Orioles thirteenth run).
Miraculously, Franklin returned to pitch a scoreless sixth and Alan Embree followed with a 1-2-3 seventh. Meanwhile, the Yankees chipped away with a run in both the seventh and eighth. Down 13-9 going into the bottom of the eighth, Joe Torre got serious, bringing in Tanyon Sturtze to hold the O’s in anticipation of a ninth-inning Yankee rally only to watch Sturtze surrender four more runs, three of them on a two-out nail-in-the-coffin home run by Melvin Mora.
Meanwhile, in Boston, Curt Schilling was unable to make five Red Sox runs hold up, leaving the game after surrendering a game-tying single to Vernon Wells in the seventh. The Blue Jays then took the lead against Chad Bradford and Craig Hansen in the eighth and added an insurance run against Chad Harville and Jeremi Gonzalez in the ninth. Many Yankee rooters had hoped that the double-header that resulted from Monday’s rain out would force the Red Sox to play a tight game with a weakened bullpen. Indeed, both Jon Papelbon and Mike Timlin were used to nail down the win in the day game and the remaining members of the pen coughed up the night cap.
In Cleveland, Scott Elarton coughed up five runs to the Devil Rays in six inning, four of them on a pair of homers by Julio Lugo and Alex Gonzalez, while Scott Kazmir held the Indians to a single sixth-inning run. The Tribe got a pair off Joe Borowski in the eighth, another in the ninth against Tampa closer Danys Baez, and pushed the tying run to third with one out in the ninth, but Ronnie Belliard ground into a game-ending double play to give the Rays the win.
In Detroit, Nate Robertson out-pitched Brandon McCarthy for six and a third, yielding to the pen with a 3-1 lead in the seventh. The White Sox picked up a run against Fernando Rodney in the top of the ninth, but left the tying run on second when Jermaine Dye flied out to end the game.
As a result, the Red Sox, Yanks and Tribe remain in a three-way tie, two games behind the White Sox, meaning these scenarios still apply.