Mike Mussina, perhaps the best pitcher in the AL in this young season, against the Kansas City Royals, a historically bad ballclub on a thirteen-game losing streak. Sure thing right? Not if you believe in the Reverse Lock, a match-up that’s such a gimme it’s guaranteed to go the other way.
Indeed, the Royals broke their streak by beating the Yankees 7-6 last night in an odd game that was delayed for two hours in the middle of the ninth inning due to a sudden downpour.
To be fair, the Royals didn’t actually beat Mussina. They did score three runs against him in the second inning, but when Mussina left the game, after throwing 98 pitches and turning in his eleventh quality start in as many turns, the Yankees were winning 4-3.
With Mussina on the verge of 100 pitches after six innings, Joe Torre decided to go to his bullpen, apparently planning to give Scott Proctor, Kyle Farnsworth and Mariano Rivera an inning a piece. With the bottom third of the Royals order coming up, it wasn’t the worst decision Torre could have made. Unfortunately, it backfired immediately. Tony Graffanino lead off the seventh with a single, was bunted to second by Angel Berroa and singled home by Paul Bako, tying the game. That was the end of Scott Proctor’s night.
After Mike Myers got the last two outs of the seventh, Kyle Farnsworth came in to keep the game knotted at four in the eighth. Things started well when he caught Reggie Sanders, who had homered off Mussina in the third, looking, but righty-killer Matt Stairs laced Farnsworth’s very next pitch into right for a single. After Robinson Cano made a nice running catch on a foul pop up by Emil Brown for the second out, Farnsworth walked Graffanino on four pitches to put men on first and second with two outs. That brought up Angel Berroa, who had sacrificed in his last at-bat. On a 1-0 count, Farnsworth hung a slider and Angel Berroa launched it over the left field wall for a three-run home run.
The Yankees got one back in the bottom of the inning when Jason Giambi singled, Alex Rodriguez doubled and, after Jimmy Gobble got Robinson Cano to pop out on one pitch, Bernie Williams plated Giambi with a groundout off Joel Peralta, but Melky Cabrera grounded out to strand Rodriguez at third.
Then the rains came. Ron Villone pitched around a Reggie Sanders walk in a downpour in the top of the ninth and, with standing water all over the field, the umpires signaled for the tarp. Two hours later, the skies had cleared, tarp came off and the Yankees, in front of barely a thousand remaining hardcore fans, took their last licks against Joe Nelson.
With Kelly Stinnett scheduled to lead off, Torre sent up Terrence Long, who inexplicably singled against the young righthander. After Damon flew out, Derek Jeter drew a walk and Gary Sheffield laced a single to center that skipped by Esteban German, who had pinch-hit for Shane Costa in the seventh. Long came around to score, Jeter went to third and Jason Giambi came to the plate with one out, men on the corners, and needing just a sac fly to tie the game. What more devastating way for the Royals streak to be extended than by a ninth-inning rally following a two-hour delay in which the Royals had held a ninth-inning lead. But it was not to be. Giambi grounded into the shift and slipped on the wet dirt coming out of the batters box, resulting in a 4-6-3 double play (though Giambi, who runs like he’s standing in quicksand on dry ground, would have been out anyway).
The Yankees had a couple of other close calls last night. In the top of the third inning, following a lead-off homer by Reggie Sanders, Tony Graffanino picked up a two-out single off Mike Mussina, then stole second. Except that the replays showed that Graffanino was tagged out. That would have been the third out, but with Graffanino safe at second, Mussina walked Angel Berroa (just the second time Berroa took ball four this year) and Paul Bako and Shane Costa singled Graffanino and Berroa home. Those two runs were the difference in the game. Also, Melky Cabrera nearly stole Berroa’s three-run homer off Farnsworth. Cabrera leapt at the wall and the ball ticked off the pinky of his glove. Were it not for the typically circuitous route Melky took to the wall, he very well might have saved those three runs, and preserved the Royals’ losing streak.
In other news, the lastest on Jorge Posada is that he won’t play at all against the Royals this weekend, but the Yankees do not expect to have to place him on the DL and Posada will not need surgery on the torn hamstring tendon, though he will likely have to play with pain for the remainder of the season.
In addition to demoting Matt Smith and promoting Koyie Hill to compensate for Posada’s injury, the Yankees moved Tanyon Sturtze to the 60-day disabled list to make room for Hill on the 40-man roster.
Oh, and Derek Jeter picked up his 2,000th career hit on a weak infield dribbler of Scott Elarton in the fourth inning.