Jaret Wright was awful last night, needing 91 pitches to get through just 3 2/3 innings and leaving at that point with runners on the corners and his team in a 3-0 hole. Ron Villone struck out Garret Anderson to end that threat, but worked himself into a bases-loaded jam in the fifth. Still, Villone managed to escape that inning having allowed just one run and the Yankees, with a two-spot in the fourth and sixth, climbed out of their early hole.
With the game knotted at 4-4 in bottom of the sixth, Joe Torre turned to Scott Proctor, who set down the heart of the Angel order on nine pitches. Craig Wilson, pinch-hitting for starter Aaron Guiel, creamed a one-out double off John Lackey in the top of the seventh, driving the Angel starter from the game. Scot Shields came on and walked Melky Cabrera on four pitches. Johnny Damon the pushed Wilson to third via a fielder’s choice that retired Cabrera and stole second. With a 2-2 count on Derek Jeter, Shields threw a 50-foot pitch that bounced clean over catcher Jose Molina’s head. Wilson broke for home as the ball ricocheted hard off the backstop back to Molina, who then flipped to Sheilds covering home, but Sheilds’ tag was a hair late and a bit too high to get the sliding Wilson, giving the Yankees a 5-4 lead. Derek Jeter struck out on the next pitch to end the inning.
Unfortunately, the Angles came right back against Proctor, with Howie Kendrick leading off the seventh with a double, moving to third on an Adam Kennedy single and scoring on a pinch-hit sac fly off the bat of Orlando Cabrera.
With score tied again at 5-5, Shields, Kyle Farnsworth and Francisco Rodriguez exchanged scoreless frames, and, with lefty Garret Anderson leading off the ninth, Joe Torre brought in Mike Myers. Anderson had reached base against Myers just once in 18 previous attempts, striking out four times, but those stats aside, Torre made the wrong move.
On Tuesday the Yankees lost to the Mariners in the bottom of the ninth when Torre stuck with a winded Ron Villone instead of turning to Mariano Rivera in a sudden death situation. The logic then was that Rivera had been declared unavailable before the game because of the 30 pitches he had thrown two days before in Boston. I was skeptical then–as that outing had been preceded by a day off, an easy 14-pitch outing, and two more days off–but coming off the Boston sweep, there was no reason for Torre to make Rivera pitch if there was any concern about fatigue.
Last night, however, Rivera still hadn’t pitched since that outing in Boston. That added up to four days off and just two appearances over the last nine games. Why then, did Torre go to Myers and not Rivera with the game on the line? Mo has dominated Anderson nearly as much as Myers, holding him to two hits and a walk in 14 confrontations. What’s more, Anderson was 0 for 4 coming into that at-bat and was leading off an inning. Why not bring in Rivera there to face Anderson, the hot-hitting Juan Rivera and Howie Kendrick, who was 2 for 4 with that key double in his last trip?
There are only two possible answers to that question. 1) Something is wrong with Rivera that we don’t know about, or 2) Jeff Weaver Syndrome.
Of course, Anderson doubled of Myers, just his second career hit off the LOOGY. So with the winning run in scoring position in the person of pinch-runner Reggie Willits, Joe Torre went back to his pen and called on . . . Octavio Dotel? Maybe something really is wrong with Rivera.
Juan Rivera hit Dotel’s first pitch into left for a single, pushing Willits to third. Dotel’s next four tosses intentionally walked Kendrick to load the bases and set up the force at home. Bases loaded, no outs, tie game, bottom of the ninth. To Dotel’s credit, with the infield playing in on the lip of the grass to try to cut Willits down at home, he got Adam Kennedy to pop out to shortstop for the first out, setting up a possible inning-ending double play. He then got ahead of Mike Napoli 1-2 and threw what looked like strike three to the top outside corner of the zone only to have home plate ump Bill Welke call it ball two. Napoli then battled the count full and flew out to left, just deep enough to score Willits with the winning run.
Peter Abraham reports that the Yankees insist that nothing’s wrong with Mariano Rivera. If that’s the case, then there’s definitely something wrong with Joe Torre.