Just one Yankee reached second base last night. That happened with one out in the ninth. Just three Yankees reached base against Erik Bedard, who struck out eight over seven innings thanks in large part to a tremendous 10-to-4 curveball. Of the three base runners he allowed, one came on a walk, and one came on an infield single. In total, six Yankees reached base and ten struck out. None scored. What Roger Clemens did, or how and when Joe Torre used his bullpen last night was completely irrelevant to the game’s outcome.
That said, Clemens, who struck out no one for the first time since a two-inning outing in April of 1999, was big enough to take the blame after the loss. Thanks to a first-inning double play, Rocket faced the minimum the first time through the Baltimore order. He ran into some trouble in the third when Brian Roberts lead off with a single, then tortured Clemens by dancing off first, drawing four throws and two pitchouts across two at-bats, before finally stealing second with ease. Roberts moved to third on a ground out, but was stranded. Still, Clemens threw 24 pitches in the fourth and 21 in the fifth, an inning that ended with runners on second and third. Clemens’s pitches were starting to stay up at the end of the fifth and the sixth began with Chris Gomez singling and Clemens walking Nick Markakis on four pitches. On the first pitch to Gomez, Clemens hit his right elbow on his left knee in his follow through, which brought the trainer to the mound. It proved to be of no consequence. Still, it was an occasion to get the bullpen warmed up that Joe Torre failed to make use of. After Markakis walked, Ron Guidry paid a visit to the mound, but the bullpen remained still. The third batter in that inning, Ramon Hernandez, singled to break the scoreless tie and put runners on first and second. Finally, Torre got his bullpen going, but it was too late. Three pitches later, Aubrey Huff hit a three-run home run just over the wall in left. Game over.
Adding insult to injury, Torre brought in Mariano Rivera to pitch the eighth inning down 4-0 after refusing to use Rivera with the score tied in the ninth inning of the previous night’s loss. Mo pitched a 1-2-3 inning, of course.
Two other items of interest:
1) I’m sure the Angels’ decision to designate Shea Hillenbrand for assignment will be a big topic of discussion today. Since being traded to San Francisco in July 21 of last year, Hillenbrand, who has a reputation for being difficult, has hit .251/.275/.374 in 431 at-bats. Andy Phillips hit .240/.281/.394 last year in a smaller sample, plays better defense, and is beloved by his teammates.