My good friend Steven Goldman called Tuesday night’s loss to the Rangers the most annoying game of the year due to Joba Chamberlain’s struggles with two outs and the botched Nick Swisher bunt that appeared to kill the ninth-inning rally. Having held off on assigning that title, I’ll slap it on Wednesday afternoon’s contest.
What do you imagine the final score would be of a game in which A.J. Burnett struck out a season-high 12 Rangers and allowed just two hits, and the Yankees put 14 men on base? Would you believe 7-2 Rangers?
The Yankees staked Burnett to an early 1-0 lead when Johnny Damon walked, stole second, and scored on a Mark Teixeira single in the bottom of the first. Burnett responded by retiring the first 11 men he faced. Then, suddenly, with two outs in the fourth, he walked Josh Hamilton and Nelson Cruz and gave up a three-run home run to Ian Kinsler on a first-pitch fastball.
That was the game. After Damon scored, Rangers starter Dustin Nippert walked six more men, but the Yankees stranded three in the first, one in the second, two in the third, two in the fourth, two in the seventh, and two in the ninth, scoring just one more run along the way.
All together, the Yankees went 2-for-12 with runners in scoring position, both hits coming off the bat of Mark Teixeira, who singled Jeter home in the fourth. The Yankees drew eight walks, but didn’t manage a single extra-base hit, and two of their six singles didn’t leave the infield. They also struck out ten times, three each against Nippert (in 3 2/3 innings), Jason Grilli (in 2 1/3), and lefty C.J. Wilson (in 2), and once against closer Frank Francisco in the ninth.
Burnett left after six innings and 105 pitches, yeilding a 3-2 deficit to Phil Coke. Coke’s first three batters doubled, bunted for a hit, and homered, boosting the Texas lead to 6-2. The home run, by lefty Chris Davis, was the sixth Coke has surrendered to a lefty this year. Coke has otherwise dominated southpaw batters (.196 average, .224 OBP), but the nine home runs he’s allowed this year to batters of all types have given him a Farnsworthy rate of 1.57 HR/9, moving him ahead of the broken Chien-Ming Wang as the most homer-prone pitcher to throw more than 40 innings for the Yankees this year.
The Rangers scored all seven of their runs on homers in this game, with Kinsler rubbing it in with a two-out, 1-2 solo homer off David Robertson in the eighth to set the final score. Meanwhile, over the final five innings, the Yankees managed just a walk and two singles, only one of which left the infield.
With that, the Yankees dropped a series at home for the first time since the Nationals were in town in mid-June. It was just the second series loss for the Yankees since the All-Star break. The other was to the White Sox, who come into town on Thursday having salvaged the final game of a four-game set against Boston on Wednesday to protect the Yankees six-game lead.