"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice

Didn’t We Almost Have It All

It was the best of games, it was the worst of games, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to heaven, we were all going direct the other way…

Well, at least nobody got guillotined at the end of Game 5.

First it looked like the Yankees were going to go down quietly, after a first-inning blowup by AJ Burnett; then they made a dramatic late-inning rally and took the lead in the blink of Darren Oliver’s eye; then the bullpen faltered, and New York trailed again by just one; and then they loaded the bases in the 9th inning against skittish closer Brian Fuentes with two outs and a full count, and Nick Swisher popped up. The Angels won 7-6. Now that‘s the Angels-Yankees baseball we all know and love and discuss at length with our therapists.

A.J. Burnett looked just awful in the first, and the Angels took him apart: Figgins walked, Abreu doubled, Hunter singled,  Guerrero doubled, Morales singled, and when the smoke cleared, it was 4-0. The next few innings featured plenty of hard-hit balls, but Burnett – via a combination of unpredictable stuff and luck – got through them without allowing another run, and by the 4th or 5th he was in a groove and pitching well. Meanwhile, John Lackey turned in a impressive performance, and his breaking stuff was tying the Yankees in knots.

In the seventh inning, though, he finally faltered, and loaded the bases with two outs, at which point Mike Scioscia – in a move that would have been second-guessed endlessly had the Angels lost – yanked him for Darren Oliver. Lackey was furious – you could see him saying “This is mine! This is mine!’ when Scioscia came to the mound – and presumably got more so when Darren Oliver immediately gave up a three-run double to Mark Teixeira, who came out of his ALCS slump with a bang. The Angels, having seen enough of Alex Rodriguez, intentionally walked him; but Matsui singled, and then Robinson Cano whacked a triple that traveled so far, Matsui actually scored from first. The Yankees were up 6-4, and while it wasn’t the biggest comeback I’ve ever seen, it was probably one of the most sudden: boom, just like that.

But Burnett struggled when he came back out for the seventh, as Mathis singled and Aybar walked. Girardi then turned to Damaso “Gulp” Marte, who fielded a bunt and then got Abreu to ground out, but a run scored in the process. Next in was Phil Hughes, who walked Torii Hunter and then gave up singles to Guerrero and Morales. The Angels were back on top, 7-6. Mariano Rivera cleaned up Joba Chamberlain’s mess in the eighth, but although the Yankees came tantalizingly close to a two-out, ninth-inning rally (following a second intentional walk to A-Rod), they fell just short.

I’m sure people will spend much of the off-day arguing over who to blame, and that is the fan’s prerogative. But to me, while there were certainly plenty of managerial moves you could disagree with, the basic truth is that when AJ Burnett and Phil Hughes allow 7 runs to score on the road, that’s gonna be a tough game to win.

The Yankees are still up three games to two in the series, and they’re heading home to the Bronx – where, ridiculously priced half-empty oligarch seats aside, at least the fans don’t need any ThunderStix to make some noise – and so all is far from lost. With the NLCS already over, Game 6 has been moved from 4 PM Saturday afternoon to 8 at night. Andy Pettitte will be on the mound for the Yankees, and I will be at a dinner party, trying to decide exactly how rude I’m willing to be in order to check the score during the meal.


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1 neatandclean   ~  Oct 23, 2009 4:04 am

i'm required to be at a movie theather from 8 til hopefully no later than 9:30. i might need to be rude

2 Boatzilla   ~  Oct 23, 2009 4:55 am

Great post, as always, Emma. Can't you blow off the dinner party? You are coming down with a nasty stomach virus, I can smell it from out here. I live in Japan, and I've been blowing off mornings all week (and last). Rolling in to work at noon or 1:00 because of a funky stomach. Of course, I'm the president, but still, I'm supposed to set a good example for my staff. I think my assistant knows I've been watching the games, though. She came in at noon today herself.

3 Mr. OK Jazz TOKYO   ~  Oct 23, 2009 5:52 am

[2] It's ok if she's a Yankee fan though, right?
Boat, be cool if we can catch the game at the MLB cafe this Sunday, I'll be in touch!

4 williamnyy23   ~  Oct 23, 2009 5:54 am

With exactly no sleep since 4:30am on Thursday, I was hoping I would be too delirious to still be upset by last night's loss and debateable decisions that went into it. No such luck...now, I kind of hope I just fall asleep tonight and don't wake up until after Game 6. This series really feels like it is going down the 2004 ALCS path.

5 Boatzilla   ~  Oct 23, 2009 6:06 am

[4] The biggest problem is that Hughes and Joba are no longer dealing,

6 Mr. OK Jazz TOKYO   ~  Oct 23, 2009 6:07 am

[4] Damn William you really DO take these games rough! I would have been absolutely crushed by this loss too, but thankfully was still on the calming anti-flu meds.

7 Boatzilla   ~  Oct 23, 2009 6:07 am

[2] She's a die-hard Hawks fan. And they just got knocked out of the Climax Series. I guess I could drag my butt out to Ebisu by 9:00.....but I won't like it.

8 Boatzilla   ~  Oct 23, 2009 6:09 am

Check that. Joba hasn't really been dealing for awhile.

9 Mr. OK Jazz TOKYO   ~  Oct 23, 2009 6:11 am

[8] I can't help but think the endless Joba-rules have messed him up.
We'll crush Saunders this time though, no matter!

10 williamnyy23   ~  Oct 23, 2009 6:11 am

[5] I wish Girardi would go back to trusting Hughes. It seems like he has been put on such a short leash, and that has translated into a more tentative approach.

[6] Last night was one of the worst losses in my Yankee fandom. I can get over the gnawing feeling that this game was given away in an avoidable fashion.

11 Mr. OK Jazz TOKYO   ~  Oct 23, 2009 6:14 am

[10] Hughes just didn't have it. It was not pulling AJ that bugged me the most, and pinch-running for A-Rod was just crazy! (As was the IBB to him by "the Genius". Great move Mike!)

12 williamnyy23   ~  Oct 23, 2009 6:18 am

[11] All things considered, Hughes didn't pitch that poorly. He seemed to pitch around Hunter before giving up a seeing eye single to Vlad on what was probably poor pitch selection anyway. The single by Morales was legit, but then he hits righties well. If he had been given a clean inning facing the bottom of the lineup, I am convinced he would have done well. How do I know? Well, I don't, but I watched Hughes be dominant for 4 months. Just because he had a few bad innings in the ALDS doesn't make me think less of his ability. If you had asked me whether I wanted a trip to the World Series in the hands of AJ or Hughes, I would have said the latter hands down...regardless of the situation.

13 Boatzilla   ~  Oct 23, 2009 6:19 am

[11] Yeah, pinch running for the best player on the team. The only player who can hit HRs at will to all field, who is also the 2nd best base runner on the team. With a rookie, no less! That is just weird.

14 Boatzilla   ~  Oct 23, 2009 6:21 am

[12] Agreed on Hughes, but Burnett needs to go 7 for what he's getting paid. If we can't win with him, why do we have him?

15 Mr. OK Jazz TOKYO   ~  Oct 23, 2009 6:23 am

[13] It's fuckin crazy!! I can't believe anyone can rationalize that move..if the game is tied and goes a few more innings you've lost the best hitter on your team..this move makes me question Girardi more than any other have seen from him.

[12] Agreed here too, Hughes just got beat. It happens. Leaving in AJ was the mistake.

16 williamnyy23   ~  Oct 23, 2009 6:34 am

[14] He gave you 6 innings though...Girardi had a rested bullpen...there was no need to get 7 from AJ. I was more than happy with the job he did through 6...pushing the envelope proved costly.

[15] Tacticly, that was a worse move, but the decision to leave AJ in the game was the most costly. If the Yankee season ends in the ALCS, it will be that decision that sealed their fate.

17 Boatzilla   ~  Oct 23, 2009 6:39 am

But we can all agree that this series will come down to Alex Rodriguez. It just has to. It's been coming to this point all year. There's no other way. And I fear that it may be in Game 7. BTW, just finished The Bronx Is Burning. I remember that game and that comment. Thanks a lot, Jazz. I thoroughly enjoyed it and loved the ending. Now, I gotta get you on some Jonathan Letham....and Dellilo's Underworld.

18 Boatzilla   ~  Oct 23, 2009 6:43 am

[16] OK. I will give in on A.J. But someone in the Times had me going the other way...Vecsey, maybe. And, our bullpen is supposed to be a strength anyway...(if we use the guys who go us here too, Coke, Roberson...) yeah, bad move.

19 hudsonguy   ~  Oct 23, 2009 7:44 am

I too found the decision to pinch-run for A-Rod incomprehensible. But even more incomprehensible is the rigid attitude we saw on display here about the role of the closer. As I recall the Angels had guys on 2nd and 3rd with one out in the seventh, Yanks up by two with a chance to close out the series. They also had arguably the greatest relief pitcher ever just sitting in the bullpen. Why not bring him in right there, especially with the Angels' big bats coming up? Let him come back out for the 8th inning as well. Instead he was used later on to prevent a one-run deficit from getting any larger--a deficit that might not have existed had he been used in a timely fashion.

20 rbj   ~  Oct 23, 2009 8:33 am

"Well, at least nobody got guillotined at the end of Game 5."

I hereby nominate AJ for that position.

But hey, everyone. This way the Yankees get to celebrate at home. Plus Andy gets to set the record for post season wins.

Rationalize? Me?

21 Rich   ~  Oct 23, 2009 8:40 am

I blame Swisher more than AJ or Hughes.

Girardi really has very little feel for the game.

22 Sliced Bread   ~  Oct 23, 2009 8:41 am

Bitter bitter mood this morning. Wife and I are hosting our annual Halloween party for the kids tomorrow night. I wasn't going to wear a costume, but now I'm considering going as AJ Burnett.

After all the guests arrive, I'll say "Thanks for coming, everybody. So glad you could make it." Then, I'll dump two pots of chili on the kitchen floor, and offer our guests some cornbread. "I'm AJ Burnett! Get it?! Now who's gonna help me clean up this mess?"

Or I'll go as Nick Swisher, and after all the guests arrive I'll go down to the basement, and turn off the power, plunging the house into darkness.. Then I'll walk upstairs, flick on a flashlight and salute, "Party's over, people! I'm Nick Swisher. Get it?!"

Or maybe I'll dress up as Joba, and as the guests arrive I'll greet them with a blank forlorn expression, and if they request anything I'll shake them off nervously, and ask, "When is Marino Rivera is arriving?"

Bah! bitter bitter bitter this morning, but I'll snap out of it quickly. In fact, I'm feeling better already.

23 RIYank   ~  Oct 23, 2009 8:46 am

[22] A more happy approach, Sliced, would be to dress up as Frosty the Snowman. You could wear a ski mask cowl thing, and then suddenly rip it off and hit a three-run triple.

Personally, I'm going to sit quietly in a chair, not paying a lot of attention to what's going on around me, and if asked I will say I'm a Yankee pinch runner.

24 rbj   ~  Oct 23, 2009 8:56 am

[22] You should go as a less loathed person, such as bin Laden or Hitler or Mao.

25 Sliced Bread   ~  Oct 23, 2009 9:22 am

Could also dress up as Hinske and hide in the garage with a six pack, and the game on the radio...
but (exhale ) the bitterness has subsided.

Chili (in bowls!), cornbread, and adult beverages all around!
Pizzas, and treats for the kids!
And hopefully the Yanks will feast on some Angels pitching.

26 Rich   ~  Oct 23, 2009 9:24 am

Or how about dressing as Girardi in a Venus de Milo costume?

27 The Hawk   ~  Oct 23, 2009 9:40 am

I'm not mad at Burnett. He just didn't have it last night, and that's not exactly rare. I think for the lack of control he had, he recovered well and did better than I expected. If you take what should have been his line - 6 innings, 4 runs - it's not a guillotining offense. It's not good, but it's not bad either. Just mediocre.

I really could not believe that Girardi sent him out there in the seventh. Talk about looking a gift horse in the mouth. Burnett was barely controlled chaos and they were lucky to get through the sixth with him. When they got that nigh-miraculous (let's face it, if Cano's involved it's pretty amazing) rally, scoring six to go up two, going to the bullpen was a no-brainer.

Well, part two to the equation is that even if Girardi had done the right thing there, it may have blown up in his face because Hughes was bad. Hughes has been bad. I hate to say it but might be time to just say Hughes is bad and move on. On the other hand, when I left between the top and bottom of the seventh, Chamberlain was warming. I didn't exactly feel confident, but maybe things would have been different if Girardi had put Joba in there.

And yeah, the pinch running for A Rod thing was absurd.

To be honest I really enjoyed that game. Everything happened so fast, the two rallies were kind of a blur. I didn't think the Yanks would win in five, anyway, and though the opportunity certainly was there, I'd be surprised if they couldn't win one of the next two. I'm hoping for six games so the rotation is properly in order, but I'll take what we can get.

28 Simone   ~  Oct 23, 2009 10:09 am

I blame AJ and Hughes. They sucked.

29 weeping for brunnhilde   ~  Oct 23, 2009 10:37 am

[22] [23] :)

30 tocho   ~  Oct 23, 2009 10:52 am

sorry for the long post, but had to get this off my chest.

This game was one of the strangest I have ever seen. I think both managers suffered severe panic attacks and made moves purely designed on "not losing" instead of "winning". Let me explain myself.

Lackey was pulled after he got the 2nd out of the 7th. Pure panic by the "genius". We all know how that unfolded, lackey had pretty much handled Teix, why would you bring in Oliver? this inning also featured the IBB to big al (that's how I will call him from now on, it seems like he enjoys it more than arod), which came back to bite them by scoring the go ahead run. Panic attack.

Then in the bottom half, Mr Binder panicked and tried to squeeze one last inning before going to his elite set-ups, why not start the inning with Hughes, get him to throw 1.1 or 1.2 and then Mo the remaining portion, they're fresh, they can do it. if hughes starts to falter, then you bring in a loogy or robertson (joba is off-limits until he starts throwing 99 again, which he briefly did on the k pitch to mathis)

Then the 8th, the genius has a leadoff double and then proceeds to have his hottest batter bunt the guy on 2nd to 3rd (for some strange reason Punto and Mathis, probably the worst hitters on the twins and angels are killing the yanks). Now why on Earth would you do that genius? the result, leadoff double wasted. I'm also convinced that it will bring mathis crashing down to earth in game 6, if he starts of ph's, he will never touch the ball again.

then in the 9th, two outs, bases empty, the genius walks big Al, beyond comprehensible, talk about managing with absolute fear; this move had already caused them a run and if not for swisher it would have cost them the game.

I won't get into the PR by guzman without any intention of stealing, my head will explode if I even try to figure that out.

two other things, the genius sitting kendrick (who is like the babe when playing v the yanks) and mr binder sticking with molina are just two more examples of managers trying to be smart.

why go against the formula that won you your respective divisions just because its the playoffs?? its the same freaking game!! you win mostly by scoring runs not focusing on preventing them. why worry about next inning when you have a bomb in your hands this inning?

the last point I wanted to make: after watching the game again I can tell you that the yanks lost on the BB by burnett to Aybar, he had him at 0-2, aybar was looking terrible but aj decided to fool him with 4 balls to see if he would bite...GRRRRRRRR!!!!

I am convinced that the yanks will end up winning game 6. so don't worry.

31 Horace Clarke Era   ~  Oct 23, 2009 11:08 am

Sigh. Needed two coffees before even trying to add my penny's worth here. Hard, hard loss, with fear in back of it.

1. Pinch running Alex was just weird but not significant. I'll chalk it to inexplicable but waste no time on it.

2. I went back and forth on AJ staying in. I tried, hard, to be with Joe. Burnett had been very good after the first, he was NOT at many pitches, he throws 115 a game ... and ... I can't do it. He needed to come out. We had a locked and loaded bullpen after CC in game 4. Girardi only need 4 outs, maybe only 3 (!) from his revolving door of set-up options in the 7th. Burnett had been SITTING for a long time during the top of the 7th ... and then ... MAYBE let him see one batter, but surely, surely not two!

3. But ... this gets sadder when you consider that Hughes is supposed to be able to deal with men on base. That is his job! It isn't like a starter coming in late, give him a clean sheet. William is saying Girardi needed to have more confidence in Hughes ... but the last two outings have probably undermined that. And Joba ... surely he's slips behind Robertson rest of the way now? Ouch.

4. It is very hard to 'blame' a batter for not getting a 2 out hit. Swisher was more culpable in game 3, but I did wish/hope we'd see him sitting to compose himself and we'd have Gardy in centre last night. I wish I didn't feel so right about that.

5. In the end, it is on Girardi and Hughes, for me, not necessarily in that order. Was there any discussion of Po's putting the glove way high on Vlad's hit? Was he trying to scam Vlad?

6. In the REAL end, we need Andy to be very good tomorrow. Saunders has had a superb 10-12 game run.

7. Damn and blast.

32 tocho   ~  Oct 23, 2009 11:28 am

if the game on Saturday gets canceled by rain, you have to go with CC on Sunday, right? right?

33 Horace Clarke Era   ~  Oct 23, 2009 11:44 am

[32] I don't think so, myself.

34 Horace Clarke Era   ~  Oct 23, 2009 11:45 am

[33] Oh. Wait. Full rest? Maybe you do have to. Tough call. But we all Trust in Joe with Pitchers, right?

35 NYYfan22   ~  Oct 23, 2009 11:52 am

[0] Thanks for the summary, Emma.

I was in a rehearsal for most of the game. Saw the updates in the top7 when the Yanks came back and unfortunately listened to the last 1½ innings on my way home via Sterling/Waldman.

Ready for tomorrow night. Pettitte on the hill? Let's go!

36 cult of basebaal   ~  Oct 23, 2009 12:58 pm

[14] No, actually he doesn't.

How much he makes is completely irrelevant.

What *is* relevant, as William stated is that the bullpen was completely rested.

What is *also* relelvant, is that the bullpen was also *warm*.

How long was Burnett sitting on the bench during the top of the 7th?

30 minutes?

I think that's the perfect time to slap AJ on the ass and tell him "good job" and then turn to the bullpen for 6 outs.

And yes, the decision to pinch run for Arod was just about the stupidest fucking thing I've ever seen.

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"This ain't football. We do this every day."
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