"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice

Make It Stop

“It’s a bad loss. There’s no doubt about it. It’s a bad loss. You know, you gotta believe if you’re up 10-5 going into the seventh inning that you have a good chance of winning. We didn’t do it today. And they never stopped fighting, and, uh, they scored more runs than we did.”

–Joe Girardi

“You’re not going to be up until 3am again, are you?”

–my wife

It took the Yankees nearly four and a half hours on Saturday afternoon to build up a huge lead over the Indians then, slowly, like a mighty mountain being eroded by the wind, give it all back plus some for a soul-crushing, mind-numbing, eye-gouging, 13-11 loss to the hapless, punchless Indians. Indians broadcaster Tom Hamilton had a flight to catch out of Newark International, the last flight of the night back to Cleveland where his daughter was having a graduation party later that night and her graduation on Sunday. Between innings late in the game, he told Yankee announcer Michael Kay, “I cover a team that never scores and today they score 12 runs.”

It was ugly in almost every way that a game could be ugly. In the middle of a third-inning rally, Alex Rodriguez lined a ball off the forehead of Indians starter David Huff, who fell face-first onto the mound and lay motionless for several minutes before being strapped to a board and carted off. His family was in town to see him pitch. They wound up spending the afternoon with him at New York-Presbyterian hospital where, thankfully, his CT scan came back negative (“they x-rayed my head and found nothing” goes the classic Dizzy Dean line). He was back at the ballpark soon after the last out.

What he missed was the Yankees adding a third run to his ledger in the bottom of the third, then a fourth inning in which the two teams combined for nine runs. CC Sabathia, who looked sharp in the first three innings, suddenly started to struggle again, perhaps due to the long delay from Huff’s injury. He couldn’t seem to get in sync with catcher Francisco Cervelli and threw 31 pitches in the inning in the process of allowing the Indians to tie the game at 3-3 on an infield single, a wild pitch, a walk, an RBI single, and a tw0-RBI double by Matt LaPorta, the key player the Indians received for Sabathia back in July 2008.

Facing Huff’s replacement, fellow lefty Aaron Laffey, the Yankees picked up their struggling ace with a six-spot in the bottom of the fourth, the key hit being a two-RBI double by Robinson Cano, but Sabathia let the Indians chip away at that 9-3 lead with a run in the fifth (which the Yankees got right back to go up 10-4) and a run in the sixth.

Out after 113 pitches in six innings, Sabathia yielded to  David Robertson, but after allowing a run on a hit-by-pitch, stolen base, and RBI single, Robertson, who had been hit in the back by a Joe Mauer comebacker in his previous appearances, came out of the game with a stiff lower back. That caused another long delay in the game as Sergio Mitre took some 30 pitches to get warm on the game mound only to complete a four-pitch walk to Jhonny Peralta and get pulled in favor of Damaso Marte as Joe Girardi began playing matchups with a four run lead in the seventh.

Marte got his man, but he was promptly replaced by Joba Chamberlain, who didn’t. Having entered the game with a four-run lead, runners on first and second, and two outs, Chamberlain proceeded to cough up the lead via a single, walk, back-to-back doubles by rookies Lou Marson and Jason Donald, the eighth and ninth men in the Cleveland batting order, and another single. By the time Chamberlain finally got the third out of the inning, the Yankees were down 12-10.

After Derek Jeter erased a leadoff walk to Brett Gardner by hitting into a double play in the seventh, Chad Gaudin, effectively the last available man in the Yankee bullpen save for Mariano Rivera, gave up a solo homer to Russell Branyan in the eighth, but the insurance run was unnecessary. After stranding a two-out Robinson Cano single in the bottom of the eighth, the Yankees did push a cross a run against closer Kerry Wood in the ninth when Curtis Granderson drew a pinch-hit walk, was balked to second, and scored on a Jeter double, but that was all the Yankees would get.

I don’t know if Hamilton made his flight or not, but the game, which I didn’t start watching until the evening due to a busy day with my daughter and some preparation work for her first birthday party on Sunday, did indeed keep me up until 3:00 am, even with the benefit of the fast-forward button on my DVR. All totaled, the game saw 402 pitches thrown, 159 of them balls, across the course of 92 different plate appearances resulting in 24 runs scored on 26 hits, 13 walks, and three hit batsmen.

I’m glad Huff is okay. I hope Robertson is (Girardi said he was day-to-day). I also hope Sabathia’s problems had more to do with the long delay fouling up his rhythm, as Girardi suggested, than with his poor outings against the Mets and Tigers. I also hope I don’t have to watch a game like this one again anytime soon, and that someone takes the time to read this recap before we all move on to Sunday’s 1:05 matchup between Justin Masterson and A.J. Burnett, a pitching pairing that doesn’t seem to suggest the clean, crisp game we all deserve after Saturday’s mess.

I also hope I don’t pass out in my daughter’s birthday cake. My wife would not be pleased.

Categories:  Cliff Corcoran  Game Recap

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1 Boatzilla   ~  May 30, 2010 3:40 am

Thanks for persevering, Cliff. I, thankfully, missed the game. Any idea happened with Joba? According to the Banter comments, he just plain sucks and should be drawn and quartered, but it would be nice to hear a more erudite assessment. We need him right.

2 rufuswashere   ~  May 30, 2010 6:37 am

Thought with the big lead it was a good idea to head over to the nearby Apple store to finally check out the iPad.

Imagine my surprise when I saw the score was 11-10.

Would very much appreciate a win today to maintain sanity!

3 ms october   ~  May 30, 2010 9:07 am

yeah good work cliff - thanks for the recap and suffering through this game.
i was visiting friends in nj and followed the score on my blackberry, which was frustrating enough - no way in hell would i watch the replay knowing what all happened. nothing is more frustrating to me than the bullpen imploding and blowing that big a lead.

let's bounce back today.

4 OldYanksFan   ~  May 30, 2010 9:29 am

Over the course of the years, the Yankees, like every team, have suffered some bone-crushing loses. But something about this one puts it very near, if not on top of the pile.

Part of me still can't believe it. Not only were we playing a terrible team, but one with 2 of it's top players on the bench. I still have that bad dream feeling, and I'm almost afraid to watch today's game... as even a Win today will not erase the memory of yesterday.

Man.... we better not lose the Division, or the Wild Card by 1 game.
That game just has real bad mojo connected to it.

5 OldYanksFan   ~  May 30, 2010 9:30 am

[4] Oh..... I forgot......

6 Diane Firstman   ~  May 30, 2010 9:35 am

So, when does Dave Eiland sidle up to Joe and offer, "you know ... if a reliever is going good, you don't necessarily have to play "matchups""?

7 Diane Firstman   ~  May 30, 2010 9:36 am

What a day .... Morales' fluke injury ... Halladay's perfection ... and this game.

8 Alex Belth   ~  May 30, 2010 9:54 am

Cliff, you are a strong, brave man. That was a Twilight Zone game and assignment. I'm making like it didn't happen, but of course it did.

You da man.

9 Raf   ~  May 30, 2010 10:09 am

[1] Joba's velocity was there, the command wasn't. Just about everyone who took the mound yesterday struggled.

10 Cliff Corcoran   ~  May 30, 2010 10:44 am

[6] Who was the reliever who was going good in Saturday's game? Marte? You wanted him to stay in for a while? I thought pulling Mitre after three pitches was absurd, but Robertson got hurt and no one pitched well save for Marte.

11 Raf   ~  May 30, 2010 11:04 am

[10] With Branyan up, I understand going to Marte. Given the way Girardi manages, we would've seen Marte even if Robertson stayed in the game.

12 Mattpat11   ~  May 30, 2010 11:30 am

Have I mentioned how thrilled I am that the people that turned Joba into this are now setting their sights on Phil Hughes?

13 williamnyy23   ~  May 30, 2010 11:50 am

[1] Joba's problem is the same as it always is...he had very little command with his fastball, which completely took away from the effectiveness of his slider. Even at 95mph, Joba's fastball is so straight that he can't get away with it throwing if over the middle of the plate.

The bottom line with Joba is he isn't the #1 starter or closer we've been debating. He is your typical erratic middle reliever. This is the second lead of four runs or more that Joba has blown. Losing games like that leads you right out of the playoffs.

[10] Nornally, going to Joba would be the right move, if Joba was the Joba we all want to believe he is. I can give Girardi a pass for holding out hope, but after yesterday, he needs to think twice about bringing him to tight situations (or have a very short hook with him when he can't throw strikes). The problem for the Yankees is the entire bullpen stinks. One guy who has had success in the past, however, is Marte, so instead of wasting him as a LOOGY, Girardi needs to start letting him pitch more to see if he can find himself like he did in last year's post season.

14 williamnyy23   ~  May 30, 2010 11:53 am

[12] I am not sure why you keep blaming everyone but Joba. Yesterday, Joba had a four run lead to protect and could retire Grudz, LaPorta, Marson, Donald and Crowe. That's not exactly murder's row. Like a lot of very hard throwing young pitchers, Joba may just have been a flash in the pan.

15 Cliff Corcoran   ~  May 30, 2010 11:54 am

[13] you mean last year's postseason when he averaged 1.75 batters faced per appearance? The theory goes that he was good because he was used as a LOOGY and not exposed over longer stints. I argued for him being used as a full-inning guy when the Yankees got him, but now that I know how fragile and erratic he is, I'm not sure I can argue for that anymore.

16 Chyll Will   ~  May 30, 2010 12:09 pm

[14] I refuse to believe that. Joba rose very quickly through and stuck with an organization that's notoriously short on patience with young pitchers for a reason and I doubt it has to do with that. It seems to me his and others' handling at this level has been highly suspect.

17 RIYank   ~  May 30, 2010 12:14 pm

With a five run lead entering the seventh, all the manager has to do is find one relief pitcher who is not terrible on that particular day. That's all he has to do. Our bullpen is not good, and Joba is not very good, but any one of those guys could hold a five run lead on most days! So the only really big mistake Girardi could make was the one he made: burn through enough pitchers rapidly enough so that he's left praying that the one he's settled on will be not-terrible.
This is so damn obvious. Suppose Mitre doesn't pitch well. That's fine -- as long as he isn't just terrible, he finished the game and the Yankees win. Suppose Marte isn't good. No problem, as long as he isn't horrendous. So, you give one of those guys a shot, and if he's terrible then you try someone else, and if he's terrible too then you try someone else. What you don't do is burn through them and put all your eggs in Joba's basket. It was such an egregious example of bullpen roulette.

Maybe he'll learn from it. (Toooptimistic.)

18 seamus   ~  May 30, 2010 12:24 pm

[17] I don't agree. That's a lose-lose situation. If Girardi sticks with Mitre or Marte and they fail then people are asking about why he didn't use Joba. Bullpen management is a lose-lose situation as it always seems to me, no matter what the manager does, if you lose the fans complain. The problem is that just because a move didn't work out doesn't mean it wasn't one of the right moves (I don't believe in a single correct move, but nearly every scenario has a set of acceptable moves).

19 Mattpat11   ~  May 30, 2010 12:31 pm

[14] I still maintain that there was reason to believe he could develop into a good starter before they started with the secret starts and the three inning circus starts with him last year. I think the organization completely screwed up his confidence and mindset. He's been absolutely wretched since at whatever they've asked him to do, start or relieve.

20 RIYank   ~  May 30, 2010 12:57 pm

[18] If Girardi sticks with Mitre or Marte and they fail then people are asking about why he didn’t use Joba.

It's a five run lead. If Mitre fails, you go to Marte, or Joba, or whoever is next. This is the whole point. You want to be in a situation where you still win the game as long as one of your relief pitchers is okay. Instead, he got himself into a situation where he had to roll the dice on Joba. Look, most of the time that works. But it's a five run lead! Any strategy is going to work most of the time with a five run lead. The only issue is whether you're still in a position to be able to win if your first pick is terrible.

Also, I agree that there were several reasonable approaches in that situation. There was only one bad strategy, and that was to put all the eggs in one basket. And that's the one Girardi chose.

21 Hank Waddles   ~  May 30, 2010 12:58 pm

I was tracking the score from my daughter's basketball tournament yesterday, and after I got over the shcok of what had happened, my first thought was this: I'm glad I'm not doing the recap here, and I pity the person who is. Thanks, Cliff, for such a thorough job. And please wish your daughter a Happy Birthday for me.

22 Raf   ~  May 30, 2010 12:58 pm

[17] All Joba had to do in the 7th was get an out with the bottom of the Cleveland order coming up. He should've been able to at least do that.

23 RIYank   ~  May 30, 2010 1:04 pm

[22] Obviously. Anybody on the staff should have been able to do that.

24 seamus   ~  May 30, 2010 2:17 pm

[20] but Mitre did fail didn't he? And Mitre is useless against righties. And Joba is supposed to be that basket that you can put all your eggs in. I don't think relying on Joba is the same as relying on Mitre or Marte at all. It shouldn't be anyway.

25 MDF   ~  May 30, 2010 5:42 pm

I usually don't read these after-the-big-loss posts until the Yankees win again. While I'm glad I didn't have to wait very long, now that I've read the post and the comments, I'm sick all over again.

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