It’s official, the Yankees are in a team hitting slump. Since opening up a can of Whoop-Ass on Roy Halladay on Tuesday, the Yankees have scored a total of four runs in three games started by 47-year-old Jamie Moyer, Phillies’ sixth-starter Kyle Kendrick, and Mets fill-in Hisanori Takahashi, and two of those runs came on solo homers off Moyer.
Through the first five innings against Takahashi Friday night, the Yankees managed just a walk and two singles. One of those singles, an infield hit to second base by Derek Jeter, should have been ruled an error as Mets first baseman Ike Davis dropped the throw on a bang-bang play on which the ball hit Davis’s glove an instant before Jeter’s foot hit the bag. That, by the way, stands as Jeter’s only hit in the last four games. He is “2”-for-21 with two walks and a caught stealing in his last five.
Nonetheless the game was a compelling one, because Javier Vazquez nearly matched Takahashi pitch-for-pitch. In fact, through the first seven innings, the difference in the game was a matter of mere inches on a play at home with two outs in the top of the first.
Vazquez got the first two outs of the game on six pitches, but the red-hot David Wright spoiled things with a two-out double into the left-field corner. Ike Davis followed with a single into right. As Wright rounded third, Nick Swisher uncorked a strong throw to the plate. However, while the ball was in the air, Francisco Cervelli inched just slightly up the first base line for the catch. Wright saw that and slid to the far side of the plate. Cervelli caught the ball and lunged, but just missed Wright’s left arm, which Wright then stuck out to catch the tip of the plate with his fingertips.
Watching it live, I thought Wright had failed to touch home, but on replay I noticed a telltale streak of dirt across the point of the plate, which was otherwise sparkling clean given that the game was just 11 pitches old. Cervelli was convinced he had tagged Wright, but replays proved he didn’t.
That was it for seven innings. Vazquez pitched around a two-out single in the second, then didn’t allow another baserunner until the sixth, when he walked two men only to have the first of them, Angel Pagan, caught stealing by Cervelli from his knees. Vazquez then struck out Davis to end that non-threat and pitched around a two-out walk in the seventh as well. His final line was a sparkling 7 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 3 BB, 4 K, with all three of those walks coming in his final two innings.
The only downside to Vazquez’s outing was that one run, which slipped in by the smallest of margins, and the Yankees’ complete inability to do anything to support him.
The Yankees didn’t get a man past first base until the sixth, when, with one out, Nick Swisher and Mark Teixeira delivered consecutive hard singles up the middle to put men on first and second. Takahashi got Alex Rodriguez to ground out for the second out, and while that moved the runners up, it also allowed Takahashi to pitch around Robinson Cano, who walked on eight pitches. That brought up Jorge Posada, who was essentially the entire Yankee offense through the first five innings, owning both the walk and the only legitimate single. However, Posada chopped Takahashi’s 0-1 pitch to the third base side of the mound where David Wright charged it and made a great, bare-handed play that proved a bit excessive as he threw Posada bout by about 15 feet.
With Elmer Dessens on in relief of Takahashi, who passed 100 pitches during the Yankees’ sixth-inning rally, Cervelli, likely still burning from that play in the top of the first, led off the seventh with a double. With the lefty starter out of the game, Joe Girardi then called on Curtis Granderson to pitch-hit, but Jerry Manuel countered with ace LOOGY sidearmer Pedro Feliciano, who struck out Granderson. Brett Gardner did what Granderson couldn’t grounding to the right side to get Cervelli to third, but it was of little use after Granderson’s out, particularly as the slumping Jeter tapped out to Feliciano on the first pitch to strand Cervelli at third.
Then things fell apart. Girardi went to Chan Ho Park to start the eighth, and Park coughed up two runs to the first three hitters he faced before recording a single out. Boone Logan cleaned up that mess, but then yielded a run of his own in the ninth to make it 4-0 Mets.
For their part, the offense got a man to second in the eight when Nick Swisher led off with a single then ill-advisedly took second on a fly out to left, benefiting from another dropped ball on what was ruled an assist and an error, but stranded him there when Feliciano struck out Rodriguez and got Cano to fly out.
With lefty Raul Valdes on in the ninth, the Yankees built another rally on one-out singles by Cervelli and Granderson, forcing Manuel to call on his closer, Francisco Rodriguez. Gardner greated Rodriguez with a 12-pitch battle that saw him foul off seven pitches including five 3-2 offerings before finally getting ball four to load the bases, but Rodriguez struck out Jeter on three pitches, the last an unsuccessfully checked swing, and Swisher fouled out to Wright to end the threat and the game.
The Yankees are now 12-12 in games against left-handed starting pitchers and are on a three-game losing streak having gone 2-5 in their last seven games against teams with winning records. They also now face having to beat the Mets’ two-best starters, Mike Pelfrey and Johan Santana, each of whom shut the Bombers down in Queens four weeks ago, in order to win this series.
On the bright side, the Yankees continue to share first place in the AL East with the Rays, who lost for the sixth time in their last eight games last night. Oh, but the Red Sox won and are now just a game out of first place.