There was one positive that came out of Friday afternoon’s game: A.J. Burnett pitched well. It’s impossible not to credit pitching coach Dave Eiland for that. Eiland had been away for most of the last month due to an undisclosed family issue, and Burnett went 0-5 with a 11.35 ERA in five starts without his pitching coach around. Eiland got back on Tuesday, talked some “Arkansas talk” to the righty from North Little Rock, and got him to fix the sloppy mechanics that had derailed his season by making sure all of his energy was directed toward the plate.
Burnett looked sharp in the first inning, working around a two-out single, throwing all but two of his 13 pitches for strikes and striking out Alex Gonzalez and Vernon Wells on a total of seven pitches. The Yankees then scored a run in the bottom of the first without the benefit of a hit (two walks followed by two productive outs). With that, the Yankee bats said, “there’s your run,” and Burnett made it stand up into the seventh, frequently working out of small jams by making the sort of in-game corrections he had seemed incapable of during Eiland’s absence.
Burnett got some help. Curtis Granderson made a running catch, going back and leaping over the lip of the warning track to reel in a one-out drive by Lyle Overbay in the fourth, Burnett’s only 1-2-3 inning. Damaso Marte got the final out of the seventh for Burnett, and Brett Gardner one-upped Granderson with a leaping catch at the wall on a shot to lefty by Gonzalez off Joba Chamberlain to start the eighth.
Then it all went wrong. Joba walked Jose Bautista on five pitches and, with two outs, gave up back-to-back singles that tied the game. Mariano Rivera worked around a single in the ninth and David Robertson worked around a two-out walk in the tenth, but the Jays broke the game wide open against Robertson in the 11th.
Overbay and John Buck led off with singles. Jarrett Hoffpauir bunted the runners up to second and third. Joe Girardi had Robertson intentionally walk lefty Fred Lewis to face the righty Gonzalez, and Gonzalez responded by singling home the go-ahead run.
With the bases still loaded and just one man out (via Hoffpauir’s sacrifice), Girardi called on Chan Ho Park. Park used up seven pitches on each of his first two batters. The first, Bautista, struck out looking on a sinker just below the knee and got run for arguing the call. The second, Wells, worked a walk to force in an insurance run. That brought up Dewayne Wise, who had pinch-run for Adam Lind in the eighth. Park fell behind Wise 2-1 after which Wise creamed one into the right-field gap for a back-breaking, bases-loaded triple. Kevin Gregg set the Yankees four, five, and six hitters down 1-2-3 in the bottom of the inning, and the Blue Jays won 6-1.
Blame the bullpen, they deserve it, but where was the offense in this game? The Yankees had two on and none out in the first and eked out just one hit-less run. In the third they had the bases loaded with none out and got nothing as Toronto starter Brett Cecil struck out Alex Rodriguez and Robinson Cano before getting Jorge Posada to ground out. Francisco Cervelli singled in the second and fourth but was stranded both times, then in the sixth, with two on and none out, he hit into rally-killing double play (after which Brett Gardner popped out with a man on third to end the inning).
Then the Blue Jays bullpen came on and the Yankees managed just one more baserunner in the final five innings, a one-out single by Nick Swisher in the seventh that was erased when Mark Teixeira lined out-to Overbay, who doubled off Swisher for an inning-ending double play.
Don’t expect things to improve against Ricky Romero tomorrow, or against emerging Yankee-killer Brandon Morrow on Sunday. The Yankee offense is slumping in part because they’re facing some very good pitchers (even Cecil was 7-2 with a 3.22 ERA before a recent three-start skid), but Romero (a lefty with a 2.83 ERA, 8.3 K/9) and Morrow (2.20 ERA in his last seven starts, 10.0 K/9 on the season) are pretty darn good as well.
Incidentally, after the game, Kim Jones asked Girardi if he thought about having Cervelli bunt before he hit into that sixth-inning double-play. Girardi’s answer was impressively thorough:
That’s a legitimate question. You have a slow runner at second [Posada]. You have a lefty on the mound. He’s falling off toward third base. It’s gotta be a perfect bunt. Cervy’s got two hits off of this guy. Lefties are hitting .180 [off Cecil (actually .178 heading into the game)], there’s a lefty behind [on deck: Gardner]. The wind’s blowing in. Sac fly’s gonna be difficult.