I’m guessing that even the most optimistic among us were a bit on edge heading into Sunday night’s game. Josh Beckett was on the mound for the Red Sox, and the Yankees were countering with Dustin Moseley, starting in place of A.J. Burnett, who’s been at least temporarily shelved due to back spasms. (Unconfirmed reports indicate that these “back spasms” could be the result of torque on the spine caused by his frequent need to snap his head around to follow the flight of home runs.) The good news coming in, though, was that Moseley had showed promise in his last outing against Toronto while Beckett had struggled against the Yanks this year, allowing 19 runs in three starts. Both trends would continue.
Moseley worked efficiently through the first four innings, yielding just two hits and two walks. Bill Hall led off the fifth with a home run, but this was only a minor blip as Moseley needed just six pitches to retire the next three hitters. On the other side of the scorecard, Beckett was struggling. After working around two singles in the opening frame, he gave up two runs in the second inning thanks to a Lance Berkman double and consecutive two-out singles by Brett Gardner, Derek Jeter, and Nick Swisher. (Jeter’s hit was the 2,874th of his career, one more than Babe Ruth.)
Beckett appeared to settle down, looking disturbingly like the old Josh Beckett as he blitzed through the fourth, but Mark Teixeira opened the fifth with a no-doubt home run deep into the right field bleachers, and things unravelled from there. A walk to A-Rod was followed by a plunking of Robinson Canó (no drama, though — the pitch just nicked Canó’s knee cap), and Berkman plated the fourth Yankee run when he laced a double down the left field line. My daughter Alison and I looked at her scorebook and noticed that Fat Elvis was 3 for 3, and she said, “You were right when you said he’d have a good game tonight.”
But the inning wasn’t over. A few batters later Jeter smacked Beckett’s last pitch of the night into the gap in right center, and suddenly it was 7-1. Beckett grimaced atop the mound as he waited for Francona’s inevitable hook, and I tried to explain to Alison why it was extra delicious to watch Beckett suffer. “Is he mean?” Well, no, but he isn’t very nice. “But if he isn’t nice, doesn’t that mean that he’s mean?” I didn’t have an answer, so we just turned back to the game.
All that was left was to watch Joe Girardi mismanage the bullpen. Moseley got in a bit of trouble in the seventh, putting runners on first and third with one out. With a six-run lead and a low pitch-count (82), it seemed like it might’ve been a good idea to let him try to finish the inning, if only to see how he’d respond to a jam like that, but Girardi pulled him in favor of Joba Chamberlain. Joba wasn’t bad, he just didn’t get the job done. He allowed a run to score on an infield single, but that wasn’t the problem. After getting Jacoby Ellsbury to pop up for the second out, he quickly jumped ahead of Marco Scutaro, and the inning looked to be over. With a 1-2 count and a 96-MPH fastball in his quiver, Joba tried to get cute with his slider and walked the Boston shortstop to load the bases for David Ortíz. Minutes earlier the game had been in hand, but suddenly it was just a swing away from being 7-6. Lefty Boone Logan replaced Chamberlain and made things a bit sweaty by running the count full before getting Papi to ground out to end the inning.
But wait — there was more mismanagement. Girardi brought David Robertson in to pitch the ninth inning, and I was thinking that it was nice that Mariano Rivera would have the day off. But when Robertson walked Ellsbury to put runners on first and second with two outs — and a five run lead on the eighth day of August — Girardi called for Rivera. He threw one pitch. Scutaro bounced a ball to Canó, who flipped to Jeter to end the game. Yankees 7, Red Sox 2.
The one good thing about all this is that Girardi’s machinations gave me an excuse to write a little more about Rivera. In 1990 Dennis Eckersley had what is probably the best season any closer has had in the current era. His ERA and WHIP were identical at 0.61, but here are the interesting numbers: 48 saves, 41 hits, 4 walks. Right now Rivera has 23 saves, 19 hits, and 6 walks. Following that 1990 campaign, Eckersley said (and I’m paraphrasing), “I had more saves than hits and walks combined. If anyone ever does that, I’ll walk out to the pitcher’s mound and kiss his ass in front of 50,000 people.” It just might be time to pucker up.
* You can get a cool scorebook just like Alison’s by visiting http://www.ilovetoscore.com/, a New York-based company operated by loyal Banterite, Michael Schwartz.