I knew sooner or later I would have to write about a Mariano loss. When Mariano comes into a game, I turn on the recorder, I turn off the TV and I wait 30 minutes. Then, I check the score, and if he has blown it, I lose it. I don’t lose it out loud anymore, and I don’t act out. But my hands are shaking with anger as I pound the remote control buttons to delete the recording and stew around for hours because I’m too upset to sleep. The days following are tough, and I’d rather do anything than talk about and read about baseball, but you know you can’t avoid it in this day and age. There’s an angry buzz on the subway the next day. Plus the barely contained glee from the Yankee haters. A Mo loss is like a straightjacket for me. The only thing that brings me back is reminding myself (over and over) that he’s already moved past it in time for the next game.
Before Mariano got involved, the Yanks could not get their feet straight tonight and it cost them another very winnable game. Four times awkward footwork turned plays against them and it’s possible all four plays had an impact on runs crossing the plate. Bad AJ showed up briefly to groove four or five fastballs in the sixth and the Rangers bullpen wriggled out of some jams that the Yanks bullpen couldn’t and lost a really tough game 4-3 in ten innings.
The first foot fault, and probably least hurtful, happened when Josh Hamilton skied to center for the first out of the bottom of the fourth. Michael Young liked his chances to take second on Gardner, but I thought Gardner had it lined up perfectly to prevent the extra base. Either he didn’t know Young was tagging or he doesn’t have a lot of confidence in his arm, because he took a loping crow hop before firing the ball in. Young was safe easily. I thought an aggressive throw would have either kept Young at first or nailed him at second. He may have scored anyway on the two out double that followed, but at least the Yanks would have had a slim chance to hold him or make a play at the plate if he was starting from first.
The second was Swisher’s two-step around home plate. Molina made an incredible pick-n-tag, the execution of which slid his knees into perfect blocking position. Swisher was caught completely off-guard that Molina made the catch and was suddenly blocking the plate. A collision at the plate requires some mental preparation, to go with the proper head-of-steam to make sure the catcher is taking the hit and not the runner. Meaning you just can’t decide to hit the catcher at the last second if the positioning changes. I don’t think Swisher had either going for him as he helplessly flopped for the dish.
Something like this happened to me as a runner. At first I thought, what else could I have done? But the more I thought about it, I realized I wasn’t prepared for the collision, so I ended up tiptoeing around the catcher as he sprawled for the ball. If I had gone in full bore from the start, I would have plowed into him as he was attempting the catch and I would have been safe. Same with Swisher. I don’t want him getting hurt, but he could have scored if he went for the knockdown from the git-go.
The most painful was the botched double play in the sixth. After entering the game as a pinch hitter, Cano made a nifty grab of Vlad’s grounder up the middle but he couldn’t lead Jeter properly as he floated toward second to start the double play. Maybe Jeter should have held back a little more to give Cano more space, maybe it just wasn’t possible to make a smooth transition given their places on the field. But Jeter was faced with a very difficult maneuver to get one out, let alone two. He did an admirable job of forcing Hamilton, but with Josh barreling down to make the degree of difficulty even tougher, Jeter leaped and flung the ball over Berkman’s head. Any throw in the zip code of first base would have gotten Vlad. Then AJ commenced grooving heaters. He barely got away with one to Cruz for the second out, but David Murphy took him deep with that extra out.
In the ninth, Jeter placed his hit-n-run chopper in the wrong spot, causing Cano to pull up short and enabling a very improbable double play. A double play that stung even more when Swisher promptly singled.
The Yanks kept fighting in this one, with Arod tying the game in the eighth with a dead-center homer, but their failure to bring runners home from third with less than two out bit them for the second straight game. Berkman struck out in the fourth and Cervelli popped out in the eighth. If Posada was not available to pinch hit, I thought they should have squeezed with Cervelli. If they didn’t go to the squeeze there, I really can’t imagine when they would.
I was really hoping they would win one for Cliff’s last game thread. And Cliff Lee tomorrow. So, yeah, this one is a kick in the gut.