I don’t always hate umpire schtick. The emphatic punch-out is part of the style, intensity and enthusiasm of Major League Baseball and these guys are integral to the game’s personality. I also don’t expect them to get every call correct. If they’re hustling, in the right position, and trying to be consistent I don’t get worked up about it. But when a home plate umpire spends an entire game preening and posing, but can’t be bothered to pay attention to the strike zone, it ruffles the feathers. And in rare cases, when umpire buffoonery repeatedly alters the scoreboard, I’m steamed.
Tonight, in the second inning, home-plate-umpire Dale Scott took a run away from the Yanks and second-base ump Alfonso Marquez added one to the Rangers side of the ledger. With bases loaded, Brett Gardner took what should have been ball four to drive in the first run. The pitch was not close, being low and outside (looking at Gameday, and then watching the pitch again on TV reminds me to take Gameday’s location with a grain of salt) and Gardner was noticeably peeved. He swung through strike three to end the threat.
In the bottom of the inning, Kinsler reached on a check swing dribbler in front of Cano. He attempted to steal second later in the at-bat, but Cervelli got a great pitch to throw on and drilled a dart to Derek (his best throw in recent memory) for the easy out. Or so thought everyone other than Marquez. Kinsler pulled back his lead hand and lurched into second base as Jeter swiped the tag across his fingers, chest and face. After watching it several times in replay, there was no angle which definitively showed a tag or a non-tag, but I firmly believe that some part of Jeter’s glove touched some part of Kinsler. Marquez definitely did not have a good idea either way, but decided that even though the throw beat Kinsler by five feet, he would call him safe. The Rangers bunted Kinsler to third and scored him on a ground out.
Jeter was shocked. Cervelli was confused. Vazquez, I’m sure was frustrated. Girardi was pissed. After railing against Marquez he turned to Scott to argue the strike zone. That’s reason for ejection, but Scott gave him a long leash and Girardi decided not to push it any further. The bad umpiring changed a 1-0 lead into a 0-1 hole, but the Yankees got fired up for a few innings after that and ran CJ Wilson out of the game early. Arod hit a big two-run double and Thames and Cervelli followed with two-out run-scoring singles. At 4-1 the Yankees had a nice lead but it would have been much more comfortable at 5-0. Especially with Javy Vazquez on the mound.
Actually, Vazquez was fine. Not good exactly, but adequate. He had bad luck with defense, bloopers, and the bad call. He impressed most when in the most trouble. With bases loaded in the fourth, a jam of his own making, he induced a grounder down the first base line that I’m sure most of us thought was easy pudding for Teixeira. I don’t know if he got a bad first step or missed the ball off the bat or if it just skidded through faster than it appeared off the bat, but Teix was nowhere near it. Vazquez got mad.
Clinging to a 4-3 lead with the go-ahead runs on second and third with only one out, he went after Andrus and Young with his best stuff of the night. He blew a fastball by Young that made me reach for the remote. It had run; it had pop; it had life. Young’s swing was closer to the next pitch than it was to the one already nestled in Cervelli’s mitt. I watched it several times. Man, if he had that all year, or even for the rest of the year, that would be something.
The game became a uncomfortable slog after that. Tense, because the score was so unnecessarily close, and absurd, because the expanded rosters allowed Ron Washington to run through pitchers like sunflower seeds. The Yankees refused to get another big hit after the third, stranding 18 runners, but the bullpen held the line until the eighth. Then Joba Chamberlain came in, threw one pitch to the most dangerous hitter in the current Rangers lineup, and Cruz lambasted the limp, soggy breaking ball into the left-field seats to tie the game. Thought the pitch selection was different, I could not help but think of Pedro Feliz.
Moving into extra innings, the Rangers were sacrificing short relievers like the Sauron and Saruman churned out Orcs for the siege of Helm’s Deep. The Yankees responded by summoning their ancient wizard and got two innings out of Mariano Rivera for the first time since June 27th. (The Rangers used ten pitchers to get through 11 innings. Do that as the manager in an All Star Game and you’ll go down in history for screwing up the National Pastime. But somehow it’s permissible in the heat of a Pennant Race.)
The Yankees maneuvered themselves into a scoring chance in the 12th, but in a way that almost guaranteed they wouldn’t score. After a fortuitous leadoff double by Moehler, Girardi asked Gardner to sacrifice bunt. Playing for one run there is understandable, but you have to have the personnel to execute. In this case, they needed a fly ball from Derek Jeter. That ain’t happening. Not only is he the most prolific ground ball machine in baseball, he’s so lost right now, he only gets hits by accident. The better play there was to let Gardner hit away. He could move the runner with anything to the right side anyway, and he was the only one of the next three batters (along with Jeter and Curtis) who had a chance to get a hit.
They did it again in the 13th, with Posada needing the fly ball to score Arod. He came up with a soft liner to second. They loaded the bases with two outs, but Moehler couldn’t work the walk and flew out to center.
Headed into the bottom 13th, I think every Yankee fan who was still watching was thinking, “If they can get past Cruz without letting up a homer, they had a chance for another inning.” Gaudin couldn’t get past Cruz. The Yankees lost 6-5. So many ways to win this game. Competent umpiring would have ended the game in regulation. One hit or well-timed fly ball would have won it in extras. Crapola.
I’m 7 up and 10 down as a recapper for a possible 100 win team. I’m not even Javy Vazquez on this staff, I’m AJ Burnett.
Watching the scoreboard was fun for awhile. The Rays jumped all over Toronto 8-1, but the Boom Jays knotted it up at eight with a barrage of homers. (Can you give a nickname to a fourth place team?) But then the fun went to bed and the Rays won it in the ninth. That would have been a sweet loss to pin on those guys, but the Rays are tough and didn’t cave after the near collapse. Both teams blew leads, the Rays toughed out the win, the Yanks did not. Hope that’s the last time that happens this year.