Tonight’s pitching matchup proved equal to the hype: it was Sabathia vs. Price, and neither ace gave an inch. Both went eight innings and walked two; I guess Sabathia gets a bit of an edge for allowing 2 hits – as opposed to Price’s whopping 3 – and striking out 9 men, compared to Price’s 4. But basically, for most of the game, nobody was hitting anything. Sabathia changed speeds and spotted his pitches precisely; Price’s fastball blew away the Yankee hitters, who for the last week or so (if not, in many cases, a bit longer) have looked old and tired and tonight looked even more so, although to be fair, most people look that way when facing David Price.
So why, after the game, did Joe Girardi say of the two aces, “both of them were tremendous” in the same flat, soul-crushed tones one might normally use to say, “my girl ran off with my best friend and took my dog with her”? Well, the Yankee hitters didn’t do any better against the Rays’ relievers than they had against Price, and with the score tied 0-0 and the game heading into extra innings, Girardi inserted Chad “Abandon Hope” Gaudin and Sergio “Pushing Your Luck” Mitre to pitch the 10th and 11th innings, respectively. The many viewers who pessimistically assumed that Gaudin would lose the game, particularly after he loaded the bases, were proved wrong when instead it was Mitre who allowed the big game-winning homer — to Reid Brignac, the first batter he faced.
Well, according to Joe Girardi’s testy and dispirited post-game press conference, David Robertson and Joba Chamberlain weren’t available (though why Joba wasn’t, having not pitched since Friday, I don’t know), and Mo (possibly because he looked so dreadfully un-Mo-like in his last outing?) was only going to be used in a save situation. Still, that doesn’t necessarily explain why Kerry Wood was pulled after one quick and easy ninth inning, or why Boone Logan only faced one batter, or why Curtis Granderson bunted against a righty to bring up… Collin Curtis. Coming on the heels of a series of brutal Yankee losses, this latest fiasco dunked New York into second place and left Girardi open to plenty of criticism.
Of course, the Yankees haven’t been making Girardi’s job any easier lately – questionable managerial moves are prone to be noticed and leaped upon much more often when the team of the manager in question isn’t hitting worth a good goddamn. And I’m quite sure Girardi didn’t call for two of his team’s most boneheaded plays: Jorge Posada getting thrown out trying to steal second in the fifth inning and, far worse, Brett Gardner getting thrown out trying to steal THIRD with two outs in the tenth. After the game Gardner apologized to his teammates, and in postgame interviews he looked like he wished desperately for the ability to melt into a guilty puddle of shame on the locker room floor, but even he could not really explain what he’d been thinking.
I’m not somebody who feels strongly about winning the division rather than going in through the Wild Card; I just want playoffs. But if the Yankees don’t start playing better, on both sides of the ball, it’s pretty hard to imagine them lasting long in October no matter how they get there. So here’s hoping they rouse themselves from their slump soon, because a beautifully kickass performance like the one C.C. Sabathia gave us tonight should not go to waste. And also because Joe Girardi sounds like he’s maybe three more bad losses away from taking a fungo bat and going after the next reporter who asks him about his pitching choices.