Philip Humber mastered the Yankees tonight for seven superb innings and the White Sox won a brisk game 2-0. Humber huddled a no-hitter into the seventh before Alex Rodriguez bounced one through the box. AJ Burnett was almost as good, but on a night when each base was precious, the Yankees coughed up two bases too many and the White Sox turned those gifts into their margin of victory.
In the top of the fourth, when the game still shone with the promise of youth, Carlos Quentin led off with a hit. Curtis Granderson got a bad jump on the ball and misplayed a single into a double. Two groundouts plated the run, but the Yankees figured they had made the smart trade. In the top of the ninth, Alexei Ramirez led off by grazing a pop fly behind the mound. Rafael Soriano, in relief of the brilliant Burnett, assumed it had loft enough to reach the infielders and gave up on the play. Jeter was the closest to no-man’s land when the ball thudded to the grass, but the only play on the ball was Soriano’s. The White Sox pinch ran, stole second and got the timely hit to pad the lead. But on this night, that insurance run was surplus to requirements.
In the middle of the game, I got the eerie feeling that I had seen this before. As Philip Humber, making his sixth career start, put the Yanks down with ease, and AJ Burnett put in a strong yet futile effort in response, this game last year versus the Royals’ Bryan Bullington crept into focus. And lo, it came to pass. In the tough loss, AJ Burnett was really a pleasure to watch. The strikeouts were not there, but his control was excellent and his April has been a good one.
Humber spotted his fastball and then used his off-speed stuff generously, keeping the Yankees off balance and on the front-foot all night. The guy had a great game, but I think he’ll get clobbered the next time around, just like Bullington did. I put this mostly on New York’s offense not making the necessary adjustments to the slow-stuff. He did sneak a high fastball past Cano in a crucial at bat in the seventh to derail the Yankees best scoring chance, so give him credit for that.
At this point in the year, I can still feel OK about a game like this given how well AJ Burnett pitched. But with the Red Sox and Rays charging, games like this will probably be tougher to stomach in the very near future.