The Yankees had won their first game coming out of the All-Star break nine years in a row, but that major-league-record streak came to an end in a stunningly bad loss to the Toronto Blue Jays on Thursday night. Both manager and players looked more rusted than rested after the three-day hiatus as Joe Girardi seemed to be employing his bullpen as if he were pulling names out of Billy Martin’s hat, and his players were equally guilty as they committed three errors and a balk, all of which led to a total of SEVEN unearned runs. How did I hate this game? Let me count the ways.
- The game was essentially over after the first inning, but that inning could have been dramatically different. With one out, Eric Thames hit a diving line drive to left field. Brett Gardner took a run at it, but clearly couldn’t decide whether to go for the catch or back off and play it for a single. His hesitation cost him dearly, as the ball skipped past him and Thames ended up on second base with a double. (Quick aside: isn’t it time for Gardner to get a Gold Glove? I’m just sayin’.) Bartolo Colón was on the mound, and he struggled. He walked José Bautista, but then followed that up with an Adam Lind groundout, and two were out with two on. Aaron Hill then rapped a solid single to center and it was 2-0 Jays, and Travis Snider followed with a ground ball single two batters later for a 3-0 lead, but those were really the only runs that should’ve scored in the inning. (Again, if Gardner had played Thames’s drive correctly, the game would’ve been scoreless.) But the inning continued. J.P. Arencibia hit pounded a grounder to Eduardo Núñez at third, but Núñez let it bounce off his thigh for an error, and the bases were loaded. Next Rajai Davis dribbled a meek little ground ball just to the left of the mound, but Colón had no play and a run scored. In case you missed that, Yunel Escobar came up next and dribbled a meek little ground ball just to the left of the mound, but Colón had no play and another run scored. That Escobar ball was so eerily similar to the Davis ball that both Colón and Girardi were caught with wry smiles of disbelief. There were no smiles, however, after Thames came up with his second double of the inning, a ringing ground-rule version hit directly over Curtis Granderson’s head in center field. It was 7-0. The game certainly appeared over, and Colón’s night was definitely over.
- But why did Girardi pull Colón? The only hope for the Yankees was that a long-man might come in and hold the Jays down for the rest of the game so that the Score Truck could chip away at the lead over the next eight innings. That long-man would be Hector Noesi, but since he certainly wasn’t ready yet, Girardi chose Luís Ayala, even though Ayala has typically been used in higher leverage situations much later in the game. (Ayala, of course, added to the mockery of the opening inning by allowing the eighth run to score on a balk.) Unless there were injury concerns (Colón had had to race to first for a putout in addition to fielding those two dribblers), Colón should’ve finished the inning, and Noesi should’ve started the second.
- It really bothers me when the Yankees tease me into thinking that they’re going to make a comeback. This one started with an Andruw Jones solo home run in the third. 9-1. A few batters later Curtis Granderson rifled a backhand to the baseline that had so much top spin that it actually bounded over the head of Thames in right field for a triple that scored two. 9-3. Granderson would score almost immediately on a routine ground out from Mark Teixeira. 9-4.
- Meanwhile, young Noesi was cruising along, keeping the Jays complacent. In the top of the sixth, things got interesting. With two runners on, Jones launched his second home run of the game, and suddenly it was 9-7. Now, of course, two things became clear. One, if the first inning hadn’t been so atrocious, the Yankees would have been in the lead; and two, if Girardi hadn’t burned up Ayala, he could have come in for the sixth, Boone Logan the seventh, All-Star David Robertson the eighth, and Mariano Rivera in the ninth. The Yankees would score a few runs, and we’d all have been happy.
- But none of that happened. Girardi brought Logan in with one out and two on in the sixth. Logan would get one out, but then he’d yield a single which scored two, taking all the wind out of the sails. 11-7.
- This is when I lifted my flat screen above my head and fired it through the sliding glass door, so I’m not entirely sure that all this actually happened. Remember when Darko Milicic was known as the Human Victory Cigar? Well, Girardi has found his Human White Flag, and his name is Sergio Mitre. HWF would allow two runs in the seventh (one charged to Logan) and then cough up three more in the eighth (one courtesy of a Jeter error partially caused by Girardi’s shrewd decision to pull the infield in down by seven runs because an eight run deficit in the ninth would’ve seemed insurmountable.) Final score: Blue Jays 16, Yankees 7.