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Guess Who?

Posted By Hank Waddles On September 11, 2011 @ 5:40 am In 1: Featured,Game Recap,Hank Waddles,Yankees | Comments Disabled

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Even before Saturday night’s game in Anaheim, it seemed like the Yankees hadn’t won a game in a week. Now it feels like a week and a half.

For the second night in a row, the Yankees received a representative outing from their starting pitcher only to be shut down by a dominant Angels’ hurler. On Friday night it was Jered Weaver out-pitching Bartolo Colón (although in fairness to Colón, the only run he allowed was unearned), and Saturday saw Dan Haren topping CC Sabathia.

How good was Haren? He gave up a leadoff double to Derek Jeter to open the game, then a harmless single to Jesus Montero to lead off the second, and that was it for a while. He set down the next eighteen Yankee hitters, and by the time Eric Chávez singled in the eighth to snap the string, the Angels led 5-0 and the game was out of reach.

Sabathia wasn’t nearly as dominant, but he was good. He escaped a bases-loaded jam in the first inning, yielded a run in the second on consecutive two-out doubles by Jeff Mathis and Macier Izturis, and fought through what must’ve been utter disbelief when Jorge Posada replaced Russell Martin behind the plate in the third. (In related news, the world did not come to an end.)

The Big Man’s most eventful inning was the sixth. Rookie Mike Trout doubled to lead off the frame, and Erick Aybar immediately squibbed a bunt that died midway between the plate and the mound. Both pitcher and catcher reacted slowly, and by the time Posada fielded and fired it to first, Aybar was safe and the speedy Trout had raced all the way home to give the Angels a 2-0 lead.

Even as the play was developing, something didn’t seem right. Both Sabathia and Jeter pointed in at the plate before Posada had even fielded the ball, and Girardi rushed from the dugout as soon as Trout touched home. Replays showed that Aybar’s bunt had actually gone foul before ricocheting off his knee back into fair territory. The umpires convened and got it right.

What was interesting, if not surprising, was how the Yankees’ and Angels’ broadcasters had completely different reactions to the play. The YES cameras found Girardi immediately, and they were quick to cut to multiple replays confirming the foul ball. As the home plate umpire listened to Girardi’s argument, Michael Kay breathlessly declared, “If they don’t reverse this, Girardi’s going to get kicked out of the game!” Seconds later, there was an air of righteous relief in the booth as the announcers congratulated the umpires for doing the right thing.

From the other side of the press box, it was a completely different play. The Fox Sports cameras zoomed tight on Trout as he jumped up from the plate, exultant after doubling his team’s lead. They cut quickly to the overjoyed crowd, then found Trout again as he bounced triumphantly into the dugout to receive his congratulations. When the cameras finally cut to Girardi and the umpires, the Angels’ announcers seemed completely surprised and wondered openly about what was going on. Here’s where things got really interesting, though. When the replay showed what happened, they wondered why they would overturn the call if they hadn’t seen it and called it in the first place. When manager Mike Scioscia rushed out to argue, they supported him completely, even though they must’ve known that Scioscia knew the ball had been foul.

After Aybar returned to the plate, Sabathia hit him with his next pitch and eventually loaded the bases with one out before producing two groundouts to escape and strand the bases loaded for the second time in the game. Sabathia’s evening was done. He wasn’t great during those six innings — eight hits, four walks, a hit batter, and 119 pitches — but on most nights it would’ve been good enough for a win.

On this night, though, Haren was unbeatable. (If you must know, it was Hector Noesi who coughed up four runs in the seventh to put the game out of reach, but I don’t really want to talk about that.) Haren gave up two singles in the eighth, but wriggled free when short stop Aybar dropped an Eduardo Núñez line drive and turned it into a 6-4-3 double play. (More nonsense from the Angels’ announcers: Mark Gubicza gushed about Aybar’s “baseball intelligence” for having the presence of mind to throw to second for the force after misplaying the line drive. Aybar will likely miss Sunday afternoon’s game because he’ll be in Stockholm to accept the first ever Nobel Prize of Baseball.)

But back to Haren. He cruised through the ninth to finish his 5-0 shutout [2], and the Yankees were left to ponder a sobering reality. In seventeen innings against Weaver and Haren, they looked like Little Leaguers. The combined line: 17 IP/7 H/1 R/2 BB/18 K. The Angels are charging, and I think it’s likely that they’ll overtake the Texas Rangers and win the A.L. West. Three weeks from now the Yankees might be looking at the prospect of facing Weaver in Game 1 and Haren in Game 2.

Buckle up.

[Photo Credit: Jae Hong/AP Photo]


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[1] Image: http://bronxbanter.arneson.name/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2011/09/posada.jpeg

[2] 5-0 shutout: http://sports.espn.go.com/mlb/boxscore?gameId=310910103

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