The Yankees started this West Coast trip in Los Angeles, against a great pitcher, after a rough travel schedule. They gagged a winnable game, 2-1, walk-off style. They won three of the next four. They seemed to have their feet under them, set to sweep Seattle, against a mediocre pitcher, looking ahead to their last day off of the season. And they gagged another winnable game, 2-1, walk-off style.
As easy as it was to anticipate the loss to Jered Weaver and the Angels on Friday night, the Yankees had to think this one was in the bag. But the Yankees did nothing for twelve innings and the Mariners, probably just out of sheer boredom, figured they’d better end the thing. Luis Rodriguez hit a game-ending home run off Cory Wade. He’s 31 years old, was out of baseball last year, and is hitting .176. Pretty much the same hitter as Jeff Mathis. It was his third extra base hit of the game.
It was Ivan Nova’s turn to shoot the fish in the barrel tonight. Against this team we have to recalibrate our expectations. A no-hitter would be a good game, a shut-out would be a quality start, etc. So Ivan Nova pitching over seven innings and allowing one run is an “OK job.”
The Yankees threatened to open the scoring in the third. Eduardo Nunez tucked a double inside the left field line, springing Andruw Jones from first with one out. Third base coach Rob Thomson waved Jones around third base. Given that Jones looked like he was reaching out for a little paper cup of water from Thomson at the time, it seemed like a bad move. Left fielder Mike Carp hit the second cut-off man Dustin Ackley, who relayed to Miguel Olivo, who ran out for a quick coffee from Zeitgeist around the corner, and then applied the tag with ease when he returned.
The Mariners broke the ice in the bottom half of the fourth, but to be fair, it was by accident. Ivan Nova lost the strike zone, walked two and threw a wild pitch. With two outs and men on the corners, a ball slipped high over Martin’s head. He got his glove to it, but couldn’t make the catch. Mike Carp was ready to run and scored the first run.
Flash forward to the seventh, yes, the seventh, and Nick Swisher notched the Yanks third hit with a solo homer to left. Eric Wedge removed Jason Vargas at that point. He held the Yankees to three hits and four base runners, and several trillion foul balls over six and two thirds. Even though the Yankees were pathetic, and they abandoned their patient approach after three innings, those first three frames served to jack up the pitch count so much that Vargas couldn’t even finish the seventh.
Ivan Nova came out for the eighth, and grooved a fastball to Luis Rodriguez. Having the night of his life, he doubled into deep right center. The Mariners bunted him to third. Eduardo Nunez vacated the position again, so Nova couldn’t nab the lead runner, even though the bunt was too hard.
The Yankees walked Ichiro intentionally in front of Kyle Seager and Dustin Ackley. Or as new pitcher David Robertson knows them, a couple of nails. The Hammer fell, pop out, strikeout, and preserved the tie.
Curtis Granderson led off the ninth and hit a long Yankee Stadium homer off of Brandon League. In Safeco, Ichiro caught it in front of the wall. Robinson Cano slapped a two-out double to left, and the Mariners walked Swisher to face Jesus Montero. League set him up with heat, and put him away with breaking stuff in the dirt. Montero struck out three times, popped out and squibbed one about ten feet in front of home plate.
Rafeal Soriano pitched the ninth. He blew away Mike Carp, but Adam Kennedy fisted one into shallow left. Eduardo Nunez could have caught it but didn’t. Friggin defense. Then Olivo lofted the ball down the left field line. Off the bat it looked like an out at medium depth. But when Gardner came in the picture, he was acres away from where the ball was going to land. He covered the distance in an instant and made a sweet sliding catch. Friggin A, defense! Soriano downed Wily Mo Pena to end the inning.
In the bottom of the tenth, Boone Logan came in for his first action since Baltimore. Logan got four outs and allowed two hits, but at least he got some lefties out. He stranded two runners in the tenth and then gave way to Cory Wade to strand one more in the eleventh.
In the top of the 11th, Mark Teixeira hit another deep out. It was well struck, but this place is just a black hole. The Yanks got four hits in twelve innings. They took two walks and got plunked twice. What a mess.
Justin Smoak and Jesus Montero were on the same field this series. It’s not Smoak’s fault, but as long as he is a Mariner, I’ll root against him. Smoak hurt his groin, Montero avoided injury, unless his feelings were hurt by having a really bad night. So advantage Montero, I guess. Montero sure doesn’t like to get a strike called on him. He spends a lot of time walking around the batter’s box, rolling his eyes and sighing.
Smoak’s dismal stats thus far in 2011 are .230/.324/.394, but somehow that OPS+ is above average, 103. How down is offense in general and how fallow a hitting environment is Safeco for that P.O.S. line to be above average? In Dodger Stadium in 1965, a dude named Lou Johnson hit .259/.315/.391 for an OPS+ of 104. So Safeco is basically a time machine.
This is getting depressing, let’s try some jokes.
Hey, how about this Mariner lineup? The Ghost of Ichiro, top prospect Dustin Ackley, and then seven guys they promoted from the food court earlier that day. No offense, but that’s no offense. How far gone is Ichiro? He grounded into a double play. Yeesh. Their best hope of moving out of the cellar next year is Bud Selig forcing the Houston Astros to relocate there.
And thank goodness Bud Selig’s fourteen year nightmare of having six teams in the NL Central might be over. Can you remember back in 1998 when that bastard owner of the Brewers, Bud Selig, forced the saintly commissioner, Bud Selig, to shoehorn the Milwaukee Brewers in there? He’s totally justified in strong-arming the potential new ownership in Houston to accept the move as a pre-condition of the sale.
Nah, not helping.
By the time this game reached extra innings, victory became secondary to just getting the hell out of that offensive graveyard. Heaven forbid the Yankees get permanently tainted by whatever’s going there to make that such a miserable team.
The Yankees have had every opportunity in these last eight games to take the division by the throat, make the next Boston series meaningless, and to rest their players in the final two weeks with nothing at stake. Instead they have lost four one-run heartbreakers, including three in extra innings and two as walk-offs.
If it feels like they never win in extra innings, you’re right. They are 4-10. But the Red Sox lost and they still have a four game lead, and something just as nice, a day off.