The Yanks have two reliable starters–C.C. Sabathia and Hiroki Kuroda. Neither have been terrific of late and right when the team needs them the most. This especially true of Sabathia who has been their Little Big Man. Tonight, a win would put the Yankees two games ahead of the Orioles with a chance to make it three tomorrow. But Sabathia did not pitch like an ace, giving up five runs in 6.1 innings. The Orioles hit three home runs against him.
Meanwhile, the Yanks scored a run in the first and a run in the second against Joe Saunders but then he tantalized them with an effective combination of change-ups and breaking pitches (his fastball topped out at 87-88 mph), retiring ten in a row at one point. Yankee hitters just missed hitting home runs and they struck out in key situations. Example: they had men on first and second with one out in the sixth when Russell Martin whiffed and Curtis Granderson, you guessed it, struck out too.
Nick Swisher is 0-for his last-23, 2-38.
Mark Teixeira was called out on a close pitch against Pedro Strop with one out in the eighth. It was a full count and the damn pitch looked outside. I don’t know about you but I was screaming from my couch at home. Ken Singleton, ever the diplomat, said on the YES broadcast that it was too close to take.
Alex Rodriguez crushed the first pitch he saw from Strop, a fastball, over the center field fence for a homer and when a 1-1 breaking ball to Robinson Cano looked outside Rodriguez started yelling from the dugout at the ump. Cano walked and Russell Martin got ahead, 3-1, fouled off a fastball right over the plate, just a little too high to do anything with, and then lined a base hit, off another high fastball, to right center.
That put runners at first and third and ended Strop’s night. Brian Matusz relieved him and faced Curtis-5-for-his-last-42-Granderson. Eduardo Nunez pinch running for Martin. A ball, a called strike, a ball, then a fastball over the plate and Grandy got under it: a harmless pop up to the catcher.
In the ninth, Ichiro singles to left to open the inning against Jim Johnson. Eric Chavez singles to left on the first pitch he saw.
Jeter and nerves a plenty round my way. Does he bunt? The Orioles play the infield in. He bunts…and gets a base hit.
Swisher. Bases loaded, nobody out. Soft ground ball to short, too slow for a double play. Run scores, 5-4. The relay throw to first bounced and Mark Reynolds made a nice play to field it and stay on the bag. They just get Swisher.
Ball one in the dirt to Teixeira. Fastball low, 2-0. Change up, up in the zone, outer part of the plate and good for a called strike. Fastball, same spot, called strike two. Curve ball, fouled off, barely. And then, a sinker. Teixeira hits a soft grounder to second, they go to second for the first out. Teixeira hobbling down the line dives head first into the bag and beats the play. Easily.
And Jerry Meals calls him out.
During this string of poor play, this has to count as one of the most dispiriting losses. It went from disappointing to infuriating.
The ump may have cost them a chance to win at the end but the majority of this one rests on Sabathia’s shoulders. There’s no way to soften it, unless he’s pitching hurt, which is a possibility, who knows? Regardless, he’s supposed to be The Stopper, The Ace, and right now, he’s a Grade A Dud.
As a side note, Sabathia hit Nick Markakis in the thumb with a pitch. Markakis left the game and was later seen in the dugout with his hand wrapped. Buck Showalter came over and gave him a hug. He’s a likable player and a damn good one too. But Markakis is out six weeks, and man, you hate to see that.
There was pain to go around tonight, even for the winners.
[Photo Credit: Brechtbug]