A lot of strange things to see around this team these days. Low scoring affairs that are more often lost than won, the bullpen struggling to hold leads, the Hall of Fame-bound captain losing his focus either while fielding or running the bases, and strangest of all a slightly-better than .500 team only four games back in the loss column from first place (a place they’ve held more often than not while enduring such strange conditions).
Granted, injuries to the pitching corps with middling replacements has had a lot to do with this situation, but then when those pitchers hold the opposing team to a low score, the offense doesn’t show up. The Scuffle of Kansas City was definitely on the minds of many as the Yanks shuffled west to battle a former teammate who is slowly, yet steadily revealing how important he actually was to his former team, Robbie Cano and his (yes, his) Seattle Mariners.
The Mariners threw righty Hisashi Iwakuma; a former senior teammate of current Yankee ace/stopper/rookie/everything M. Tanaka, who led off the first by striking out Gardner, then giving up a hard single to Jeter. He eventually moved to second on a Teixiera single, then scored on a Beltran double. Brian McCann followed that with an infield single that scored Teixiera and sent Beltran to third. But, as has happened far too often, the team left those two on base when Solarte grounded out.
Vidal Nuño; you just want to give him your faith when you see him pitch well, but seems to fall through the bad step in a rickety staircase when you do. After getting the first two outs of the inning, old buddy Robbie let everyone see what a hitter he actually is by doubling to left. Robbie, for what it’s worth, has built his average back up since his slow April and his averaging above .300, though his power has yet to return to expectations. Cole Gillespie followed with a single that scored Cano and I’m willing to bet most of you began to think “oh here we go” again. But Gillespie was subsequently caught stealing, momentarily short circuiting any potential rally, which for all intents and purposes is a good thing.
While Iwakuma cruised through the next several innings with little intrigue, Nuño continued to climb the stairs carefully through the next innings. Kyle Seager sent a pea to right field, but Ichiro channeled his inner Mighty Mouse with a leaping, tumbling grab of a certified double; you could only just shake your head and clap for the man. Later in the fourth, crumble! With two outs, Michael Saunders launched a high fly to center that was either going to nail the top of the wall or sneak over. Jacoby Ellsbury was on his horse though, cruising back to the wall, leaping and snagging the delinquent sphere that would have instigated much weeping and gnashing of virtual teeth. A fine catch on radio, I can assure you; let me know what you think about what you may have seen on TV. Nuño without a doubt was pleased that the staircase held his weight; I imagine there will be a steak dinner in the future for those two.
In the sixth, however, Robbie once again took advantage of the situation and singled to center, prompting Girardi to bring in the burgeoning star righty Dellin Dancin’ Bentances, who finished off the inning by inducing a ground ball from pinch hitter Endy Chavez. But in the seventh, Betances’s dance managed to stomp a hole through the step as he lost the plate and hit catcher Mike Zunino with a breaking ball, then uncorked a wild pitch that sent Zunino into scoring position; a chip that was cashed in two batters later by Dustin Ackley. Nuño, who had one of his good days that we always hope for, was suddenly out of the picture and Betances was staring cockeyed at a western omelet. Well, there was nothing for it at this point, so he wiped off the mess and squelched the impending rally two batters later by striking out Willy Bloomquist to end the inning and leave the game tied. For what it’s worth, Betances is growing; not quite what you would expect to say about a guy 6’8″ at 26 years old, but he’s steadily becoming a pitcher’s pitcher.
The following inning was a sine wave of philosophical impulses; do you believe in luck and if you do, is this a sign the Yanks’ bottle of good stuff has turned to vinegar? John Sterling had this to say in Gardner’s subsequent turn at bat:
“…THERE IT GOES TO RIGHT! IT IS HIGH, IT IS FAR, IT ISSS… FOUL..?“
It inched too far to the right of the foul pole, apparently. Bad luck? Then what did you think of the next pitch, which Gardner had the nerve to hit high and far to center, only for it to be caught at the warning track? Sucks to be him, I guess. But it didn’t suck to be Derek Jeter, who followed that drama with a big, big double to left center that also chased Iwakuma (up to this inning still cruising) from the game, and the Mariners gambled on their bullpen to hold it for the remainder to give their big hitters a chance to break the tie in the bottom. Only that didn’t happen; what did I say about luck? Ellsbury singled to the other alley and Jeter raced in with the go ahead run. All you needed now was for Adam Warren to hold the lead into the ninth so that The Hamma’ could nail it down and get a sorely needed win. Could he do it? Sure, though Cano once again punched a hole in the theory that he was not going to be badly missed with yet another single.
So all that was left was to root for Robertson to save the game. Zunino struck out. Saunders struck out. Ackley walked, and Lloyd McClendon pinch hit John Buck for Brad Miller. Buck is that guy who strikes out a lot and has a scary low average, but when gets a hold of one, he beats it like it owes him money. The Hamma’ was having none of that. Swing! Swing! Oops… Swing! Good night (morning?) from the far reaches of the north west corner of the nation, see you again tomorrow. Hopefully, the Yanks will finally bring some more scoring with them.
But hey, they at least won, 3-2.
[photo: Positive Exposures]