Masahiro Tanaka out-aced Max Scherzer in a titanic pitching duel last night. The final score skews Yankees because of a seventh inning bulge that came very close to not happening. But before that, it was a doozy.
Let’s pick up the two Tanaka-Harper showdowns that changed the game. In the 4th inning, Tanaka zipped a low fastball that caught a good chunk of the plate. It wasn’t a bad pitch, but I doubt anybody is surprised that Harper got good wood on it. The landing spot however, would be a surprise for most other hitters. Harper festooned just left of dead-center with a moon-shot and that tied the score at one apiece.
It was still tied when Harper batted again in the 7th and this time, Tanaka was better. For a few pitches. He dipped three splitters in and out of the zone and Harper fell behind in the count. Then Tanaka’s splitter slipped and meatball alarms blared throughout the stadium. If Harper had hit a 93 mph heater, low and away, out to the deepest part of the park, what was he going to do this 88 mph floating orb of “hit-me”?
Turns out he was going to bunt it foul. As our friends at the firm of St. Hubbins and Tufnel have held forth, there’s a fine line between clever and stupid and Harper found himself squarely in stupidtown. He took the bat out of his own hands during a crucial spot in a tight game facing what very may well be the best pitch he’ll see all season.
The Yankees quickly turned good fortune into runs in the bottom of the inning. Evidence that Alex Rodriguez has not yet won back the hearts and minds of the Yankee organization? He didn’t get credited for the hit that won the game. With Scherzer on the ropes and passing one hundred and eleventy pitches or so, Alex smacked a first-pitch sitter towards left field. Desmond made a great dive to his right to snag it and save the run, but he wanted to end the inning as well. From his knees he gunned to third, but failed to calculate
Pirela’s Flores’ ETA correctly and his throw nicked Flores as he slid and bounced into the seats.
Flores scored the run and the Yanks tacked on with big hits from McCann and Beltran and, get this, a second homer from Stephen Drew. They won 6-1. But man, how is that not a hit for Arod? Desmond had no other plays around the diamond and it would have taken a degree from MIT to figure out where to the throw the ball in order to keep Rendon on the bag and avoid hitting Flores. From his knees. Imagine the whining we’d hear from David Ortiz if his home park official scorer jobbed him on a play like that?
With a big lead lead, Miller and Betances seems like overkill, but with a day-off coming, why not. Miller and Betances and no more chances. Miller and Betances and you better sit out these dances. Remember when Joba came up and was the best reliever we’ve ever seen for 24 innings? Betances is that, but now over 122 innings.
NBA Finals, do not sleep on this. LeBron James went to Miami and became just about the perfect basketball machine. He was lethal and efficient and, when Wade and Bosh were firing, often didn’t have to break a sweat to level a team. One year later and he has scrapped that model completely and become a tornado of basketball ability, barely harnessed and unleashing destruction all over the court. It’s hard to watch him miss so often when he had basically eliminated bad shots from his game over the last four seasons, but the fact that he’s found this gear under these circumstances is one of the great individual performances in basketball history. I hope he’s got two more wins in him.
Artwork by Bob Layton, Marvel Comics