On May 12, 2001, 10 years ago today, A.J. Burnett pitched a no-hitter. It wasn't for the Yankees, it was for the Florida Marlins, against the San Diego Padres at Jack Murphy Stadium (or whatever corporate name it had at the time).
Last night, we were wondering who would show up for the Yankees: "Good A.J." as in 2009, or "Bad A.J." as in 2010.
Good A.J. showed up, and he brought it: 7 innings, ONE hit, one run -- a home run by Eric Hosmer. (He plays 1st base, which is appropriate, because before this game, I would have said, "Who?" Yes, Who is on first.)
And my fears about the unfamiliar Vin Mazzaro starting for the Kansas City Royals were unfounded: The native of Hackensack, New Jersey and graduate of Rutherford High School in, well, Rutherford, lasted only 4 innings, giving up 2 runs, including a league-leading 12th home run by Curtis Granderson.
So, going into the top of the 8th, it was Yankees 2, Royals 1. With the Yankee bullpen, this is a good sign.
Unfortunately, keeping Ye Olde Holy Pitch Count in mind, Joe Girardi pulled Burnett for David Robertson. Now, if you were reading last year, you know that Robertson drove me crazy last year, but has been superb this year. But he went back to last year's model, and blew the lead. The game went to extra innings, and the Royals scored in the top of the 10th ex-Met Jeff Francoeur singling home Hosmer to make it 3-2 Royals.
Then came the bottom of the 10th. This was the kind of inning you think about when your team misses the Playoffs by one fucking game. (In this case, I think the profanity is warranted.)
Joakim Soria comes in to pitch for the Royals. This guy can't find the plate with a map. He throws not a single strike (or, at least, not a single pitch I would have called a strike) to his first 2 batters. He walks Russell Martin on 4 straight pitches. Awright, leadoff man on.
Brett Gardner up. John Sterling says on WCBS that, with his speed, and the way the infield was set up, Gardner could have bunted to the left side and beaten the throw. That would be the tying and winning runs on with nobody out, and the next 3 hitters would be Derek Jeter, Granderson and Mark Teixeira. If the game remained undecided, next would be Alex Rodriguez. (Not Robinson Cano, however: He was hit in the head with a pitch earlier and had to be replaced by Eduardo Nunez. A CAT scan revealed nothing wrong, and he's day-to-day.)
Instead, bunting on orders from Girardi, Gardner bunts... to the right side! He gets thrown out. So now, instead of 1st and 2nd with nobody out, there's a man on 2nd with 1 out.
Jeter's hot streak comes to a crashing halt, finishing and 0-for-6 day with a grounder to short. Martin goes to 3rd. Now, I realize that, if there had been men on 1st and 2nd, this would likely have been a double play. But maybe not. Perhaps with 2 men on, Jeter would have approached the at-bat differently, and the game would have been tied, with men on 1st and 3rd (the winning run) and less than 2 out. Instead...
The Grandy Man came through again, singling home Martin. Tie game, man on 1st (the winning run) with 2 out. Teix up.
Flies out to center, where our old friend Melky Cabrera does his duty to his current team and catches it.
We go to the 11th. Instead of having won this thing in the 10th.
As Phillies fan Bill Cosby says, "Don't ever say, 'It can't get any worse.' It can always get worse!"
Instead of leaving A.J. in for the 8th and letting Mariano Rivera close it out in the 9th, Girardi brought Robertson in for the 8th, and he blew it. He also used Boone Logan in the 8th. He sent Mo in for the 9th and he got that job done, but he didn't send Mo back out for the 10th, and K.C. scored off Buddy Carlyle. Knowing that the Yankees had tied it and it would go to the 11th, did Girardi bring in a better pitcher?
No! He leaves the already-failed (at least in this game) Carlyle in! And he blows it again, walking leadoff hitter Chris Getz! Girardi pulls him for Luis Ayala. As Brandon C. of the blog Pinstripe Alley (see to the right) points out, this was a mistake, because the Yankees sent Lance Pendleton down to Scranton to make room for Ayala coming off the Disabled List. "You don't lose your job due to injury," one of the "unwritten rules" of sport.
Except, as Brandon C. also points out, the Yankees could have sent down Ramiro "Never mind what a lousy hitter I am, check out my versatility!" Pena to make room for Ayala. With Nunez, and Martin's ability to play multiple positions while Francisco Cervelli can be a good backup catcher (if not a great hitter), Pena is superfluous to Pinstripe aspirations. In other words, we don't need him.
And why was Ayala in the game in the first place? Because Rafael Soriano has a problem with his shoulder, and may have to go on the D.L.; and Joba Chamberlain was getting a night of rest. Okay, fair enough, but this was a situation tailor-made for Pendleton, who's been terrific since coming to the Yankees.
Ayala gets Alcides Escobar out, but he allows a single to Jarrod Dyson, getting Getz to third. And, again, Hosmer is involved, hitting an 0-and-2 pitch for a sacrifice fly that scores Getz.
In the bottom of the 11th, A-Rod flies out, and Nunez and Swisher strike out. Royals 4, Yankees 3.
WP: Soria (3-0), and giving him the win is a joke, but it's also the rule in this case. SV: Louis Coleman (1). LP: Carlyle (0-1).
All told, the Yankees got 12 hits, the Royals only 4, but it's runs that count. The Yankees were 2-for-16 with runners in scoring position last night. Two such hits in 11 fucking innings. They left 15 men on base. Fifteen. Thurman Munson's number.
Only 3 runs on 4 hits when the opposition scores 4 on 4 hits? 2-for-16 with RISP? 15 LOBs? Those facts are absolutely unacceptable.
The rubber game of the series is tonight. Ivan Nova starts against... another Who's He? Sean O'Sullivan. Cue Harrison Ford: "I've got a bad feeling about this!"
To make matters worse, technically, the Yankees are now tied for 1st with the Tampa Bay Rays, although we're .005 ahead of them percentage-wise and a game ahead in the AILC (All-Important Loss Column).
And the Rays are playing an early game against the Indians in Cleveland, and as I type this are winning 4-0 and threatening for more in the 3rd. By game-time, we will probably be out of 1st place. Got to take it back with a win over those Great Plains rednecks.
Jeter 2962 38
Rivera 572 29
A-Rod 618 145
Magic Number 127 (to eliminate Rays, 124 for O's, 122 for Scum and Jays)