"Joe, you gotta be kidding me. This bum? Again?"
Phil Hughes pitched pretty well for 6 innings, and Nick Swisher hit a home run in the top of the 4th (his 24th of the season). The Twins pulled a run back in the bottom of the inning, but Russell Martin homered in the top of the 7th (his 19th). It was 3-1 Yankees and looking good.
Then came the meltdown. The 1st 2 batters in the bottom of the 7th were Ryan Doumit, who singled to center, and Chris Parmelee, who drew a walk, following up on his earlier double that got the Twins their 1st run. Hughes was in trouble, as the tying runs were on base and the go-ahead run was now at the plate.
He got Trevor Plouffe to pop up to 2nd, but Jamey Carroll beat out an infield single. Bases loaded, 1 out.
This might have been a good time for manager Joe Girardi to pull Hughes and bring in a reliever.
Instead, he goes against his usual policy, and trusts his starting pitcher, and leaves Hughes in to pitch to Pedro Florimon. And Hughes strikes him out.
Okay, he got the 2nd out. Maybe he can work out of this. Leave him in there to get the 3rd out.
Except that's not what Joe did. Whether he consulted that damn binder of his, or he simply had a hunch, I don't know, and I don't care. What matters is that he picked the wrong time to take Hughes out, and he picked the wrong pitcher to bring in: As Hank Williams would have said, "It's Boone Logan, I could cry."
Wild pitch, sending Doumit home and moving up the other runners. 3-2 Yankees.
Then he allowed a double to Denard Span. Not shocking: A, It was Span's 37th double of the season, and he's batting .289, so we're not talking about a bad hitter here, even though he's only got 3 homers; and B, It was Boone Logan, naturally. But it scored Parmelee and Carroll. 4-3 Twins.
You would think that, under these circumstances, Girardi would pull Logan immediately. You would think, but you'd be wrong. He left him in. Logan walked Ben Revere. (Not Paul Revere. Maybe Logan should have yelled, "The fastballs are coming! The fastballs are coming!" The results wouldn't have been any worse if the batters knew what was coming.)
Okay, now Girardi takes Logan out, right? Wrong. He only sends pitching coach Larry Rothschild out. Are you kidding me?
Logan allows a single to Joe Mauer. Great hitter, so no shame in that alone -- except it scored Span, making it 5-3 Twins, and that run would prove to be critical.
Wild pitch, double, walk, single. Turning a 3-1 lead into a 5-3 deficit.
Logan stinks. If this guy were righthanded, he wouldn't even be in the major leagues. But he's lefthanded, and so somebody is always going to think he has value. Unfortunately, for now, that somebody is Joe Girardi.
And in my hour of need, who goes and blows a lead? It's Boone Logan, naturally.
Look at that picture at the top: Even Derek Jeter seems to be saying, "Joe, you gotta be kidding me. This bum, again?"
Finally, Logan got the last out. Robinson Cano drew a 2-out walk in the 8th, but was stranded. Girardi brought Derek Lowe in to pitch the 8th. Oy vey, it's only a 2-run deficit, we could come back from this, and you're bringing in Derek "My Ability Was Once High But Now It's" Lowe? Actually, that worked out: Lowe pitched a scoreless inning.
Top of the 9th. Last chance. Curtis Granderson grounded out. Russell Martin struck out swinging. Andruw Jones, who lately has been as cold as Mitt Romney's heart, hit one out, his 14th homer of the season. 5-4 Twins. Tying run at the plate. But Jayson Nix strikes out. Game over.
WP: Casey Fien (2-1). SV: Glen Perkins (15). LP: Hughes (16-13), although it was more Logan's fault than anyone else's.
Still, the Orioles lost, so if we had to have a meltdown -- and it was as much Girardi's and Logan's as it was Hughes' -- then last night was the night to have it, rather than in the final series of the regular season, or in the Playoffs.
The Yankees remain a game and a half up with 8 to play (7 for the O's).
In other words, if the Yankees are only .500 the rest of the way, 4-4, the O's will have to go 5-2. So we're still very much in the driver's seat.
The Tampa Bay Rays beat the Boston Red Sox, 5-2, so they're 5 out. They're not yet eliminated from the Division race: Their elimination number is 4. Granted, they'd have to win all 8 of their remaining games, and the Yankees could still eliminate them by splitting theirs. But it's possible.
The Chicago White Sox and Detroit Tigers are now tied for the lead in the AL Central. The Texas Rangers' Magic Number to clinch the AL West over the Oakland Athletics remains 5. The Washington Nationals also have a MN of 5 to clinch the NL East, although the Atlanta Braves clinched at least a Wild Card berth last night -- with Freddie Freeman, who made the last out of last season's epic Braves collapse, hitting a walkoff homer to clinch it and beat the Miami Marlins. The Cincinnati Reds have already clinched the NL Central, the San Francisco Giants the NL West.
The Orioles lead the race for the AL Wild Card slots, and the A's have the 2nd slot. Trailing them are the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim by 2, the Rays by 3, and whoever loses the AL Central race (both the White Sox and Tigers currently trail the A's by 5).
The Braves have 1 NL Wild Card slot wrapped up, while the St. Louis Cardinals currently hold the other. The Los Angeles Dodgers and Milwaukee Brewers are both 4 1/2 behind them, the Philadelphia Phillies and Arizona Diamondbacks 5 1/2, and the Pittsburgh Pirates 7 1/2. The San Diego Padres were eliminated from contention last night.
CoolStandings.com rates the Yankees' chances of at least making the Playoffs as 99.3 percent, and winning the Division at 88.6 percent. Based on remaining schedule, they've got Detroit as 52 percent to win the AL Central. The O's are 82.6 to win at least a Wild Card, the A's 80.9, the Tigers 52.0, the White Sox 48.1, the Angels 24.9 and the Rays 12.6. In the NL, they've got St. Louis at 96.4 (that's for the other Wild Card berth), Milwaukee 2.2, L.A. 0.9, Arizona 0.4, and Philadelphia and Pittsburgh at less than 0.1 percent.
The Yanks-Twins series wraps up this afternoon at Target Field, first pitch scheduled for 1:10 PM (12:10 local time). CC Sabathia starts for us, Samuel Deduno for them. No, I'd never heard of him, either. He's a righthander from the Dominican Republic. He's 30, but he's pitched a grand total of 20 games in the major leagues, 14 of them this season. He previously pitched for the Colorado Rockies in 2010 and the Padres last year. He's the proverbial "pitcher the Yankees have never seen before," but, seeing as how he's past 30, not under 25, I think we can avoid that particular trap. The Orioles play tonight.
Come on you Bombers!