Tuesday, September 3, 2013

It's Pennant Race Time

Technical issues prevented me from posting over the Labor Day weekend.  Not happy about that.

But taking 3 out of 4 games over that stretch? Including 2 of 3 against the Baltimore Orioles, fellow contenders for the AL East title and the AL Wild Card spots? I'm okay with that.

On Friday night, CC Sabathia, again, did not pitch well.  He didn't get through the 6th inning, allowing 5 runs (all earned) on 7 hits, although only 1 walk.

This time, though, the Yanks bailed the Big Fella out with runs, lots of them.  Trailing 1-0 in the bottom of the 4th, with 2 out, Robinson Cano drew a walk, and Alfonso Soriano hit one out to give the Yanks a 2-1 lead.  (It was his 12th homer for the Yankees, his 29th overall.)

The O's struck back in the top of the 5th, taking a 4-2 lead.  But back-to-back doubles by Curtis Granderson and Mark Reynolds, a homer by Ichiro Suzuki (his 7th), a double by Austin Romine, a single by Brett Gardner, a walk by Derek Jeter, and a single by Cano made it 7-4 Yanks.  The O's got a run back in the 6th, chasing CC, but the Yanks got that back in the 7th thanks to a 2-out rallY: A Cano single, Soriano getting hit with a pitch, and Alex Rodriguez singling Cano home.

Yankees 8, Orioles 5.  WP: Sabathia (12-11).  SV: Mariano Rivera (39).  LP: Miguel Gonzalez (8-7).

*

Saturday's game was the opposite: The Yankees got only 2 runs on 7 hits, but it was enough.  In the 1st, Gardner doubled, Jeter moved him over with a groundout, and Cano doubled.  Cano then led off the 8th with a home run (his 25th).

In between, Joe Girardi must have lost his Binder, because he allowed Ivan Nova to pitch a complete game.  And it was a shutout.  In the 2nd, Nova hit Adam Jones with a pitch and allowed a single to Matt Wieters.  In the 4th, he hit Chris Davis.  In the 6th, he allowed a single to Manny Machado.  In the 8th, he walked J.J. Hardy.  And in the 9th, he allowed a single to Nate McLough.  That was all the baserunners he allowed, and nobody even got to 3rd base.

Yankees 2, Orioles 0.  WP: Nova (8-4).  No save necessary.  LP: Scott Feldman (11-10).

Without Nova's revival, the Yankees would already be out of postseason contention.

*

On Sunday, I was pleased by Liverpool's 1-0 win over Manchester United, and, as they say in England, "chuffed" by Arsenal's 1-0 win over Tottenham.  These two arch-rivalry games were, combined, a wonderful thing.  Actually, either would have been a wonderful thing.  But I would have accept a Man U win over the Scousers, if Arsenal had also beaten The Scum (English soccer edition, not to be confused with the Boston Red Sox or the New York Rangers).

Then the Yankees had to go and mess it up.  Or, more accurately, Shawn Kelley, Boone Logan and Joba Chamberlain had to go and mess it up.

The Yankees led 3-0 going into the top of the 7th, thanks to a Soriano RBI single in the 3rd, and a bases-loaded walk by Gardner and a sacrifice fly by Jeter in the 4th.  Andy Pettitte had pitched 6 strong innings, and there was plenty of reason to believe the Yankees would win.

But Andy allowed a pair of singles to lead off the 7th, and suddenly the tying run was at the plate.  Girardi must have found the damn Binder, because he took Andy out and He brought in Kelley.  Now, I'm not that mad at Kelley: This was a rare bad outing for him.  But Binder Boy Boone, and Joba? Surely, by now, Joe has learned not to trust those 2 in a close game.

I can tell what you're thinking: "No, Mike, he hasn't.  And don't call me Shirley."

Looks like I picked the wrong week to quit blogging.

Behold the damage in the top of the 7th inning on Sunday:

* Michael Morse singles to lead off.

* Danny Valencia also singles.

* Girardi replaces Pettitte with Kelley.  It is still 3-0 Yankees, but men on 1st & 2nd with nobody out.

* Wieters singles.  Morse scores.  3-1 Yankees.

* Hardy hits one out.  4-3 Orioles.

* Girardi replaces Kelley with Logan.  Whatever happens next, it can't be added to "Logan's Litany of Losing," right? Wrong: The O's only lead by 1 run, and 1 run can be overcome without much trouble.  But if Logan makes things worse, it counts in the Litany, even if the Yankees don't score another run.

* Brian Roberts singles.  A runner who is the responsibility of Logan.

* Nick Markakis draws a walk.  Also the responsibility of Logan.

* Girardi finally realizes that the Binder doesn't know what the hell is going on, and replaces Logan... with Joba.

* Joba finally gets the inning's 1st out, getting Machado to pop up a bunt, which catcher Chris Stewart catches.

* Jones takes Joba deep.  7-3 Orioles.  The 5th and 6th runs, the responsibility of Logan, leading to the 7th.

And that's the final score, as Joba got the last 2 outs, but the damage was done.  WP: Kevin Gausman (2-3).  No save.  LP: Kelley (4-2).  But the real loser is Girardi, who, again, panicked, and put in the wrong relievers.

Nevertheless, this game still counts as Game 33 in Logan's Litany of Losing.  An update is necessary, and will soon follow.

*

I would be just fine with taking 2 of 3 from the Birds, if the 3rd wasn't lost in such crap fashion.  Fortunately, there was a cure for what ailed me, and it was a Labor Day matinee, home to the Chicago White Sox, who are seriously struggling this season.

As bad as the top of the 7th was for the Yankees the day before, the bottom of the 8th yesterday was even better.  But first, there was a 2-hour rain delay.  When it ended, Girardi decided not to send Phil Hughes back out there, even though Hughes had pitched to 5 batters and gotten 4 of them out.

Joe turned to David Huff, who's been pretty good since coming over, including one long outing in relief of the insanely struggling Hughes.  Huff went all the way to the 7th inning, allowing just 1 run on 5 hits and (I love seeing these words in connection with Yankee pitchers) no walks.

A Gardner double and a Jeter single gave the Yankees a 1-0 lead in the 1st, but that gave no indication as to the joy that was coming in the 4th.  To wit:

* A-Rod leads off with a double.

* Vernon Wells (Remember him?) hits a deflected grounder that gets himself to 1st and A-Rod to 3rd.

* Curtis Granderson walks to load the bases with nobody out.

* Reynolds singles home A-Rod.  Bases remain loaded.  2-0.

* Romine singles home Wells and Granderson.  4-0.

* Gardner doubles home Reynolds.  5-0.

* Jeter singles home Romine.  6-0.

* Finally, the ChiSox get the 1st out, as they pop Cano up.

* Soriano doubles home Gardner.  7-0.

* A-Rod comes to bat for the 2nd time in the inning.  Sox catcher Josh Phegley drops a foul pop-up.  Then A-Rod draws a walk.

* Wells grounds into a force play, except Adam Dunn -- a great slugger but strikes out too much and is a born DH who is playing 1st base, makes a throwing error, allowing home Jeter and Soriano.  9-0.

* Finally, Granderson and Reynolds ground into successive forceouts to end the carnage.

Isn't "carnage" a great word?

The Sox got on the board in the 7th with a Paul Konerko homer, the 432nd of his career.  (You didn't know he had more career home runs than Yogi Berra, Joe DiMaggio, Jim Rice, Johnny Bench, Graig Nettles, Dale Murphy, Al Kaline, Duke Snider, David Ortiz, Billy Williams and Mike Piazza, did you?) But that was all the Pale Hose got.

Yankees 9, White Sox 1.  WP: Huff (2-0).  No save.  LP: Jose Quintana (7-5).

*

The Yankees have 25 games left.  They are 7 1/2 games out of 1st place in the AL East.  They probably can't catch the Red Sox.  They are 2 1/2 games out of the AL's 2nd Wild Card.  They probably can catch either Tampa Bay or either Oakland and Texas, whichever ends up not winning the AL West.

We shall see.  It's September.  It's Pennant Race time.

Yeah, I know, it should be called "Playoff Race time." But I'm old-school, and there's just something about the word "Pennant."

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