Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Cano Returns, and An Inning From Hell; Edgar Laprade, 1919-2014

Now, where were we? What last we left Blogman, he was trying to save the world from former friend Robinson Cano and his new friends in the Pacific Northwest.

He failed.

Last Tuesday (a week ago yesterday), the Seattle Mariners came in with Robbie, and there were signs in the stands, and chants, referencing that he left the Yankees and went to another team for the money.

This is true, but it's also ridiculous. Many players have come to the Yankees for money. The Yankees didn't another long-term deal on their books, as with Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira and CC Sabathia.

CC was the starting pitcher that night, and he was doing fine over the first 4 innings, with a 2-0 lead, partly thanks to a home run by Teix (his 3rd of the season). But in the 5th, the M's tagged him for 4 runs. Dellin Betances was no better, and a brief Yankee comeback in the 9th stalled quickly.

Mariners 6, Yankees 3. WP: Chris Young (1-0). No save. LP: Sabathia (3-3).

*

The next day's game was postponed due to rain. Hiroki Kuroda took the mound for the Yanks on Thursday night, and didn't pitch badly (6 innings, 7 strikeouts, only 1 walk), but neither did he have his good stuff (4 runs, 3 of them earned, on 7 hits).

Jacoby Ellsbury hit his 1st Yankee home run in the 1st inning, but aside from an RBI single by Brian McCann in the 6th, the Yanks did nothing after that.

Mariners 4, Yankees 2. WP: Roenis Elias (2-2). SV: Fernando Rodney (6). LP: Kuroda (2-3).

For the series, Cano went 2-for-9, with a double and 2 RBIs. Not great, but his team did sweep the 2 games that were actually played.

*

Then the Tampa Bay Rays came in. And May 2, 2014 is a date which will live in Bronx infamy. This was the game that wouldn't die, but we wished it would.

With Ivan Nova injured, manager Joe Girardi looked in his Binders Full of Strategies, and decided to start Vidal Nuno. This was not a good idea, especially with the Rays starting their ace, David Price. And Nuno did not get out of the 5th inning.

But the Yankees outlasted Price: When Rays manager Joe Maddon brought Joel Peralta in to pitch the 8th, we tagged him for 3 runs, including back-to-back homers by Teix (his 4th) and Alfonso Soriano (his 5th). McCann had already hit his 4th homer off Price. It was 4-4 going to the 9th.

But David Robertson couldn't hold the tie in the top of the 9th, and the Rays led, 5-4. Brian Roberts led off the bottom of the 9th with a single. Yangervis Solarte moved him to 2nd with a groundout. Roberts stole 3rd. Kelly Johnson grounded out, and Roberts couldn't score. But Ellsbury singled him home, to tie the game.

With Derek Jeter up, and the winning run on 2nd base, a win in regulation looked possible. Then Ellsbury got himself picked off. We went to extra innings.

The Yankees went down 1-2-3 in the 10th. Roberts and Solarte had back-to-back singles with 2 out in the 11th, but Ichiro Suzuki grounded out to end the inning.

The 12th inning was the one that showed an astute longtime Yankeewatcher that it wasn't going to end well. Ellsbury led off with a single, and Jeter grounded back to Rays reliever Heath Bell, who threw it away trying to start a double play on Ellsbury at 2nd. 1st & 2nd, nobody out, and the next 3 batters are Beltran, Teixeira and Soriano? Surely, the winning run will come home.

It didn't come home, and don't call me "Shirley."

Beltran tried to bunt the runners over. A man with 1,340 career RBIs, and a lefthanded hitter with that short porch in right field. And Girardi wanted him to bunt. What the hell, Joe?

On the 2nd pitch, Beltran swung away, and it was the craziest double play we're likely to see for a while: The ball went to 2nd baseman Ben Zobrist, to 1st baseman James Loney, and Jeter was caught in a rundown, to shortstop Yunel Escobar, to Loney, to Zobrist, to Loney, to Zobrist, and then they decided to catch winning run Ellsbury in a rundown, to 3rd baseman Evan Longoria, to catcher Ryan Hanigan, and Ellsbury was out at the plate. Beltran was already out at 1st. The only runner left was Jeter at 3rd.

Teixeira was hit with a pitch, which turned out to be meaningless (thankfully, he wasn't hurt). Soriano grounded to 2nd, end of inning.

We went to the 13th, and the Twitter hashtag #WhenThisGameStarted appeared. The Yankees turned a double play, initially ruled a force play, but Girardi appealed, and won. Maddon argued, and got tossed. Adam Warren got out of the jam.

The Brians, McCann and Roberts, singled to lead off the bottom of the 13th. Again, 1st & 2nd with nobody out. Solarte grounded out, but moved the runners over. So man on 3rd with less than 2 out: We didn't need a hit to score the winning run.

But what had been the designated hitter's spot in the order was up, and because of all his Binder-inspired defensive machinations, Girardi had lost the right to use the DH. And so it was the pitcher, Warren, who was due up. Girardi sent Brett Gardner to bat for him, meaning he had to burn another pitcher as well. Gardner grounded out, and McCann had to hold at 3rd. Captain Clutch was up, but Jeter grounded out, too. 3 Yankee extra-inning RISPfails.

Down to pretty much his last non-starting pitcher, Girardi brought in Chris Leroux, for only his 2nd appearance as a Yankee. He's a 30-year-old righthander from the Toronto suburbs, and it was his 65th career appearance, most of them coming for a bad Pittsburgh Pirates team. (He pitched for the Pirates last year, their first Playoff appearance in 21 years, but was no contributor, pitching twice for them, and not well.) This is a guy who shouldn't even be in the major leagues. Girardi would have been better off bringing in Sydney Leroux (the star striker for the U.S. women's soccer team -- at least she's good at a sport, even if it's not baseball). Also, Girardi left Gardner in the game to play center field, meaning we lost Ellsbury's bat -- not that this would mean much.

Remember, the inning started 5-5. You don't usually see innings like this in extra innings. If you do, you know it's the visiting team putting it up. This was an Inning From Hell.




Pitching Change: Chris Leroux replaces Adam Warren, batting 1st, replacing center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury.
 
Leroux started the inning by walking Desmond Jennings. A leadoff walk is never good, especially in a tie game. Then, Leroux struck out Longoria. Okay, that's not so bad. Two more outs can't be too hard, can it?

Oh, it can. Jennings stole 2nd. And Wil Myers singled him home. 6-5 Rays. Suddenly, every Yankee Fan remaining in The Stadium knew it was over.

Except it wasn't over. Not by a long shot. And not in a good way. Sean Rodriguez doubled Myers home. 7-5. Brandon Guyer singled Rodriguez home, and reached 2nd on the play at the late. 8-5. Girardi ordered Leroux to walk Matt Joyce. Escobar singled home Guyer. 9-5. Ryan Hanigan singled home Joyce. 10-5.

At this point, Leroux's ERA for the game was 135.00. He struck out Zobrist and got Jennings to ground into a force play, finally ending the inning. As Phil Rizzuto would have said, "But the damager is done. Holy cow, Bill White, what's comin' off here?"

The wheels, Scooter. The wheels came off. This was all on Girardi, for messing up the pitching staff again. If he'd gotten that right, the game would've been won in 9, instead of being lost in 14.

WP: Bell (1-1). No save. LP: Leroux (0-1).

*

As Ron Guidry did in 1978, Masahiro Tanaka was the Losing Streak Killer. He started on Saturday, and went 7 innings, allowing 3 runs on 8 hits and -- I love seeing these words in connection with a Yankee pitcher -- no walks.

Teixeira hit his 5th homer in the 4th inning, and Kelly Johnson hit his 4th in the 6th. Every Yankee starter reached base at least once except Soriano, and he at least got a run home on a strategic groundout.

Scoreless innings were pitched by Betances and Preston Claiborne, and normal service was resumed. Yankees 9, Rays 3. WP: Tanaka (4-0). No save. LP: Josh Lueke (0-2).

*

But on Sunday, CC started, and, again, the Big Fella didn't have it. He didn't get out of the 4th inning. Old friend Alfredo Aceves, let go by the Red Sox after last season, and then signed and just as quickly dumped by the Baltimore Orioles, made his first Yankee appearance since May 8, 2010. In 5 1/3 innings (and the bullpen really did need that rest), he allowed no runs, and only 3 baserunners, giving the Yankee bats a chance to get back into the game.

It didn't happen: Aside from a Solarte sacrifice fly in the 2nd inning, we got nothing. We had 1st & 2nd with 2 out in the 4th -- nothing. 1st & 2nd with nobody out in the 5th -- nothing. 1st & 2nd with nobody out in the 7th -- nothing. Man on 1st with 1 out in the 9th -- nothing.

Rays 5, Yankees 1. WP: Erik Bedard (1-1). No save. LP: Sabathia (3-4). Has CC had it? I sure hope not.

*

Not a good stretch for the Yankees. It's almost as if going out to California was a punishment.
Oh, in case you're wondering: When the Yankees signed Aceves, they designated Leroux for assignment. That's baseball talk for, "Go away, we never want to see your sorry ass again."
Here's my question: Why'd it take them 4 years, and the running out of his contract, for them to do that with Boone Logan?
Oh, that's right: Logan is lefthanded, Leroux is righthanded.

*

Back when the New York Rangers didn't suck, they had a great player named Edgar Laprade.

Edgar Louis Laprade was born on October 10, 1919 in Mine Center, Ontario, and grew up in Port Arthur, Ontario. A center, he led the Port Arthur Bearcats to the Allan Cup, Canada's national amateur hockey championship, in 1940. Just before that season, he married his coach's niece, Arline Whear. They would go on to have 3 daughters. However, his entry into the NHL was delayed by World War II, in which he served in the Canadian Army.

After his discharge, "Beaver" Laprade was purchased by the Rangers, made his debut in the 1945-46 season, and won the Calder Trophy as NHL Rookie of the Year. In 1947, he was named to the 1st official NHL All-Star Game, and appeared in a total of 4 of them.
He played 3 full seasons without being called for a single penalty, including 1949-50, in which he was awarded the Lady Byng Trophy for "most gentlemanly player." That season, the Rangers reached the Stanley Cup Finals, the only time they would do so between 1940 and 1972. They lost to the Detroit Red Wings in overtime of Game 7, and that would be the closest Laprade ever came to winning the Cup.

He played 5 more seasons, until 1955, and retired. He and a friend, Guy Perciante, owned and managed an arena in Thunder Bay and a sporting goods store in Port Arthur. He served on the Port Arthur City Council for 12 years, and was elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1993. In 100 Ranger Greats, a book written by Russ Cohen, John Halligan and Adam Raider, he was ranked 24th.
Edgar Laprade died at his home in Thunder Bay, Ontario on April 28, 2014. He was 94 years old.

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