Thursday, May 22, 2014

Two Weird Games at Wrigley

So the Yankees played 22 innings at Wrigley Field this week.

In the first 17 innings, against a very weak Chicago Cubs team, they scored exactly 1 run.

That was unacceptable.

Fortunately, they did something about it.

*

On Tuesday night, we found out that Masahiro Tanaka is human. He gave up 4 runs in 6 innings, and lost for the first time in the North American major leagues. He'd pitched pretty well until the bottom of the 6th, but the 2 runs he allowed then doomed him.

But it wouldn't have made a difference if the Yankees had hit the ball. Derek Jeter and Brett Gardner each got 2 hits, Mark Teixeira and Yangervis Solarte 1 each. That was it. The only Yankee run came in the top of the 6th, when Gardner led off with a double, Jeter grounded out, Jacoby Ellsbury popped up, and Teixeira singled him home.

That made it 2-1, but Tanaka proved mortal in the bottom half of the inning, and the Cubs scored 2 more off the bullpen in the 7th. That made the final score: Cubs 6, Yankees 1.

WP: Jason Hammel (5-2). No save. LP: Tanaka (6-1).

*

So yesterday, it was, as it was in the old days (before 1988), day baseball at the Friendly Confines of Wrigley Field.

Between them, Chase Whitley, Dellin Betances, Adam Warren and even Alfredo Aceves pitched decently for 8 innings. And still, the Yankees didn't hit, making Cub starter Jeff Samardzija look good.

There was "Yankees RISPfail" in the 2nd, 4th and 7th innings, but nobody could be brought around to score. So it was 2-0 Cubs.

Then came the top of the 9th, and the Cubs did what the Cubs so frequently do: They blew it.

Teix led off with a single. Brian McCann drew a walk, with Brendan Ryan pinch-running for him. Due to this being an Interleague game in a National League park, NL rules were in play, and with pitchers having to bat -- or be pinch-hit for -- substitutions were at a premium, and so Joe Girardi, himself a former Cub player who'd grown up in Illinois as a Cub fan, couldn't pinch-run for both of those slowpokes.

Solarte singled to load the bases with nobody out. If the Yankees couldn't get 2 runs out of this, to at least tie the game, they might as well have packed up the season.

The batter was Ichiro Suzuki. He hit a grounder to short, a perfect double-play ball, which would, at least, have gotten a run home. Except when Darwin Barney, the Cub 2nd baseman, threw over to 1st, he made a bad throw, and Ichiro was safe. That also allowed Ryan to score. Tie game, extra innings.

Matt Daley pitched the 9th and into the 10th for the Yankees. Matt Thornton finished the 10th and got into the 11th. Preston Claiborne finished the 11th and the 12th.

The Yankees stranded runners in the 10th and 11th, and when they stranded 2 in the 12th, I figured that was it, we weren't going to win this one.

Then came the top of the 13th, and 13 was an unlucky number for the Cubs -- who've had more than their share of bad luck in the last 100 or so years.

Or maybe it wasn't bad luck. Maybe it was bad management. Jose Veras was a Yankee for 3 seasons and part of a 4th. We got rid of him in 2009, and then won the World Series. He's never been especially useful. What is he still doing in the major leagues, let alone on the Cubs' roster? But Cub manager Rick Renteria brought him in to pitch the top of the 13th.

Ryan led off the inning with a single. Veras walked Solarte. That brought Claiborne to the plate. He had never come to bat in the major leagues before. With Girardi having no idea how much longer this game could go on, putting a pinch-hitter up and thus having to replace the pitcher was a bad idea. But with men on 1st & 2nd and nobody out, it was the perfect situation to lay down a bunt.

Claiborne laid down a beauty, moving both men over. Now it was 2nd & 3rd with 1 out. The potential winning run could score without needing a hit.

And no hit was needed. There are two things that get "uncorked": Bottles of wine, and wild pitches. John Ryan Murphy (I really hope they start calling him "J.R." instead) was batting, and Veras uncorked a wild pitch, scoring Ryan. 3-2 Yankees.

Murphy got the RBI hit anyway, scoring Solarte. 4-2 Yankees.

David Robertson allowed a 1-out single in the bottom of the 13th, but that would be it.

WP: Claiborne (2-0). SV: Robertson (9). LP: Veras (0-1).

*

So the Yankees split their 2 games at Wrigley, and now head down to the South Side of Chicago -- and the way the Cubs and the White Sox are playing these days, that is definitely the baddest part of town (but not the worst, baseball-wise). Here are the projected pitching matchups:

Tonight, 8:10 PM Eastern Time (7:10 Central), about an hour from this writing: David Phelps vs. Chris Sale. (I am not optimistic.)

Tomorrow night, 8:10 PM: Hiroki Kuroda vs. Hector Noesi. (I am much more optimistic about this one.)

Saturday afternoon, 2:10 PM: Vidal Nuno vs. John Danks. (This one could be ugly -- for both sides.)

Sunday afternoon, 2:10 PM: Tanaka vs. Andre Rienzo. (Probably a Yankee win.)

Then it's off to St. Louis for 3, before beginning a 6-game homestand vs. Minnesota and Oakland.

Come on you Bombers!

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