Friday, July 4, 2014

On the 4th, the Yankees Aren't THAT Far Out of 1st

I have nearly a week of game reports to make up for. So I'll post only the facts that I think are relevant: Scores, pitchers of record, home runs, controversies.

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Last Saturday: The Yankees got only 5 hits off Jon Lester (9-7), and made Masahiro Tanaka (11-3) an undeserved loser because they got him only 1 run.

Knowing that Yanks-Sox games burn relievers like crazy, Joe Girardi left Tanaka in for the full 9 innings, and, in the 9th, having already gotten Mike Napoli out with breaking stuff, he shook catcher Brian McCann off and wanted to throw him a fastball. Napoli hit a game-winning home run. Red Sox 2, Yankees 1.

When Napoli got back to the Sox dugout, he could be heard saying, "What an idiot!"

No. Napoli is the idiot. Every bit as much as Pedro Martinez was when he said, "I just tip my hat and call the Yankees my daddy." Before that night, Yankee Fans only disliked Napoli because he was Red Scum. Now, they'll hate him for having the typical Sox classlessness.

Of course, if the Yankees had managed to score 3 runs -- hardly an unreasonable insistence, even without considering how much money they're making -- Napoli's homer would have been meaningless.

Anyway, Koji Uehara got his 17th save.

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On Sunday, David Ortiz hit his 450th career home run, his 41st against the Yankees. (Believe it or not, he has more homers against Toronto, 50, and Tampa Bay, 43.) Counting postseason play, it was his 46th against us. And still, no Yankee pitcher will brush him back, let alone hit him. (Except CC Sabathia, who seems to have had another injury setback.)

Mark Teixeira hit his 15th home run, Carlos Beltran his 8th -- not bad totals for half a season, for either one, considering their ages and their injuries. But Chase Whitley didn't get out of the 5th inning (3-2), and John Lackey (9-5) and Uehara (18th save) got the job done for The Scum. Red Sox 8, Yankees 5.

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The Tampa Bay Rays have finally collapsed, and should have been just what Dr. Uncle Mike ordered. Instead, we clowned our way through a 3-game home series, and Monday's opener was really not what I needed in terms of comfort in my time of need.

David Phelps pitched pretty well, but the Yankees still trailed 3-2 in the bottom of the 9th. But Brian Roberts, not exactly a home run hitter, hit one to tie the game.

But the Yankees couldn't get a winner across in the 9th, wasted a leadoff single from Derek Jeter in the 10th, went 1-2-3 in the 11th, and Jose Ramirez allowed a 2-out walk/stolen base/RBI single in the 12th, followed by a weak 1-2-3 bottom of the inning.

Rays 4, Yankees 3. WP: Brad Boxberger (1-1). LP: Ramirez (0-2).

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I wasn't happy about the Tuesday night game, either. Mere hours after the U.S. soccer team withstood a Belgium barrage to reach extra time scoreless, then fell behind 2-0, then got to 2-1, and had their chances until the end, as New Jersey's own Tim Howard made a World Cup game record 16 saves, the Yankees also scored only once.

They got only 4 hits: A single and a double by Jeter, a single by Jacoby Ellsbury, and a single by Yangervis Solarte -- who's now been sent down to the minors due to a slump. Hopefully, he'll be back up soon, because he's a big reason why we're not much worse off.

Hiroki Kuroda pitched well (5-6). But David Price pitched better (7-7, and I'm guessing he hasn't had a lot of run support this season, either). Grant Balfour (11th save) finished it off. Rays 2, Yankees 1.

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The Yankees didn't snap out of it on Wednesday, either, falling below .500. McCann hit his 10th homer, and Brett Gardner his 8th. (To put that in perspective, Robinson Cano has only 6 -- but he's batting .323 with 51 RBIs, and the Seattle Mariners are very much in the Playoff hunt.)

Vidal Nuno (2-5) wasn't terrible, but neither was he especially good. Jake Odorizzi (4-7) had the good fortune to face a Yankee team that was hitting a little better, but just not good enough. Boxberger got his first save. Rays 6, Yankees 3.

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So the Yankees headed out to Minnesota for a 4-game series against the Twins. Finally, after 5 straight losses, they got back on track.

Tanaka was not brilliant, but then he'd pitched well 2 games in a row without getting the run support he needed. This time, he went 7 innings, allowing 4 runs on 9 hits -- but no walks (12-3). Dellin Betances pitched a perfect 8th, and David Robertson a scoreless 9th for his 19 saves -- not bad for a 1st half for a .500-or-thereabouts team.

So often, the Yankees have faced a former pitcher of theirs, and he showed them why they shouldn't have gotten rid of him. This time, it was Phil Hughes, who's actually having a decent season, certainly the Yankees could use what he's done for the Twins.

But he didn't have good stuff (8-5). For the first time in ages, the Yanks got 7 runs, all off Hughes before he could finish the 7th. Beltran hit his 9th homer, and Zelous Wheeler got his first as a Yankee. The 27-year-old righthanded-hitting 3rd baseman from Alabama was making his major league debut.

Yankees 7, Twins 4.

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In the old days of the 8-team, single-division Leagues, there was an aphorism (what would be called an "old wives' tale," if old wives paid attention to baseball back then) that the team in first place on the 4th of July would win the Pennant. How often was it true? Usually -- but there were enough exceptions to make the rule far from ironclad.

The Baltimore Orioles lead the American League Eastern Division. The Toronto Blue Jays are technically tied for first, but, having played 2 more games, they are a game behind the O's in the loss column.

The Yankees are a flat (very flat) .500, 42-42, but only 3 1/2 games out of 1st, 3 in the loss column. The Red Sox are 8 back, the Rays 9 1/2 back (10 in the loss column).

In the Wild Card race, the Yankees trail the Jays by 3 1/2, 2 in the loss column. So, as bad as things have been, they're not out of the race.

There are 78 games left in the regular season. Anything can happen.

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