Tuesday, September 16, 2014

You Can't Win If You Don't Score

(Yes, I know, the picture is from earlier in the season, at home, not from this past weekend at Camden Yards. It's still the Orioles beating the Yankees, and it seems to sum up this season. I'm leaving it up.)

Since last I posted, the Yankees have played the finale of a road series against the Baltimore Orioles, and begun a road series against the Tampa Bay Rays, and dropped both games.

It now looks as though the last 3 games of the season, away to the Boston Red Sox, will have no meaning beyond each side wanting to beat their archest rival, just for the sake of beating that one team.

Making it increasingly likely that Derek Jeter's last game will be the home finale, against the Orioles, on September 25, a week from this Thursday night.

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On Sunday night in Baltimore, Hiroki Kuroda sure didn't pitch like a 39-year-old man. He went 7 innings, allowing 1 run on 6 hits and no walks. Dellin Betances pitched a perfect 8th.

And yet, despite Martin Prado's 12th home run of the season (his 7th as a Yankee since coming over from the Arizona Diamondbacks on July 31), the game was 1-1 going into the 9th.

Brian McCann, still batting only .238, hit his 20th homer of the season. It was 2-1, and it looked like Betances would get the win.

But David Robertson, who so often bends but doesn't break, broke. He allowed a leadoff double to Nelson Cruz, another double to Steve Pearce to tie the game, got J.J. Hardy to fly out, and then allowed a game-losing double.

A game-losing double to Kelly Johnson, whom the Yankees got rid of, because he was batting just .219, on-base percentage a mere .304, with 6 homers and 22 RBIs in 227 at-bats. We were actually willing to trade him to the hated Red Sox. He continued to be bad for them: In 25 plate appearances, he reached base only 4 times (all singles), for Ivan DeJesus. No, the BoSox were not willing to trade him for the 61-year-old former Cubs and Phillies shortstop from Puerto Rico, who played 7 games for the Yankees in 1986. This is his 27-year-old son, a middle infielder who had all of 72 big-league plate appearances before that trade (and only 8 since coming to Boston 2 weeks ago).

Kelly Johnson isn't the first, or even the least likely, former Yankee to come back and haunt us. But he is the latest, and thus, for the moment, the most annoying.

Orioles 3, Yankees 2. WP: Darren O'Day (5-1). No save. LP: Robertson (2-5).

In 37 innings in Camden Yards, one of the best hitter's parks in the game, the Yankees scored 6 runs. They won 1 game, and lost another in the 9th inning and another in the 11th.

*

Then, last night in St. Petersburg, against the Rays, the Yankees continued their pathetic hitting, getting nothing over 9 innings. The Yankees got only 6 hits (all singles, except for a double by Ichiro Suzuki) and 2 walks, and were 0-for-4 with runners in scoring position (Yankee RISPfail).

This time, for 8 innings, it didn't matter, since Chris Capuano and Adam Warren, both seriously struggling lately, combined for 8 scoreless innings of their own, allowing the Rays only 2 hits (but also 4 walks).

This time, it was Shawn Kelley's turn to futz it up. He got Yunel Escobar to ground out, but allowed singles to Logan Forsythe (he of the oh-so-soap-opera-sounding name) and James Loney (also a bit of a soapish name). He struck out David DeJesus (no relation to the Ivans), but walked Matt Joyce to load the bases with only 1 out.

Could the Yankee infield get a double play and get out of the jam? Not if the next batter hit a line drive over them. Ben Zobrist, as usual a pain in the ass, did just that, singling to right to end it.

Rays 1, Yankees 0. WP: Joel Peralta (3-4). No save. LP: Kelley (3-6).

*

With that loss, just as the Yankees had done to the Rays 4 days earlier, the Rays had officially, mathematically, eliminated the Yankees from the chance at the American League Eastern Division title.

The Yankees are 6 games out of the AL Wild Card race with 13 to play. Their elimination number is 8. To put it another way: If the Kansas City Royals, currently holding the 2nd AL Wild Card slot, go 1 game over .500 the rest of the way, 7-6, in order to at least tie them for that berth, the Yankees would have to win all of their last 13. So it looks like the Royals and the Oakland Athletics will get the wild card berths. The Seattle Mariners are still close enough to have a chance.

The Orioles can clinch the AL East tonight, with either a win or a Toronto Blue Jays loss. The Washington Nationals can clinch the National League East tonight with a win and an Atlanta Braves loss. The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim have a magic number of 3 to clinch the AL West. The Royals and the Detroit Tigers are still in a dogfight for the AL Central, with the Tigers leading by only a game and a half. The San Francisco Giants and Pittsburgh Pirates look like they'll take the NL Wild Cards. The St. Louis Cardinals lead the Pirates in the NL Central, and the Los Angeles Dodgers lead the Giants in the NL West, although neither is a sure thing yet.

What is as close to a sure thing as you can get in baseball, without already being mathematically clinched, is that the Yankees won't make the Playoffs.

Now, to make matters worse for the Yankees, Prado, whose acquisition is one of the few good transactions that general manager Brian Cashman has made since the final out of the 2009 World Series, is out for the last 13 games of the season (and, with a miracle qualification, the postseason) due to an emergency appendectomy.

The human appendix is like Yankee hitting coach Kevin Long: Completely useless, and we'll all be better off if he is removed from the body.

Because Long is not getting the job done, more so than Cashman, more so than manager Joe Girardi, more so than pitching coach Larry Rothschild. They all need to go, but if we can only get rid of one, it has to be Long.

You can't win if you can't score. Whoever said, "Defense wins games" or, "Defense wins championships" was a liar. Defense doesn't win you a damned thing. It gives your offense a chance to win. Offense wins.

Of course, as the Giants, the Jets, and Rutgers all proved this weekend on the gridiron, even if you do score, you won't win, even if you have a late lead, unless you can stop the other team.

My alma mater, East Brunswick High School, proved both points on Friday night, losing its football opener 48-0 to Piscataway. That's a team that finished 1-9 last year, and winning that 1 by beating another 1-9 team only 14-12, losing to the Number 1-ranked team in Middlesex County. Who made that schedule?

The Yanks-Rays series continues in St. Petersburg tonight. Michael Pineda starts against Jake Odorizzi. Hopefully, the Rays' starter will live up to his name, ODOR-izzi, and stink, and the Yankees can get some runs off of him.

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