Thursday, April 9, 2015

Calm Down, People: The Yankees Got This

I've written before on the subject of "Onebadinningitis." One bad inning can ruin your whole day. Especially if it's Opening Day.

Well, on Monday, Opening Day, one bad inning for the Yankees against those pesky Toronto Blue Jays, and a Met victory away to the defending Division Champion Washington Nationals led a lot of people -- including a many Yankee Fans who, unlike Met fans, the Flushing Heathen, should know better -- to presume that the sky was falling, and that the Mets really were going to "take back New York" this season.

After 2 games, it has become considerably clearer. Calm down, people: The Yankees got this. And, as usual, the Mets don't got nothin'.

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For the 1st time since 2008, the Yankees' Opening Day starter was someone other than CC Sabathia. Masahiro Tanaka, having returned from the injury that short-circuited his spectacular-in-the-making U.S.-rookie season, earned that starting nod.

An announced crowd of 48,469 -- they called it a sellout -- watched Super Hiro cruise through the 1st 2 innings. He began the game (and the season) by striking out the Jays' leadoff hitter and shortstop, the massively overrated ex-Met Jose Reyes. (Yes, he still plays in the major leagues.) Then he got former Yankee catcher Russell Martin to ground out. Then he struck out Jose "Test Me For Steroids, Already" Baustista to end the inning. He got through the 2nd inning easily, allowing only a single to former Yankee Dioner Navarro.

But the warning signs were there: His velocity, a concern all through spring training, still wasn't where it should be.

And then came the 3rd inning, the one bad inning. A single, a walk, an error by 3rd baseman Chase Headley on a Reyes bunt, and a Martin single. Amazingly, in such a key situation, Tanaka got Bautista to fly out. Then he threw a gopher ball to another Yankee Killer, Edwin Encarnacion. Before he could get the 2nd out of the inning, it was 5-0 Toronto.

Manager Joe Girardi, not trusted by the Yankee brass to use his eyes and his brain to decide on his own pitching moves, was told to give Tanaka a pitch count of 90. Instead, he took him out after 4 innings, only 75 pitches. He used 5 relievers, allowing only 1 run over 5 innings. As our old friend Phil Rizzuto would have said, "But the damage is done, I tell ya, Bill White, it's unbelievable, holy cow."

In the bottom of the 3rd, Alex Rodriguez -- batting 7th, Lisa Swan of Subway Squawkers surely noticed, and standing as the designated hitter -- came to the plate in a major league game for the 1st time since September 25, 2013. He got a nice hand from the Yankee Fans. Maybe they figured that, since the game was now all but hopeless, he would do what he usually does when, either way, the game is not on the line, and hit a home run. Nope: He drew a walk.

He did, however, later get a hit. And Brian Gardner later hit the 1st Yankee home run of the season. But, aside from A-Rod's single and Gardner's homer, the only Yankee hit was a single by Brian McCann. And new shortstop Didi Gregorius made a baserunning blunder, breaking one of those "unwritten rules of baseball": He made the last out of an inning at 3rd base. (You're not supposed to make the 1st out of the inning at 3rd base, either. For some reason, though, making the 2nd out of the inning at 3rd isn't considered as bad.)

Blue Jays 6, Yankees 1. WP: Drew Hutchison (1-0). No save. LP: Tanaka (0-1).

And the Mets beat the Nats, 6-1. To make matters worse still, in the day's one 30-teams-15-in-each-League-setup-forced Interleague game, the Boston Red Sox beat the Philadelphia Phillies 8-0, in Philadelphia.

The media had a field day. and the Flushing Heathen treated the day's events like porn.

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Well, you know what Phillies fan Benjamin Franklin said: There are 3 things in life that are certain: Death, taxes, and Met fans believing too much in their team in April. Last night, after a day off for both New York teams, the Nats brought the Mets back down to Earth, 2-1. And the Phils beat the BoSox, 4-2.

The Yankees sent Michael Pineda, another injury question mark, to the hill, and he responded very well. He went 6 innings, allowing just 2 runs on 6 hits and a walk, striking out 6.

But it was 2-1 Toronto when he left. Chris Martin pitched a perfect 7th. Dellin Betances, supposedly ready to be the closer this season (I, in particular, have supposed it), was sent in by Girardi in the 8th instead of the 9th, and allowed another run. It wasn't his fault, really: A McCann throwing error was involved. This made it 3-1 Toronto, and, with the way the Yankees hit in October 2012 and all through 2013 and 2014, that looked like that. Done and dusted. 0-2, at home no less.

In the bottom of the 8th, the New York Yankees remembered that they are the New York Yankees. Aaron Loup came in to relieve for Toronto. Chris Young pinch-hit for Gregorious, and his a Texas Leaguer for a double. Jacoby Ellsbury singled him over to 3rd. Gardner was hit by a pitch, loading the bases with nobody out.

Sounds great, right? Well, we've had 2 1/2 years of "Yankee RISPfail," so optimism was still in short supply.

It was determined that Loup was injured -- yet another problem with the pitching that will prevent the Jays from being a true factor in the Playoff race. So Brett Cecil was brought in. With Carlos Beltran up, Cecil promptly threw a wild pitch. Cecil struck him out, then -- in the kind of strategy that will also help to doom the Jays -- was told to intentionally walk Mark Teixeira, who, the last couple of seasons, hasn't been able to hit sand if he fell off a camel. Bases loaded with 1 out.

Cecil hit McCann with a pitch, forcing in a run. And Headley hit a line shot up the middle that Cecil could only deflect into left field, scoring Gardner.

That proved to be the winning run. After so many years of seeing horrible LOOGies -- Lefty One Out Guys -- in Pinstripes, Andrew Miller closed the Jays out in the 9th, with what must be the 1st lefthanded save for the Yankees since... hey, if any of you know, let me know, huh? Because I'm pretty sure we didn't get any from Boone Bleeping Logan.

Yankees 4, Blue Jays 3. WP: Betances (1-0). SV: Miller (1). LP: Loup (0-1).

The series concludes tonight at The Stadium. CC makes his 2015 debut, while Daniel Norris starts for the Jays.

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In another note last night: Adrian Gonzalez hit 3 home runs for the Los Angeles Dodgers last night, giving him 5 in 2 games. And, playing for the Whatever They're Calling Themselves This Season Angels of Anaheim, Albert Pujols hit the 521st home run of his career, tying him with 3 Hall-of-Famers: Ted Williams, Willie McCovey and Frank Thomas. When Ted closed his career by hitting Number 521, it made him 3rd all-time. When I was a kid, it was enough for 8th. Now, the 3 of them are 18th.

And broadcasting legend Lon Simmons has died. I'll have a tribute post for him tonight.

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