Thursday, September 10, 2015

D-Day In The Bronx, Yankees No Longer Look Ready, Girardi Doesn't Know What He's Doing


After winning the opener of their home series against the Baltimore Orioles, the Yankees dropped the next 2, by going back to the kind of weak hitting we saw in the regular season in 2008, 2013 and 2014; in the American League Division Series in 2002, 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2011; in the AL Championship Series in 2004 (the last 4 games, anyway), 2010 and 2012; and in the 2003 World Series.

Scoring 8 runs in the 1st game of the series was good. Scoring just 4 in the last 2 was awful.

Masahiro Tanaka was brilliant on Tuesday night, a performance worthy of victory. He went 8 innings, allowed 1 run on 6 hits and 1 walk, striking out 10. And it wasn't enough: The only support he got was a home run by Alex Rodriguez in the 6th inning, his 30th of the season. The Yankees left the bases loaded in the 3rd inning, and 2 on in the 5th.

Tanaka had pitched brilliantly, and had thrown only 104 pitches. A manager who knows what the hell he's doing would have left him in. Joe Girardi does not know what the hell he's doing, and so he brought in Chasen Shreve to pitch the 9th, the 1st batter Shreve faced was Chris Davis, and Davis hit a home run. The Yankees went 1-2-3 in the 9th, and it ended Orioles 2, Yankees 1.

WP: Darren O'Day (6-2). SV: Zach Britton (31). LP: Shreve (6-2).

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Then, in last night's game, CC Sabathia came off the Disabled List, and didn't pitch well, and got poor help from his fielders. He fell behind 1-0 after the 1st inning, thanks to a misplayed shot to right field by Carlos Beltran, but Beltran then tied it up with his 15th homer, and then gave CC a 3-1 lead in the 3rd with a 2-run single.

But leadoff walks can kill you in baseball, metaphorically speaking, and a leadoff walk in the 5th led to CC's doom. He did not, however, end up as the losing pitcher; that would be the man who Girardi brought in to relieve him, Adam Warren. And it wasn't Warren's fault, either, as Stephen Drew proved that poor fielding does not offset poor hitting. His error made the difference.

Girardi left Warren in the game all the way into the top of the 8th. Did I mention that Girardi doesn't know what the hell he's doing? Warren allowed a homer to give the O's a 5-4 win. And from Beltran's 2-RBI single in the 3rd onward, the Yankees had exactly 1 baserunner, a double by minor-league callup Dustin Ackley in the 7th. Ackley also made a great catch, but it was meaningless.

WP: Ubaldo Jimenez (11-9). SV: Britton (32). LP: Warren (6-6).

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The Orioles go out. Those pesky Toronto Blue Jays come in, for a 4-game series that will be followed by a 3-game series in Toronto later in the month.

The Yankees are 77-61. With 24 games left to play in the regular season, they are a game and a half behind the Jays for the lead in the AL Easter Division -- a full game behind in the all-important loss column. The Yankees look pretty sure to make the Playoffs, as they have a 4-game cushion for one of the AL Wild Card slots. But you want to avoid a single-game elimination at all costs, especially when you don't know if ace Nathan Eovaldi, or slugging 1st baseman Mark Teixeira, will be back from injury and available on October 3.

Let's not kid ourselves here: The Yankees need to make the kind of statement the Jays made last month, when they took all 3 in The Bronx, and then salvaged the last of 3 in Toronto. The Yankees need to take at least 5 of these 7 -- preferably, 3 of 4 here, 2 of 3 there.

Here are the projected pitching matchups for these 4 games:

* Tonight, 7:00: Luis Severino (3-2) vs. David Price (14-5 but the Yankees usually hit him well).
* Tomorrow night, 7:00: Pitcher TBA, probably Ivan Nova (6-7), vs. Marco Estrada (12-8).
* Saturday afternoon, 1:00: Pitcher TBA, probably Michael Pineda (10-8), vs. Marcus Strohman (0-0). One of the few pitchers ever to wear a single-digit uniform number, he wears 6 in honor of his grandmother (though I don't know the full explanation). He's been out with an ACL injury all season, and will be activated for this game. In other words, a pitcher the Yankees have never seen before, on a Saturday afternoon, good luck. If we do manage to take 3 out of 4, this will probably be the defeat, unless Pineda has his good stuff.
* Sunday afternoon, 1:00: Pitcher TBA, probably Tanaka (11-6), vs. R.A. Dickey (10-10).

This is the most important series of the season for the Yankees -- so far. The one in Toronto later will be even more important. If the Yankees can go into that one no worse off than they are now -- a game out in the loss column -- they can still win the Division, which would put them in a much better position to do well in the postseason than by winning a Wild Card berth.

It is D-Day in The Bronx, and the Yankees no longer look ready. Well, they'd better be ready, or else it's Wild Card or bust. Maybe Wild Card and bust.

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UPDATE: Tonight's game was postponed by rain. Here's the series, with presumed (not definite) pitching matchups, as things currently stand:

* Tomorrow, 7:00: Severino vs. Price.
* Saturday, 1:00: Nova vs. Strohman.
* Saturday, 7:00: Pineda vs. Estrada.
* Sunday, 1:00: Tanaka vs. Dickey.

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