Sunday, September 13, 2015

Yanks Spit the Bit Before Today's Recovery


The Yankees went into this weekend 4-game series with those pesky Toronto Blue Jays knowing it was the most important series of the season -- at least, until the last remaining series in Toronto starting on September 21.

As the late owner George Steinbrenner, a big horse racing fan, would say, the Yankees spit the bit.

On Friday night, we were looking forward to Luis Severino continuing to show everyone what an ace looks like. Instead, he showed everyone what a 21-year-old rookie pitcher looks like. His 1st 6 batters: Double, home run, strikeout, double, single, home run. Five runs on one out. It became 6-0 before he was mercifully lifted in the 3rd.

Didi Gregorius hit a home run (his 9th) and an RBI single, but that's all that was worth talking about that night. Russell Martin hit a home run... ah, but he doesn't play for the Yankees anymore, does he?

Blue Jays 11, Yankees 5. WP: David Price (15-5). No save. LP: Severino (3-3).

*

Losing is no good, but put a loss in the past, and win your next games, and things will be all right. The Yankees had to play a doubleheader yesterday, because the Thursday night game was rained out.

They'd have been better off trying to play in the rain. Leading 4-1 after 4 innings, including Alex Rodriguez' 31st home run of the season (the 685th of his career), Brett Gardner's 14th and Chase Headley's 11th, Michael Pineda fell apart in the 5th, allowing home runs to Ben Revere and Edwin Encarnacion (the latter always seems to hit he Yankees well).

That tied the game, and, in the 8th, Dellin Betances served up a gopher ball to Jose Bautista, another guy who always seems to hit well against the Yankees and makes me call the Blue Jays "pesky." It was his 2nd of the game, and his 35th of the season. (Can somebody please test this guy for steroids?) But the Yankees got the run back in the bottom of the 8th, and the game went to extra innings.

Extra innings has not been kind to the Yankees the last few years. The Yankees went down 1-2-3 in the 9th and the 10th. The 11th? Better you shouldn't ask: Joe Girardi looked in his binder, and saw, "Bring in Bryan Mitchell." Results: Walk, hit by pitch, walk, strikeout. It was after the strikeout that Girardi pulled Mitchell. Huh?

He replaced Mitchell with Chasen Shreve. Results: Based-loaded walk, strikeout, RBI single to load the bases, bases-loaded walk, bases-loaded walk. That's right: Three walks with the bases loaded in one inning. The sort of thing that happens to the Mets. (Except in 1969, late 1973, 1984 to 1990, the 2006 regular season, 2007 and 2008 until September... and this year.)

Girardi brought in Nick Goody, who ended the inning. Headley led off the bottom of the 11th with a single, and Greg Bird followed with a double, so there was hope. But the Yankees didn't get anything else.

Blue Jays 9, Yankees 5. WP: Liam Hendriks (5-0). SV: Ryan Tepera (1). LP: Mitchell (0-2), although this one is on Girardi and his damned binder.

*

The Saturday night game was also plagued by rain. Unfortunately, it would be resumed and played to a conclusion. Equally unfortunately, that conclusion was bad.

Ivan Nova got shelled, and didn't get out of the 2nd inning. 6-0. The Yankees got to within 6-4 after 6, including a home run by Brett Gardner. But the 7th inning was pitched by Chris Capuano and Branden Pinder. What are these two bums doing in the major leagues, let alone on the Yankees? By the time they were done futzing it up, it was 10-4 Toronto.

Gardner hit another homer in the 8th, giving him 16 on the season, but who's kidding who? Blue Jays 10, Yankees 7. WP: Marcus Stroman (1-0), who hadn't pitched all season due to injury, until now. SV: Mark Lowe (1). LP: Nova (6-8).

*

Going to bed last night, the race for the American League Eastern Division title felt over. Waking up this morning, it didn't feel any better.

But Masahiro Tanaka took the mound for the Yankees, and reminded us of what an ace looks like. After 28 hours of the Jays treating Yankee pitchers like McDonald's workers with masters's degrees and student loan debt, they only got 4 hits, no walks, and no runs off Action Hiro in 9 innings. He struck out 7.

Girardi must've finally said, "To Hell with the binder, I'm letting this guy pitch a complete game." Either that, or, "I have to let this guy pitch a complete game, because I don't have a relief pitcher whose arm doesn't hurt like the dickens from me overusing it." (And whose fault is that, Joe?)

But you gotta give your pitcher runs, or it doesn't matter how well he pitches. And, finally, the Yankees found a pitcher they could beat: R.A. Dickey, the elderly knuckleballer who used to pitch for the Mets. Dustin Ackley hit his 1st Yankee home run, his 7th of the season.

Yankees 5, Blue Jays 0. WP: Tanaka (12-6). No save. LP: Dickey (10-11).

*

So here's how things stand, with just 3 weeks of the regular season remaining:

* The Yankees are 78-64, 3 1/2 games behind the Jays in the AL East, 3 in the all-important loss column.

* The Kansas City Royals have the AL Central all but wrapped up, leading the Minnesota Twins by 10 1/2.

* The AL West is tight. The Houston Astros lead the Texas Rangers by a game and a half, with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim 4 1/2 back.

* The current AL Wild Card leaders are the Yankees and the Rangers. The Twins trail the Rangers by a game, the Angels by 3, the Cleveland Indians by 4, the Tampa Bay Rays by 6, the Seattle Mariners and Baltimore Orioles by 6 1/2, the Boston Red Sox by 7, and the Chicago White Sox by 7 1/2.

* The Mets seem to have the National League East in hand for the 1st time since 2006 -- only the 2nd time since 1988. They lead the Washington Nationals by 9 1/2 games.

* The St. Louis Cardinals lead the NL Central, but neither the Pittsburgh Pirates (2 1/2) nor the Chicago Cubs (6 1/2) are going away just yet, quietly or otherwise.

* The Los Angeles Dodgers look set to win the NL West, leading the San Francisco giants by 7 1/2.

* The current NL Wild Card leaders are the Pirates and the Cubs. The Giants trail the Cubs by 7 1/2, and they're the only team not currently in the NL's 5 slots that looks to have a chance. Ironically, while no AL team is officially eliminated from Playoff consideration yet, 6 NL teams are.

*

The Yankees now go on a roadtrip. They play 3 in St. Petersburg against the Rays, before coming not-quite-home to play 3 against the Mets at Citi Field, a series that will go a long way toward either cementing the Mets' status as NL East Champions, or proving that Met fans are, as usual, cementheads who were yet again foolish to "gotta believe." Then, the 3 games in Toronto that will likely decide whether the Yankees win the AL East title, or have to face a 1-game Playoff to get into the Playoffs proper.

As things stand, barring an injury, Monday night, October 4, the night of the Wild Card play-in game, would be Tanaka's turn in the rotation.

I like our chances. But, A, why take the risk; and, B, Tanaka might not have his good stuff that day, or he might be overworked on that previously-injured elbow.

In the words of former Astro and Cardinal pitcher Joqauin Andujar (who died last week), baseball can be summed up in one word: "Youneverknow."

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