Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Yanks Crawl Into Wild Card Game, Without Sabathia

CC Sabathia has checked himself into alcohol rehab. It has been speculated that, with his injuries of the past 3 seasons, he has been "self-medicating."

The Yankee organization is standing behind his decision, as well it should: His long-term health is more important than anything the Yankees could win, starting with tonight's Wild Card play-in game. (He wouldn't have appeared in it anyway.)

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Over the weekend, playing games that were pretty much meaningless (though they could have determined home-field advantage for the play-in game), the Yankees played the Baltimore Orioles at Camden Yards as if they didn't care what happened.

Friday night's game was rained out, thanks to Hurricane Joaquin, and rescheduled for Saturday afternoon.

Right in the 1st inning, Ivan Nova allowed a single to Nolan Reimold, and a single to Gerald Parra that got Reimold to 3rd, and got Manny Machado to ground into a double play that got Reimold home, immediately putting the Yankees in a 1-0 hole. In the 3rd, almost the same thing: He hit Reimold with a pitch, Parra doubled, and a groundout by Machado scored Reimold.

Machado homered in the 5th. In the 6th, J.J. Hardy and Reimold singled, and, with 2 outs and Nova having thrown 105 pitches, Joe Girardi panicked at the pitch count, and brought in Chasen Shreve. Just 4 batters later, a 3-0 deficit became 7-0.

The Yankee output for the night:

* Chris Young led off the 2nd with a triple, and was stranded.

* Brendan Ryan singled in the 3rd, and Brett Gardner singled him to 2nd, but Ryan was out trying to reach 3rd. Gardner reached 2nd, but was stranded.

* Young reached on an error and Chase Headley on a walk in the 4th, but were stranded.

* Young walked in the 5th, but was stranded.

* 7th inning: John Ryan Murphy walked, Jose Pirela singled, Greg Bird walked to load the bases with nobody out, Didi Gregorius struck out, a Gardner groundout got Murphy home, Rob Refsnyder singled home Pirela, and Alex Rodriguez struck out. Those 2 runs were immediately canceled out by the O's in the bottom of the inning.

* Rico Noel singled to lead off the 9th, and advanced to 2nd on a wild pitch, but was stranded.

Not much, and too little, too late. Orioles 9, Yankees 2. WP: Wei-Yin Chen (11-8), who always seems to pitch well against the Yankees. No save. LP: Nova (6-11).

*

The Saturday night was even more frustrating. Luis Severino started, and fell behind 2-0 in the 1st. The Yankees got a run back in the 2nd on a Gregorius sacrifice fly, but Machado homered off Severino in the 3rd.

The Yankees tied it in the 5th, with a double by Refsnyder, a single by Gregorius, a double by Slade Heathcott, Jacoby Ellsbury being hit with a pitch, and Carlos Beltran drawing a bases-loaded walk.

Severino pitched very well through 7 innings, throwing 91 pitches. Again, Girardi freaked out (froke out?) at the pitch count, and brought Dellin Betances in to pitch the 8th and the 9th. Here's what Betances did in the 8th: Single, wild pitch, strikeout, single, game-losing wild pitch.

A-Rod singled with 1 out in the 8th, bringing the potential winning run to the late, in the form of Headley. But Girardi took A-Rod (who is 40) out for Noel, whose sole duty on the Yankees is to pinch-run and steal bases. Everybody in the stadium knew he was going to try to steal 2nd, and he was thrown out. That left Headley as only the tying run, and he grounded out to end the game.

Orioles 4, Yankees 3. WP: T.J. McFarland (2-2). SV: Zach Britton (36). LP: Betances (6-4).

Girardi lost this one, on the mound and on the bases.

*

Sunday afternoon was the 162nd and last game of the regular season. Michael Pineda started, and had nothing. Yet again, the Orioles scored 2 runs in the 1st, and had 7 runs before the 5th was over. It's not even worth mentioning what the Yankees did at the plate. No home runs, and, on this day, even 4 runs wasn't close to being enough.

Orioles 9, Yankees 4. WP: Chris Tillman (11-11). No save. LP: Pineda (12-10).

*

Final standings for the 2015 Major League Baseball season, all 26 weeks in the books:

American League
Eastern Division
Toronto Blue Jays 93-69
New York Yankees 87-75, 6 games behind
Baltimore Orioles 81-81, 12
Tampa Bay Rays 80-82, 13
Boston Red Sox 78-84, 15

Central Division
Kansas City Royals 95-67
Minnesota Twins 83-79, 12
Cleveland Indians 81-80, 13 1/2
Chicago White Sox 76-86, 19
Detroit Tigers 74-87, 20 1/2

Western Division
Texas Rangers 88-74
Houston Astros 86-76, 2
Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim 85-77, 3
Seattle Mariners 76-86, 12
Oakland Athletics 68-94, 20

National League
Eastern Division
New York Mets 90-72
Washington Nations 83-79, 7
Miami Marlins 71-91, 19
Atlanta Braves 67-95, 23
Philadelphia Phillies 63-99, 27

Central Division
St. Louis Cardinals 100-62
Pittsburgh Pirates 98-64, 2
Chicago Cubs 97-65, 3
Milwaukee Brewers 68-94, 32
Cincinnati Reds 64-98, 36

Western Division
Los Angeles Dodgers 92-70
San Francisco Giants 84-78, 8
Arizona Diamondbacks 79-83, 13
San Diego Padres 74-88, 18
Colorado Rockies 68-94, 24

*

Tonight, the Wild Card play-in games will be played. The Yankees host the Astros at Yankee Stadium II, while the Cubs travel to PNC Park to play the Pirates.

Masahiro Tanaka starts for the Yankees. He's 12-7. Dallas Keuchel starts for the Astros, having already started for the AL in this year's All-Star Game. He's 20-8, and sure to win the AL Cy Young Award. He went 15-0 at home... but just 5-8 on the road. That's the Yankees hope: That Road Keuchel shows up, not Home Keuchel.

Once it became clear that the Yankees might not win the AL East, my concern became this: That they wouldn't score enough runs in the play-in game, the starting pitcher would have just a 1-run lead going into the 6th, reach whatever Girardi decided was his pitch limit, and get taken out, the bullpen would blow it, and then the Yankees would mount a late comeback that falls just short. For example: 1-0 ahead, then 6-1 behind, and ending 6-5 behind.

Once Tanaka, with his questionable elbow, was named as a starter, especially after his missed his next-to-last regular season start with a hamstring issue, that worry intensified. It has now become a full-blown fear.

This is the biggest game the Yankees have played in a long time. I don't mean since Game 5 of the 2012 AL Division Series against the Orioles. We were already in the Playoffs. This is, essentially, a title-deciding season finale. The Yankees haven't played one of those since the Bucky Dent Game, 37 years ago.

This is the kind of game that management, if it were rational, would use to decide who wants to be here next year, and who doesn't.

If I were in charge, if the George Steinbrenner of the 1970s and '80s were in charge, Joe Girardi would have been fired as manager at least 2 years ago.

If the Yankees lose this game, after all the pitching screwups by Girardi this season, he ought never to wear a Yankee uniform again.

Except maybe on Old-Timers' Day. And then, he should wear the Number 25 he wore as a player. Not the 27 he wore as a manager in 2008 and '09, seeking the 27th title, or the 28 he's worn since, in his vain efforts at a 28th.

Joe, forget the pitch count, and manage like your job depends on it.

It probably doesn't. Which is why general manager Brian Cashman should go, too.

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