Saturday, June 24, 2017

Turning Point Game in Yankees' Favor?

Last night's opener of a 3-game home series with the Texas Rangers was the Yankee season thus far in a nutshell, and it may be a turning point in their favor.

Masahiro Tanaka started for the Yankees, and, flying in the face of his struggles, he laid down the best start any Yankee pitcher has had this season. He was actually trusted to pitch 8 full innings, to throw an even 100 pitches.

Then the closer, Aroldis Chapman, was brought in for the 9th inning, with the score tied, not a save situation.

I began to wonder if Joe Girardi had been fired -- or if he'd finally burned the damn binder. Either one would be fine with me at this rate.

Tanaka went 8 innings, allowing no runs on 3 hits and 2 walks, striking out 9. He was brilliant. It's as if someone had kidnapped him and tied him up in a basement, and had been impersonating him all season long, and he'd finally broken out and overcome the impersonator, and shown us the real thing.

The problem was, the Yankees weren't getting any runs, either. Against another Japanese pitcher, Yu Darvish, they wasted a leadoff single by Brett Gardner in the 1st inning, didn't get another baserunner until the 5th, wiped out a Gary Sanchez single when Didi Gregorius grounded into a double play, and the only other baserunner was Sanchez again in the 8th, hit by a pitch with 1 out, and then Gregorius and Chris Carter struck out.

Then came the 9th inning. Chapman struck Shin-Soo Choo out, but gave up a single to Elvis Andrus, hit Nomar Mazara with a pitch, and let Andrus steal 3rd base. With the dangerous Adrian Beltre up, Chapman threw a low fastball, and Beltre missed for strike 3 -- but Sanchez couldn't handle it. Passed ball. Andrus scored. 1-0 Rangers.

Chapman got Rougned Odor, the man with the worst name in baseball, to ground out, but all the air had been let out of the new Yankee Stadium.

With 1 out in the bottom of the 9th, Gardner came up against Ranger closer Matt Bush, and roped a drive to right field. It was measured at 343 feet. It was a genuine Yankee Stadium (any version) short-porch drive. But it counted just the same. Tie ballgame.

Girardi called on Chad Green for the 10th inning, but he didn't have it, and an error by Gregorius didn't help. Yankees Twitter was full of comments like, "I can't believe we're going to blow this game twice." Chasen Shreve was brought on, and he got the last 2 outs, including getting out of a bases-loaded jam.

Bottom of the 10th. Starlin Castro grounded to short. But Sanchez singled to center. Gregorius did the same, sending the normally slow Sanchez to 3rd with only 1 out.

The batter was Chris Carter. Because of course it was. Pretty much every Yankee Fan on Twitter knew he was going to strike out, instead of get the ball out of the infield to win the game. He did.

What no one seemed to know was that the 5-foot-8 (maybe), 155-pound Ronald Torreyes would loop one to center.

Cue John Sterling: "Ballgame over! Yankees win! Theeeeeeee Yankees win!" Yankees 2, Rangers 1. WP: Shreve (2-1). No save. LP: Bush (2-3).

With the win, the Yankees remain tied with the Boston Red Sox for the American League East lead, ahead by 1 game in the loss column.


So Girardi trusted his starter, instead of going reliever-to-reliever as his binder tells him. That's a step in the right direction.

He trusted his closer in a tie game. Also a step in the right direction, even if Chapman didn't have his best stuff last night.

And there was one more big development, which Yankee Fans have been demanding: Brian Cashman, the dumbest general manager in baseball, finally came to his senses, and designated Carter for assignment. That strikeout in the 10th was his last at-bat in a Yankee uniform.

The much-hyped Tyler Austin has been called up from Scranton. He only batted .241 in last season's callup (20-for-83), but with 5 home runs and 12 RBIs. He was batting .300 at Scranton, but Yankee Fans wanted him simply because he offered a ray of hope for replacing Carter. It was all about replacing Carter, and nothing about what Austin himself has actually done this far.

I approve, but, call me crazy, but, to me, actual major league performance is more important than hype about "prospects." We shall see about Austin.

But Carter, who led the National League with 41 home runs last season, makes it clear just how superior the American League is.

The series continues this afternoon. Luis Cessa starts for the Bronx Bombers, Austin Bibens-Dirkx for the Strangers.

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