Game 55: MIN vs. NYY — Failing a rubber match against former Yankees

I think the biggest story from today was that former Yankee Phil Hughes actually pitched a great game for his new team, the Twins. Sometimes all it takes is a change of scenery for some pitchers to find their pace and place again. It seems to have worked well for him. And not so much for the Yankees today, well that’s not the whole story.

Chase Whitley took the mound again for what ended up being another no-decision, though he should have been in line for the win. His 83 pitches took him through a solid 5 innings, allowing 5 hits, 1 run, and striking out 6 batters. Whitley is continuing to show his candidacy for a more permanent spot in the Yankees organization, definitely an asset to have. That sole run came in the 3rd inning — with 2 outs and a runner on 2nd, an RBI single scored the Twins first and only run for a while.

The Yankees answered back in the 4th inning, deciding to show off their dominance. Brett Gardner led off with a triple (a double for most everyone else, but a triple with his speed) and then scored on Jeter’s single. Ellsbury singled and McCann walked to load the bases, so Jeter easily scored on Ichiro Suzuki’s sacrifice fly. And suddenly, the Yankees were up and defending their 2-1 lead.

Dellin Betances pitched the 6th and 7th innings just flawlessly, striking out 5 of the 6 batters he faced, using just 22 pitches overall. The internet was abuzz again with Betances-love. I don’t think New York fans can get enough of him. He’s like the oasis in the bullpen’s desert, there when it seems like everything else doesn’t work.  The 8th inning belonged to Adam Warren who struggled through his 20-pitch inning, but ultimately made it out unscathed.

Defending that 2-1 lead, the Yankees went into the 9th inning prepared to get those quick 3 outs and go home. And with David Robertson jogging in to the sounds of “Sweet Home Alabama”, it was as good as done. Except it wasn’t. Robertson just didn’t have anything today, and it cost him the save and the Yankees the win. His first batter promptly smacks a home run into the left field seats to tie up the game (blown save). Two outs and two walks later, a double scored a run (3-2 Twins) and an intentional walk loads the bases. Matt Daley pitched to one batter — former Yankee Eduardo Nunez — whose solid double scored two more Twins runs. (5-2 Twins). Matt Thornton came on to get that elusive last out, but a quick single scored two more runs and planted the Twins lead (and ultimate win) at 7-2 Twins. (Small fun trivia note: Nunez lost his helmet running home… again!)

And there was not much you could do about it. The bottom just fell out of the whole game right in that measly half inning. Too bad, because it was a pretty great game up until that point. And I’m not just saying that because the Yankees were in the lead. No, I’m saying that because it was well-fought and earned, rather than essentially some sloppy pitching just handing over the game. Even Robertson admits he kind of stunk today.

One of the things that hit me as I watched the 9th inning unfold, after I got over my initial frustration, was that today’s game showed two sides of the same coin from the bullpen. Today’s game featured two men who are known for their successes, who are really good at what they do, but who are also far from perfect. So I made the comment: “Betances showed us today that he is immortal. Robertson showed us today that he is human.” Some days, you could say the same thing in reverse. How many times have I marveled at Robertson’s magic, calling him “Houdini”? How many times have I been disappointed with some flawed pitching from Betances (though admittedly not as much lately)? But that is the thing about this game — baseball is a game of constant failure played by men who are far from failures.

The best part of failure is learning what not to do again, learning to grow and make different mistakes. A failure is someone who refuses to learn from their failure. A success is someone who isn’t afraid to fail and learn from it. The reality is that failure is always an option. But staying down in that failure isn’t. Strength isn’t ignoring failure but rather overcoming it.

Today, they failed. So tomorrow they learn from those failures and become better players, better men, a better team because of it. They are not, however, failures. Far from it. And that makes me proud to be a Yankees fan.

Go Yankees!

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