I can’t say that I went into tonight’s game actually holding out much hope for a win. But I certainly didn’t think this was the result. Look, I was asked recently to name my top 5 current pitchers in each league (that didn’t play for the Yankees), and tonight’s starter for the Astros was at the top of my list. And honestly, he didn’t even do a top-notch job tonight. That’s how awful the game was for the Yankees in this middle game of the series.
Ivan Nova couldn’t seem to find his “SuperNova”-ness tonight from the start. But I will say that after the 1st inning, he seemed to find at least a tolerable pattern, right up until the last two batters of his outing — 86 pitches into just the 5th inning, 7 hits, 7 runs, 4 walks, and just 1 strikeout. And completely on the hook for the inevitable loss. After two quick outs in the 1st, Nova started to slip — a walk, an RBI triple, a walk, an RBI double, a 2-RBI double, an RBI single, a walk, and finally an out to end the inning. Forty pitches and five runs off 10 batters in just the 1st inning. Not a great way to start the game for the Yankees. And to bookend Nova’s bad night, a double scored on a 2-run home run to lead off the 5th inning and force the Yankees into their bullpen, down 7 runs to the Astros.
Nick Rumbelow was called on to relieve Nova, and almost to parallel Nova’s 1st inning, got 2 quick outs before getting in trouble himself — a solo home run, a double, a single, a fielding error that scored a run, a walk, and finally a strikeout to end the 5th inning.
And in the meantime, the Yankees were forced to face the Astros’ best starter, who limited them to just 3 hits over 7 innings and striking out 9 Yankees. Like I said, he’s really good, and this wasn’t even a “great night” for him. If he would be willing to shave that crazy beard, he’d look great in pinstripes… just saying…
Things got a little heated in the 6th inning. Chris Capuano came on in relief to give some length to the bullpen, giving up a walk and a couple of fly outs. On the second fly out, the batter started jawing away at the Yankees dugout before being rather “sassy” at Joe Girardi. Walking back toward the plate, Murphy, tonight’s catcher, called the Astros batter out for disrespecting the Yankees manager. That only made the Astros player irate, and as the umpire and other Astros players started forcibly “escorting” him back to the dugout, the Yankees bench cleared to match the Astros empty bench just in case. The Astros seemed able to pacify the situation on their end without any ejections or violence.
The heated player and the Yankees remained tense through the rest of the game, but tempers seemed to remain at bay. And it should be noted that said Houston player has a history of skirmishes, including two suspensions for incidents. When he was with another team and faced McCann when he was still with the Braves, they had a few incidents between them.
The minor skirmish reminded me of all the times that Girardi came out of the dugout to argue/fight for his guys, but when push-comes-to-shove (at least verbally), his guys certainly have his back. And that’s kind of awesome.
After the excitement of the 6th inning, Capuano created some of his own in the 7th. With 2 outs and the bases loaded with 2 walks and a single, a walk walked in a run, a single scored 2 more, and a home run cleared the bases scoring 3 more (that was the hot-head Astros player, by the way). And just like that, the Astros had really blown away the Yankees with just mega-runs.
And then, the Yankees upped the drama factor, calling on the ultimate utility player Brendan Ryan. He started the game at 2nd, moved to right field in the 7th, and then took the mound in the 8th inning. And honestly, he was the Yankees best pitcher tonight. Ryan threw 28 pitches through 2 innings, gave up just 2 hits, no runs, and no walks, and no strikeouts. But he got a solid 6 outs, and it was awesome, even throwing a 1-2-3 inning in the 9th.
The Yankees found a momentary rally (if you can call such a deficit a rally attempt) in the bottom of the 9th. Ellsbury singled and Young was hit by a pitch to lead off the inning. Gardner ground into a force out, leaving him and Ellsbury on the corners. Greg Bird hit into another force out, but scored Ellsbury. A strikeout ended the inning and the game. But at least it wasn’t a shut-out. Small victories in big losses matter.
Yankees’ pitchers gave up 15 total hits and 8 walks, striking out just 4 Houston batters. Concurrently, the Yankees batters only got 4 hits and no walks and struck out a whopping 12 times. Yes, this was a pitchers’ game in the end. And the pitchers weren’t wearing pinstripes. And the one Yankee pitcher that was outstanding isn’t even a pitcher! I cannot wait to close tonight’s chapter.
Final score: 15-1 Astros. (Not a typo unfortunately.)
Fun fact: Carlos Beltran surpassed Mickey Mantle on the all-time hit list for switch-hitters. He is now in 13th place after his double (just inches from being a home run) in the 4th inning became hit #2,416. Congrats! (Next, up Red Schoedienst at 2,449; Ozzie Smith at 2,460; and Ted Simmons at 2,472. There are no other Yankees on the list above Beltran now. But that’s just the switch-hitters.)