Okay, for me, there were three heroes of tonight’s game — Masahiro Tanaka (for pitching), Alex Rodriguez (for a milestone and offense), and Brendan Ryan (for defense). And even with all that together, the Yankees still couldn’t beat the Orioles tonight. But just barely.
Tanaka’s pitching today was just stellar on so many levels. He was just cruising through most of the game, even throwing a perfect game (no base-runners, no hits) through 4 innings. All that changed when the Orioles started finding cracks in the 5th — a lead-off walk blew the perfect game and a single blew the no-hitter. But still they pushed right on through. In the 6th, a lead-off home run broke the scoring, but it would be the only run he allowed tonight. Overall, he threw 104 pitches in 8 innings, gave up 6 hits, that 1 walk and 1 run, and still struck out 10 Baltimore batters. Just a really phenomenal outing, ace-material easily.
Up until the Orioles broke through, the Yankees were collecting some hits and driving up the starter’s pitch count, but it was in the bottom of the 6th, down 1-0, that the Yankees got things back on track. Alex Rodriguez led-of with a solo home run to left field to tie up the game again. This was also Rodriguez’s 30th home run of the season, and his 15th season of at least 30 home runs (he and Hank Aaron are tied for the all-time leaders with 15 seasons each of 30+ homers). This also pushed the Orioles’ starter out of the game and got them into their bullpen.
Not that it was much help to the Yankees’ offense. In fact, it had the opposite effect, perhaps the effect the Orioles actually intended. Over the next 4 innings, the Yankees got 2 base runners, a walk and a single, and were effectively shut down.
Then with the game still tied going into the 9th, it was Chasen Shreve to come on in relief of Tanaka, ultimately giving the starter a no-decision (again, too bad). But the first batter Shreve faced was the player who leads the entire league in home runs. And one perfectly placed pitched allowed the batter to hit his 41st home run of the season. (Not a typo, this guy really is a home run hitting machine.)
Unfortunately, the Yankees had no last-minute rally in them tonight. (Can I blame the record heat in the City today? I’m really relying far too much on blame-shifting lately.)
Okay, but let me brag on Brendan Ryan. The guy can literally play anywhere (even pitch as we’ve recently discovered) and play so well. He’s like the ultimate utility player on the roster. He can do a fabulous dive from his spot covering 3rd base and still manage to turn a double play with accuracy and excellence, like he did tonight in the 7th. The guy’s a Yankee in every way.
Final score: 2-1 Orioles.
The Revolving Door with a Limp: Lots of limping around the Yankee clubhouse… but it’s September and everyone’s going to be hurt in some way. Brett Gardner jammed his shoulder doing Brett Gardner things like running into a wall to make a stellar catch; he was out of today’s game for rest and some treatment, but there shouldn’t be any reason a couple of days rest couldn’t see him back soon. I personally expect him to be Brett Gardner and show up to argue why he should be on the roster for tomorrow’s game.
Mark Teixeira’s bone bruise is just not healing as fast as you’d want as it seems to be aggravating the surrounding nerve tissue (to which anyone who’s ever ran into the edge of a coffee table multiple times right on their shin can relate); he continues to get treatment and hobble around on crutches. And Nathan Eovaldi was feeling off after Saturday’s game and was later diagnosed with elbow inflammation; they made the decision to shut him down for the rest of the regular season with 2 weeks of rest and 2 weeks of rehab.
I do want to take the time to remind everyone that elbow inflammation has to be taken seriously for pitchers as it’s usually the first step down the road no one wants to take — the road that ends in Tommy John surgery. Elbow inflammation untreated can become a small or partial strain or tear of the elbow ligaments (think Tanaka last year). That partial tear if left untreated can easily become a full tear or do irreversible damage that almost always means either involuntary retirement or Tommy John surgery. This is why you don’t want to encourage players (especially pitchers) to just “suck it up” or “rub some dirt on it” when there’s something wrong; a few weeks to rest and rehab can spare months, even years, of forced rest, rehab, and severe medical intervention. Easy choice to me.
With Eovaldi out of the rotation, the logical choice to fill his spot is Adam Warren. But he’s been training for bullpen work (short-term exertion), so he may need some time to work up to a full game (over 70 pitches). And just like that, everyone is much happier for the expanded roster to cover all the “limping” guys in the clubhouse. Stay healthy, my friends, it’s not over yet!