Game 139: TOR vs. NYY — 1st inning blues, “USA” vs. “Canada”

Somewhere in the spirit of the day and the current rush of the race for the division title, the lines were drawn between Team USA and Team Canada. Of course, unlike their Olympic counterparts, tonight’s teams were really more of a compilation of domestic and international players to play for the organization with loyalty to their own home countries far outweighing any organizational patriotism. But that didn’t stop the fans.

Over in the right field bleachers, the passionate and very loyal Yankee fans of Section 203 (affectionately known as the “Bleacher Creatures” to Yankee Universe) composed of the heart of Team USA, while a contingency of Toronto fans in their bright blue and brandishing the Maple Leaf flag found solace in their small (but very loud) group in Section 237 above the Blue Jays’ bullpen.

Recent years have increased the hostilities between these two teams and their fan bases, a stark contrast to the actual global politics and long-standing peace and friendliness between the United States and Canada. But if there’s one thing I know about both countries in general, it’s that they are both very passionate and very vocal when it comes to their chosen professional sports. Of course, that’s really hockey (for Canada) and football (for the US), but on a day like today and in a late season like this, that intensity and devotion can spill over and lead 40,000 people in the Bronx to lend their voices to their chosen loyalties.

Oh, and there was a game too. And if not for a messy 1st inning, it would have been one worthy of this burgeoning international rivalry.

Luis Severino got the start tonight and just really didn’t ever find his footing. Like I said, it was the 1st inning that really doomed the game. A lead-off double quickly scored on a 2-run home run. Then 1 out later, a double scored on an RBI single, who would then score on another 2-run home run. Finally, Severino got those final 2 outs of the inning, but they were hard-fought and left the Blue Jays up 5-0 in the middle of the 1st inning. Not exactly how you want to start the game.

In the 3rd, with 2 walks on base and an out, an RBI single scored another Toronto run and that would be it for Severino’s night — 71 pitches in just over 2 innings, giving up 6 hits, 3 walks, and 6 runs, striking out just 4 batters. And in came today’s call-up Chris Martin for relief, and it paid off right away with 2 quick outs to end the inning.

And then the game turned into a pattern. In the bottom of the 3rd, the Yankees got a run back. Ryan doubled, moved to 3rd on Ellsbury’s single, and then scored on Brett Gardner’s sacrifice fly. But then the Blue Jays came back in the 4th to add to their score — a 2-out single and a 2-run home run to push them further over the Yankees. And in the bottom of that inning, Beltran and Headley on the corners with singles and 2 outs, Didi Gregorius’ single scored Beltran for a 2nd Yankee run of the night (no, I won’t tell you how bad the Yankees were losing at this point, but a 2nd grader with basic math skills could). And of course, the Blue Jays led-off the 5th with a solo home run for that extra cushion.

The Yankee offense finally pushed the Blue Jays’ starter out of the game in the 6th inning, and that was at least a little helpful for the their offense. I should note that I wasn’t really as impressed with their starter as I have been in the past, having seen him frequently due to his stints with the Rays and then the Tigers up until this year. I wasn’t impressed to the extent I was wondering why the Yankees weren’t doing better off of him. But it seemed their timing was just way off in the batter’s box no matter who was pitching. Case in point: Alex Rodriguez earned the “Golden Sombrero” tonight — 4 strikeouts in his 4 at-bats. He seems to be slowing down a bit after a really amazing power-summer, but all it really was tonight was his timing. He seemed to be late swinging at pitches, not that they were good pitches at all. I’ll give the Blue Jays credit for throwing off the Yankees’ timing at least.

Anyway, new pitcher for the Blue Jays in the 6th inning… with 1 out, Headley reached 1st safely when the 1st baseman bobbled the ball, and Bird singled to put 2 runners on base for Didi Gregorius, who smacked a nice 3-run home run into the right field seats. A pitching change signaled the end of the Yankees’ offense for the night. A vast improvement over most of tonight’s pitching (on both sides really).

In the top of the 7th (again, that lovely pattern continues), Chasen Shreve came on for Andrew Bailey. A lead-off single scored on a 2-run home run into the visitors’ dugout (right below the Canadian contingency in the bleachers, by the way). Caleb Cotham came on for relief of Shreve after 2 outs to finish the inning and throw a really great 8th inning. And Branden Pinder’s 9th inning was one of the best from any pitcher tonight.

Here are the bad numbers on the pitching — overall, the Yankees got 9 hits and a walk to the Blue Jays’ 16 hits and 3 walks. And the better numbers on pitching — the Yankees got the Blue Jays to strike out 9 times, while the Yankees’ batters struck out 12 times.

Final score: 11-5 (without that 1st inning, the score would’ve been 6-5, still a loss but more tolerable)

The Revolving Door with a Limp: Here’s the really bad news of the day — Mark Teixeira is out for the rest of the season. Recent MRI results found that the bone bruise is now compounded with a fracture, forcing the tenacious 1st baseman to sit and rest and heal rather than contribute to the team’s final push to October. He won’t be traveling with the team on any of their road trips and may not be in the dugout for many of the home games. I’m guessing he’s on pretty big orders to sit and rest and heal. After what has to be one of his best seasons ever, this has to be rather disappointing to now be forced to watch it from the sidelines. Heal up, Tex, we’re going to need you next year too!

Today, I would also like to remember those events of that day, that bright sunny Tuesday morning 14 years ago. We remember and honor the lives of the 2,977 people who lost their lives as a result of the attacks of September 11, 2001, here in New York and at the Pentagon and in Shanksville, PA. Our hearts and prayers are with their families as they continue to heal from their loss. (New York native Dellin Betances shared his memories of that day with MLB after he and Girardi placed a wreath by the 9/11 memorial plaque in Monument Park this afternoon.)

I am especially grateful to the first responders and military service men and women who willingly put their lives on the line for the sake of ordinary citizens like me every day, just as so many did on that day 14 years ago. Thank you for your continued sacrifice.

Go Yankees! (And yes, I’m forever apart of “Team USA”.)

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