When I agreed to do this blog, the one outstanding rule was that I would maintain a positive outlook. And for some games, some seasons even, this has been quite the test of my forced optimism. I think that’s why Girardi has a quirky catchphrase to rely on at press conferences following bad games: “It’s not what you want.” The positive insinuation is that you strive for something better than what you got, but just because that’s how it happened tonight, doesn’t mean it always happens that way.
A certain NYC paper blamed the Divine just this morning for the other New York team’s string of recent “bad luck” (they’ve been plagued with injuries and some player antics that led to a suspension). But blaming the supernatural (which includes blaming “bad luck”, if we’re really being picky) is kind of ridiculous. You can be the best team in the entire world, and in 162 games, the best anyone has ever done (in the modern era) is won 116 games (the 2001 Mariners). (By the way trivia nerds: the next 2 team records are the 1998 Yankees with 114 wins and the 1954 Indians with 11 wins.) A great batting average is .300, meaning that you didn’t make it on base 70% of the time you were up at bat.
Baseball is the game of learning how to turn common failures into victory patterns. And because of that baseball is a game where character matters more than glorious feats and humbling defeats.
So, as we ease into the weekend, the Yankees played their 2nd game in this 4-game series against the visiting Astros. Jordan Montgomery got the start and continued his pattern of minimal damage despite some higher statistics. In his 6 innings, he threw 91 pitches, gave up 8 hits, a walk, and 4 runs, and struck out 7 batters.
With 2 runners on base with singles and 1 out in the 4th, a certain former Yankee catcher remembered what it felt like to hit in the Bronx, finding the 2nd deck of the right field porch to get his new team, the Astros, on board with a 3-run home run. And a lead-off double in the 5th scored on a 2-out single to give the Astros a hefty lead over the Yankees.
Holder and Clippard sailed through the 7th and 8th innings, respectively, keeping the Astros from adding to their lead. Those two are certainly proving how valuable middle relievers are to a team.
Part of what makes Montgomery’s higher statistics okay is that the Yankees’ offense is usually able to combat some of those numbers with some of their own. But they were certainly restricted tonight, limited to just 4 hits off the Houston starter and then just pummeled with strikeouts all night (a total of 13).
Now, the 9th inning shook up things a bit for both teams. Though not a save situation, Girardi wanted to give Aroldis Chapman some work and sent him in for the 9th. But Chapman was having a bit of an off-day. His lead-off allowed single, stole 2nd on a strikeout, moved to 3rd on a fly out, and then scored on a single to give the Astros one more run. Chapman seemed a bit hurt on after one pitch, taking his time to get back to the mound, but stayed in the game to give up one more single. (Chapman is apparently fine, by the way.)
At that point, they were taking no more chances and sent in recent call-up Giovanni Gallegos to make his MLB debut. Gallegos threw a grand total of 2 pitches to get the final out of the half-inning and get the Yankees out of the threat.
The Yankees tried to pull a last-minute rally in the bottom of the 9th, and it got rather hopeful. Holliday led-off with a single, and then after a strikeout, Ellsbury singled. After another strikeout, Didi Gregorius hit a solid single to score Holliday and end the potential shutout. (more later) And then a strikeout closed the rally with a pout.
Final score: 5-1 Houston
My news feeds pop up with many random trivia facts about the game, the players, and baseball in general. But tonight, one was rather applicable. Apparently, going into tonight, only 4 teams haven’t been shutout all season — the Nationals, Twins, Indians, and Yankees. The Indians were shutout tonight, and as the Yankees narrowly avoided it, the tally now stands at 3.
Okay, I’ve got to address the 7th inning scuffle. So, Chase Headley is usually a pretty chill guy, one of the smartest, nicest guys on the team really. He knows the game, is able to spot a balk a mile away (something I still can’t do with even fair accuracy), and his strikezone radius is better than most umpires.
Now, let’s set the scene: Headley is up at bat in the 7th, and the first pitch is a strike on the edge of the zone (questionable, but whatever, it’s been iffy all night). The next pitch, Headley sets up to bunt and is hit on the hand by the ball, but the umpire says it’s a foul and his injury is a result of the foul not a hit-by-pitch. A weird call (that I don’t really agree with), but I can see where he’s coming from. Headley’s in a bit of pain, as he just took a 91.4mph pitch off his hand, so after being checked out by the Yankees’ staff, he needs a few minutes getting back in the batter’s box for the next pitch. He makes a comment to his friend, former teammate, and current Astros’ catcher. And suddenly, the home plate umpire is all up in Headley’s face, including a finger pointing mere centimeters from the 3rd baseman’s nose.
Well, in the heat of the moment, I don’t know one person that isn’t going to be upset that someone is yelling at you and shoving their hands into your face. So Headley is ejected, and for some reason, Girardi isn’t, though he certainly puts up a good fight with the same umpire. No one on the broadcast, in the stands, on either team seems to understand the logic behind the umpire’s initial reaction and the ejection.
Torreyes, by the way, came in to replace Headley, picking up his at-bat where it is. He watched a ball outside add to the count, before hitting a little grounder to end the inning.
And in better news: today would have been Yankee legend Yogi Berra’s 92nd birthday. In his honor, the Yogi Berra Museum hosted its first annual awards dinner tonight at the Plaza Hotel to help raise money for the museum and education center in New Jersey. Among the awards presented tonight, former Yankees pitcher Ron Guidry was awarded the Teammate Award, and Yankees’ general partner Jennifer Steinbrenner Swindal was awarded the Carmen Berra Award. Later in the evening, Bernie Williams even joined the band on stage with his guitar. And as a fun favor, all the guests were given chocolates molded into a silhouette of Yogi.
By the way, if you’re ever near Jersey, go check out the Yogi Berra Museum. It’s a living legacy of the great game of baseball and the great men who played it.