Starter Phil Hughes actually started off today with a really fantastic outing. He went 7.1 innings, allowing only 5 hits and striking out a career-tying record of 10 batters. Most innings he threw went very quickly, including some 1-2-3 innings. Two ill-placed pitches in the 2nd and 7th innings set-up 2 solo home runs, but he was able to keep that from making a big impact. But then he got himself in deep trouble in the 8th inning and allowed a 2-run homer that put the Twins well up over the Yankees.
The Yankees were only able to break the Minnesota pitching staff in the 1st inning. Ichiro Suzuki doubled and then Robinson Cano hit a nice RBI single for the first and only time the Yankees would cross the plate. The final score of 4-1 left many fans (myself included) anticipating the Yankee offense to pick up at some point, but it never did.
Like I mentioned yesterday, the Twins defense is actually really good, and today the Yankees matched them pretty well. Seeing as the only runs were home runs by the Twins, any potential offense on the ground was blocked by both sides of field today. And honestly, the most interesting thing that happened during the game was the ejection of the Twins’ manager in the 8th inning.
Here’s what happened: the Minnesota batter hit the ball softly back to Hughes, who tried to throw it to Overbay at 1st base but was blocked by the runner who was out of the baseline. The ball even hit the runner as further proof of the misplacement of the runner. The umpire called the runner out for interference, and the manager came storming out of the dugout, argued with gusto, and then promptly got himself ejected, his 3rd of the season and 65th of his career. There is some dispute as to the legitimacy of the call, but I think the umpires made the right call at the end of the day (something that surprises me more than you know).
After quite a busy week with HOPE Week and injury updates and mega-plays in some of the games, it seems that today is destined to be shortened blog. Tomorrow is the last game before the All-Star break, and considered the half-way point of the season (though we hit that 13 games ago at the beginning of the month). And in clearly the toughest and better division in the league, the top 4 teams (Boston, Baltimore, Tampa, and New York) are all safely above .500 and have better averages than most of the 2nd or 3rd place teams in the other divisions. And because of the more frequent play across the league and with interleague play, I don’t know how much we can put on the divisional championship anymore, when you really think about it.
Since the expansion era (1969), there were more emphasis on the division rivals, but as interleague play was introduced in 1997, the schedules became messier to try to fit in everything. The newest rules are 19 games × 4 opponents in own division (76 games), 6 or 7 games × 10 opponents in other divisions within league (66 games), and 20 total interleague games. This makes it just shy of half the total games against those in your own division. When they reshuffled the deck, so to speak, for the start of the 2013 season, evenly dividing the 30 MLB teams into 5 divisional teams in 6 divisions (3 AL, 3 NL), it certainly shook things up for the competition and schedule. I guess you could even call this season a “guinea pig” season with all the new rules, schedule, times, etc.
But actually, what’s really surprised me about this year is how many weather-affected games, postponed or delayed they’ve already had this season. And I’m not just talking about the Yankees, but it seems that across the league every week there’s another game that was rained out or delayed for a significant amount of time. At the end of the season, it will be interesting to see how many games and teams were actually affected by the weather and what kind of effect that might have on their postseason potential. Not that anyone’s going to blame having a poor season on the snow or rain (sorry for the Milli Vanilli reference, but it fit here)… well, at least the Yankees wouldn’t…