I can’t really blame tonight’s 11th inning loss entirely on a blown call, but that certainly has a lot to do with the state of the game. Honestly, things started out so great, and then they got really bad, and then it was better, and then it was tied and into extra innings, and then it got bad again, and then it got awful, and then it was over. Four hours and 46 minutes after the first pitch, the Red Sox can enjoy their 1st place standing (the Rays are really threatening) and the Yankees have to catch a flight to Dallas for tomorrow night’s game. Did I mention it’s already tomorrow?
CC Sabathia celebrated his 33rd birthday today, but I’m guessing he won’t really enjoy remembering today so much. He hit his first batter, but kept the Red Sox from scoring or doing much of anything for the first two innings. And then it suddenly wasn’t so great. In the 3rd inning, a lead-off double advanced to 3rd on a sacrifice bunt and scored on a single; another single put 2 men on base for a 3-run home run to put Boston up 4 runs in just that inning. At the bottom of the 4th, Sabathia hit the lead-off batter, then allowed back-to-back singles to load the bases; a single out to left field scored 2 more runs. A solo home run in the 5th inning added another run to the Boston scoreboard (now up to 7). That was it for Sabathia — 102 pitches over just 5 innings, allowing 9 hits, 7 runs (2 homers), and walking 2. It just wasn’t how Sabathia expected to spend his birthday, I’m guessing.
But the Yankees actually started out pretty well. Right in the 1st inning, Brett Gardner leads off with a single, and Ichiro Suzuki reaches on a throwing error, allowing Gardner to 3rd; then when Ichiro steals 2nd, the catcher misses the throw, advancing Ichiro to 3rd and Gardner to score the Yankees first run; Robinson Cano walks; and Ichiro scores on Vernon Wells’ single. In the 2nd inning, Chris Stewart walks, advancing to 3rd on the next two groundouts; Ichiro is plunked on the back by a pitch (he’ll wake up with a nice bruise there tomorrow); and Cano’s single scores Stewart. So in the first two innings, the Yankees are up 3-0. By the 5th inning, the Red Sox have jumped ahead 7-3.
And if we know anything about this rivalry, when one team is winning, the other doesn’t just roll over and take it; they fight it all the way.
And suddenly, it’s the 6th inning. Eduardo Nunez singles and then steals 2nd base; Stewart draws a walk; Nunez scores on Gardner’s single; Ichiro singles to load the bases; and Cano singles home Stewart. And it’s 7-5 Boston. In the 7th, Wells walks Nunez singles; then Stewart bunts the ball, which is then overthrown to 1st base, so Stewart ends up at 2nd, Nunez at 3rd, and Wells scores (7-6); and Luis Cruz hits a sacrifice groundout to score Nunez. The game is tied.
And as Claiborne, Logan, David Robertson (absolute magic getting out of a jam tonight), and Shawn Kelley (really phenomenal job tonight by Kelley) all put in their time on the mound to keep the game rolling into extra innings waiting for the Yankees bats to awake again. But no Yankee ever crossed the plate again as Sunday night became Monday morning in Boston. It was Adam Warren who gave up a really solid home run out into center field to give the Red Sox an 8-7 walk-off home run victory. (Warren also took the loss, which means Sabathia doesn’t earn the loss on his birthday, a rather half-hearted gift.)
Look, there were a lot of moments that made tonight’s game super tight, and really hard/good to watch at times. There was the 15 pitch at-bat for Gardner, which ultimately earned him a walk. There was the dance around the ball to take 2nd base for Ichiro (that throwing error in the 1st inning). There was Gardner tying Mickey Mantle for 9th most stolen bases in Yankee history with his 153rd stolen base of his career (Derek Jeter is the current all-time Yankees leader at 348). There was some really great defensive moments, catches, plays, teamwork, etc.
But the one that got under everyone’s skin was the clearly blown call when Nunez stole 2nd base in the 11th and was called out. Replays, even viewed by Yankee haters, all confirm Nunez was safe. And it ended up costing the Yankees the game. Putting Nunez in scoring position was the one shot they had in the extra innings, and a deep single would have easily scored the quick running Nunez. Unfairness aside, it just further proves the need for confirmation on such calls. This wasn’t calling balls and strikes or nitpicky stuff the anti-technology people always afraid of when talking about bringing technology into the game. This was win or lose time, and this gave Boston the edge they needed to get their victory tonight. Surely, we have advanced enough in technology to improve safety, equipment, broadcasting, even communication between the dugout and bullpen. So why haven’t we transferred that leap into 21st century technology in the confirmation of umpire calls, like football, basketball, hockey, soccer, and all major professional sports.
But baseball has always been a little behind on advancements and change until absolutely necessary. When would that line come for something like this? It’s already affected major play-off games and even World Series games. And I’m not just crying foul against the Yankees. Calls have gone for and against the Yankees, just like they have for every other team. But when is enough enough here? Maybe some accountability with technological confirmation will lessen all that “blue hate” from the cheap seats. But then again, they’ll always find something else to complain about. Complainers and haters always do.
For now, we cheer on our teams, pray for health for all those poor guys looking on from the dugout or at their TV screens just itching to get back in the game, and hope for the best and fairest calls possible. After all, it’s the only thing positive people (and blogs) can do.