Game 142: TB vs. NYY — Sometimes, it’s just not enough…

It’s that time of year again where basically the only games left to play are against division rivals — so lots of Tampa, Baltimore, Toronto, and (everyone’s favorite rival) Boston. To kick off the last 20 games of the season, the Rays came to the Bronx for a mid-week series against the Yankees. The Rays are not in any kind of race as their are much too far behind the division leaders (Orioles) to have a chance at October baseball. But the Yankees are still in it, going into tonight’s game just 5 games from the second Wild Card spot.

Tonight’s game certainly didn’t help their chances…

Hiroki Kuroda took the start for tonight and had a really great 1st inning. Things were looking up, promise lingered in the air. But things progressively crumbled and just didn’t get better. Kuroda threw 67 pitches over his 3.1 inning outing, giving up 9 of the Rays’ 11 hits and all 4 of their runs, striking out just 5 batters. In the 2nd inning, he allowed a lead-off solo home run, but still managed to keep the Rays in check. In the 3rd, two back-to-back singles ended up scoring on another pair of back-to-back singles. Then in the 4th, 3 consecutive singles scored another run, pushing the Rays up to 4 runs scored.

So the Yankees opened the floodgates that would be their bullpen tonight. David Huff took the rest of the 4th for Kuroda and threw the 5th, keeping the Rays to those pesky 4 runs. Whitley took the 6th, continuing what Huff began. And then the bullpen dance began — the 7th was split between Whitely, Hill, and Rogers; the 8th between Rogers, Outman, and Kelley. And Robertson did an absolutely flawless job in the 9th, but it seemed that no matter what the Yankees tried to do, it wasn’t going to be enough (is that the theme for this year’s team?).

On the other side of the field, the Yankees did their best to at least attempt to win this game, offensively that is. Jacoby Ellsbury smacked a nice solo home run in the 4th inning. But it was the 5th inning that had the Yankees pushing back against the Rays. Bases loaded and no outs, newcomer Chris Young hit a long single that scored both Headley and Ichiro. Then Ellsbury singled and Drew was sent home from his spot at 2nd, but the left fielder threw a sharp throw to the catcher waiting at home plate to tag out Drew. Initially, the play was ruled an out, but Girardi did challenge it as a blocked-plate call (something I believe was correctly challenged). But upon review, the call stood as originally called.

This is the second time that I’ve disagreed with challenged plays (or the results of them), and both times have been over the plate-blocking new rule this year. I thought I understood it clearly when they announced the rule change earlier this year, but it seems in both of these instances, I don’t because the umpire HQ guys seem insistent on turning my understanding upside down.

I’m the first to admit I that while I do know a lot about baseball and all its rules and “unwritten rules” and the oddities that make up the sport, there’s still some that seem to baffle me from time to time. I guess, I can now add this blocked-plate rule to my list of unknowns with baseball. I was really excited about the new rule, preventing home plate collisions and the injuries that often result in such crashes,. But if there’s no consistency in calling these plays, how exactly are we supposed to understand the new rule?

Well, yet another reason my job is just to write my opinion on the game and not personally have to sort out all these little details. Sometimes, that’s just how things end up happening despite our best efforts, our hopes, our dreams. Sometimes, it’s just not enough… And tonight, not enough added up to a 4-3 loss to the Rays.

But on a brighter note, I had the absolute pleasure of being at the Yankees game tonight as it was also my birthday. Of course, it’s always a pleasure to watch a game, especially the Yankees. But on my birthday, there are few places I’d rather be than at Yankee Stadium watching a baseball game. Thanks for the memories today, boys! I look forward to next year… and how do I set up a win then?

Go Yankees!

Game 136: BOS vs. NYY — Welcome to September baseball, not so Greene anymore

Well, it’s September baseball. Consider this the long stretch into the postseason. And yesterday, the Yankees had the day off, which I guess was nice for those who wanted to celebrate Labor Day properly. But it also means that the 25-man roster can increase to the 40-man for the playoff race. That being said, the Yankees recalled catcher John Ryan Murphy and pitchers Preston Claiborne, Bryan Mitchell, and Chase Whitley (from AAA Scranton); selected pitcher Rich Hill and outfielder Chris Young (also from AAA); and signed outfielder Antoan Richardson and pitcher Chaz Roe to ML contracts and the active roster (again from AAA). And in less pleasant news, AA Trenton outfielder Slade Heathcott was recalled and moved to the 60-day DL due to right knee surgery; moved Masahiro Tanaka to the 60-day DL (more in a moment); released pitcher Matt Daley; and designated Zoilo Almonte for assignment.

Okay, so Tanaka’s soreness was diagnosed as just that — soreness. That means, he will return to his throwing rehab this week, attempting to work back into the regular season as soon as humanly possible. It feels odd that I must include the term “human”, but I think sometimes some people become so used to the idea of near immortality of the athletes (or even seeing them as simply commodities) that one might forget they are also human, with weaknesses and limitations. We continue to wish Tanaka a speedy recovery, but mostly we want good, whole health.

And then there was a game with the visiting Boston Red Sox. Shane Greene took the start tonight, and while Greene has been pretty consistent this year in his fill-in status, tonight certainly wasn’t consistent with the Greene I think we’ve been spoiled to watch. In just 2.2 innings, Greene threw 67 pitches, gave up 6 hits, 6 runs, and 3 walks, striking out just 3 Boston batters. To say it was a terrible outing for Greene might be an understatement, and I think everyone wishes this was an April game and not a September one.

In the 1st inning, a single and a walk put runners on base to score on a double and a sacrifice fly. (2-0 Boston) In the 3rd, runners again on base with a single and a walk score when a batter smacked a 3-run home run into the right field seats, only to be followed up 2 batters (and 1 out) later by another home run (a solo shot). (6-0 Boston)

Now, the Yankees answered back in the bottom of the 3rd as Martin Prado hit his own solo home run into the left field seats, but with Esmil Rogers on the mound now (in relief of Greene to get out of the 3rd and pitching into the 4th), Rogers gave up his own solo home run, effectively erasing the Yankees’ attempt. (7-1 Boston). Rogers came back for 1 out in the 5th before handing the ball over to Hill to end that inning.

The bottom of the 5th was, by far, the most productive offensive inning for the Yankees, albeit awfully strange. Beltran and McCann each singled. Then Prado hit a ball that sailed over the left fielder’s head, which should have been a double, but Beltran and McCann were waiting to see if the player could catch it. He didn’t, so Prado headed for 2nd thinking it was a double, but McCann was held up there as Beltran was still on 3rd. Desperately trying to find his way back to 1st as it was deemed a single, Prado ended up getting tagged out. Some people blamed Beltran for not running, some people blamed Prado for running too much, but really it was just a huge miscommunication for everyone. Anyway, Headley walked to load the bases, and then Francisco Cervelli’s walk finally scored Beltran.

Another out brought up Derek Jeter to the plate. Jeter hit a soft grounder to the shortstop who charged the ball and fired it to 1st where the 1st base umpire called Jeter out. This brought Girardi out of the dugout for a challenge. Upon review (and a very boisterous reception from the heated crowd in the steamy Bronx tonight upon seeing the replay on the big screen), it was over turned — Jeter safe at 1st, bases still loaded, but McCann scored. (7-3 Boston) The next batter was Brett Gardner, who struck out on a rather outside pitch; a bit frustrated, Gardner discarded his helmet and bat a little to forcefully, according to the home plate umpire who immediately ejected him. Well, with nothing to lose, Gardner went off on his about his “floating strike zone”.

Like I said, that 5th inning was something else…

Well, this whole game was really something else…

Warren came on to pitch the 6th and 7th for the Yankees, and Huff got his chance in the 8th. Both did an excellent job keeping Boston from adding to this lead that was easily handed to them by sloppy pitching and missed offensive opportunities and whatever happened in the bottom of the 5th to the Yankees.

Chaz Roe made his Yankee debut in the 9th, and I’m guessing it wasn’t quite the impression he had in mind. He gave up a lead-off triple that scored on a sacrifice fly and a walk that scored on a single. The Yankees tried to earn back one of those runs in the bottom of the 9th with Brian McCann’s lead-off solo home run. But it wasn’t enough.

And Prado was pulled from the game in the 9th inning (replaced by Chris Young, the former Met making his pinstriped debut) with hamstring soreness. The initial diagnosis was hamstring tightness in his left leg, but they will have an official diagnosis after he sees the team doctor and an MRI. Fingers crossed for just a couple of days warming the bench and not something more serious (though, this year, nothing surprises me anymore on the injury front).

Like I said, this game was something else… there are literally no words to describe it. Well, there are words, but I’m trying to maintain a positive, clean blog here. And on that note, what would the upside of tonight’s game? They still have 2 more games to win against Boston this week, and there are two rookie pitchers scheduled for the next two days to face the Yankees. Here’s to hoping the stereotypes are true about rookie (and recent call-up) pitchers facing veteran batters…

Go Yankees!