Hmmm…let’s see. Where should I even begin? I’ll concede, sure, A-Rod didn’t get it done tonight. But frankly, no one did. In fact, outside of the 9th inning of Game 1, the only two Yankees who have made any noise are Derek Jeter and Raul Ibanez. I could bombard you with a slew of cumulative series numbers that will probably make you puke up your extra inning snack of choice (it was weird baseball, after all), but I won’t. Instead, I’ll simply provide you with a grotesque sample size from the last 4 1/2 hours:
Robinson Cano: 0-for-6, 5 LOB
Nick Swisher: 0-for-5, 4 LOB, GIDP
Curtis Granderson: 0-for-5, 3 LOB, 3 K
On a night where Phil Hughes and the entire bullpen did everything Joe Girardi asked of them, this loss falls squarely on the shoulders of an entire offense that failed to get a runner into scoring position after the 8th inning. Phil Hughes continued the run of excellent Yankees’ starting pitching with a gritty effort that looked doomed from the outset thanks to lack of control. While he never really found his command, Phil managed to put up a line that gets the Yanks to the ALCS 9 times out of 10: 6.2 IP, 4 H, 1 ER, 3 BB, 8 K, 95 pitches. He left the game in a 1-1 tie, limiting his damage to a solo HR by Nate McLouth.
Boone Logan, David Robertson, Rafael Soriano, and Joba Chamberlain contributed 4.1 innings of nearly flawless relief once Hughes was lifted, only allowing 2 baserunners. Joba looked particularly nasty, and I truly believed that when he came out for a second inning of work in the Top of the 12th, the Yankees offense would wake up long before the bullpen depth ran out.
Then, an omen.
Matt Wieters led off the 12th with a broken bat bloop to LF. While I was ruing the possibility of yet another broken bat dinker derailing the Yanks in the playoffs, I glanced back at the screen just in time to see Joba doubled over, reeling from the blow that the barrell of Wieters’ bat had inflicted on his pitching arm. He threw a few wild warm up tosses while Girardi and Donohue watched his elbow balloon. Result? End of the night for Joba, and somehow I knew that was it for the Yanks. David Phelps would relieve Joba and work around the leadoff single, but it would be the Orioles who would break through in the Bottom of the 13th. Doubles from Manny Machado and J.J. Hardy would plate the O’s second run, and that was all they needed. Can’t blame Phelps, or anyone who took the mound, for that matter.
Tonight’s loss reminded me of those ugly, painful losses we all sat through in July and August. You know the kind: poor pitch selection, tons of Ks, some questionable moves by Joe, and a little bit of bad luck. No need to harp on it any further. Just have to look at tomorrow and have faith that at least one guy can get the big hit that eluded the entire team tonight.
To his credit, Joe Saunders turned in nearly the same effort as he did against TEX in the Wild Card game. He was wild with 4 BBs, but unpredictable enough to keep some of the more anxious Bombers off balance with 5 Ks. For the second straight elimination game start, Saunders pitched into the 6th inning while only allowing 1 run. What can you do?
On top of everything else, I’m really bummed that the Yanks couldn’t pull this one out in the aftermath of the news that Joe Girardi’s father passed away on Saturday. Girardi had managed Games 1-3 without sharing the information with his players, which must have been quite a burden to bear. A moment of silence was held prior to this evening’s game, during which Girardi was visibly emotional. I’m fortunate enough to have both of my parents, and I cannot imagine what that type of loss must feel like, nor do I know what my coping mechanism of choice would be. That being said, leave the man be to deal with his grief as he sees fit. If staying with the team is what Joe wants to do, I think we all owe him that much.
In tomorrow’s decisive Game 5, Jason Hammel will oppose CC Sabathia at 5:00pm EST at Yankee Stadium on TBS. I’ll have the pitching preview up tomorrow afternoon, once I have gotten my fill of wallowing in despair over the Yanks’ suddenly poop offense.
Around the league: The Giants completed their down 0-2 comeback to beat the Reds and advance to the NLCS, while the Nationals lived to see a Game 5 on the strength of a Jayson Werth walk-off HR. In the AL, Justin Verlander tossed a complete game shutout to pitch the Tigers into the ALCS for the second straight year. That’s why the big boys go in Game 5, and that’s what I’ll be looking for from the biggest of all the big boys tomorrow afternoon.
Try to get some sleep, folks. Only 14 hours until first pitch.