Maybe it’s because I truly do expect the Yankees to beat the Twins every time they face them, but this was a particularly tough one to swallow. Everything was just rolling along so smoothly until the 7th inning. Phil wasn’t great, but neither was the lineup he was facing. Nick Swisher and Russell Martin went deep against the impressive, young (and fantastically named) Esmerling Vazquez. Yup. This one had win written all over it. Alas, it was not written in the stars (Sidenote: I will not miss hearing Tiny Tempeh’s “Written in the Stars” this postseason. What an atrocious recording). Well, I’m not going to beat this one to death because it will hurt me to do so, but let’s have a look.
The only relief I enjoyed tonight came from the Tums I popped after dinner
I’m a fan and frequent apologist of Phil Hughes. It’s true. Tonight will be no different. Phil didn’t have his best fastball tonight (sitting at 91-92) but it was enough to keep the Twins at bay for 6.2 IP. Prior to the 7th inning, Phil was pitching like he should against this lineup at Target Field: lots of fastballs, lots of strikes.
The one run that scored while Phil was physically on the mound came in the Bottom of the 4th. Joe Mauer led off the inning with an opposite field 1B, one of his 3 hits on the night. Hughes looked to respond well initially, striking out Justin Morneau and getting that lumberjack Ryan Doumit to pop up. With 2 down, Chris Parmalee hit a seemingly harmless blooper down the line in shallow left that looked like it was going to dunk in for a 1B, which would have held Mauer at 3rd. Unfortunately, we were all treated to another installment of The Adventures of Raul, as the ball bounced away from Ibanez into foul territory and he failed to field it cleanly. Mauer scored from 1st to bring the Twins closer at 2-1.
Fast forward to the Bottom of the 7th. Hughes had been cruising, retiring 7 straight until Doumit singled to lead off the inning. Chris Parmalee (he of PH RBI 3B from last night fame) then grinded out a walk, fouling off several tough pitches from Hughes. Annoying, to say the least. After an at-bat like his, I generally start to shift in my seat, avert my gaze from whatever nonsense I’ve been getting into on the internet with the game on in the background, and prepare for Total Game Armageddon. With no one out and runners on 1st and 2nd, Phil Hughes got the streaky/occasionally dangerous Trevor Plouffe to pop up. Jamey Carroll followed with a grounder to SS that looked to be a run scoring 1B off the bat that Jeter was able to knock down, only allowing everyone to move up one base. Bases loaded, 1 out. At 93 pitches, Phil knew that the end was probably near. He bore down and threw 6 straight fastballs to Pedro Florimon, blowing him away for the 2nd on his 99th and final pitch of the game. Now, with the bases still loaded and 2 outs, it was time for some binder action. Final line for Phil: 6.2 IP, 6 H, 4 ER, 1 BB, 4 K, 99 pitches.
Girardi decided to turn to Boone Logan to face Denard Span with the game hanging in the balance, and the move left many a fan shaking their heads. Span has a career reverse split (.293 vs. LHP, .282 vs. RHP) and came in hitting over .300 against lefties on the year. To boot, Phil had retired him 3 times on weak ground outs. The manager, we are not, but this move was tough to comprehend. As expected, things really got off to an enchanting start. On his first pitch to Span, Logan yanked a slider that bounced off the plate and threw the legs of Russell Martin for a wild pitch, allowing Doumit to score and cut the lead to 3-2. Later in the at-bat, Boone would back off on a slider, spinning it right into Span’s wheelhouse. The result? A 2-run 2B into the gap in right-center to put the Twins up 4-3. After issuing a free pass to Ben Revere, Logan was left in to allow another RBI knock to a lefty – this time a RBI 1B by Joe Mauer to put it out of reach at 5-3. And there it was: Total Game Armageddon.
Simply put, Boone Logan has not been very good in the month of September. Over-use may play a part (this was his 77th appearance) but whatever the reason, he is seriously struggling with his location right now. He’s blown 2 leads in his last 3 appearances, and doesn’t inspire any confidence in me that he’ll be able to retire someone like a Prince Fielder come playoff time. Hopefully he figures it out or Joe gives him the rest he needs.
Not enough home runs (a meager attempt at some positivity)
The Yankees’ offense was entirely one-dimensional tonight, after being nearly entirely one-dimensional last night. Nick Swisher continued his 2 week hot streak with a 2-run blast in the Top of the 4th to put the Yankees up 2-0. It was Swish’s second straight game with a HR, and his 3rd in the last week. For a guy who has suffered through serious late-season burnout in his career, it’s nice to see Nick heading into October on a high note this year. Let’s hope he keeps it up.
In the Top of the 7th, Russell Martin led off by ripping a line drive HR to left center that at the time felt like a glorious insurance run. It was Russell’s 19th HR of the season, exceeding his total of 18 from one year ago and matching his career high set with the Dodgers during his breakout campaign in 2007. As difficult as it was to watch Russell struggle through the first half, he’s actually rebounded well enough down the stretch that his year-end numbers will look okay when viewed through the lens of his plus-defense behind the plate. They will not, however, tell the whole tale. In addition to getting some big hits (Yanks’ only 2 walkoff HRs this year) Russell really impressed me by continuing to try to right the ship all season even though his season looked doomed after only 6 weeks.
I’m bummed, let’s wrap this up
- Derek Jeter’s 1B in the 1st inning extending his hit streak to 19 games. Shocking, but true, fact: Jeter is only 23 hits away from passing Paul Molitor on the all-time hits list. Significance? That would give Jeter the most hits of any player never to win a batting title. It’s sort of shocking to me that neither Molitor nor Jeter ever snagged one, and probably would be to others as well. Feel free to throw that trivia question around at happy hour this week.
- Derek Lowe pitched a 1-2-3 inning in the 8th. Equally as shocking as the previous bullet point.
- Andruw Jones got the Yanks within 1 with a solo HR off of Glen Perkins in the 9th. It was only his 15th hit, and 3rd HR, of the 2nd half. Jones has looked very old for the last 2/3 of this season, so we may be witnessing the final few at-bats of what was a stellar career. I’m trying to look past how much he’s hurt the Yanks this year and enjoy it. You should too.
The Yanks will go for the series win tomorrow afternoon at 1:10pm EST, sending CC Sabathia (13-6, 3.47 ERA) against Samuel Deduno (6-5, 4.54 ERA). Hopefully CC can double up on his strong performance against the A’s last Friday night at the Stadium.
I saved this for the end because it makes me sick: The Orioles lost 4-0 to the Blue Jays tonight, so the Yankees missed an opportunity to go up 2 1/2 games in the AL East with 8 to play. The good news is that while no ground was gained, the magic number was reduced to 7. Final tidbit comes from the Department of OPTIMISM (YEAH!). With the Rangers extra inning loss to the A’s tonight, the Yankees remain only 2 off the pace for the best record in the AL. I’m trying not to focus on that, but it’s there folks. Now excuse me while I go console myself with Minnesota State Fair delicacies such as fried oreos and fried Twinkies. Enjoy.