Orioles 8 Yankees 2; Hughes, Hawkins Implode; Offense Stagnant

[I have added some game notes below]

I watched most of the game last night, then turned on the radio to listen to the final three innings because I just couldn’t take Gary Thorne and Underwear Jim Palmer anymore. Thankfully I got a call from Frank the Sage, sparing me the need to listen to the rest. Since we talked until about midnight, it necessitated a next-day wrap-up. What a dud of a game, devolving from a pitchers’ duel into a blowout. Hughes was good through five, matching Daniel Cabrera. But the sixth was his undoing, but more frustratingly occurring after the Yankees left the bases loaded in the top half. The Orioles scored seven in the bottom half to put the game out of reach. The Yankees rallied briefly in the seventh. Chad Moeller, who had both the Yankees’ RBIs, homered, then Damon and Jeter singled, but Abreu and A-Rod ripped balls to first and third, respectively, for the first two outs, then Matsui popped out to end any chance of a big inning. 1-2-3 eighth and ninth innings ended it.

Hughes allowed 9 hits, 5 runs earned, and 2 walks in 5 1/3 IP, fanning one in 97 pitches/60 strikes. Again, he did very well through five, but imploded in the sixth. After allowing the go-ahead run, he wasn’t helped by his defense. A-Rod threw a ball down low to first, clearly a bad throw, but Giambi also failed to block it, giving Jones second on the ground ball and the Orioles their fourth run. From there things only got worse, with Hawkins allowing three more in the frame.

I’ll add more later, but need to split now. GLG has an early soccer game so I need to get ready early. This was a forgettable game anyhow. The offense was an ineffective mess. An up-and-down first eighteen games.

The Yankees got little going early in the game off Cabrera, against whom they tend to struggle. After Matsui was hit by a pitch to lead off the second, Cano lined into a double play to erase it. In the fourth, Abreu singled, moved to second on A-Rod’s ground out, and came to home on Matsui’s single to right, but was thrown out by Markakis. It was a close play, and I still haven’t seen a good replay of it, but I thought he made it in safe. What is hard to tell is whether or not Abreu actually touched home plate, or was still above it, when Hernandez tagged him out. But they mustered too little offense in the rest of the game, making this missed opportunity more painful. Hughes worked out of a 1st and 3rd, no out jam in the fourth, getting a DP in exchange for the run, 1-0 Orioles. The Yanks tied it in the fifth when Cano singled sharply up the middle, Melky doubled, and Mora’s error on Moeller’s grounder scored Cano, 1-1. Damon grounded weakly to short but beat the DP attempt, but Jeter’s ground out ended the inning with the go-ahead run on third.

In Cano’s defense, he was 1-4 but his at-bat in the fifth showed a better approach that he had most of the night. He avoided first pitches down in the zone, clearly intended to induce the weak ground outs he’s accumulated lately, and in the fifth, banged a single back through the box on the next pitch, which was a better pitch for him to handle. In the first two pitches, Cano realized the benefits of patience, and hopefully it will translate into a better and more productive approach now.

I know I’m reiterating it, but it’s important to note that Hughes really was good through five, when he scattered five hits and two walks. He was at 80 pitches through five, 48 for strikes, and was on a pace to at least get into the seventh with an efficient sixth. Clearly, that didn’t happen. But Hughes was better than his two previous starts, when he was chased early and didn’t locate his fastball. He located it much better yesterday, but was in Millar’s wheel house on the sixth-inning single. In fairness to Hughes, Markakis’s single to begin the sixth was better hitting and not bad pitching. Markakis reached across the plate to steer it into center. Hughes kept the ball on the outside corner and down, but Markakis just went down and got it. He’s a terrific hitter and beat Hughes, who threw a good pitch. The inning spun out of control from there. Hughes is 21 and learning as he goes. He showed good stuff, and deserves patience. For naysayers elsewhere who only complain about Hughes, and Kennedy for that matter, they’re young and so many fans wanted the young arms in the rotation. Now that they’re in it, overwrought fans need to allow them time to learn, which invariably means time to struggle. There will be growing pains.

Abreu was 2-4 to up his average to .313, Moeller continued his good fill-in play with 2 RBIs and nabbing Hernandez trying to take third in the fifth. Melky, Cano, Matsui, Damon and Jeter all had singles, but the Yanks left nine on base, four in scoring position. They failed to push across runs when they had chances, and they had some in the first six innings. If they had scored a couple of them, who knows what would have happened in the bottom of the sixth. Giambi was 0-3, hitting the ball hard at times and working a very good nine-pitch walk in the unrequited sixth-inning rally. But he’s hitting .116, and he needs to do far more than draw walks. The Yankees need to bring up Duncan when they get the chance and platoon them at first until one or the other proves capable of doing the job. Don’t be surprised to see Ensberg against the lefty Burres today. Damon had a hit and a couple hard-hit balls as well, but his struggles and those of Giambi go beyond some stung balls not dropping. They’re floundering, and Damon’s struggles are especially bad because he’s not on base for the heart of the order. He’s also not capable of stealing bases when he’s only running back to the dugout. The two of them continue to hurt the team. Mike Sommer at The Sommer Frieze rightly speculates that their time may be running short. They’re clearly not hitting their way out of their respective slumps, and though the team isn’t dreadfully far behind in the East like last year, they’re losing games from dead spots in the lune-up and some bad starts lately. Expect changes should they continue to fail at the plate.

I don’t know why, but yesterday’s game had me more frustrated than any other loss this year. Maybe it was how flat the team looked; maybe my patience for continued squandered chances to score has worn thin. Either way, last night’s loss got me more frosted than others have. I’m not sure I’m alone in feeling that.

Published in: on April 19, 2008 at 7:51 am  Comments (5)  

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5 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Hi Jason,
    I don’t like when this team plays the way they do sometimes, against the O’s, and the Rays. It makes me feel like I’ve already seen this game already.
    I was flicking between the Yanks and Boston, and I was SO excited when I changed back to Boston, just in time to see Ortiz get the GS. LUCKY ME, to get to witness that, as it was happening.


  2. Jason,

    First, may I say, if only mlblogs offered easy commenting like this, I’d be a happy man. Wondering if the Yanks ‘pen is better than they’ve shown, but already worn down from early starter exists.

  3. Best thing is, you can delete the posts or commentator. If it is a first time troll, it goes into “awaiting moderation,” and you can decide not to accept him or her. It’s nice at keeping your blog clean.

    It also helps you see if certain people are posting several times under different names off the same computer/IP address. For instance, someone who makes a lousy point but who wants to make himself or herself look good by backing themselves up with 10 phony names.

    Anyway, it helps weed out the trolls, which MLB doesn’t do a good job of.

  4. Dianna, I know exactly what you mean. Last night’s game was so familiar, and it goes beyond the fact that teams have games like that sometimes. They were flat, and I think it’s a sign of some early-season fatigue. They’ll need that Monday day off, I suspect.

    Steve and Mike S., exactly about commenting and moderating comments through WordPress. I mistakenly thought that I needed to set the comment setting as such before in order to weed out any potential trolls, but didn’t realize that WordPress actually does that already from what Mike says–the “awaiting approval” feature. Plus, in this setting, people can set up names and get commenting quickly. Mike is right when saying about MLBlogs not weeding out the trolls. I strongly suspected that a couple people at a certain blog spout nonsense and sign in via other names to back themselves up. It’s also a matter of the blog moderator wanting to clean up the garbage, which some don’t want to do.

    Steve, before I forget, I think you’re right about the pen. The Yankees have a good bullpen but it’s been overworked early. Plus, with the loss of Joba lately combined with some short starts, it’s meant people have had dual roles–short and long relieving.

  5. i completely agree about this being the most frustrating game…among several tempting candidates, mind you. i couldn’t even finish watching it.

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