Study in Contrasts

Frank The Sage’s phone call during extra innings spared me the need–and quite frankly I had little desire–to write yet another wrap-up about how the Yankees are in a futile and fairly brainless slump right now. An object lesson in that is the eleventh inning of last night’s 2-1 loss. After mustering nearly nothing all night, especially off starter Edwin Jackson, save Matsui’s game-tying homer in the ninth off closer Troy Percival, Abreu worked a one-out walk. While I was talking with The Sage about the upcoming vacation we have, for which I cannot wait, I was thinking, steal a base here Abreu. For goodness sake, can we manufacture a run, please? What happened next? Matsui swung at the first pitch and grounded into a 4-6-3 DP to end it just like that. Yet right away in the bottom of the 11th, the Rays inflicted upon Mariano his first run and loss of 2008, with Cliff Floyd singling–on the first pitch up–past a seemingly immobile Giambi. Gomes entered as a pinch-runner and promptly stole second off a terrible throw by Molina, then came home on Gabe Gross’s single to center. 2-1 Rays, the direct result of the willingness to manufacture opportunities, the ability to cash them in–both of which the Yankees woefully lack.

You want more lessons in futility? Chien-Ming Wang struggled a bit early but really buckled down to keep the dormant Yankee offense in the game, going seven strong and allowing only one run earned on seven hits, three walks, two K’s, and a remarkable 16 groundouts on 101 pitches/67 strikes. Yet his excellent start went to waste, since the offense couldn’t score. For example, in the top of the sixth, the Yankees had a golden opportunity to at least tie the game when Jeter’s hard but diving liner skidded past the diving Eric Hinske in right, going to the wall and giving The Captain a stand-up triple with one out. Yet Abreu grounded to short–horrible–and Matsui popped to short, ending the threat. The same result occurred in the second, when Giambi and Melky singled back-to-back to start the inning, but Cano’s force and disgraced former attorney general Alberto Gonzales grounded into a double play. Disgraceful situational hitting yet again. While they had few such chances, the Yankees had no hits or productive outs with runners in scoring position. None.

There were some moments when the Yankees hit the ball hard but right at people–Jeter for example lining a hard shot to Pena at first–for some bad luck. However, this slump is largely of their own doing, I’d contend. The Yankees are neither good nor smart right now. Yes, Matsui hit the game-tying homer in the ninth. But that’s no excuse for his impatience in the eleventh, none whatsoever. This team cannot get out of its own way right now. The 1-0 lead that the Rays held from the bottom of the fourth to the top of the ninth felt like an anvil on the chest, like a hundred-run deficit simply because the offense is doing nothing good or right. It should never have come down to Mariano pitching a second inning, much less suffering his first loss. The Yankees aren’t hitting in key situations. Nor are they manufacturing runs through a stolen base, advancing runners via grounding out or a deep fly ball, or [GASP!] a bunt. It doesn’t help that in five innings last night–the third, fourth, fifth, eighth, and tenth–the first two Yankee batters made outs, drastically reducing their margin for error and opportunities for various means of productivity. They can’t have a productive out in those situations when the next one always seems to end the inning.

Giambi appears to be coming out of his month-long malaise, going 2-2 with 2 walks to raise his average to .194, still sad but better. Matsui’s homer gave him five on the year with eighteen RBIs. Jeter’s triple went unrequited, as did JD’s and Melky’s singles. They left six on, two in scoring position, and grounded into two double-plays. Frank The Sage made a good point–several really–in our confab that the Yankees lack a good bat off the bench in addition to lacking many in the regular lineup. That is, they lack the grab-the-bat-cold guy like Fielder and Sierra who can come in and stand a good chance to rip an RBI single or double (or dare I say homer). I’ll add that the Yankees’ continuing to play Giambi and Cano through horrific and prolonged slumps (out of which they might be finally emerging) deprived us the chance to see if Shelley could be that on a semi-regular basis.

Vacation looms in two days, and it couldn’t come at a better time. Usually I watch very little live baseball or even catch many highlights while on vacation for the week, whether or not the Yankees are playing well, because I treat the time and space as a real time and space away. Although I’ll have a couple HDLR sessions next week, I’ll otherwise very likely be absent from the blog. Frank The Sage will be in the HDLR with me, so feel free to drop in as I type his typically witty and salient observations. However, given the team’s poor play, I wouldn’t be surprised if I were the only one not around much after Friday.

Published in: on May 14, 2008 at 8:55 am  Comments (4)  

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4 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Moose’

  2. Did moose get one of those robotic arms? I am, I am Ironman!

  3. Red! Welcome, man! Sorry for the delay, but it’s one of the nice security features at WordPress. From here on out, you should be fine commenting. But for first-time commenters at blogs here, approval is required.

    How have you been? Did you watch the game? Mussina was quite good yet again, good to see. I can’t wait until the offense is consistent.

  4. Hi, Jason!

    Well the Yankees only scored 2-runs tonight; but, they were enough for the Yankees to win, 2-1 …

    Hey, how about Mike Mussina? He’s now 6-3, with a 3.99 ERA …

    Mussina is 5-0 over his last five starts, and has his sights clearly set on 15 wins [or more] this season. It looks like one of my off-season predictions may come true.

    Now about Robinson Cano …

    We both talked about how he has the hitting skills to “maybe” hit .400 in a season. Well, his 4-4 tonight, got him a little more than half way there, this season [he’s now hitting .205]. Cano’s not going to hit .400 this season, though. But, he has been “hot” in recent games, and starting to get hits in bunches . Tonight’s game shifted Robinson Cano into another gear, and I think he is now “on the road to .300” !!!

    Other good news today…

    The Red Sox lost, again !!!

    Big win for the Yankees, tonight. Hopefully, Ian Kennedy doesn’t let the pressure get to him tomorrow, and he pitches a good game!

    Go Yankees !!!

    Take care, Jason! I may not get a chance to comment over the next couple of days, so I’ll offer you best wishes [now], for you and your family to have a great vacation !!!

    – Jimmy

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