Angels 4 Yankees 3: Bullpen Falters Again; Offense Inept

I can’t say today’s 4-3 loss surprised me. In fact, while all losses stink, I can’t say this one left me extremely peeved. Please don’t mistake that for my not caring, for I certainly do care whether or not the Yankees win these increasingly important games. Rather, I’ve come to a certain understanding about the 2008 Yankees from what I’ve seen the first few months that has helped carry me through these woes.

1.) From what I’ve seen thus far, they don’t have “IT,” that quality to draw upon to do what’s necessary to win, especially in close ball games. The Angels aren’t just excellent; they have IT.

2.) Their unpredictability means that we as fans cannot completely rule out a great stretch run the next several weeks to propel them to the playoffs. However, the negative side of that unpredictability that has manifested itself thus far probably means their lack of positive consistency may keep them out of the playoffs for the first time since the strike-shortened 1994 season.

3.) RISP, RISP, RISP. Try saying it by shaking your head with disapproval and, instead of saying “tsk, tsk, tsk,” substitute RISP, RISP, RISP. That’s been costly all year and all the more abhorrent considering the gobs of money the Yankees shell out to their under-achieving lineup.

4.) Even before Mariano’s predictable trouble in the ninth with the game tied today, was it really a surprise when the Yanks lost this? when they continued to squander chances? when the Angels cobbled together their rallies in the third and ninth? Nope.

5.) The team as a whole is rarely on the same page, getting clutch hits and clutch pitching resulting in victory on the same day. So often, one facet or another on this team falters. It’s an aspect of inconsistency, but was worth mentioning in its own right. The team seemingly plays at cross purposes.

Threaded through all these points is one axiom that has been sound this 2008–the Yankees are consistent in all the wrong ways, and those (in-)consistencies have spelled trouble from the beginning of the season right through to today in the several facets I enumerated–intangibles (albeit difficult to quantify), up and down play, the abject inability to hit well in the clutch, and the palpably negative inertia, especially on the road and against good teams, that engulfs this team. I rooted hard for this team today as I always do, but found myself looking at the box score in the sixth with the game tied and thought, If this game goes late with the score tied, there’s a 95% chance the Yankees lose. They don’t add on late well. They waste chances that so often haunt them. They so often lose close games on the road. They don’t hit in the clutch.

They don’t have the aggregate and aforementioned “IT.”

The Yanks got off to a good start but, as Sterling opined almost immediately, not good enough. JD singled, Jeter worked a great eleven-pitch walk, a passed ball moved them to second and third, Abreu’s single scored JD 1-0 Yanks with runners at the corners and no outs, and after A-Rod doubled to left to score Jeter it was second and third, 2-0 Yanks, and no outs. No one else scored that inning, disgracefully. Nady’s ground ball got Abreu at home, another time the Angels threw out a Yankee base runner at home on an infield play, one out, and Cano’s 4-6-3 ended a golden opportunity to put the team that had scored 21 runs the previous two games in a big early hole.

Pettite worked a 1-2-3 first, and a strike-’em-out, throw-’em-out DP at third ended the second. But a strange rally gave the Angels the lead in the bottom of the third. Matthews singled, Napoli doubled him to third, Figgins singled on a liner Pettite should have had, 2-1 Yanks. The runners then advanced to second and third on a balk when Pettite hesitated on his throw to first when Sexson was playing in for a bunt and Pettite–though a lefty and with first base in his line of sight with a simple glance–didn’t look to first. That is, Pettite was concerned enough about Figgins to throw over to first, but wasn’t concerned enough to actually look over to first before throwing. Sexson might have missed a signal, Pettite might not look to first intentionally, but certainly Pettite’s mental error was costly and the most egregious mistake on that odd play. It’s a good thing the ball skipped off Sexson’s leg, blocking what could have been a run-scoring error. Aybar singled, 2-2 tie and runners at the corners with no outs. Teixeira’s sac fly to right made it 3-2 Angels. Pettite then K’d Vlad and got Hunter on an F9, but the damage was done and, mistakes or not, the inning was an object lesson in the difference between the two teams. The Angels scored enough runs in scoring position; the Yankees didn’t.

This became more apparent in the fourth when A-Rod walked, Nady singled him to third, and Cano’s chopper scored A-Rod. Nady did a good job with a hard slide on Aybar to break up a DP ball, which would have been hard to turn on Cano’s high, slow chopper anyway. But after Sexson walked, the Yanks again got no more. Christian flew out to shallow right, and Molina’s F8 ended the rally. It also showed, not for the first time this year, the weakness of the bottom of the order that was costly today.

The Yanks held it at three in the bottom of the fourth when Matthews walks with two outs and stole second but, on Napoli’s single, Nady threw quickly and well to A-Rod, whose relay throw easily nabbed Matthews at the plate. Yet New York wasted another chance in the fifth when JD singled, stole second, and moved to third on Jeter’s long, effective F9 with one out. But Abreu’s 4-3 held JD, and A-Rod’s F9 ended that rally. The same situation arose in the seventh when Christian led off with a double to left and he went to third on Molina’s sac bunt. But JD fanned and Kendrick made a nice catch on Jeter’s bloop to second, stranding Christian. In the eighth, A-Rod doubled with one out but was thrown out trying to steal third on a bang-bang play, erasing that opportunity.

K-Rod entered in the ninth and struck out the side, including Betemit (Sterling’s “good pinch-hitter,” footnote to Mike Sommer) and Giambi, also pinch-hitting. In the denouement that was the bottom of the ninth, Kendrick led off with a single off Marte, Matthews K’d, Napoli (who apparently only hits the Yankees well) walked, and Figgins hit Mariano’s first pitch through the hole between first and second to score Kendrick, 4-3 Angels.

The #6-9 hitters for the Yankees were an atrocious 1-14, even more costly since their counterparts on the Angels were 5-14 with 3 runs. The Yanks stranded six, three in scoring position, and were 2-12 with RISP. Both of those hits with RISP were in their first two chances in the first inning; they got nothing with a hit with RISP after that. After Tampa won and the Yankees were swept, the Yankees are now 8 1/2 behind Tampa in an Eastern division that looks increasingly unlikely that the Yankees will win.  The Yankees also can do no better than split their road trip out West even if they sweep the Twins.  Mariano allowed the game-winning hit, Marte allowed the runners on, but the Yanks wasted a pretty good start from Pettite. This loss rests primarily on the offense wasting chances–again.

Before I forget, Sterling’s incessant refrain when discussing the Yankees’ squandered chances today bothered me. This was not because he was wrong about it, for he wasn’t. Yet Sterling’s repeatedly saying, “If the Yankees scored those runners [in the first inning], no one would remember the other missed chances,” is entirely false. For example, during my game wraps, I continually refer to wasted chances, hitting (or not) with RISP, the runners left on base, two-out hits, and the significance of doing and not doing these. I’m not the only fan or blogger by any means who not only notes but also remembers these. As Mike Sommer has often noted about Sterling’s minor-league myopia, Sterling seemed to be projecting his own insufficient short-term memory and “not being a numbers guy” onto his listeners, painting with too broad a brush when a finer one would, not for the first time with him, have presented a more accurate truth. I genuinely like Sterling and usually his perspective, but the misguided notion that fans somehow wouldn’t notice wasted opportunities in a win instead of a loss presumes way too much.

Published in: on August 10, 2008 at 7:55 pm  Comments (1)  

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  1. I think you said it best. The Yanks don’t have “it” and they haven’t had “it” all season. Though they’re only 4 back in wild card and the Yanks face Boston at the end of the month… there’s isn’t anything that makes the Yanks look like they have what it takes. It’s been a sad season… awful way to close out the Stadium.

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