Bullpen Wilts, Offense Sputters in Clutch as Indians Trounce Yanks 10-2

Goodness. Even though the game wasn’t exactly exciting, it was tight enough for several innings to hold out hope for some late-inning excitement.  Sabathia was inefficient and struggled often, but avoided most of the self-induced trouble to keep things close.  Although the Yanks repeatedly let the struggling Lee of the hook, the game was still close enough to leave open the possibility that they would finally score instead of strand base runners.  Yet the bullpen detonated in the seventh, allowing nine runs to finish off any realistic hope of a victory, and spoiling the first game in the new Yankee Stadium.

Sabathia fanned Victor Martinez to finish the top of the first and record the first official strikeout in the new Stadium.  In the bottom half, after the Yanks had a brief ceremony laying at home plate the bat that Babe Ruth used to hit the first homer in Yankee Stadium in 1923, JD singled to right for the first hit–augmenting the sense that the signs augured success for the Yanks today.  But after Teixeira was hit by a pitch on the upper left arm, Swisher flew out and Posada grounded out to let Lee escape for the first of several times.  Sabathia allowed a two-out double to Francisco and walked Shoppach, but fanned Graffanino on a nasty slider.  Cano’s lead-off single in the second went wasted.

In the third, Sizemore and DeRosa walked, but Wedge’s starting the runners ran the Indians out of the inning, for Martinez’s bloop behind short led to Jeter’s doubling DeRosa off first to end the threat.  Jeter singled but was forced at second, and Swisher laced a two-out double to left, but Jorge grounded out to second.  Particularly bothersome about the third was that, after Jeter worked Lee for six pitches in his at-bat, JD and Teixeira each swung at the first pitch.  In the fourth, the Indians pushed across a run, but not before some defensive heroics from Ransom.  Peralta led off with a double, Choo’s 4-3 moved him to third, and Francisco ripped a hot shot to Ransom’s right.  Cody dove, snagged it, and threw home from his knees to nail Peralta when Jorge blocked the plate and applied the tag; tremendous play. But the satisfaction was short-lived, for Shoppach’s double scored Francisco for the first run in new Yankee Stadium 1-0 Cleveland.  Again, the Yanks squandered a chance to score in the fourth when Matsui worked a one-out walk, Gardner singled with two outs, both moved up on Lee’s wild pitch, and Jeter walked (not unintentionally) to load the bases.  But JD grounded to second, stranding them.

Jorge helped the inefficient Sabathia by pegging out Sizemore, who walked, at second with a great throw low and just off the bag to the second baseman’s side.  That was big, for DeRosa and Martinez singled before Sabathia escaped by fanning Peralta on a slider.  By this point, Sabathia was at 105 pitches, working more like Jaret Wright than the $161 million free agent that Sabathia is.  I thought he might be done, but came back out for the sixth.  Before that, though, Posada hit the first homer in the new Yankee Stadium, a solo shot off a hanging change-up to dead center to tie the game.  I’m so thrilled that the first homer in the new park was off the bat of Jorge, the guts of the team.  It also happened to be his 223rd career homer, passing Yankee legend Don Mattingly for seventh on the all-time home run list for the team.  Great moment and achievement for Posada, an all-time great Yankee catcher by an estimation.

Sabathia emerged for the sixth against the lefty Choo, getting him on a 3U.  But he then walked Francisco and struck out Shoppach before being replaced by Edwar to face Graffanino.  The inning should have ended, but Ransom’s throwing error continued it, and started the carousel of relievers then and through in the next inning.  Crowe reached on an infield single to load the bases before Coke entered and got Sizemore on a deep F7.

After the Yanks went 1-2-3 in the bottom of the sixth, things fell apart.  Instead of keeping in Coke, Girardi inserted Veras to face the righty DeRosa, the switch-hitting Martinez, and the righty Peralta.  On paper, the move made sense for the righty Veras.  Yet it turned into garbage when Veras walked DeRosa on four straight pitches.  He then grooved a high fastball to Martinez, who lined it for a double, second and third.  After getting behind Peralta 2-0, Veras left a fastball on the outside corner at the belt and Peralta pasted it to right for a two-run double, 3-1 Cleveland.  Marte then entered against the lefty Choo and hit him, although barely if that at all.  Marte then was slow off the mound to handle Francisco’s bunt and didn’t make a hard throw to third, loading the bases.  Shoppach then singled to right on a fastball up, 4-1 Cleveland.  Graffanino popped out to first for the first out, leaving hope that a DP could minimize the damage the keep the Yanks within striking distance.

NOPE.

Marte walked Crowe, scoring Choo, 5-1 Cleveland.  Sizemore put it away by belting the first grand slam in the new Stadium, ripping a hanging slider out to right center, 9-1 Indians.  Martinez then homered to left with two outs, 10-1.  Cano drove in Melky in the bottom of the seventh, but that was that.

I don’t have a problem with Girardi seeking out match-ups per se.  I also don’t have much of a problem with choosing a righty to start the seventh.  That’s not a bad call in that situation.  But Veras, always an iffy option, verified the distrust in him.  In addition to their respective abilities, Veras is making Robertson (just called up for the injured Nady) and perhaps Melancon well worth a look as an alternative to Veras’s utter inability to locate the strike zone.  My problem with the match-ups Girardi made in the sixth–all compounded by Sabathia’s own utter inability to pitch efficiently in what seemed a jittery start–was going with Coke instead of Marte.  To me, Marte is more the match-up lefty to use as such than Coke.  That obviously leads to the question, why advocate using Marte against Sizemore in the sixth when he allowed the homer in the seventh? One, because Coke appears more capable of pitching to lefties and righties than Marte, so that Coke should have either been saved for some later opportunity instead of used for one batter and two pitches, or just allowed to go the seventh.  That should be Marte for a batter.

The other is the situation, and to me this needs some examination.  Who is to say that simply because Sizemore homered off Marte in the seventh with the bases loaded that he would have in the sixth?  Maybe; maybe not.  Maybe the pitch selection and location would have been different in a 1-1 game.  Maybe the players would have responded to the pressure of the situation differently, with 1-1 a more balanced situation regarding pressure than 5-1, when Sizemore had no pressure on him–tearing into a hanging slider accordingly–and Marte all of it after laboring through a few at-bats.

This leads to a larger point, which is that this loss wasn’t just a result of the bullpen collapsing.  That surely happened and was reason number one.  The second reason, a very close second to me, was that the Yanks were woefully incapable of plating a runner in scoring position, going 1-11 today and stranding an unsightly 15. More specific to the Yanks’ situation in the sixth and seventh innings, by the top of the seventh (really after the fifth) the Yanks were 0-7 with RISP, having stranded 10.  If they had plated any one or a couple of those, the subsequent at-bats, pitches, and especially the pressure and who would have felt it would have been markedly different with the Yanks ahead a couple runs than in a tie game. That’s a big part of why missed opportunities are killers.  They change more than the score but pitch selection, margin for error, and the ability to pitch around or challenge a certain player. Crucially, they keep the pressure on oneself instead of placing it squarely on the opponent.  That’s why people advocate playing with a lead–to minimize stress and open up opportunities.  Veras dug the hole, and Marte buried them and the team’s chances of victory.  But had the Yanks been even 1-7 instead of 0-7 with RISP to that point, and that one hit had been, say, Ransom in the bottom of the fifth with two on, or Jorge in the third with second and third, or JD to score two in the fourth with the bases loaded, I dare say the pressure would have been more on Cleveland to deliver when trailing than on the Yanks to protect a lead. I dare say it would have been on Lee, who was awful in his first two losing starts but looked free and easy by the sixth after the Yanks stranded 10 through 5.

Instead, Veras and Marte choked under pressure.  Instead, the Yanks are hitting .237 with RISP.  Instead, they’re 5-5 and not 6-4 or, had they held on and generated some offense in the finale in KC, 7-3.  Don’t get me wrong, Veras and Marte gagged and Girardi deserves some second-guessing for his juggling act today.  Plus, this is a conversation about an intangible and is therefore debatable.  But I’m convinced there’s also more to the failure equation within today’s game, and the offense bears significant responsibility for letting Lee, who had been 0-2 with an ERA of 9 entering today, and a Cleveland bullpen that couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn with a beach ball, off the hook in a brutal–buh-rutal–loss.

Cano was 3-4 with his 7th RBI and a walk, batting .421 with five walks through 10 games–not bad, kid.  Jorge’s solo shot moved him into the aforementioned rarefied historical air, and gives him 10 RBIs this season.  Swisher has an eight-game hitting streak and is at .406.  Jeter is at .293 with his single.  Matsui was 1-2 with 3 walks hitting ahead of Ransom, who was a painful 0-5 and needs to sit, trading a stellar defensive play for a poor one and struggling mightily.  I feel for the kid, but he’s crippling the bottom of the lineup. The Jet was 1-3 with a nice opposite-field single, but is still popping out too much.  Still, he’s been OK and deserves the job in CF.

Sabathia amassed 122 pitches/70 strikes primarily on the weakness of his 5 walks.  He struggled with his off-speed stuff, which often failed to break by the fourth.  He also looked off-balance–and granted he’s a big dude-falling far to his right after his delivery. Still, the big guy battled on a day when he wasn’t sharp, kept the game tied, and impresses me with his ability and willingness to be a horse by taking the ball in the sixth when he was already over 100 pitches, and throwing 122 early on.  The guy showed guts even without good stuff today. Marte has had just one bad outing this year–today–but really hasn’t looked comfortable or confident since the trade last season.  I really thought he’d be a big missing piece for the bullpen, and maybe he’ll get it together.  But as long as he’s leaving fastballs up, he’ll pitch his way right out of here.  That goes double for Veras, who for all his vaunted heat (which I respect and revere among pitchers) simply cannot locate the strike zone.  The last two times he’s pitched, he’s come in with no one on and issued an easy free pass.  Keep it up, Veras, and you’ll find yourself on the Chris Britton Memorial Highway.  He and Marte and middle relievers and are therefore expendable.  If they don’t perform, the Yanks have other options.  The time to look at those is fast approaching.

Joba (0-0, 1.50 ERA) faces Anthony Reyes (1-0, 6.00 ERA) tomorrow afternoon. Thanks to everyone for dropping by the Digital Living Room today.  Sorry for the late post, but I had lots of errands to run. Sorry also to ramble, but this loss had me stewing in the interim before I could heat up the laptop.

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Published in: on April 16, 2009 at 10:32 pm  Comments (2)  

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2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. I just wrote my post-mortem of this one, and it’s similar to yours in many respects, Jason. My issue with the bullpen (other than that Veras and Marte stunk) is that Girardi doesn’t have a quick enough hook. You can tell almost immediately if a pitcher has it or he doesn’t. The second Veras issued that leadoff walk it was clear he would have control problems. And as soon as Marte hit Choo, the same was true of him. Why not pull a guy who’s struggling instead of hanging him out to dry?

  2. i was unable to bring myself to examine the body. but i appreciated sharing the game with you today, despite the hideous outcome.

    veras must go–he can’t be trusted -he walked people with averages less than matsui or worse…an absolute atrocity. this was a game that could have been so easily won. cody leaving 9 NINE men on base alone. jorge not much better with six stranded. why go on…anyway… tomorrow is another day

    yes scarlett…

    http://www.michaelfierman.net/_/Blog/Blog.html


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