When is a 6-0 lead in the fourth inning not safe? When one is playing Boston in Fenway, as we all know. After racing out to a 6-0 lead, Burnett went from great to grotesque, yielding eight runs in two innings. Although the Yanks fought back a couple times, slovenly relief pitching and the lineup’s continued problems with runners in scoring position doomed the Yankees to a 16-11 loss that was nearly as bad as yesterday’s collapse. Now that the Yanks have lose the series, they have to battle Justin Masterson and a red-hot Sox lineup to stave off a sweep in Fenway.
New York got off to a hot start, scoring two in the first and working over Beckett, who was terrible from the outset. JD singled, Teixeria walked (one of five passes he got; tell me A-Rod’s absence doesn’t matter to Boston), and Swisher singled in JD, 1-0. Jorge’s single to left made it 2-0. Burnett buzzed through the first three innings, allowing just a hit and a walk on 37 pitches as the Yanks piled on Beckett. Cano creamed a two-run homer to right, banging a hanging curve way up into the netting in Pesky’s Pole, 4-0 Yanks. But although Posada and Berroa singled, Gardner’s force foiled a chance to add on. In the fourth, Jeter singled and stole second, Teixeira walked again, Swish fanned, and Cano ripped a double to center, 6-0 Yanks.
Yet Burnett became a different pitcher from the first three innings, and his previous history in Fenway, wilting in the fourth. Pedroia walked, Youkilis singled, Drew walked, Bay’s single to left made it 6-1, Lowell struck out on a nasty curve, but Varitek clubbed a belt-high first-pitch fastball out to right for a grand slam to cut the lead to 6-5. The Yanks went 1-2-3 in the fifth to put Burnett right back on the bump, and Ellsbury led off with a homer to tie it at 6. Pedroia singled, Ortiz doubled, Youkilis was hit by a pitch, and the Yanks had a shot to get out of the inning after Teixeira and Jorge turned a terrific 3-2-3 DP, two outs. But Bay doubled off the monster, 8-6 Boston.
But the Yanks responded right away when Jeter walked and JD homered to right to tie it at 8, no outs. Swish doubled with one out but was stranded. Relieving Burnett, Veras reverted to form, inexcusably hitting Green to start trouble again. Ellsbury doubled and Pedroia walked to load the bases. Coke entered and got Ortiz to fly out to right. Green scored but Pedroia had a brain fart and ran to second and into Swish’s throw to Jeter for the third out–a trade I’d make, two outs for a run to end the inning just a run down, in a wild game.
In the seventh, Matsui singled but was forced at second, Gardner’s single to left with Berroa running put runners at the corners, Brett the Jet stole second, but Jeter fanned against Delcarmen for the second out. Yet the Yanks got a break when JD’s hot shot went under Pedroia to give the Yanks a 10-9 lead. But after Teixeira was intentionally walked, JD was inexcusably picked off to end the threat. In the bottom half, Alby coughed it up when Youkilis led off with a double, moved to third on Drew’s 3U and, after Bay was intentionally walked, Lowell killed Alby and the Yanks with a three-run homer over the monster, 12-10 Boston.
Cano’s one-out homer to right off Okajima in the eighth made it 12-11, Posada walked, and Matsui nearly homered to center, doubling instead to make it second and third. Melky’s comebacker to Ramirez got Jorge in a run-down and, although Matsui and Melky moved to second and third, Melky’s failure to deliver cost the Yanks an out. Gardner also failed to deliver in the clutch, grounding out to Pedroia. Edwar came in and Jorge’s catcher’s interference gave Ellsbury first, then second on a stolen base that was awfully close, but wrongly called safe. It proved costly, for Pedroia singled him in, 13-11. Marte entered and Jorge’s passed ball gave Pedroia second, Ortiz’s fly ball moved him to third. Youkilis was intentionally walked, Marte fanned Drew for the second out, but Robertson walked Bay and Lowell’s double to left cleared the bases, 16-11. Though Jeter and Teixeira walked in the ninth, they couldn’t score any runs off Papelbon, 16-11.
Burnett went south in the blink of an eye, getting into trouble with the walks again. His line–5 IP, 8 H, 8 R earned, 3 BB, 3 K on 91 pitches/55 strikes–pushed his ERA from 3.20 before today to 5.47 now. It also taxed the bullpen that was already overworked from poor starts and last night’s extra-inning loss. The pen was no better–3 IP, 5 H, 8 R 7 ER, 4 BB, 3 K. All around, the pitching was disgraceful, a waste of a tremendous offensive effort against a very good pitcher in Beckett, whom the Yankees abused.
Cano was 3-6 with 2 runs, 5 RBI (15 this year), a double and 2 HR (5 this year), batting .366. Jeter was 2-4 with 2 runs, 2 walks and a stolen base, batting .301. JD was 2-6 with 2 runs, 2 RBIs on his 3rd homer, batting .317. Teixeira was 0-1 with 3 runs and 5 walks, batting .235. Swish was 2-6 with a double and his 13th RBI. Jorge was 2-4 with his 13th RBI and a walk, batting .298. Matsui was 2-5 with a double, batting .261. Berroa was 1-4 with a run, and Gardner 1-5 with a run and a stolen base. The offense is producing and certainly did today, getting 15 hits and 8 walks to score 11 runs. Still, the offense squandered chances. It sounds as though it’s nitpicking when they scored 11 runs, but it isn’t at all. The Yanks were at one point early in the game 3-7 with RISP. Afterward, they went 0-10 with RISP, and stranded a total of 12 runners. Once Boston closed it to 6-5 and actually started to hit Burnett, all bets were off as to six runs being anything close to enough.
The offense is obviously not reason number one why the team lost; far from it. That ignominious top ranking rests squarely on the arms. Yet the Yanks’ offense needed more and left too many aboard at the same time that Boston warmed up and did not miss chances. A big difference in the game is that, while the Yanks were 3-17 with RISP stranding 12, Boston was 6-13 stranding 4. The Yanks left runs on base, Boston didn’t and, as the game went on, neither team could afford to squander anything. Again, the Yanks did. It should not have taken more than 11 runs to win, no question. Jeez, the Yanks scored in six of the nine innings. But there’s no avoiding that a difference in the game was one team outhitting the other in the clutch. Boston did that today, with tremendous assistance from New York’s abysmal pitching.
Lefty (2-0, 2.53 ERA) faces Masterson (1-0, 3.18) in an effort to stave off an embarrassing sweep. With better pitching (especially today) and hitting with RISP (both games but especially yesterday), the Yanks would be gearing up for a sweep; now they’re trying to avoid being swept. That’s hardly an appealing scenario when so much was possible the last two games, yet so much was wasted.
Against Boston, the Yanks are 7-36 with RISP, stranding 27 in two games. That’s atrocious, but not an anomaly. Against Oakland, New York was 9-23 with RISP, but stranded 23 in two games; against Cleveland, 4-32, 37 stranded in four games. In the last 8 games, the Yanks are 20-91 with RISP, having left 87 on base–in eight games. That’s a lot wasted, poor pitching notwithstanding.
[Edit: Before I forget, Veras seems to have reverted to his pre-Wednesday form, getting into trouble right away. Marte just doesn’t inspire much trust; nor does Edwar. Personally, I think Boston got hot and would have hit just about anybody today once they got rolling. We’ll see what happens, but today is an object lesson in the need for reliable middle relief. The Yanks don’t have that. Some such as those mentioned above just aren’t consistent enough to be reliable, they routinely groove pitches and, should this continue, Veras, Edwar, and Marte in no particular order stand to get shipped off if they don’t pitch consistently well. They’re too often brutal.]