I thought we were done with this. One of the banes of the 2010 Yankees’ existence — the lefthanded slop artist — was something this year’s team has convincingly put behind them, which is perhaps why watching the Yankees do absolutely nothing against Jason Vargas — a mediocre pitcher having a bad year (he came into this game with a 4.49 ERA over 180.1 innings) and who the Yankees have previously killed (7.86 career ERA vs. NYY prior to last night) — was so frustrating. I know it’s a long season and yes, even bad pitchers can shut down great offenses, and this is by no means meant to be a referendum on the team and how well I think they’ll fare going forward — for the record, I think they’re great and can win the World Series — but this game just flat-out sucked.
I think I generally do a pretty good job of remaining positive in the face of most of the negativity that befalls our beloved Yankees, but if there’s one thing that really gets my blood boiling it’s performances like last night. The Yankees looked straight-up terrible against the awful Vargas, and I might’ve been more willing to give to them a pass had they actually bothered to put together some good at-bats. After the first 10 batters worked Vargas over for 60 pitches over the first three innings, the subsequent ten batters were retired on a measly 26 pitches over three innings (h/t Mike Axisa). Vargas should’ve been ticketed for the showers by the 5th, but instead the 2011 team’s season-long issue of working pitchers over early but then completely letting them off the hook from like the 3rd through 6th innings once again reared its ugly head. The Yankees seemed to be popping up on the first and second and pitch in half of their at-bats, and almost no one hit the ball with any authority all evening save Nick Swisher, whose solo home run in the seventh represented the only Yankee run.
Seriously Yankees? Three hits against Jason Vargas, and four all night over 12 innings against last-place Seattle, not to mention the fact that this 2-1 loss to Seattle represented your third extra-inning game out of the last nine you’ve played, dropping your record in extra-inning games to an MLB-worst 4-10 (also h/t Mike Axisa)? Three hits and one run over nearly 7 innings against Jason Vargas!!! I’m pretty sure this was the most annoying loss of the year for me. OK, I think I’m finally done ranting.
Adding insult to injury was another strong outing by Ivan Nova, who overcame some control issues to end up going 7 1/3 innings, walking a few too many (4), striking out five and only allowing one run on a wild pitch. Nova left the game in the 8th having only thrown 87 pitches, but after allowing Luis Rodriguez (more on him in a moment) his second leadoff double of the game and intentionally walking Ichiro Suzuki, Joe Girardi made the right call in bringing David Robertson in, who of course was able to close out the inning without any damage.
Unfortunately Joe made the wrong all in the top half of the eighth, calling for Russell Martin to sac bunt pinch-runner Brett Gardner to second with Eduardo Nunez coming to the plate. I know we’ve seen this move a handful of times, and I’m pretty sure it’s never worked. Rather than correctly inserting Eric Chavez as a pinch-hitter (Joe for some reason decided not to do this until two innings later), he let Nunez swing away to make the most predictable out ever.
The Yankees only managed one lousy hit after Nick Swisher’s 8th-inning home run, and while the Yankee bullpen did an admirable-enough job getting this game to the 12th, I knew there was zero shot of the team winning this game the way they weren’t swinging the bats and decided to cut my losses after the Yankees’ 18,000th 1-2-3 inning in top half of the 11th.
As it so happens, Luis Rodriguez — who came into this game hitting .176/.287/.286 (his miserable OBP was actually higher than his SLG!!!!) — of course hit two doubles along with a walkoff home run in the bottom of the 12th. Yes, the man with a .286 SLG over 100 some-odd plate appearances slugged three extra-base hits including the game-winner. You can’t make this stuff up.
So the Yankees finally get a much, much-needed off day today, before embarking on their final 11 games of the year starting tomorrow up in Toronto. Make no mistake, despite my own hang-ups with this particular game, the Yankees are in great shape, and remain four games up on Boston in first place, as the Red Sox took another tough loss yesterday. Hopefully the offense, which has quietly actually been pretty awful on the month — .311 wOBA, 92 wRC+ — can get back in gear over the final week-and-half of the season and start heating up in time for the playoffs.
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