(Way to look alive, guys! Courtesy of Getty Images)
The emotional high that everybody was surely riding from Wednesday night through yesterday afternoon was immediately grounded with the news coming out that Joe Girardi's father had passed away. Things become even more somber when it was reported that Joe's dad actually died on Saturday, and that Joe had kept it quiet until an obituary was posted in a local paper earlier today. Knowing that Joe has gone through the emotional ups and downs with his team through the first 3 games of this series while dealing with his father's passing makes the job he has done even more impressive, and puts an "emotional" decision like whether or not to pinch hit for Alex Rodriguez in the proper context.
Another thing that this sad news did was give the Yankees another reason to go out and get a win last night. It wasn't as if they were already lacking motivation with a trip back to the ALCS on the line, but to be able to do it for their manager, as a tribute to him and his dad, is the type of stuff Hollywood writers used to come up with before they all ran out of ideas. If there was a "let's win this one for Joe" speech given in the locker room, odds are it came from the mouth of Derek Jeter, who despite being limited to DH duties because of his bruised foot wasn't missing this game for his life.
Emotions were high, there was a lot at stake, and the Yankees held the advantage going into the game again. Everything should have added up to a win and a series victory. Instead, last night ended up being one of those textbook deflating losses where everybody swinging a bat just didn't show up.
- Way to be a homer in that intro, Cal! "If Jimmy Johnson had pitched in the postseason like he did in the regular season, it could be the Orioles playing for the clinch." Yeah, and if my aunt had a dick, she'd be my uncle.
- Leadoff walks are a guaranteed way to lead to trouble, and they did for Phil Hughes in the top of the 1st when he walked Nate McLouth and had 2 on and no out after a J.J. Hardy sac bunt attempt hugged the first base line.
- Credit to Hughes for working around that with 3 straight flyball outs, but he threw 20+ pitches and didn't show any fastball command away to lefties or the ability to throw a show-me slider for a strike.
- By my count, Derek Jeter's first AB marked the third time in the last 2 nights that Ernie Johnson asked Cal Ripken to comment on "what it feels like" to foul a ball off your foot. I was begging for Cal to just say, "It fucking hurts, you idiot. How do you think it feels??"
- The corner command may not have been there early, but Hughes getting 3 swinging strikes on his fastball by Mark Reynolds was a good sign. The TBS gun was reading it at 92, but Hughes' heater looked to have some late zip to it.
- It wasn't a break out, but at least A-Rod looked like he saw the ball well when he drew his leadoff walk in the bottom of the 2nd
- Good for the Yankee Stadium crowd for booing Curtis Granderson on his strikeout to end the 2nd. Guess some people do realize it's not all A-Rod's fault.
- Hughes got in trouble on a leadoff walk again in the 3rd, but made a nice play to come home to get 1 out and significantly lower the trouble.
- And then an ever better job escaping completely without allowing a run. The sliders to Davis were gutsy pitches to make. Would that brilliant save jump start the offense?
- I thought so when Jayson Nix led off the bottom of the 3rd with a hustle double to left, but Joe Saunders found his stuff and threw some nasty curveballs to strike out Jeter (after a 13-pitch AB), Ichiro, and Teix to end the inning.
- Saunders hadn't been getting many swinging strikes, if any, up until he ran into trouble in the 3rd; give the guy credit for dialing it up when he needed it.
- He managed to successfully navigate the tightrope, but Phil wasn't sharp through 4 innings. He walked the leadoff man in 3 of the 4, he couldn't locate his fastball on either corner with consistency, and he couldn't get the slutter down in the zone.
- Imagine all the snarky tweets that would be flying around if it was the Yankee offense that went 0-7 with RISP in 4 innings?
- Cal Ripken: "Phil Hughes is great with 2 strikes... ". Me: "No he's not." Cal: "He really knows how to put hitters away." Me: "No he doesn't!"
/Phil throws best slutter of the night to K Machado and end the inning
- Robinson Cano's ugly infield popout in the 4th was a reminder that he's been surprisingly quiet in this series. Those couple days off after the end of the regular season killed his bat.
- Big pop from the crowd on A-Rod's single, his second straight time on base in 2 PA. And of course Swish had to go kill it with a brutal inning-ending double play. Fuckin' A, dude!
- Hughes' inability to locate his fastball against lefties finally caught up to him against McLouth in the 5th. An inside fastball ran right back over the heart of the plate and got hit into the jet stream.
- I can't even imagine the number of idiots who will call into WFAN today saying the Yankees should sign McLouth to replace Swish next season. "I'm tellin' ya, Mike, Cashman NEEDS to sign this guy. Look at his playawff batting average! He's a game-uh!"
- I know he absolutely sucks a pile of assholes right now, but putting the bunt on with Curtis Granderson in the 5th with a runner on 1st was stupid. He's Mr. TTO. If he makes contact, he's got a good chance to park it and give you the lead. Why would you take away that best possible option??
- Holy shit did that Nix shot to left in the 5th look gone off the bat! How did that not get out? I was flabbergasted when that thing didn't make it out of the park and fell into McLouth's glove. Just shocked.
- It wasn't there early, but Hughes started to find his slutter command in the middle innings, and he was locating it down in the zone to get swings and misses in the 5th and 6th innings.
- But he wasn't getting the high strike at all last night, which was complete bullshit. If anything, he shouldn't have been getting the corners. But his location up and down in the zone was solid, and there were at least 3 no-doubt strikes that were called balls.
- Great stat by Smoltz on the Orioles' starter ERA in the postseason. I don't care about sample sizes, 1.52 in the playoffs against the Rangers and Yankees is impressive.
- Jeter's leadoff double to right was Vintage Jeter- letting the outside fastball get deeper and take it the other way to right. Looked OK running to second base too.
- Fuck Fieldin Culbreth! Teix saw 7 pitches in that at-bat, and 6 of them were no-doubt balls. Why was Saunders, the guy who walked 4 batters, getting a bigger strike zone than Phil, the guy who struck out 8?
- Shit swing by Cano, reaching at a pitch early in the count and rolling it over, but you'll take the run to tie. Good aggressive baserunning by Teix to force Flaherty to just go for one out.
- Props to Buck for making the move he did against A-Rod in the 6th. A-Rod owned Saunders all night, and bringing in a righty put the pressure back on Joe to pinch hit for him again. Joe didn't, A-Rod struck out.
- He definitely had something left in the tank, but there was no way Hughes was going to be allowed to pitch to McLouth again with 2 outs in the 7th. It was the right move by Joe. Very good start for Phil, though. He found his offspeed command and maintained a lively fastball all night. Like the rest of his rotation-mates, he got burned by 1 or 2 bad pitches.
- Bad job by the crowd not getting up and cheering for Hughes when he got to 0-2 against Machado. That was obviously his last batter of the game, and everybody in the park was too dumb to realize it because they can only stand up to cheer when there's 2 strikes AND 2 outs.
- In fairness, strike 3 to Jeter in the 7th was a good call. But strike 2 was not, and Jeter had a right to be mad at Culbreth after that at-bat. The O's got the lion's share of borderline calls on the edges of the zone, and that definitely had an effect on Jeter's approach with 2 strikes in that situation.
- Dave Robertson is a fucking boss. Looked beyond effortless in the 8th inning. Like he was just loosening up.
- Good job by Cano to at least be patient against Matusz and not chase the sliders away, but another weak grounder with multiple runners on is not what you're looking for from your cleanup hitter.
- And of course, it came down to A-Rod and O'Day with 2 RISP and 1 out in the 8th. A-Rod was either walking out of The Stadium the hero or the goat last night...
- And he ended up co-goat with Swish after getting schooled by O'Day again. Didn't even make contact.
- The late portion of this game turned into a mirror image of the earlier innings. Instead of the O's putting multiple guys on and stranding them it was the Yankees doing that while the O's could barely even get on base. I guess you gotta appreciate that game symmetry, right?
- Nix's error on a routine play that Jeter makes easily added some tension to the top of the 9th, but Rafael Soriano caught pinch runner Lew Ford leaning with a great move for a pick off, and then calmly fanned Mark Reynolds with a nasty slider to head to last ups with a chance for another walk-off.
- No 9th-inning pinch hit magic from Raul Ibanez on this night. What a bum.
- Downside to Ibanez pinch hitting for Nix was that it meant Eduardo Nunez coming out to play shortstop. But that's what happens when Jeter gets the DH day.
- 2 solid innings from Soriano, who was real havy on the slider in the 10th. In the little work they got in the series, the core of the Yankee 'pen was almost perfect.
- FUUUUUUUUUUUUUUCK, ROBBIE!!! At least get it out of the fucking infield!
- Best part about Joba's third slider to strike out Chris Davis in the 11th? That slider, nasty as it was, was the worst of the 3 he threw in that at-bat. Just pure filth.
- If there was one thing that could have helped wake up the Yankee bats, it was Pedro Strop. Just hearing his name announced on TV made me smile thinking back to some of the damage done against him earlier in the season.
- You have got to be fucking KIDDING me with the bat hitting Joba square on his pitching elbow. Fucking. Kidding. Me.
- Nice job by Phelps coming into an unexpected pressure situation and calmly getting 3 outs. Threw strikes to get ahead in the count, and set up his offspeed stuff for out pitches. Kid's got some grapefruits, that's for sure.
- Major letdown by the offense in extra innings. They weren't even creating opportunities for themselves to waste with some of their early swings and weak contact. Hard to tell what guys were trying to do, but nothing was working.
- Machado's hit in the top of the 13th was probably a double anyway, but WHY THE HELL WAS NICK SWISHER FLOPPING AROUND IN THE OUTFIELD AFTER HE PICKED UP THE BALL?!?! Stay on your feet, idiot!
- Phelps had J.J. Hardy set up perfectly for a slider off the plate for strike 3, and he threw a slider, he just threw a terrible one that broke right over the middle of the plate. Couldn't have been an easier swing for Hardy to make it 2-1 O's.
- It took Derek Lowe, the last man out of the bullpen, to get out of the 13th, and it was do-or-die time for the offense, which was set up exactly how you would want it on paper. Teix, Cano, A-Rod...
- Or rather Eric Chavez after Joe sat A-Rod again against Jim Johnson. But it didn't matter. Johnson got them 1-2-3, and once again the offense disappears and costs the team a win.
- Seriously, the offense was fucking disgraceful last night. Just one fucking hit from the 9th inning on. 10 runners left on base for the night, 0-9 with RISP, and all 9 of those outs coming from the top 6 in the lineup. Jesus Christ.
- Hughes: 6.2 IP, 4 H, 1 ER, 3 BB, 8 K. Things were rocky for Phil in the first 4 innings, and he didn't do himself any favors in terms of calls from the home plate ump by being all over the place with his fastball at times, but once he settled down he was dominant. Hughes retired 8 of the last 9 batters he faced, struck out 5 batters in his last 3 innings, and generated 15 total swings and misses. A nice way to finish off an excellent turn through the rotation.
- Nix: 2-3, 1 2B, LOB. Made some things happen at the bottom of the lineup, and made Joe look good for another lineup decision by going with Nix at short and giving Jeter the night at DH. I'm sure the game plan wasn't to have Nix be the biggest offensive threat, but props to him for coming in cold after doing nothing through 3 games and contributing.
- Granderson: 0-5, 3 K, 3 LOB. What the fuck is he doing up there? I know he is, but it really looks like he's not even trying. 2 strikes and "oh ho hum, I guess I might as well swing at this slider in the dirt. Or curveball in the dirt. Whatever."
- Cano: 0-6, 1 RBI, LOB. What happened to Robinson Cano? I've never seen anyone go from so hot to so cold this quickly. Like Curtis, he just looks like he's up there guessing right now and swinging for the hell of it; no patience, no plan, no pitch recognition. Just flail away at anything that looks close.
- Swish: 0-5, 4 LOB. Swish is at least making some solid contact, and he gave a few balls a ride last night, but it's all about results in the playoffs and once again his results have been dick.
Exactly what the Yankees didn't want or need to happen. They get to play a winner-take-all Game 5 tonight, meaning they get no rest before starting the ALCS if they win. They'll send CC back to the mound, which is the best possible news considering what the offense has done in the last 25 innings.