Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Shutdown Innings Much?

Everybody is in full-on catharsis mode today after another frustrating 1-run loss chock full of chances to turn it into a W.  That loss was the 8th 1-run loss in the Yankees' recent piss-poor 6-12 stretch dating back to that fateful 4-game series out in Oakland, and has cut their division lead down to 4.5 games (with a still respectable 5-game lead in the loss column).  Matt Imbrogno of TYA is spilling his frustrated guts, as is Mike Axisa of RAB.  One particular part of Mike's collection of observations stuck out to me, because it was something that popped into my head immediately last night when I saw that Phil Hughes had given up 2 runs in the bottom of the 4th after the offense had staked him to a 2-run lead in the top half:

"You know what else is annoying? The Yankees’ pitchers seem to give back every run the offense gives them in the span of an inning these days. Phil Hughes did it last night, Ivan Nova did it the night before, Nova did it again in spectacular fashion in his last start before that … the whole 'shutdown innings' thing seems to have gone out the window. This has become one unwelcome habit. Maintaining a lead for more than one inning should not feel like a miracle."

This thought has crept into my mind on more than on occasion over the last couple weeks, and last night was the tipping point.  I decided to check into just how often the Yankee pitchers have been giving runs back in shutdown innings during this 6-12 stretch to see how often it's been happening.

Game 109 Wrap-Up: DET 6 NYY 5

(Just didn't have the putaway stuff last night.  Courtesy of The AP)

Phil Hughes had a rough start to his season, the same way Ivan Nova did.  The difference is that Hughes has been able to make the necessary adjustments to both his mechanics and approach and has developed into a pretty reliable third starter as a result.  His last trip out to Detroit in early June was one of the crowning achievements of his professional career, as he stood toe-to-toe with Justin Verlander and outdueled him for a complete game win.  He was aggressive, located his pitches well, and finished hitters off.  Last night, some of those problems with finishing guys off came back and Hughes had a pretty short night as a result.

Game Notes:

- After squandering a Mark Teixeira leadoff single in the 2nd by hitting into a double play, the Yankees repeated that effort in the 4th with Derek Jeter and Robinson Cano.  Luckily Teix and Eric Chavez came through with a 2-out single and HR to put the Yanks on the board 2-0.

- Hughes got through the first 3 innings without issue, but as soon as he got the lead he coughed it back up in the bottom half of the 4th by giving up a Miguel Cabrera solo shot (his 2nd of the series) and a 2-out RBI double by Jhonny Peralta.

- Hughes threw 43 pitches through the first 3 innings, 42 in the 4th, and got the hook at 102 with 1 out in the 5th after he gave up 2 singles and a 2-run double to Cabrera to make it a 4-2 Detroit lead.  Hughes had 34 of his 69 strikes fouled off, which probably tired him out big time in the 4th, and the offense didn't do him any favors by only working 10 pitches out of Porcello in the top of the 5th.

- Boone Logan finished the 5th and Cody Eppley, in his first appearance in exactly a week, started off the 6th strong, but gave up a 2-out single and double to allow Detroit to extend the lead.  2-out hits will kill you, and the Yankee pitchers gave up a lot of them.

- The Yankees got one back in the top of the 7th on a pair of doubles by Nick Swisher (his 2nd of the night) and Ichiro Suzuki to make it 5-3.  Too bad the middle of the order couldn't help the cause.

- Joba looked shaky again and gave up a run in the bottom of the 8th, but the offense finally showed some pop in the 9th against Jose Valverde.

- Chavez singled, Raul Ibanez worked a hard-fought 2-out walk, Ichiro singled home a run, and Russell Martin doubled home Ibanez to put runners at 2nd and 3rd for Curtis Granderson.  C-Grand couldn't come through to complete the comeback, though, popping out to first to end it.  Ballgame over, Yankees lose.