It’s pretty hard to win a game in the American League when you score only two runs (at least, through the first eight innings of a game), although the Yankees seemed poised to do just that after Phil Hughes threw 5 2/3 innings of wild yet ultimately effective one-run ball.
With Hughes in line for the win after setting Matt Wieters and Miguel Tejada down to get the first two outs of the sixth, Joe Girardi went to Boone Logan to get lefty Luke Scott and preserve the Yanks’ 2-1 lead. Logan couldn’t get the job done, walking Scott. Girardi then went to the mis-/under-used and ineffective-of-late David Robertson, who then hit Ty Wigginton to put runners on 1st and 2nd, and proceeded to give up three straight hits culminating in Cesar Izturis’ — the number nine hitter — third RBI of the night. After the damage was done, the O’s led 4-2 and the bullpen vultured what would have been Hughes’ 3rd win in three tries.
Of course, two runs in theory didn’t seem insurmountable against the team with one of the worst bullpens in the Majors in the early going (which became three runs after the O’s tacked on a big unearned insurance run off Alfredo Aceves in the 8th due in part to a horrendous throw down to second base by Jorge Posada). Unfortunately the Yankee lineup outside of Robbie Cano (three more hits!), Nick Swisher (also with three hits) and Posada (solo bomb in the 4th, and a walk) apparently forgot they were playing a baseball game until the 9th inning, when an exciting two-out really brought the Yankees within one. Sadly the O’s were shaded up the middle for A-Rod and had him played perfectly on what looked like a potential game-tying base hit off the bat, preserving the 5-4 O’s victory.
About that offense–the top of the lineup was dreadful this game, as the 1-4 hitters combined to go 1-18(!). I love Derek Jeter, but he really needs to start slowing his approach. He seemed to be taking a few more pitches this game (to the Yankees’ credit, they did manage to make O’s starter Kevin Millwood throw 100 pitches through 5 innings), but still wound up grounding out seemingly every at-bat. Where are Michael Kay’s Jeterian liners to right field?
Mark Teixeira actually had two walks and a hit in this game, although I’m still not loving some of the hacks he’s taking. And Alex had one scorcher in the third that may have gone for extra bases had it not been hit right at Tejada, but otherwise had a pretty lousy night at the plate, included the weakest hack he’s taken all year on what would have been ball 4 and ended up being strike 3, getting Millwood out of trouble in the 5th inning.
The Yankees also made a couple of baserunning blunders, perhaps none worse than Posada overrunning second on a misplay by Tejada and getting gunned out. Useless Randy Winn shockingly managed to pick up a base hit but also had the ugliest throw of the year (I know he lost his footing, but given that his sole purpose is defense, it was still pretty heinous) during the Orioles’ rally in the 6th.
Ultimately, credit has to go to the Birds–they pitched extremely well and strung together base hits when they needed to. They basically out-Yankeed the Yankees. Also, while Baltimore does have some problems, they do have talent, and are pretty clearly not as bad as their record might indicate. Baltimore put together a lot of patient at-bats (although — and not that this absolves his wildness by any stretch — Hughes seemed to be getting pretty badly squeezed on some close calls again, at least in the 2nd inning. Unfortunately it appears that Brooks Baseball is down and so I can’t provide you with a sweet strikezone plot a la RAB) and their bullpen got the job done, although I don’t know if that’s moreso because the ‘pen suddenly figured it out or that the Yankees’ bats sucked last night.
The Yankees have now lost four of their last 5 games and look to right the ship behind their ace tonight, who faces Jeremy Guthrie. I’m a little concerned — I know the Yankees have had some success against Guthrie in the past (mostly last year), but he’s also capable of shutting them down (pretty much all of 2008), and given the way the offense has been scuffling of late, I’m not really sure what to expect tonight.
In particular, Curtis Granderson has cooled off significantly and is mired in a terrible slump (1 for his last 19). Thankfully he’s been mostly flying under the radar which I would guess is primarily due to Tex’s struggles, and it would be great to see Curtis (and of course Tex) get back on track sooner rather than later.