Last night’s loss to the Orioles was definitely frustrating for a number of reasons. Let’s start from the end and work our way back a bit.
–The top of the ninth was incredibly bitter sweet, as are all comebacks that fall just short. Seriously, where the hell was Julio Lugo playing on that ball Alex Rodriguez hit to end the game? If he’s playing a normal second base, the game is tied. Alex definitely needs to go sacrifice a whole chicken or give the BABIP god some rum after tonight; he hit the ball hard three times and had nothing to show for it.
–Alfredo Aceves was the sharpest of the Yankee pitchers tonight, but that’s not really saying much is it?
–Mark Teixeira also had a few hard hit balls tonight, one of which went for an RBI single in the ninth, so that’s nice to see.
–Seriously, who wasn’t expecting the walk from Nick Johnson in the ninth? That was Nick’s 19th walk of the season, moving his OBP up to .3836.
–Wally Bell’s strikezone tonight was absolutely ridiculous. There was no consistency from half inning to half inning and not once did he correct the strike zone. O’s starter Kevin Millwood was getting calls Phil Hughes wasn’t getting and vice versa. Bell’s definitely going to need to look at this game and make some improvements.
–Jorge Posada base running blunder was frustrating and inexcusable. Something tells me it’ll be a while before he takes a big turn around second again.
–Robinson Cano needs to stop trying to steal. He’s not fast and he’s not a great base runner. Just stay at firs, Robbie. Please.
— David Robertson hitting Ty Wiggington with a pitch in an 0-2 count could’ve been the most frustrating thing from last night. Is there anything in baseball more disheartening than this? That opened the door for Baltimore to add three runs in the 6th to take the lead for good. D-Rob looked really rusty tonight, as everything was either going back over the middle (fastballs) or just not breaking enough (curveballs). But, I guess it’s hard to be sharp when you’ve only thrown six pitches in the last twelve days. This brings me to another point: I’m not mad at Joe Girardi taking Hughes out when he did (more on Phil in a bit). It’s not Girardi’s fault that Boone Logan failed to retire a lefty and that Robertson just didn’t have it tonight. At the time, the moves were good. The results? Not so much. But, that’s baseball, right?
–Phil Hughes was not good last night. I know he only gave up one run on two hits, but I did not think for one second that this start was a good one for Hughes. He walked four while striking out only two and was, frankly, lucky that he was facing the Orioles. Many of his pitches were hit hard and he only induced five grounders. While Bell’s strikezone was pitiful, Hughes’ command was pretty crappy, too. He had absolutely no idea where the ball was going last night and, most troublesomely, he did an absolutely terrible job of mixing his pitches. For the second straight start, he didn’t use his changeup once. That’s just ridiculous, considering that was the pitch that supposedly won him the fifth starter’s spot over Joba Chamberlain. If he’s going to develop this pitch, he needs to throw it. The Orioles are a generally weak hitting team, so it’d be a lot easier to practice a pitch against them than it would be against the Red Sox or Rays. Also, by my count, only 13 of his 106 pitches were curveballs, rather than four seam fastballs or cutters. This is the biggest reason why Hughes was lucky he was facing Baltimore. Many other teams would have blasted the non-mixing Hughes of Tuesday night, but he was somehow able to skate by. If he doesn’t do a better job of mixing his pitches in the future, the results will be much worse than they were last night.
Truth be told though, as frustrating as the loss was, it’s a game that’s likely to repeat itself at least a few times over the course of the season. Sometimes, the team just won’t have it and they’ll come up short. On a positive note, the top of the ninth inning should remind us that the Yankees are never out of a game. CC goes tonight, looking to stop the mini-slide and that’s a comforting feeling.