Can someone please explain why the Yankees — currently in possession of the best wOBA in Major League Baseball (though maybe not for much longer after tonight’s fiasco), not to mention one of the top two offensive teams in the American League every year except 2008 (when they were 5th) since the 2002 season — get completely shutdown seemingly every single time they face a rookie starting pitcher making his Major League debut?
Pretty much every Yankee fan I know jokes about this all the time, but it long ago ceased being funny. While I have to imagine there have been times the Yankees have teed off on guys getting their first taste of The Show, this has been a real issue for the team for as long as I can remember. Not to take anything away from Josh Tomlin, who was absolutely and utterly spectacular in his Major League debut, but how can a team like the Yankees, with all of their advance scouts, absurdly prodigious hitters and presumably limitless technology that should in theory enable them to properly prepare for every starter they face, look so very poor against guys who have never before pitched in the Major Leagues? It is absolutely baffling.
That all being said, my hat’s off to Tomlin, who had about as fine a debut as one could hope in picking up his first career Major League win as the Indians beat the Yankees 4-1. Tomlin pitched seven impressive innings of scoreless ball while surrendering only three hits. The Yankees couldn’t do anything against his array of off-speed junk, which, come to think of it, is probably exactly why Tomlin was so successful. The Yankees’ other kryptonite is slow-pitch garbage (see Moyer, Jamie and Matsuzaka, Daisuke, among others) — combine junkballing abilities with a pitcher the Yankees have never seen before, especially when it’s a guy making his Major League debut, and I’m actually shocked that Tomlin didn’t Perfect Game the Yankees with 27 strikeouts.
CC Sabathia was good but not great, and was essentially done in by his defense in the 4th, as Francisco Cervelli — speaking of Cervelli, I hope the fans’ love affair with Frankie is finally over, now that Cervelli has shown he can’t hit, field or throw runners out and may as well be a bullpen catcher — dropped a throw from Alex Rodriguez at the plate that would’ve kept the game scoreless. The Yankees then fell victim to one of the few umpires I’ve ever seen that didn’t give the “neighborhood” call, as Robinson Cano failed to step on the bag at second while turning a double play. To add insult to injury, the runner at first was also called safe, though replays showed he was out. So instead of being out of the inning, Sabathia had to deal with the bases loaded and still only one out. That he only gave up one more run was rather impressive, and both runs scored that inning were actually unearned.
Sabathia later gave up two more runs in the sixth, which effectively put the game out of reach given that the Yankees had no interest in dispelling the can’t-hit-rookie-pitchers meme.
The Yankees actually brought the tying run to the plate in the ninth for what felt like the umpteenth loss in a row, and had three(!) chances to send the game to extras with a three-run bomb after Brett Gardner and Derek Jeter reached base with no outs, but Nick Swisher, Mark Teixeira and A-Rod couldn’t get it done. Obviously you can’t win ‘em all, but it’s still disappointing when your biggest bats can’t come through with the game on the line.
So while Tomlin certainly gets all the credit in the world, it was quite frustrating to see the Yankees not only lose with their ace on the mound — this was Sabathia’s first loss since May 24 against the Mets — but also drop a game against one of the worst teams in the American League. I figured the Indians would pick up a win in one of these games, but definitely not the Sabathia start. Given that A.J. Burnett and Dustin Moseley start the next two games, at this point the Yankees should be elated if they split this series.
Image courtesy of The AP