Last night was a game that was tightly contested for 8 innings on both sides, featuring a well pitched game by Phil Hughes and an even better showing by Dice-K. Hughes was outstanding before allowing 2 leadoff walks in the 7th (more on that later), giving up just 1 run on a double that was poorly played by Nick Swisher and a legit single to Victor Martinez. Diasuke Matsuzaka was even better than Hughes, dazzling the Yanks all night long and giving up 2 Runs on a bloop single by Tex and a 2-Run HR to Alex that just cleared the auxiliary scoreboard in right field. It wasn’t even a bad pitch, in on the hands about belt high. That’s one where you just tip your cap to Alex, who’s been sizzling hot the past few days.
But by the time the two Closers entered the game, it looked like neither side wanted the win. Mariano Rivera was asleep at the wheel, allowing 4 stolen bases without once throwing a ball to 1B/2B or checking a runner. Posada’s throws weren’t good, twice he didn’t even attempt a throw. But those steals were clearly on Mariano, and even Joe Girardi pinned the blame on Mo in the post game. When asked what happened with all the steals in the 9th, he said “They got good jumps on Mo”. It’ll be interesting to watch his next few outings to see if he pays more attention out there. As troubling as it was to see this gaping flaw, it’s better to have this exposed now than in the 9th inning of a decisive game in the ALDS. In an odd way, the Sox actually did us a favor.
Buster Onley tried to pin Mo’s recent struggles on his usage, Tweeting this after yesterday’s game:
Big win for the Yankees Sunday, but there is this concern for the NYY: Since Mariano Rivera was asked to pitch on back-to-back days on Sept. 11, after throwing two innings Sept. 10, his numbers (and performances) have been ugly: 5.2 IP, 9 hits, 6 ER, three blown saves.
I’m not buying it. He hadn’t been used in almost a week prior to those back to back outings, and he’s worked back to back 10 times previously this year. 3 innings spread out over two days after 6 days off isn’t exactly abuse by Girardi, even for a 40 year old. It’s part of a Closer’s job description to work back to back games if there are wins to be preserved. Mo’s just in a slump, it happens every year and this year it just happened to come in September.
From the Red Sox side, Closer Jonathan Papelbon had some choice words for Home Plate Umpire Phil Cuzzi last night:
“Really rough tonight, considering the fact that I’m not only pitching against the hitter, I’m pitching against the umpire,’’ Papelbon said. “When you’ve got to do that against this lineup, you’ll never be successful.’’
…Cuzzi’s strike zone forced Papelbon to give in to the hitter and throw pitches more on the plate than he was comfortable doing.
“When you’ve got to do that, you’re in a lose-lose situation,’’ Papelbon said. “Just call the game. There’s 27 outs. Call the game. Don’t let the crowd influence you, don’t let the hitter influence you, don’t call the pitch where the catcher catches it. Stay focused for 27 outs and call the game.
“I’m not blaming the umpire. I could have definitely battled a little bit more out of that situation. I’m not one to complain about pitches, no, I’m not one to do that at all. But when you’re pitching against an umpire and their lineup, nobody can win in that situation. It’s impossible.’’
He happens to be right, watching the K-Zone on the ESPN broadcast last night he had numerous hitters struck out multiple times, most notably A-Rod. But you can’t win these arguments with umpire without coming across as a whiner. Even when you’re right, you’re better off keeping your mouth shut.