Helpless Yankees lose at Fenway, 4-2

A lineup that included Brent Lillibridge at third base–the Yankees 78th third baseman this season–got in a three-run hole after two innings thanks to a solo home run by Jacoby Ellsbury to lead off the game and a two-run homer by Jonny Gomes in the second (off of Yankees’ starter, Andy Pettitte), had little chance to make it back in the game and they did not. Thus, the Yankees lost their first game back from the All Star Break and fell seven games behind the first place Red Sox with a 4-2 loss at a sweltering Fenway Park.

Pettitte (7-7) rallied after the two homers and pitched a decent game overall. In other words, it was a fairly typical Andy Pettitte start. But Pettitte no longer pitches in front of an offense that can score four or five runs in a game. In fact, the Yankees scored their first run before they even had their first hit.

Brett Gardner walked in the fourth inning. Red Sox starter, Felix Doubront (7-3), picked Gardner off first, but Gardner beat Mike Napoli‘s throw to second for a stolen base. Gardner stole third on the very next pitch and Jarrod Saltalamacchia threw the ball into left field and Gardner pranced home.

The Yankees then tightened the game further the old fashioned way when Lyle Overbay hit a double high off the Green Monster. It looked like Overbay would be stranded as Lillibridge struck out swinging on a fastball down the middle and then Eduardo Nunez (who looks horrible at the plate right now) popped up to first. But Chris Stewart brought Overbay home with a two out single.

Andy Pettitte cruised through Innings 3,4, 5 and 6. Jonny Gomes led off the seventh inning with a flare off the label that doinked just inside the right-field foul line and bounced into the stands. Pettitte then induced Saltalamacchia to ground out harmlessly to third to hold Gomes at second. It was Pettitte’s 95th pitch and inexplicably, Joe Girardi popped out of the dugout to pull Pettitte in favor of Shawn Kelley. Pettitte was not pleased, but that is why Girardi gets paid the big bucks.

It looked like the decision would pay off as Kelley got pinch hitter, Brock Holt, to ground it right back to him for the second out. Kelley then had a 1-2 count on Jose Iglesias. Unfortunately, Kelley could not throw pitches outside the strike zone enticing enough for Iglesias to bite. In other words, they were nowhere near the strike zone. With no luck throwing a good pitch outside the zone, Kelley had to throw pitches in the zone and Iglesias fouled off a few before singling to right on a soft liner that should have been caught by Lillibridge to bring in the fourth run. Ichiro would have had the ball if he was still in right.

Lillibridge in right? Yes, that is correct. During Brett Gardner’s third plate appearance, the first five pitches he saw from Doubront were balls. Unfortunately, Gardner swung at one of them and the ump made a bad call on the other. With the count full, Doubront then threw a fastball low in the zone, but clearly a strike and it froze Gardner and he was punched out. Whether it was frustration at himself or with the umpire, Gardner grabbed his helmet with both hands and whipped it to the ground. That, of course, was an immediate ejection and an automatic fine.

With Gardner out of the game and then Zoilo Almonte coming up lame with a bad ankle, the Yankees’ lineup truly became laughable with the likes of Lillibridge, Cruz and Gonzalez in the game. Even so, the Yankees had a great chance in the eighth inning that fizzled away.

With one out, Ichiro singled on a liner to left and then Robinson Cano hit a hard double that appeared to be heading to the deepest part of Fenway in center. But Ellsbury made a great play to cut it off and held Ichiro at third. Even so, the Yankees had a man on second and third with one out. Any ball in play would have at least scored one run to tighten it up. A hit would have tied the game.

But the next batter was Vernon Wells, who supposedly, if he has any value, is against a left-handed pitcher. That is what he had in Craig Breslow. But Wells could not put the ball in play and hit a turd off the handle to short which was handled on the fly by Iglesias. Luis Cruz then grounded out meekly to end the threat.

The Yankees went quietly in the ninth against Koji Uehara and that was that.

Some game notes:

  • Zoilo Almonte has already been placed on the disabled list according to Marchand. The Yankees will have to make a corresponding move tomorrow. Perhaps it will be Alex Rodriguez, but if that happens, the Yankees might also have to send down an infielder and bring up another outfielder.
  • The Yankees used Shawn Kelley, Boone Logan and Preston Claiborne in relief in a close game where normally you would expect Joba Chamberlain. That, of course, led to much speculation. Is a trade imminent? 
  • Eduardo Nunez popped out twice to the first baseman. Since 2010 with a minimum of 600 plate appearances, nobody is close to Nunez for his world leading pop up to the infield rate. His 22.5% rate of doing so is far and ahead of Jayson Nix who is second at 18.7%. Comically, three of the top four players since 2010 at hitting infield popups play for the Yankees in Nunez, Nix and Vernon Wells.

**UPDATE** It looks like Michael Eder has already posted the Yankees’ roster moves, so no A-Rod.

 

William Tasker grew up in Bergenfield, New Jersey but has lived in New England since 1975 and in the far reaches of northern Maine since 1990. Tasker is the author of nine (non-baseball related) books and, besides writing here for three years, has written for his own site at www.passion4baseball.blogspot.com since 2003.

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