Jobu reviews the penultimate series of the season, a four gamer against the Jays.
After taking two out of three from the Twins in Minnesota (a sweep would have been kinda nice, but oh well), the Yankees headed to Toronto for a big four game set against the Blue Jays. With only seven games to go and a 1.5 game lead coming into the series, the Yankees needed to keep winning to hold off the Orioles, and even the surging Rays. The Yankees kind of shot themselves in the foot by losing two out of the first three games, but managed a damn near miraculous, division saving comeback in game four to split the series. They also clinched a playoff berth, which is nice I suppose.
Game 1: Blue Jays 6, Yankees 0
This game was a big fat fart. Like a dutch oven one. We couldn’t escape the stink of this game no matter how hard we struggled. The Offense came out flat, Iván Nova was terrible again, and the Yankees got shut out by Brandon Morrow, whom they can never really seem to solve. I don’t really need to do a traditional breakdown of this game, because there’s nothing to talk about.
I will say this though: Nova cannot be allowed to throw another meaningful pitch in 2012. He has proven time and time again this season that he’s unreliable. Whatever is going on with him, he needs to figure it out in the offseason. Maybe he needs to cut down on the strike outs again (they are way up this season) and get back to whatever he was doing right last year. Maybe it’s just a matter of finding a happy medium between his ground ball style from 2011 and his strike out style in 2012. He’s still young, there’s time to figure it out. The talent is there, but let’s revisit in in 2013.
One interesting note about this game, we finally saw the debut of David Aardsma. I don’t think anyone is expecting much from Aardsma for the rest of this season, but he needs to get a few innings under his belt so the Yankees can possibly have him ready to go in 2013. Welcome back, David.
Notable Offense: 3 hits for Canó, 2 hits for Martin, no hits for anyone else. Nice work, team.
Game 2: Yankees 11, Blue Jays 4
As crappy as the first game of this series was to watch, the second one was a hell of a lot of fun. The Yankees sent a struggling (I think it’s safe to say that, no?) Hiroki Kuroda to the mound against someone named Chad Jenkins. It didn’t take too long for the rout to be on, and the Yankees won it big. The magic numbers dropped to 2 for a playoff spot and 5 for the division.
Kuroda wasn’t brilliant or unhittable in this game by any means, but he managed to wriggle out of most of the trouble he got himself into in this one, and keep the Jays off balance for a big win. He got hit quite a bit (10 hits in his pretty short outing), but he held on. That’s all the Yankees needed him to do. His final line looked like this: 5.1 Ip, 10 H, 2 R, 2 BB, 4 K, 98 pitches and his fifteenth win of the season (15-12).
The Joe Girardi Bullpen Three-Ring Circus got underway after he removed Kuroda in the sixth. The Yankees used David Phelps (1.2 Ip, 2 R), David Robertson (1 Ip, 0 R), Cody Eppley (0.2 Ip, 0 R) and Rafael Soriano for the last out. Why the closer needs to come in with two outs in the ninth of an 11-4 game I’m not sure, but I guess we’ll take it. Soriano hadn’t pitched in a while anyway.
Two Out Thunder
The Yankees scored eleven runs in this game, and all of the really important ones came with two outs. Nick Swisher had a big two-run double with two down in the first and Russell Martin had a humongous three-run home run with two out in the top of the sixth. The Yankees would add another run in that sixth on an RBI single by Ichiro too. Those are the key hits a team needs to win ballgames, especially if the Yankees manage to make it to the post season. It was nice to see.
The other runs scored on a double play by Derek Jeter in the second, a fielder’s choice by Raúl Ibañez in the seventh, an RBI single by Robinson Canó in the eighth and a nice two-run homer by Eric Chavez in the top of the ninth. It’s nice to see the offense jump off to a lead with some clutch hits and then progressively add to it throughout the game. That’s the perfect way to run an offense.
Notable Offense: HR – Martin (20, career high), Chavez (15), RBI – Swisher 2 (92), Martin 3 (52), Ichiro (52), Ibañez (59), Canó (83), Chavez 2 (36), SB – Ichiro (28), 2 hits for Ichiro (2,599 career), 2 hits for Canó, 2 hits for Swisher, 2 hits for Martin
Game 3: Blue Jays 3, Yankees 2
When the season is on the line, as it has been for the Yankees all month long, you like to see a team come out and play with some gusto. With Andy Pettitte on the mound against Rickey Romero, you had to have a good feeling coming into this one. Once again, the Yankees failed to play with any passion or clutchness. It’s hard to understand how a team can put up a complete stinker in game one, crush the ball and get clutch hits in game two and then stink up the joint again in game three.
While Pettitte certainly wasn’t at his best in this game, and Joba Chamberlain allowed a big double to score the third Blue Jays run in the sixth inning, this loss was all on the offense. The Yankees scored two runs early on and then basically shut it down for the rest of the day. There were no clutch hits. In fact, the Yankees went 2-11 with RISP, and neither of those hits scored a run. It was really pretty pathetic. As impressed as I am by Granderson’s HR output this season, it’s kind of frustrating to watch him strike out or pop up with the bases loaded time and time again. In this lineup, he should easily have 120+ RBI. Instead, after this game, he was at 98.
Just a no good, very bad day for the Offense, and first place is no longer ours and ours alone.
Notable Offense: RBI – Canó (84), Granderson (98), 3 hits for Ichiro, 2 for Canó and Swisher
Game 4: Yankees 9, Blue Jays 6
For the first six innings, I was preparing for life in second place. The Orioles were pounding the Red Sox, and the Yankees were getting crushed 5-1. Phil Hughes was terrible in this game, and the Yankees were, once again, unable to solve Henderson Álvarez for some reason. Fortunately, the Yankees were able to get things together in the late innings for a thrilling, first place saving win.
Thank You, Bullpen
As I mentioned earlier, Hughes put up a real stinker in this one. In his last start, Hughes pitched wonderfully, only to watch the bullpen blow his win. In this one, Hughes didn’t even make it through five innings, but the bullpen kept the Jays from tacking on any runs and allowed for the huge comeback to happen. Hughes’ final line (4.2 Ip, 8 H, 5 R, 2 BB, 4 K, 93 pitches and a no decision) was clearly not the story in this game.
Derek Lowe (1.2 Ip, 0 R), Logan (0.2 Ip, 0 R), and Robertson (1 Ip, 0 R) helped hold the Jays at five runs and, although Soriano made things very interesting in the ninth by loading the bases with nobody out, he finished the 9-6 Yankees win and, while he didn’t get a save in the box, he helped the Yankees save first place.
I’m not sure why Álvarez seems to own the Yankees this season. I also don’t really understand how he did it in this one. According to River Avenue Blues, Hendu threw 85 fastballs (two-seamers and four-seamers) and only two sliders all game long. If the Yankees can’t hit a fastball, we’re in trouble. Anywho, they did manage to score two runs off of Álvarez in this one. The first was a solo home run by Eric Chavez in the third (he’s hot lately, eh?) and a wild pitch in the sixth. That was it.
Maybe it’s because they’re in last place, or maybe Álvarez was on a pitch count for a reason I’m not aware of, but the Jays pulled the righty after six innings and only 87 pitches. Thank God for small favors. They Yankees jumped all over the bullpen in the seventh. First came Brett Cecil, who allowed a single to a pinch hitting Eduardo Núñez before giving way to Steve Delabar. Jeter was up next, blooping a ground rule double to right. an Ichiro sac fly, and Canó RBI double and another wild pitch later, and the Yankees had tied the game. The sixth ended on a line drive double play, or there may have been more damage.
The Yankees left that to the eighth and ninth innings. The ageless Darren Oliver came in to pitch the eighth, walked Granderson and allowed a single to Ibañez. Russell Martin sacrificed them over to second and third, and Núñez hit a sac fly to give the Yankees their first lead. Brett Gardner then pinch ran and scored on a Jeter single. The last two runs came on a two-run double by Granderson in the top of the ninth. The two runs not only put the game away, they also gave Grandy 100 for the season. It is his second straight 40 HR, 100 RBI season, which is nice. I just wish he weren’t hitting .226.
Notable Offense: HR – Chavez (16), RBI – Chavez (37), Ichiro (53), Canó (85), Núñez (10), Jeter (58), Granderson 2 (100), 3 hits for Jeter, 3 hits for Canó, 2 hits for A-Rod and Ibañez
This was another case where the Yankees failed to take advantage of a crappy team to pad, or even maintain, their division lead. While the Orioles were busy slapping the Red Sox around, the Yankees ended up needing a ridiculous comeback victory just to even the series with the last place Blue Jays and keep their share of first place. It’s pretty unacceptable, and doesn’t exactly give me a ton of confidence going into this Red Sox series.
If there’s any sliver lining here, it’s that the Orioles play the Rays. In theory, the Yankees should be able to take at least two from the Sox. In reality, they should be talking about a sweep, but you know the Sox will do everything in their power to spoil the division for the Yankees. They’re good at that. The Rays, meanwhile have been extremely hot of late, and they should give the O’s a run for their money. It will be interesting to see what develops in the next few days, that’s for sure. At least we know the Yankees will play one playoff game for sure.
Featured image courtesy of: AbelImages/Getty Images
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