Sometimes, that's all one can say about a game. Tonight fit that word perfectly as the New York Yankees wasted a spectacular pitching performance by Phil Hughes and His Bullpen Band in a 13-inning, 2-1 loss to the Baltimore Orioles. Hughes tossed 6.2 innings of four-hit, one-run ball with his one big mistake coming on a solo homer by the suddenly-invincible Nate McLouth. He was also the benefactor of several missed opportunities by the Orioles offense, most notably in the third inning. It was scoreless at the time, and the Orioles put runners on second and third to start the frame on a walk by Manny Machado and a double to right by McLouth. Hughes bore down though and got a grounder to the left side of the mound by J.J. Hardy, and he threw out Machado at the plate. A fly ball or a ground ball would have scored McLouth from third, but Chris Davis struck out and Adam Jones ended the inning with a groundout.
The Orioles also put their first two batters of the game on base only to strand them, then left runners on the corners with two outs in the fourth inning. From the sixth through the 12th against Hughes, Boone Logan, David Robertson, Rafael Soriano, Joba Chamberlain, and David Phelps, they were shut out on two hits. The pitching staff certainly did their work to win the game, even as a broken bat assailed the hapless Joba, knocking him out of the game in the 12th.
Derek Jeter took to DH duties nicely with another multi-hit game to bring his series average to .421, and Jayson Nix proved to be an astute addition to the lineup with a 2-for-3 evening against Orioles starter Joe Saunders.
Here concludes the positive remarks I have to say about this game.
Offense. The Yankees are supposed to be good at it. However, the hitters have accumulated a grand total of one multi-run inning out of 43 in the series so far, the five-run outburst in the ninth inning of Game 1, which feels like eons ago. Thanks to the struggles of all hitters beyond Jeter, Raul Ibanez, and arguably Mark Teixeira. they should probably be eliminated by now. They were two outs away from falling behind in the series 2-1 on Wednesday until Ibanez's game-tying solo homer, and they needed a second solo homer from him to win it since no one else was doing much of anything.
Even a stat as rudimentary as batting average can show the struggles: Ichiro Suzuki, .200; Robinson Cano, .111; Alex Rodriguez, .125; Nick Swisher, .133; Russell Martin, .214; Curtis Granderson, .063. Grandy is 1-for-16 with nine strikeouts, looking more and more lost at the plate with each coming at bat, a pitiful performance for a 43-homer hitter. Of course, even the hot bats were frustrating tonight--Nix lined a leadoff double in the third for the top of the Yankees' batting order, which is doing better than anyone else. However, Saunders responded by striking out Jeter, Ichiro, and Teixeira in order. Not even the most recently consistent members of the lineup could help the Yankees tonight. The Yankees suffered a bad break when McLouth made a leaping catch of a ball hit by Nix destined for extra-bases and a probable RBI with Martin on first, but they had enough opportunities to cross home plate that luck cannot be blamed.
The one run that the Yankees scored could have been more, too. Jeter led off the sixth with a double, then moved to third on a bunt by Ichiro. Teixeira walked, and a weak ground ball by Cano scored Jeter. A-Rod struck out to end the inning. Another chance came up against Luis Ayala with runners on first and second and two outs in the seventh. Jeter struck out. The most insufferable of the snuffed rallies occurred in the eighth when back-to-back singles against Ayala put runners on first and second with nobody out. Brian Matusz came in and got Cano to meekly ground out, which although annoying at least put runners in scoring position. Darren O'Day relieved him to face A-Rod, who has looked like garbage against him so far in the series. He struck out only needing a fly out or another meek grounder to give the Yankees the lead that would have most likely sent them to the ALCS. Swisher flew out to end it.
Not much happened in extra innings on offense, either, even with punching bag Pedro Strop on the mound for a pair of innings. The seemingly-inevitable occurred when the Orioles managed a pair of doubles off Phelps in the 13th to plate a run and the Yankees went down quietly against Jim Johnson.
Now, the Yankees face elimination in Game 5 with the offense looking as horrible as it has all season. Thankfully, they have ace CC Sabathia going, and they will probably need CC to be absolutely dominant, as Chris Carpenter was for the St. Louis Cardinals in his NLDS Game 5 start last year against the Philadelphia Phillies. Hopefully, the Yankees can scratch out a run or two while the Orioles continue to battle their own offensive ineptitude beyond a few hitters (Hardy: .167; Jones: .105; Machado, .143; Matt Wieters, .118; Jim Thome, .083; Mark Reynolds, .188).
As it stands though, this Yankees team looks very beatable with so many of its key hitters falling into horrible slumps at an awful time. They will need all the help they can get against Jason Hammel to move on to a potential ALCS matchup with the Detroit Tigers.
Keep calm and CC on.