I've given a name to my pain, and it's Ben Francisco.
For weeks he held a roster spot, despite no discernible baseball talent, and the Yankees were winning. Francisco was less of a baseball player (for he certainly wasn't much of that) and more of the albatross from "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner" - hovering around, eating scraps and bringing good fortune until BAM! he was shot (cut).
Since that fateful cutting, strange misfortunes have befallen the Yankees - like, Mo-failing-to-record-an-out strange. The last team in the Majors not to lose three in a row lost their first three games since letting Ben Francisco go. The Yankees have been cursed.
Like any good fan, I've been doing my part today to lift the curse by yelling his name backwards at every opportunity: OCSICNARF NEB! Meanwhile, back in reality, David Phelps looked to halt the losing streak, continue his run of strong starts, and further cement his place in the rotation. Let's see how that worked out:
- Double, 1-0 Mets
- OCSICNARF NEB! OCSICNARF NEB!
- Strike out
- Single, 2-0 Mets
- Botched tailor-made double play grounder by 3B Jayson Nix. Everyone safe. 3-0 Mets
- O, CSI, CNARF NEB!
Ike Davis - he of the .114 batting average with runners in scoring - finished off Phelps with a two-run single to make it 5-0. According to Michael Kay, Phelps' outing was the shortest by a non-injured Yankees starter since the immortal Alex Graman in 2004 - somehow, I doubt Phelps donned the pinstripes this evening with dreams of Alex Graman comparisons. The guy had zero command of his fastball from the first pitch, and I'm certain Joe Girardi will be questioned post-game about bringing Phelps back so soon taking a line drive off his pitching arm in his last start. Preston Claiborne, Esq., did a fine job stopping the bleeding in 1.2 innings before Adam Warren let the game get truly out of hand, allowing a run in the third and two in the fourth.
The biggest positive on the mound in this game was Ivan Nova, who finished the game off with a quality five innings, allowing one run on five hits and a walk, striking out six. Nova's stuff looked lively, and he commanded his pitches better than he had in a while. Considering the string of quality starts Phelps put together before tonight, he should get a bit of leeway in the fifth starter battle, but Nova showed a glimmer of the promise he's yet to harness these past two seasons.
Offensively, the Yankees did something tonight they hadn't done in a while - score before the sixth inning. Brennan Boesch's fourth inning solo homer was only the second run the team has scored in innings 1-5 since last Friday. Clutch is great and all, but those first five innings count too. Boesch mistimed a Marlon Byrd fly ball that bounced off the top of the wall for a home run in the top of the third, so his home run +/- in this game was right around zero.
The Yankees best chance to get back in the game came in the sixth, when four of the first five Yankees reached base off tiring Mets starter Jeremy Hefner. Reid Brignac smacked a bad-luck liner right at right-fielder Marlon Byrd and Chris Stewart did what Chris Stewart do, popping up to end the threat. Brignac also drove a ball to the warning track in his first at bat, so he had himself quite a game by 2013 Yankees shortstop standards. Keep it up, Reid, I could get used to the idea of a shortstop hitting the ball hard.
Brett Gardner, Robinson Cano and Defensive Indifference teamed up for a meaningless tack-on run in the bottom of the ninth against LaTroy Hawkins, a run which I can only assume was revenge on LaTroy for stealing Paul O'Neill's number back in the day. True Yankees never forget!
The Mets will go for the four-game sweep (or the second consecutive two-game sweep, depending on how you look at it) tomorrow, and the Curse of Ben Francisco will be looking for five in a row. Does anybody know where I could get my hands on a sacrificial goat in the next 24 hours?