Tell me the truth, Yankee fans: just how excruciating was last night's walk-off loss to the Boston Red Sox? Personally, on a scale of one-to-2004, I would rate it a three...and it would have been a two if not for that atrocious call on Eduardo Nunez at second base.
The Yankees' postseason hopes most likely died yesterday, but the time of death was well before that eleventh inning meatball served up to Mike Napoli. Alex Rodriguez's quad strain diagnosis and CC Sabathia's continuing ineffectiveness were exhibits Ψ and Ω in the case against the Yankees 2013 postseason hopes (we ran out of English letters a long time ago).
The 2013 Yankees are, quite simply, not a very talented baseball team, at least by the standards of the AL East. The three teams above them in the current standings are clearly better. Day in and day out, the Yankees flirt with an overall negative run-differential (they are currently -2). And whereas the team and its fans once held out hope that the cavalry would arrive in the form of Rodriguez, Derek Jeter, Curtis Granderson and Mark Teixeira, it's clear now that the cavalry ran into an ambush at Wounded Knee (not to mention Strained Quad, Broken Hand and Torn Wrist Ligament).
With all that in mind, last night's loss was - dare I say it - inspiring. The offense had no business coming back from four runs down - for this lineup, that's usually 18 innings worth of output. The bullpen, spearheaded by a dominant performance from Shawn Kelley, held the league's best offense at bay - all the more impressive given the fact that Mariano Rivera was being held hostage by Joe Girardi's binder. Nearly overcoming CC's meatball-itis and taking the series at Fenway could be viewed as something a moral victory.
Yes, I know...the phrase "moral victory" has long been taboo in the Bronx. Why, if the Boss were still alive, he'd strangle me with a turtleneck and offer my body to the god of Winning at All Costs for even mentioning such things (In America we call the deity Al Davis, in India it is known as Kali). Real Yankee teams never accept anything less than a W...or so I've been told.
Of course, I was also told that real Yankee teams never employ the Luis Cruzes and Austin Romines of the baseball world, yet here we are. The Yankees haven't been real contenders since May, yet they haven't imploded, either. So far they've followed up their horrendous June with a respectable 10-7 record in July. They've endured two potentially-fatal five-game losing streaks and come back with short bursts of inspired play.
While there's nothing earth-shattering going on in the Bronx at the moment, considering the crippling personnel losses this team has suffered this season could have tapped the tragicomic potential of a Bobby Valentine Red Sox team. The fact that it hasn't happened is a testament to the guys on the field:
- To Robinson Cano and Brett Gardner, who soldier on as the only true big leaguers in the lineup each night.
- To Lyle Overbay (103 OPS+) and Ichiro Suzuki (92 OPS+), who have both somehow come pretty damn close to being average Major League players.
- To Chris Stewart for playing way more than he ever has (already 26 ABs past his career high) and for not being Austin Romine.
- To Hiroki Kuroda, who gets roughly 0.43 runs of support each start, yet keeps the Yankees in every game.
- To Andy Pettitte, who looks ready for the glue factory in innings one-through-three, yet pitches the Yankees into the sixth each time out.
- To the fifth spot in the rotation, whoever it may be. David Phelps took over after Ivan Nova's flame-out and pitched admirably before getting hurt. Then Nova came back from the grave and impressed in his last few starts. Throw in the three starts by Vidal Nuno and this crew has a combined record of 11-9. Considering the offense behind them, that is an absolute miracle.
- To the non-Joba members of the bullpen, for straight-up kicking ass. You don't outplay your Pythagorean record by as much as the Yankees have without a stout bullpen. Let's go down the list: Mariano Rivera (228 ERA+), David Robertson (202 ERA+), Shawn Kelley (118 ERA+), Preston Claiborne (179 ERA+), Boone Logan (199 ERA+) and Adam Warren (125 ERA+). And don't sleep on Warren; he's actually thrown the most innings of anyone in the Yankees pen (44.1 IP)
For better or worse, these are your 2013 New York Yankees. They're not great by any means, but they play hard and they somehow manage to win more than they lose. Considering the players involved, that is a feat worth celebrating.