This oddly reminded me of the game the Yankees played six days ago that I'm already trying hard to forget. Lets review really quick.
Red Sox get off to an early lead? Check.
Yankees stage an impressive comeback later in the game? Check.
Bullpen then implodes? Big Check.
Now, there are differences. Last week the Red Sox got off to a bigger lead, the Yankees staged an even bigger comeback, and then were one strike away from winning the game. So on the heartbreak scale this one definitely checks out a little bit lower. But the theme is oddly similar and slightly disturbing.
The game actually started off decently. The Red Sox tried to shift on Robinson Cano in the first inning and he responded by bunting a double down the third base line. Can't predict baseball, right? Unfortunately they couldn't get him in. And then the Red Sox got to face Yankees pitching again.
Dustin Pedroia led off the bottom half of the first with a single to left, and moved to third two batters later on a double by David Ortiz. Mike Carp grounded out allowing Pedroia to score and moving Ortiz to third with two outs. If they could've just kept it to one run it might not have been such a bad thing. But then a single by Daniel Nava, a walk to Jarrod Saltalamacchia and a double by Stephen Drew and just like that, Hiroki Kuroda was facing a 4-0 deficit after the first inning.
After the Yankees went down 1-2-3 in the second, the Red Sox threatened again. Another single by Pedroia and then a HBP to Shane Victorino put runners on first and second with one out. Then Chris "I'm so good at defense so who cares if I strike out with two strikes" Stewart failed to catch the ball... again. This moved the runners up and led to an intentional walk of David Ortiz, loading the bases.
At this point, it looked like the game would become a blowout. But then the Yankees seemed to get a bit of luck, at least for a little while. Kuroda rebounded to strike out Mike Carp and get a lineout of Daniel Nava to escape further trouble.
The Yankees started to chip away in the top of the third when Brendan Ryan led off with a home run over the green monster in left field. I don't expect this to happen, but if Kevin Long can turn Brendan Ryan into a non-automatic out at the plate then I would be ecstatic. Ryan got a hit last night and a home run and a single tonight so who knows. "You can't predict baseball".
Kuroda, to his credit, did a tremendous job rebounding in this game. He shut the Red Sox down for the next four innings and gave the offense an opportunity to come back. And to the offenses credit, they did come back. They already scored once with the Brendan Ryan home run and they got to scoring again in the top of the sixth. A double by Robinson Cano, a single by Alfonso Soriano and then a sacrifice fly by Lyle Overbay made it a 4-2 game. The ball was a couple inches away from a two run double, but Victorino was able to run it down in right center field. Eduardo Nunez flew out to center to end the inning.
The Yankees got back to it in the seventh, starting with... you guessed it. Brendan Ryan! Following a groundout of Ichiro Suzuki, he singled to left and then a single off the base of the green monster by Chris Stewart (!!!) put runners on the corners with only one out. This is the second straight game the Yankees got Brendan Ryan and Chris Stewart on base in the same inning. I just felt like that was worth pointing out, because I don't know if you'll ever see that again in your life.
With one out and runners on the corners and the top of the order coming up, you had to figure this was an opportunity for the Yankees here. John Lackey was removed from the game for Craig Breslow, who was brought in to face the lefty Curtis Granderson. Granderson worked the count to 3-2 before
checking his swing on ball four, loading the bases striking out by chasing a breaking ball out of the strike zone, leaving runners on the corners and two outs and Alex Rodriguez coming to the plate. Whether Breslow pitched around A-Rod or lost the plate I don't know, but A-Rod didn't see a pitch to hit and the bases were loaded for Robinson Cano.
Cano hit another double (4-4 on the night) into the right center field gap which tied the game at four and would have given the Yankees the lead if Rodriguez was currently capable of running faster than a Jason Giambi-level speed. Alfonso Soriano grounded out to end the inning, which left the game tied at four.
Well eventually, the Yankee bullpen had to pitch in this game, I guess. And with Mariano Rivera, David Robertson, Boone Logan and Adam Warren not available, it was going to be difficult to close out a close game as it was. Kuroda began the inning by giving up a hard grounder to third that couldn't be handed by Nunez- the broadcast can say what they want about how a "great" third baseman makes that play, but the fact of the matter is it was a routine ground ball for a major league third baseman and Nunez, for the second straight night, was incapable of coming up with it. That was the night for Kuroda and the beginning of the "bullpen implodes" part of the night. Skip the next paragraph if you'd like (recommended).
Cesar Cebral relieved Kuroda and hit David Ortiz on the elbow pad to put two on and nobody out. That was all Cebral would do, as he was taken out for Preston Claiborne. Claiborne walked a batter and struck out a batter, which led to bases loaded and one out for Jarrod Saltalamacchia. Saltalamacchia hit a grand slam, and the score was 8-4. And that was pretty much the game right there. Junichi Tazawa and Koji Uehara closed out the Yankees in the eighth and ninth to finish the game.
On the day where the Yankees lost their center fielder for maybe the season, they also lost ground to almost every team they were in contention with as well. Disappointing, but still only one game. The Yankees will enter tomorrow's game two games out of the final American League wild card spot, still very manageable with 14 games to go. It's also worth noting that after this weekend, the schedule lightens up considerably to finish the season.