I hate it when people say, "Time to fight fire with fire." It doesn't make any sense. How does that help? Fire is the last thing I'd reach for if I wanted to extinguish wild flames. How did this expression endure for so long? For the third game in a row, the Yankees attempted to fight offense with offense, as they now shuffle out of LA donning their "I went to Cali, and all I got was this stupid sweep" jerseys.
After losing 5-4 to the Angels despite marching ace CC Sabathia to the mound, the Yankees head into the All Star Break with a .579 record, 3 games behind the AL East leading Red Sox. Once again, the box score cells were nearly identical barring the only important one: runs. The Yankees collected 8 hits but struggled against the cruising John Lackey, who struck out 6 and limited New York to 2 runs before getting pulled in the 7th.
The Angels didn't change a thing as they continued to fly around the bases, putting RISP at every chance and stretching base hits every day of the week and twice on Sunday. The top half of the Angels' lineup was ravenous, with Chone Figgins, Maicer Izturis, Bobby Abreu, and Mike Napoli going a combined 7 for 15, out of the team's total 9 hits.
The Yankees' offense was less lopsided, with the hits distributed throughout their order. Derek Jeter, Melky Cabrera, and Jorge Posada kept them in the game. There's not a lot of good things you can say after a sweep, but I will say it was encouraging to see the rallying and clutch hits. It would have been even nicer if they didn't pull the plug on the momentum the second the bases were full. Twice the Yankees sqaundered bases-loaded chances, and it was a play in the 6th that just seemed to encapsulate their play as of late:
With Mark Teixeira on first and 1 out, Matsui hits a dribbler with a cut that looked like he was pushed from behind mid swing and just happened to fall on the ball. After his bat somehow connects and the ball squirts down the 3B line, Teixeira and Matsui both manage to make it safely to base on Howie Kendrick's error. Then they felt bad about reaching on such a chincy hit and an error so they quickly put the other 2 outs on the board to end the inning and strand another 80,000 baserunners.
This is how it's been going. The Yankees are a much better team than the way they've been playing. They drum up some adrenaline and slice through their games, and then they get confused when using the same tactics that beat the Twins don't work on their offensive rivals. They reach on errors, take extra bases on whims, and basically play like they're just waiting for everything to "fall into place." Now I know how parents feel when they think their kids are wasting their potential. The Yankees are Will Hunting.
And we, the fans, are like Ben Affleck et al, his undyingly loyal crew who gets overtly frustrated at Will's devil-may-care treatment of his superior talents. Now I'm going to chew off my own tongue for comparing the Yankees to a Boston-based story.
The tempo of the game is killing them, and it's a problem that seems to have manifested itself around the time Francisco Cervelli got the boot. He was good for their defense. He sold strikes. He moved the game. He kept up the pace, and it was easier for the field to stay in it. The staccato inconsistency syncopating the Yanks' game is preventing them from maintaining any focus. It's like they either need a metronome or Ritalin.
Or they need to take a cue from the seamless work of one Phil Hughes, who allowed no hits and who's been so brilliant and flawless that his 2 walks today were significantly jarring. It was like the same feeling of being asleep in a car during a long road trip and then the driver opening the window to get some air. The abruptness that you're awoken doesn't match the stimulus that actually jarred you in the first place.
And with that, I'm closing the book on any Hughes commentary, aside from saying that the CC to Hughes plan was good in theory, and will work on 9 out of 10 teams. It's just one bad series.
After the folly that is the All Star Break concludes, the Yanks get a much needed homestand against the oddly-in-first Tigers and then a few cellar-dwellars. No one's a bigger alarmist than the Yankee fan, with the possible exception of the clipping-horror-stories-from-the-paper ilk of mothers. But I'm not panicking. The second half's been good to the Yanks in years past. Yeah, the Yankees have the league exactly where they want 'em. Seriously.