Tonight's 4-3 Loss in Three Points
1) The Yankees were cruising to a 3-1 victory at the start of the ninth inning, which is when they entered the realm of the bizarre. Cody Eppley, still in the game from the previous inning, gave up a single to Alex Rios, then Clay Rapada induced a grounder back to the mound from A.J. Pierzynski. Rapada promptly threw the ball into centerfield going for the double play. The throw wasn't even close. David Robertson finally entered the game after the error, and he gave up a three-run homer to Dayan Viciedo. Robertson did not start the inning because Joe Girardi is still not feeling comfortable using him in back-to-back games since returning from injury. That's a good sign..
2) Ivan Nova deserved a much better fate than he got today. He held the White Sox to one run on six hits in 7.1 great innings of work. The White Sox hit the ball hard against him a few times (including a solo homer by Alejandro De Aza), but Nova did his job and ended June with a 1.26 ERA. He's kind of good.
3) It was a mystery how White Sox starter Dylan Axelrod held the Yankees to just two runs in seven innings. It was a smoke and mirrors act that Freddy Garcia would be proud of, and he was able to keep the Yankees off the scoreboard for the majority of the evening, save for a pair of run-scoring doubles in the fifth inning. Well played, Mr. Axelrod. You are quite the magician.
Tonight's 4-3 Loss in Visual Form
Tonight's 4-3 Loss in Several Hundred Words
The pitching matchup did not appear that it would be so intense going into the game. Yankees fans probably could have predicted Ivan Nova's performance tonight based on his recent success in June, but it's unlikely that even the most homerific of White Sox fans would have expected Dylan Axelrod to control the Yankees as he did tonight. Even White Sox broadcaster Hawk Harrelson (he who calls the White Sox "good guys" and their opponents "bad guys") admitted as much in the seventh inning. Both teams seemed to consistently put runners on base against Nova and Axelrod, but each struggled to dent home plate. Paul Konerko led off the fourth inning with a double against Nova, but did not try to score after an Alex Rios single (Curtis Granderson got the ball back in quickly). Both runners were stranded after a lineout to center and a line-drive double play to Robinson Cano. Likewise, Alex Rodriguez led off the bottom of the fourth inning with a double against Axelrod and never came around to score, even when the Yankees loaded the bases with two outs. Axelrod induced a weak groundout from Eric Chavez to end the threat.
Nova finally gave up a run in the fifth when Alejando De Aza slugged a long solo homer against the facing of the third deck in right field. It was certainly not the run-of-the-mill Yankee Stadium Special to right. De Aza gave the Yankees fits all day long, as he notched four hits in five at bats. Fortunately, Nova was able to move past the monster shot and keep the White Sox offense stifled into the eighth inning. It was yet another stellar performance by Nova, and the Yankees will really be looking for him to keep up the good work with CC Sabathia and Andy Pettitte on the shelf. Axelrod also had his first major hiccup in the fifth, and the problems seemed to emerge out of nowhere, with two outs. Alas, it's never an easy task to retire any of the trio of Granderson, A-Rod, and Cano, so perhaps Axelrod's sudden struggles shouldn't be a shock. Granderson singled to center, then came around to score on an A-Rod double that was deflected by De Aza. A-Rod then scored on a double to the right-center field wall by Cano. Don't look now, but that was a hit with a runner in scoring position for Cano. It's almost like his numbers with RISP were supposed to return to the norm.
The game rolled on to the eighth inning, when Girardi's bullpen strategies worked. Nova started the inning by giving up De Aza's fourth hit of the game and throwing a wild pitch to move they tying run into scoring position. He struck out a cave troll, then Boone Logan came on in relief to get Adam Dunn to fly out to center. Another Binderific trip to the mound brought sidearmer Cody Eppley into the game, and he stranded De Aza on third by striking out Paul Konerko. In the bottom half of the frame, Mark Teixeira lined a solo homer into the left field seats to give the Yankees some insurance, and everything looked just ducky headed into the ninth inning. Rafael Soriano was unavailable after working in four of the last five games, so Girardi decided to try something completely different.
Girardi decided, to the surprise of many, NOT to go with setup man David Robertson to start the ninth inning. It seems that he's still wary of using D-Rob in back-to-back games, but Girardi also said that he was probably going to bring him in regardless? Was he just trying to reduce Robertson's workload for tonight? Was he really feeling more confident with Eppley and Rapada in "getting the save"? Either way, the ninth inning was a disaster. A line drive single, a horrifying throw to second by Rapada, and a Viciedo homer to right against Robertson later, the Yankees were on the wrong side of a 4-3 score. Robertson of retired the side in order after the Viciedo homer to keep it a one-run game, but the Yankees were unable to tie the game in bottom of the ninth against White Sox closer Addison Reed despite a leadoff single by Dewayne Wise to put the winning run at the plate for three consecutive batters. The night ended on a flyout to right by Jeter that Michael Kay of course thought was headed out for a game-winner. It was not really close. Huzzah.