Even games with a WPA chart as exciting as the one below can seem to slog along. Today was one of those days, as the New York Yankees dropped a frustrating game to the Texas Rangers. In the grand scheme of things, the Yankees certainly did their work, taking three of the four games at home. As awesome as a sweep would have been, the series was still a success. That being said, boy, was this game irritating.
The Rangers' two-run first inning against starter Ivan Nova was a sign of what was to come. Michael Young hit a slow grounder to third that he beat out for a hit, Josh Hamilton followed with a double to left, and Adrian Beltre brought them home on a bloop single to center field. The Rangers really only hit one ball hard in the inning, but they got two runs out of it. The offense did nothing with Texas starter Derek Holland through the first five innings. Holland held the Yankees to just one hit, and he looked to be in the form that earned him fame in last year's World Series.
Nova did not pitch well, but he kept his team in the game through the fifth inning. He loaded the bases with no one out in the third inning for Hamilton, a scenario that reeks of potential disaster. Thankfully, he struck out the league's top home run hitter, induced a force out from the dangerous Beltre at home, then struck David Murphy out to escape the inning without allowing a run. It appeared as though Nova might leave the game after it looked like he tweaked his groin on a comebacker, but he was deemed okay to continue. Then, in the sixth inning everything came apart. Hamilton sent a fly ball to left field that Andruw Jones lost in the sun and went for a ground-rule double, then Nova hit Beltre with a pitch. Murphy singled Hamilton home, and Joe Girardi decided to intentionally walk Mitch Moreland to load the bases after Geovany Soto bunted the runners to second and third. A force-out to third made the score 4-0, and another walk to the Rangers' ninth-place hitter, Mike Olt, ended Nova's day. The Rangers are a tough team to handle, but Nova has to do better than four runs on seven hits in 5.2 innings against a playoff-caliber offense. Cody Eppley ended the inning on a fielder's choice, but the Yankees faced a four-run deficit against a pitcher who was shutting them down.
Ichiro Suzuki began the bottom of the sixth inning with an infield single to third base, and he came around to score on a Derek Jeter single to center after he moved to second on a slow ground ball. Jeter extended his hitting streak to 12 games and advanced to second base on the throw home. Unlike Ichiro's one-a-day hitting streak a few weeks ago, Jeter has had multi-hit games in eight of his 12 games. Nick Swisher singled Jeter home, bringing Andruw Jones up to the plate as the tying run. Jones has badly struggled since the All-Star Break to a .137/.224/.355 triple slash entering today's game, but he still always looms as a threat to destroy baseballs and send them long distances.He did just that against Holland, tying the game with his first homer since July 17th, a two-run shot off a sign for Syracuse University in the bleachers down the left field line. Fans can only hope that this roundtripper was a step in the right direction for Jones.
Casey McGehee came up next and hit a fly ball to right field that ticked off Olt's glove as he reached up for the catch. McGehee advanced to second base, then scored when Russell Martin singled him home against reliever Tanner Scheppers. Martin stole second, but Jayson Nix struck out to end the inning. Regardless, the Yankees had the lead! Hurrah! Unfortunately, the bullpen was not very effective today, and the Rangers slapped Eppley, Boone Logan, Joba Chamberlain, and Clay Rapada around for six runs on nine hits and two walks in just three innings. The line score of the seventh, eighth, and ninth read like a countdown: 3-2-1. In the seventh, Eppley gave up a single to Young, then departed in favor of the southpaw Logan, on to face and sandwich of lefty-righty hitters. He struck Hamilton out, then gave up a single to the righty Beltre, which was disappointing but not surprising. However, he then gave up a double to the lefthanded Murphy, scoring a run to tie the game. Chamberlain relieved Logan and struck Soto out, giving the Yankees a chance to get out of the inning with a tie. Girardi decided to intentionally walk Moreland though, and with the bases loaded, Craig Gentry lined a two-run single up the middle to give the Rangers a 7-5 lead.
With the deficit only two runs, the Yankees tried to tie it again in the bottom of the seventh. Ichiro singled to right against Scheppers, and Girardi pinch-hit Raul Ibanez for backup catcher Chris Stewart. Ron Washington then promptly brought in a lefty reliever to neutralize Ibanez, Michael Kirkman. Girardi had to have known Washington had this counter to bringing in Ibanez, and he lost the DH in the process, so who knows what he was thinking there. Ibanez almost hit into a double play, but it was hit too slowly to first base and he beat the throw back to first. Jeter followed with a double play ball to shortstop Elvis Andrus's right side, but Andrus's throw to Young pulled him off the bag and the throw to first was late. Everybody was safe, and Jeter somehow got a hit (home cooking!). Swisher walked to load the bases with one out for Mark Teixeira with the tying run in scoring position. Teixeira hit the Yankees' third double play grounder of the inning, but he also beat the throw to first and the Yankees scored to make the score 7-6. Jones had another chance to change the fate of the game, but he struck out against Kirkman with runners on first and third. Joba (who has yet to look sharp) coughed up two more runs on three hits in the eighth, and after Ibanez struck out against Mike Adams as the tying run at the plate with two outs in the eighth, the game was effectively over. The Rangers tacked a 10th run on in the ninth, and the Yankees went scoreless against closer Joe Nathan.
The Red Sox come to town for a three-game series beginning Friday night.
Flying Falcor of the Day goes to Ichiro (3-for-3, 2B, R, Sac, .127 WPA).
Kangaroo Kick of the Day goes to Joba (1.1 IP, 4 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, K, -.308 WPA).