These are the very games you can't afford to give away this late in the season against a team you should beat. The Baltimore Orioles had already lost to the Blue Jays, giving the Yankees a chance to pull ahead by 2.5 games with a win. They had the lead and everything looked promising until it unraveled in spectacular fashion in the seventh inning.
Phil Hughes was very good until the end. He allowed a run in the fourth inning, thanks to some Raul Ibanez defense in left field, but kept the Twins off the scoreboard otherwise. As he approached 100 pitches in the seventh inning, Hughes loaded the bases and Joe Girardi pulled him before he had a chance to face Denard Span and a line of other lefty batters. Unfortunately, the replacement was Boone Logan, who decided to channel his inner Luis Ayala by letting every one of Hughes' runners score plus one of his own.
The doom started on a wild pitch that Russell Martin should have been able to block. He's there for his defense, but that's left quite a bit to be desired in big spots lately. Span hits lefties better than righties, so you can predict what happened from there. It was Logan's league-leading 77th appearance this year. Joe Torre sees no problem with this, but the results seem to suggest that he's overworked at this point.
As much as the bullpen has failed to come through at times of late, there's also plenty of blame to go around for the offense for tonight's loss. Facing a pitcher whose ERA is north of eight after the first inning should probably yield better results. That doesn't excuse coughing up a lead late in the game on the part of the bullpen, it just means that maybe without two strike 'em out, throw 'em out double plays, they might have had more to work with.
Derek Jeter singled to lead off the inning, extending his hitting streak to 19 games. Robinson Cano also reached base four times on three singles and a walk. The big blasts, however, came from Nick Swisher, who went deep for the third consecutive game, Russell Martin (off a righty!), and Andruw Jones, who chipped in a pinch hit homer in the ninth to make everything sting a little more. Swisher's two-run shot was his 24th of the season, and Martin's 19th dinger of the year matches his career-high from back in his Dodgers days.
With the aforementioned Baltimore loss, the Yankees stay 1.5 games up in the American League East with eight games left to play. They send their ace to the mound tomorrow against Samuel Deduno for the 1:10 p.m. rubber match of the series. Here's hoping Sabathia can take care of business and the team can get out of town with a series win. A world where they can't take a series from the Twins in late September with the division on the line is not a world I want to live in.