The pitching matchup was strongly against the Yankees tonight with the dangerous Jordan Zimmermann facing Adam Warren, so the fact that this game was at least close is somewhat encouraging. Of course, narrowly missed opportunities often hurt even more. Warren did a fine job with a tough Nationals lineup, but after a couple early runs, the Yankees' offense was mostly quiet. Some shoddy defense did them in, making this loss all the more frustrating.
During their recent skid, the Yankees have made an unfortunate habit of scoring in the beginning of the game and then peacing out. Unfortunately, that trend continued tonight. Within the first four batters, the Yanks dropped two runs on Zimmermann, as Brett Gardner led off the game with a single and scored on a Carlos Beltran double to the gap in right-center. Mark Teixeira hit a slow grounder that moved Beltran to third, and Brian McCann lifted a deep enough fly ball to center fielder Denard Span that Beltran was able to score. From that point onward, the lineup managed four total hits, and one of them was a McCann bunt single against the shift. Cute.
Like Zimmermann, Warren appeared to be shaky from the get-go. He left a pitch up to Ian Desmond, who demolished a ball to deep center field, well over the wall. In fact, it bounced and hit the back wall behind the fence 425 feet away. Yeesh. Warren walked two more batters in the inning but was able to work out of it thanks to a two-out pop-up by Wilson Ramos. The two starters locked horns over the next five innings with the lone run scoring on Tyler Moore's game-tying homer in the fourth. At one point, home plate umpire Marvin Hudson decided that there wasn't enough #umpshow in this game and after snipping with Nats skipper Matt Williams about balls and strikes with Bryce Harper up at bat, he ejected Harper for acting confused about staying in the batter's box.
It would have been delightful to see the Yankees capitalize on the lucky break against the Nationals' offense, but it was not to be. Zimmermann mowed them down through seven innings without the Yanks mounting much of a threat with him on the mound. Then came the bottom of the seventh and all hell broke loose on the field. Warren began the inning since his pitch count was relatively low and he was pitching well. The frame got off to an inauspicious start when Chase Headley couldn't handle a bit of a weird hop at third and it went for an error. Warren began to run out of steam and then walked Moore to cause further problems. Headley helped atone for the error with a terrific diving catch in foul territory on a bunt attempt.
Dan Uggla pinch-hit for Zimmermann and with a chance to break the game open, he lifted a fly ball down the right field line in foul territory. It was definitely catchable. Paul O'Neill probably could have filed papers to come out of retirement, run to D.C. from Cincinnati, and reached the ball in time to catch it.
And yet... it was Beltran out there.
He didn't reach it and the ball bounced away to the frustration of Yankees fans. Given new life, Uggla worked a walk against the fatigued Warren, who departed after 6 1/3 fine innings. Now facing Justin Wilson, Span made Beltran pay for his mistake by hitting a weak grounder through the left side for a base hit, scoring Ramos with the go-ahead run.
The final two innings only brought more pain, as the Yankees' two-out, two-walk rally in the eighth with Matt Grace on the mound ended on a Headley fielder's choice. Again with two outs in the ninth, Didi Gregorius kept the game alive against closer Drew Storen with his second hit of the night. Joe Girardi then sent Alex Rodriguez up to pinch-hit and perhaps run into one. To his credit, Storen jumped ahead 0-2. To Marvin Hudson's credit, he realllllllllly did not feel like giving a crap about the final pitch of the game:
Beautiful. Just the way this shitty 2-7 road trip should end. Hey, an ump's gotta have evening plans, too! That post-game McDonald's spread isn't going to engorge itself! Be sensitive to his needs, guys. Gosh.
The Yankees will attempt to regroup tomorrow on the off-day and then return to action finally back in the Bronx on Friday, as Michael Pineda takes on the Rangers' Colby Lewis at 7pm. If anyone needs me, I'll be in the Angry Dome.