I don’t know starter Ivan Nova could have thrown a better game. I’m sure he thinks he didn’t do as great, taking today’s loss against the Rays. But really, the bottom line was the pitching and defense were very good, but mirroring many games recently, the Yankees offense just wasn’t capitalizing on opportunities to score runs. Not that there was much opportunity with the young, hot Tampa pitcher throwing 97 mph into the 7th inning.
Honestly, the Rays are on a huge upswing right now, having just ousted the Red Sox from 1st place in the AL East. That’s something very common in such a long season — some teams are just going to hit a hot streak, while others are going to slump, and then the tables turn and someone else is going to be amazing. It’s just who ends up amazing that matters or even who’s been amazing the longest.
Nova went seven full innings, getting out of tight jams often with the grace of a more experienced pitcher. He gave up 6 hits and a run, walking 3 and striking out 8 batters over his 105 pitches. One run is all you need to win a game, and that one run came in the 6th inning from an RBI single. It was early enough to think there might be hope for the Yankees to hit some as the Rays starter tired. But the Rays pitcher completed the game in just 97 pitches over the 9 innings (that’s about 9-10 pitches per inning).
David Robertson and Shawn Kelley each took an inning to keep the Rays from adding to their shutout lead. But without any runs scored, it doesn’t matter how stellar your pitching or defense is.
And there was some amazing defense. They don’t call it the “hot corner” for nothing, and Brent Lillibridge really had some nice plays early on in the game. That corner’s been a hard spot to fill for the Yankees, trying all sorts of combinations. And it’s been the guys you’d least expect to do the coolest things over there.
Being at a game always gives you a different perspective than watching it at home or online. There were several innings where several pairs of pigeons camped out in the infield dirt, slightly harassing shortstop Eduardo Nunez. In fact, when the infield shifted for a batter, the birds followed Nunez over to 2nd base and then began stalking Robinson Cano. (The things you entertain yourself with during a game…)
Also, there was a special guest seated in the premium area behind home plate. Long time Yankee fan and World War II vet, Gabe celebrated his 90th birthday surrounded by all of his children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren. One of his sons is a season ticket holder and arranged all of his fraternity brothers (also season ticket holders) to gift the extended family with their tickets to help him celebrate. The catering crew made special dessert trays for him and his family, who proceeded to pass out goodies to nearby non-family fans. Plus, because of his veteran status, Gabe was asked to be honored on the field during the 7th inning when the Yankees honor America and its service men and women. As the crowd cheered with gusto for this strong 90 year old, thanking him for his service and years, tears welled up in his eyes. I don’t think many service men and women, especially those who served in previous military actions (like from last century’s wars), ever got the appreciation and honor that they were due. I think so much has changed and people are now so quick to value their sacrifice, unlike previous generations. I am proud that the Yankees make a habit of doing so, and I was proud to witness such an honor today. A very happy birthday to Gabe! You are so blessed with a great family. (And thanks for the mini-lemon cupcake!)
In other news, it looks like Derek Jeter may be back in the line up for Matsui Day tomorrow. His simulated game nearby at the Staten Island Yankee affiliate went very well, and if he is ready to go in the morning (and how could he not be at this point), he’ll be playing shortstop for the first time since October. If so, he might end up as the 2nd biggest story of tomorrow. (Do I need to repeat it — it’s Matsui Day tomorrow!)
Travis Hafner had his shoulder MRI-ed today, due to some recent stiffness and soreness. It’s probably been inhibiting his range of motion, so maybe some time on the DL, resting and rehabbing properly will allow him to come back in April and May strength again. The Yankees offense needs that Hafner power bat back in its lineup. So if that means rest, then by all means rest and get healthy.
And it looks like Alex Rodriguez and the Yankees are working out their differences. He seems ready for an August 1 rehab assignment to rehab his quad injury. Like Jeter, I’m guessing a little overcompensating from the previous injury certainly didn’t help the attempt to get back in the daily lineup. Wishes for continued health there, and a happy 38th birthday to #13. I do hope it’s been a better day for him in light of some recent set-backs.