I don’t think there really is a good thing as a “good loss”. But perhaps after the last two nights, we could call this one a “better loss”. At least, in some ways.
The Yankees looked to David Huff to start today’s game, in a chess move to switch Hughes to the bullpen for a more reliable long-term relief. But after a sign of promise in the 1st inning, Huff met the heart of the order for the Red Sox and just never was able to recover. He went 3.1 innings, gave up 8 hits and 9 runs. Yep, that sound you heard there was Yankee fans running for the exit or switching the channel. (I know I flipped back and forth between old sitcoms and the game, keeping an eye on the damage via my computer.)
So let’s just recap chronologically…
In the 2nd, a 2-run home run put Boston on top early (2-0). The Yankees answered back in the bottom of the 2nd as Lyle Overbay’s single scores Soriano (2-1), cutting Boston’s lead in half and setting the pattern for the rest of the game. With two on in the 3rd, a Red Sox batter slices a 3-run homer into the left field seats (5-1). But Ichiro wasn’t going to let them have any more and made the most ridiculous catch in the corner of right field to rob a batter of anything spectacular. Answering that call, Robinson Cano singles and hits in Gardner (5-2).
Then the 4th inning got messy. Huff allowed two singles to score on a double (7-2). Two more runs score on each a groundout and a double (9-2), the Yankees opt for a new pitcher. Recently signed (from AAA Scranton) Jim Miller comes in to pitch. (The roster move for him was moving Vidal Nuno to the 60-day DL with groin strain.) He promptly gives up an RBI single (10-2) and a double before getting the final two outs to mercifully end the inning. In a small effort to dent the score, Ichiro Suzuki hit an RBI double to score Nunez (10-3).
But the Red Sox weren’t satisfied with a 7-run lead and proceeded to pad their score. Another 2-run homer (12-3) in the 5th, prompts another pitching change. This time, the move to Brett Marshall proved a smart move, perhaps the smartest move of any pitching staff on either side of the field. Marshall went 4.1 innings, giving up just 3 hits, 1 run, 1 walk, and 3 strikeouts.
Now, most people at this point would think the Yankees would just take the loss, but not this team and not against this team. Rivalries are rivalries for a reason. So the Yankees found a rally point in the 6th inning. Nunez walks, (a strikeout), Ichiro walks, pinch-hitting Murphy (in for Romine) grounds into a force out and advances to 2nd, and then Nunez and Murphy score on Brett Gardner’s double (12-5). Derek Jeter singles home Gardner (12-6), slicing that lead in half again, forcing the Red Sox to make a pitching change and the Yankees to send Reynolds to pinch-run for Jeter. After Cano singles, Alfonso Soriano singles home Reynolds (12-7) and a fly out ends the Yankees rally.
Suddenly, there was hope going into the 7th inning.
The Yankees would come back again with a small rally in the 8th. JR Murphy opened the inning with his first major league hit (in front of a large collection of his family and friends, cheering him on). Gardner walks, and with Mark Reynolds’ double, both Murphy and Gardner score (12-9). A Red Sox batter got his 2nd home run of the game in the 9th inning via a long solo home run deep to center field and setting the score at 13-9 Boston.
Now, they pulled Jeter off the field after his single in the 6th inning because Girardi didn’t like how Jeter was running, after twisting awkwardly on a play at shortstop. Because it was his ankle that has been broken, repaired, re-broken, re-repaired, and stiff/irritated today, they sent him to the hospital for a CT scan (which is more invasive than a standard MRI and thus more accurate). And as I was writing this, the report came back negative (good news!), but they will send the results and scan to his surgeon for confirmation. This may mean a few days watching from the dugout (something that is becoming all to common a sight for him and far too many Yankee players), but if the surgeon confirms the results, that is the best news the Yankees may have gotten in weeks. (Even as I write that sentence, it feels wrong to be thinking this way, but it is the way of this very strange season.)
The Yankees finish today’s game with 20 games left of their regular season. Depending on how games today pan out, the Yankees are sliding further down the standings and the Wild Card race. However, they are only 3 games out of the second Wild Card spot and officially 19 games from elimination. You do the math on that. That means, they will have to lose 19 of their last 20 games to be completely eliminated.
This, of course, is betting on the other 4 teams ahead of them (Texas, Tampa Bay, Baltimore, and Cleveland) also sliding down. And September isn’t getting any easier. After tomorrow’s finale against Boston, there’s 3 at Baltimore, 3 at Boston (scary though after this weekend), 3 at Toronto, 3 against San Francisco, 3 against Tampa Bay, and 3 at Houston. A mixed bag, looking at current standings, but in baseball, nothing is predictable.
Nor should it be. 162 games and it’s still anyone’s game, every single day, every single inning, every single out, every single pitch. You just never really know until that final out of the 162nd game. And in spite of a weekend series like this one (so far), that sole fact keeps fans going to games, cheering on their teams, jeering on their rivals, and hoping against all hope that there’s still a glimmer of October in their future.