Reporters aren’t supposed to play favorites, but bloggers aren’t limited to those restrictions. This means that by the nature of this blog I can be opinionated and play favorites and set my own standards of conduct, while I’m simply limited to basic codes of ethics and morals from my personal life. And if you’ve been a long-term reader of my blog, you know that I try my best to stay positive, not bash other people or teams, and honor the legacy of the Yankees as this season continues to unfold.
One of my favorite parts of this season is the prolonged goodbye to Mariano Rivera, as each visit to stadiums around the country is marked by a special series of events to send off the great closer in style. Gifts have included a gold record of “Enter Sandman” (his walk-out music), a sandcastle, a beach bicycle, a broken bat rocking chair, and thousands of dollars of donations to his charities that support the impoverished in his native land of Panama and the community and church he now calls home in New York.
But tonight, I have to say that the Boston Red Sox really set the bar high. Before the game, they invited the Boston Cello Quartet to play the national anthem and then a strings rendition of “Enter Sandman”. Then a sort of “tribute video” was played on the big screen, featuring members of the 2004 Red Sox team that “thanked” Rivera for blowing the save in the ALCS that allowed the Red Sox to advance to win the World Series and how gracious Rivera was on the 2005 Opening Day ceremony when the teams faced off again. Then, four key Boston players presented Rivera with gifts — a painting of Rivera on the 2005 Opening Day, the signed (by the entire Red Sox roster) #42 placard used on the manual scoreboard whenever Rivera pitches, a blue 1934 Fenway Park #42 seat, and the pitching rubber from the visiting bullpen. And the owners presented Rivera with another check for his charity. This was, by far, the most creative and thoughtful gifts Rivera has received on his farewell tour. And unless Toronto and Houston can top this, it will be the best.
(Again, I’m feeling free with my opinions tonight. And due to the result of the series this weekend, I’m feeling the need to focus on good things wherever I can find them.)
So there was a game, and it wasn’t good, at least from a Yankees’ perspective. Starting pitcher Ivan Nova wasn’t really on his game tonight. He bookended his outing with innings that certainly weren’t reflective of the pitcher Nova is, which was more reflected in the middle innings of tonight. In the first inning, Nova threw 29 pitches, allowing 4 hits and 3 runs (an RBI single and a 2-run home run).
The 4th inning was… interesting (though my internal thesaurus doesn’t work this late at night, so I’m sure that’s not the accurate word for the 4th inning). A Red Sox batter walked, and the next guy grounded into a force out, which should have been an easy double play but the runner threw his hand up to block the ball and knocked down Mark Reynolds’ throw to 1st base. It should have been ruled interference, but the umpires believed he just made a mistake (something I’m sure replay would clear up for them next year, as it did for most everyone watching the game). Later in the 4th, with runners at the corners, another odd play happened when the Yankees somehow allowed the runner to steal home, which might have been ruled a wild pitch or a catcher’s error in most cases, but Red Sox-Yankee games are never normal.
Nova continued into the 5th inning, which may have been a mistake, but with a thin bullpen, the options are quite limited, especially so early in the game. So instead, a walk, a ground-rule double, and an intentional walk load the bases with no outs, and when Nova hits a batter, he walks in another run for Boston. Time to roll the dice with the bullpen. Adam Warren turned out to be a good option for the 5th, getting 2 strikeouts and a line out to retire 3 straight batters, with the bases loaded, I might add.
But then Warren gets in trouble himself in the 6th, a double, an out, and a walk prompt an RBI single. So they go to Cabral, who allows an RBI single. Chamberlain gets the reins next to shut down the last two outs of the 6th and the first out of the 7th. Newly acquired Mike Zagurski gets his first opportunity to pitch as a Yankee, gets an out, a single, and hit by pitch before they opt for David Phelps, who is making his first outing since coming off the DL recently. Phelps, however, still a little rusty, gives up a 2-RBI double before grabbing that elusive third out of the 7th. It’s Dellin Betances, in a vast improvement of his last outing, who throws a perfect 8th inning, complete with 2 strike outs.
And if you’ve been keeping up with the math, Boston ends their game with 9 runs. The Yankees respond with 2 of their own. Yes, just two, and they too bookend the game. In the 1st inning, Curtis Granderson walks and advances all the way to 3rd on a really poor throw to pick him off 1st base. On Alex Rodriguez’s groundout, Granderson scores the first Yankee run. And in the 9th inning, Overbay walks and is out on a force out from Reynolds. Reynolds advances to 2nd and scores on Ichiro Suzuki’s single. Two runs, and that’s all they wrote in Boston tonight, as the Red Sox sweep the Yankees for this series.
Tonight’s loss officially eliminates the Yankees from the AL East division title, something I doubt they thought they had a chance at since they entered September. There are six teams within 4 games of the AL Wild Cards — Texas, Tampa Bay, Cleveland, Baltimore, New York, and Kansas City. September just got interesting. Just 12 games left to play, it’s still anyone’s game. And despite what you might hear on popular sports channels, the Yankees are still in it to win it all and baseball season (and its postseason) still has 6 weeks of games left to play, so those other sports games can wait their turn. People, it just got interesting.