Game 153: NYY vs. TOR — Creative defense without the “Diva Factor”

Some days, this job is cake — there are bit stories to include, everything works out right for a great game, and I’m feeling inspired and creative. Some days, this job is challenging — there’s a ton of stories to have to talk about, a ridiculously eventful game, and I’m feeling inspired and creative. And some days, it’s more of a chore — there’s nothing to talk about, a mundane game, and that spark of creativity and inspiration is muddled by life and personal exhaustion. Let’s just say, today was one of those days, and you’ll have to figure out which one I mean.

Starter Hiroki Kuroda went 102 pitches over 6 full innings, giving up 8 hits, 3 runs, 4 walks, and 7 strikeouts. Those 3 runs came courtesy of an RBI double and sacrifice groundout in the 3rd and a solo home run in the 6th. It was just in the 3rd inning, that it seems like Kuroda had a hard time with control, but the rest of the game he was his usual reliable self. And with just those 3 runs, the Yankees might have been able to pull themselves together and at least make an effort for the win. But things rarely work out like you predict.

So they opt to send in Joba Chamberlain in the 7th. But Chamberlain isn’t the pitcher he was when he debuted in Toronto 6 years ago. He walked a batter, allowed a single, and then gave up a whopper 3-run home run. And suddenly, the Blue Jays had pulled ahead with their 6 runs. In comes Cabral to get the first two outs and Daley for the last one in the 7th. And it was David Phelps to the rescue in the 8th, who easily gave one of the best appearances with his 13 pitch, 1-2-3 inning. This was a sign to me and most other analysts that the recently rehabbed Phelps is about ready to resume his long-term, even starting duties again.

Offensively, the Yankees were limited to half Toronto’s hits (5 for New York) and just two runs. Curtis Granderson struck first with a solo home run in the 6th. And in a last-ditch effort at a rally in the top of the 9th, with 1 out, Rodriguez walks, Cano singles, and Soriano walks to load the bases. On the third pitcher of the inning, Vernon Wells grounds out, but scores Rodriguez. And the Yankees are down 6-2, which they immediately concede the game on the very next out.

The Yankee defense was again something admirable, and tonight they got a little creative. Right in the 1st inning, a batter hits a slow grounder up to Kuroda, who throws it home to Stewart to get the runner going home. But the runner isn’t near home plate, so backs up back to 3rd in a rundown, which Stewart flips to Reynolds for the play. The runner dodges the tag from Reynolds, but here’s the problem: the other runner is already at 3rd base. We got 2 runners at 3rd. The initial runner isn’t on the base any more and is tagged out by Reynolds, and Reynolds also tags the new runner out, even though he’s on 3rd looking safe. Here’s why it’s a double play: once the first runner is back at his original base, the new runner must vacate back to his last base and since he was off his appointed base, he was still in play and could legally be tagged out. Nice effort by Reynolds just tagging everyone. (I’m kind of surprised the 3rd base coach didn’t get in on the action because of how close he was in all the fuss.) Just your average 1-2-5-5 double play.

And I think we can safely say the Mark Reynolds may just be the defensive MVP of the game because of his creative way to get an out (above) in the 1st, and for his own initiated double play in the 2nd. Reynolds may go quickly hot and cold in the batter’s box, but his defense is consistent and fits in with the natural flow of the field. For only being with the team a very short time, I know I’m impressed with how Reynolds seems to be carving his own niche in the team.

I know that many people believe that if you’re a professional, you should be able to play with anyone. And while that should be true, it’s not something I see very often exhibited. For how it’s not done well, watch any All-Star Game. All the players are super professional, used to their positions, used to playing at a high level, but there’s always one team that just doesn’t work as a team. Why? The “Diva Factor”. At this level, the lack of good teamwork isn’t usually poor training, but one or two “bad eggs” who prance around like divas — stereotypically, this would be either the overpaid assumed star or the young rookie hotshot. And even as I write this, I’m thinking of some players (and thus some teams) that fit both.

In other news (and I promise you this isn’t related to my previous paragraph), the Red Sox have officially clinched the AL East, and the Dodgers the NL West. I know I have some friends and family who will be very happy with that news. Most other races are pretty close to being concluded, being as we only have 9 games left to play this season. But there’s some really interesting things happening  in the AL Wild Card and the NL Central and Wild Card races. If it was so easy for those top 10 teams to grab their postseason places, it would make September the most boring month is baseball. And instead, it’s most fascinating that Opening Week. There’s nothing like September Baseball…

Except maybe October Baseball…

Go Yankees!

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