It’s that time of year again where basically the only games left to play are against division rivals — so lots of Tampa, Baltimore, Toronto, and (everyone’s favorite rival) Boston. To kick off the last 20 games of the season, the Rays came to the Bronx for a mid-week series against the Yankees. The Rays are not in any kind of race as their are much too far behind the division leaders (Orioles) to have a chance at October baseball. But the Yankees are still in it, going into tonight’s game just 5 games from the second Wild Card spot.
Tonight’s game certainly didn’t help their chances…
Hiroki Kuroda took the start for tonight and had a really great 1st inning. Things were looking up, promise lingered in the air. But things progressively crumbled and just didn’t get better. Kuroda threw 67 pitches over his 3.1 inning outing, giving up 9 of the Rays’ 11 hits and all 4 of their runs, striking out just 5 batters. In the 2nd inning, he allowed a lead-off solo home run, but still managed to keep the Rays in check. In the 3rd, two back-to-back singles ended up scoring on another pair of back-to-back singles. Then in the 4th, 3 consecutive singles scored another run, pushing the Rays up to 4 runs scored.
So the Yankees opened the floodgates that would be their bullpen tonight. David Huff took the rest of the 4th for Kuroda and threw the 5th, keeping the Rays to those pesky 4 runs. Whitley took the 6th, continuing what Huff began. And then the bullpen dance began — the 7th was split between Whitely, Hill, and Rogers; the 8th between Rogers, Outman, and Kelley. And Robertson did an absolutely flawless job in the 9th, but it seemed that no matter what the Yankees tried to do, it wasn’t going to be enough (is that the theme for this year’s team?).
On the other side of the field, the Yankees did their best to at least attempt to win this game, offensively that is. Jacoby Ellsbury smacked a nice solo home run in the 4th inning. But it was the 5th inning that had the Yankees pushing back against the Rays. Bases loaded and no outs, newcomer Chris Young hit a long single that scored both Headley and Ichiro. Then Ellsbury singled and Drew was sent home from his spot at 2nd, but the left fielder threw a sharp throw to the catcher waiting at home plate to tag out Drew. Initially, the play was ruled an out, but Girardi did challenge it as a blocked-plate call (something I believe was correctly challenged). But upon review, the call stood as originally called.
This is the second time that I’ve disagreed with challenged plays (or the results of them), and both times have been over the plate-blocking new rule this year. I thought I understood it clearly when they announced the rule change earlier this year, but it seems in both of these instances, I don’t because the umpire HQ guys seem insistent on turning my understanding upside down.
I’m the first to admit I that while I do know a lot about baseball and all its rules and “unwritten rules” and the oddities that make up the sport, there’s still some that seem to baffle me from time to time. I guess, I can now add this blocked-plate rule to my list of unknowns with baseball. I was really excited about the new rule, preventing home plate collisions and the injuries that often result in such crashes,. But if there’s no consistency in calling these plays, how exactly are we supposed to understand the new rule?
Well, yet another reason my job is just to write my opinion on the game and not personally have to sort out all these little details. Sometimes, that’s just how things end up happening despite our best efforts, our hopes, our dreams. Sometimes, it’s just not enough… And tonight, not enough added up to a 4-3 loss to the Rays.
But on a brighter note, I had the absolute pleasure of being at the Yankees game tonight as it was also my birthday. Of course, it’s always a pleasure to watch a game, especially the Yankees. But on my birthday, there are few places I’d rather be than at Yankee Stadium watching a baseball game. Thanks for the memories today, boys! I look forward to next year… and how do I set up a win then?