Game 130: NYY vs. KC — Late inning opportunities fall short

Okay, that was not exactly how Yankee Universe pictured this game going in our minds. But you cannot say the Yankees didn’t try their hardest to make something work, even when it seems like circumstances (and the like) were all against them.

Michael Pineda got the start in the opening game of this series in Kansas City, and he did what Pineda tends to do really well — have a few lows but really just shut everyone else down. And that’s what he did. He threw 103 pitches into the 7th inning, gave up 7 hits, no walks, and 5 runs, and struck out 8 Royals batters. Now, if you leave off his weakest innings (the 1st and the 2 batters in the 7th), his stats are near flawless — 0 hits, 0 runs, 0 walks. In fact, between those bookends, Pineda just breezed through the Royals line up with power.

But there was that 1st inning. The lead-off batter singled, moved to 2nd on a wild pitch, stole 3rd, and then scored on a 1-out single. That runner then stole 2nd and scored on a 2-out single. Two singles and a run scored later, Gary Sanchez behind the plate had enough of these running Royals and threw out the runner going for 2nd. It reminded them that nobody steals on Sanchez.

In what has to be the messy 7th, the Royals sent up 10 batters against the Yankee pitchers. After Pineda gave up consecutive singles, he was relieved by Tommy Layne. Layne threw 2 pitches before the Yankees got a force out at 2nd, failing to get the second part of that double play, leaving runners at the corners). Blake Parker came on and had a rather poor outing, promptly giving up a 3-run home run to push the Royals’ lead further ahead. A single then scored on a 2-out single, and after walking the next batter, it was onto Kirby Yates. Yates gave up an RBI single, but got out of the inning next with a strike out.

Actually, Yates would make all 4 of his outs on into the 8th inning with strike outs. Yates and Pineda combined their totals for 12 total strike outs on the Royals’ batters.

The Yankees were mostly quiet against the Royals’ starter, only getting 4 hits and a walk off him. Tyler Austin actually recorded the first hit off him in the 3rd, a 2-out single, but they left him stranded. Then in the 4th, with 2 outs, Didi Gregorius doubled and then scored on Starlin Castro’s big double to finally get the Yankees on the board.

Down 8-1 in the 8th, the Yankees were faced with what could be their final opportunity to do something. So they did something. Ellsbury led-off the inning by getting on base due to catcher’s interference — his 11th of the season. (Random trivia: if you take everyone else in the league who’s gotten that call and combined their total, it’s 6.) And perhaps because they wanted to forget he got on base, Ellsbury took 2nd on defensive indifference. Hicks worked a walk, and Sanchez got plunked to load the bases.

And then things got interesting. Two strikes to Gregorius seemed awfully low, and suddenly, the home plate umpire tossed Joe Girardi who’d been chirping about the strike zone differences all night. After Girardi came over to give him a piece of his mind to the almost sheer pleasure of the umpire, Girardi watch the Yankees mount a bit of a rally in his honor.

Gregorius doubled and scored Ellsbury and Hicks, and the Royals went back to their bullpen as there were no outs on the board for the 8th inning yet. Starlin Castro hit a sacrifice fly, scoring Sanchez, effectively halving the Royals’ lead. On McCann’s ground out, Gregorius moved to 3rd and then scored on Chase Headley’s single. Gardener worked a walk, and the Royals changed pitchers again to end the rally and the inning.

The Yankees got another opportunity in the 9th, with 2 outs and Sanchez and Gregorius on the corners with singles, but a strikeout ended the game and the opportunity.

Final score: 8-5 Royals.

Girardi later commented on his ejection (his 2nd of the season, 31st of his career) as being due to his frustration that there seemed to be 2 strike zones tonight, and he was tired of his team getting the short end of the stick. Social media reminded everyone that the home plate umpire was also the one who ejected Girardi at Fenway when Rodriguez was intentionally hit and Girardi felt the pitcher got away with it. By the way, the pitcher didn’t in the end and got suspended 5 games, and just this year, now an occasional broadcaster, he admitted to it after sticking to his “I was just throwing inside” story while he was still playing.

This should come as no surprise to anyone really. Gary Sanchez was selected and honored as the Player of the Week, as he did last week. In just this last week, Sanchez batter .522, 7 runs scored, 5 homers, and 9 RBIs in just 6 games. No single player has won consecutive POTW awards since 1998. Despite several really outstanding catchers in Yankees history, the last one to win this award was Thurman Munson on July 25, 1976. Does anyone else feel like they need to rename the month of August “Sanchez” in his honor?

Go Yankees!

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