It was a battle of the starting pitchers today, at least on paper, but it wasn’t spectacular on either side of the diamond. Phil Hughes nearly matched Detroit’s starter Scherzer in today’s loss to the Tigers. What Hughes did his in 4 innings, Scherzer did in his 5; they each threw 87 pitches, 57 were strikes, and each allowed 4 runs. And neither’s immediate reliever helped their campaign for winning pitcher (though Scherzer did eventually earn that thanks to the Detroit’s lineup). But that’s where the similarities stop. Hughes allowed 8 hits, striking out 4, while Scherzer allowed 5 hits (one was another Vernon Wells home run) , walked 2, and struck out 7 Yankee batters.
In total, Detroit was a hitting machine with 17 total hits. When you have a team led by the reigning Home Run Derby champion (Fielder) and last year’s triple crown and league MVP (Cabrera), hitting is more than an understatement. And what the Yankees have failed to do in this series is to keep the hits from being important and capitalizing on opportunities, like the weakness that is their pitching staff and bullpen. On the other hand, the Yankees pitching staff and bullpen was supposed to be the key to winning games this season, but it seems to be lacking in consistency. Some argue Spring Training is too long, but perhaps some years, it isn’t nearly long enough for some teams.
And there was that odd call at 1st in the 6th inning. To clarify, I re-watched the play several times to make sure I knew what happened. Brennan Boesch hits the ball directly to Tigers’ 1st baseman Prince Fielder. Fielder catches the ball and runs to tag 1st base to get out the runner Vernon Wells, who had to double back to the base on the out (the catch to get Boesch). The umpire at 1st calls the 1st play out and the tag safe. And then on appeal, the home plate umpire overturns the call making it an unassisted double play for Fielder. The home plate got it right. It was the right call, but it wasn’t made clear or apparent to the dugout, which caused some tiffs from our coaching staff. No one got ejected, but it was more than unsettling for everyone.
The Yankees made a good effort in the 6th inning, scoring 3 runs to make a try to catch up with the Tigers. But pitching from the bullpen never quite maintained the scoreless goal, and Detroit pulled further away until they finally pinned the score at 8-4 Tigers. It wasn’t really a well-earned game for Detroit; it wasn’t really a good game period. It was one of those games that won’t get one of those fancy names to remember them (like “The Aaron Boone Game”, “The Mr. November Game”, “The Giambi Flip Game”, etc.). It was just game 5 of 162 for this season. And those games start blurring together, where an April game may be confused with a June game or an August game. You might ask, “Was it the game when he hit the home run [like Wells today] or dove for the fly ball [like Gardner today]? Wait, he always does both.” Exactly, my point — a blur.
So, I’ve been reading about Yankee history lately. (What else should I do in my free time than think more about the team?) And some years, the teams gels instantly; they have this almost magical quality about them that just clicks from day one and cements their play-off and World Series status almost from Day 1 of the season. But most years, it’s not so cut-and-dry. In fact, so many Yankee seasons have started out so rough that people often just write them off as finishing around .500 if they’re lucky (this means their win-loss game total is about even). And sometimes they do exactly that. But more often than not, the Yankees somehow pull themselves together and return to their Yankee-ness and end the season on top (or at least somewhere close to it).
So maybe this is a .500 year, and everyone will be forced to reevaluate all the players and angles and dissect “what went wrong”. But just maybe this is a spectacular year full of those games I mentioned above (and not the blurry ones). Those memories matched with dates and statistics become the sports news highlight reels, the YouTube hits, and the ones we as fans can cherish of our heroes, our team.
And besides, (still denial, maybe hopeful, always positive) it’s only April…