Okay, let me just say that I have absolutely no idea where to start because I have no idea what happened in Tampa tonight. At some point, everything just kind of imploded and then exploded.
First things first then… Tampa’s “not-a-farewell-tour” rolled out (literally) its ceremony prior to tonight’s game, presenting Derek Jeter with a 16-foot customized pinstriped kayak and a $16,000 donation to Turn 2 ($50 per hit Jeter has made off Rays’ pitching — that’s 320 hits, if you don’t want to do math). Then Soot Zimmer, the widow of Don Zimmer, presented Jeter with a framed Zimmer jersey.
Zim was most recently a special advisor to the Rays, but he was Torre’s bench coach when Jeter was first called up to the Yankees. Zim was a fixture at the ballpark, and I remember him smiling and trotting around even this year’s Spring Training with the vitality of his younger days, despite a stroke some years ago. Zim was a shared legend between the Yankees and Rays, but he passed away in June this year. I know he would have loved to be there tonight to see Jeter off into his retirement properly, and this was a great way to incorporate him and his legacy and impact into a ceremony celebrating the legacy and impact of one who truly appreciated him.
And then there was a game. Last year, I was convinced that certain stadiums were almost bad luck (if you believe in such things) for the Yankees. This year, I’m convinced it’s specific teams that have it out for the Yankees. And with the Rays, I’m absolutely certain… but we’ll get there in a moment.
In the 2nd inning, with 2 outs, Chris Young doubled and then scored on Ichiro Suzuki’s single, giving the Yankees a 1-0 early lead. It didn’t last long, and it would be the only run the Yankees scored all night.
It was Michael Pineda’s turn to start for the Yankees tonight. 100 pitches over his 5.1 innings wasn’t a terrible outing, but certainly not at the level the Yankees needed to win tonight’s game. He allowed just 4 hits, 2 runs (only 1 earned), and 2 walks, striking out 5 batters. In the 5th, a throwing error and a walk put runners at 1st and 2nd; a runner then scored on a missed catching error by Pineda himself to tie up the game 1-1.
Pineda allowed a double in the 6th, and that runner scored on a single (2-1 Rays). This forced Girardi to turn to Josh Outman in relief for the rest of that inning, which he did flawlessly.
But I can’t say much for the 7th inning relief of Esmil Rogers, which in my mind started the implosion. After a quick out, Rogers put runners on the corners with a walk and a single; another single scored a run, and this gave the Yankees enough cause to pass the ball to Rich Hill. But then a single loaded the bases, and another single scored yet another run, keeping the bases loaded.
And so it was onto David Phelps. His first batter hit a sacrifice fly to Ellsbury in center field, but 2 runners ended up scoring. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a 2-run sac fly before. There was some confusion as to whether one runner actually tagged every bag and whether he left too early (he did, by the way); honestly, this began the ultimate confusion spiral that became this game. After some minor protestations from Girardi, which were largely ignored or quickly disregarded by the umpire staff, he officially declared the Yankees playing this game “under protest”.
Each league shall adopt rules governing procedure for protesting a game, when a manager claims that an umpires decision is in violation of these rules. No protest shall ever be permitted on judgment decisions by the umpire. In all protested games, the decision of the League President shall be final.
Even if it is held that the protested decision violated the rules, no replay of the game will be ordered unless in the opinion of the League President the violation adversely affected the protesting teams chances of winning the game.
Rule 4.19 Comment: Whenever a manager protests a game because of alleged misapplication of the rules the protest will not be recognized unless the umpires are notified at the time the play under protest occurs and before the next pitch, play or attempted play. A protest arising on a game-ending play may be filed until 12 noon the following day with the league office.
Bring on the explosion…
Into the top of the 8th, the Yankees are at bat, with Jeter leading off to a standing and cheering Tampa crowd. And the pitcher hit him. This would make the fifth Yankee batter (well, fourth unless you count Jeter twice now) hit by a Rays pitcher in just 4 games. How do I know this? Because Girardi made a very big point of this when he went storming out of the dugout to argue for the Rays’ pitcher to be thrown out for trying to take out his batter. And do the Rays pitchers get any repercussions for “pitching inside” sloppily? Nope. Scott-free once again. Who gets ejected? Girardi. That’s right. The guy who doesn’t want to see another Headley sprawled out on the ground with a bloody jaw or a severely bruised-up player in the training room AGAIN, he’s the guy that it makes sense to toss from the game.
Now, do I honestly think that the pitcher meant to hit Jeter when the Rays were up 6-1 over the Yankees? No. But it seems the Rays are determined to “pitch inside” a lot. The Yankees all agree that such pitching is necessary at times, but “you’ve got to do it right” so that no one gets hurt. Apparently, according to pitchers and players and coaches alike, if you’re going to “pitch inside”, you pitch in and down and NOT in and up like the Rays have been doing all year and hitting people right and left (literally and figuratively).
Anyway, Maddon (the Rays’ manager) wisely opted to go to his bullpen so as not to risk the wrath of an already heated crowd and clubhouse for hitting the Captain. And the only thing the umpires chose to do was “warn both teams”. Why the Yankees were “warned” at this point, I’ll never understand.
Three outs later and it was the Yankees’ turn to pitch. (Hearing that ticking sound yet?)
Phelps, still on the mound, came into the 8th inning, still shaking off his rust from his recent return to the bullpen. And he did the last thing you want a pitcher to do in this situation. Yes, he apparently hit the batter (though on the replay, he clearly did not and thus everything that followed was a total crock). And because the team was already “under warning”, Phelps was ejected, and according to protocol (that I don’t agree with) bench coach and acting manager Tony Pena was also ejected. Benches were cleared, and some massive “jawing” as it happened between far too many players and coaches and umpires. (KA-BOOM!)
Sometimes, I completely understand why ejections happen; it’s a heated game, adrenaline runs high in a competitive environment, and there are those with a short temper or diva-like attitudes that don’t fare well in such environments at times. But I have to be completely honest, I don’t agree with a single ejection in this entire game. Nor have I agreed with most of these extreme calls at the Trop for the entire series.
Anyway, David Huff came on and pitched the 8th, keeping the score at 6-1 Rays, something the Yankees just were never able to overcome. If I believed in bad ju-ju or whatever, I’d say it was all over the Trop tonight.
Look, I try to stay positive and objective on this blog, but there are days that it’s rather hard to do so. Fortunately, I’m not a journalist, so I can be a little more opinionated than your average sports writer. So I’m going to try to be positive for a minute…
Nope. The only thing I can think of is that old adage, “if you can’t say something nice…” So I’m moving on, closing the chapter on tonight’s game, and hoping for something positive to talk about tomorrow.
But before we go, there’s one more bit of “not-so-positive” news: Martin Prado had an emergency appendectomy last night in Tampa and was placed on the 60-day DL, effectively out for the rest of the season. They called up Jose Pirela in his stead. I was more than a little discouraged after I specifically requested no more bad news on the injury/roster front to wake up to that news this morning. Oh well, wishing Prado rest and healing. At least this is one “injury” that we don’t have to worry about the possibility of a recurrence.
I just thought of some good news: only one more game at the Trop for the rest of the season. I hear angelic choruses warming up…