Posted by: JoeD2133 | April 14, 2008

4/13: Red Sox 8, Yankees 5

                There should be a rule in Major League Baseball that reads, “When it’s cold outside and your team is struggling to score runs on a nightly basis, and your offense has runners at first and second base with no outs in the top of the eighth inning at Fenway Park, down by two runs, a Yankees manager must instruct Johnny Damon to bunt or else be subject to ejection from the game.”

                Even if he gets thrown out at first, which is not a one hundred percent certainty by any means, the tying run would be at second base with the heart of the order coming to the plate.  Instead, to my extreme shock and subsequent disgust last night, Joe Girardi allowed Damon to swing away in this same exact situation, and the worst of all possible scenarios took place: he hit into a double-play.

                Rally over, game over, series over.

                For all of the top billing about Girardi’s acumen for National League style baseball, more commonly referred to as Small Ball in the increasingly educated media circles, there was never a more obvious place to bunt the runners over to second and third, and he did not pull the trigger.  This decision, of course, came on the heels of Saturday’s risky bet that Mike Mussina could pitch carefully to Manny Ramirez with the game on the line.  Two situations requiring a manager’s marching orders, two chances for Girardi’s Northwestern intellect and career of catching experience to impact two important baseball games, and he failed to make the obvious and arguably routine decisions, twice.

                Not sure how I feel about all of this.

Conflicted is a good word, or perhaps disappointed, but I think surprised might be the most accurate.  How do you not bunt in that situation, Joe?  The Yankees were not in need of a big, four-run inning at this particular juncture.  What they needed to do was score the two runners that were on base already, which would have tied the game and kept their chances of winning alive.  At a bare minimum, you have to score the guy from second base, especially because he arrived there with no outs recorded, but neither of these desired outcomes took place last night.  Instead, another foolish bet was placed on the table, and on a second consecutive evening in Boston, the wager did not pay off.

Oh well.  You live and you learn, right?  Let’s just hope our Joe Girardi is a better student than he is a gambler.

Leading up to the fateful eighth inning, Phil Hughes threw thirty-nine pitches in a rocky first, recorded a decent second frame, then failed to induce a single out in the third before he was pulled from the game, much to the delight of the Fenway faithful and their endearing chants of “Yan-kees Suck”.  By the time Ross Ohlendorf did manage to wiggle out of the frame, the Yankees were trailing the Red Sox by a score of 7-1.  All seven runs were charged to the young, impressionable Hughes, whose last two outings have been on par with a pitcher who is twenty-one years of age, but drastically subpar for what the Yankees both need and expect out of their future ace.

Straining to see the positive side of this game, the bullpen did throw a few zeroes at the base of the Green Monster until the deciding eighth, and the Yankees offense – minus Derek Jeter and his barking left quadricep for the sixth consecutive game – clawed back to within 7-5, the fifth run being a Jason Giambi homerun off of Mike Timlin (only his third hit of the season) to start the eighth.

But then, like a greedy card player who never knows when to turn and walk away, the foolish wager was placed on Damon.  Robinson Cano followed up the double-play with a weak ground ball to end the Yankee threat, continuing his bizarre struggles at the plate in the early going.  After he ran through the bag at first, as required, it appeared he wanted to throw his hands up in surrender, looking younger and less professional than he has in a long, long time, probably since he was first called up in May of 2005.

Man.  Where have you gone, Mr. Robinson?

In the latter half of the eighth, my favorite Mr. Farnsworth entered the game and promptly gave up a run to the bottom three in the Red Sox order, as he is oft prone to do, removing the Yankees from the hope of a bloop and a blast in the ninth, and hammering home the proverbial nail.  As the final game of the opening series against Boston wound down to its grinding, exhausting close, there was a lot to be frustrated about – for Yankee players and their fans alike.

But alas, the duel excuses of April and Weather are always there to comfort us in the first two weeks of the season, and thus, there is no need to panic just yet.  Girardi is still learning, Hughes is still learning, and the Red Sox are only separated from us by one game at the bottom of the American League East.  If worrying about the Rays, Jays and (gasp) the Orioles was not on any of our minds up until last night, maybe it should be for the next thirty days.

Or maybe it shouldn’t, but in baseball as well as life, only time will tell.

Maybe, just maybe, we should worry about other David Ortiz jerseys buried deep beneath the hardening concrete of the new Yankees Stadium.

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