It only took until the 154th game of the season for Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira to finally go deep in the same game for the first time this year. And if that weren't enough, both sluggers hit two home runs apiece, which is probably the first time they've done that in two years as teammates.
The Yankees ultimately hit a season-high six home runs -- including a solo shot and two-run bomb from Curtis Granderson and Nick Swisher, respectively -- but couldn't quite dig out of the 10-1 hole they found themselves in as their impressive comeback finally fizzled out, losing to the Red Sox 10-8.
That the Yankees even brought the tying run to the plate in the person of Robinson Cano despite being down nine runs after 5 1/2 innings is pretty insane, not to mention the fact that one would expect a six-home run game would result in a win. Unfortunately Andy Pettitte's second start since returning from the DL was pretty brutal, as he gave up seven runs (six earned) on a season-high 10 hits in only 3 1/3 innings, the big blow coming on a three-run home run by Jed Lowrie that broke the scoreless tie in the second.
Jonathan Albaladejo came on, and pitched reasonably well before running into trouble with two outs in the top of the fifth -- and as Mike Axisa has noted time and again, getting two quick outs and then not being able to shut the door on a given inning has been the bugaboo of the Yankees' pitching staff all season -- surrendering a back-breaking three-run home run to Bill Hall that for all intents and purposes should've put the game out of reach.
While it's still too soon to write him off, Albaladejo does seem to be suffering from Mark Melancon/Colter Bean/Chris Britton disease, representing another entry in a long line of Yankee relievers who dominate hitters in the minors but struggle to get outs in the Majors. I still think he can be useful at some point down the line, but he hasn't gotten enough work in to be considered for a slot on the postseason roster.
As we all know it's been a pretty lousy month of September for the Yanks, who have gone 10-12 and are now in the midst of their third three-game losing streak of the month. Obviously the Rays beat the Mariners, and so the Yankees have fallen back out of first, which will no doubt inspire the masses to pronounce the division all but over, given the Yankees' lackluster play for the last four weeks combined with the Rays' laughably easy schedule the rest of the way.
However, even if that does end up being the case, I'd caution against getting too worked up over the continued frustrating baseball we've seen from the Yanks. While you'd ideally like to enter the postseason on a high note, the regular season ultimately means nothing once the playoffs start -- you could be the coldest team in the land and still beat any other team three games out of five. All you need to do is get there, and then everything resets to zero. While we'll dissect things that happened in the regular season -- record against a given team, how one may have fared against a given pitcher in a game five months ago -- ultimately nothing that happened in the regular season will inform how the games in the postseason are played out.
For those who may be worried about Pettitte, I can't imagine anyone would've expected him to come back and be vintage after missing two months. Sure, he looked great against the Orioles, but there are going to be a few kinks that need to be ironed out along the way, and he'll have another two starts to fine-tune things before the playoffs begin.
We know the Yankees are a good team -- unfortunately a dearth of timely hitting with men on, inconsistent starting pitching, slight regression from an otherwise-excellent bullpen, injuries, expanded rosters and questionable managerial moves have left the team looking a tad exposed in the month of September. However, there's still no reason not to feel positive about the team being able to make a deep run into October. As long as the Yankees play baseball the way they're capable of playing, they'll win. If they don't play up to their talent level, they'll lose. It's as simple as that.
Saturday, September 25, 2010
by Larry Koestler