May 012017

Frustrating loss for the Yankees yesterday: they left a ton of men on base (16!), got a good pitching performance from rookie Jordan Montgomery (5 innings of 1-run, 3-hit, 7K, 2BB ball, which is a game score of 62. He came out for the sixth, walked the first two batters (GS now 60), and Holder came in and allowed both runners to score (GS 52) plus allowing a run of his own (yikes) to put them down 4-2. Lots of scoring chances, but no scoring until a bizarre ninth inning.

With one out Holliday singled, which (as Michael Kaye) pointed out, assured Judge a chance to tie the game with a HR unless Castro hit into a DP. So, of course, Castro grounded a DP ball to Machado at third. Machado made the play and a quick throw, but Schoop was a bit slow on the pivot and Castro, to his credit, was busting it for all he was worth down the line and beat the relay to save Judge’s ups. Judge, of course, took a strike (which was a questionable call) and then four balls, putting the tying run at first base. The Orioles made a pickoff attempt which should have had Castro picked cleanly off to end the game but 1) the pitcher did not pivot on the mound but rather took 2-3 steps and so didn’t get the throw off fast, and 2) thew it off-line. Hardy, the shortstop, lunged for the ball, missed it (it went into centerfield) and landed on Castro, preventing him from going to third (which he might or might not have done, Schoop chased the ball down pretty quickly). The umpires conferred and put the runners on second and third.

The announcers called it a balk, which it could be deemed to be though neither I nor David Cone could see it, MLB NY called it obstruction which I think needs to be intentional (it clearly wasn’t) but then changed it back to a balk. A bad call, I think, no matter what. Anyway, now the tying run is in scoring position, with Headley at the plate. Headley takes four straight (!) balls to load the bases for Didi, which was according to plan for Baltimore, I think, because they brought in Hart, their death-to-lefties specialist. Maybe they didn’t read his press clippings: Didi last year batted .324 against lefties, best in MLB by a left-handed batter. And in the three games since his return from the DL he was batting .500. He took two balls and a strike, and stroked a single to left to tie the game, and put runners on the corners. Carter predictably struck out to send the game into extra innings tied at 4.

Here’s where the game gets bizarre. Girardi had used Brian Mitchell to pitch the ninth, and now realized that he had only two pitchers available, and neither could go more than an inning! So he had to win it by the 11th or have to pitch Torreyes or someone. So he hatched a plot: he moved Mitchell, still in the game, to FIRST BASE, and brought in Chapman to pitch the 10th. The idea was that Mitchell, who competed to be in the rotation, could go multiple innings, so he would play first while Chapman pitched, and then come back to the mound. I will go into the flaw in this plan (besides the obvious flaw that Mitchell can’t really PLAY first base) in a minute, but first, what happened: Mitchell immediately got a foul popup near first, which he dropped for an error, and the batter now singled. After a strikeout, there was ANOTHER foul pop to first, this one Mitchell corralled (though not without difficulty) for a fielding percentage as a firstbaseman of .500. Not good, actually. Chapman recorded another strikeout to end the inning.

Romine singled to start the 10th. Gardner bunted to the pitcher, who threw to second base though EVERYONE was screaming and pointing to first, and everyone was safe. First and second, no one out. Hicks also bunted to the pitcher, and this time he had a clear shot at second, but threw to first. But now CHAPMAN is due up, because keeping Mitchell in the game cost NY the DH (as well as the first baseman) so Bird pinch hit for Chapman. He was hit by a pitch to load the bases with one out for Castro. Castro hit weakly to the pitcher who threw home for the force, bringing up Judge with the bases loaded, two out. Judge on the day was 1 for 2 with 2 walks – Baltimore threw him only about 3 pitches in the zone all day. NOW they have to pitch to him, or he walks off the winning run with a walk. Ball one, here we go. Swinging strike, swinging strike, swinging strike – no contact at all. Mitchell has nothing, gives up 3 in the 11th, and they lose 7-4.

What about the Mitchell strategy? Some thoughts:

  1. The move cost you BOTH your DH AND your first baseman. They wound up hitting for Mitchell in the 11th (would they not have hit for him if the game were still tied? We’ll never know). So in effect, the move traded two hitters for one extra inning of pitching. Odd swap.
  2. The move put an ineffective first baseman on the field, though in reality this caused only heartburn and laughter, not actual baseball cost.
  3. Mitchell went 35 minutes between pitches, and got only the requisite warmup pitches to get ready for the 11th, which he obviously was not. (Well, not truly: he got 2 outs before the wheels came off)

What might Girardi have done differently?

  1. If he thought about the possibility of tying the game in the ninth, the clear strategy would be to pitch CHAPMAN in the ninth, then bring in Mitchell in the 10th. It eliminates ALL THREE of the issues above.
  2. If he assumed the game was gone, and so brought in Mitchell to get him some work and save Chapman, why not STAY WITH THE STRATEGY, and just keep Mitchell pitching. He looked good in the ninth, he was your multi-inning guy, just save Chapman and pitch him, win or lose. And have Holliday and Carter still in the game.
  3. Oops.

The Yankees are 15-8, tied with Baltimore for best record in the AL. They are no longer the best in baseball, as Washington allowed the Mets 5 runs in 4 IP (Ross GS 32 and out after 4) but POUNDED Syndergard (he allowed 5 ER and recorded 4 outs!) and then destroyed the Mets bullpen (4 relievers who went YIKES!, YIKES!, YIKES!, YIKES!) for a 23-5 shellacking. I am not sure I ever saw a game before in which a team had NO pitcher pitch even marginally well (say, a mere yikes). Sadly, after Syndergard left in the second inning (some kind of physical problem, MRI today) the Nats failed to score in the inning. Why sadly? Well, they scored IN EVERY OTHER INNING OF THE GAME. I have never seen nor heard of a team scoring in every inning of a ML game (happens in little league and softball all the time), so that would have been fun.

And Eduardo Rodriguez actually pitched well (GS 65) even as a lefty in Fenway against the world-champion Cubs (does that feel weird to you? I plan to type that often this year, just to wrap my head around it) to take the rubber game 6-2 and close back to within 2 1/2 of the Yankees and Orioles.

Fun times.

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