Alex had it right with his Ray Milland pic on Saturday. The Yankees went on one heck of a bender in La La Land this past weekend, getting swept by the Angels and losing in just about every way possible. On Friday night, Ian Kennedy couldn't get an out in the third inning. Darrell Rasner and the Yankee bats tried valiantly to climb out of the hole Kennedy had dug, but just as they neared the top, they fell back in. On Saturday, Dan Giese was great for six innings, but Jose Veras, Edwar Ramirez, and David Robertson coughed up ten runs in the final two innings to put the game far out of reach.
Yesterday, Andy Pettitte and Joe Saunders matched each other pitch-for-pitch for seven innings, handing their bullpens a 3-3 tie. Jose Arredondo and Damaso Marte matched zeros in the eighth, sending the tie into the ninth. Home team manager Mike Scioscia went straight to his closer, Francisco Rodriguez, who struck out the side in the ninth. Visiting manager Joe Girardi, having used Rasner for 4 1/3 innings on Friday and having watched each all four of his remaining set-up men stink up the joint over the previous two games (Brian Bruney put Friday's game out of reach for good after relieving Rasner in the eighth), tried to get another inning out of Marte.
After retiring all three men he faced in the eighth, Marte gave up a single to the leadoff man in the ninth; that hitter being second baseman Howie Kendrick, who entered the game hitting .480 in his young career against the Yankees, but had gone hitless in his three at-bats against Pettitte. Marte rallied to strike out Gary Matthews Jr., but fell behind ninth-place hitter Mike Napoli 2-0 before walking him on a full count to push Kendrick in to scoring position. Having watched Marte blow a game by alternating walks and outs during the previous series in Texas, Girardi broke down and called on his closer, Mariano Rivera. Rivera threw one pitch to Chone Figgins. It caught a bit too much of the plate, and Figgins pulled a perfectly place bounder through the first-base hole to score Kendrick and complete the Angels sweep.
Long-time readers will know that I've often argued that a manager should use his closer in a tie game on the road once the game enters sudden death for the home team. Unlike his predecessor, Joe Girardi has done a decent job of employing Rivera that way, but even before Figgins' game-winning single, opposing hitters were hitting .361/.410/.583 against Rivera this year when the game is tied. In all other situations, they are hitting less than .190 against him. Sometimes you just can't win.
Alex had one other thing right on Saturday. His headline read, "All Ain't Lost . . . Yet." A classic mix of optimism and pessimism, our fearless leader hit it dead on the head. With this weekend's sweep, the Yankees fell 8.5 games behind the indefatigable Rays in the East, but they're still just four games behind the Red Sox in the Wild Card race, and could reduce their two-game deficit against the second-place Twins with an improved showing at the Metrodome starting tonight. Reason for optimism: the Yankees are 5-2 against Minnesota this year. Reason for pessimism: both Twins wins came in Minnesota.
Things don't look good. The bullpen, which was dominant heading into the All-Star break, has been awful, and the rotation is in shambles following Kennedy's third failure (he's already been shipped back to triple-A; I expect Darrell Rasner will take his next turn on Wednesday). Then again, Giese's performance yesterday was encouraging, and Phil Hughes could return after one more rehab start at triple-A this week, but unless Hughes pitches like he did last September (3-0, 2.73 ERA in five starts, all Yankee wins) and the bullpen shapes up, Alex's "yet" may prove prophetic.