On the night that the Red Sox were swept by the major league worst Royals, the Yankees failed to take advantage, dropping the rubber game of their series in Chicago due not to the strengths of their opponent, but to their own ineptitude.
Things started promisingly after a 90-minute rain delay with Johnny Damon doubling off Javier Vazquez, Derek Jeter reaching on an infield single and Bobby Abreu moving both runners up via a fly out to the weak-armed Scott Podsednick in deep left. But Alex Rodriguez struck out and Jorge Posada followed a Jason Giambi walk by lining out on the first pitch he saw, leaving the bases loaded. The Yanks stranded a Robinson Cano leadoff double in the top of the second, then melted down in the bottom of the inning.
Mike Mussina started things off by clipping Jermaine Dye in the hand with a 2-2 pitch, then surrendered a single to A.J. Pierzynski that moved Dye to second. Joe Crede then hit a grounder to Alex Rodriguez that looked like a possible double play ball only Rodriguez threw the ball wide of second and into right field, plating Dye and putting runners on the corners. Alex Cintron then singled home Pierzynski and, when the ball skipped under Melky Cabrera's glove on the wet outfield grass, Crede scored and Cintron motored into second. Mussina then struck out Brian Anderson for the first out, but allowed another RBI single to Podsednick to run the score to 4-0 before getting the final two outs of the inning.
The Yanks got two back in the top of the third on an Abreu walk and a two-run Giambi homer, but that was all the action until the sixth. In the meantime, the Yankees stranded seven more runners--a two-out Cano double in the third (Wilson K), three men in the fourth (Giambi K), a two-out Wilson single in the fifth (Melky foul out), and two more in the sixth (a shallow Rodriguez fly and another Giambi K).
Mike Mussina, who settled down nicely after the second inning, got the first two outs in the bottom of the sixth on six pitches, at which point he had retired nine of the last ten batters he'd faced and 13 of 16 since Podsednick's RBI single in the second. He then got ahead of the weak-hitting Brian Anderson 1-2 only to have Anderson foul off two pitches and take a borderline strike that home plate ump Bill Miller called ball two. Moose had taken several steps to the dugout when he heard the call and, forced back onto the mound, served up a two-out double on his next pitch. That man Podsednick then singled home Anderson with a crucial insurance run.
You see, in the top of the seventh, after reliever Brandon McCarthy struck out Jorge Posada and Robinson Cano, Craig Wilson doubled and Melky Cabrera deposited McCarthy's very next pitch in the right field seats for his third home run in the last four games and the first no-doubter of his young major league career. With that the Yankees pulled within one, but despite a strong relief performance by Scott Proctor and a two-out rally in the top of the ninth against Sox closer Bobby Jenks, they were unable to make up that last run, losing 5-4.
Still, the Yanks finish the season with a 4-2 record against the defending World Champs and current Wild Card leaders, while the Red Sox remain three games out in the AL East and are now two games out in third place in the Wild Card race. Ain't so bad. Plus the Yanks are coming home for a seven-game home stand that starts tonight against the Angels. More on them this afternoon.