Stop me if you’ve heard this one: Andy Pettitte pitched an excellent game, but… yes, it happened again, as the Yankees’ Great Sucking Noise of 2007 continues. They lost 3-2. Tonight’s edition was especially painful, as Pettitte went into the 8th inning, and only one of the three runs charged to him was earned. Pettitte has been better than we had any right to expect, but with the Yankee offense showing no signs of rousing itself against Shaun Marcum – who pitched well, but come on now – the Yankees once again have nothing to show for it besides aesthetics.
The Yankees scraped out only five hits over the course of the night, including a Giambi home run in the seventh that briefly tied the game. In the bottom of the seventh, Aaron Hill singled, and moved to third on a groundout and A-Rod’s throwing error (not helped by Jason Phillips' crash into Phelps at first, as he tried to make the catch). Hill then – and this is something we haven’t seen in a while – stole home. Pettiitte was taking him time, and Hill caught everyone unawares; by the time Posada yelled for the ball, and Pettitte saw the play, it was too late.
Now, you hate to see it happen to your team, especially with the Yankees in their current state. But I’ve gotta say, I love watching anyone steal home. It’s rare, and it’s gutsy, and it’s something that you’d think would never work, and yet here it wasn’t even very close. I don’t know much about Aaron Hill, but he’s got my attention now; that was some sweet-ass base running.
Anyway, the Yankees tied it again in the eighth, when Toronto gifted them with two errors, allowing Posada to single Jeter home. That would be all they got, and Toronto took over the lead in the bottom of the inning on a sac fly off of Scott Proctor. Robinson Cano, who seemed to be coming out of his epic slump for a time, looked awful at the plate, as did Bobby Abreu, again, some more. Damon and Giambi are visibly in pain.
The Yankees are now fourteen and half games out of first, and eight and a half out of the Wild Card. Here’s your obligatory “they could still come back” disclaimer: they could still come back. I think it’s time, though, to make peace with the likely outcome of the season at this point and, without necessarily abandoning all hope, settle in to watch the games for their own sake. Yankee fans may well have to relearn – or in some cases, just learn – how to watch games that have no ultimate October goal behind them. It’s been well over a decade, so this is going to take some adjusting; I have to say, I've changed quite a bit since the early 90’s, what with puberty and all.
But baseball is great even if the Yankees aren’t, and if you pay attention, something interesting is happening in every game, even a grotesquerie like tonight's. For example, in addition to the steal of home, we had Jason Giambi beating out an infield single (thanks to the shift of course), then stealing second base, then moving to third on a throwing error. This is not something we are likely to see again in our lifetimes. “Speed kills,” observed John Flaherty, wryly. The games can still be entertaining, though admittedly this season's been more Oresteia than Star Wars.
Over at Baseball Musings, David Pinto looks at the Yankees’ distribution of runs scored and allowed this season, concluding that in theory they ought to be above .500, and that many of their losses are due to simple bad luck. As he puts it, “the Yankees are having the team analogue of Mike Lowell’s 2005 season.” (Ugh. Don’t they have antibiotics for that?).
I basically agree, and yet you hate to say it: first of all, because we have this ingrained idea in American culture that “you make your own luck” -- which is obviously only half true, and yet it’s still hard not to feel lazy or self-defeating when citing luck as an excuse. We always want to believe that something could have been done.
Besides, if we all just acknowledge that luck plays an enormous role… we’ll hardly have anything fun left to argue about. So screw that: I say this entire season is obviously Miguel Cairo’s fault, and if you all can’t see that, you’re goddamn blind.