Darrell Rasner had his worst start of the season (though he still lasted 5 1/3 innings and only allowed four runs), and the Yankee offense failed to pick their starter up as the Yanks dropped their first game to the Twins this season by a 5-1 score.
Three of the four runs Rasner had allowed in his four May starts for the Yankees were scored in the first inning, and yesterday he got into a jam right away as the Twins put men on second and third with one out in the first. Rasner got Justin Morneau to hit a comebacker that froze the runners for the second out, but Michael Cuddyer plating them both with a two-out single. Rasner got into another jam in the fourth when Jason Kubel worked a walk to load the bases with no outs. Rasner got two strikeouts and a fly out to get out of the inning, but the fly out came between the two Ks and plated the third Twins run. In the sixth, Morneau led off against Rasner with a booming shot into the right field gap. Melky Cabrera ran over to gather the ball, but in doing slipped on the warning track and fell on his tuchus. With Morneau speeding around the bases, Cabrera attempted to flip the ball to Bobby Abreu so that Abreu could throw it in, but Melky's overhand flip sailed over Abreu's head and rolled toward first base, allowing Morneau to come all the way around and score on what was ruled a triple and an E8. After getting Cuddyer to ground out for the first out, Rasner walked Kubel again and gave up a single to Delmon Young, but Scott Patterson, making his long-awaited major league debut, came in and stranded both runners, striking out Carlos Gomez to end the inning.
Morneau's trip around the bases and Patterson's debut at age 28 after a long career spent largely in the independent leagues were two of the incidents in this game that overshadowed the game itself, which was otherwise a rather dull loss for the Yankees. The only real threat the Yankees mounted came in the third when Johnny Damon doubled with one out and Derek Jeter and Abreu drew walks to load the bases for Alex Rodriguez, but Twins starter Nick Blackburn struck out Alex Rodriguez and got Hideki Matsui to ground out to escape the jam. The only Yankee run came on a Derek Jeter solo homer in the fifth that made the score 3-1. When Rasner left it was 4-1 Twins, and in the seventh Patterson gave up a run of his own on a walk and a Michael Cuddyer triple to set the final score.
In total, Patterson used 40 pitches, only 21 of which were strikes, to get four outs. Part of that is because of the seven batters he faced, four failed to put a ball in play (two walks, two strikeouts). Chris Britton followed Patterson and retired all four men he faced on 14 pitches, nine of which were strikes, on three groundouts and a flyout.
The big story of the game, however, was the fifth-inning comebacker off Bobby Abreu's bat that hit Blackburn in the face. Abreu was swinging on a 3-1 count and the ball hit Blackburn on the right side of his face as he completed his follow-through, making an awful sound like someone tearing open a head of lettuce. Abreu grabbed his head as he ran to first, shaking his hands and appeared on the verge of tears as Blackburn did a backflop onto the mound, arms and legs akimbo with his feet facing up hill toward the rubber. It seems, however, that Blackburn's dramatic fall was somewhat out of relief as he immediately popped up, spit out some blood and walked off the field with a trainer holding a towel under his bloodied nose. X-rays revealed no broken bones or lost teeth, meaning that bloody nose and a fat lip was the sum total of the damage done to Blackburn, who should make his next start. Abreu met with Blackburn after the game and both men are no doubt very pleased by the fact that Blackburn didn't suffer any major injuries. It turns out that nasty lettuce sound was caused in part by the fact that the ball hit Blackburn's glove before it hit his face.
A few upcoming transaction notes: Jorge Posada is expected to be activated for Thursday's game, the day-game conclusion to the Toronto series. When Posada returns to the roster, the Yankees intend to keep three catchers for a little while, that way they can ease Jorge back into action. That will put off what could prove to be a very difficult choice between Jose Molina and Chad Moeller as either player would have to be placed on waivers to be removed from the 25-man roster. That also means there won't be a position player called up to get the Yankees back down from 13 pitchers until Posada's activated. However, there will be another roster move between now and then as Dan Giese is expected to be called up as a long-relief backup for Joba Chamberlain's start on Tuesday, as Chamberlain will be limited to 70 pitches. Giese, a career-long reliever, has been dominant since being moved into the Scranton rotation early this year. He was pulled early from his start yesterday in anticipation of both his being called up and pitching in long relief on Tuesday. One imagines either Patterson or Britton will be optioned to make room for Giese. Finally, there's still no word on Jason Lane's status. It turns out the Yankees had something like 48 hours after May 31 to call Lane up (apparently even Lane wasn't sure of the details), so there's still a chance that they'll swap Shelley Duncan out for him before tonight's game. Stay tuned . . .