The Yankees haven't lost on my man Alex's birthday since 2001, but they did so last night against the pathetic Kansas City Royals, dropping the game 3-1 and in turn giving the Royals just their fourth series win on the season (the others coming against the Angels, Indians, D-Rays).
Randy Johnson again failed to dominate, allowing 9 hits including a two-run first-inning home run on a flat slider to Emil Brown. Overall, it was Johnson's best start in his last four tries, as he went the distance, striking out seven against just one walk, needing just 104 pitches to get through eight, 68 percent of which were strikes. But one must remember that he was facing this line-up:
Facing those nine, Johnson allowed three runs in his first three innings, which would prove to be all the Royals needed.
The Yankee bats were pathetic, announcing the official arrival of a team-wide slump that has seen them score just seven runs in their last four games. Their only real threat against D.J. Carrasco, who picked up his first win as a major league starter, came in the first.
Leading off the game, Jeter worked Carrasco for seven pitches before flying out. Matsui, batting in the two-spot with Tony Womack on the bench, then singled on Carrasco's 15th pitch and Sheffield walked on the next four. With two on and just one out, Carrasco then got two called strikes on Alex Rodriguez before getting him to fly out to right and Jorge Posada followed with a two-pitch groundout to first.
Brown touched off on Johnson in the bottom of the inning (and I do mean "touched off," his shot was a no-doubter that splashed down in the fountain in left) two outs after a perfectly placed lead-off bloop double just inside the foul line in shallow right by Angel Berroa. That was about all she wrote.
The Yankees got the lead-off man on in the second and third, but stranded the first (a Giambi walk) and erased the second (a Jeter hit by pitch) via a Matsui double play ball. The Royals added a run in the third on an identical bloop double by Berroa and a David DeJesus RBI single. Johnson would tag DeJesus in the ribs with two outs and none on in the seventh. No warnings were issued.
The Yankees made some noise with a one-out Giambi double in the fourth, courtesy of an ugly-but-effective evasive slide by the lumbering first baseman, only to have Giambi get caught off base on a comebacker to Carrasco on the very next pitch.
The Yanks then stranded another lead off runner in the seventh after Ruben Sierra, starting at DH for the first time since coming off the DL for the Mets series, singled for his first hit since being activated. Only a two-out solo homer by Bernie Williams in the ninth prevented the Yankees from being shut out.
Actually, the Yanks put up a legitimate threat in the ninth. After Giambi grounded out on the first pitch of the inning from KC closer Mike "Mac the Ninth" MacDougal (you have to give the Royals credit for the cajones it takes to give a guy like MacDougal a Big Bad Closer nickname) and MacDougal struckout Sierra on four pitches, Bernie hit his dinger to make the score 3-1. Robinson Cano then doubled over DeJesus's head in straight away center on MacDougal's next pitch, bringing Derek Jeter to the plate. Jeter battled MacDougal, taking a 94-mile-per-hour fastball down the middle for strike one, missing badly on a nasty sinker for strike two, then taking two balls, fouling off a 97-mile-per-hour heater, and taking ball three to run the count full. He then struckout on a slider that danced around his bat to end the game.
Bernie Williams' two-out single in the fourth was the only hit the Yankees got with a runner on base all night, which is appropriate as Bernie is suddenly the hottest Yankee hitter. Bernie is 7 for his last 13 with three doubles and a homer. Having started nine of the Yankees' last ten games he is hitting .323/.400/.581 (.325 GPA) over that stretch, making it official that Bernie should be permanently reinstalled in the starting line-up as the Yankees' left fielder (his play in center is still horrific) and number-two hitter with Tony Womack (who is hitting .222 with no walks or extra base hits over the same span for a .155 GPA) hitting the bench. [For what it's worth, Giambi is hitting .285/.348/.333 (.240) over the same stretch, his double last night being his only extra base hit over that span.]