The Yankees were leading 4-0 last night when Derek Jeter walked to lead-off the top of the fifth. Mike Mussina was crusing (he struck out six through four innings of work) and the offense was looking alive (back-to-back doubles by Matsui and Giambi followed by a two-run dinger by Posada). Then something happened and the course of the game changed for the worse.
Inexplicably, Robinson Cano was called on to bunt Jeter to second. On the YES broadcast, Michael Kay questioned such a move while the Yankees held a decent lead. Cano took two strikes right over the plate, making half-hearted attempts to actually connect with the ball, which is to say that he squared to bunt but then tentatively pulled his bat back. He compounded the problem when did lay a bunt down on the next pitch. It rolled foul and he was retired on strikes. Third base coach Luis Sojo threw his arms up and turned his back to the plate, and when Cano reached the dugout he went straight to principal Joe Torre's office. All I could think about was when Reggie Jackson tried to show Billy Martin by bunting with two strikes, but I doubt whether this was an intentionally defiant act on Cano's part. It was just the wrong time for a rookie mistake.
The Yankees did not score a run in the inning and then Mussina simply lost it (he walked four). While he wasn't getting the calls he would have liked from the home plate umpire Rob Drake, Mussina's pitches--fastballs, change-ups and breaking balls alike--all missed their spots, hanging up over the plate instead. The Indians pounced and scored six runs in the bottom of the fifth, chasing Mussina from the game. Everything had been looking up for the Yanks. Suddenly, they were sunk, and they went listlessly in the second-half of the game. Cleveland picked up the win (and the series), 7-4. After the game, Mussina told The New York Times:
"I tried everything I had, and I thought I had good stuff," Mussina said. "I just couldn't get it right. For 10 hitters, I couldn't get it right. When you have a 4-0 lead and things are going well for the club and that stuff happens, it's frustrating, disappointing. It's been a long time since something got away from me like that."
"It looked like he had knockout stuff...Then it got ugly. It got away from him; it got away from us."
It was as discouraging a loss as the Yanks have had in a while. There were many long faces in the Yankee dugout, none more grave than Joe Torre's--heck, I wasn't feeling too chipper at home either. They didn't lose any ground in the wildcard race as the A's finally lost, but the Bombers did lose another game to the Red Sox who won their seventh straight last night in Boston.