Yanks’ gloves come up empty on Bat Day
There are few items more disappointing to a club that on a day of a major giveaway promotion that the home team gives away the game as well. Bat Day at Yankee Stadium drew a crowd of 43,131 Sunday against the less-than-marquee-attraction Twins, but the Yankees let the game get away from them early and made what is often the shortest day of the year in baseball terms turn into one of the longest.
Games played on the day before the All-Star break tend to be among the briefest of the season because players who are not going to the All-Star Game want to bolt the scene early to get a head start on the only vacation they get for eight months. First-pitch swinging is usually the order of the day.
Not Sunday. This baby lasted for 3 hours, 36 minutes, and for Yankees fans much of it was sheer torture. The 10-4 victory completed Minnesota’s first winning series at the Stadium in 12 years. The Yankees have a 31-9 record over the Twins at the Stadium since 2002. It was also the first winning series by the Twins over the Yankees anywhere in five years.
“It hasn’t happened to us here for a long time, but the breaks went our way,” Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. “When they made mistakes, we took advantage of them. Believe me, we have been on the flip side of that a lot.”
CC Sabathia was gone after four innings and 93 pitches, the victim of eight hits and two errors committed by teammates. That five of the eight runs charged to Sabathia were unearned speaks to the misplays, but he must shoulder at least some of the blame for not overcoming the boots.
The most hurtful was an errant throw by shortstop Eduardo Nunez that should have been the third out of the third inning. The Yankees were already down, 2-0, at that point. One pitch later, it was 5-0. Trevor Plouffe smacked the first pitch Sabathia threw after the error for a three-run home run.
More sloppiness was to come in the fourth inning. With one out and the bases loaded, Sabathia failed to glove a soft liner by Justin Morneau that landed behind the mound out of the pitcher’s reach for an RBI single. Another run scored when Lyle Overbay let a hard grounder by Ryan Doumit get past him at first base. The Yanks caught a break on the play when Doumit got caught in a rundown and was tagged out. Coming to bat in the fourth inning, the Yankees were staring at an 8-1 deficit, quite a mountain for an offense that is next to last in the league.
Actually, defense has been the least of the Yankees’ worries this year. They rank third in the American League in fielding percentage.
“We played horrible on defense,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. “Our defense has been great most of the year. For whatever reason, it wasn’t today.”
It was the second straight loss and third in four starts for Sabathia, whose record fell to 9-8 with a 4.07 ERA. Sabathia’s eight runs allowed were the second most for him in a start since joining the Yankees in 2009, topped only by nine runs (five earned) Oct. 2, 2009 at St. Petersburg, Fla. CC equaled his career high for losses before the All-Star break. He was 6-8 with the Indians in 2008.
On the positive side, Robinson Cano (2-for-4) extended his hitting streak to a season-high nine games, which tied Kevin Youkilis’ team season high of April 1-12. Cano, who is headed across the Triboro Bridge to Citi Field for the All-Star Game as the AL starting second baseman and Home Run Derby captain, is batting .414 with one double, one home run and eight RBI in 29 at-bats during the streak. He has had at least one RBI in eight straight games against Minnesota, which marks the longest such stretch by a Yankee against the Twins franchise since Gene Woodling had an eight-game RBI run from Aug. 31, 1952 to April 26, 1953 when the Twins played as the Washington Senators.
Ichiro Suzuki (3-for-5, 1 HR, 2 RBI) played in his 2,000th career major-league game and raised his hit total to 2,696. The Elias Sports Bureau notes that only five players whose careers began since 1900 accumulated more hits through their first 2,000 career games – Ty Cobb (2,796), George Sisler (2,753), Al Simmons (2,743), Rogers Hornsby (2,715) and Paul Waner (2,707).
Overbay reached base safely in all four of his plate appearances (2 singles, 2 walks). It was his second such game this season (also May 10 at Kansas City – 1 single, 2 doubles, 1 home run).
The Yankees reached the break at the end of a stretch of 20 games in 20 days in which they played .500 ball (10-10), including a 5-5 homestand. In the middle was a seven-game winning streak, their longest of the season, but a 3-4 mark over the past week against the Royals and the Twins was a decided downer.
The Yankees have fallen seven games out of first place in the AL East and 3 ½ games behind in the race for the second wild-card spot.
“It’s not where I want to be,” Girardi said. “I don’t think anyone should be satisfied where we are at.”